Psalm 18:5
The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) Hell.—Heb., sheôl. (See Note on Psalm 6:5.)

Preventedi.e., suddenly seized upon. The poet seems to feel the cords already tightening on his limbe. He is not dead yet, but like to them who go down to sheôl. This verse has one verbal difference from Samuel.

18:1-19 The first words, I will love thee, O Lord, my strength, are the scope and contents of the psalm. Those that truly love God, may triumph in him as their Rock and Refuge, and may with confidence call upon him. It is good for us to observe all the circumstances of a mercy which magnify the power of God and his goodness to us in it. David was a praying man, and God was found a prayer-hearing God. If we pray as he did, we shall speed as he did. God's manifestation of his presence is very fully described, ver. 7-15. Little appeared of man, but much of God, in these deliverances. It is not possible to apply to the history of the son of Jesse those awful, majestic, and stupendous words which are used through this description of the Divine manifestation. Every part of so solemn a scene of terrors tells us, a greater than David is here. God will not only deliver his people out of their troubles in due time, but he will bear them up under their troubles in the mean time. Can we meditate on ver. 18, without directing one thought to Gethsemane and Calvary? Can we forget that it was in the hour of Christ's deepest calamity, when Judas betrayed, when his friends forsook, when the multitude derided him, and the smiles of his Father's love were withheld, that the powers of darkness prevented him? The sorrows of death surrounded him, in his distress he prayed, Heb 5:7. God made the earth to shake and tremble, and the rocks to cleave, and brought him out, in his resurrection, because he delighted in him and in his undertaking.The sorrows of hell - Margin, "cords." The word used here is the same which occurs in the previous verse, and which is there rendered "sorrows." It is correctly translated here, as in that verse, "sorrows," though the parallelism would seem to favor the interpretation in the margin - cords. If it means "sorrows," the idea is, that such sufferings encompassed him, or seized upon him, as we associate in idea with the descent to the under-world, or the going down to the dead. If it means "cords, or bands," then the idea is, that he was seized with pain as if with cords thrown around him, and that were dragging him down to the abodes of the dead. Luther, DeWette, Prof. Alexander, Hengstenberg, and others render the word, in each of these places, "bands." On the word here rendered "hell," שׁאול she'ôl, see the notes at Isaiah 14:9. It means here the "under-world, the regions of the dead." It is a description of one who was overcome with the dread of death.

The snares of death - The word "snares" refers to the gins, toils, nets, which are used in taking wild beasts, by suddenly throwing cords around them, and binding them fast. The idea here is, that "Death" had thus thrown around him its toils or snares, and had bound him fast.

Prevented me - The word used here in Hebrew, as our word "prevent" did originally, means to "anticipate, to go before." The idea here is that those snares had, as it were, suddenly rushed upon him, or seized him. They came before him in his goings, and bound him fast.

5. death—and hell (compare Ps 16:10) are personified as man's great enemies (compare Re 20:13, 14).

prevented—encountered me, crossed my path, and endangered my safety. He does not mean he was in their power.

Of hell; or, of the grave, which brought me to the brink of the grave.

Prevented me; had almost taken hold of me, ere I was aware of my danger. The sorrows of hell compassed me about,.... Or "the cords of the grave" (s), under the power of which he was detained for awhile; the allusion may be to the manner of burying among the Jews, who wound up their dead bodies in linen clothes; so that they were as persons bound hand and foot; and thus were they laid in the grave; see John 11:44; and so was Christ, till he was raised from the dead, when he showed himself to have the keys of hell and death, and to be no more under their power, or be held by them;

the snares of death prevented me; or "met" or "got before me" (t) the sense is, he was taken in them: this phrase designs the insidious ways and methods which the enemies of Christ took to ensnare him, and take away his life, and in which they succeeded; see Matthew 26:4.

(s) "funes sepulchri", Musculus, Gejerus. (t) "praeoccupaverunt me", V. L. "anteverterunt me", Vatablus; "occurrerunt", Cocceius.

The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. Render with R.V.,

The cords of Sheol were round about me:

The snares of death came upon me.

The Heb. word rendered sorrows in the A.V. may no doubt have the meaning pangs, and is so rendered by the LXX (ὠδῖνες θανάτου. ᾁδου, cp. Acts 2:24). But the parallelism decides in favour of the rendering cords. Death and Sheol, the mysterious unseen world (see on Psalm 6:5), are like hunters lying in wait for their prey with nooses and nets.

prevented] i.e. came before, confronted me (Psalm 17:13) with hostile intention. See note on Psalm 18:18.Verse 5. - The sorrows of hell compassed me about; literally, the cords of Sheol, or Hades. Death and Hell are, both of them, personified, and made to join in the chase. The ensnaring nets are drawn nearer and nearer; at last the toils close in, the last cast is made, and the prey is taken. The snares of death prevented me; or, came upon me (Revised Version) - "took me by surprise" (Kay). The phrase קדּם פּני, antevertere faciem alicujus, means both to appear before any one with reverence, Psalm 95:2 (post-biblical: to pay one's respects to any one) and to meet any one as an enemy, rush on him. The foe springs like a lion upon David, may Jahve - so he prays - as his defence cross the path of the lion and intercept him, and cast him down so that he, being rendered harmless, shall lie there with bowed knees (כּרע, of the lion, Genesis 49:9; Numbers 24:9). He is to rescue his soul from the ungodly חרבּך. This חרבך, and also the ידך which follows, can be regarded as a permutative of the subject (Bצttcher, Hupfeld, and Hitzig), an explanation which is commended by Psalm 44:3 and other passages. But it is much more probable that more exact definitions of this kind are treated as accusatives, vid., on Psalm 3:5. At any rate "sword" and "hand" are meant as the instruments by which the פּלּט, rescuing, is effected. The force of פּלּטה extends into Psalm 17:14, and mimatiym (with a Chateph under the letter that is freed from reduplication, like ממכון, Psalm 33:14) corresponds to מרשׁע, as ידך to חרבּך. The word ממתים (plural of מת, men, Deuteronomy 2:34, whence מתם, each and every one), which of itself gives no complete sense, is repeated and made complete after the interruption cause by the insertion of ידך ה, - a remarkable manner of obstructing and then resuming the thought, which Hofmann (Schriftbeweis ii. 2. 495) seeks to get over by a change in the division of the verse and in the interpunction. חלד, either from חלד Syriac to creep, glide, slip away (whence חלדּה a weasel, a mole) or from חלד Talmudic to cover, hide, signifies: this temporal life which glides by unnoticed (distinct from the Arabic chald, chuld, an abiding stay, endless duration); and consequently חדל, limited existence, from חדל to have an end, alternates with חלד as a play upon the letters, comp. Psalm 49:2 with Isaiah 38:11. The combination מחלד מתים resembles Psalm 10:18; Psalm 16:4. What is meant, is: men who have no other home but the world, which passeth away with the lust thereof, men ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, or υίοὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου. The meaning of the further description חלקם בּחיּים (cf. Ecclesiastes 9:9) becomes clear from the converse in Psalm 16:5. Jahve is the חלק of the godly man; and the sphere within which the worldling claims his חלק is החיּים, this temporal, visible, and material life. This is everything to him; whereas the godly man says: טּוב חסדּך מחיּים, Psalm 63:4. The contrast is not so much between this life and the life to come, as between the world (life) and God. Here we see into the inmost nature of the Old Testament faith. To the Old Testament believer, all the blessedness and glory of the future life, which the New Testament unfolds, is shut up in Jahve. Jahve is his highest good, and possessing Him he is raised above heaven and earth, above life and death. To yield implicitly to Him, without any explicit knowledge of a blessed future life, to be satisfied with Him, to rest in Him, to hide in Him in the face of death, is the characteristic of the Old Testament faith. חלקם בחיים expresses both the state of mind and the lot of the men of the world. Material things which are their highest good, fall also in abundance to their share. The words "whose belly Thou fillest with Thy treasure" (Chethb: וּצפינך the usual participial form, but as a participle an Aramaising form) do not sound as though the poet meant to say that God leads them to repentance by the riches of His goodness, but on the contrary that God, by satisfying their desires which are confined to the outward and sensuous only, absolutely deprives them of all claim to possessions that extend beyond the world and this present temporal life. Thus, then, צפוּן in this passage is used exactly as צפוּנים is used in Job 20:26 (from צפן to hold anything close to one, to hold back, to keep by one). Moreover, there is not the slightest alloy of murmur or envy in the words. The godly man who lacks these good things out of the treasury of God, has higher delights; he can exclaim, Psalm 31:20 : "how great is Thy goodness which Thou hast laid up (צפנתּ) for those who fear Thee!" Among the good things with which God fills the belly and house of the ungodly (Job 22:17.) are also children in abundance; these are elsewhere a blessing upon piety (Psalm 127:3., Psalm 128:3.), but to those who do not acknowledge the Giver they are a snare to self-glorifying, Job 21:11 (cf. Wisdom Job 4:1). בּנים is not the subject, but an accusative, and has been so understood by all the old translators from the original text, just as in the phrase שׁבע ימים to be satisfied with, or weary of, life. On עוללים vid., on Psalm 8:3. יתר (from יתר to stretch out in length, then to be overhanging, towering above, projecting, superfluous, redundant) signifies here, as in Job 22:20, riches and the abundance of things possessed.
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