Verse 16. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone. Only a little wind is needed, not even a scythe is demanded, a breath can do it, for the flower is so frail.
"If one sharp wind sweep over the field,
It withers in an hour."
How small a portion of deleterious gas suffices to create a deadly fever, which no art of man can stay. No need of sword or bullet, a puff of foul air is deadlier far, and fails not to lay low the healthiest and most stalwart son of man.
And the place thereof shall know it no more. The flower blooms no more. It may have a successor, but as for itself its leaves are scattered, and its perfume will never again sweeten the evening air. Man also dies and is gone, gone from his old haunts, his dear home, and his daily labours, never to return. As far as this world is concerned, he is as though he never had been; the sun rises, the moon increases or wanes, summer and winter run their round, the rivers flow, and all things continue in their courses as though they missed him not, so little a figure does he make in the affairs of nature. Perhaps a friend will note that he is gone, and say,
"One morn. I missed him on the accustomed hill,
Along the heath, and near his favourite tree;
Another came, nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he."
But when the "dirges due" are silent, beyond a mound of earth, and perhaps a crumbling stone, how small will be the memorial of our existence upon this busy scene! True there are more enduring memories, and an existence of another kind coeval with eternity, but these belong, not to our flesh, which is but grass, but to a higher life, in which we rise to close fellowship with the Eternal.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 16. The wind passeth over it, and it is gone, etc. A breath of air, a gentle wind (xwr) passes over him and he is gone. It would not be so strange if a tempest, a whirlwind, passing over should sweep him away. The Psalmist means much more than this. The gentlest touch, the whispering breeze, bears him off. He soon becomes a stranger, no more known in the little space he once filled, going out and coming in. Henry Cowles.
Verse 16. The wind passeth over it, and it is gone. It is well known that a hot wind in the east destroys at once every green thing. Nor is this to be wondered at, if, as Dr. Russell says, the winds sometimes "bring with them a degree and kind of heat, which one would imagine came out of an oven, and which, when it blows hard, will affect metals within the houses, such as locks of room doors, nearly as much as if they had been exposed to the rays of the sun." The blasting effect which seems to be here alluded to, of certain pestilential winds upon the animal frame, is by no means exaggerated by the comparison to the sudden fading of a flower. Maillet describes hundreds of persons in a caravan as stifled on the spot by the fire and dust, of which the deadly wind, that sometimes prevails in the eastern deserts, seems to be composed. And Sir John Chardin describes this wind "as making a great hissing noise," and says that "it appears red and fiery, and kills those whom it strikes by a kind of stifling them, especially when it happens in the day time." Richard Mant.
Verse 16. The place thereof shall know him no more, &c. Man, once turned to dust, is blown about by every wind, from place to place; and what knows the place, when dust falls upon it; whether it be the dust of a prince, or of a peasant; whether of a man, or of a beast? And must not man then needs be very miserable, when time and place, the two best helps of life, do both forsake him? for what help can he have of time, when his days are but as grass? What help of place, when his place denies him, and will not know him? Sir R. Baker.