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the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
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.