Verse 21. "I shall not return " - I shall not return again from the dust to have a dwelling among men.
"To the land of darkness " - See the notes on chap. iii. 5. There are here a crowd of obscure and dislocated terms, admirably expressive of the obscurity and uncertainty of the subject. What do we know of the state of separate spirits? What do we know of the spiritual world? How do souls exist separate from their respective bodies? Of what are they capable and what is their employment? Who can answer these questions? Perhaps nothing can be said much better of the state than is here said, a land of obscurity, like darkness. The shadow of death - A place where death rules, over which he projects his shadow, intercepting every light of every kind of life. Without any order, µyrds alw velo sedarim, having no arrangements, no distinctions of inhabitants; the poor and the rich are there, the master and his slave, the king and the beggar, their bodies in equal corruption and disgrace, their souls distinguished only by their moral character. Stripped of their flesh, they stand in their naked simplicity before God in that place.
Verse 22. "Where the light is as darkness. " - A palpable obscure: it is space and place, and has only such light or capability of distinction as renders "darkness visible." The following words of Sophocles convey the same idea: iw skotov emoi faov; "Thou darkness be my light." It is, as the Vulgate expresses it, Terra tenebrosa, et operta mortis caligine: Terra miseriae et tenebrarum, ubi umbra mortis, et nullus ordo, sed sempiternus horror inhabitat: "A murky land, covered with the thick darkness of death: a land of wretchedness and obscurities, where is the shadow of death, and no order, but sempiternal horror dwells everywhere." Or, as Coverdale expresses this last clause, Wheras is no ordre but terrible feare as in the darknesse. A duration not characterized or measured by any of the attributes of time; where there is no order of darkness and light, night and day, heat and cold, summer and winter. It is the state of the dead! The place of separate spirits! It is out of time, out of probation, beyond change or mutability. It is on the confines of eternity! But what is THIS? and where? Eternity! how can I form any conception of thee? In thee there is no order, no bounds, no substance, no progression, no change, no past, no present, no future! Thou art an indescribable something, to which there is no analogy in the compass of creation. Thou art infinity and incomprehensibility to all finite beings. Thou art what, living, I know not, and what I must die to know; and even then I shall apprehend no more of thee than merely that thou art E-T-E-R-N-I-T-Y!