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83

For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,

yet I have not forgotten your statutes.


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83. For I have been as a bottle in the smoke. 426426     Bottles, among the Jews and other nations of the East, were made of goats’ or kids’ skins, as is the custom among the Eastern nations at this day. When the animal was killed, they cut off its feet and head, and drew it, in that manner, out of the skin without opening the belly. They afterwards sewed up the places where the legs were cut off, and the tail, and when it was filled, they tied it about the neck. In these bottles, not only water, milk, and other liquids were put, but every thing intended to be carried to a distance, whether dry or liquid. To these goat-skin vessels a reference is here undoubtedly made. The peasantry of Asia are in the habit of suspending them from the roof, or hanging them against the walls of their tents or humble dwellings: here they soon become quite black with smoke; for, as in their dwellings there are seldom any chimneys, and the smoke can only escape through an aperture in the roof, or by the door, whenever a fire is lighted the apartment is instantly filled with dense smoke. Accordingly, some suppose that the allusion here chiefly is to the blackness which a bottle contracts by hanging in the smoke; and the translators of our English Bible, by referring in the margin to Job 30:30, as parallel to this, seem to have supposed that the Psalmist refers to the blackness his face contracted by sorrow. “But,” says Harmer, “this can hardly be supposed to be the whole of his thought. In such a case, would he not rather have spoken of the blackness of a pot, as it is supposed the prophet Joel does, (Joel 2:6,) rather than to that of a leather bottle?” — Harmers Observations, volume 1, page 218. When such bottles are suspended in the smoky tent of an Arab, if they do not contain liquids, or are not quite filled by the solids which they hold, they become dry, shrunk, and shriveled; and to this, as well as to their blackness, the Psalmist may allude. Long-continued bodily affliction and mental trouble produce a similar change on the human frame, destroying its beauty and strength by drying up the natural moisture. It has also been thought that there is a contrast between such mean bottles and the rich vessels of gold and silver which were used in the palaces of kings. “My appearance in the state of my exile is as different from what it was when I dwelt at court, as are the gold and silver vessels of a palace from the smoky skin bottles of a poor Arab’s tent, where I am now compelled to reside.” — Ibid. and Paxtons Illustrations, volume 2, pages 409, 410. The particle כי, ki, translated for, might also, not improperly, be resolved into the adverb of time, when; so that we might read the verse in one connected sentence, thus’ When I was like a dried bottle, I, nevertheless, did not forget thy law. The obvious design of the Psalmist is to teach us, that, although he had been proved by severe trials, and wounded to the quick, he yet had not been withdrawn from the fear of God. In comparing himself to a bottle or bladder, he intimates that he was, as it were, parched by the continual heat of adversities. Whence we learn, that that sorrow must have been intense which reduced him to such a state of wretchedness and emaciation, that like a shriveled bottle he was almost dried up. It, however, appears that he intends to point cut, not only the severity of his affliction, but also its lingering nature that he was tormented, as it were, at a slow fire; 427427     “Comme a petit feu.” — Fr. even as the smoke which proceeds from heat dries bladders by slow degrees. The prophet experienced a long series of grief’s, which might have consumed him a hundred times, and that, by their protracted and lingering nature, had he not been sustained by the word of God. In short, it is a genuine evidence of true godliness, when, although plunged into the deepest afflictions, we yet cease not to submit ourselves to God.




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