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Psalm 18:3-6

3. I will call upon the praised Jehovah, and I shall be saved from mine enemies. 4. The cords 390390     “Ou brisemens. — Fr. marg. “Or contritions.” of death had compassed me about; the torrents of wickedness 391391     “Hebrews de Belial.” — Fr. marg. “Hebrews of Belial.” had made me afraid. 5. The cords of the grave 392392     “Ou de corruption.” — Fr. marg. “Or of corruption.” had compassed me about; the snares of death had prevented me. 6. In my distress I called upon Jehovah, and cried to my God: and he heard my voice from his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

 

3. I will call upon the praised Jehovah. Calling upon God, as has been observed elsewhere, frequently comprehends the whole of his service; but as the effect or fruit of prayer is particularly mentioned in what follows, this phrase in the passage before us, I have no doubt, signifies to have recourse to God for protection, and to ask by prayer deliverance from him. David having said in the second verse, that he trusted in God, now subjoins this as an evidence of his trust; for every one who confides in God will earnestly beseech his aid in the time of need. He therefore declares, that he will be saved, and prove victorious over all his enemies, because he will have recourse to God for help. He calls God the praised Jehovah, not only to intimate that he is worthy of being praised, as almost all interpreters explain it, but also to point out, that, when he came to the throne of grace, his prayers would be mingled and interwoven with praises. 393393     The word in the Hebrew text מהלל, mehullal, literally signifies praise. The ancient versions view the word not as denoting that God is worthy to be praised, which is the meaning attached to it in our English version, but as referring to the Psalmist’s resolution to praise God. The Septuagint reads, Αινων επικαλεσομαι Κυριον Kytov, “Praising I will call upon the Lord.” The reading of the Vulgate is the same, “Laudans invocabo.” The Chaldee reads, “In a song or hymn I pour out prayers unto the Lord:” and the Arabic. “I will praise the Lord, and call upon him.” This is precisely the sense in which Calvin understands the words, “I will call upon the praised Jehovah.” The scope of the passage seems to require that it be understood as meaning, that giving thanks to God for the benefits which he has received from him in times past, he will ask his assistance by renewed supplications. And certainly no man will ever invoke God in prayer freely and frankly unless he animate and encourage himself by the remembrance of the grace of God. Accordingly Paul, in Philippians 4:6, exhorts the faithful

“in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, to make their requests known unto God” (Philippians 4:6)

and to disburden their cares, as it were, into his bosom. All those whose prayers are not accompanied with the praises of God are chargeable with clamouring and complaining against him, when engaged in that solemn exercise.

4. The cords 394394     “Death is here personified under the semblance of a mighty conqueror, who binds his vanquished foes in strong fetters.” — Walford. of death had compassed me about. David now begins to recount the undoubted and illustrious proofs by which he had experienced that the hand of God is sufficiently strong and powerful to repel all the dangers and calamities with which he may be assailed. And we need not wonder that those things which might have been described more simply, and in an unadorned style, are clothed in poetical forms of expression, and set forth with all the elegancies and ornaments of language. The Holy Spirit, to contend against and make an impression upon the wicked and perverse dispositions of men, has here furnished David with eloquence full of majesty, energy, and wonderful power, to awaken mankind to consider the benefits of God. There is scarcely any assistance God bestows, however evident and palpable it may be to our senses, which our indifference or proud disdain does not obscure. David, therefore, the more effectually to move and penetrate our minds, says that the deliverance and succor which God had granted him had been conspicuous in the whole frame-work of the world. This his intention it is needful for us to take into view, lest we should think that he exceeds due bounds in expressing himself in a style so remarkable for sublimity. The sum is, that, when in his distresses he had been reduced to extremity, he had betaken himself to God for help, and had been wonderfully preserved.

We shall now make a few observations with respect to the words. The Hebrew word חבלי, chebley, means cords or sorrows, or any deadly evil, 395395     “חבל, chebel,” says Hammond, “signifies two things, a cord, and a pang of a woman’s travail, and which it signifies must be resolved still by the context. Here, where it is joined with encompassing, it is most fitly to be understood in the former sense, because ropes or cords are proper for that turn, as for holding and keeping in when they are inclosed.” The Chaldee understands the word in the other sense, and paraphrases the clause thus: ”Distress hath compassed me as a woman in travail which hath not strength to bring forth, and is in danger of death,” The Septuagint adopts the same view, reading, “ὠδινες θανατου, the pangs of death.” which consumes a man’s health and strength, and which tends to his destruction. That the psalm may correspond with the song recorded in 2nd Samuel, formerly referred to, I do not disapprove of this word being here taken for contrition, because the phrase there employed is משברי מות, mishberey maveth, 396396     Cocceius renders the words, “the waves of death,” and he observes, that the words “waves’” explains the verb “compassed me about.” Death sent its sorrows thick upon him one after another, as the sea sends forth its waves, and with such violence that he was ready to be overwhelmed. The word משברי, mishberey, is applied both to the breaking waves of the sea, (Psalm 42:7.) — Ainsworth. Horsley translates the phrase, “The breakers of death.” “The metaphor,” says he, “is taken from those dangerous waves our mariners call white breakers.” and the noun משברי, mishberey, is derived from a verb which signifies to break. But as the metaphor taken from cords or snares agrees better with the verb compass about, the import of which is, that David was on all sides involved and entangled in the perils of death, I am disposed rather to adopt this interpretation. What follows concerning torrents implies that he had been almost overwhelmed by the violence and impetuosity of his enemies against him, even as a man who is covered over the head with floods of water is almost lost. He calls them the torrents of Belial, because it was wicked and perverse men who had conspired against him. The Hebrew word Belial has a wide signification. With respect to its etymology there are different opinions among expositors. Why Jerome has rendered it without yoke, 397397     Jerome doubtless derived the word from בלי, beli, not or without, and עול, ol, a yoke, and thus the term Belial means those who shake off all restraint. Signifying to profit, or to gain advantage in any respect. I know not. The more generally received opinion is, that it is compounded of these two words, בלי, beli, not, and יעל, yaäl, 398398     Belial is a compound term, significant of vileness and worthlessness. to denote that the wicked do not rise, in other words, ultimately gain nothing, and obtain no advantage by their infatuated course. The Jews certainly employed this word to designate every kind of detestable wickedness, and from this it is highly probable that David by it meant to describe his enemies, who basely and wickedly plotted his destruction. 399399     “The ‘floods of Belial’ intend large bodies of men, who rush forward in impetuous torrents to overwhelm and destroy whatever opposes them.” - Walford. If, however, any prefer translating the phrase, by deadly torrents, I am not disposed to oppose this rendering. In the following verse he again repeats, that the corruptions or cords of the grave had compassed him about As the Hebrew word is the same which he had employed in the preceding verse, I have thought it proper to translate it cords here, as I have done there, not only because he uses a verb which signifies to beset, to inclose, or to surround, but also because he adds immediately after, the snares of death, which, in my opinion, is to be understood in the same sense. This, then, is the description of the dangerous circumstances into which he was brought, and it enhances and magnifies so much the more the glory of his deliverance. As David had been reduced to a condition so desperate that no hope of relief or deliverance from it was apparent, it is certain that he was delivered by the hand of God, and that it was not a thing effected by the power of man.

6. In my distress, etc. It was a very evident proof of uncommon faith in David, when, being almost plunged into the gulf of death, he lifted up his heart to heaven by prayer. Let us therefore learn, that such an example is set before our eyes, that no calamities, however great and oppressive, may hinder us from praying, or create an aversion to it. It was prayer which brought to David the fruits or wonderful effects of which he speaks a little after, and from this it appears still more clearly that his deliverance was effected by the power of God. In saying that he cried, he means, as we have observed elsewhere, the ardor and earnestness of affection which he had in prayer. Again, by calling God his God, he separates himself from the gross despisers of God, or hypocrites, who, when constrained by necessity, call upon the Divine Majesty in a confused and tumultuous manner, but do not come to God familiarly and with a pure heart, as they know nothing of his fatherly favor and goodness. When, therefore, as we approach to God, faith goes before to illumine the way, giving us the full persuasion that He is our Father, then is the gate opened, and we may converse freely with Him and he with us. David, by calling God his God, and putting him on his side, also intimates that God was opposed to his enemies; and this serves to show that he was actuated by true piety and the fear of God. By the word temple we are not here to understand the sanctuary as in many other places, but heaven; for the description which immediately follows cannot be applied to the sanctuary. Accordingly, the sense is, that when David was forsaken and abandoned in the world, and all men shut their ears to his cry for help, God stretched forth his hand from heaven to save him.


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