‘The sorrows of death surrounded me…. The sorrows of the grave compassed me about; the snares of death overtook me…. In my distress, I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God. He heard my voice…. He sent from above; He took me; He drew me out!’
Calvin comments: “David…begins to recount the undoubted and illustrious proofs by which he had experienced that the hand of God is sufficiently strong and powerful to repel all the dangers and calamities with which he may be assailed…. When in his distresses he had been reduced to extremity, he had betaken himself to God for help — and had wonderfully been preserved….
“The Hebrew word chebleey means ‘cords’ or ‘sorrows‘ or any deadly evil which consumes a man’s health and strength, and which tends to his destruction…. ‘Cords’ (or ‘snares’) agrees better with the verb ‘compass about’ (or ‘surround’) — the import of which is that David was on all sides involved and entangled in the perils of death….
“What follows concerning ‘torrents’ (or ‘sorrows’), implies that he had been almost overwhelmed by the violence and impetuosity of his enemies against him — even as a man who is covered over the head with floods of water, is almost lost. He calls them ‘the torrents of Belial’ (or ‘wickedness’), because it was wicked and perverse men who had conspired against him.
“The Hebrew word Belial has a wide signification…. The more generally received opinion is that it is compounded from these two words beli (‘not’) and yaäl (‘to gain advantageously’) — to denote that the wicked…obtain no advantage….
“The Jews…employed this word to designate every kind of detestable wickedness…. David by it, meant to describe his enemies who basely and wickedly plotted his destruction….
“In the following verse, he again repeats ‘that the corruptions or cords’ (or ‘sorrows’) ‘of the grave had compassed him about’…. He uses a verb which signifies ‘to beset,’ ‘to enclose’ or ‘to surround’…. He adds immediately after — ‘the snares of death’….
“This, then, is the description of the dangerous circumstances into which he was brought…. It enhances and magnifies so much the more, the glory of his deliverance!…
“‘In my distress’…. It was a very evident proof of uncommon faith in David — when, being almost plunged into the gulf of death, he lifted up his heart to Heaven by prayer…. In saying that he ‘cried (out)’ — he means…the ardour and earnestness…which he had in prayer…. By calling God ‘his’ God, he separates himself from…the despisers of God…. When David was forsaken and abandoned in the world and all men shut their ears to his cry for help, God stretched forth His hand from Heaven to save him!” For ‘He heard!’
‘He sent down from above!’ The sorrows of the grave surrounded me, but He drew me out!