on Psalms 116 :3
The sorrows of death - חבלי מות chebley maveth, the cables or cords of death; alluding to their bonds and fetters during their captivity; or to the cords by which a criminal is bound who is about to be led out to execution; or to the bandages in which the dead were enveloped, when head, arms, body, and limbs were all laced down together.
The pains of hell - מצרי שאול metsarey sheol the straitnesses of the grave. So little expectation was there of life, that he speaks as if he were condemned, executed, and closed up in the tomb. Or, he may refer here to the small niches in cemeteries, where the coffins of the dead were placed.
Because this Psalm has been used in the thanksgiving of women after safe delivery, it has been supposed that the pain suffered in the act of parturition was equal for the time to the torments of the damned. But this supposition is shockingly absurd; the utmost power of human nature could not, for a moment, endure the wrath of God, the deathless worm, and the unquenchable fire. The body must die, be decomposed, and be built up on indestructible principles, before this punishment can be borne.
on Psalms 116 :3
The sorrows of death - What an expression! We know of no intenser sorrows pertaining to this world than those which we associate with the dying struggle - whether our views in regard to the reality of such sorrows be correct or not. We may be - we probably are - mistaken in regard to the intensity of suffering as ordinarily experienced in death; but still we dread those sorrows more than we do anything else, and all that we dread may be experienced then. Those sorrows, therefore, become the representation of the intensest forms of suffering; and such, the psalmist says, he experienced on the occasion to which he refers. There would seem in his case to have been two things combined, as they often are:
(1) actual suffering from some bodily malady which threatened his life, Psalm 116:3, Psalm 116:6,Psalm 116:8-10;
(2) mental sorrow as produced by the remembrance of his sins, and the apprehension of the future, Psalm 116:4. See the notes at Psalm 18:5.
And the pains of hell - The pains of Sheol - Hades; the grave. See Psalm 16:10, note; Job 10:21-22, notes; Isaiah 14:9, note. The pain or suffering connected with going down to the grave, or the descent to the nether world; the pains of death. There is no evidence that the psalmist here refers to the pains of hell, as we understand the word, as a place of punishment, or that he mean, to say that he experienced the sorrows of the damned. The sufferings which he referred to were these of death - the descent to the tomb.
Gat hold upon me - Margin, as in Hebrew, "found me." They discovered me - as if they had been searching for me, and had at last found my hiding place. Those sorrows and pangs, ever in pursuit of us, will soon find us all. We cannot long escape the pursuit Death tracks us, and is upon our heels.
I found trouble and sorrow - Death found me, and I found trouble and sorrow. I did not seek it, but in what I was seeking I found this. Whatever we fail to "find" in the pursuits of life, we shall not fail to find the troubles and sorrows connected with death. They are in our path wherever we turn, and we cannot avoid them.
on Psalms 116 :3