Psalm 116:1-4

1. I have loved, because Jehovah shall hear the voice of my supplication. 2. Because he hath inclined his ear to me, and during my days I will call upon him. 3. The snares 1 of death compassed me, 2and the sorrows of the grave found me: 3 I found tribulation and grief. 4. And I will call upon the name of Jehovah; I beseech thee, O Jehovah! deliver my soul.


1. I have loved, because Jehovah will hear the voice of my supplication. At the very commencement of this psalm David avows that he was attracted with the sweetness of God's goodness, to place his hope and confidence in him alone. This abrupt mode of speaking, I have loved, is the more emphatic, intimating that he could receive joy and repose nowhere but in God. We know that our hearts will be always wandering after fruitless pleasures, and harassed with care, until God knit them to himself. This distemper David affirms was removed from him, because he felt that God was indeed propitious towards him. And, having found by experience that, in general, they who call upon God are happy, he declares that no allurements shall draw him away from God. When, therefore, he says, I have loved, it imports that, without God, nothing would be pleasant or agreeable to him. From this we are instructed that those who have been heard by God, but do not place themselves entirely under his guidance and guardianship, have derived little advantage from the experience of his grace.

The second verse also refers to the same subject, excepting that the latter clause admits of a very appropriate meaning, which expositors overlook. The phrase, during my days I will call upon him, is uniformly understood by them to mean, I, who hitherto have been so successful in addressing God, will pursue the same course all my life long. But it should be considered whether it may not be equally appropriate that the days of David be regarded as denoting a fit season of asking assistance, the season when he was hard pressed by necessity. I am not prevented from adopting this signification, because it may be said that the prophet employs the future tense of the verb arqa, ekra. In the first verse also, the term, he shall hear, is to be understood in the past tense, he has heard, in which case the copulative conjunction would require to be taken as an adverb of time, when, a circumstance this by no means unusual among the Hebrews. The scope of the passage will run very well thus: Because he has bowed his ear to me when I called upon him in the time of my adversity, and even at the season, too, when I was reduced to the greatest straits. If any are disposed to prefer the former exposition, I will not dispute the matter with them. The subsequent context, however, appears to countenance the latter meaning, in which David commences energetically to point out what those days were. And, with the design of magnifying God's glory according to its desert, he says that there was no way of his escaping from death, for he was like one among enemies, bound with fetters and chains, from whom all hope of deliverance was cut off. He acknowledges, therefore, that he was subjected to death, that he was overtaken and seized, so that escape was impossible. And as he declares that he was bound by the cords of death, so he, at the same the adds, that he fell into tribulation and sorrow. And here he confirms what he said formerly, that when he seemed to be most forsaken of God, that was truly the proper time, and the right season for him to give himself to prayer.

1 The root of the Hebrew word ylbx, cheblei, here rendered snares, "is lbx, which signifies to bind, and in Piel conj., to pain, or torment. Geseius, in his Thesaurus, under lbx, says: -- 'Pi. i. q. Kal, No. 1, torsit, inde cum tormentis et doloribus enixa est.' lbx consequently signifies pain, or cable. It would seem from the verb to which it is a subject, that the latter is the more suitable sense, whilst the parallelism is in favor of the former. The former, however, is here contained in the latter, for the expression twm ylbx alludes to the custom of binding the victims for slaughter, or malefactors when taken to the place of execution; which binding was productive of great pain." -- Phillips. See volume 1, page 264. Cresswell reads, "The straits of the grave, that is, the terrors of instant death, had found me."

2 " -- 'compassed me.' The original word Ppa expresses the repetition of the encircling of the toils. They surrounded him again and again." -- Horsley.

3 Fry's translation of this clause is: --

"The nets of Hades had caught hold upon me;"

on which he has the following note: -- "Or, according to the usual meaning of rwu and rru, 'the pangs or pains of hell.' It is not impossible, indeed, that it should be derived from run; we might then render, 'The purveyors of Hades had found me:' and the imagery, at any rate, seems to be taken from the toils of the hunter. Michaelis would read ydwum, 'nets,' instead of yrwum, pangs; but it is very probable that, without any change, yrwum signifies some part of the apparatus of hunting. 'rum a strait, distress, angustia.' Psalm 118:5; 116:3; Lamentations 1:3. In which last text, Mr Lowth says that 'there is a metaphor from those that hunt a prey, which they drive into some strait and narrow passage, from whence there is no making an escape.'"


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