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Psalm 88:6-9

6. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in dark places, in the deeps. 7. Thy indignation lieth heavy upon me; and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah. 8. Thou hast removed my acquaintances from me: thou hast made me to be abhorred by them: I am shut up that I cannot go forth. 9. My eye mourneth because of my affliction; I invoke thee, O Jehovah! daily: I stretch out my hands to thee.

 

6 Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit. The Psalmist now acknowledges more distinctly, that whatever adversities he endured proceeded from the Divine hand. Nor indeed will any man sincerely betake himself to God to seek relief without a previous persuasion that it is the Divine hand which smites him, and that nothing happens by chance. It is observable that the nearer the prophet approaches God the more is his grief embittered; for nothing is more dreadful to the saints than the judgment of God.

Some translate the first clause of the 7th verse, Thy indignation hath approached upon me; and the Hebrew word סמך, samach, is sometimes to be taken in this sense. But from the scope of the passage, it must necessarily be understood here, as in many other places, in the sense of to surround, or to lie heavy upon; for when the subject spoken of is a man sunk into a threefold grave, it would be too feeble to speak of the wrath of God as merely approaching him. The translation which I have adopted is peculiarly suitable to the whole drift of the text. It views the prophet as declaring, that he sustained the whole burden of God’s wrath; seeing he was afflicted with His waves. Farther, as so dreadful a flood did not prevent him from lifting up his heart and prayers to God, we may learn from his example to cast the anchor of our faith and prayers direct into heaven in all the perils of shipwreck to which we may be exposed.

8 Thou hast removed my acquaintances from me. He was now destitute of all human aid, and that also he attributes to the anger of God, in whose power it is either to bend the hearts of men to humanity, or to harden them, and render them cruel. This is a point well worthy of our attention; for unless we bear in mind that our destitution of human aid in any case is owing to God’s withdrawing his hand, we agitate ourselves without end or measure. We may indeed justly complain of the ingratitude or cruelty of men whenever they defraud us of the just claims of duty which we have upon them; but still this will avail us nothing, unless we are thoroughly convinced that God, being displeased with us, takes away the means of help which he had destined for us; just as it is easy for him, whenever he pleases, to incline the hearts of all men to stretch forth their hand to succor us. The prophet, as an additional and still more grievous element in his distressed condition, tells us that his friends abhorred him. 512512     This verse has been supposed to contain a reference to the condition of the leper under the law, which much resembled the picture here drawn. חפשי, chophshi, from חפש, chophash, “is free,” says Hammond, (“in opposition to servitude,) manumitted, set at liberty The use of this word may more generally be taken from 2 Chronicles 26:21, where of Uzziah, being a leper, it is said, that he dwelt, בית החפשית, ‘in an house of freedom, for he was cut off from the house of the Lord.’ The meaning is, that after the manner of the lepers, he was excluded from the temple, and dwelt, בר מן ירושלם, saith the Chaldee, there, in some place without Jerusalem, which is therefore called the ‘house of freedom,’ because such as were there were exempt from the common affairs, and shut up from the conversation of men. And in comparison with these, they that are, as it were, dead and laid in their graves, are here said to be free, i e., removed from all the affairs and conversation of the world.” Finally, he concludes by observing, that he could perceive no way of escape from his calamities: I am shut up that I cannot go forth. 513513     “This verse,” observes Dr Adam Clarke, “has been supposed to express the state of a leper, who, because of the infectious nature of his disease, is separated from his family, — is abominable to all, and at last shut up in a separate house, whence he does not come out to mingle with society.” “Heman means,” says Walford, “either that the character of his disease was such that men could not endure to be near him, or that the state of his mind was so disordered that he became wearisome and intolerable; perhaps he includes both.”

9. My eye mourneth because of my affliction. To prevent it from being supposed that he was iron-hearted, he again repeats that his afflictions were so severe and painful as to produce manifest traces of his sorrow, even in his countenance and eyes — a plain indication of the low condition to which he was reduced. But he, notwithstanding, testifies that he was not drawn away from God, like many who, secretly murmuring in their hearts, and, to use a proverbial expression, chafing upon the bit, have nothing farther from their thoughts than to disburden their cares into the bosom of God, in order to derive comfort from Him. In speaking of the stretching out of his hands, he puts the sign for the thing signified. I have elsewhere had an opportunity of explaining the import of this ceremony, which has been in common use in all ages.


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