Psalm 107:10
Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron;
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(10-16) The prisoners.

(10) In darkness.—A common synonym for a dungeon. (See Isaiah 42:7; Isaiah 49:9, both of the exiles in Babylon; comp. Micah 7:8.)

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:

Neque auras

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.

107:10-16 This description of prisoners and captives intimates that they are desolate and sorrowful. In the eastern prisons the captives were and are treated with much severity. Afflicting providences must be improved as humbling providences; and we lose the benefit, if our hearts are unhumbled and unbroken under them. This is a shadow of the sinner's deliverance from a far worse confinement. The awakened sinner discovers his guilt and misery. Having struggled in vain for deliverance, he finds there is no help for him but in the mercy and grace of God. His sin is forgiven by a merciful God, and his pardon is accompanied by deliverance from the power of sin and Satan, and by the sanctifying and comforting influences of God the Holy Spirit.Such as sit in darkness - The reference in these verses 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.

10-16. Their sufferings were for their rebellion against (Ps 105:28) the words, or purposes, or promises, of God for their benefit. When humbled they cry to God, who delivers them from bondage, described as a dark dungeon with doors and bars of metal, in which they are bound in iron—that is, chains and fetters.

shadow of death—darkness with danger (Ps 23:4).

10 Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron;

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.

Psalm 107:10

"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.

Psalm 107:11

"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.

Psalm 107:12

"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.

Psalm 107:13


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.

Such as sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death,.... This is the second instance of persons in distress calling on the name of the Lord; and who, being delivered, are under obligation to praise him, such as are captives and prisoners. The Targum applies it to the Israelites in the Babylonish captivity; but it is much better to interpret it of prisoners in common; whose prisons are generally dark cells or dungeons, and where they are alone, and deprived of the company of the living; and so are not only in darkness, but seem as if they were in the state of the dead; their condition is the shadow of it, and bears some resemblance to it. And it may be applied, in a spiritual sense, to the case and condition of the people of God in a state of unregeneracy, which is described in the same language, 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;
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 107:10Others suffered imprisonment and bonds; but through Him who had decreed this as punishment for them, they also again reached the light of freedom. Just as in the first strophe, here, too, as far as יודוּ in Psalm 107:15, is all a compound subject; and in view of this the poet begins with participles. "Darkness and the shadow of death" (vid., Psalm 23:4) is an Isaianic expression, Isaiah 9:1 (where ישׁבי is construed with ב), Psalm 42:7 (where ישׁבי is construed as here, cf. Genesis 4:20; Zechariah 2:11), just as "bound in torture and iron" takes its rise from Job 36:8. The old expositors call it a hendiadys for "torturing iron" (after Psalm 105:18); but it is more correct to take the one as the general term and the other as the particular: bound in all sorts of affliction from which they could not break away, and more particularly in iron bonds (בּרזל, like the Arabic firzil, an iron fetter, vid., on Psalm 105:18). In Psalm 107:11, which calls to mind Isaiah 5:19, and with respect to Psalm 107:12, Isaiah 3:8, the double play upon the sound of the words is unmistakeable. By עצה is meant the plan in accordance with which God governs, more particularly His final purpose, which lies at the basis of His leadings of Israel. Not only had they nullified this purpose of mercy by defiant resistance (המרה) against God's commandments (אמרי, Arabic awâmir, âmireh) on their part, but they had even blasphemed it; נאץ, Deuteronomy 32:19, and frequently, or נאץ (prop. to pierce, then to treat roughly), is an old Mosaic designation of blasphemy, Deuteronomy 31:20; Numbers 14:11, Numbers 14:23; Numbers 16:30. Therefore God thoroughly humbled them by afflictive labour, and caused them to stumble (כּשׁל). But when they were driven to it, and prayed importunately to Him, He helped them out of their straits. The refrain varies according to recognised custom. Twice the expression is ויצעקו, twice ויזעקו; once יצילם, then twice יושׁיעם, and last of all יוציאם, which follows here in Psalm 107:14 as an alliteration. The summary condensation of the deliverance experienced (Psalm 107:16) is moulded after Isaiah 45:2. The Exile, too, may be regarded as such like a large jail (vid., e.g., Isaiah 42:7, Isaiah 42:22); but the descriptions of the poet are not pictures, but examples.
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