Verse 5. Free among the dead. Unbound from all that links a man with life, familiar with death's door, a freeman of the city of the sepulchre, I seem no more one of earth's drudges, but begin to anticipate the rest of the tomb. It is a sad case when our only hope lies in the direction of death, our only liberty of spirit amid the congenial horrors of corruption.
Like the slain that lie in the grave, whom you remember no more. He felt as if he were as utterly forgotten as those whose carcasses are left to rot on the battle field. As when a soldier, mortally wounded, bleeds unheeded amid the heaps of slain, and remains to his last expiring groan unpitied and unsuccoured, so did Heman sigh out his soul in loneliest sorrow, feeling as if even God himself had quite forgotten him. How low the spirits of good and brave men will sometimes sink. Under the influence of certain disorders everything will wear a sombre aspect, and the heart will dive into the profoundest deeps of misery. It is all very well for those who are in robust health and full of spirits to blame those whose lives are sicklied over with the pale cast of melancholy, but the evil is as real as a gaping wound, and all the more hard to bear because it lies so much in the region of the soul that to the inexperienced it appears to be a mere matter of fancy and diseased imagination. Reader, never ridicule the nervous and hypochondriacal, their pain is real; though much of the evil lies in the imagination, it is not imaginary.
And they are cut off from thy hand. Poor Heman felt as if God himself had put him away, smitten him and laid him among the corpses of those executed by divine justice. He mourned that the hand of the Lord had gone out against him, and that lie was divided from the great author of his life. This is the essence of wormwood. Man's blows are trifles, but God's smitings are terrible to a gracious heart. To feel utterly forsaken of the Lord and cast away as though hopelessly corrupt is the very climax of heart desolation.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 5. Free among the dead. In the former verse he had said that he had approached very near to death, now he is plainly dead: there he was about to be buried, here he is laid in the sepulchre: thus had his sufferings increased. Free is to be understood of the affairs of this life, as when it is said, Job 3:19 , "And the servant is free from his master." -- Martin Bucer, 1491-1551.
Verse 5. Free among the dead. yfpx ~ytmg bammethim chophshi, I rather think, means stripped among the dead. Both the fourth and fifth verses seem to allude to a field of battle: the slain and the wounded are found scattered over the plain; the spoilers come among them, and strip, not only the dead, but those also who appear to be mortally wounded and cannot recover, and are so feeble as not to be able to resist. Hence the Psalmist says, "I am as a man that hath no strength", Psalms 88:4 . --Adam Clarke.
Verse 5. Free. There is no immunity so long as we are in the flesh, there is no truce, but constant unrest distracts us. Liberty, therefore, is given to us after death, because we rest from our labourers. --Franciscus Vatablus.
Verse 5. Cut off from the hand. Beware how you ever look upon yourself as cut off from life and from enjoyment; you are not cut off, only taken apart, laid aside, it may be but for a season, or it may be for life; but still you are part of the body of which Christ is the Head. Some must suffer and some must serve, but each one is necessary to the other, "the whole body is fitly framed together by that which every joint supplieth", "the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you:" Ephesians 4:16 1 Corinthians 12:21 . Your feet may be set fast; they may have run with great activity, and you sorrow now, because they can run no more. But do not sorrow thus, do not envy those who are running; you have a work to do; it may be the work of the head, or of the eye, it surely is whatever work God gives to you. It may be the work of lying still, of not stirring hand or foot, of scarcely speaking, scarcely showing life. Fear not: if He your heavenly Master has given it to you to do, it is His work, and He will bless it. Do not repine. Do not say, This is work, and, this is not; how do you know? What work, think you, was Daniel doing in the lion's den? Or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace? Their work was glorious, "laudable, and honourable", they were glorifying God in suffering. --From "Sickness, its Trials and Blessings." (Anon.) 1868.