Psalm 119:83
For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget your statutes.
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(83) A bottle in the smoke.—The insertion of yet by our translators shows that they understood this as a figure of abject misery. The wine-skin would, of course, shrivel, if hung above a fire, and would afford an apt image of the effect of trouble on an individual or community. “As wine-skin in the smoke my heart is sere and dried.” Some think that as a bottle hung up anywhere in an ancient house would be in the smoke, nothing more is implied than its being set aside; but this is too weak.

We find in the ancient poets allusion to the custom of mellowing wine by heat:

“Prodit fumoso condita vina cado.”—OVID: Fast. v. 517.

(Comp. Hor. Ode iii. 8, 9, 10). And so some understand the image here of the good results of the discipline of suffering. The LXX. and Vulg., instead of smoke, have “hoar-frost.” The Hebrew word has this meaning in Psalm 148:8, but in the only other place where it occurs (Genesis 19:28) it is smoke. The possibility of rendering hoar-frost here suggests another explanation. The word nôd (bottle) may be used of a cloud, and as the psalmist has just spoken of his eyes failing, we may have here only another expression for weeping.

119:81-88 The psalmist sought deliverance from his sins, his foes, and his fears. Hope deferred made him faint; his eyes failed by looking out for this expected salvation. But when the eyes fail, yet faith must not. His affliction was great. He was become like a leathern bottle, which, if hung up in the smoke, is dried and shrivelled up. We must ever be mindful of God's statutes. The days of the believer's mourning shall be ended; they are but for a moment, compared with eternal happiness. His enemies used craft as well as power for his ruin, in contempt of the law of God. The commandments of God are true and faithful guides in the path of peace and safety. We may best expect help from God when, like our Master, we do well and suffer for it. Wicked men may almost consume the believer upon earth, but he would sooner forsake all than forsake the word of the Lord. We should depend upon the grace of God for strength to do every good work. The surest token of God's good-will toward us, is his good work in us.For I am become like a bottle in the smoke - Bottles in the East were commonly made of skins. See the notes at Matthew 9:17. Such "bottles," hanging in tents where the smoke had little opportunity to escape, would, of course, become dark and dingy, and would thus be emblems of distress, discomfort, and sorrow. The meaning here is, that, by affliction and sorrow, the psalmist had been reduced to a state which would be well represented by such a bottle. A somewhat similar idea occurs in Psalm 22:15 : "My strength is dried up like a potsherd." See the notes at that place.

Yet do I not forget thy statutes - Compare the notes at Psalm 119:51. Though thus deeply afflicted, though without comfort or peace, yet I do, I will, maintain allegiance to thee and thy law. The doctrine is that distress, poverty, sorrow, penury, and rags - the most abject circumstances of life - will not turn away a true child of God from obeying and serving him. True religion will abide all these tests. Lazarus from the deepest poverty - from beggary - from undressed sores - went up to Abraham's bosom.

83. bottle in the smoke—as a skin bottle dried and shriveled up in smoke, so is he withered by sorrow. Wine bottles of skin used to be hung up in smoke to dry them, before the wine was put in them [Maurer]. In the smoke; hung up in a smoking chimney. My natural moisture is dried and burnt up; I am withered, and deformed, and despised, and my case grows worse and worse every day. For I am become like a bottle in the smoke,.... Like a bottle made of the skins of beasts, as was usual in those times and countries: hence we read of old and new bottles, and of their rending, Judges 9:13, Matthew 9:17. Now such a bottle being hung up in a smoky chimney, would be dried and shrivelled up, and be good for nothing; so Jarchi's note is,

"like a bottle made of skin, which is dried in smoke;''

and the Targum is,

"like a bottle that hangs in smoke.''

It denotes the uncomfortable condition the psalmist was in, or at least thought himself to be in; as to be in the midst of smoke is very uncomfortable, so was he, being in darkness, and under the hidings of God's face; black and sooty, like a bottle in smoke, with sin and afflictions; like an empty bottle, had nothing in him, as he was ready to fear; or was useless as such an one, and a vessel in which there was no pleasure; like a broken one, as he elsewhere says, despised and rejected of men. It may also have respect unto the form of his body, as well as the frame of his mind; be who before was ruddy, and of a beautiful countenance, now was worn out with cares and old age, was become pale and wrinkled, and like a skin bottle shrivelled in smoke;

yet do I not forget thy statutes; he still attended to the word, worship, ways and ordinances of the Lord; hoping in due time to meet with comfort there, in which he was greatly in the right.

For I am become like a {b} bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes.

(b) Like a skin bottle or bladder that is parched in the smoke.

83. For I am become like a wineskin in the smoke; yet &c.] As a wineskin out of use hung up among the rafters of the roof grows shrivelled and blackened by the smoke till it almost loses its original appearance, so the Psalmist is growing emaciated and disfigured by suffering and sorrow till he can scarcely be recognised. Cp. Psalm 109:24. Some commentators suppose that there is a reference to the custom of mellowing wine by putting it in the smoke (cp. “amphorae fumum bibere institutae,” Horace, Odes, iii. 8. 11), and that the figure means that the Psalmist is being exposed to suffering to soften and mature his character, though the process is being continued so long that he is becoming unsightly and unrecognisable. At first sight this explanation is attractive, but the simile is clearly intended to describe bad not good effects of suffering. In spite of these, he does not forget God’s commandments. The curious rendering of LXX, Symm., Syr., Jer., like a wineskin in hoar frost, has no claim to consideration.Verse 83. - For I am become like a bottle in the smoke. Keble's paraphrase brings out the true sense -

"As wine-skin in the smoke,
My heart is sere and dried."
Wine-skins were smoked to toughen and harden them. Yet do I not forget thy statutes. The severity of the discipline does not alienate me from thee, or cause me to depart from thy Law (comp. vers. 23, 51, 161). The eightfold Jod. God humbles, but He also exalts again according to His word; for this the poet prays in order that he may be a consolatory example to the God-fearing, to the confusion of his enemies. It is impossible that God should forsake man, who is His creature, and deny to him that which makes him truly happy, viz., the understanding and knowledge of His word. For this spiritual gift the poet prays in Psalm 119:73 (cf. on 73a, Deuteronomy 32:6; Job 10:8; Job 31:15); and he wishes in Psalm 119:74 that all who fear God may see in him with joy an example of the way in which trust in the word of God is rewarded (cf. Psalm 34:3; Psalm 35:27; Psalm 69:33; Psalm 107:42, and other passages). He knows that God's acts of judgment are pure righteousness, i.e., regulated by God's holiness, out of which they spring, and by the salvation of men, at which they aim; and he knows that God has humbled him אמוּנה (accus. adverb. for בּאמוּנה), being faithful in His intentions towards him; for it is just in the school of affliction that one first learns rightly to estimate the worth of His word, and comes to feel its power. But trouble, though sweetened by an insight into God's salutary design, is nevertheless always bitter; hence the well-justified prayer of Psalm 119:76, that God's mercy may notwithstanding be bestowed upon him for his consolation, in accordance with the promise which is become his (ל as in Psalm 119:49), His servant's. עוּת, Psalm 119:78, instead of being construed with the accusative of the right, or of the cause, that is perverted, is construed with the accusative of the person upon whom such perversion of right, such oppression by means of misrepresentation, is inflicted, as in Job 19:6; Lamentations 3:36. Chajug' reads עוּדוּני as in Psalm 119:61. The wish expressed in Psalm 119:79 is to be understood according to Psalm 73:10; Jeremiah 15:19, cf. Proverbs 9:4, Proverbs 9:16. If instead of וידעי (which is favoured by Psalm 119:63), we read according to the Chethb וידעוּ (cf. Psalm 119:125), then what is meant by ישׁוּבוּ לּי is a turning towards him for the purpose of learning: may their knowledge be enriched from his experience. For himself, however, in Psalm 119:80 he desires unreserved, faultless, unwavering adherence to God's word, for only thus is he secure against being ignominiously undeceived.
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