Verse 7. David's case seemed hopeless: the cause of God in Israel was as a dead thing, even as a skeleton broken, and rotten, and shovelled out of the grave, to return as dust to its dust. Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth. There seemed to be no life, no cohesion, no form, order, or headship among the godly party in Israel: Saul had demolished it, and scattered all its parts, so that it did not exist as an organized whole. David himself was like one of these dried bones, and the rest of the godly were in much the same condition. There seemed to be no vitality or union among the holy seed; but their cause lay at death's door. As when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth. They were like wood divided and thrown apart: not as one piece of timber, nor even as a bundle, but all cut to pieces, and thoroughly divided. Leaving out the word "wood", which is supplied by the translators, the figure relates to cleaving upon the earth, which probably means ploughing, but may signify any other form of chopping and splitting, such as felling a forest, tearing up bushes, or otherwise causing confusion and division. How often have good men thought thus of the cause of God! Wherever they have looked, death, division, and destruction have stared them in the face. Cut and cloven, hopelessly sundered! Scattered, yea, scattered at the grave's mouth! Split up and split for the fire! Such the cause of God and truth has seemed to be. "Upon the earth" the prospect was wretched; the field of the church was ploughed, burrowed, and scarified: it had become like a wood chopper's yard, where everything was doomed to be broken up. We have seen churches in such a state, and have been heart broken. What a mercy that there is always a place above the earth to which we can look! There lives One who will give a resurrection to his cause, and a reunion to his divided people. He will bring up the dead bones from the grave's mouth, and make the dried faggots live again. Let us imitate the Psalmist in the next verse, and look up to the living God.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 7. Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, etc. The primary reference may be to the slaughter of the priests by the command of Saul, 1 Samuel 22:16-19 . The language, however, may be illustrative of the many massacres like that on the eve of St. Bartholomew, so numerous as to be scattered on the face of the earth, marking the passage of pious martyrs from this world to a better, and testifying where the blood of the slain shall be disclosed for the judgment of their murderers. --W. Wilson.
Verse 7. Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, etc. Assuming the very extreme, it is a look of hope into the future: should his bones and the bones of his followers be even scattered about the mouth of Sheol (cf. the Syrian picture of Sheol: "the dust upon its threshold, `al-escufteh", Deutsche Morgenland. Zeit-schrift, 20. 513), their soul below, their bones above -- it would nevertheless be only as when one in ploughing cleaves the earth; i.e., they do not lie there in order that they may continue lying, but that they may rise up anew, as the seed that is sown sprouts up out of the upturned earth. --Franz Delitzsch.
Verse 7. Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth. That is to say, I and my company are in a dying condition, free among the dead; yea, if taken we should be put to most cruel deaths, hewn in pieces, or pulled limbmeal, and left unburied; and our dead bodies mangled by a barbarous inhumanity, as wood cleavers make the shivers fly hither and thither. This is the perilous case of me and my partisans. --John Trapp.
Verse 7. Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth. This seems to be strong eastern painting, and almost figurative language; but that it may be strictly true, the following extract demonstrates: "At five o'clock we left Garigana, our journey being still to the eastward of north; and, at a quarter past six in the evening, arrived at the village of that name, whose inhabitants had all perished with hunger the year before; their wretched bones being all unburied, and scattered upon the surface of the ground, where the village formerly stood. We encamped among the bones of the dead, as no space could be found free from them; and on the 23rd, at six in the morning, full of horror at this miserable spectacle, we set out for Teawa." -- (James Bruce's Travels.) To the Jews such a spectacle must have been very dreadful, as the want of burial was esteemed one of the greatest calamities which could befall them. --Burder's "Oriental Customs."
Verse 7. Like one ploughing and cleaving in the earth. This clause may be explained not of cleaving wood but ploughing, to which the first verb is applied in Arabic. Like (one) ploughing and cleaving (making furrows) in the earth, not for the sake of mangling its surface, but to make it fruitful and productive, (so) our bones are scattered at the mouth of hell as the necessary means of a glorious resurrection. --Joseph Addison Alexander.
Verse 7. Who can attend the digging of a grave, and view the ruins then disclosed, without exclaiming, Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth? --George Horne.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 7-8. A cemetery scene.
- Dry bones of the dead about the grave.
- Weary bones of the aged and sick around the grave.
- All bones being from day to day made ready for the grave.
- Bones finding rest in God: "mine eyes are unto thee, O God", etc.