Psalm 40:12
For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.
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40:11-17 The best saints see themselves undone, unless continually preserved by the grace of God. But see the frightful view the psalmist had of sin. This made the discovery of a Redeemer so welcome. In all his reflections upon each step of his life, he discovered something amiss. The sight and sense of our sins in their own colours, must distract us, if we have not at the same time some sight of a Saviour. If Christ has triumphed over our spiritual enemies, then we, through him, shall be more than conquerors. This may encourage all that seek God and love his salvation, to rejoice in him, and to praise him. No griefs nor poverty can render those miserable who fear the Lord. Their God, and all that he has or does, is the ground of their joy. The prayer of faith can unlock his fulness, which is adapted to all their wants. The promises are sure, the moment of fulfilment hastens forward. He who once came in great humility, shall come again in glorious majesty.For innumerable evils have compassed me about - Have surrounded me, or have beset me on every side. The evils here referred to, understood as being those which came upon the Messiah, were sorrows that came upon him in consequence of his undertaking to do what could not be done by sacrifices and offerings Psalm 40:6; that is, his undertaking to save men by his own "obedience unto death." The time referred to here, I apprehend, is that when the full effects of his having assumed the sins of the world to make expiation for them came upon him; when he was about to endure the agonies of Gethsemane and Calvary.

Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me - On this passage, as constituting one of the main objections, and the strongest objection, to the application of the psalm to the Messiah, and on the way in which such objection may be met, see introduction to this psalm (3b).

So that I am not able to look up - This is not the exact idea of the Hebrew word. That is simply, I am not able to see; and it refers to the dimness or failure of sight caused by distress, weakness, or old age. 1 Samuel 3:2; 1 Samuel 4:15; 1 Kings 14:4; compare Psalm 6:7. The idea here is, not that he was unable to look up, but that the calamities which came upon him were so heavy and severe as to make his sight dim, or to deprive him of vision. Either by weeping, or by the mere pressure of suffering, he was so affected as almost to be deprived of the power of seeing.

They are more than the hairs of mine head - That is, the sorrows that come upon me in connection with sin. The idea is that they were innumerable - the hairs of the head, or the sands on the seashore; being employed in the Scriptures to denote what cannot be numbered. See Psalm 69:4. Compare Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:12; Joshua 11:4; 2 Samuel 17:11.

Therefore my heart faileth me - Margin, as in Hebrew: "forsaketh." The idea is that he sank under these sufferings; he could not sustain them.

12. evils—inflicted by others.

iniquities—or penal afflictions, and sometimes calamities in the wide sense. This meaning of the word is very common (Ps 31:11; 38:4; compare Ge 4:13, Cain's punishment; Ge 19:15, that of Sodom; 1Sa 28:10, of the witch of En-dor; also 2Sa 16:12; Job 19:29; Isa 5:18; 53:11). This meaning of the word is also favored by the clause, "taken hold of me," which follows, which can be said appropriately of sufferings, but not of sins (compare Job 27:20; Ps 69:24). Thus, the difficulties in referring this Psalm to Christ, arising from the usual reading of this verse, are removed. Of the terrible afflictions, or sufferings, alluded to and endured for us, compare Lu 22:39-44, and the narrative of the scenes of Calvary.

my heart faileth me—(Mt 26:38), "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death."

cannot look up—literally, "I cannot see," not denoting the depression of conscious guilt, as Lu 18:13, but exhaustion from suffering, as dimness of eyes (compare Ps 6:7; 13:3; 38:10). The whole context thus sustains the sense assigned to iniquities.

Mine iniquities; either,

1. The punishment of mine iniquities, as Genesis 4:13 1 Samuel 28:10 Psalm 31:10. Or,

2. The iniquities themselves. This phrase cannot be understood of Christ. For although our sins are said to be laid upon Christ, Isaiah 53, and upon that account he is said to be made sin for us, 2 Corinthians 5:21; yet the Scripture every where represents him as one that never knew nor did any sin, as in that place, and 1 Peter 2:22, and elsewhere; and even when his punishment is described, yet it is expressly noted, that he did not suffer for himself, or for his own sins, but only for us, and for our sins, as Isaiah 53:4,5 Da 9:26 1 Peter 2:24. And therefore it is not probable that the Holy Ghost would use such an expression concerning the sinless Christ of God, as is never used in Scripture, but either of a man’s own sins, or of the punishment deserved by his own sins.

Have taken hold upon me: men’s sins are figuratively said to follow them, 1 Timothy 5:24, and to find them out, Numbers 32:23, and here to take hold of them, as a serjeant takes hold of a man whom he arrests.

To look up unto God or men, with any comfort and confidence; I am ashamed and confounded, by reason of my numberless sins. Or, so that I was not able to see; either because he was as it were drowned or overwhelmed with his sins; or because his eyes did fail or were consumed through grief, as he complains, Psalm 6:7 38:10. Or he means that he could not foresee them; the simple verb being put for the compound, as it is frequently among the Hebrews. They came upon him unawares, and therefore were the more grievous to him. They, to wit, mine iniquities here mentioned, properly so called; for God’s people are more apt to aggravate their sins than the punishments of them. See Ezra 9:13,14.

For innumerable evils have compassed me about,.... Like floods of water all around him; see Psalm 18:4; these are the evils of punishment inflicted on him, as the surety and Saviour of his people; such as the sorrows and griefs he bore all his days; the cruel mockings and scourges he endured; his being buffeted and spit upon; his head crowned with thorns, and his hands and feet pierced with nails; insulted by men and devils; crucified between two thieves, and so died the shameful and painful death of the cross;

mine iniquities have taken hold upon me; not any committed by him; he was conceived, born, and lived without sin, knew none, nor did he any; but the sins of his people, which were imputed to him, laid upon him, and which he voluntarily took and bore; and which he reckoned as his own and was responsible for them; these, when he hung upon the cross, came upon him from all quarters, and he bore them in his own body upon the tree;

so that I am not able to look up; or "cannot see" (p); either the end of these iniquities, they being so numerous, as is after related; or he could not bear to look upon them, they were so filthy and nauseous, and he so pure and holy; or he could not behold his Father's countenance, which these sins that were upon him separated him from, and caused to be hid from him; or, like one pressed down with the guilt of sin, as the poor publican was, could not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, Luke 18:13;

they are more than the hairs of mine head; as they must needs be, since they were the iniquities of all the elect of God, of the whole general assembly ad church of the firstborn, written in heaven, Isaiah 53:6;

therefore my heart faileth me; as man; see Psalm 22:14; though being supported by his divine nature, and by his divine Father and eternal Spirit, he failed not, nor was he discouraged, Isaiah 42:4; this is said to show the truth of the human nature, the greatness of men's sins, the strictness of divine justice, and what strength was necessary to accomplish man's salvation.

(p) "non potai videre", Pagninus, Montanus, Musculus; "cernere", Cocceius; "intueri", Gejerus.

For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart {k} faileth me.

(k) Concerning the judgment of the flesh, I was utterly destitute of all counsel, yet faith inwardly moved my heart to pray.

12. This verse is somewhat loosely attached to Psalm 40:11 by for. The rendering of Psalm 40:11 as a prayer makes the connexion appear closer and more natural than it is.

evils] Afflictions (Psalm 34:19), which are trials of faith or chastisements for sin.

have compassed me about] The use of the word in 2 Samuel 22:5 suggests that the true meaning is ‘have overwhelmed me like a flood.’ Cp. Jonah 2:5.

have taken hold uton me] R.V. have overtaken me. Sin pursues the sinner like an avenging Nemesis, till it gets him into its power and punishes him. Cp. Psalm 38:4; Deuteronomy 28:15; Job 8:4 (R.V.); Proverbs 5:22.

so that I am not able to look up] The only rendering justified by usage is, and I cannot see. In the extremity of terror and faintness sight fails him. Cp. Psalm 38:10; Psalm 69:3, and note that the next line contains parallels to both passages.

than the hairs of my head] As in Psalm 69:4. (A different word is used there for they art more: here it is the same as in Psalm 40:5.)

therefore &c.] Lit. and my heart hath forsaken me. Courage utterly fails. Cp. Psalm 38:10.

12–17. The scene is changed. The sky is overclouded. Supplication for speedy help in time of danger takes the place of joyous thanksgiving.

Verse 12. - For innumerable evils have compassed me about; literally, for evils have gathered upon me until there is no number (comp. vers. 1, 2). The exact nature of the "evils" is not mentioned; but the worst of them appears to be "the deep and bitter consciousness of sin" revealed in the next clause. Another was, beyond all doubt, the continued animosity of enemies (ver. 14). Mental and bodily weakness may have been added, and have completed the crushing load whereof complaint is made. It is noted that the exceedingly deep consciousness of sin here displayed "belongs altogether to a late part of David's life" (Canon Cook). Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; rather, so that 1 am not able to see. An actual failure of sight seems to be intended (comp. Psalm 6:7; Psalm 31:9; 28:10). They are more than the hairs of my head; i.e. they are more in number. Therefore my heart faileth me; i.e. "my courage" and "my strength of mind" (comp. Psalm 38:10). Psalm 40:12Now, in accordance with the true art of prayer, petition developes itself out of thanksgiving. The two כּלא, Psalm 40:10 and here, stand in a reciprocal relation to one another: he refrained not his lips; therefore, on His part, let not Jahve withhold His tender mercies so that they should not be exercised towards him (ממּנּי). There is just the same correlation of mercy and truth in Psalm 40:11 and here: he wishes continually to stand under the protection of these two saving powers, which he has gratefully proclaimed before all Israel. With כּי, Psalm 40:13, he bases these desires upon his own urgent need. רעות are the evils, which come even upon the righteous (Psalm 34:20) as trials or as chastenings. אפפוּ עלי is a more circumstantial form of expression instead of אפפוּני, Psalm 18:5. His misdeeds have taken hold upon him, i.e., overtaken him in their consequences (השּׂיג, as in Deuteronomy 28:15, Deuteronomy 28:45; cf. לכד, Proverbs 5:22), inasmuch as they have changed into decrees of suffering. He cannot see, because he is closely encompassed on all sides, and a free and open view is thereby altogether taken from him (the expression is used elsewhere of loss of sight, 1 Samuel 3:2; 1 Samuel 4:15; 1 Kings 14:4). The interpretation adopted by Hupfeld and Hitzig: I am not able to survey, viz., their number, puts into the expression more than it really expresses in the common usage of the language. His heart, i.e., the power of vital consistence, has forsaken him he is disconcerted, dejected, as it were driven to despair (Psalm 38:11). This feeling of the misery of sin is not opposed to the date of the Psalm being assigned to the time of Saul, vid., on Psalm 31:11.
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