Psalm 116:3
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon 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). Psalm 116:3Not only is כּי אהבתּי "I love (like, am well pleased) that," like ἀγαπῶ ὅτι, Thucydides vi. 36, contrary to the usage of the language, but the thought, "I love that Jahve answereth me," is also tame and flat, and inappropriate to the continuation in Psalm 116:2. Since Psalm 116:3-4 have come from Psalm 18:5-17, אהבתּי is to be understood according to ארחמך in Psalm 18:2, so that it has the following יהוה as its object, not it is true grammatically, but logically. The poet is fond of this pregnant use of the verb without an expressed object, cf. אקרא in Psalm 116:2, and האמנתּי in Psalm 116:10. The Pasek after ישׁמע is intended to guard against the blending of the final a‛ with the initial 'a of אדני (cf. Psalm 56:1-13 :18; Psalm 5:2, in Baer). In Psalm 116:1 the accentuation prevents the rendering vocem orationis meae (Vulgate, lxx) by means of Mugrash. The ı̂ of קולי will therefore no more be the archaic connecting vowel (Ew. 211, b) than in Leviticus 26:42; the poet has varied the genitival construction of Psalm 28:6 to the permutative. The second כי, following close upon the first, makes the continuation of the confirmation retrospective. "In my days" is, as in Isaiah 39:8, Bar. 4:20, cf. בחיּי in Psalm 63:5, and frequently, equivalent to "so long as I live." We even here hear the tone of Psalm 18 (Psalm 18:2), which is continued in Psalm 18:3-4 as a freely borrowed passage. Instead of the "bands" (of Hades) there, the expression here is מצרי, angustiae, plural of meetsar, after the form מסב in Psalm 118:5; Lamentations 1:3 (Bttcher, De inferis, 423); the straitnesses of Hades are deadly perils which can scarcely be escaped. The futures אמצא and אקרא, by virtue of the connection, refer to the contemporaneous past. אנּה (viz., בלישׁן בקשׁה, i.e., in a suppliant sense) is written with He instead of Aleph here and in five other instances, as the Masora observes. It has its fixed Metheg in the first syllable, in accordance with which it is to be pronounced ānna (like בּתּים, bāttim), and has an accented ultima not merely on account of the following יהוה equals אדני (vid., on Psalm 3:8), but in every instance; for even where (the Metheg having been changed into a conjunctive) it is supplied with two different accents, as in Genesis 50:17; Exodus 32:31, the second indicates the tone-syllable.

(Note: Kimchi, mistaking the vocation of the Metheg, regards אנּה (אנּא) as Milel. But the Palestinian and the Babylonian systems of pointing coincide in this, that the beseeching אנא (אנה) is Milra, and the interrogatory אנה Milel (with only two exceptions in our text, which is fixed according to the Palestinian Masora, viz., Psalm 139:7; Deuteronomy 1:28, where the following word begins with Aleph), and these modes of accenting accord with the origin of the two particles. Pinsker (Einleitung, S. xiii.) insinuates against the Palestinian system, that in the cases where אנא has two accents the pointing was not certain of the correct accentuation, only from a deficient knowledge of the bearings of the case.)

Instead now of repeating "and Jahve answered me," the poet indulges in a laudatory confession of general truths which have been brought vividly to his mind by the answering of his prayer that he has experienced.

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