Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Lighten.—Literally, give light to my eyes that I may not go to sleep in death, i.e., go to sleep and never wake; “sleep unto death,” as the LXX. (Comp. for the nature of the fear, Psalm 6:5; and for the form of expression, 1Samuel 14:27; 1Samuel 14:29.)Psalm 13:3-5. Lighten mine eyes — Because I find my own counsels insufficient, do thou enlighten my mind, and guide me by thy counsel into the right way of obtaining thy merciful help. Or, he means, Do thou revive, and comfort, and deliver me from the darkness of death, which is ready to come upon me, and to close mine eyes. Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him — Namely, by my art or strength; which will reflect dishonour on thee, as if thou wert either unfaithful and unmindful of thy promises, or unable to fulfil them. Therefore prevent, or repress this their arrogance and blasphemy, and maintain thine own honour. I have trusted in thy mercy — Neither their threats and boastings, nor my own dangers, shall shake my confidence in thy mercy promised to me.Psalm 13:1; and the psalmist now prays that he "would" look upon him - that he would regard his wants - that he would attend to his cry. So we pray to one who turns away from us as if he were not disposed to hear, and as if he cared nothing about us.
Lighten mine eyes - The allusion here is, probably, to his exhaustion, arising from trouble and despair, as if he were about to die. The sight grows dim as death approaches; and he seemed to feel that death was near. He says that unless God should interpose, the darkness would deepen, and he must die. The prayer, therefore, that God would "enlighten his eyes," was a prayer that he would interpose and save him from that death which he felt was rapidly approaching.
Lest I sleep the sleep of death - literally, "Lest I sleep the death;" that is, "in" death, or, as in the common version, the sleep of death. The idea is, that death, whose approach was indicated by the dimness of vision, was fast stealing over him as a sleep, and that unless his clearness of vision were restored, it would soon end in the total darkness - the deep and profound sleep - of death. Death is often compared to sleep. See the note at 1 Corinthians 11:30; the note at John 11:11, John 11:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; Daniel 12:2. The resemblance between the two is so obvious as to have been remarked in all ages, and the comparison is found in the writings of all nations. It is only, however, in connection with Christianity that the idea has been fully carried out by the doctrine of the resurrection, for as we lie down at night with the hope of awaking to the pursuits and enjoyments of a new day, so the Christian lies down in death with the hope of awaking in the morning of the resurrection to the pursuits and enjoyments of a new and eternal day. Everywhere else death is, to the mind, a long and unbroken sleep. Compare Jeremiah 51:39, Jeremiah 51:57.
4 Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
But now prayer lifteth up her voice, like the watchman who proclaims the daybreak. Now will the tide turn, and the weeper shall dry his eyes. The mercy-seat is the life of hope and the death of despair. The gloomy thought of God's having forsaken him is still upon the Psalmist's soul, and he therefore cries, "Consider and hear me." He remembers at once the root of his woe, and cries aloud that it may be removed. The final absence of God is Tophet's fire, and his temporary absence brings his people into the very suburbs of hell. God is here entreated to see and hear, that so he may be doubly moved to pity. What should we do if we had no God to turn to in the hour of wretchedness?
Note the cry of faith, "O Lord my God!" Is it not a very glorious fact that our interest in our God is not destroyed by all our trials and sorrows? We may lose our gourds, but not our God. The title-deed of heaven is not written in the sand, but in eternal brass.
"Lighten mine eyes:" that is, let the eye of my faith be clear, that I may see my God in the dark; let my eye of watchfulness be wide open, lest I be entrapped, and let the eye of my understanding be illuminated to see the right way. Perhaps, too, here is an allusion to that cheering of the spirits so frequently called the enlightening of the eyes because it causes the face to brighten, and the eyes to sparkle. Well may we use the prayer, "Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord!" for in many respects we need the Holy Spirit's illuminating rays. "Lest I sleep the sleep of death." Darkness engenders sleep, and despondency is not slow in making the eyes heavy. From this faintness and dimness of vision, caused by despair, there is but a step to the iron sleep of death. David feared that his trials would end his life, and he rightly uses his fear as an argument with God in prayer; for deep distress has in it a kind of claim upon compassion, not a claim of right, but a plea which has power with grace. Under the pressure of heart sorrow, the Psalmist does not look forward to the sleep of death with hope and joy, as assured believers do, but he shrinks from it with dread, from which we gather that bondage from fear of death is no new thing.
Another plea is urged in the fourth verse, and it is one which the tried believer may handle well when on his knees. We make use of our arch-enemy for once, and compel him, like Samson, to grind in our mill while we use his cruel arrogance as an argument in prayer. It is not the Lord's will that the great enemy of our souls should overcome his children. This would dishonour God, and cause the evil one to boast. It is well for us that our salvation and God's honour are so intimately connected, that they stand or fall together.
Our covenant God will complete the confusion of all our enemies, and if for awhile we become their scoff and jest, the day is coming when the shame will change sides, and the contempt shall be poured on those to whom it is due.Lighten mine eyes; either,
1. Because I find my counsel insufficient, Psalm 13:2, do thou enlighten my mind, and guide me by thy counsel and Spirit into the right way of obtaining thy mercy and help. So this phrase is used Psalm 19:8 Ephesians 1:18. Or,
2. Do thou revive, and comfort, and deliver me from the darkness of death, which is ready to come upon me and to close mine eyes. Nothing is more common than to express great dangers and calamities by darkness, and great comforts and deliverances by light, as Job 15:22 17:13 30:26, and by an enlightening of the eyes, as Ezra 9:8. Compare Proverbs 15:30 29:13.
Lest I sleep the sleep of death, i.e. lest I sink under my burden and die; for death is oft called a sleep in Scripture, as Job 3:13 14:12 Psalm 76:5 John 11:11. Psalm 13:1; and he further requests that he would "hear" him; that is, so as to answer him, and that immediately, and thereby show that he had not forgotten him, but was mindful of him, of his love to him, and covenant with him;
lighten mine eyes: meaning either the eyes of his body, which might be dim and dull through a failure of the animal spirits, by reason of inward grief, outward afflictions, or for want of bodily food; which when obtained refreshes nature, cheers the animal spirits, enlightens or gives a briskness to the eyes; see 1 Samuel 14:27; or else the eyes of his understanding, Ephesians 1:18; that he might behold wondrous things in the law of God, know the things which were freely given to him of God, see more clearly his interest in him, and in the covenant of his grace, and have his soul refreshed and comforted with the light of God's countenance; and he be better able to discern his enemies, and guard against them; and be directed to take the best method to be delivered and secured from them. The people of God are sometimes in the dark, and see no light; especially when benighted, and in sleepy frames; and it is God's work to enlighten and quicken them;
lest I sleep the sleep of death; a natural death (w), which is comparable to sleep, and often expressed by it; and which sense agrees with lightening the eyes of his body, as before explained; or rather the sense is, lift up the light of thy countenance, revive thy work in the midst of the years; let me see thy goodness in the land of the living, that I may not faint and sink and die away. Or it may be an eternal death is designed; for though true believers shall never die this death, yet they may be in such circumstances, as through unbelief to fear they shall. The Targum paraphrases the word thus;
"enlighten mine eyes in thy law, lest I sin, and sleep with those who are guilty of death.''Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)3. Behold (Psalm 10:14), instead of hiding Thy face, answer me (Psalm 3:4) instead of forgetting my need.
Lighten mine eyes] Revive and quicken me. The eyes are the index of vital energy. They ‘waste away,’ they lose their light, they ‘are darkened,’ by sickness or sorrow (Psalm 6:7, Psalm 38:10; Lamentations 5:17). They are ‘enlightened’ when strength and spirits are restored (1 Samuel 14:27; 1 Samuel 14:29; Ezra 9:8). It is the light of God’s face, the illumination of His love and favour, which is the source of life (Psalm 4:6; Psalm 31:16; Psalm 36:9).
3, 4. A prayer, in calmer tone.Verse 3. - Consider and hear me, O Lord my God (comp. Psalm 5:1; Psalm 9:13; Psalm 141:1, etc.). David will not allow himself to be "forgotten;" he will recall himself to God's remembrance. "Consider - hear me," he says, "O Lord my God;" still "my God," although thou hast forgotten me, and therefore bound to "hear me." Lighten mine eyes. Not so much "enlighten me spiritually," as "cheer me up; put brightness into my eyes; revive me" (comp. Ezra 9:8, "Grace hath been showed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape... that our God may lighten out eyes, and give us a little reviving"). Lest I sleep the sleep of death; literally, lest I sleep death. Death is compared to a sleep by Job (Job 11:12), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 51:39, 57), Daniel (Daniel 12:2), and here by David, in the Old Testament; and by our Lord (John 11:11-13) and St. Paul in the New (1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 15). The external resemblance of a corpse to a sleeping person was the root of the metaphor, and we shall do wrong to conclude from its employment anything with respect to the psalmist's views concerning the real nature of death. Psalm 12:6 the psalmist hears Jahve Himself speak; and in Psalm 12:7 he adds his Amen. The two מן in Psalm 12:6 denote the motive, עתּה the decisive turning-point from forebearance to the execution of judgment, and ימר the divine determination, which has just now made itself audible; cf. Isaiah's echo of it, Isaiah 33:10. Jahve has hitherto looked on with seeming inactivity and indifference, now He will arise and place in ישׁע, i.e., a condition of safety (cf. שׂים בּחיּים Psalm 66:9), him who languishes for deliverance. It is not to be explained: him whom he, i.e., the boaster, blows upon, which would be expressed by יפיח בּו, cf. Psalm 10:5; but, with Ewald, Hengstenberg, Olshausen, and Bttcher, according to Habakkuk 2:3, where הפיח ל occurs in the sense of panting after an object: him who longs for it. יפיח is, however, not a participial adjective equals יפח, but the fut., and יפיח לו is therefore a relative clause occupying the place of the object, just as we find the same thing occurring in Job 24:19; Isaiah 41:2, Isaiah 41:25, and frequently. Hupfeld's rendering: "in order that he may gain breath (respiret)" leaves אשׁית without an object, and accords more with Aramaic and Arabic than with Hebrew usage, which would express this idea by ינוּח לו or ירוח לו.
In Psalm 12:7 the announcement of Jahve is followed by its echo in the heart of the seer: the words (אמרות instead of אמרות by changing the Sheb which closes the syllable into an audible one, as e.g., in אשׁרי) of Jahve are pure words, i.e., intended, and to be fulfilled, absolutely as they run without any admixture whatever of untruthfulness. The poetical אמרה (after the form זמרה) serves pre-eminently as the designation of the divine power-words of promise. The figure, which is indicated in other instances, when God's word is said to be צרוּפה (Psalm 18:31; Psalm 119:140; Proverbs 30:5), is here worked out: silver melted and thus purified בּעליל לארץ. עליל signifies either a smelting-pot from עלל, Arab. gll, immittere, whence also על (Hitz.); or, what is more probable since the language has the epithets כוּר and מצרף for this: a workshop, from עלל, Arab. ‛ll, operari (prop. to set about a thing), first that which is wrought at (after the form מעיל, פּסיל, שׁביל), then the place where the work is carried on. From this also comes the Talm. בּעליל equals בּעליל manifeste, occurring in the Mishna Rosh ha-Shana 1. 5 and elsewhere, and which in its first meaning corresponds to the French en effet.
(Note: On this word with reference to this passage of the Psalm vid., Steinschneider's Hebr. Bibliographie 1861, S. 83.)
According to this, the ל in לארץ is not the ל of property: in a fining-pot built into the earth, for which לארץ without anything further would be an inadequate and colourless expression. But in accordance with the usual meaning of לארץ as a collateral definition it is: smelted (purified) down to the earth. As Olshausen observes on this subject, "Silver that is purified in the furnace and flows down to the ground can be seen in every smelting hut; the pure liquid silver flows down out of the smelting furnace, in which the ore is piled up." For it cannot be ל of reference: "purified with respect to the earth," since ארץ does not denote the earth as a material and cannot therefore mean an earthy element. We ought then to read לאבץ, which would not mean "to a white brilliancy," i.e., to a pure bright mass (Bttch.), but "with respect to the stannum, lead" (vid., on Isaiah 1:25). The verb זקק to strain, filter, cause to ooze through, corresponds to the German seihen, seigen, old High German sihan, Greek σακκεῖν (σακκίζειν), to clean by passing through a cloth as a strainer, שׂק. God's word is solid silver smelted and leaving all impurity behind, and, as it were, having passed seven times through the smelting furnace, i.e., the purest silver, entirely purged from dross. Silver is the emblem of everything precious and pure (vid., Bhr, Symbol. i. 284); and seven is the number indicating the completion of any process (Bibl. Psychol. S. 57, transl. p. 71).
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