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Psalms 77:4

King James Version (KJV)
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Thou holdest mine eyes waking - Literally, thou keepest the watches of mine eyes - my grief is so great that I cannot sleep.

I am so troubled that I cannot speak - This shows an increase of sorrow and anguish. At first he felt his misery, and called aloud. He receives more light, sees and feels his deep wretchedness, and then his words are swallowed by excessive distress. His woes are too big for utterance. "Small troubles are loquacious; the great are dumb." Curae leves loquuntur; ingentes stupent.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

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.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
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.
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