4. For there are no bands to their death, and their strength is vigorous.1 5. They are not in the trouble that is common to man; neither are they scourged [or stricken] with other men. 6. Therefore pride compasseth them as a chain; the raiment of violence hath covered them. 7. Their eye goeth out for fatness; they have passed beyond [or exceeded] the thoughts of their heart. 8. They become insolent, and wickedly talk of extortion:2 they speak from on high. 9. They have set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.3
4. For there are no bands to their death. The Psalmist describes the comforts and advantages of the ungodly, which are as it were so many temptations to shake the faith of the people of God. He begins with the good health which they enjoy, telling us, that they are robust and vigorous, and have not to draw their breath with difficulty through continual sicknesses, as will often be the case with regard to true believers.4 Some explain bands to death, as meaning delays, viewing the words as implying that the wicked die suddenly, and in a moment, not having to struggle with the pangs of dissolution. In the book of Job it is reckoned among the earthly felicities of the ungodly, That, after having enjoyed to the full their luxurious pleasures, they "in a moment go down to the grave," (Job 21:13.) And it is related of Julius Caesar, that, the day before he was put to death, he remarked, that to die suddenly and unexpectedly, seemed to him to be a happy death. Thus, then, according to the opinion of these expositors, David complains that the wicked go to death by a smooth and easy path, without much trouble and anxiety. But I am rather inclined to agree with those who read these two clauses jointly in this way: Their strength is vigorous, and, in respect to them, there are no bands to death; because they are not dragged to death like prisoners.5 As diseases lay prostrate our strength, they are so many messengers of death, warning us of the frailty and short duration of our life. They are therefore with propriety compared to bands, with which God binds us to his yoke, lest our strength and rigour should incite us to licentiousness and rebellion.
5. They are not in the trouble that is common to man. Here it is declared that the wicked enjoy a delightful repose, and are as it were by special privilege exempted from the miseries to which mankind in general are subject. They also are no doubt involved in afflictions as well as the good, and God often executes his judgments upon them; but, for the express purpose of trying our faith, he always places some of them as it were upon an elevated stage, who appear to be privileged to live in a state of exemption from calamities, as is here described. Now, when we consider that the life of men is full of labor and miseries, and that this is the law and condition of living appointed for all, it is a sore temptation to behold the despisers of God indulging themselves in their luxurious pleasures and enjoying great ease, as if they were elevated above the rest of the world into a region of pleasure, where they had a nest for themselves apart.6
6. Therefore pride compasseth them as a chain. This complaint proceeds farther than the preceding; for we are here told that although God sees the ungodly shamefully and wickedly abusing his kindness and clemency, he notwithstanding bears with their ingratitude and rebellion. The Psalmist employs a similitude taken from the dress and attire of the body, to show that such persons glory in their evil deeds. The verb
7. Their eye goeth out for fatness.10 He now adds, that it is not wonderful to see the ungodly breaking forth with such violence and cruelty, since, by reason of fatness and pampering, their eyes are ready to start out of their heads. Some explain the words goeth out as meaning, that their eyes being covered and hidden with fat, were, so to speak, lost, and could not be perceived in their sockets. But as fat causes the eyes to project from the head, I prefer retaining the proper meaning of the words. Let it, however, be observed, that David is not to be understood as speaking of the bodily countenance, but as expressing metaphorically the pride with which the ungodly are inflated on account of the abundance which they possess. They so glut and intoxicate themselves with their prosperity, that afterwards they are ready to burst with pride. The last clause of the verse is also explained in two ways. Some think that by the verb
8. They become insolent, and wickedly talk of extortion. Some take the verb
9. They have set their mouth against the heavens. Here it is declared that they utter their contumelious speeches as well against God as against men; for they imagine that nothing is too arduous for them to attempt, and flatter themselves that heaven and earth are subject to them. If any should endeavor to alarm them by setting before them the power of God, they audaciously break through this barrier; and, with respect to men, they have no idea of any difficulty arising from such a quarter. Thus, there is no obstacle to repress their proud and vaunting speeches, but their tongue walketh through the whole earth. This form of expression seems to be hyperbolical; but when we consider how great and unbounded their presumption is, we will admit that the Psalmist teaches nothing but what experience shows to be matter of fact.
1 Literally, "Their strength is fat." Jerome renders as if, for
2 "Oppression. Dr Boothroyd joins this word to the latter clause, thus: Concerning oppression they talk loftily. This we think preferable." -- Williams.
3 "The powerful effects of the tongue are expressed by a like figure in a Greek proverb preserved by Suidas. Tlw~ssa poi~ poreu>n; po>lin ajnorqw>sousa kai< po>lin katastre>yousa. 'Tongue, whither goest thou? To build up a city, and to destroy a city.' Garrulity is called 'the walk of the tongue' in a line quoted by Stobaeus (Serm. 36) from Astydamas --
Tlw>sshv peri>pato>v ejstin ajdolesci>a.""
4 "Comme souvent il en prendra aux fideles." -- Fr.
5 "They are not dragged to death," says Poole, "either by the hand or sentence of the magistrate, which yet they deserve, nor by any lingering or grievous torments of mind or body, which is the case with many good men; but they enjoy a sweet and quiet death, dropping into the grave like ripe fruit from the tree, without any violence used to them, (compare Job 5:26 and 31:13.) The word translated bands occurs in only one other place of Scripture, Isaiah 58:6, where in all the ancient versions it is rendered bands. But bands will bear various significations. In the Hebrew style it often signifies the pangs of child-birth; and therefore the meaning here may be, they have no pangs in their death; i.e., they die an easy death, being suffered to live on to extreme old age, when the flame of life gradually and quietly becomes extinct. It was also used by the Hebrews to express diseases of any kind, and this is the sense, in which Calvin understands it. Thus Jesus says of the "woman who had a spirit of infirmity," a sore disease inflicted upon her by an evil spirit, "eighteen years," "Thou art loosed from thine infirmity," (and loosing, we know, applies to bands:) he again describes her as "this daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years;" and farther says, "Ought she not to be loosed from this bond?" that is, cured of this sickness? Luke 13:11, 12, 16. According to this view, the meaning will be, they have no violent diseases in their death. Horsley reads, "There is no fatality in their death." After observing that the word
6 "En un lieu de plaisance, et comme pour avoir leur nid a part." -- Fr.
7 There is here a metaphorical allusion to the rich collars or chains worn about the necks of great personages for ornament. Compare Proverbs 1:9, and Cant. 4, 9. Pride compassed these prosperous wicked men about as a chain; they wore it for an ornament as gold chains or collars were worn about the neck; discovering it by their stately carriage. See Isaiah 3:16. Or there may be an allusion to the office which some of them bore; for chains of gold were among the ensigns of magistracy and civil power.
8 Accordingly, the Chaldee, instead of "compasseth them as a chain." has "crowneth them as a crown or diadem does the head."
9 "Violence covereth them as a garment. Wicked men that are prosperous and proud, are generally oppressive to others; and are very often open in their acts of violence, which are as openly done, and to be seen of all men, as the clothes they wear upon their backs; and frequently the clothes they wear are got by rapine and oppression, so that they may properly be called garments of violence. See Isaiah 59:6." -- Dr Gill.
10 "Their eyes are starting out for fatness." -- Horsley. "Their eyes swell with fatness -- this is a proverbial expression, used to designate the opulent, who are very commonly given to sensuality: comp. Job 15:27: Psalm 17:10." -- Cresswell.
11 "The fantasies of their minds run into excess; i.e., they suffer their imaginations to sway them." -- Cresswell.
12 "Et pesche pour eux." Fr.
13 "Exposans que les meschans amolissent, c'est a dire, rendent lasches les autres, c'est a dire, les espouantent et intimident." -- Fr.
14 The original word,
15 "Car comme les Latins et aussi les Grecs, quand ils descrivent la contenance des gens enyvrez d'orgueil, ont des verbes qui signifient Regarder en bas, d'autant que telles gens ne daignent pas regarder droit les personnes." -- Fr. "As the Romans, and also the Greeks, when they describe the countenance of persons intoxicated with pride, have words which mean to look down, because such persons deign not to look directly at other people."
16 "Pource qu'il ne leur semble point avis qu'ils ayent rien de commun avec les autres hommes, mais pensent estre quelque chose a part, et comme des petis dieux." -- Fr.
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