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Commentary on Psalms - Volume 1
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Psalm 16:10

10. For thou wilt not leave my soul in the grave; neither wilt thou make thy Holy One to see the pit. 332332     “The Hebrew word shachath,” says Poole, “though sometimes, by a metonymy, it signifies the pit or place of corruption, yet properly and generally it signifies corruption or perdition. And so it must be understood here, although some of the Jews, to avoid the force of this argument, render it the pit. But in that sense it is not true, for whether it be meant of David, as they say, or of Christ, it is confessed that both of them did see the pit, that is, were laid in the grave.” Hence he concludes that corruption is the proper rendering of the original word. The phrase, however, to see the pit, may not mean to be laid in the grave, but to continue in it for any length of time. The meaning which Calvin attaches to the word pit is substantially that which our English translators attached to the original word which they render corruption. Hengstenberg adopts and defends Calvin’s rendering.

 

The Psalmist goes on to explain still more fully the preceding doctrine, by declaring that as he is not afraid of death, there is nothing wanting which is requisite to the completion of his joy. Whence it follows, that no one truly trusts in God but he who takes such hold of the salvation which God has promised him as to despise death. Moreover, it is to be observed, that David’s language is not to be limited to some particular kind of deliverance, as in Psalm 49:15, where he says, “God hath redeemed my soul from the power of the grave,” and in other similar passages; but he entertains the undoubted assurance of eternal salvation, which freed him from all anxiety and fear. It is as if he had said, There will always be ready for me a way of escape from the grave, that I may not remain in corruption. God, in delivering his people from any danger, prolongs their life only for a short time; but how slender and how empty a consolation would it be to obtain some brief respite, and to take breath for a short time, until death, coming at last, should terminate the course of our life, 333333     “Jusqu’a ce que la mort finalement venant, rompist le cours de nos jours.” — Fr. and swallow us up without any hope of deliverance? Hence it appears that when David spake thus, he raised his mind above the common lot of mankind. As the sentence has been pronounced upon all the children of Adam, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” (Genesis 3:19,) the same condition in this respect awaits them all without exception. If, therefore, Christ, who is the first-fruits of those who rise again, does not come forth from the grave, they will remain for ever under the bondage of corruption. From this Peter justly concludes, (Acts 2:30,) that David could not have gloried in this manner but by the spirit of prophecy; and unless he had had a special respect to the Author of life, who was promised to him, who alone was to be honored with this privilege in its fullest sense. This, however, did not prevent David from assuring himself of exemption from the dominion of death by right, seeing Christ, by his rising from the dead, obtained immortality not for himself individually, but for us all. As to the point, that Peter (Acts 2:30) and Paul (Acts 13:33) contend that this prophecy was fulfilled in the person of Christ alone, 334334     Thus we have the authority of two apostles for understanding the concluding part of this psalm as a prophecy of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. the sense in which we must understand them is this, that he was wholly and perfectly exempted from the corruption of the grave, that he might call his members into his fellowship, and make them partakers of this blessing, 335335     “Et les faire venir a la participation de ce bien.” — Fr. although by degrees, and each according to his measure. As the body of David, after death, was, in the course of time, reduced to dust, the apostles justly conclude that he was not exempted from corruption. It is the same with respect to all the faithful, not one of whom becomes a partaker of incorruptible life without being first subjected to corruption. From this it follows that the fullness of life which resides in the head alone, namely, in Christ, falls down upon the members only in drops, or in small portions. The question, however, may be asked, as Christ descended into the grave, was not he also subject to corruption? The answer is easy. The etymology or derivation of the two words here used to express the grave should be carefully attended to. The grave is called שאול, sheol, being as it were an insatiable gulf, which devours and consumes all things, and the pit is called שחת, shachath, which signifies corruption. These words, therefore, here denote not so much the place as the quality and condition of the place, as if it had been said, The life of Christ will be exempted from the dominion of the grave, inasmuch as his body, even when dead, will not be subject to corruption. Besides, we know that the grave of Christ was filled, and as it were embalmed with the life-giving perfume of his Spirit, that it might be to him the gate to immortal glory. Both the Greek and Latin Fathers, I confess, have strained these words to a meaning wholly different, referring them to the bringing back of the soul of Christ from hell. But it is better to adhere to the natural simplicity of the interpretation which I have given, that we may not make ourselves objects of ridicule, to the Jews; and farther, that one subtilty, by engendering many others, may not involve us in a labyrinth. In the second clause mention is without doubt made of the body; and we know it to be a mode of speaking very common with David intentionally to repeat the same thing twice, making a slight variation as to words. It is true, we translate נפש, nephesh, by soul, but in Hebrew it only signifies the vital breath, or life itself


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