Verse 3. For my days are consumed like smoke. My grief has made life unsubstantial to me, I seem to be but a puff of vapour which has nothing in it, and is soon dissipated. The metaphor is very admirably chosen, for, to the unhappy, life seems not merely to be frail, but to be surrounded by so much that is darkening, defiling, blinding, and depressing, that, sitting down in despair, they compare themselves to men wandering in a dense fog, and themselves so dried up thereby that they are little better than pillars of smoke. When our days have neither light of joy nor fire of energy in them, but become as a smoking flax which dies out ignobly in darkness, then have we cause enough to appeal to the Lord that he would not utterly quench us.
And my bones are burned as an hearth. He became as dry as the hearth on which a wood fire has burned out, or as spent ashes in which scarcely a trace of fire can be found. His soul was ready to be blown away as smoke, and his body seemed likely to remain as the bare hearth when the last comforting ember is quenched. How often has our piety appeared to us to be in this condition! We have had to question its reality, and fear that it never was anything more than a smoke; we have had the most convincing evidence of its weakness, for we could not derive even the smallest comfort from it, any more than a chilled traveller can derive from the cold hearth on which a fire had burned long ago. Soul-trouble experienced in our own heart will help us to interpret the language here employed; and church-troubles may help us also, if unhappily we have been called to endure them. The psalmist was moved to grief by a view of national calamities, and these so wrought upon his patriotic soul that he was wasted with anxiety, his spirits were dried up, and his very life was ready to expire. There is hope for any country which owns such a son; no nation can die while true hearts are ready to die for it.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 3. Consumed like smoke, would be better read, "pass away as in smoke," as if they disappeared into smoke and ashes. Burned as an hearth, is not a felicitous translation, for a "hearth" should be incombustible. Better "burned as a faggot," as any fuel. The sentiment, My days waste away to nothing, turn to no good account, are lost. Henry Cowles.
Verse 3. My days are consumed like smoke; or, as Hebrew, literally, "in (into) smoke." The very same expression which David in Psalms 37:20 had used of "the enemies of the Lord:" "They shall consume into smoke" (compare Psalms 68:2 ). Hereby the ideal sufferer virtually complains that the lot of the wicked befalls him, though being righteous ( Psalms 101:1-8 ). A. R. Fausset.
Verse 3. My days are consumed like smoke. As the smoke is a vapour proceeding from the fire, yet hath no heat in it: so my days are come from the torrid zone of youth into the region of cold and age; and as the smoke seems a thick substance for the present, but presently vanisheth into air; so my days made as great shew at first as if they would never have been spent; but now, alas, are wasted and leave me scarce a being. As the smoke is fuliginous and dark, and affords no pleasure to look upon it; so my days are all black and in mourning; no joy nor pleasure to be taken in them. And as the smoke ascends indeed, but by ascending wastes itself and comes to nothing: so my days are wasted in growing, are diminished in increasing; their plenty hath made a scarcity, and the more they have been the fewer they are. And how, indeed, can my days choose but be consumed as smoke, when
my bones are burned as an hearth? for as when the hearth is burned there can be made no more fire upon it; so, when my bones, which are as the hearth upon which my fire of life is made, come once to be burned; how can any more fire of life be made upon them? and when no fire can be made, what will remain but only smoke? Sir R. Baker.
Verse 3. As an hearth. Or, as a trivet, or, gridiron; so the Targum: or, as a frying-pan: so the Arabic version. John Gill.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
- The causes of grief.
- The eloquence of grief.
- The brevit of life is as vanishing "smoke."
- Bodily pain is fire in the bones.
- Dejection of spirit is "withered grass." Who can eat when the heart is sad?
- Solitariness is like "The pelican in the wilderness, the owl in the desert, and the sparrow upon the housetop."
- Reproach is being surrounded by madmen -- "they that are mad."
- Humiliation is "eating ashes like bread," and "drinking tears."
- The hidings of God's countenance is lifting up in order to be cast down.
- Wasting away is a shadow declining and grass withering. G. R.