Verse 5. Thou hast beset me behind and before. As though we were caught in an ambush, or besieged by an army which has wholly beleaguered the city walls, we are surrounded by the Lord. God has set us where we be, and beset us wherever we be. Behind us there is God recording our sins, or in grace blotting out the remembrance of them; and before us there is God foreknowing all our deeds, and providing for all our wants. We cannot turn back and so escape him, for he is behind; we cannot go forward and outmarch him, for he is before. He not only beholds us, but he besets us; and lest there should seem any chance of escape, or lest we should imagine that the surrounding presence is yet a distant one, it is added, --
And laid thine hand upon me. The prisoner marches along surrounded by a guard, and gripped by an officer. God is very near; we are wholly in his power; from that power there is no escape. It is not said that God will thus beset us and arrest us, but it is done -- "Thou hast beset me." Shall we not alter the figure, and say that our heavenly Father has folded his arms around us, and caressed us with his hand It is even so with those who are by faith the children of the Most High.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 5. Thou hast beset me behind and before, etc. There is here an insensible transition from God's omniscience to his omnipresence, out of which the Scriptures represent it as arising. "Behind and before", i.e., on all sides. The idea of above and below is suggested by the last clause. "Beset", besiege, hem in, or closely surround. "Thy hand", or the palm of thy hand, as the Hebrew word strictly denotes. --Joseph Addison Alexander.
Verse 5. Thou hast beset me behind and before. What would you say if, wherever you turned, whatever you were doing, whatever thinking, whether in public or private, with a confidential friend telling your secrets, or alone planning them -- if, I say, you saw an eye constantly fixed on you, from whose watching, though you strove ever so much, you could never escape ... that could perceive your every thought? The supposition is awful enough. There is such an Eye. --De Vere.
Verse 5. Thou hast beset me behind and before. One who finds the way blocked up turns back; but David found himself hedged in behind as well as before. --John Calvin.
Verse 5. Thou hast ... laid thine hand upon me. As by an arrest; so that I am thy prisoner, and cannot stir a foot from thee. --John Trapp.
Verse 5. And laid thine hand upon me. To make of me one acceptable to thyself. To rule me, to lead me, to uphold me, to protect me; to restore me; in my growth, in my walk, in my failures, in my affliction, in my despair. --Thomas Le Blanc.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 5. A soul captured. Stopped, overtaken, arrested. What has it done? What shall it do?