|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
18:1-19 The first words, I will love thee, O Lord, my strength, are the scope and contents of the psalm. Those that truly love God, may triumph in him as their Rock and Refuge, and may with confidence call upon him. It is good for us to observe all the circumstances of a mercy which magnify the power of God and his goodness to us in it. David was a praying man, and God was found a prayer-hearing God. If we pray as he did, we shall speed as he did. God's manifestation of his presence is very fully described, ver. 7-15. Little appeared of man, but much of God, in these deliverances. It is not possible to apply to the history of the son of Jesse those awful, majestic, and stupendous words which are used through this description of the Divine manifestation. Every part of so solemn a scene of terrors tells us, a greater than David is here. God will not only deliver his people out of their troubles in due time, but he will bear them up under their troubles in the mean time. Can we meditate on ver. 18, without directing one thought to Gethsemane and Calvary? Can we forget that it was in the hour of Christ's deepest calamity, when Judas betrayed, when his friends forsook, when the multitude derided him, and the smiles of his Father's love were withheld, that the powers of darkness prevented him? The sorrows of death surrounded him, in his distress he prayed, Heb 5:7. God made the earth to shake and tremble, and the rocks to cleave, and brought him out, in his resurrection, because he delighted in him and in his undertaking.
Verse 4. - The sorrows of death compassed me. Here begins the narrative of David's sufferings in the past. "'The sorrows' - or rather, 'the cords' - of death," he says, "encompassed me," or "coiled around me" (Kay). Death is represented as a hunter, who goes out with nets and cords, encompassing his victims and driving them into the toils. David's recollection is probably of the time when he was "hunted upon the mountains" by Saul (1 Samuel 26:20), and expected continually to be caught and put to death (1 Samuel 19:1; 1 Samuel 23:15; 1 Samuel 27:1). And the floods of ungodlymen made me afraid; literally, the torrents of Belial, or of ungodliness. The LXX. have χείμαῥῤοι, ἀνομίας. Streams of ungodly men, the myrmidons of Saul, cut him off from escape.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The sorrows of death compassed me,.... These words and the following, in this verse and Psalm 18:5, as they respect David, show the snares that were laid for his life, the danger of death he was in, and the anxiety of mind he was possessed of on account of it; and as they refer to Christ, include all the sorrows of his life to the time of his death, who was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief personally, and bore and carried the sorrows and griefs of all his people; and may chiefly intend his sorrows in the garden, arising from a view of the sins of his people, which he was about to bear upon the cross; and from an apprehension of the wrath of God, and curse of the law, which he was going to sustain for them, when his soul was encompassed about with sorrow, even unto death, Matthew 26:38; when his sorrow was so great, and lay so heavy upon him, that it almost pressed him down to death, he could scarce live under it; and may also take in the very pains and agonies of death; he dying the death of the cross, which was a very painful and excruciating one; see Psalm 22:14; The Hebrew word for "sorrows" signifies the pains and birth throes of a woman in travail; and is here fitly used of the sufferings and death of Christ; through which he brought forth much fruit, or many sons to glory. The Targum is,
"distress has encompassed me, as a woman that sits upon the stool, and has no strength to bring forth, and is in danger of dying.''
In 2 Samuel 22:5, it is "the waves" or "breakers of death compassed me"; and the word there used is rendered in Hosea 13:13; "the breaking forth of children"; moreover the same word signifies "cords" (r), as well as pains and sorrows; and the allusion may be to malefactors being bound with cords when led to execution, and put to death; and may here signify the power of death, under which the Messiah was held for a while, but was loosed from it at his resurrection; to which sense of the word, and to the words here, the Apostle Peter manifestly refers, Acts 2:24;
and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid; meaning either the multitude of them, as Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Roman soldiers, and people of the Jews, who all gathered together against him; so the Targum renders it, "a company of wicked men"; or the variety of sufferings he endured by them; as spitting upon, buffering, scourging, &c. The word rendered "ungodly men is Belial"; and signifies vain, worthless, and unprofitable men; men of no figure or account; or lawless ones, such as have cast off the yoke of the law, are not subject to it; persons very wicked and profligate. The word in the New Testament seems to be used for Satan, 2 Corinthians 6:15; where it is so rendered in the Syriac version, and he may be designed here; and by the floods of Belial may be meant, not so much the temptations of Satan in the wilderness, as his violent and impetuous attacks upon Christ in the garden, when being in an agony or conflict with him, his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood, Luke 22:44. The Septuagint render the word, "the torrents of iniquity troubled me"; which was true of Christ, when all the sins of his people came flowing in upon him, like mighty torrents, from all quarters; when God laid on him the iniquity of them all, and he was made sin for them; and in a view of all this "he began to be sore amazed", Mark 14:33; compare with this Psalm 69:1. Arama interprets Belial of the evil imagination in David, who had a war in himself.
(r) "funes mortis", Musculus, Montanus, Vatablus, Gejerus, Michaelis; so Ainsworth, Hammond.
The Treasury of David
4 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
6 In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
7 Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.
8 There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.
9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down and darkness was under his feet.
10 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.
13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.
14 Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.
15 Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.
16 He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.
17 He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4. sorrows—literally, "bands as of a net" (Ps 116:3).
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