And David saith, Let their table, etc. - And from their present disposition it is reasonable to conclude that the same evils will fall upon them as fell upon the disobedient in former times, as predicted by David, Psalm 69:22, Psalm 69:23, that their very blessings should become curses to them, and their temporal mercies be their only recompense; and yet even these earthly blessings, by not being enjoyed in the Lord, should be a stumbling block over which they should fall, and, instead of being a blessing, should be the means of their punishment. They would have a worldly Messiah, and therefore they rejected him whose kingdom was not of this world.
And David saith - This quotation is made from Psalm 69:22-23. This Psalm is repeatedly quoted as having reference to the events recorded in the New Testament. (See the note at Acts 1:2.) This quotation is introduced immediately after one that undoubtedly refers to the Lord Jesus. Psalm 69:21, “they gave me also gall for my meat, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” The passage here quoted immediately follows as an imprecation of vengeance for their sins. “Let their table,” etc. The quotation is not made, however, either literally from the Hebrew or from the Septuagint, but the sense only is retained. The Hebrew is, “Let their table before them be for a snare, and for those at peace, let it be for a gin.” The Septuagint is, “Let their table before them be for a snare, and for a stumbling-block, and for an offence.” The ancient Targum is, “Let their table which they had prepared before me be for a snare, and their sacrifices be for an offence.”
The meaning is this. The word “table” denotes food. In this they expected pleasure and support. David prays that even this, where they expected joy and refreshment, might prove to them the means of punishment and righteous retribution. A snare is that by which birds or wild beasts were taken. They are decoyed into it, or walk or fly carelessly into it, and it is sprung suddenly on them. So of the Jews. The petition is, that while they were seeking refreshment and joy, and anticipating at their table no danger, it might be made the means of their ruin. The only way in which this could be done would be, that their temporal enjoyments would lead them away from God, and produce stupidity and indifference to their spiritual interests. This is often the result of the pleasures of the table, or of seeking sensual gratifications. The apostle does not say whether this prayer was right or wrong. The use which he seems to make of it is this, that David‘s imprecation was to be regarded in the light of a prophecy; that what he prayed for would come to pass; and that this had actually occurred in the time of the apostle; that their very enjoyments, their national and private privileges, had been the means of alienating them from God; had been a snare to them; and was the cause of their blindness and infidelity. This also is introduced in the psalm as a punishment for giving him vinegar to drink; and their treatment of the Messiah was the immediate cause why all this blindness had come upon the Jews.
A trap - This properly means anything by which wild beasts are taken in hunting. The word “snare” more properly refers to birds.
And a stumbling-block - Anything over which one stumbles or falls. Hence, anything which occasions us to sin, or to ruin ourselves.
And a recompense - The Hebrew word translated “what should have been for their welfare,” is capable of this meaning, and may denote their recompense, or what is appropriately rendered to them. It means here that their ordinary comforts and enjoyments, instead of promoting their permanent welfare, may be the occasion of their guilt and ruin. This is often the effect of earthly comforts. They might lead us to God, and should excite our gratitude and praise; but they are often abused to our spiritual slumber and guilt, and made the occasion of our ruin. The rich are thus often most forgetful of God; and the very abundance of their blessings made the means of darkness of mind, ingratitude, prayerlessness, and ruin. Satisfied with them, they forget the Giver; and while they enjoy many earthly blessings, God sends barrenness into their souls. This was the guilt of Sodom, “pride, and fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness,” Ezekiel 16:49; and against this Moses solemnly warned the Jews; Deuteronomy 6:11-12; Deuteronomy 8:10-12. This same caution might be extended to the people of this land, and especially to those who are rich, and are blessed with all that their hearts have wished. From the use which the apostle makes of this passage in the Psalms, it is clear that he regarded it rather as a prophetic denunciation for their sins - a prediction of what would be - than as a prayer. In his time it had been fulfilled; and the very national privileges of the Jews, on which they so much prided themselves, and which might have been so great blessings, were the occasion of their greater sin in rejecting the Messiah, and of their greater condemnation. Thus, their table was made a trap, etc.
Let their eyes be darkened - This is taken literally from the psalm, and was evidently the main part of the passage which the apostle had in his eye. This was fulfilled in the insensibility and blindness of the Jews. And the apostle shows them that it was long ago predicted, or invoked, as a punishment on them for giving the Messiah vinegar to drink; Psalm 69:21, Psalm 69:23.
And bow down their back alway - The Hebrew Psalm 69:23 is, “Let their loins totter or shake,” that is, as one does when he has on him a heavy burden. The apostle has retained this sense. It means, let them be called to bear heavy and oppressive burdens; let them be subjected to toil or servitude, as a reward for their sins. That this had come upon the Jews in the time of Paul is clear; and it is further clear that it came upon them, as it was implied in the psalm, in consequence of their treatment of the Messiah. Much difficulty has been felt in reconciling the petitions in the psalms for calamities on enemies, with the spirit of the New Testament. Perhaps they cannot all be thus reconciled; and it is not at all improbable that many of those imprecations were wrong. David was not a perfect man; and the Spirit of inspiration is not responsible for his imperfections. Every doctrine delivered by the sacred writers is true; every fact recorded is recorded as it was.
But it does not follow that all the men who wrote, or about whom a narrative was given, were perfect. The reverse is the fact. And it does not militate against the inspiration of the Scriptures that we have a record of the failings and imperfections of those men. When they uttered improper sentiments, when they manifested improper feelings, when they performed wicked actions, it is no argument against the inspiration of the Scriptures that they were recorded. All that is done in such a case, and all that inspiration demands, is that they be recorded as they are. We wish to see human nature as it is; and one design of making the record of such failings is to show what man is, even under the influence of religion; not as a perfect being, for that would not be true; but as he actually exists mingled with imperfection. Thus, many of the wishes of the ancient saints, imperfect as they were, are condemned as sinful by the spirit of the Christian religion.
They were never commended or approved, but they are recorded just to show us what was in fact the character of man, even partially under the influence of religion. Of this nature probably, were many of the petitions in the Psalms; and the Spirit of God is no more answerable for the feeling because it is recorded, than he is for the feelings of the Edomites when they said, “Rase it, rase it to the foundation” Psalm 137:7. Many of those prayers, however, were imprecations on his enemies as a public man, as the magistrate of the land. As it is right and desirable that the robber and the pirate should be detected and punished; as all good people seek it, and it is indispensable for the welfare of the community, where is the impropriety of praying that it may be done? Is it not right to pray that the laws may be executed; that justice may be maintained; and that restraint should be imposed on the guilty? Assuredly this may be done with a very different spirit from that of revenge. It may be the prayer of the magistrate that God will help him in what he is appointed to do, and in what ought to be done. Besides, many of these imprecations were regarded as simply predictions of what would be the effect of sin; or of what God would do to the guilty. Such was the case we are now considering, as understood by the apostle. But in a prediction there can be nothing wrong.
The prophet Isaiah, looking down through the centuries and witnessing the rejection of prophet after prophet and finally of the Son of God, was inspired to write concerning the acceptance of the Redeemer by those who had never before been numbered among the children of Israel. Referring to this prophecy, Paul declares: “Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought Me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after Me. But to Israel He saith, All day long I have stretched forth My hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.” AA 375.1
Even though Israel rejected His Son, God did not reject them. Listen to Paul as he continues the argument: “I say then, Hath God cast away His people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew. Wot ye not what the Scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed Thy prophets, and digged down Thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to Myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” AA 375.2
Israel had stumbled and fallen, but this did not make it impossible for them to rise again. In answer to the question, “Have they stumbled that they should fall?” the apostle replies: “God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” AA 375.3Read in context »