on Psalms 141 :5
Let the righteous smite me - This verse is extremely difficult in the original. The following translation, in which the Syriac, Vulgate, Septuagint, Ethiopic, and Arabic nearly agree, appears to me to be the best: "Let the righteous chastise me in mercy, and instruct me: but let not the oil of the wicked anoint my head. It shall not adorn (יני yani, from נוה navah) my head; for still my prayer shall be against their wicked works."
The oil of the wicked may here mean his smooth flattering speeches; and the psalmist intimates that he would rather suffer the cutting reproof of the righteous than the oily talk of the flatterer. If this were the case, how few are there now-a-days of his mind! On referring to Bishop Horsley, I find his translation is something similar to my own: -
Let the just one smite me, let the pious remove me.
Let not the ointment of the impious anoint my head.
But still I will intrude in their calamities.
on Psalms 141 :5
Let the righteous smite me - This verse is exceedingly difficult and obscure (compare the margin); and there have been almost as many different opinions in regard to its meaning as there have been commentators on the psalm. A large number of these opinions may be seen in Rosenmuller in loc. DeWette explains it, "I gladly suffer anything that is unpleasant from my friends, that may be for my good; but the wickedness of my enemies I cannot endure." The Septuagint and Latin Vulgate render it, "Let a righteous man correct me with mercy, and he will work convictions in me; but let not the oil of a sinner (for this shall still be my prayer) anoint my head at their pleasure." "Thompson's translation." According to this, the sense would be, "If the righteous smite me with severity of words I shall take it as an act of kindness and benevolence; on the other hand, the bland words of a sinner, smooth as oil, which wound more than sharp arrows, may God avert from me."
Or, in other words, "I had rather be slain by the severe words of the righteous than anointed by the oily and impious words of the wicked." The sense proposed by Hengstenberg (Com. in loc.) is, "Even as I through the cloud of wrath can see the sunshine of divine goodness, I will not give myself over to doubt and despair, according to the course of the world, when the hand of the Almighty rests upon me; but I will, and can, and should, in the midst of trouble, be joyful, and that is the high privilege of which I will never be deprived." According to this, the idea is, that the sufferings endured by good people, even at the hand of the wicked, are chastisements inflicted by a gracious God in justice and mercy, and as such may be likened to a festive ointment, which the head of the sufferer should not refuse, as he will still have occasion for consolation to invoke God in the midst of trials yet to be experienced.
The word "righteous" is evidently employed in the usual sense of the term. It refers to those who love and serve God. The word translated "smite" - חלם châlam - is rendered broken in Judges 5:22; Isaiah 16:8; Isaiah 28:1 ("margin," but rendered by our translators "overcome," sc. with wine); "smote," Judges 5:26; Isaiah 41:7; "beaten," Proverbs 23:35; "beating down," 1 Samuel 14:16; "break down," Psalm 74:6. It does not elsewhere occur, except in the verse before us. It would apply to any beating or smiting, with the fist, with a hammer, with a weapon of war, and then with "words" - words of reproof, or expressions of disapprobation. According to the view above taken (Introduction), it is used here with reference to an apprehended rebuke on the part of good people, for not following their advice.
It shall be a kindness - literally, "A kindness;" that is, an act of kindness. The idea is, that it would be so intended on their part; it should be so received by him. Whatever might be the wisdom of the advice, or the propriety of yielding to it, or whatever they might say if it were not followed, yet he could regard it as on their part only well-intended. If a certain course which they had advised should be rejected, and if by refusing or declining to follow it one should incur their displeasure, yet that ought to be interpreted only as an act well-intended and meant in kindness.
And let him reprove me - As I may anticipate that he will, if his advice is not taken. I must expect to meet this consequence.
It shall be an excellent oil - literally, "Oil of the head." That is - like oil which is poured on the head on festive occasions, or when one is crowned, as a priest, or a prophet, or a king. See the notes at Mark 6:13; notes at Luke 4:18-19. Oil thus used for the head, the face, etc., was an indispensable article for the toilet among Orientals. The idea is here that the reproof of the righteous should be received as readily as that which contributed most to comely adorning and comfort; or that which diffused brightness, cheerfulness, joy.
Which shall not break my head - Or rather, Which my head shall not (or, should not) refuse; which it should welcome. The word rendered break should not have been so translated. The Hebrew word - הניא hāniy', is from נוא nû' - in Hiphil, to negative; to make naught; then to refuse, to decline, to deny. It is rendered "discourage" in Numbers 32:7, Numbers 32:9 (Margin, "break"); "disallow," Numbers 30:5 ("twice"), Numbers 30:8, Numbers 30:11; "make of none effect," Psalm 33:10; "break," in the passage before us. It does not elsewhere occur. The idea is, "If such reproof comes on me for the faithful doing of what I regard as wise and best, I ought no more to reject it than the head would refuse the oil poured on it, to make the person healthful and comely."
For yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities - I will not be sullen, displeased, angry, revengeful. I will not refuse to pray for them when trials come upon them, because they have not approved of my course, because they have reproved me for not following their counsel, because they have used words that were like heavy blows. I will cherish no malice; I will not be angry; I will not seek to be revenged. I will not turn away from them when trouble comes on them. I will love them, cherish with gratitude the memory of the kindness they meant, and pray for them in the time when they especially need prayer. Should they now rebuke me rather than pray for me, yet I will not in turn "rebuke" them in similar trials, but "will pray for them," as though nothing of this had happened. Noble spirit - indicative of what should always be the spirit of a good man. Our friends - even our pious friends - may not be always "wise" in their advice, and they may be severe in their reproofs if we do not follow their counsel; yet let us receive all as well-intended, and let us not in anger, in sullenness, or in revenge, refuse to aid them, and to pray for them in trouble, though they were "not" wise, and though they used words of severity toward us.
on Psalms 141 :5
141:5 Smite - By reproofs. Break - Not hurt, but heal and greatly refresh me. Calamities - In the calamities of those righteous persons who reproved him. When they came into such calamities as those wherein he was involved he would pity them and pray for them.