Psalm 41:8
An evil disease, say they, sticks fast to him: and now that he lies he shall rise up no more.
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(8) An evil disease.—Margin, thing of Belial. (For “Belial,” see Deuteronomy 13:13.) The expression may mean, as in LXX. and Vulg., “a lawless speech,” so the Chaldee, “a perverse word.” Syriac, “a word of iniquity,” or “a physical evil,” as in Authorised Version, or “a moral evil.” The verse is difficult, not only from this ambiguity, but also from that of the verb, which, according to the derivation we take, may mean “cleave” or “pour forth.” Modern scholars prefer the latter, understanding the image as taken from the process of casting metal. An incurable wound is poured out (welded) upon him. (Comp. “molten,” 1Kings 7:24; 1Kings 7:30.) This does not, however, suit the context nearly so well as the reading,

“A wicked saying have they directed against me:

Let the sick man never rise again,”

which has the support of the LXX. and Vulg., though they make of the last clause a question, “Shall not the sleeper rise again?”

Psalm 41:8-9. An evil disease cleaveth fast unto him — Hebrew, דבר בליעל, debar Belijagnal, a word, or thing of Belial. Literally, says Houbigant, A thing of Belial is poured out upon him, that is, his wickedness is brought round upon, or overflows him. The reproach wherewith they had loaded him, they hoped, would cleave so fast to him, that his name would perish with him, and they should gain their point. Or, their meaning was, The disease, wherewith he is now afflicted, will certainly make an end of him; for it is the punishment of some great, enormous crime, which he will not repent of, and which proves him, however he has appeared, a son of Belial. And now he lieth, he will rise up no more — Seeing God has begun to punish him, he will continue so to do till he destroy him, and then we shall be rid of him, and divide the spoil of his preferments. Yea, mine own familiar friend — Probably he means Ahithophel, who had been his bosom friend, and prime minister of state; in whom he had trusted, as one inviolably firm to him, and on whose advice he had relied much, in dealing with his enemies: which did eat of my bread — With whom he had been very intimate, and whom he had taken to sit at the table with him; nay, whom he had maintained and given a livelihood to, and so obliged both in gratitude and interest to adhere to him; hath lifted up his heel against me — A phrase implying injury joined with insolence and contempt; taken from an unruly horse, which kicks at him that owns and feeds it. He not only deserted, but insulted; opposed and endeavoured to supplant him. Those are wicked indeed, whom no courtesy done them, no confidence reposed in them, will oblige. Although these words were literally fulfilled in David, yet the Holy Ghost, who dictated them, looked further in them, even to Christ and Judas, in whom they received a further and fuller accomplishment; and to whom, therefore, they are applied, John 13:18.41:5-13 We complain, and justly, of the want of sincerity, and that there is scarcely any true friendship to be found among men; but the former days were no better. One particularly, in whom David had reposed great confidence, took part with his enemies. And let us not think it strange, if we receive evil from those we suppose to be friends. Have not we ourselves thus broken our words toward God? We eat of his bread daily, yet lift up the heel against him. But though we may not take pleasure in the fall of our enemies, we may take pleasure in the making vain their designs. When we can discern the Lord's favour in any mercy, personal or public, that doubles it. If the grace of God did not take constant care of us, we should not be upheld. But let us, while on earth, give heartfelt assent to those praises which the redeemed on earth and in heaven render to their God and Saviour.An evil disease - Margin, "a thing of Belial." The Hebrew is literally "a word of Belial." This has been very variously understood and interpreted. The Septuagint renders it: λόγον παράνομον logon paranomon - wicked word; "a wicked determination" (Thompson); that is, they formed a wicked purpose against him, to wit, by saying that he was now confined to his bed, and could not rise again. The Latin Vulgate renders it in a similar manner: Verbum iniquitum constituerunt adversum me. Luther: "They have formed a wicked device (Bubenstuck) against me;" they behave in a knavish or wicked manner. DeWette, "Destruction (Verderben) or punishnnent (Strafe) is poured upon him." The term rendered "disease" means properly "word" or "thing;" and Prof. Alexander renders it, "A word of Belial is poured upon him." The word rendered "evil, Belial," means literally "without use" - בליעל belı̂ya‛al - from בלי belı̂y, "not or without," and יעל ya‛al, "use or profit."

Then it means worthlessness, wickedness, destruction; and hence, in connection with man, denotes one who is wicked, worthless, abandoned. It is difficult to determine its meaning here. The connection Psalm 41:3 would seem to suggest the idea adopted by our translators; the words themselves would seem rather to convey the idea of some reproach, or harsh saying - some vain, wicked, malicious words that were uttered against him. That there was disease in the case, and that the psalm was composed in view of it, and of the treatment which the author experienced from those who had been his professed friends when suffering under it, seems to me to be manifest from Psalm 41:1, Psalm 41:3-4, Psalm 41:8; but it is probable that the reference in this expression is not to the disease, but to the words or the conduct of his calumniators. It is evident from the pronoun him - the third person - that this refers, as our translators have indicated by the words they say to something that they said in regard to him; something which they affirmed as the result of their observations on his condition, Psalm 41:6-7. The true idea, therefore, I think is this: "They say - that is, those who came to see me said - A 'word of evil' - "a sentence of evil or destruction" - is poured upon him. He is suffering under such a 'word of destruction;' or, such a word (that is, sentence) as will involve his destruction, by way of punishment for his sins; therefore all is over with him, and he must die. He can hope to rise no more." This would express the idea that they regarded his death as certain, for he seemed to be under a sentence which made that sure.

Cleaveth fast unto him - Or rather, "is poured upon him." The word used here - צוּק tsûq - means:

(1) to be narrow, straitened, compressed; and then

(2) to pour out - as metal is poured out Job 28:2, or as words are poured out in prayer Isaiah 26:16.

Here it would seem to mean that such a sentence was poured upon him, or that he had become submerged or swallowed up under it. It was like the pouring out of a torrent on him, overwhelming him with floods of water, so that he could not hope to escape, or to rise again.

And now that he lieth, he shall rise up no more - There is no hope for him; no prospect that he will ever get up again. They felt that they might indulge their remarks, therefore, freely, as he would not be able to take revenge on them, and their expectations and hopes were about to be accomplished by his death. Compare Psalm 41:5. As a part of his sufferings, all this was aggravated by the fact that they regarded those sufferings as full proof of his guilt; that he could not reply to their accusations; and that be was about to die under that imputation.

8. An evil disease—literally, "a word of Belial," some slander.

cleaveth—literally, "poured on him."

that he lieth—who has now laid down, "he is utterly undone and our victory is sure."

An evil disease, Heb. a word or thing of Belial, i.e. either,

1. Some wicked calumny which they had raised, and which stuck close to him. Or,

2. His great wickedness, whereof this is a sign. Or rather,

3. This sore disease or mischief; either sent upon him in way of vengeance for his horrid crimes; or such as God useth to inflict upon the sons of Belial, to show that he is in truth such a one, whatsoever he pretends to the contrary.

He shall rise up no more; seeing God hath begun to punish him, he will make an end of him. An evil disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him,.... Not any bodily one, of which they might hope he would die; much less any foul disease, the disease of sin; but, as the phrase may be rendered, "a word of Belial" (y); that is, a wicked charge or accusation; a charge of sin brought against him by the sons of Belial, as of blasphemy and sedition, which they concluded would be fastened upon him, and stick by him, and in which they should succeed to their wishes; or else the shameful punishment the death of the cross, inflicted on him, which they fancied would fix an indelible mark of infamy and scandal on him, since cursed is he that hangeth on a tree;

and now that he lieth, let him rise up no more; has much as he was dead, of which they had full proof, and was laid in the grave, his tomb watched, and the stone rolled to it sealed; they thought all was safe, and it was all over with him, that he would never rise again, as he had given out, and his disciples incapable of committing a fraud they afterwards accused them with: this, according to the above learned writer, see Psalm 41:6, was said by Absalom, as he thinks Ahithophel is the person designed in Psalm 41:9.

(y) "verbum Belijahal", Montanus, Musculus, Cocceius, Gejerus.

{f} An evil disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth he shall rise up no more.

(f) The enemies thought by his sharp punishments that God had become his mortal enemy.

8. Render: A deadly mischief is poured out upon him.

The phrase a thing of belial is variously explained to mean an incurable disease or a matter of wickedness (cp. note on Psalm 18:4). The use of it in Psalm 101:3 (base thing), and Deuteronomy 15:9 (base thought) points to the latter as the primary sense. But probably the speakers do not distinguish between the moral cause—some monstrous crime—and the physical effect—a fatal illness—; but include the latter in the former. Cp. Shimei’s taunt, 2 Samuel 16:7.

cleaveth fast unto him] R.V. marg., is poured out upon him; perhaps, is molten, or, welded fast upon him. He will never be free from his guilt and its punishment.

The rendering in P.B.V., Let the sentence of guiltiness proceed against him, is quite impossible.

now that he lieth &c.] Now that he has taken to his bed he will never leave it again.Verse 8. - An evil disease (literally, a thing of Belial), say they, cleaveth fast unto him. (On the meaning of "Belial," see the comment on Psalm 18:4.) The "thing of Belial" here intended may, perhaps, be the disease from which David was suffering, but is more probably some disgraceful charge or infamous calumny which had been circulated concerning him, and was now crushing him down. This calumny is represented as poured out upon him like a coating of molten metal (see Job 41:23, 24), and so cleaving to him. And now that he lieth; i.e. "now that he is prostrate upon a sick-bed." He shall rise up no more. He shall not recover, but die of his malady. (Heb.: 41:2-4) The Psalm opens by celebrating the lot, so rich in promises, of the sympathetic man. דּל is a general designation of the poor (e.g., Exodus 30:15), of the sick and weakly (Genesis 41:19), of the sick in mind (2 Samuel 13:4), and of that which outwardly or inwardly is tottering and consequently weak, frail. To show sympathising attention, thoughtful consideration towards such an one (השׂכּיל אל as in Nehemiah 8:13, cf. על Proverbs 17:20) has many promises. The verb חיּה, which elsewhere even means to call to life again (Psalm 71:20), in this instance side by side with preserving, viz., from destruction, has the signification of preserving life or prolonging life (as in Psalm 30:4; Psalm 22:30). The Pual אשּׁר signifies to be made happy (Proverbs 3:18), but also declaratively: to be pronounced happy (Isaiah 9:15); here, on account of the בּארץ that stands with it, it is the latter. The Chethb יעשּׁר sets forth as an independent promise that which the Ker ואשּׁר joins on to what has gone before as a consequence. אל, Psalm 41:3 (cf. Psalm 34:6 and frequently), expresses a negative with full sympathy in the utterance. נתן בּנפשׁ as in Psalm 27:12. The supporting in Psalm 41:4 is a keeping erect, which stops or arrests the man who is sinking down into death and the grave. דּוי ( equals davj, similar form to שׁמי, מעי, but wanting in the syllable before the tone) means sickness. If Psalm 41:4 is understood of the supporting of the head after the manner of one who waits upon the sick (cf. Sol 2:6), then Psalm 41:4 must, with Mendelssohn and others, be understood of the making of the couch or bed. But what then is neat by the word לך? משׁכּב is a sick-bed in Exodus 21:18 in the sense of being bedridden; and הפכתּ (cf. Psalm 30:12) is a changing of it into convalescence. By כל־משׁכבו is not meant the constant lying down of such an one, but the affliction that casts him down, in all its extent. This Jahve turns or changes, so often as such an one is taken ill (בחליו, at his falling sick, parallel with דוי על־ערשׂ דוי htiw). He gives a complete turn to the "sick-bed" towards recovery, so that not a vestige of the sickness remains behind.
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