Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
This description, applicable to prisons in all ages but the most modern, was especially suitable for those of the ancients, who admitted no light at all; e.g., the Mamertine prison at Rome. Comp. Virgil, Æn. vi. 734:
Dispiciunt clausæ tenebris et carcere cæco.”
In affliction and iron.—Both words are found also in Psalm 105:18, but distributed into the two clauses of the verse—hurt, iron. (Comp., too, Job 36:8, “bound in fetters and holden in cords of affliction.”) The LXX. and Vulg. have “in poverty and in iron.”Psalm 107:10-12. Such as sit in darkness, &c. — In a disconsolate and forlorn condition, in dark prisons or dungeons; bound in affliction and iron — In afflicting or grievous irons: or, in the cords of affliction, as the expression is Job 36:8, and particularly in iron fetters. Because they rebelled, &c. — As a just punishment for the crimes they had rebelliously committed against the express commands of God, or the plain dictates and frequent checks of their own consciences; which were the voice of the Most High, giving them wholesome counsel, though they contemned and despised it: therefore he brought down their heart — The pride, and rebellion, and obstinacy of their hearts; with labour — Hebrew, בעמל, begnamal, with pain, or trouble. They fell down and there was none to help — They fell into their enemies’ hands, and into hopeless and remediless miseries. Then they cried unto the Lord, &c. — Yet, upon making their requests to the Lord, and earnestly beseeching him to take pity on their wretched condition, he was pleased mercifully to hear their prayers, and save them out of their distresses. “In this second piece of divine scenery, we behold a people groaning under all the miseries of captivity, deprived of light and liberty, chained down in horrid dungeons, and there expecting the day of execution. These calamities they are represented as having brought upon themselves, by their rebellion against God, who takes this method of humbling them. It succeeds, and brings them upon their knees to Him who alone is able to deliver them. Moved by their cries, he exerts his power on their behalf, and frees them from the house of bondage. To a state of corporal servitude, the Israelites, for their transgressions, were frequently reduced, and many times experienced, upon their repentance, the goodness of Jehovah in rescuing them from it. But the grand and universal captivity is that of sin and death; the grand and universal deliverance, for which all the redeemed of the Lord ought to praise his mercy, is that by Jesus Christ.” When this deliverance is experienced, although but in part; when the sinner, who has cried earnestly to the Lord in his trouble on account of sin, is brought out of the prison of guilt, condemnation, and wrath, and has received the Spirit of life from Christ Jesus, making him free from the law, or commanding, constraining power, of sin and death; “his chains, like those of St. Peter, fall off at the word of his deliverer; he is saved out of his distress; he is brought out of darkness and the shadow of death, into the glorious light and liberty of the sons of God. The joy consequent upon such a deliverance will be exceeded only by that which shall take place in the hearts, and be expressed by the voices of the redeemed, on the day when Christ shall accomplish the redemption of their bodies also, as he hath already effected that of his own, from the power of the grave; when he shall dash in pieces the brazen gates and adamantine bars of that prison- house; put an end for ever to the bondage of corruption, and lead captivity captive into the highest heavens.” — Horne.Psalm 107:10-14 is evidently to the children of Israel, when in Babylon; and the design is, to show the goodness of God to them in their trouble, and the occasion which they had for praising him on that account. To "sit in darkness" is significant of great ignorance (compare the notes at Luke 1:79; notes at Isaiah 9:2); or of affliction and trouble, as darkness is an emblem of calamity.
And in the shadow of death - A dark, gloomy, chilly shade such as "Death" would cast if he stood between us and the light. See the notes at Job 3:5; compare Job 10:21; Psalm 23:4; Psalm 44:19; Isaiah 9:2. The reference is to the sad and gloomy residence of the Hebrews in the land of captivity.
Being bound in affliction and iron - Captives and slaves. Compare Psalm 105:18.
11 Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High:
12 Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help.
13 Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder.
15 Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and jot his wonderful works to the children of men!
16 For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.
"Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death." The cell is dark of itself, and the fear of execution casts a still denser gloom over the prison. Such is the cruelty of man to man that tens of thousands have been made to linger in places only fit to be tombs; unhealthy, suffocating, filthy sepulchres, where they have sickened and died of broken hearts. Meanwhile the dread of sudden death has been the most hideous part of the punishment; the prisoners have felt as if the chill shade of death himself froze them to the very marrow. The state of a soul under conviction of sin is forcibly symbolized by such a condition; persons in that state cannot see the promises which would yield them comfort, they sit still in the inactivity of despair, they fear the approach of judgment, and are thereby as much distressed as if they were at death's door. "Being bound in affliction and iron." Many prisoners have been thus doubly fettered in heart and hand; or the text may mean that affliction becomes as an iron band to them, or that the iron chains caused them great affliction. None know these things but those who have felt them; we should prize our liberty more if we knew by actual experience what manacles and fetters mean. In a spiritual sense affliction frequently attends conviction of sin, and then the double grief causes a double bondage. In such cases the iron enters into the soul, the poor captives cannot stir because of their bonds, cannot rise to hope because of their grief, and have no power because of their despair. Misery is the companion of all those who are shut up and cannot come forth. O ye who are made free by Christ Jesus, remember those who are in bonds.
"Because they rebelled against the words of God." This was the general cause of bondage among the ancient people of God, they were given over to their adversaries because they were not loyal to the Lord. God's words are not to be trifled with, and those who venture on such rebellion will bring themselves into bondage. "And contemned the counsel of the Most High." They thought that they knew better than the Judge of all the earth, and therefore they left his ways and walked in their own. When men do not follow the divine counsel they give the most practical proof of their contempt for it. Those who will not be bound by God's law will, ere long, be bound by the fetters of judgment. There is too much contemning of the divine counsel, even among Christians, and hence so few of them know the liberty wherewith Christ makes us free.
"Therefore he brought down their heart with labour." In eastern prisons men are frequently made to labour like beasts of the field. As they have no liberty, so they have no rest. This soon subdues the stoutest heart, and makes the proud boaster sing another tune. Trouble and hard toil are enough to tame a lion. God has methods of abating the loftiness of rebellious looks: the cell and the mill make even giants tremble. "They fell down, and there was none to help." Stumbling on in the dark beneath their weary task, they at last fell prone upon the ground, but no one came to pity them or to lift them up. Their fall might be fatal for aught that any man cared about them; their misery was unseen, or, if observed, no one could interfere between them and their tyrant masters. In such a wretched plight the rebellious Israelite became more lowly in mind, and thought more tenderly of his God and of his offences against him. When a soul finds all its efforts at self-salvation prove abortive, and feels that it is now utterly without strength, then the Lord is at work hiding pride from man and preparing the afflicted one to receive his mercy. The spiritual case which is here figuratively described is desperate, and therefore affords the finer field for the divine interposition; some of us remember well how brightly mercy shone in our prison, and what music the fetters made when they fell off from our hands. Nothing but the Lord's love could have delivered us; without it we must have utterly perished.
continued...In darkness and in the shadow of death; in a disconsolate and forlorn condition, in dark prisons or dungeons.
In affliction and iron; with afflicting or grievous irons. Or, in the cords of affliction, as they are called, Job 36:8, and particularly in iron fetters. Isaiah 9:2, and which is a state of darkness and ignorance; they are darkness itself, and are ignorant of themselves and their case; of the nature of sin, and the evil of it; of the spirituality of the law; of God in Christ; of Christ, and the way of salvation by him; of the Spirit, and his work; of the Scriptures, and the doctrines of the Gospel contained in them; and, like persons in a dark prison, cannot behold the sun, nor see to read nor work; and are like those that are in the state of the dead; and indeed are dead in Adam, dead in law, dead in trespasses and sins; having no spiritual life, sense, nor motion. And here they sit, continue and remain, during the time of their ignorance, till it pleases the Lord to enlighten, quicken, and convert them. These phrases are used of the people of God after conversion, when in darkness and desertion, and under afflictive providences, Psalm 23:4. Being bound in affliction and iron; that is, with fetters of iron, which is very afflicting; see Psalm 105:18, and fitly describes the people of God in a state of nature, who are led captive by Satan, at his will; are held with the cords and fetters of their own sins, and are shut up under the law, as a ministering of condemnation and death: or, bound with affliction, as with iron; hence we read of fetters and cords of affliction, Job 36:8, with which good men may be held for their iniquities; or, however, are chastened with them for their good, Some refer all this to the state of the Christian church under the ten persecutions, Revelation 2:10. Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)10. Such as sit &c.] Those that sat. The darkness of the dungeon—ancient prisons were usually unlighted vaults—is a figure for misery, especially the misery of captivity and exile. Cp. Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 42:7; Isaiah 49:9; Micah 7:8.
the shadow of death] Or, deathly gloom. Cp. Psalm 23:4; Psalm 44:19.
being bound &c.] A reminiscence of Job 36:8, “If they be bound in fetters, and be taken in the cords of affliction.” The whole context, treating of the remedial discipline of affliction, should be compared. Cp. also Psalm 105:18, “Whose feet they afflicted,” and “iron” = fetters.
10–16. A second example of Divine goodness, in the liberation of prisoners, or captives languishing in the dungeon of exile in punishment for their rebellion against God. The Targ. interprets the passage of Zedekiah and the nobles of Judah in captivity at Babylon.Verses 10-16. - There are others afflicted differently - struck down by some grievous calamity, imprisonment, earthly ruin, down fall of their hopes, a sense of their bondage to sin - who suffer perhaps even more than the dissatisfied wanderers. They too may cry to God in their trouble; and when they do, they experience his mercy. Let them join in the chorus of praise. Verse 10. - Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death (comp. Job 16:16; Job 36:8). The expressions used are purposely vague, being intended to cover various sorts of misery. Being bound in affliction and iron; i.e. "in an affliction which holds them like bands of iron" (comp. ver. 17). Psalm 107:40 and Isaiah 43:19, it appears that Psalm 107:4 ought to be read לא־דרך (Olshausen, Baur, and Thenius); but the line is thereby lengthened inelegantly. The two words, joined by Munach, stand in the construct state, like פּרא אדם, Genesis 16:12 : a waste of a way equals ἔρημος ὁδός, Acts 8:26 (Ewald, Hitzig), which is better suited to the poetical style than that דּרך, as in משׁנה־כּסףp, and the like, should be an accusative of nearer definition (Hengstenberg). In connection with עיר מושׁב the poet, who is fond of this combination (Psalm 107:7, Psalm 107:36, cf. בּית־מושׁב, Leviticus 25:29), means any city whatever which might afford the homeless ones a habitable, hospitable reception. With the perfects, which describe what has been experienced, alternates in Psalm 107:5 the imperfect, which shifts to the way in which anything comes about: their soul in them enveloped itself (vid., Psalm 61:3), i.e., was nigh upon extinction. With the fut. consec. then follows in Psalm 107:6 the fact which gave the turn to the change in their misfortune. Their cry for help, as the imperfect יצּילם implies, was accompanied by their deliverance, the fact of which is expressed by the following fut. consec. ויּדריכם. Those who have experienced such things are to confess to the Lord, with thanksgiving, His loving-kindness and His wonderful works to the children of men. It is not to be rendered: His wonders (supply אשׁר עשׂה) towards the children of men (Luther, Olshausen, and others). The two ל coincide: their thankful confession of the divine loving-kindness and wondrous acts is not to be addressed alone to Jahve Himself, but also to men, in order that out of what they have experienced a wholesome fruit may spring forth for the multitude. נפשׁ שׁוקקה (part. Polel, the ē of which is retained as a pre-tonic vowel in pause, cf. Psalm 68:26 and on Job 20:27, Ew. 188, b) is, as in Isaiah 29:9, the thirsting soul (from שׁוּק, Arab. sâq, to urge forward, of the impulse and drawing of the emotions, in Hebrew to desire ardently). The preterites are here an expression of that which has been experienced, and therefore of that which has become a fact of experience. In superabundant measure does God uphold the languishing soul that is in imminent danger of languishing away.
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