on Psalms 58 :3
The wicked are estranged from the womb - "This," says Dr. Kennicott, "and the next two verses, I take to be the answer of Jehovah to the question in the two first verses, as the Psalm 58:6, Psalm 58:7, and Psalm 58:8, are the answer of the psalmist, and the remainder contains the decree of Jehovah." He calls these wicked men, men who had been always wicked, originally and naturally bad, and brought up in falsehood, flattery, and lying. The part they acted now was quite in character.
on Psalms 58 :3
The wicked are estranged from the womb - The allusion here undoubtedly is to the persons principally referred to in the psalm - the enemies of David. But their conduct toward him suggests a more general reflection in regard to "all" the wicked as having the same characteristics. The psalmist, therefore, instead of confining his remarks to them, makes his observations general, on the principle that all wicked men have essentially the same character, and especially in respect to the thing here affirmed, that they go astray early; that they are apostate and alienated from God from their very birth. The words, "the wicked," here do not necessarily refer to the whole human family (though what is thus affirmed is true of all the human race), but to people who in their lives develop a wicked character; and the affirmation in regard to them is that they go astray early in life - from their very infancy.
Strictly speaking, therefore, it cannot be shown that the psalmist in this declaration had reference to the whole human race, or that he meant to make a universal declaration in regard to man as being early estranged or alienated from God; and the passage, therefore, cannot directly, and with exact propriety, be adduced to prove the doctrine that "original sin" pertains to all the race - whatever may be true on that point. If, however, it is demonstrated from "other" passages, and from facts, that all men "are" "wicked" or depraved, then the assertion here becomes a proof that this is from the womb - from their very birth - that they begin life with a propensity to evil - and that all their subsequent acts are but developments of the depravity or corruption with which they are born. It is only, therefore, after it is proved that people "are" depraved or "wicked," that this passage can be cited in favor of the doctrine of original sin.
The word rendered are "estranged" - זרוּ zorû - means properly, "to go off, to turn aside," or "away, to depart;" and then it comes to mean "to be strange," or "a stranger." The proper idea in the word is that one is a stranger, or a foreigner, and the word would be properly applied to one of another tribe or nation, like the Latin "hostis," and the Greek ξείνος xeinos. Exodus 30:33; Isaiah 1:7; Isaiah 25:2; Isaiah 29:5; Psalm 44:20. The meaning of the term as thus explained is, that, from earliest childhood, they are "as if" they belonged to another people than the people of God; they manifest another spirit; they are governed by other principles than those which pertain to the righteous. Compare Ephesians 2:19. Their first indications of character are not those of the children of God, but are "alien, strange, hostile" to him. The phrase "from the womb," refers, undoubtedly, to their birth; and the idea is, that as soon as they begin to act they act wrong; they show that they are strangers to God. Strictly speaking, this passage does not affirm anything directly of what exists in the heart "before" people begin to act, for it is by their "speaking lies" that they show their estrangement; yet it is proper to "infer" that where this is universal, there "is" something lying back of this which makes it certain that they "will" act thus - just as when a tree always bears the same kind of fruit, we infer that there is something "in" the tree, back of the actual "bearing" of the fruit, which makes it certain that it "will" bear such fruit and no other. This "something" in the heart of a child is what is commonly meant by "original sin."
They go astray - The Hebrew word used here means to go astray, to wander, to err. It is used in reference to drunken persons who reel, Isaiah 28:7; and to the soul, as erring or wandering from the paths of truth and piety, Ezekiel 48:11; Psalm 95:10; Psalm 119:110; Proverbs 21:16. The "manner" in which the persons here referred to did this, is indicated here by their "speaking lies."
As soon as they be born - Margin, as in Hebrew, "from the belly." The meaning is, not that they speak lies "as soon as" they are born, which could not be literally true, but that this is the "first act." The first thing "done" is not an act of holiness, but an act of sin - showing what is in the heart.
Speaking lies - They are false in their statements; false in their promises; false in their general character. This is one of the forms of sin, indicating original depravity; and it is undoubtedly selected here because this was particularly manifested by the enemies of David. They were false, perfidious, and could not be trusted. If it be proved, therefore, that all people are wicked, then "this" passage becomes a proper and an important text to demonstrate that this wickedness is not the result of temptation or example, but that it is the expression of the depravity of the heart by nature; that the tendency of man by nature is not to goodness, but to sin; that the first developments of character are sinful; that there is something lying of sinful acts in people which makes it certain that they will act as they do; and that this always manifests itself in the first acts which they perform.
on Psalms 58 :3
58:3 Estranged - From God, and from all goodness. Their very natures are corrupt, even from their birth: they are the wicked offspring of sinful parents. Astray - By actual sins, from their childhood, as soon as ever they were capable of the exercise of reason.