It shall devour the strength of his skin
Or "the bars of his skin" F24, the strength and support of his body, for which his skin may be put, as the bones; or "the branches of his skin" F25, the veins, which like so many branches run under, and may be seen through the skin: now these, it, famine, or want of food, devours, and destroys the strength and beauty of the skin, cause it to be black like an oven, ( Lamentations 4:8 ) ( 5:10 ) ; bring a man to a mere skeleton, to skin and bones, waste and consume the members of his body, his flesh, and blood, and bones; the Targum, Jarchi, and Aben Ezra, by "his bars" or "branches" understand his children, which are his bars, the strength of him, and are to him as branches to a tree, proceeding from him; and if we render it, as some do, he "shall devour" F26, or "eat", that is, the wicked man, it points to us the most horrible scene in a famine, which is shocking and shuddering, and yet what has been, as in the sieges of Samaria and Jerusalem, a parent's eating and devouring his own children, ( 2 Kings 6:28 2 Kings 6:29 ) ( Lamentations 4:10 ) ; but rather the "it [is] the firstborn of death", in the next clause, which is to be supplied from thence here:
[even] the firstborn of death shall devour his strength;
and so Mr. Broughton translates the whole verse,
``a strange death shall eat all the branches of his body, all its branches shall it eat;''which the Targum interprets of the angel of death, him which has the power of death: but rather it signifies not what presides over death, but what death first produces, which are corruption and rottenness, dust and worms; these are the firstborn of death, or the firstfruits and effects of it, and which devour and destroy not the skin only, but the whole body and all its members: or "the firstborn death" F1; death, which is a firstborn, it is the firstborn of sin; sin is its parent, last conceives sin, and that brings forth death; death is the child of sin, and is its firstborn, and sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and this is what devours and destroys the strength of men. Some understand by firstborn death a premature one, death before the usual time or common course of nature; wicked men do not live out half their days; and when they are taken off in their youth, in the prime of their days and strength, and amidst all their wealth, riches, and pleasures, this is the first, or firstborn death, as that is a secondary one which is late, in the time of old age. This is the ingenious thought of Pineda; but, perhaps, rather, as the firstborn is the chief and principal, so here may be meant the chiefest of deaths, the most hard, cruel, and severe; the first of those, that death has under it, which are principally the sword, famine, pestilence, and the noisome beast, see ( Revelation 6:8 ) ; it is commonly thought that famine is intended, spoken of in the context; but why not rather some thing distinct from it, and particularly the pestilence? since that is emphatically called death by the Jews, and in the passage last referred to, and is the terror by night, and the arrow that flies by day, even the pestilence that walks in darkness, and the destruction that wastes at noonday; by means of which thousands and ten thousands of wicked men fall at the sides of good men, when it does not affect them: and so may be the evil particularly threatened to a wicked man here, see ( Psalms 91:5-7 ) .
F24 (wrwe ydb) "vectes cutis suae", Tigurine version, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Schultens, Michaelis.
F25 "Ramos cutis", Montanus, Vatablus, Drusius, Mercerus, Schmidt; "ramos corporis ipsius", Cocceius.
F26 (lkay) "comedet", Pagninus, Montanus, Mercerus.
F1 (twm rwkb) "primogenita mors", V. L.