Psalm 39:11
When you with rebukes do correct man for iniquity, you make his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah.
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(11) When.—This is unnecessary. With judgments for sin Thou chastenest a man.

Rebukes.—The word rendered “reproofs” in Psalm 38:14, where see Note.

Beauty.—Literally, Something desirable. (See margin.) Thou, like a moth (consuming a garment: see Pr. Bk. Version), causest his desirable things to melt. (For the image, singularly apt. and natural in a country where “changes of raiment” were so prized, and hoarded up as wealth, comp. Job 13:28; Matthew 6:19; James 5:2.)

39:7-13 There is no solid satisfaction to be had in the creature; but it is to be found in the Lord, and in communion with him; to him we should be driven by our disappointments. If the world be nothing but vanity, may God deliver us from having or seeking our portion in it. When creature-confidences fail, it is our comfort that we have a God to go to, a God to trust in. We may see a good God doing all, and ordering all events concerning us; and a good man, for that reason, says nothing against it. He desires the pardoning of his sin, and the preventing of his shame. We must both watch and pray against sin. When under the correcting hand of the Lord, we must look to God himself for relief, not to any other. Our ways and our doings bring us into trouble, and we are beaten with a rod of our own making. What a poor thing is beauty! and what fools are those that are proud of it, when it will certainly, and may quickly, be consumed! The body of man is as a garment to the soul. In this garment sin has lodged a moth, which wears away, first the beauty, then the strength, and finally the substance of its parts. Whoever has watched the progress of a lingering distemper, or the work of time alone, in the human frame, will feel at once the force of this comparison, and that, surely every man is vanity. Afflictions are sent to stir up prayer. If they have that effect, we may hope that God will hear our prayer. The believer expects weariness and ill treatment on his way to heaven; but he shall not stay here long : walking with God by faith, he goes forward on his journey, not diverted from his course, nor cast down by the difficulties he meets. How blessed it is to sit loose from things here below, that while going home to our Father's house, we may use the world as not abusing it! May we always look for that city, whose Builder and Maker is God.When thou with rebukes - The word here rendered "rebukes" means properly:

(a) proof or demonstration;

(b) confutation or contradiction;

(c) reproof or admonition by words;

(d) reproof by correction or punishment.

This is the meaning here. The idea of the psalmist is, that God, by punishment or calamity, expresses his sense of the evil of human conduct; and that, under such an expression of it, man, being unable to sustain it, melts away or is destroyed.

Dost correct man for iniquity - Dost punish man for his sin; or dost express thy sense of the evil of sin by the calamities which are brought upon him.

Thou makest his beauty - Margin: "That which is to be desired in him." The Hebrew means "desired, delighted in;" then, something desirable, pleasant; a delight. Its meaning is not confined to "beauty." It refers to anything that is to man an object of desire or delight - strength, beauty, possessions, life itself. All are made to fade away before the expressions of the divine displeasure.

To consume away like a moth - Not as a moth is consumed, but as a moth consumes or destroys valuable objects, such as clothing. See the notes at Job 4:19. The beauty, the vigor, the strength of man is marred and destroyed, as the texture of cloth is by the moth.

Surely every man is vanity - That is, he is seen to be vanity - to have no strength, no permanency - by the ease with which God takes away all on which he had prided himself. See the notes at Psalm 39:5.

11. From his own case, he argues to that of all, that the destruction of man's enjoyments is ascribable to sin. With rebukes, i. e. with punishment, which is oft so called. See Psalm 6:1 76:6.

Dost correct man for iniquity, i. e. dost punish him as his iniquity deserves. His beauty, Heb. his desire, i.e. his desirable things, as this word signifies, Lamentations 1:11 Daniel 9:23 10:3,11,19. His comeliness, strength, wealth, and prosperity, and all his present excellencies or felicities.

Like a moth; either,

1. Passively, as a moth is quickly and easily crushed to pieces with a touch as this phrase is used, Job 4:19. Or,

2. Actively as a moth consumeth a garment, as it is Job 13:28 Isaiah 1:9; to which God compareth himself and his judgments, secretly and insensibly consuming a people, Isaiah 51:8 Hosea 5:12.

Every man is vanity; and this confirms what I said Psalm 39:5, that every man is vanity; which though men in the height of their prosperity will not believe, yet when God contendeth with them by his judgments, they are forced to acknowledge it. When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity,.... The psalmist illustrates his own case, before suggested, by the common case and condition of men, when God corrects them; which he has a right to do, as the Father of spirits, and which he does with rebukes; sometimes with rebukes of wrath, with furious rebukes, rebukes in flames of fire, as the men of the world; and sometimes with rebukes of love, the chastenings of a father, as his own dear children; and always for iniquity, whether one or another; and not the iniquity of Adam is here meant, but personal iniquity: and correction for it is to be understood of some bodily affliction, as the effect of it shows;

thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth; that is, secretly, suddenly, and at once; as a moth eats a garment, and takes off the beauty of it; or as easily as a moth is crushed between a man's fingers; so the Targum;

"he melts away as a moth, whose body is broken:''

the Vulgate Latin, Septuagint, Ethiopic, and Arabic versions, and so the metaphrase of Apollinarius, read, as a spider which destroys itself. The word rendered "beauty" takes in all that is desirable in man; as his flesh, his strength, his comeliness, his pleasantness of countenance, &c. all which are quickly destroyed by a distemper of the body seizing on it; wherefore the psalmist makes and confirms the conclusion he had made before:

surely every man is vanity; See Gill on Psalm 39:5;

Selah; on this word; see Gill on Psalm 3:2.

When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou {h} makest his {i} beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah.

(h) Though your open plagues do not light on them forever, yet your secret curse continually frets them.

(i) The word signifies all that he desires, as health, force, strength, beauty, and in whatever he has delight, so that the rod of God takes away all that is desired in this world.

11. When thou with rebukes dost chasten a man for iniquity,

Thou wastest like a moth his desirableness:

Nought but vanity are all men.

The A.V. obscures the correspondence of the first line with Psalm 38:1; Psalm 6:1. As easily as the moth-grub, working unseen, destroys ‘goodly raiment’ (Genesis 27:15), so easily does God’s chastisement destroy a man’s ‘goodliness,’ the bodily strength and beauty which make him attractive (Isaiah 53:2). It is God’s consuming ‘hand’ which is compared to the ‘moth’ (Hosea 5:12); not, as the A.V. might seem to imply, the ephemeral duration of man’s goodliness. Cp. Job 13:28; Isaiah 50:9; Isaiah 51:8.Verse 11. - When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity. The calamities which God sends on a man are of the nature of "rebukes" addressed to his spirit. They are intended to teach, instruct, warn, deter from evil-doing (see Job 36:8-10). Thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth; or, "thou dost consume, as by a moth, what he prizes;" i.e. his health, his strength, "all wherein he has joy and satisfaction" (Hengstenberg). As a moth corrodes a beautiful garment, so does thy displeasure and heavy hand pressing on him corrode and destroy all which constituted his delight and glory. Surely every man is vanity (comp. ver. 5 ad fin.). This has become a sort of refrain, terminating the second as well as the first part of the psalm (comp. Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31; Ecclesiastes 2:1, 11, 15, 19, 21, 23, 26; Isaiah 9:12, 17, 21). (Heb.: 39:5-7) He prays God to set the transitoriness of earthly life clearly before his eyes (cf. Psalm 90:12); for if life is only a few spans long, then even his suffering and the prosperity of the ungodly will last only a short time. Oh that God would then grant him to know his end (Job 6:11), i.e., the end of his life, which is at the same time the end of his affliction, and the measure of his days, how it is with this (מה, interrog. extenuantis, as in Psalm 8:5), in order that he may become fully conscious of his own frailty! Hupfeld corrects the text to אני מה־חלד, after the analogy of Psalm 89:48, because חדל cannot signify "frail." But חדל signifies that which leaves off and ceases, and consequently in this connection, finite and transitory or frail. מה, quam, in connection with an adjective, as in Psalm 8:2; Psalm 31:20; Psalm 36:8; Psalm 66:3; Psalm 133:1. By הן (the customary form of introducing the propositio minor, Leviticus 10:18; Leviticus 25:20) the preceding petition is supported. God has, indeed, made the days, i.e., the lifetime, of a man טפחות, handbreadths, i.e., He has allotted to it only the short extension of a few handbreadths (cf. ימים, a few days, e.g., Isaiah 65:20), of which nine make a yard (cf. πήχυιος χρόνος in Mimnermus, and 1 Samuel 20:3); the duration of human life (on חלד vid., Psalm 17:14) is as a vanishing nothing before God the eternal One. The particle אך is originally affirmative, and starting from that sense becomes restrictive; just as רק is originally restrictive and then affirmative. Sometimes also, as is commonly the case with אכן, the affirmative signification passes over into the adversative (cf. verum, verum enim vero). In our passage, agreeably to the restrictive sense, it is to be explained thus: nothing but mere nothingness (cf. Psalm 45:14; James 1:2) is every man נצּב, standing firmly, i.e., though he stand never so firmly, though he be never so stedfast (Zechariah 11:16). Here the music rises to tones of bitter lament, and the song continues in Psalm 39:7 with the same theme. צלם, belonging to the same root as צל, signifies a shadow-outline, an image; the בּ is, as in Psalm 35:2, Beth essentiae: he walks about consisting only of an unsubstantial shadow. Only הבל, breath-like, or after the manner of breath (Psalm 144:4), from empty, vain motives and with vain results, do they make a disturbance (pausal fut. energicum, as in Psalm 36:8); and he who restlessly and noisily exerts himself knows not who will suddenly snatch together, i.e., take altogether greedily to himself, the many things that he heaps up (צבר, as in Job 27:16); cf. Isaiah 33:4, and on - ām equals αὐτά, Leviticus 15:10 (in connection with which אלה הדברים, cf. Isaiah 42:16, is in the mind of the speaker).
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