Psalm 77:4
Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
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(4) Thou holdest mine eyes waking.—Rather, Thou hast closed the guards of my eyes—i.e., my eyelids. The Authorised Version mistakes the noun. guards, for a participle, and mistranslates it by the active instead of the passive. For the verb hold in the sense of shut, see Nehemiah 7:3, and Job 26:9, where God is described as veiling His throne in cloud, and so shutting it up, as it were, from the access of men.

I am so troubled.—The verb is used elsewhere of the awestruck state into which the mind is thrown by a mysterious dream (Genesis 41:8; Daniel 2:1; Daniel 2:3), and once (Judges 13:25) of inspiration, such as impelled the judges of old to become the liberators of their country. The parallelism here shows that it is used in the first connection. The poet has been struck dumb (the verb is rendered strike in the Lexicons) by a mysterious dream; he is too overawed to speak.

Psalm 77:4. Thou holdest mine eyes waking — By those bitter and continual griefs, and those perplexing and distressing thoughts and cares, which thou excitest within me. I am so troubled that I cannot speak — The greatness of my sorrow so stupifies and confuses my mind, that I can scarcely open my mouth to declare my grief in proper terms; nor can any words sufficiently express the extremity of my misery: see Job 2:13.

77:1-10 Days of trouble must be days of prayer; when God seems to have withdrawn from us, we must seek him till we find him. In the day of his trouble the psalmist did not seek for the diversion of business or amusement, but he sought God, and his favor and grace. Those that are under trouble of mind, must pray it away. He pored upon the trouble; the methods that should have relieved him did but increase his grief. When he remembered God, it was only the Divine justice and wrath. His spirit was overwhelmed, and sank under the load. But let not the remembrance of the comforts we have lost, make us unthankful for those that are left. Particularly he called to remembrance the comforts with which he supported himself in former sorrows. Here is the language of a sorrowful, deserted soul, walking in darkness; a common case even among those that fear the Lord, Isa 50:10. Nothing wounds and pierces like the thought of God's being angry. God's own people, in a cloudy and dark day, may be tempted to make wrong conclusions about their spiritual state, and that of God's kingdom in the world. But we must not give way to such fears. Let faith answer them from the Scripture. The troubled fountain will work itself clear again; and the recollection of former times of joyful experience often raises a hope, tending to relief. Doubts and fears proceed from the want and weakness of faith. Despondency and distrust under affliction, are too often the infirmities of believers, and, as such, are to be thought upon by us with sorrow and shame. When, unbelief is working in us, we must thus suppress its risings.Thou holdest mine eyes waking - literally, "Thou holdest the watchings of my eyes." Gesenius (Lexicon) translates the Hebrew word rendered "waking," "eyelids." Probably that is the true idea. The eyelids are the watchers or guardians of the eyes. In danger, and in sleep, they close. Here the idea is, that God held them so that they did not close. He overcame the natural tendency of the eye to shut. In other words, the psalmist was kept awake; he could not sleep. This he traces to God. The idea is, that God so kept himself before his mind - that such ideas occurred to him in regard to God - that he could not sleep.

I am so troubled - With sad and dark views of God; so troubled in endeavoring to understand his character and doings; in explaining his acts; in painful ideas that suggest themselves in regard to his justice, his goodness, his mercy.

That I cannot speak - I am struck dumb. I know not what to say. I cannot find "anything" to say. He must have a heart singularly and happily free by nature from scepticism, or must have reflected little on the divine administration, who has not had thoughts pass through his mind like these. As the psalmist was a good man, a pious man, it is of importance to remark, in view of his experience, that such reflections occur not only to the minds of bad people - of the profane - of sceptics - of infidel philosophers, but they come unbidden into the minds of good people, and often in a form which they cannot calm down. He who has never had such thoughts, happy as he may and should deem himself that he has not had them, has never known some of the deepest stirrings and workings of the human soul on the subject of religion, and is little qualified to sympathize with a spirit torn, crushed, agitated, as was that of the psalmist on these questions, or as Augustine and thousands of others have been in after-times. But let not a man conclude, because he has these thoughts, that therefore he cannot be a friend of God - a converted man. The wicked man invites them, cherishes them, and rejoices that he can find what seem to him to be reasons for indulging in such thoughts against God; the good man is pained; struggles against them: endearours to banish them from his soul.

4. holdest … waking—or, "fast," that I cannot sleep. Thus he is led to express his anxious feelings in several earnest questions indicative of impatient sorrow.4 Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

5 I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times.

6 I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search.

7 Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more?

8 Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore?

9 Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah.

Psalm 77:4

"Thou holdest mine eyes waking." The fears which thy strokes excite in me forbid my eyelids to fall, my eyes continue to watch as sentinels forbidden to rest. Sleep is a great comforter, but it forsakes the sorrowful, and then their sorrow deepens and eats into the soul. If God holds the eyes waking, what anodyne shall give us rest? How much we owe to him who giveth his beloved sleep! "I am so troubled that I cannot speak." Great griefs are dumb. Deep streams brawl not among the pebbles like the shallow brooklets which live on passing showers. Words fail the man whose heart fails him. He had cried to God but he could not speak to man, what a mercy it is that if we can do the first, we need not despair though the second should be quite out of our power. Sleepless and speechless Asaph was reduced to great extremities, and yet he rallied, and even so shall we.

Psalm 77:5

"I have considered the days old, the years of ancient times." If no good was in the present, memory ransacked the past to find consolation. She fain would borrow a light from the altars of yesterday to light the gloom of to-day. It is our duty to search for comfort, and not in sullen indolence yield to despair; in quiet contemplation topics may occur to us which will prove the means of raising our spirits, and there is scarcely any theme more likely to prove consolatory than that which deals with the days of yore, the years of the olden time, when the Lord's faithfulness was tried and proved by hosts of his people. Yet it seems that even this consideration created depression rather than delight in the good man's soul, for he contrasted his own mournful condition with all that was bright in the venerable experiences of ancient saints, and so complained the more. Ah, sad calamity of a jaundiced mind to see nothing as it should be seen, but everything as through a veil of mist.

Psalm 77:6

"I call to remembrance my song in the night." At other times his spirit had a song for the darkest hour, but now he could only recall the strain as a departed memory. Where is the harp which once thrilled sympathetically to the touch of these joyful fingers? My tongue, hast thou forgotten to praise? Hast thou no skill except in mournful ditties? Ah me, how sadly fallen am I! How lamentable that I who like the nightingale could charm the night, am now fit comrade for the hooting owl. "I commune with mine own heart." He did not cease from introspection, for he was resolved to find the bottom of his sorrow, and trace it to its fountain head. He made sure work of it by talking not with his mind only, but his inmost heart; it was heart work with him. He was no idler, no melancholy trifler; he was up and at it, resolutely resolved that he would not tamely die of despair, but would fight for his hope to the last moment of life. "And my spirit made diligent search." He ransacked his experience, his memory, his intellect, his whole nature, his entire self, either to find comfort or to discover the reason why it was denied him. That man will not die by the hand of the enemy who has enough force of soul remaining to struggle in this fashion.

Psalm 77:7

"Will the Lord cast off for ever?" This was one of the matters he enquired into. He painfully knew that the Lord might leave his people for a season, but his fear was that the time might be prolonged and have no close; eagerly, therefore, he asked, will the Lord utterly and finally reject those who are his own, and suffer them to be the objects of his contemptuous reprobation, his everlasting cast-offs? This he was persuaded could not be. No instance in the years of ancient times led him to fear that such could be the case. "And will he be favourable no more?" Favourable he had been; would that goodwill never again show itself? Was the sun set never to rise again? Would spring never follow the long and dreary winter? The questions are suggested by fear, but they are also the cure of fear. It is a blessed thing to have grace enough to look such questions in the face, for their answer is self-evident and eminently fitted to cheer the heart.


Thou holdest mine eyes waking, by those sharp and continual griefs, and those perplexing and tormenting thoughts and cares, which from time to time thou stirrest up in me.

I am so troubled that I cannot speak; the greatness of my sorrows stupifies my mind, and makes me both lifeless and unable to speak; nor can any words sufficiently express the extremity of my misery.

Thou holdest mine eyes waking,.... Or, "the watches", or rather "keepers of the eyes" (m); the eyebrows, which protect the eyes; these were held, so that he could not shut them, and get any sleep; so R. Moses Haccohen interprets the words, as Jarchi observes; and so the Targum,

"thou holdest the brows of my eyes;''

a person in trouble, when he can get some sleep, it interrupts his sorrow, weakens it at least, if it does not put a stop to it; wherefore it is a great mercy to have sleep, and that refreshing, Psalm 127:1, but to have this denied, and to have wearisome nights, and be in continual tossing to and fro, is very distressing:

I am so troubled that I cannot speak; his spirits were so sunk with weariness, and want of sleep in the night, that he could not speak in the morning; or his heart was so full with sorrow, that he could not utter himself; or it was so great that he could not express it; or his thoughts were such that he dared not declare them; or he was so straitened and shut up in himself that he could not go on speaking unto God in prayer.

(m) "vigilias", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Tigurine version; "palpebras oculorum meorum", Musculus, Cocceius; "palpebras quasi custodias oculorum", Michaelis.

Thou holdest mine eyes {c} waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak.

(c) Meaning that his sorrows were as watchmen that kept his eyes from sleeping.

4. Thou heldest open the lids of mine eyes:

I was perplexed, and could not speak.

4. The word rendered waking in A.V., watching in R.V., probably means the guards or lids of the eyes. The general sense is clear. In his agony of sorrow he was sleepless and speechless: it was God who withheld sleep from his eyes. He was ‘troubled,’ perplexed and agitated (Genesis 41:8; Daniel 2:3) by the riddle of Israel’s present rejection and humiliation, and in this perplexity he pondered (Psalm 77:5) on the glorious record of God’s mercies to His people in the days of old.

4–9. In the vigils of the night he pondered on the history of the past, and asked himself with earnest questionings whether it were possible that God could have utterly cast off His people, and changed His character as a gracious and merciful God.

Verse 4. - Thou holdest mine eyes waking; literally, thou boldest the watches of mine eyes; i.e. preventedst me from obtaining any sleep. I am so troubled that I cannot speak; literally, I was perplexed and did not speak. The perplexity was probably caused by an inability to understand God's ways. Why had he afflicted his people? Was the affliction always to continue? Was Israel cast off? Psalm 77:4He calls his eyelids the "guards of my eyes." He who holds these so that they remain open when they want to shut together for sleep, is God; for his looking up to Him keeps the poet awake in spite of all overstraining of his powers. Hupfeld and others render thus: "Thou hast held, i.e., caused to last, the night-watches of mine eyes," - which is affected in thought and expression. The preterites state what has been hitherto and has not yet come to a close. He still endures, as formerly, such thumps and blows within him, as though he lay upon an anvil (פּעם), and his voice fails him. Then silent soliloquy takes the place of audible prayer; he throws himself back in thought to the days of old (Psalm 143:5), the years of past periods (Isaiah 51:9), which were so rich in the proofs of the power and loving-kindness of the God who was then manifest, but is now hidden. He remembers the happier past of his people and his own, inasmuch as he now in the night purposely calls back to himself in his mind the time when joyful thankfulness impelled him to the song of praise accompanied by the music of the harp (בּלּילה belongs according to the accents to the verb, not to נגינתי, although that construction certainly is strongly commended by parallel passages like Psalm 16:7; Psalm 42:9; Psalm 92:3, cf. Job 35:10), in place of which, crying and sighing and gloomy silence have now entered. He gives himself up to musing "with his heart," i.e., in the retirement of his inmost nature, inasmuch as he allows his thoughts incessantly to hover to and fro between the present and the former days, and in consequence of this (fut. consec. as in Psalm 42:6) his spirit betakes itself to scrupulizing (what the lxx reproduces with σκάλλειν, Aquila with σκαλεύειν) - his conflict of temptation grows fiercer. Now follow the two doubting questions of the tempted one: he asks in different applications, Psalm 77:8-10 (cf. Psalm 85:6), whether it is then all at an end with God's loving-kindness and promise, at the same time saying to himself, that this nevertheless is at variance with the unchangeableness of His nature (Malachi 3:6) and the inviolability of His covenant. אפס (only occurring as a 3. praet.) alternates with גּמר (Psalm 12:2). חנּות is an infinitive construct formed after the manner of the Lamed He verbs, which, however, does also occur as infinitive absolute (שׁמּות, Ezekiel 36:3, cf. on Psalm 17:3); Gesenius and Olshausen (who doubts this infinitive form, 245, f) explain it, as do Aben-Ezra and Kimchi, as the plural of a substantive חנּה, but in the passage cited from Ezekiel (vid., Hitzig) such a substantival plural is syntactically impossible. קפץ רחמים is to draw together or contract and draw back one's compassion, so that it does not manifest itself outwardly, just as he who will not give shuts (יקפּץ) his hand (Deuteronomy 15:7; cf. supra, Psalm 17:10).
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