Psalm 116:3
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell got hold on me: I found trouble and sorrow.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) The pains of hell.—Or, oppressions of Sheôl, if we retain the text. But a very slight change in a single letter brings the clause into closer correspondence with Psalm 18:5-6, whence it is plainly borrowed, the nets of Sheôl. We may reproduce the original more exactly by using, as it does, the same verb in the last two clauses of the verse:

Nets of Sheôl caught me,

Trouble and sorrow I catch.

Psalm 116:3-4. The sorrows of death compassed me — Dangerous and deadly calamities as bitter as death: Hebrew, חבלי מות, cheblee maveth, the cords, or bands of death: see note on Psalm 18:4-5. The pains of hell Or of the grave, or of death; either cutting, killing pains, or such agonies and horrors as dying persons often feel within themselves; gat hold upon me — Hebrew, מצאוני, found me, that is, surprised me. Having been long pursuing me, at last they overtook and seized upon me, and I gave up myself for lost. Then called I upon the name of the Lord — Being brought to the last extremity, I made use of this, not as the last remedy, but as the old and only remedy which I had found, a balm for every wound.116:1-9 We have many reasons for loving the Lord, but are most affected by his loving-kindness when relieved out of deep distress. When a poor sinner is awakened to a sense of his state, and fears that he must soon sink under the just wrath of God, then he finds trouble and sorrow. But let all such call upon the Lord to deliver their souls, and they will find him gracious and true to his promise. Neither ignorance nor guilt will hinder their salvation, when they put their trust in the Lord. Let us all speak of God as we have found him; and have we ever found him otherwise than just and good? It is of his mercies that we are not consumed. Let those who labour and are heavy laden come to him, that they may find rest to their souls; and if at all drawn from their rest, let them haste to return, remembering how bountifully the Lord has dealt with them. We should deem ourselves bound to walk as in his presence. It is a great mercy to be kept from being swallowed up with over-much sorrow. It is a great mercy for God to hold us by the right hand, so that we are not overcome and overthrown by a temptation. But when we enter the heavenly rest, deliverance from sin and sorrow will be complete; we shall behold the glory of the Lord, and walk in his presence with delight we cannot now conceive.The sorrows of death - What an expression! We know of no intenser sorrows pertaining to this world than those which we associate with the dying struggle - whether our views in regard to the reality of such sorrows be correct or not. We may be - we probably are - mistaken in regard to the intensity of suffering as ordinarily experienced in death; but still we dread those sorrows more than we do anything else, and all that we dread may be experienced then. Those sorrows, therefore, become the representation of the intensest forms of suffering; and such, the psalmist says, he experienced on the occasion to which he refers. There would seem in his case to have been two things combined, as they often are:

(1) actual suffering from some bodily malady which threatened his life, Psalm 116:3, Psalm 116:6,Psalm 116:8-10;

(2) mental sorrow as produced by the remembrance of his sins, and the apprehension of the future, Psalm 116:4. See the notes at Psalm 18:5.

And the pains of hell - The pains of Sheol - Hades; the grave. See Psalm 16:10, note; Job 10:21-22, notes; Isaiah 14:9, note. The pain or suffering connected with going down to the grave, or the descent to the nether world; the pains of death. There is no evidence that the psalmist here refers to the pains of hell, as we understand the word, as a place of punishment, or that he mean, to say that he experienced the sorrows of the damned. The sufferings which he referred to were these of death - the descent to the tomb.

Gat hold upon me - Margin, as in Hebrew, "found me." They discovered me - as if they had been searching for me, and had at last found my hiding place. Those sorrows and pangs, ever in pursuit of us, will soon find us all. We cannot long escape the pursuit Death tracks us, and is upon our heels.

I found trouble and sorrow - Death found me, and I found trouble and sorrow. I did not seek it, but in what I was seeking I found this. Whatever we fail to "find" in the pursuits of life, we shall not fail to find the troubles and sorrows connected with death. They are in our path wherever we turn, and we cannot avoid them.

3, 4. For similar figures for distress see Ps 18:4, 5.

gat hold upon me—Another sense ("found") of the same word follows, as we speak of disease finding us, and of our finding or catching disease.

The sorrows of death; dangerous and deadly calamities, as bitter as death. Or, the cords of death.

Of hell; or, of the grave; or, of death; either killing pains, or such agonies and horrors as dying persons use to feel within themselves.

Gat hold upon me, Heb. found me, i.e. surprised me. Having been long pursuing me, at last they overtook me, and seized upon me, and I gave up myself for lost. The sorrows of death compassed me,.... Christ, of whom David was a type, was a man of sorrows all his days; and in the garden he was surrounded with sorrow; exceeding sorrowful even unto death, in a view of the sins of his people imputed to him, and under a sense of wrath for them, he was about to bear; and his agonies in the article of death were very grievous, he died the painful and accursed death of the cross. This was true of David, when Saul and his men compassed him on every side, threatening to cut him off in a moment; when he despaired of life, and had the sentence of death in himself, and saw no way to escape; and such a case is that of the people of God, or they may be said to be compassed about with the sorrows of death, when through a slavish fear of it they are all their lifetime subject to bondage; and especially when under dreadful apprehensions of eternal death.

And the pains of hell gat hold upon me; or "found me" (e); overtook him, and seized upon him; meaning either the horrors of a guilty conscience under a sense of sin, without a view of pardon; which is as it were a hell in the conscience, and like the pains and torments of it: or "the pains of the grave" (f); not that there are any pains felt there, the body being destitute of life, and senseless; but such sorrows or troubles are meant which threaten to bring down to the grave, which was the case of Jacob on the loss of his children, Genesis 37:35. This applied to Christ may design the wrath of God and curse of the law, which he endured in the room and stead of his people, as their surety; and which were equivalent to the pains of the damned in hell; or it may refer to his being laid in the grave, in a strait and narrow place, as the word (g) signifies; where he lay bound in grave clothes, till he was loosed from the pains and cords of death, it being not possible he should be held by them, Acts 2:24; see Gill on Psalm 18:4, Psalm 18:5.

I found trouble and sorrow; without seeking for them; they seized and took hold of him, on David, and his antitype, when in the above circumstances; and often do the saints find trouble and sorrow from a body of sin and death, from the temptations of Satan, divine desertions, and afflictive providences. Aben Ezra refers the one to the body, the other to the soul.

(e) "invenerunt me", Pagninus, Montanus, &c. (f) "sepulchri", Vatablus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (g) "augustiae", Pagninus, Montanus, &c.

The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. The cords of death encompassed me,

And the straitnesses of Sheol gat hold of [lit. found] me.

The parallelism decides for the meaning cords in Psalm 18:5, though pangs (LXX ὠδῖνες) is also a possible rendering, and may be the meaning here. But here too Death and Sheol are probably represented as hunters lying in wait for their prey with nooses and nets, or driving it into a defile from which it cannot escape. Cp. Lamentations 1:3.

The P.B.V. renders wrongly I shall find … I will call. The crisis is evidently past.

3, 4. The Psalmist’s prayer in peril. Cp. Psalm 18:4-6.Verses 3-9. - The psalmist describes his trouble (ver. 3), his prayer for deliverance (ver. 4), and his actual deliverance (vers. 5-9). Verse 3. - The sorrows of death compassed me; literally, the cords of death (comp. Psalm 18:4, where the same expression is used). Death is pictured as seizing his victim and binding him with cords. And the pains of hell gat hold upon me; or, "the straits of hell" (comp. Psalm 118:5; Lamentations 1:3). Death and hell (shell) are closely connected together in the prayer of Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:10, 18). I found trouble and sorrow; or, "anguish and woe" (comp. Isaiah 38:12-17). The voice of consolation is continued in Psalm 115:15, but it becomes the voice of hope by being blended with the newly strengthened believing tone of the congregation. Jahve is here called the Creator of heaven and earth because the worth and magnitude of His blessing are measured thereby. He has reserved the heavens to Himself, but given the earth to men. This separation of heaven and earth is a fundamental characteristic of the post-diluvian history. The throne of God is in the heavens, and the promise, which is given to the patriarchs on behalf of all mankind, does not refer to heaven, but to the possession of the earth (Psalm 37:22). The promise is as yet limited to this present world, whereas in the New Testament this limitation is removed and the κληρονομία embraces heaven and earth. This Old Testament limitedness finds further expression in Psalm 115:17, where דּוּמה, as in Psalm 94:17, signifies the silent land of Hades. The Old Testament knows nothing of a heavenly ecclesia that praises God without intermission, consisting not merely of angels, but also of the spirits of all men who die in the faith. Nevertheless there are not wanting hints that point upwards which were even better understood by the post-exilic than by the pre-exilic church. The New Testament morn began to dawn even upon the post-exilic church. We must not therefore be astonished to find the tone of Psalm 6:6; Psalm 30:10; Psalm 88:11-13, struck up here, although the echo of those earlier Psalms here is only the dark foil of the confession which the church makes in Psalm 115:18 concerning its immortality. The church of Jahve as such does not die. That it also does not remain among the dead, in whatever degree it may die off in its existing members, the psalmist might know from Isaiah 26:19; Isaiah 25:8. But the close of the Psalm shows that such predictions which light up the life beyond only gradually became elements of the church's consciousness, and, so to speak, dogmas.
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