4. My heart trembles within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. 5. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me. 6. And I said, Who will give me wings like a dove? I will fly away, and be at rest. 7. Lo! I will prolong the flight,1 I will repose in the wilderness. Selah. 8. I will hasten a deliverance for me,2 from the wind raised by the whirlwind.
1 "C'est, m'enfuiray bien loin." -- Fr. marg. "That is, I will flee afar off."
2 "C'est, hasteroye de m'eschapper." -- Fr. marg. "That is, I will hasten to escape."
3 "My heart is in travail within me."
4 This very beautiful image, derived from the flight of the dove, is continued in the two following verses. The defenselessness of the dove, the danger to which it is exposed from birds of prey, the surprising rapidity with which, when pursued by the hawk, it flees to deserts and rocks to hide itself, putting forth its utmost speed, and outstripping its deadly pursuer; all these characteristics of this bird were in the view of the Psalmist on the present occasion. We find an allusion to them in Jeremiah 48:28: "O ye that dwell in Moab, leave the cities, and dwell in the rock, and be like the dove that maketh her nest in the sides of the hole's mouth." The poets of Greece and Rome make frequent allusions to the rapid flight of the dove: --
"So, when the falcon wings her way above,
To the cleft cavern speeds the gentle dove,
Not fated yet to die." -- Pope's Homer.
Sophocles, in a passage somewhat similar to this of the Psalmist, says, "O that with the rapid whirlwind flight of a dove I could cleave the etherial clouds!" -- (dip. Colon. 1136.) "Kimshi gives it as the reason why the Psalmist prefers the dove to other birds, that while they become weary with flying, and alight upon a rock or a tree to recruit their strength, and are taken; the dove, when she is fatigued, alternately rests one wing, and flies with the other, and, by this means, escapes from the swiftest pursuers." -- (Paxton's Illustrations of Scripture, volume 2, p. 292.) It is worthy of observation, and it serves to heighten the effect of the Psalmist's comparison, that
5 Whirlwinds are not uncommon in Palestine, and the surrounding countries, and to them we often find allusions in the Sacred Writings. The description of that kind of whirlwind called the Sammiel, which sometimes happens between Egypt and Nubia, will serve to show the propriety with which David made this allusion in his present circumstances of distress and danger. "This wind, which the Arabs call poisonous, stifles on the spot those that are unfortunate enough to breathe in it: so that to guard against its pernicious effects, they are obliged to throw themselves speedily on the ground, with their face close to these burning sands, with which they are surrounded, and to cover their heads with some cloth or carpet, lest, in respiration, they should suck in that deadly quality which everywhere attends it. People ought even to think themselves very happy when this wind, which is always besides very violent, does not raise up large quantities of sand with a whirling motion, which, darkening the air, render the guides incapable of discerning their way. Sometimes whole caravans have been buried by this means under the sand, with which this wind is frequently charged." -- Maillet, quoted in Harmer's Observations, volume1, p. 95.