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Commentary on Psalms - Volume 1
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Psalm 31:9-13

9. Have mercy upon me, O Jehovah! for I am in trouble: mine eye, my soul, and my belly, are consumed by reason of anger. 10. For my life is wasted by reason of grief, and my years with groaning; my strength faileth in my sorrow, and my bones are consumed. 11. I was a reproach by reason of all mine enemies, yea, exceedingly to my neighbors, and a fear to my acquaintances; and they who saw me abroad fled from me. 12. I am forgotten as one dead, I am become like a broken vessel. 13. For I have heard the railing of many, 643643     “Ou, des grans.” — Fr. marg. “Or, of the great.” and fear encloseth me on every side, while they consult together against me, and plot to take away my life.

 

9. Have mercy upon me, O Jehovah! To move God to succor him, he magnifies the greatness of his misery and grief by the number of his complaints; not that God needs arguments to persuade him, but because he allows the faithful to deal familiarly with him, that they may disburden themselves of their cares. The greater the number of afflictions with which they are oppressed, the more do they encourage themselves, while bewailing them before God, in the hope of obtaining his assistance. These forms of expression may seem hyperbolical, but it is obvious that it was David’s purpose to declare and set forth what he had felt in his own person. First, he says that his eyes, his soul, and his belly, were consumed with grief. From this it appears that it was neither lightly nor for a short time that he was thus tormented and vexed by these calamities. Indeed, he was endued with so much meekness of spirit that he would not allow himself to be excited easily, and by a slight circumstance, nor vexed by immoderate sorrow. He had also been for a long time inured to the endurance of troubles. We must, therefore, admit that his afflictions were incredibly severe, when he gave way to such a degree of passion. By the word anger, too, he shows that he was not at all times of such iron-like firmness, or so free from sinful passion, as that his grief did not now and then break forth into an excess of impetuosity and keenness. Whence we infer that the saints have often a severe and arduous conflict with their own passions; and that although their patience has not always been free from peevishness, yet by carefully wrestling against it, they have at last attained this much, that no accumulation of troubles has overwhelmed them. By life some understand the vital senses, an interpretation which I do not altogether reject. But I prefer to explain it as simply meaning, that, being consumed with grief, he felt his life and his years sliding away and failing. And by these words again, David bewails not so much his pusillanimity of mind as the grievousness of his calamities; although he was by no means ashamed to confess his infirmity, for which he was anxiously seeking a remedy. When he says, that his strength failed under his sorrow, some interpreters prefer reading, under his iniquity; and I confess that the Hebrew word עון, on, bears both significations, 644644     “The word עוך,” says Hammond, “as it signifies sin, so it signifies also the punishment of sin, Isaiah 53:6, 11;” and in this last sense this critic here understands it, that it may be connected with grief and sighing, which are mentioned in the preceding clause, and may express those miseries which David’s sins had brought upon him. “וזע” observes Rogers, “signifies here and in some other places, affliction, the punishment or consequence of sin; see Genesis 4:13; 1 Samuel 28:10; 2 Kings 7:9,” etc. - Book of Psalms in Hebrew, metrically arranged, vol. 2, p.188. The Septuagint reads, in poverty or affliction, in which it is followed by the Syriac and Vulgate. nay, more frequently it signifies an offense or a fault. But as it is sometimes used for punishment, I have chosen the sense which appears most agreeable to the context. And although it is true that David was accustomed to ascribe the afflictions which he at any time suffered to his own fault, yet, as he is only recounting his miseries here, without mentioning the cause of them, it is probable that, according to his usual manner, he expresses the same thing twice by different words.

11. I was a reproach by reason of all mine enemies. Others translate thus - more than mine enemies, and as the Hebrew letter מ, mem, is often used as a sign of comparison, they interpret this clause to mean that David’s friends and acquaintances reproached him more than all his enemies. But, in my opinion, he intended to express a different idea, namely, that as he was everywhere hated, and his enemies had induced almost the whole realm to take part with them against him, he had an evil name even among his friends and neighbors; just as popular opinion, like a violent tempest, usually carries all before it. I suppose, therefore, that the Hebrew copula ו, vau, is used for the sake of amplification, to show that David was an object of detestation, not only to strangers to whom he was formerly unknown, but also to his principal friends. He adds, likewise, that when they saw him abroad they fled from him By the adverb, abroad, he means to say, that they did not think the miserable man worthy of a near approach to them; nay, that they fled from the very sight of him, at however great a distance, lest the contagion of his misery should reach them, and because they reckoned it would be injurious and disgraceful to them to show him any sign of friendship.

12. I am forgotten as one dead. The Psalmist still pursues the same idea, and complains that he was as completely blotted out of all men’s remembrance as if he had been dead. The memory of some men after their death flourishes for a time among survivors, but it more frequently vanishes; for there is no longer any intercourse between the quick and the dead, nor can the living be of any farther service to the dead. David illustrates this idea by the metaphor of a broken vessel, 645645     “I am become like a broken vessel;” that is, utterly neglected as being worthless. which denotes utter contempt and meanness; as if he had said, that he was accounted no longer worthy of any place or respect. He adds, in fine, that he was railed upon by the multitude, and agitated with terrors. I would, however, prefer translating the Hebrew word רבים, rabbim, by the great, 646646     Horsley takes the same view. He reads, “the mighty.” rather than by many. When great men, who are often as powerful in judgment as in authority, slander and defame us as wicked persons, this adds to the indignity with which we are treated, because, whatever they say in condemnation of us has the effect of prejudicing the common people against us. It will therefore be very suitable to understand the words as meaning that David was ignominiously condemned by the whole order of the nobility; and thus the innocence of this afflicted man was thrown into the shade by their greatness. This interpretation is confirmed by what immediately follows:— Fear encloseth me on every side, 647647     “Fearfulness on every side, or terror round about. In Heb., magor missabib, which name Jeremiah gave to Pashur the priest, signifying that he should be a terror to himself and to all his friends; Jeremiah 20:3, 4.” — Ainsworth. Horsley reads,
   “Truly I heard the angry muttering of the mighty,
of them that are the general dread.”

   On this he has the following note: ”מסביב מגור, I take this to be a phrase describing the mighty, whose malignant threats against him he overheard, as persons universally dreaded for their power and their cruelty.”
while they consult together against me. As he is still speaking of the same persons, it is certain that this language applies more appropriately to the nobles than to the common people. Moreover, we see that the primary object of the wicked in the deceitful counsels by which they conspired to destroy David, was to create among the whole people hatred against him as a wicked and reprobate man. We also see that while they mangled his reputation, they did it in such a manner as that they covered their wickedness under the appearance of grave and considerate procedure, in consulting among themselves to destroy him as a man who no longer ought to be tolerated on the earth. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that his mind was wounded, as we have just seen, by so many and so sharp temptations.


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