We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)We are troubled on every side.—The Greek presents all the clauses in a participial form, in apposition with the “we” with which 2Corinthians 4:7 opens. The careful antithesis in each case requires some modification of the English version in order to be at all adequately expressed. Hemmed-in in everything, yet not straitened for room perplexed, yet not baffled; or, as it has been rendered, less literally, but with great vividness, bewildered, but not benighted. The imagery in both clauses belongs to the life of the soldier on active service.2 Corinthians 4:8-12. We are troubled — The four articles in this verse respect inward, the four in the next outward afflictions. In each clause the former part shows the earthen vessels; the latter, the excellence of the power. Yet not distressed — Στενοχωρουμενοι, pressed into a strait place, so as to find no way of escape; perplexed — The word απορουμενοι, so rendered, signifies persons involved in evils from which they know not how to extricate themselves: but not — Εξαπορουμενοι, reduced to such despair as to give up all hope of deliverance from God. Persecuted — Continually by men; but not forsaken — Of God; cast down — By our enemies; but not destroyed — Entirely by them. Always — Wherever we go; bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus — Continually expecting to lay down our lives as he laid down his; that the life also of Jesus — Who is now triumphant above all hostile power; might be made manifest in our body — That is, in the preservation of it, feeble as it is, and exposed continually to destruction. Or the expression may mean, that we, through our various dangers and sufferings, being conformed to his life here, may hereafter rise from the dead, and be glorified like him. For we who live — Those of us, the apostles and ministers of Christ, who are not yet killed for the testimony of Jesus; are always delivered unto death — Are perpetually in the very jaws of destruction, which we willingly submit to, that we may obtain a better resurrection. So then — Or so that, upon the whole; death worketh in us — Is very busy, active, and always at work, to bring us under its power by these sufferings; but life in you — Spiritual life has been conveyed to you by our ministry: or the sense may be, we undergo many miseries, and are in continual danger of death; but you are in safety, and enjoy all the comforts of life!
(1) What they endured in preaching the truth;
(2) To show the sustaining power of that gospel in the midst of afflictions; and,
(3) To conciliate their favor, or to remind them that they had endured these things on their account, 2 Corinthians 4:12-15.
Perhaps one leading design was to recover the affections of those of the Corinthians whose heart had been alienated from him, by showing them how much he had endured on their account. For this purpose he freely opens his heart to them, and tenderly represents the many and grievous pressures and hardships to which love to souls, and theirs among the rest, had exposed him - Doddridge. The whole passage is one of the most pathetic and beautiful to be found in the New Testament. The word rendered "troubled" (θλιβόμενοι thlibomenoi, from θλίβω thlibō) may have reference to wrestling, or to the contests in the Grecian games. It properly means, to press, to press together; then to press as in a crowd where there is a throng Mark 3:9; then to compress together Matthew 7:14; and then to oppress, or compress with evils, to distress, to afflict, 2 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 1:6. Here it may mean, that he was encompassed with trials, or placed in the midst of them so that they pressed upon him as persons do in a crowd, or, possibly, as a man was close pressed by an adversary in the games. He refers to the fact that he was called to endure a great number of trials and afflictions. Some of those trials he refers to in 2 Corinthians 7:5. "When we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears."
On every side - In every respect. In every way. We are subjected to all kinds of trim and affliction.
Yet not distressed - This by no means expresses the force of the original; nor is it possible perhaps to express it in a translation. Tyndale renders it, "yet we are not without our shift." The Greek word used here (στενοχωρούμενοι stenochōroumenoi) has a relation to the word which is rendered "troubled." It properly means "to crowd into a narrow place; to straiten as to room; to be so straitened as not to be able to turn oneself." And the idea is, that though he was close pressed by persecutions and trials, yet he was not so hemmed in that he had no way to turn himself; his trials did not wholly prevent motion and action. He was not so closely pressed as a man would be who was so straitened that he could not move his body, or stir hand or foot. He had still resources; he was permitted to move; the energy of his piety, and the vigor of his soul could not be entirely cramped and impeded by the trials which encompassed him. The Syriac renders it: "In all things we are pressed, but are not suffocated." The idea is, he was not wholly discouraged, and disheartened, and overcome. He had resources in his piety which enabled him to bear up under these trials, and still to engage in the work of preaching the gospel.
We are perplexed - (ἀπορούμενοι aporoumenoi). This word (from ἄπορος aporos, "without resource," which is derived from α a, the alpha privative ("not"), and πόρος poros, way, or exit) means to be without resource; to know not what to do; to hesitate; to be in doubt and anxiety, as a traveler is, who is ignorant of the way, or who has not the means of prosecuting his journey. It means here, that they were often brought into circumstances of great embarrassment, where they hardly knew what to do, or what course to take. They were surrounded by foes; they were in want; they were in circumstances which they had not anticipated, and which greatly perplexed them.
But not in despair - In the margin, "not altogether without help or means." Tyndale renders this: "We are in poverty, but not utterly without somewhat." In the word used here, (ἐξαπορούμενοι exaporoumenoi) the preposition is intensive or emphatic, and means "utterly, quite." The word means to be utterly without resource; to despair altogether; and the idea of Paul here is, that they were not left "entirely" without resource. Their needs were provided for; their embarrassments were removed; their grounds of perplexity were taken away; and unexpected strength and resources were imparted to them. When they did not know what to do; when all resources seemed to fail them, in some unexpected manner they would be relieved and saved from absolute despair. How often does this occur in the lives of all Christians! And how certain is it, that in all such cases God will interpose by his grace, and aid his people, and save them from absolute despair.
on every side—Greek, "in every respect" (compare 2Co 4:10, "always"; 2Co 7:5). This verse expresses inward distresses; 2Co 4:9, outward distresses (2Co 7:5). "Without were fightings; within were fears." The first clause in each member of the series of contrasted participles, implies the earthiness of the vessels; the second clause, the excellency of the power.
perplexed, but not in despair—Greek, "not utterly perplexed." As perplexity refers to the future, so "troubled" or "hard pressed" refers to the present.We are troubled on every side; we are many ways, indeed every way, afflicted, afflicted with all sorts of afflictions;
yet not distressed; but yet we are not like persons cooped up into a strait place, so as they are not able to turn them, nor know which way to move (so the word signifies).
We are perplexed; the word signifies doubting, uncertain what shall become of us, or how God will dispose of us; full of anxious, troublesome thoughts about what shall be our lot in the world;
but not in despair; but yet not despairing of the help, presence, support, and assistance of God. 2 Corinthians 4:10 we are never free from one trial or another: or "by everyone"; by all sorts of persons, good and bad, professors and profane, open persecutors and false brethren; yea, some of the dear children of God, weak believers, give us trouble: or "with every sort" of trouble, inward and outward; trouble from the world, the flesh and the devil:
yet not distressed; so as to have no hope, or see no way of escape; so as to have no manner of comfort, or manifestations of the love of God; or so as to be straitened in our own souls; for notwithstanding all our troubles, we have freedom at the throne of grace, and in our ministry; we can go with liberty to God, and preach the Gospel boldly to you:
we are perplexed; and sometimes know not what to do, which way to take, what course to steer, or how we shall be relieved and supplied; we are sometimes at the utmost loss about things temporal, how we shall be provided for with food and raiment; nor are we without our perplexing thoughts, doubts, and fears, about spiritual affairs:We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)2 Corinthians 4:8-10. A proof, based on experience, how this abundant power makes itself known as the power of God in the sufferings of the apostolic calling; so that, in spite of the earthen vessels, 2 Corinthians 4:7, the apostolic working advances steadily and successfull.
ἐν παντί] having reference to all the first clauses of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, is neither to be supplemented by loco (Beza, Rosenmüller), nor is it: in all that I do (Hofmann), but is to be left general: in every way. Comp. 2 Corinthians 7:5; 1 Corinthians 1:5; and see on 2 Corinthians 11:6. Comp. the classic ἐν παντὶ κακοῦ εἶναι, Plat. Rep. p. 579 B; εἰς πᾶν κακοῦ ἀφικνεῖσθαι, Herod. viii. 118, and the lik.
θλιβόμενοι κ.τ.λ.] hard pressed, but not becoming driven into straits. Matters do not come so far as that, in virtue of the abundance of the power of God! Kypke rightly says: “στενοχωρία angustias hoc loco denotat tales, e quibus non detur exitus.” For see 2 Corinthians 6:4, 2 Corinthians 12:10. Comp. Bengel. The reference of στενοχ. to inward oppression and anxiety (Erasmus, Luther, and many others) anticipates what follow.
ἀπορούμενοι κ.τ.λ.] being brought into doubt (perplexity, where we cannot help ourselves), but not into despair. Comp. 2 Corinthians 1:8.
 There is no contradiction between this passage and 2 Corinthians 1:8, where an actual ἐξαπορεῖσθαι is affirmed only of a single case, and in a definite relation. Here, however, the mental attitude as a whole is portrayed in single, grand strokes.2 Corinthians 4:8-9. ἐν παντὶ θλιβόμενοι κ.τ.λ.: with a sudden change of metaphor, the Apostle now thinks of himself as a soldier engaged with an apparently stronger foe, and at every moment on the point of defeat; and in four pairs of antithetical participles he describes his condition: in every direction pressed hard, but not hemmed in; bewildered, but not utterly despairing; pursued, but not forsaken (i.e., abandoned to the pursuing foe); struck down (as by an arrow; cf. Xen., Cyr., i., 3, 14 for this use of καταβάλλειν), but not destroyed. The general sense is much like that of Proverbs 24:16, Micah 7:8; cf. also chap. 2 Corinthians 11:23-30. στενοχωρία is nearly always (in N.T.) coupled with θλῖψις (cf. Romans 2:9; Romans 8:35, chap. 2 Corinthians 6:4, and Isaiah 8:22; Isaiah 30:6). With the play on words ἀπορούμενοι … ἐξαπορούμενοι, which it is difficult to reproduce in English, see on 2 Corinthians 1:13 above. The phrase ἐν παντί occurs no less than nine times again in this Epistle (see chap. 2 Corinthians 6:4, 2 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 7:11; 2 Corinthians 7:16, 2 Corinthians 8:7, 2 Corinthians 9:8; 2 Corinthians 9:11, 2 Corinthians 11:6; 2 Corinthians 11:9), though only once elsewhere (1 Corinthians 1:5) in St. Paul’s writings.We are troubled on every side] Perhaps ‘in every way.’ For the word rendered troubled,’ cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 1:4, 2 Corinthians 6:4.
yet not distressed] This word, says Bengel, denotes angustias tales e quibus non detur exitus, “such straits as there are no escape from.”
perplexed, but not in despair] The play upon words here (cf. ch. 2 Corinthians 1:13, 2 Corinthians 3:2) has no exact equivalent in English. The nearest approach to it would be ‘at our wits’ end, but not out of our wits.’ See also note on ch. 2 Corinthians 1:8.2 Corinthians 4:8. Ἐν παντὶ θλιβόμενοι, while we are troubled in every respect [on every side]) Song of Solomon 7:5, in every, namely, thing, and place; comp. always at 2 Corinthians 4:10.—θλιβόμενοι, while we are troubled) The four participles in this verse refer to the feelings of the mind; the same number in the following ver. to outward occurrences, 2 Corinthians 7:5, [Without were fightings; within were fears.] They are construed with ἔχομεν, we have; and in every member the first clause proves, that the vessels are earthen, the latter points out the excellence of the power.—οὐ στενοχωρούμενοι, we are not [distressed] reduced to straits) a way of escape is never wanting.—ἀπορούμενοι, we are perplexed) about the future; as, we are troubled, refers to the present.Verse 8. - Troubled; afflicted, as in 2 Corinthians 1:4. On every side; in everything. Distressed; rather, driven to straits. Perplexed, but not in despair. In the original is a beautiful paronomasia, which might, perhaps, be represented in English by "pressed, but not oppressed." Literally the words mean, being at a loss, but not utterly at a loss. In the special anguish of trial of which he spoke in 2 Corinthians 1:8 (comp. 2 Corinthians 7:5), he was indeed for a time "utterly at a loss," reduced to utter despair; but in the normal conditions which he here describes he always, as it were, saw some outlet out of his worst perplexities.
Only here and 2 Corinthians 6:12. From στενός narrow, and χῶρος a space. Hence cramped. The A.V. gives no suggestion of the figurative paradox. We are pressed closely, yet not cramped. Rev., pressed on every side, yet not straitened.
From ἀ not, and πόρος a passage. Lit., to be unable to find a way out.
In despair (ἐξαπορούμενοι)
Rev., very neatly, rendered unto despair. The word expresses an advance of thought on perplexed, yet on the same line. We are perplexed, but not utterly perplexed. The play between the Greek words cannot be rendered.
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