on Psalms 18 :4
The sorrows of death compassed me - חבלי מות chebley maveth, the cables or cords of death. He was almost taken in those nets or stratagems by which, if he had been entangled, he would have lost his life. The stratagems to which he refers were those that were intended for his destruction; hence called the cables or cords of death.
The floods of ungodly men - Troops of wicked men were rushing upon him like an irresistible torrent; or like the waves of the sea, one impelling another forward in successive ranks; so that, thinking he must be overwhelmed by them, he was for the moment affrighted; but God turned the torrent aside, and he escaped.
on Psalms 18 :4
The sorrows of death compassed me - Surrounded me. That is, he was in imminent danger of death, or in the midst of such pangs and sorrows as are supposed commonly to attend on death. He refers probably to some period in his past life - perhaps in the persecutions of Saul - when he was so beset with troubles and difficulties that it seemed to him that he must die. The word rendered "sorrows" - חבל chebel - means, according to Gesenius, "a cord, a rope," and hence, "a snare, gin, noose;" and the idea here is, according to Gesenius, that he was taken as it were in the snares of death, or in the bands of death. So Psalm 116:3. Our translators, however, and it seems to me more correctly, regarded the word as derived from the same noun differently pointed - הבל chēbel - meaning "writhings, pangs, pains," as in Isaiah 66:7; Jeremiah 13:21; Jeremiah 22:23; Hosea 13:13; Job 39:3. So the Aramaic Paraphrase, "Pangs as of a woman in childbirth came around me." So the Vulgate, "dolores." So the Septuagint, ὠδῖνες ōdines. The corresponding place in 2 Samuel 22 is: "The waves of death." The word which is used there - משׁבר mishbâr - means properly waves which break upon the shore - "breakers." See Psalm 42:7; Psalm 88:7; Jonah 2:3. Why the change was made in the psalm it is not possible to determine. Either word denotes a condition of great danger and alarm, as if death was inevitable.
And the floods of ungodly men - Margin, as in Hebrew, "Belial." The word "Belial" means properly "without use or profit;" and then worthless, abandoned, wicked. It is applied to wicked men as being "worthless" to society, and to all the proper ends of life. Though the term here undoubtedly refers to "wicked" men, yet it refers to them as being worthless or abandoned - low, common, useless to mankind. The word rendered floods - נחל nachal - means in the singular, properly, a stream, brook, rivulet; and then, a torrent, as formed by rain and snow-water in the mountains, Job 6:15. The word used here refers to such men as if they were poured forth in streams and torrents - in such multitudes that the psalmist was likely to be overwhelmed by them, as one would be by floods of water. "Made me afraid." Made me apprehensive of losing my life. To what particular period of his life he here refers it is impossible now to determine.
on Psalms 18 :4
18:4 Death - Dangerous and deadly troubles. Floods - Their multitude, and strength, and violent assaults, breaking in upon me like a flood.