Psalm 73:16
When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) When I thought . . .—i.e., when I reflected in order to know this—when I tried to think the matter out, get at the bottom of it. (For the sense of the verb, comp. Psalm 78:5; Proverbs 16:9.)

It was too painful.—See margin.

Psalm 73:16. When I thought to know this — To find out the reason and meaning of this mysterious course of Divine Providence, it was too painful for me — I found it too hard a task to attain satisfaction, as to these points, by my own meditations and reasonings. Indeed, it is a problem not to be solved by the mere light of nature; for if there were not another life after this, we could not fully reconcile the prosperity of the wicked with the justice of God. Here, then, we have “a second reason why a man should not be too forward to arraign God’s dispensations of injustice, namely, the extreme difficulty of comprehending the whole of them, which, indeed, is not to be done by the human mind, unless God himself shall vouchsafe it the necessary information.” — Horne.

73:15-20 The psalmist having shown the progress of his temptation, shows how faith and grace prevailed. He kept up respect for God's people, and with that he restrained himself from speaking what he had thought amiss. It is a sign that we repent of the evil thoughts of the heart, if we suppress them. Nothing gives more offence to God's children, than to say it is vain to serve God; for there is nothing more contrary to their universal experience. He prayed to God to make this matter plain to him; and he understood the wretched end of wicked people; even in the height of their prosperity they were but ripening for ruin. The sanctuary must be the resort of a tempted soul. The righteous man's afflictions end in peace, therefore he is happy; the wicked man's enjoyments end in destruction, therefore he is miserable. The prosperity of the wicked is short and uncertain, slippery places. See what their prosperity is; it is but a vain show, it is only a corrupt imagination, not substance, but a mere shadow; it is as a dream, which may please us a little while we are slumbering, yet even then it disturbs our repose.When I thought to know this - When I endeavored to comprehend this, or to explain it to myself. The idea is that he "thought" on the subject, or "meditated" on it with a view to be able to understand it. He did not express his opinions and feelings to others, but he dwelt on them in his own mind; not to find additional difficulties, not to confirm himself in opposition to God, and not to find new occasions for distrusting the divine government, but to understand exactly how this was. It was his object to seek and understand "the truth."

It was too painful for me - Margin, "It was labor in mine eyes." The Hebrew word rendered "painful," means properly labor, toil, a burden; and the idea is, that the question was a burden - was too weighty for his weak powers.

16, 17. Still he—

thought—literally, "studied," or, "pondered this riddle"; but in vain; it remained a toil (compare Margin), till he—

To know this; to find out the reason of this mysterious course of thy providence.

It was too painful for me; I was gravelled with the difficulty.

When I thought to know this,.... How to reconcile the prosperity of the wicked, and the afflictions of the righteous, to the perfections of God, and his wise providence in the government of the world, by the mere dint of reason, without consulting the sacred oracles, or his own and others' experience:

it was too painful for me: too laborious and toilsome, a work he was not equal to; "hic labor, hoc opus"; see Ecclesiastes 8:17.

When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16, 17. And I kept thinking how to understand this:

It was misery In mine eyes:

Until I went into the sanctuary of God,

And considered their latter end.

As he kept pondering how to reconcile the facts of experience with the revealed truth of God’s character and promises, the sight of the world’s disorder seemed intolerable, until in the Temple, the place of God’s Presence, where He reveals His power and glory (Psalm 63:2), he was enabled to realise the transitoriness of the prosperity of the wicked, and their nothingness in the sight of God. The sanctuary (lit. as in Psalm 68:35, sanctuaries) is to be understood literally: the explanation of it as “the sacred mysteries of God’s Providence” (cp. Wis 2:22) is attractive but too fanciful.

Verse 16. - When I thought to know this; literally, and I meditated, that I might understand this. A process of careful thought and consideration is implied, during which the psalmist tried hard to understand the method of God's government, and to explain to himself its seeming anomalies. But he says, It was too painful for me. He did not succeed; he was baffled and perplexed, and the whole effort was a pain and a grief to him. Psalm 73:16To such, doubt is become the transition to apostasy. The poet has resolved the riddle of such an unequal distribution of the fortunes of men in a totally different way. Instead of כּמו in Psalm 73:15, to read כּמוהם (Bצttcher), or better, by taking up the following הנה, which even Saadia allows himself to do, contrary to the accents (Arab. mṯl hḏâ), כּמו הנּה (Ewald), is unnecessary, since prepositions are sometimes used elliptically (כּעל, Isaiah 59:18), or even without anything further (Hosea 7:16; Hosea 11:7) as adverbs, which must therefore be regarded as possible also in the case of כּמו (Aramaic, Arabic כּמא, Aethiopic kem). The poet means to say, If I had made up my mind to the same course of reasoning, I should have faithlessly forsaken the fellowship of the children of God, and should consequently also have forfeited their blessings. The subjunctive signification of the perfects in the hypothetical protasis and apodosis, Psalm 73:15 (cf. Jeremiah 23:22), follows solely from the context; futures instead of perfects would signify si dicerem...perfide agerem. דּור בּניך is the totality of those, in whom the filial relationship in which God has placed Isreal in relation to Himself is become an inward or spiritual reality, the true Israel, Psalm 73:1, the "righteous generation," Psalm 14:5. It is an appellative, as in Deuteronomy 14:1; Hosea 2:1. For on the point of the uhiothesi'a the New Testament differs from the Old Testament in this way, viz., that in the Old Testament it is always only as a people that Israel is called בן, or as a whole בנים, but that the individual, and that in his direct relationship to God, dared not as yet call himself "child of God." The individual character is not as yet freed from its absorption in the species, it is not as yet independent; it is the time of the minor's νηπιότης, and the adoption is as yet only effected nationally, salvation is as yet within the limits of the nationality, its common human form has not as yet appeared. The verb בּגד with בּ signifies to deal faithlessly with any one, and more especially (whether God, a friend, or a spouse) faithlessly to forsake him; here, in this sense of malicious desertion, it contents itself with the simple accusative.

On the one side, by joining in the speech of the free-thinkers he would have placed himself outside the circle of the children of God, of the truly pious; on the other side, however, when by meditation he sought to penetrate it (לדעת), the doubt-provoking phenomenon (זאת) still continued to be to him עמל, trouble, i.e., something that troubled him without any result, an unsolvable riddle (cf. Ecclesiastes 8:17). Whether we read הוּא or היא, the sense remains the same; the Ker הוּא prefers, as in Job 31:11, the attractional gender. Neither here nor in Job 30:26 and elsewhere is it to be supposed that ואחשׁבה is equivalent to ואחשׁבה (Ewald, Hupfeld). The cohortative from of the future here, as frequently (Ges. 128, 1), with or without a conditional particle (Psalm 139:8; 2 Samuel 22:38; Job 16:6; Job 11:17; Job 19:18; Job 30:26), forms a hypothetical protasis: and (yet) when I meditated; Symmachus (according to Montfaucon), ει ̓ ἐλογιζόμην. As Vaihinger aptly observes, "thinking alone will give neither the right light nor true happiness." Both are found only in faith. The poet at last struck upon the way of faith, and there he found light and peace. The future after עד frequently has the signification of the imperfect subjunctive, Job 32:11; Ecclesiastes 2:3, cf. Proverbs 12:19 (donec nutem equals only a moment); also in an historical connection like Joshua 10:13; 2 Chronicles 29:34, it is conceived of as subjunctive (donec ulciseretur, se sanctificarent), sometimes, however, as indicative, as in Exodus 15:16 (donec transibat) and in our passage, where אד introduces the objective goal at which the riddle found its solution: until I went into the sanctuary of God, (purposely) attended to (ל as in the primary passage Deuteronomy 32:29, cf. Job 14:21) their life's end. The cohortative is used here exactly as in ואבינה, but with the collateral notion of that which is intentional, which here fully accords with the connection. He went into God's dread sanctuary (plural as in Psalm 68:36, cf. מקדּשׁ in the Psalms of Asaph, Psalm 67:7; Psalm 78:69); here he prayed for light in the darkness of his conflict, here were his eyes opened to the holy plans and ways of God (Psalm 77:14), here the sight of the sad end of the evil-doers was presented to him. By "God's sanctuaries" Ewald and Hitzig understand His secrets; but this meaning is without support in the usage of the language. And is it not a thought perfectly in harmony with the context and with experience, that a light arose upon him when he withdrew from the bustle of the world into the quiet of God's dwelling - place, and there devoutly gave his mind to the matter?

The strophe closes with a summary confession of the explanation received there. שׁית is construed with Lamed inasmuch as collocare is equivalent to locum assignare (vid., Psalm 73:6). God makes the evil-doers to stand on smooth, slippery places, where one may easily lose one's footing (cf. Psalm 35:6; Jeremiah 23:12). There, then, they also inevitably fall; God casts them down למשּׁוּאות, into ruins, fragores equals ruinae, from שׁוא equals שׁאה, to be confused, desolate, to rumble. The word only has the appearance of being from נשׁא: ensnarings, sudden attacks (Hitzig), which is still more ill suited to Psalm 74:3 than to this passage; desolation and ruin can be said even of persons, as הרס, Psalm 28:5, ונשׁבּרוּ, Isaiah 8:15, נפּץ, Jeremiah 51:21-23. The poet knows no other theodicy but this, nor was any other known generally in the pre-exilic literature of Israel (vid., Psalm 37; Psalm 39:1-13, Jeremiah 12, and the Job 1:1). The later prophecy and the Chokma were much in advance of this, inasmuch as they point to a last universal judgment (vid., more particularly Malachi 3:13.), but not one that breaks off this present state; the present state and the future state, time and eternity, are even there not as yet thoroughly separated.

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