|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
56:8-13 The heavy and continued trials through which many of the Lord's people have passed, should teach us to be silent and patient under lighter crosses. Yet we are often tempted to repine and despond under small sorrows. For this we should check ourselves. David comforts himself, in his distress and fear, that God noticed all his grievances and all his griefs. God has a bottle and a book for his people's tears, both the tears for their sins, and those for their afflictions. He observes them with tender concern. Every true believer may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and then I will not fear what man shall do unto me; for man has no power but what is given him from above. Thy vows are upon me, O Lord; not as a burden, but as that by which I am known to be thy servant; as a bridle that restrains me from what would be hurtful, and directs me in the way of my duty. And vows of thankfulness properly accompany prayers for mercy. If God deliver us from sin, either from doing it, or by his pardoning mercy, he has delivered our souls from death, which is the wages of sin. Where the Lord has begun a good work he will carry it on and perfect it. David hopes that God would keep him even from the appearance of sin. We should aim in all our desires and expectations of deliverance, both from sin and trouble, that we may do the better service to the Lord; that we may serve him without fear. If his grace has delivered our souls from the death of sin, he will bring us to heaven, to walk before him for ever in light.
Verse 8. - Thou tellest my wanderings; i.e. thou, O God, takest account of my wretched wandering life (1 Samuel 21-30), and notest each occasion when I am forced to move from one city, or cave, or wilderness to another. Put thou my tears into thy bottle. Take also note of my tears - let them not pass unheeded. Rather, gather them drop by drop, and store them, as costly wine is stored, in a flask. The thought, thus dressed in a metaphor, was, no doubt (as Professor Cheyne observes), "Store them up in thy memory." Are they not in thy book? i.e. hast thou not anticipated my request, and entered an account of every tear that I have shed, in thy book of records (comp. Psalm 69:28; Psalm 139:16)?
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Thou tellest my wanderings,.... Not his sins; though these are aberrations or wanderings from the ways of God's commandments; yet these are not told by the Lord: he takes no account of them; the number of them is not kept by him; they are blotted out, cast behind his back, and into the depths of the sea; though sometimes his people think they are told and numbered by him, Job 14:16; but David's moves and flights from place to place are meant, through Saul's pursuit of him, as a partridge on the mountains. Some writers reckon twelve of these moves. The Targum renders it,
"thou numberest the days of my wandering;''
that is, the days of his pilgrimage and sojourning in this world: the number of our days, and months and years, in which we wander about in this uncertain state of things, is with the Lord, Job 14:5;
put thou my tears into thy bottle; the allusion is to "lachrymatories", or tear bottles, in which surviving relatives dropped their tears for their deceased friends, and buried them with their ashes, or in their urns; some of which tear bottles are still to be seen in the cabinets of the curious. A description of which is given by Gejerus (c), from Olaus Wormius; and who also from Cotovicus relates, that the grave of M. Tullius Cicero was dug up in the island of Zacynthus, A. D. 1544, in which were found two glass urns; the larger had ashes in it, the lesser water: the one was supposed to contain his ashes, the other the tears of his friends: and as this was a custom with the Romans, something like this might obtain among the Jews; and it is a saying with them (d),
"whoever sheds tears for a good man (deceased) the holy blessed God numbers them, and puts them into his treasures, according to Psalm 56:8;''
which shows, that they thought that reference is here had to funeral tears. The meaning of the text is, that God would take notice of David's afflictions and troubles, which had caused so many tears, and remember them, and deliver him out of them: these being desired to be put into a bottle was, that they might be kept and reserved; not to make atonement for sin; for as a thousand rivers of oil cannot expiate one sin, could they be come at; so neither as many rivers of brinish tears, could they possibly be shed: nor to obtain heaven and happiness; for there is no comparison nor proportion between the sufferings of the saints and the glory that shall be revealed in them; though there is a connection of grace through the promise of God between them: but rather, that they might be brought forth another day and shown, to the aggravation of the condemnation of wicked men, who by their hard speeches, and ungodly actions, have caused them;
are they not in thy book? verily they are; that is, the tears and afflictions of his people. They are in his book of purposes; they are all appointed by him, their kind and nature, their measure and duration, their quality and quantity; what they shall be, and how long they shall last; and their end and use: and they are in his book of providence, and are all overruled and caused to work for their good; and they are in the book of his remembrance; they are taken notice of and numbered by him, and shall be finished; they shall not exceed their bounds. These tears will be turned into joy, and God will wipe them all away from the eyes of his people.
(c) De Ebr. Luctu, c. 12. s. 5. (d) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 105. 2.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
8. God is mindful of his exile and remembers his tears. The custom of bottling the tears of mourners as a memorial, which has existed in some Eastern nations, may explain the figure.
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