Verse 8. As a snail which melteth, let every one of them pass away. As the snail makes its own way by its slime, and so dissolves as it goes, or as its shell is often found empty, as though the inhabitant had melted away, so shall the malicious eat out their own strength while they proceed upon their malevolent designs, and shall themselves disappear. To destroy himself by envy and chagrin is the portion of the ill disposed.
Like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun. Solemn is this curse, but how surely does it fall on many graceless wretches! They are as if they had never been. Their character is shapeless, hideous, revolting. They are fitter to be hidden away in an unknown grave than to be reckoned among men. Their life comes never to ripeness, their aims are abortive, their only achievement is to have brought misery to others, and horror to themselves. Such men as Herod, Judas, Alva, Bonner, had it not been better for them if they had never been born? Better for the mothers who bore them? Better for the lands they cursed? Better for the earth in which their putrid carcasses are hidden from the sun? Every unregenerate man is an abortion. He misses the true form of God made manhood; he corrupts in the darkness of sin; he never sees or shall see the light of God in purity, in heaven.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 6-9. See Psalms on "Psalms 58:6" for further information.
Verse 8. As a snail which melteth away as it goeth, literally, which goeth in melting (or slime), the noun being in the accusative as describing the nature of the action, and the allusion being to the slimy trail which the snail leaves behind it, so that it seems to waste away. Evidently this is nothing more than a poetical hyperbole, and need not be explained, therefore, as a popular error or a mistake in natural history.
J. J. Stewart Perowne, B.D., in "The Book of Psalms; a New Translation, with Introduction and Notes," 1864.
Verse 8. As a snail which melteth, etc. This is a very remarkable and not very intelligible passage. The Jewish Bible renders the passage in a way which explains the idea which evidently prevailed at the time the Psalms were composed: "As a snail let him melt as he passeth on." The ancients had an idea that the slimy track made by a snail as it crawled along was subtracted from the substance of its body, and that in consequence the farther it crept the smaller it became until at last it wasted entirely away. The commentators on the Talmud took this view of the case. The Hebrew word, lwlbf shablul, which undoubtedly does signify a snail of some kind, is thus explained: -- "The Shablul is a creeping thing; when it comes out of its shell, saliva pours from itself until it becomes liquid, and so dies." Other explanations of this passage have been offered, but there is no doubt that the view taken by these commentators is the correct one, and that the psalmist, when he wrote the terrible series of denunciations in which the passage occurs, had in his mind the popular belief regarding the gradual wasting away of the snail as it "passeth on." It is needless to say that no particular species of snail is mentioned, and almost as needless to state that in Palestine there are many species of snails, to any or all of which these words are equally applicable. J. G. Wood, in "Bible Animals." 1869.
Verse 8. The untimely birth of a woman. The wicked are all, so speak, human abortions; they are and for ever remain defective beings, who have not accomplished the great purpose of their existence. Heaven is the one end for which man is created, and he who falls short of it does not attain the purpose of his being; he is an eternal abortion. O. Prescott Hiller.
Verse 8. (second clause). David when he curseth the plots of wicked men, that though they have conceived mischief, and though they have gone with it a long time, and are ready to bring it forth, yet saith he, Let them be (that is, let their counsels and designs be) like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun: that is, let them be dashed and blasted, let them never bring forth their poisonous brood to the hurt and trouble of the world. Joseph Caryl.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 8. The snail like course of ungodly men. Their sin destroys their property, health, time, influence, life.