Isaiah 38:17
Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but you have in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for you have cast all my sins behind your back.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) For peace I had great bitterness . . .—The words in the Authorised Version read like a retrospect of the change from health to suffering. Really, they express the very opposite. It was for my peace (i.e., for my salvation, in the fullest sense of the word) that it was bitter, was bitter unto me (emphasis of iteration). All things were now seen as “working together for good.”

Thou hast in love to my soul . . .—The italics show that the verbs “delivered it “are not in the present Hebrew text. A slight change, such as might be made to correct an error of transcription, would give that meaning, but as it stands, we have the singularly suggestive phrase, Thou hast loved me out of the pit of corruption. The very love of Jehovah is thought of as ipso facto a deliverance.

Thou hast cast all my sins . . .—As in our Lord’s miracles, the bodily healing was the pledge and earnest of the spiritual. “Arise and walk” guaranteed, “Thy sins be forgiven thee” (Matthew 9:2-5). (For the symbols of that forgiveness, comp. Micah 7:19.)

Isaiah 38:17. Behold, for peace I had great bitterness — “When I perceived and feared no evil, and seemed to enjoy my usual health, then this terrible evil came upon me.” The Hebrew, however, לשׁלום מר לו מר, may be properly rendered, Behold my grievous anguish is turned into ease; or, My great bitterness was unto peace, that is, became the occasion of my safety and comfort, for it drove me to prayer, and prayer prevailed with God for a gracious answer, and the prolonging of my life. Thou hast in love to my soul, &c. — That is, in kindness to me, (the soul being put for the man,) delivered it from the pit of corruption — This is an emphatical circumstance, for sometimes God prolongs men’s days in anger, foreknowing that they will only fill up still more the measure of their iniquities. For thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back — Thou hast forgiven those sins that brought this affliction upon me, and, upon that account, hast removed the punishment of them. 38:9-22 We have here Hezekiah's thanksgiving. It is well for us to remember the mercies we receive in sickness. Hezekiah records the condition he was in. He dwells upon this; I shall no more see the Lord. A good man wishes not to live for any other end than that he may serve God, and have communion with him. Our present residence is like that of a shepherd in his hut, a poor, mean, and cold lodging, and with a trust committed to our charge, as the shepherd has. Our days are compared to the weaver's shuttle, Job 7:6, passing and repassing very swiftly, every throw leaving a thread behind it; and when finished, the piece is cut off, taken out of the loom, and showed to our Master to be judged of. A good man, when his life is cut off, his cares and fatigues are cut off with it, and he rests from his labours. But our times are in God's hand; he has appointed what shall be the length of the piece. When sick, we are very apt to calculate our time, but are still at uncertainty. It should be more our care how we shall get safe to another world. And the more we taste of the loving-kindness of God, the more will our hearts love him, and live to him. It was in love to our poor perishing souls that Christ delivered them. The pardon does not make the sin not to have been sin, but not to be punished as it deserves. It is pleasant to think of our recoveries from sickness, when we see them flowing from the pardon of sin. Hezekiah's opportunity to glorify God in this world, he made the business, and pleasure, and end of life. Being recovered, he resolves to abound in praising and serving God. God's promises are not to do away, but to quicken and encourage the use of means. Life and health are given that we may glorify God and do good.Behold, for peace - That is, instead of the health, happiness, and prosperity which I had enjoyed, and which I hope still to enjoy.

I had great bitterness - Hebrew, 'Bitterness to me, bitterness;' an emphatic expression, denoting intense sorrow.

But thou hast in love to my soul - Margin, 'Loved my soul from the pit.' The word which occurs here (חשׁקת châshaqtâ) denotes properly to join or fasten together; then to be attached to anyone; to be united tenderly; to embrace. Here it means that God had loved him, and had thus delivered his soul from death.

Delivered it from the pit of corruption - The word rendered "corruption" (בלי belı̂y), denotes consumption, destruction, perdition. It may be applied to the grave, or to the deep and dark abode of departed spirits; and the phrase here is evidently synonymous with sheol or hades. The grave, or the place for the dead, is often represented as a pit - deep and dark - to which the living descend (Job 17:16; Job 33:18, Job 33:24-25, Job 33:30; Psalm 28:1; Psalm 30:3; Psalm 55:23; Psalm 69:15; Psalm 88:4; compare Isaiah 14:15, note, Isaiah 14:19, note).

For thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back - Thou hast forgiven them; hast ceased to punish me on account of them. This shows that Hezekiah, in accordance with the sentiment everywhere felt and expressed in the Bible, regarded his suffering as the fruit of sin.

17. for peace—instead of the prosperity which I had previously.

great bitterness—literally, "bitterness to me, bitterness"; expressing intense emotion.

in love—literally, "attachment," such as joins one to another tenderly; "Thou hast been lovingly attached to me from the pit"; pregnant phrase for, Thy love has gone down to the pit, and drawn me out from it. The "pit" is here simply death, in Hezekiah's sense; realized in its fulness only in reference to the soul's redemption from hell by Jesus Christ (Isa 61:1), who went down to the pit for that purpose Himself (Ps 88:4-6; Zec 9:11, 12; Heb 13:20). "Sin" and sickness are connected (Ps 103:3; compare Isa 53:4, with Mt 8:17; 9:5, 6), especially under the Old Testament dispensation of temporal sanctions; but even now, sickness, though not invariably arising from sin in individuals, is connected with it in the general moral view.

cast … behind back—consigned my sins to oblivion. The same phrase occurs (1Ki 14:9; Ne 9:26; Ps 50:17). Contrast Ps 90:8, "Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance."

For peace I had great bitterness; my health and prosperity was quickly changed into bitter sickness and affliction. Or, as others render it, my great bitterness was unto peace; was turned into prosperity, or became the occasion of my safety and further advantages; for that drove me to my prayers, and prayers prevailed with God for a gracious answer, and the prolonging of my life. In love to my soul; in kindness to me, the soul being oft put for the man. This is an emphatical circumstance; for sometimes God prolongs men’s days in anger, and in Order to their greater misery.

Thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back; thou hast forgiven those sins which brought this evil upon me, and upon that account hast removed the punishment of them; which showeth that thou didst this in love to me. The phrase is borrowed from the custom of men, who when they would accurately see and observe any thing, set it before their faces; and when they desire and resolve not to look upon any thing, turn their backs upon it, or cast it behind them. Behold, for peace I had great bitterness,.... Meaning not that instead of peace and prosperity, which he expected would ensue upon the destruction of Sennacherib's army, came a bitter affliction upon him; for he is not now dwelling on that melancholy subject; but rather the sense is, that he now enjoyed great peace and happiness, though he had been in great bitterness; for the words may be rendered, "behold, I am in peace, I had great bitterness"; or thus, "behold my great bitterness is unto peace": or, "he has turned it into peace" (u); it has issued in it, and this is my present comfortable situation: "but", or rather,

and thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: the grave, where bodies rot and corrupt, and are quite abolished, as the word signifies; see Psalm 30:3 or "thou hast embraced my soul from the pit of corruption (w)"; it seems to be an allusion to a tender parent, seeing his child sinking in a pit, runs with open arms to him, and embraces him, and takes him out. This may be applied to a state of nature, out of which the Lord in love delivers his people; which is signified by a pit, or dark dungeon, a lonely place, a filthy one, very uncomfortable, where they are starving and famishing; a pit, wherein is no water, Zechariah 9:11 and may fitly be called a pit of corruption, because of their corrupt nature, estate, and actions; out of this the Lord brings his people at conversion, and that because of his great love to their souls, and his delight in them; or it may be applied to their deliverance from the bottomless pit of destruction, which is owing to the Lord's being gracious to them, and having found a ransom for them, his own Son, Job 33:24, and to this sense the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions seem to incline; "for thou hast delivered my soul that it might not perish": in love to their souls, and that they may not perish, he binds them up in the bundle of life, with the Lord their God; he redeems their souls from sin, Satan, and the law; he regenerates, renews, and converts them, and preserves them safe to his everlasting kingdom and glory; in order to which, and to prevent their going down to the pit, they are put into the hands of Christ, redeemed by his precious blood, and are turned out of the broad road that leads to destruction:

for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back; as loathsome and abominable, and so as not to be seen by him; for though God sees all the sins of his people with his eye of omniscience, and in his providence takes notice of them, and chastises for them, yet not with his eye of avenging justice; because Christ has took them on himself, and made satisfaction for them, and an end of them; they are removed from them as far as the east is from the west, and no more to be seen upon them; nor will they be any more set before his face, or in the light of his countenance; but as they are out of sight they will be out of mind, never more remembered, but forgotten; as what is cast behind the back is seen and remembered no more. The phrase is expressive of the full forgiveness of sins, even of all sins; see Psalm 85:2, the object of God's love is the souls of his people; the instance of it is the delivery of them from the pit of corruption; the evidence of it is the pardon of their sins.

(u) Abendana, after Joseph Kimchi, interprets it of changing bitterness into peace; he observes in the phrase that the first signifies change or permutation as in Jer. xlvlii. 11. and the second bitterness: and that the sense is this, behold, unto peace he hath changed my bitterness, that is the bitterness and distress which I had, he hath changed into peace. (w) "et tu amplexus es amore animam meam a fovea abolitionis"; Montanus; "tu vero propenso amore complexus es animam meam", Piscator; "tu tenero amore complexus animam meam", Vitringa.

Behold, for {s} peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my {t} sins behind thy back.

(s) While I thought to have lived in rest and ease being delivered from my enemy, I had grief upon grief.

(t) He values more the remission of his sins, and God's favour than a thousand lives.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. Behold, for peace … bitterness) (lit. “it was bitter to me, bitter”), i.e. the bitterness of affliction was mercifully overruled so as to yield “peaceable fruit” through his recovery (cf. Hebrews 12:11).

but thou hast in love … pit] Lit. (according to the Hebrew text) “and thou hast loved my soul out of the pit …”—a pregnant construction of perhaps unexampled boldness. The true reading probably is “thou hast kept back my soul, &c.” (ḥâsaktâ for ḥâshaqtâ).

For pit of corruption render pit of annihilation.

cast … behind thy back] An image for utter forgetfulness: 1 Kings 14:9; Nehemiah 9:26; Psalm 50:17. The Psalmist recognises in his deliverance the pledge that his sins are forgiven and forgotten.Verse 17. - Behold, for peace I had great bitterness; rather, behold, it was for my peace that I had such bitterness, such bitterness. The pain that I underwent was for the true peace and comfort of my soul (comp. Psalm 94:12; Psalm 119:75; Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:5-11). Thou hast in love, etc.; literally, thou hast loved my soul back from the pit of destruction - as if God's love, beaming on the monarch's soul, had drawn it back from the edge of the pit (comp. Hosea 11:4, "I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love"). For thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back. Where they could be no more seen, and therefore would be no more remembered (comp. Micah 7:19; Psalm 25:7; Psalm 79:8; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 64:9, etc.). Hezekiah, though lately he protested his integrity (ver. 3). did not mean to say that he was sinless, lie knew that he had sinned; he regarded his sins as having brought down upon him the sentence of death; as God has revoked the sentence, he knows that he has pardoned his sins and put them away from his remembrance. Strophe 1 consists indisputably of seven lines:

"I said, In quiet of my days shall I depart into the gates of Hades:

I am mulcted of the rest of my years.

I said, I shall not see Jah, Jah, in the land of the living:

I shall behold man no more, with the inhabitants of the regions of the dead.

My home is broken up, and is carried off from me like a shepherd's tent:

I rolled up my life like a weaver; He would have cut me loose from the roll:

From day to night Thou makest an end of me."

"In quiet of my days" is equivalent to, in the midst of the quiet course of a healthy life, and is spoken without reference to the Assyrian troubles, which still continued. דּמי, from דּמה, to be quiet, lit., to be even, for the radical form דם has the primary idea of a flat covering, of something stroked smooth, of that which is level and equal, so that it could easily branch out into the different ideas of aequabilitas, equality of measure, aequitas, equanimity, aequitas, equality, and also of destruction equals complanatio, levelling. On the cohortative, in the sense of that which is to be, see Ewald, 228, a; אלכה, according to its verbal idea, has the same meaning as in Psalm 39:14 and 2 Chronicles 21:20; and the construction with בּ ( equals ואבואה אלכה) is constructio praegnans (Luzzatto). The pual פּקּדתּי does not mean, "I am made to want" (Rashi, Knobel, and others), which, as the passive of the causative, would rather be הפקשׂדתּי, like הנסהלתּי, I am made to inherit (Job 7:3); but, I am visited with punishment as to the remnant, mulcted of the remainder, deprived, as a punishment, of the rest of my years. The clause, "Jah in the land of the living," i.e., the God of salvation, who reveals Himself in the land of the living, is followed by the corresponding clause, הדל עם־יושׁבי, "I dwelling with the inhabitants of the region of the dead;" for whilst הלד signifies temporal life (from châlad, to glide imperceptibly away, Job 11:17), הלד signifies the end of this life, the negation of all conscious activity of being, the region of the dead. The body is called a dwelling (dōr, Arab. dâr), as the home of a man who possesses the capacity to distinguish himself from everything belonging to him (Psychol. p. 227). It is compared to a nomadic tent. רעי (a different word from that in Zechariah 11:17, where it is the chirek compaginis) is not a genitive ( equals רעה, Ewald, 151, b), but an adjective in i, like אוילי רעה in Zechariah 11:15. With niglâh (in connection with נסּע, as in Job 4:21), which does not mean to be laid bare (Luzz.), nor to be wrapt up (Ewald), but to be obliged to depart, compare the New Testament ἐκδημεῖν ἐκ τοῦ σώματος (2 Corinthians 5:8). The ἁπ γεγρ קפד might mean to cut off, or shorten (related to qâphach); it is safer, however, and more appropriate, to take it in the sense of rolling up, as in the name of the badger (Isaiah 14:23; Isaiah 34:11), since otherwise what Hezekiah says of himself and of God would be tautological. I rolled or wound up my life, as the weaver rolls up the finished piece of cloth: i.e., I was sure of my death, namely, because God was about to give me up to death; He was about to cut me off from the thrum (the future is here significantly interchanged with the perfect). Dallâh is the thrum, licium, the threads of the warp upon a loom, which becomes shorter and shorter the further the weft proceeds, until at length the piece is finished, and the weaver cuts through the short threads, and so sets it free (בצּע, cf., Job 6:9; Job 27:8). The strophe closes with the deep lamentation which the sufferer poured out at that time: he could not help feeling that God would put an end to him (shâlam, syn. kâlâh, tâmam, gâmar) from day to night, i.e., in the shortest time possible (compare Job 4:20).

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