1. Save me, O God! for the waters have entered in unto my soul. 2. I am sunk in deep mire, where there is no footing, [or standing place:] I am come into deep waters, and the flood1 of the water overfloweth me. 3. I am weary of crying; my throat has become hoarse therewith: my eyes have failed with [or in] waiting for my God. 4. They who hate me without cause are more in number than the hairs of my head: my lying adversaries, who eagerly desire to destroy me, are increased;2 that which I took not by spoil, then3 I restored it. 5. O God! thou knowest my foolishness; and my faults are not hidden from thee.
1. Save me, O God! for the waters, etc. Under the figure of waters, the Psalmist represents his condition as so extremely distressing that it brought him even to the brink of despair; and yet we know that, so far from being a soft and an effeminate person, he was one who encountered and overcame dreadful temptations with extraordinary courage. Whence we may infer the bitterness of the distress with which he was at that time afflicted. Some understand the word soul as denoting life;4 but this gives a very cold and unsatisfactory meaning. It rather signifies the heart. A man when he falls into an abyss of waters, may prevent for some time the water from entering his body, by stopping his mouth and his nostrils, but at length, from its being impossible for a human being to live without respiration, suffocation will compel him to let in the waters, and they will penetrate even to the heart. David by this metaphor would intimate, not only that the waters had covered and overwhelmed him, but also that he had been forced to draw them into his body.
2. I am sunk in deep mire, where there is no standing place. Here he compares his afflictions to a deep sink of mire, where there is still greater danger; for if a man fixes his feet upon a solid bottom, he may raise himself up, there having been many instances in which persons, placing their feet on the bottom, have by a sudden spring emerged and escaped the peril of the waters; but when a man finds himself once sunk in some slough or muddy river, it is all over with him, he has no means of saving himself.5 The Psalmist adduces additional circumstances in illustration of his afflicted condition. He declares that he was inundated by the flowing of the waters; an expression indicating the disorder and confusion which his distresses and persecutions produced.
3. I am weary of crying. David, in seeking and calling upon God, when his affairs were in such a confused and desperate condition, exhibited an instance of rare and wonderful patience. He complains of having continued crying until he was exhausted and became hoarse, and all to no purpose. By the word weary, he does not mean that he gave up with prayer, as if he had cast from him all love to and delight in that exercise upon finding that it proved unavailing as a means of deliverance. He rather describes his untiring perseverance; and the same idea is expressed by his hoarse throat and failing eyes.6 He certainly did not cry out before men from mere affectation, nor was this hoarseness contracted in the course of one day. We perceive, then, that although his bodily senses failed him, the vigor of his faith was by no means extinguished. When we reflect that David has spoken, as it were, out of the mouth of Christ, and, as it were, out of the mouth of all true saints who are the members of Christ, we ought not to think that any strange thing happens to us, if at any time we are so overwhelmed with death, as to be unable to discern the slightest hope of life. Yea, rather let us learn betimes, while God spares us, to meditate on this truth, and derive the aid which it is fitted to impart under calamity, that even in the most profound depths of adversity faith may hold us up, and, what is more, may elevate us to God; there being, as Paul testifies, (Romans 8:39) no height nor depth which can separate us from the infinite love of Him who swallows up all depths, yea, even hell itself.
4. They who hate me without cause are more in number than the hairs of my head. The Psalmist now expresses without figure what he had said under the metaphors of the mire and of the impetuous rushing of the waters. Persecuted as he was by so great a multitude of enemies, he had too good reason to be afraid of death in innumerable ways. Nor is his language hyperbolical, when he represents his enemies as more in number than the hairs of his head, since he was mortally hated and detested by the whole kingdom, it being the universal belief that he was a base and wicked traitor to his country. Farther, we know from the sacred history how numerous and powerful the armies were which Saul sent forth to pursue him. He expresses the mortal hatred which they bore to him, when he tells us that they were intently set upon his destruction, being eagerly desirous to have him cut off by a violent death; and yet he avows that he had done nothing to merit such unrelenting persecution. The Hebrew word
5. O God! thou knowest my foolishness. Augustine has labored to little purpose to show in what way these words are applicable to Christ; and at length he transfers to his members that which could not properly be said of the Head.8 David here uses the language of irony; and by this mode of expressing himself he meant to intimate, that, overwhelmed with the unrighteous judgments of men, he betakes himself to God, and implores him to appear as the defender of his cause. This is much more emphatic than if he had affirmed plainly, and without figure, that his integrity was known to God. In this way he administers a sharp rebuke to his enemies, and as it were looks down with a noble contempt upon the calumnious speeches which they uttered against him; as Jeremiah does when he says,
"O Lord! thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived."
Some ignorant people put a violent construction on these words of Jeremiah, as if they implied that he was actually deceived; whereas he is rather to be understood as deriding with bitter sarcasm his calumniators, who, in speaking evil of him, were chargeable with reproaching and blaspheming God himself. David in like manner, in the passage before us, as a means of preserving himself from succumbing under the perverse judgments of men, appeals to God as the judge of his cause; and possessing as he did the approving testimony of a good conscience, he regards in a great measure with indifference the unjust estimate which men might form of his character. It were indeed desirable that our integrity should also be acknowledged and approved of by men, and that not so much on our own account as for the edification of our brethren. But if, after we have done all in our power to make men form a favorable opinion respecting us, they misconstruct and pervert every good word which we utter, and every good action which we perform, we ought to maintain such greatness of mind as boldly to despise the world and all false accusers, resting contented with the judgment of God and with that alone; for those who are over anxious about maintaining their good name cannot but often experience fainting of heart. Let us be always ready to satisfy men; but if they refuse to listen to what we have to say in self-vindication, let us proceed in our course through evil report as well as good report, following the example of Paul where he fearlessly appeals to the judgment of God,
"who will bring to light the hidden things of dark,"
(1 Corinthians 4:5)
1 "Ou, la force et le fil." -- Fr. marg. "Or, the force and course."
2 "Ou, fortifiez." -- Fr. marg. "Or, strengthened."
4 "The waters are come in unto my soul; i.e., a flood of overwhelming calamities threaten my life: comp. verse 16." -- Cresswell. Williams thinks the allusion is to a leaky vessel, or to an inundation.
5 "Comme nous en voyons plusieurs qui donnans du pied au fond, de roideur trouvent facon d'eschapper le peril de l'eau: mais depuis qu'on se trouve une fois enfonce en quelque bourbier ou riviere limonneuse, c'est fait, il n'y a nul moyen de se sauver." -- Fr.
6 "'My sight faileth me,' etc. This is said metaphorically, the metaphor being taken from the pain occasioned to the eyes when they are long and intently fixed upon the same point." -- Cresswell
7 "There is an apparent impropriety in the language of this verse, though the sense is perfectly clear. It is a proverbial expression, to mark the injustice and extortion of the enemies that are referred to, who compelled the speaker, without any right, to yield up his goods to persons to whom he was not indebted." -- Walford. Horsley observes, that this last clause is a proverbial expression, the meaning of which is, "I have been accountable for the crimes of others." Dr Adam Clarke also remarks, that this is a sort of proverbial expression like these: "Those who suffered the wrong pay the costs" -- "Kings sin and the people are punished." This pre-eminently applies to Christ, who was perfectly holy, but who, by bearing the punishment due to the guilt of man, made satisfaction to Divine justice for sins which he never committed, and restored those blessings which he never took away.
8 According to Augustine, the Messiah, when he says "my foolishness" and "my iniquities," speaks of the sins of men which were imputed to him, and for which he suffered and died under the curse of the law, which treated him as if he had been a sinner, in consequence of the sins thus imputed to him. A similar interpretation is given by Bishops Horsley and Horne, as well as many others. "The Messiah," says the first of these critics, "here, as in many places, may speak of the follies and crimes of men, for which he had made himself answerable as his own." Admitting, as we are disposed to do, although Calvin takes an opposite view, that the passage is applicable to Christ, it may be doubted whether this is the correct interpretation. The sins of those for whom Christ died, by being imputed to him, no doubt became his in the eye of the law, in such a sense as to make him answerable for them. But the Scriptures, be it observed, while they speak of him as "wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities," and as "bearing our sins in his own body on the tree," as if afraid to use any forms of expression which would even seem to derogate from his immaculate purity, never speak of the sins of those for whom he died as his own sins. What Horsley adds, as an additional explanation, is very unguarded. "Perhaps," says he, "He who, although he was without sin, was yet tempted in all points like up to us, might, in his humility, speak of the incitement of the passions in his own mind as weakness and fault, making confession of it before the Father." Nothing, doubtless, was farther from the mind of the prelate than to teach any thing inconsistent with the perfect holiness of the Son of God; and he expressly warns that "he was without sin;" but the language which he employs is scarcely consistent with this position, and it can convey no idea on the subject except an erroneous one. "The prince of this world cometh," said Jesus to his disciples, "and hath nothing in me" -- hath nothing in me, that is, to use the words of Dr Doddridge, "no guilt of mine to give him power over me; nor any inward corruption, to take part with his temptations." The explanation of the text, which appears to be the most natural and consistent, is that which considers the Savior as solemnly appealing to the Father in vindication of his innocence. His enemies falsely charged him with crimes, and made these charges the ground of their cruel and malignant proceedings against him. The Divine Sufferer, therefore, with confidence appeals to God, saying, Thou, who art the omniscient and all-righteous Judge, knowest that I am innocent of the crimes laid to my charge, and I invoke thee to plead my cause. This interpretation, which is adopted by many eminent critics, as Dr Boothroyd, Dr Morrison, Walford, and others, is strongly supported by the context. The preceding verse contains strong assertions of his innocence; and it was very natural to accompany these with an appeal from the falsehood and calumny of men, to the all-seeing and righteous Judge of the universe.