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Psalm 118:10-14

10. All nations compassed me: but in the name of Jehovah I will surely cut them off. 11. They compassed me; yea, they compassed me: in Jehovah’s name I will surely cut them off. 12. They compassed me as bees: they are quenched 389389     The verb דעכו, doachu, here used has ordinarily the signification of to quench. But in this text it is rendered in all the old versions in the sense of to burn. “This makes it probable,” says Hammond, “that as many other words in the Hebrew language are used in contrary senses, so דעך, which signifies in other places passively to be consumed, or extinguished, may signify here as an ἐναντιόσημον to flame, or in an active sense, as in Arabic it is used, violently to break in or set upon, as in war or contention when men violently rush one on another.” And this seems most suitable to the connection in which it stands. At first sight one would think it strange to say that the adversaries of David were quenched (i.e., destroyed) as the fire of thorns; and for the Psalmist afterwards to state, In the name of the Lord I will surely cut them off. If the verb is here interpreted in the sense of to burn, the main object of the metaphor must be to express, by a figure frequently employed in Scripture, the impotence and quick termination of the rage of those men, however fierce and apparently formidable. It would soon expend itself, and their power of doing injury be lost like a fire of thorns, which, although for a moment it makes a great crackling, and rages violently as if it would quickly consume every thing near, soon ceases, and nothing remains but the ashes. If the verb is understood in the sense of to quench, the language is very elliptical, and in the true genius of Hebrew poetry, which frequently couches in a few words such images as in the hands of Homer would be materials for an enlarged and dignified description, while it leaves unexpressed more than half of what is intended to be understood. The sudden quenching of the hostile army, like the extinction of a fire of thorns, implies the previous comparison of such array to a fire. “It is remarkable that, in a similar connection, Homer has such a comparison of an hostile army to fire, in which he expresses what David left to be understood, and omits (for he had no occasion to introduce) what David expresses, namely, the sudden quenching of the fire: —
   ‘As when devouring flames some forest seize
On the high mountains, splendid from afar
The blaze appears, so, moving in the plain,
The steel-clad host innum’rous flash’d to heav’n.’
Iliad 2, 516. Cowper.

    — Illustrated Commentary upon the Bible.
as a fire of thorns: in Jehovah’s name I will surely cut them off. 13. Thrusting, thou hast thrust at me, that I might fall: 390390     Hammond reads, “Thou hast thrust sore at me to ruin or filling.” “The full import of לנפל,” says he, “is best expressed gerundially, ad cadendum, to falling, not only to express their desire who thus pressed and thrust at him, that he might fall, for that is supposed in the violence of their impulsion, expressed by repetition of the verb דחיתני דחה, thou hast by thrusting thrust me, but to signify the event or success of it, that I was falling, or ready to fall. Του πεσεῖν, say the LXX. in the infinitive mood gerundially, and so the Chaldee and the Syriac; and so the Jewish Arab, ‘It is a long while that thou hast driven or thrust me to falling.’ And this expresses the greatness and seasonableness of the deliverance, that when he was falling, God helped him.” but Jehovah helped me. 14. God is my strength and song, and he hath saved me.

 

10. All nations compassed me In these verses he relates the wonderful deliverance which he had received, that all might know that it was not of human but divine origin. Once and again he declares, that he was compassed not by a few persons, but by a vast multitude. The people, being all inflamed with anger and fury against him, compassed him so that there were no means for his escape, and he could procure help from no quarter but from heaven. Some consider his complaint, that all nations were adverse to him, as referring to the neighboring nations, by whom we know David was surrounded with danger. His meaning, in my opinion, is, that the whole world was adverse to him; because he places God’s help alone in opposition to the deadly and furious hatred both of his own countrymen and of the neighboring nations towards him, so that there was not a spot upon the earth where he could be safe. There was, it is true, no army, collected from several nations, besieging him; still he had no peaceable retreat except among the haunts of wild beasts, from which also he was driven by terror. And in proportion to the number of persons he encountered were the snares laid to entrap him. It is, therefore, not wonderful that he said he was compassed by all nations. Besides, this elliptical mode of speaking is more forcible than if he had merely said that he trusted in God, by reason of which he had become victorious. By publicly mentioning the name of God alone, he maintains that no other means of deliverance were within his reach, and that but for his interposition he must have perished. It appears to me preferable to translate the particle כי, ki, affirmatively. 391391     “I take כי to be an affirmative adverb, surely, and not a conjunction.” — Lowth. “Besieged as I am on all sides by the world, yet if the power of God help me, that will be more than adequate for the extermination of all mine enemies.” Their obstinate and implacable hatred is pointed out by him in the repetition of the phrase compassed about, and their outrageous fury is set forth in comparing them to bees, which, though not possessed of much strength, are very fierce, and when in their insensate fury they attack a person, they occasion no little fear. He shortly adds, they are quenched as a fire of thorns, which at first makes a great crackling, and throws out a greater flame than a fire of wood, but soon passes away. The amount is, that David’s enemies had furiously assailed him, but that their fury soon subsided. Hence he again repeats, that sustained by the power of God, whatever opposition might rise against him would soon pass away.

13. Thou hast sorely thrust at me. He either now changes the person, or directs his discourse to Saul, his principal enemy. In the person of one, he sets at defiance all his enemies together. In saying that he had been thrust at, he admits that he did not withstand the onset by his own bravery, as those who are powerful enough to encounter opposition, sustain the assaults of their enemies without flinching. The power of God is more illustriously displayed in raising him up even from ruin itself.

In the subsequent verse he draws the conclusion that God is his strength and song. By the former adjunct he candidly acknowledges his weakness, and ascribes his safety exclusively to God. And having admitted that his strength was in God alone, because he was sustained by his power, immediately he adds, that God is his praise or his song, which must be understood passively. “In myself there was no ground for boasting, to God belongs entirely all the praise of my safety.” The last clause of the verse, in which he says that God was his salvation, refers to the same subject.


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