Verse 18. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat. Appetite departs from men when they are sick: the best of food is nauseous to them, their stomach turns against it.
And they draw near unto the gates of death. From want of food, and from the destructive power of their malady, they slide gradually down till they lie at the door of the grave; neither does the skill of the physician suffice to stay their downward progress. As they cannot eat there is no support given to the system, and as the disease rages their little strength is spent in pain and misery. Thus it is with souls afflicted with a sense of sin, they cannot find comfort in the choicest promises, but turn away with loathing even from the gospel, so that they gradually decay into the grave of despair. The mercy is that though near the gates of death they are not yet inside the sepulchre.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 18. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat. Nor is it without emphasis that it is not the sick man who is said to spurn food, but his soul ... The Hebrew word fpn which properly means a breath, hence a panting appetite, is applied to a very vehement appetite for food. When, therefore, the soul is said to abhor food, it is equivalent to saying for the vehement appetite for food abhors food: that is, in the place of an appetite for food, they are oppressed with a loathing; when they ought to be moved with a sharp desire of food, that their exhausted powers might be refreshed, appetite itself becomes a loathing of food, which is a most vivid description of the utmost loathing, and utter prostration of all desire. --Venema.
Verse 18. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat. The best of creature comforts are but vain comforts. What can dainty meat do a man good, when he is sick and ready to die? Then gold and silver, lands and houses, which are the dainty meat of a covetous man, are loathsome to him. When a man is sick to death, his very riches are sapless and tasteless to him; wife and children, friends and acquaintance, can yield but little comfort in that dark hour, yea, they often prove miserable comforters: when we have most need of comfort, these things administer least or no comfort at all to us. Is it not our wisdom, then, to get a stock of such comforts, as will hold and abide fresh with us, when all worldly comforts either leave us, or become tasteless to us? Is it not good to get a store of that food, which how sick soever we are, our stomachs will never loathe? yea, the sicker we are, our stomachs will the more like, hunger after, and feed the more heartily upon. The flesh of Christ is meat indeed ( John 6:55 ). Feed upon him by faith, in health and sickness, ye will never loathe him. His flesh is the true meat of desires, such meat as will fill and fatten us, but never cloy us. A hungry craving appetite after Christ, and sweet satisfaction in him, are inseparable, and still the stronger is our appetite, the greater is our satisfaction. And (which is yet a greater happiness) our souls will have the strongest appetite, the most sharp set stomach after Christ, when, through bodily sickness, our stomachs cannot take down, but loathe the very scent and sight of the most pleasant perishing meat, and delicious earthly dainties. Look, that ye provide somewhat to eat, that will go down upon a sick bed; your sick bed meat is Christ; all other dainty food may be an abhorring to you. --Joseph Caryl.
Verse 18. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat. The case is then growing desperate, and there seems to be no hope left, when it comes to the last stage here described, viz., to loathe and "abhor all manner of meat." The stomach turns at the sight of it, and the man has this loathing and abhorrence of "all manner of meat." What he most loved, and had the best appetite for, is now become so very offensive, that at the smell of it he grows sick and faints away. Nature cannot support itself long under this disorder. If this loss of appetite, and loathing even the smell of the most simple food continue, it must wear the patient out. Indeed, it is not always a mortal distemper; there may be an entire loathing of food, and even fainting away at the smell of it, and the patient may sometimes recover; but in the present case the distemper had continued so long, and was grown so inveterate that there were no hopes, for they draw nigh, the Psalmist says, to the gates of death. Those gates of brass and bars of iron with which death locks up his prisoners in the grave; and you may judge how great must be the strength of these gates and bars, since only one person was ever able to break through them, and if he had not been more than man, he could never have broken these gates of brass, nor cut these bars of iron in sunder. --William Romaine.
Verse 18. They draw near unto the gates of death. Death is a great commander, a great tyrant, and hath gates to sit in, as judges and magistrates used to `sit in the gates.' There are three things implied in this phrase.
- First, "They draw near unto the gates of death", that is, they were "near to death"; as he that draws near the gates of a city is near the city, because the gates enter into the city.
- Secondly, gates are applied to death for authority. They were almost in death's jurisdiction. Death is a great tyrant. He rules over all the men in the world, over kings and potentates, and over mean men; and the greatest men fear death most. He is "the king of fears", as Job calls him, Job 18:14 ; aye, and the fear of kings ... Therefore it is called "the gate of death." It rules and overrules all mankind. Therefore it is said "to reign", Romans 5:21 . Death and sin came in together. Sin was the gate that let in death, and ever since death reigned, and will, till Christ perfectly triumph over it, who is the King of that lord and commander, and hath "the key of hell and death", Revelation 1:18 . To wicked men, I say, he is a tyrant, and hath a gate; and when they go through the "gate of death", they go to a worse, to a lower place, to hell. It is the trap door to hell.
- Thirdly. By the "gate of death", is meant not only the authority, but the power of death; as in the gospel, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it", Matthew 16:18 ; that is, the power and strength of hell. So here it implies the strength of death, which is very great, for it subdues all. It is the executioner of God's justice. --Richard Sibbes.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 18. The sin sick soul without appetite for invitations, encouragements, or promises, however presented. Milk too simple, strong meat too heavy, wine too heating, manna too light, etc.
Verse 18. -- Teacheth us, that even appetite to our meat is a good gift of the Lord; also that when men are in greatest extremity, then is God most commonly nigh unto them. --T. Wilcocks.