|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
31:9-18 David's troubles made him a man of sorrows. Herein he was a type of Christ, who was acquainted with grief. David acknowledged that his afflictions were merited by his own sins, but Christ suffered for ours. David's friends durst not give him any assistance. Let us not think it strange if thus deserted, but make sure of a Friend in heaven who will not fail. God will be sure to order and dispose all for the best, to all those who commit their spirits also into his hand. The time of life is in God's hands, to lengthen or shorten, make bitter or sweet, according to the counsel of his will. The way of man is not in himself, nor in our friend's hands, nor in our enemies' hands, but in God's. In this faith and confidence he prays that the Lord would save him for his mercies's sake, and not for any merit of his own. He prophesies the silencing of those that reproach and speak evil of the people of God. There is a day coming, when the Lord will execute judgment upon them. In the mean time, we should engage ourselves by well-doing, if possible, to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
Verse 9. - Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble. The psalmist follows up his prayer for mercy by an exposition of his need of mercy. He is in trouble, in sore trouble - "hard pressed," as Hengstenberg translates - distressed both in mind and body. Mine eye is consumed with grief (comp. Psalm 6:7, where the expression is almost identical). The grief intended is "that produced by provocation or spiteful treatment" (Kay). It causes him to weep so much that his eye is well-nigh "consumed" or "eaten away." Yea, my soul and my belly. Some explain this as meaning simply "my soul and my body" (Hengstenberg, Alexander, Revised Version); but others regard the "belly" as denoting "the very centre of physical life and of the emotions" (comp. Job 32:19).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble,.... A sudden change of case and frame this! and so it is with the people of God; as soon as, out of one trouble, they are in another; these are what are appointed for them, and lie in their pathway to heaven, and are necessary; and under them it is quite right to betake themselves to the Lord, who is a merciful God; and it is best to cast themselves upon his mercy, having no merit of their own to plead with him; and they may freely tell him all their distresses, as the psalmist here does, and hope for grace and mercy to help them in time of need;
mine eye, is consumed with grief; expressed by tears; through the multitude of which, by reason of trouble, his sight was greatly harmed; according to Jarchi, the word signifies, that his sight was so dim as is a man's when he puts a glass before his eyes, to see what is beyond the glass: this shows that the invention of spectacles was before the year 1105; for in that year Jarchi died; and proves it more early than any other writer has pretended to (a); for the commonly received opinion is, that they were invented at the latter end of the thirteenth or beginning of the fourteenth century; but the apostle, as A-Lapide thinks, respects them, in 1 Corinthians 13:12; and they are mentioned by Plautus (b), who lived almost two hundred years before the birth of Christ: the same Jarchi observes on Psalm 6:7;
yea, my soul and my belly; perhaps he could not eat his food, or digest it, which brought upon him internal disorders, and even brought his soul or life into danger.
(a) See Chambers's Dictionary on the word "Spectacles". (b) Vid. Ainsworth's Lat. Dict. in voce "Conspicill". & Panciroll. Rer. Memorab. par. 2. tit. 15. & Salmath. in ib. p. 268.
The Treasury of David
9 Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble: mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly.
10 For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing: my strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed.
11 I was a reproach among all mine enemies, but especially among my neighbours, and a fear to mine acquaintance they that did see me without fled from me.
12 I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind. I am like a broken vessel.
13 For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life.
"Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble." Now, the man of God comes to a particular and minute description of his sorrowful case. He unbosoms his heart, lays bare his wounds, and expresses his inward desolation. This first sentence pithily comprehends all that follows, it is the text for his lamenting discourse. Misery moves mercy - no more reasoning is needed. "Have mercy" is the prayer; the argument is as prevalent as it is plain and personal, "I am in trouble." "Mine eye is consumed with grief." Dim and sunken eyes are plain indicators of failing health. Tears draw their salt from our strength, and floods of them are very apt to consume the source from which they spring. God would have us tell him the symptoms of our disease, not for his information, but to show our sense of need. "Yea, my soul and my belly [or body]." Soul and body are so intimately united, that one cannot decline without the other feeling it. We, in these days, are not strangers to the double sinking which David describes; we have been faint with physical suffering, and distracted with mental distress: when two such seas meet, it is well for us that the Pilot at the helm is at home in the midst of the waterfloods, and makes storms to become the triumph of his art.
"For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing." 'It had become his daily occupation to mourn; he spent all his days in the dungeon of distress. The sap and essence of his existence was being consumed, as a candle is wasted while it burns. His adversities were shortening his days, and digging for him an early grave. Grief is a sad market to spend all our wealth of life in, but a far more profitable trade may be driven there than in Vanity Fair; it is better to go to the house of mourning than the house of feasting. Black is good wear. The salt of tears is a healthy medicine. Better spend our years in sighing than in sinning. The two members of the sentence before us convey the same idea; but there are no idle words in Scripture, the reduplication is the fitting expression of fervency and importunity. "My strength faileth because of mine iniquity." David sees to the bottom of his sorrow, and detects sin lurking there. It is profitable trouble which leads us to trouble ourselves about our iniquity. Was this the Psalmist's foulest crime which now gnawed at his heart, and devoured his strength? Very probably it was so. Sinful morsels, though sweet in the mouth, turn out to be poison in the bowels: if we wantonly give a portion of our strength to sin, it will by-and-by take the remainder from us. We lose both physical, mental, moral, and spiritual rigour by iniquity. "And my bones are consumed." Weakness penetrated the innermost parts of his system, the firmest parts of his frame felt the general decrepitude. A man is in a piteous plight when he comes to this.
"I was a reproach among all mine enemies." They were pleased to have something to throw at me: my mournful estate was music to them, because they maliciously interpreted it to be a judgment from heaven upon me. Reproach is little thought of by those who are not called to endure it, but he who passes under its lash knows how deep it wounds. The best of men may have the bitterest foes, and be subjected to the most cruel taunts. "But especially among my neighbours." Those who are nearest can stab the sharpest. We feel most the slights of those who should have shown us sympathy. Perhaps David's friends feared to be identified with his declining fortunes, and therefore turned against him in order to win the mercy if not the favour of his opponents. Self interest rules the most of men: ties the most sacred are soon snapped by its influence, and actions of the utmost meanness are perpetrated without scruple. "And a fear to mine acquaintance." The more intimate before, the more distant did they become. Our Lord was denied by Peter, betrayed by Judas, and forsaken by all in the hour of his utmost need. All the herd turn against a wounded deer. The milk of human kindness curdles when a despised believer is the victim of slanderous accusations. "They that did see me without fled from me." Afraid to be seen in the company of a man so thoroughly despised, those who once courted his society hastened from him as though he had been infected with the plague. How villainous a thing is slander which can thus make an eminent saint, once the admiration of his people, to become the general butt, the universal aversion of mankind! To what extremities of dishonour may innocence be reduced!
"I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind." All David's youthful prowess was now gone from remembrance: he had been the saviour of his country, but his services were buried in oblivion. Men soon forget the deepest obligations; popularity is evanescent to the last degree: he who is in every one's mouth today may be forgotten by all tomorrow. A man had better be dead than be smothered in slander. Of the dead we say nothing but good, but in the Psalmist's case they said nothing but evil. We must not look for the reward of philanthropy this side of heaven, for men pay their best servants but sorry wages, and turn them out of doors when no more is to be got out of them. "I am like a broken vessel," a thing useless, done for, worthless, cast aside, forgotten. Sad condition for a king! Let us see herein the portrait of the King of kings in his humiliation, when he made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
9, 10. mine eye, &c.—denotes extreme weakness (compare Ps 6:7).
grief—mingled sorrow and indignation (Ps 6:7).
soul and … belly—the whole person.
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