Commentary on Psalm 5:6

6. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

God’s hatred of His enemies is given greater emphasis by being doubled in this verse. Whereas v.5 tells us that the boastful will not stand, here we are told that God destroys His enemies. There is no mincing of words here: God is the active party executing justice upon His enemies. The Lord hates (i.)the boastful, (ii.)those who speak lies, (iii.)the bloodthirsty, (iv.)the deceitful, and (v.)all workers of iniquity. The sins which only He can see and justly assess – i.e. “private” sins – are given as the cause of God’s hatred of the wicked. This underscores the fact that the Law of God does not concern our outward behavior only, but primarily deals with the heart of man. This is precisely what our Lord explains in His Sermon on the Mount. “You have heard that it was said…” He says, “…but I say to you…”,1 thereby rebuking the hypocrites whose external deeds of righteousness served only to conceal their inward “destruction.”2

God repays those who are inwardly filled with destruction, and He does so by destroying them. The word, however, should not be taken to mean that God annihilates His enemies. Rather, the present tense of the verbs אָבַד(‘abad) and תָּעַב(ta ‘ab), translated respectively as destroy and abhor, seems to indicate a parallelism, where destroy and abhor refer to one and the same act of God toward the wicked, viz. absolute rejection and expulsion from the presence of God. Hence, David prays that God would cause the wicked to “bear their guilt,” and that God would “cast them out” “because of the abundance of their transgressions.”3 It is noteworthy to add, moreover, that the phrase “bear their guilt” is translated by the KJV as “destroy Thou them,” lending support to the idea that the destruction spoken of here is not annihilation but rejection, shame, humiliation, a tormented conscience, and a worthless existence outside of the city in which God dwells.

There are two aspects of God’s judgment upon the wicked that are taught here: (i.)lex talionis, and (ii.)destruction as ruination. Regarding (i.), perhaps the first place where we come across the lex talionis most explicitly is in the account of the flood, where God punished those who had corrupted (Heb. שָׁחַת, shacath) themselves4 with destruction (Heb. שָׁחַת, shacath).5 Since those who died in the flood had spoiled, ruined, and rotted their way on the earth,6 the Lord repaid them in like manner. Likewise, here we see that God’s destruction of His enemies is the reciprocal judgment due to them for their being filled with destruction and destroying others. The One against whom they had sinned, however, was God Himself; therefore, the destruction they receive is commensurate to the magnitude of their offense. They are, are being, and will be destroyed by God.

This destruction, we note, is not annihilation but complete ruination. The wicked will bear their guilt, whereas the righteous have a sacrifice that has borne their guilt for them (i.e. Jesus Christ the Substitutionary Lamb of God). Additionally, they will be cast out of the Lord’s presence. Lastly, they will be abhorred by God. The imagery of this psalm can be traced as far back as Genesis 4, where the murderous Cain is cast away from God’s presence, never to return again. Cain identifies this being cast away, expelled, rejected as being more than he can bear,7 showing that it is not physical death or annihilation which he fears but continuing forever as wanderer completely cut off from the gracious presence of God. It should be noted that being cast out occurs first in Genesis 3, but in this chapter the force of God’s judgment is brought to the fore as the reality of spiritual death and impending physical death are shown to be less disconcerting than the reality of being rejected forever by God and having to bear such rejection in one’s own being. This is, likewise, the case with lepers found in Israel who are to remain outside of the camp of Israel wearing their shame in tattered clothing, and speaking their shame in crying out “Unclean, Unclean” for as long as they have leprosy.8 The leper, like Cain, was to be cast out, expelled from God’s gracious presence, to remain outside of the communion of God’s people where he would openly bear his shame, speak his shame, and do so for as long as he remained a leper. The imagery is consonant with this psalm in the aforementioned ways, and it serves to show the antithesis between those who have a sacrifice (i.e. everlasting blessed communion with God) and those who do not (i.e. shameful, sorrowful, and painful wandering outside of the kingdom of God, in the outer blackest darkness forever and ever).

1cf. Matt 5:21-22ff

2cf. Ps 5:9 & Matt 23:27-28

3v.10

4cf. Gen 6:11-12

5cf. Gen 6:13 & 17

7cf. Gen 4:13-14

8cf. Lev 13:45-46

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