Vol. 27 New Series June, 1966 No. 3
PSALM VI.

This psalm is the sixth in the series that we have under consideration. It is closely linked with the previous one, which deals with troubles without, whereas this is concerned with inward sorrows.

The heading, 'a psalm,' is in the Hebrew, MIZMOR, which occurs only in the psalm titles. It indicates meditation and is distinct from SHIR, 'a song,' with which it is conjoined thirteen times, eight times before it and five times after.

David was in solitude. Distressful anxieties have taken their toll of his mental and physical condition. Meditation can be two-way; on God and His faithfulness, and on troubles and their uncertainty. In these days the latter brings about peptic disorder or some other neurosis; but the former brings peace~ But whatever David might feel, he was one who knew the goodness and grace of Jehovah, his God. He knew that he could put his whole trust in Him; nevertheless he was very human and very susceptible to the attacks and doubts arising in his mind. These were especially formidable during the long hours of solitude and silence of the night. The little' if' becomes a very big' doubt' in so short a time and this is demonstrated by his cry in verse three (if that be the correct translation), "But Thou, 0 Lord, how long?" that indicates how difficult or exercise is waiting upon the Lord. If the Devil can stand at one's shoulder and whisper, then this is his time. In Ephesians. vi., 16 and 17, the apostle Paul tells us of the way to meet it, as David did, with" the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked (one). And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Perhaps David had in his mind the words said to Moses in Exodus 34:6.

There is no subscription to this psalm. The superscription of the following psalm belongs entirely to it and will be dealt with, in its turn, under Psalm vii.

It is possible that the actual setting of this psalm is to be found in 2. Samuel 15:1-6, when "Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel," before the open rebellion. The news of the covert subversion, which must have come to David's ears, may have brought more heart-ache than the eventual outbreak that brought about his flight. In this case, if our supposition is correct, the historical position of this psalm would be between Psalms ii. and iii., in the latter of which David is fleeing from Absalom and his supporters. There would be no occasion in what was then happening to call for anything so drastic as flight, but there was an uneasy nagging apprehension, on which no action could be taken. Such conditions make fertile ground in the human brain for growing worry, and in semi-consciousness between alert wakefulness and sound sleep is the land of dreams, of restlessness and fearfulness, of disquietude and despondency, of suspicion and misgiving that border, at times, on horror.

It would, therefore, be fair to assume that the outcome of this introspection, his prayer and supplication was his strengthening when the time of his flight arrived and his, then, complete reliance upon the Lord his God, the God of Israel, of whom he was the anointed king, would have matured.

The psalm naturally divides into three parts, verses 1-5, David's prayer and the reason for his supplication; verses 6 and "his condition and in verses 8-10, the realisation that his prayers were accepted and, therefore, there were no grounds for his continuing to have anxiety, whatever might happen. He accepted that he was in the hands of God and trusted Him wholly.

O Lord (JEHOVAH), the God of Israel, God of the covenant, and, therefore, David's God, on Whom he has a claim by virtue of the covenant made with his fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Eight times is the Lord spoken of in this psalm. The J. B. Rotherham version gives a clearer indication of the real meaning: This is confirmed by Ronald Knox's version: David was one who rested in the righteousness of God, but at the same time recognised how far short of the mark he had fallen,. that he was a sinful creature and, therefore, in need of correction and discipline. This correction that came upon him was from a gracious and merciful God and was, therefore, in the spirit or the words later penned in Hebrews 12:5-7: The supplication continues: Have mercy (CHANAN) upon me. The commoner word translated mercy in the psalms is CHESED, which means be good or show loving kindness to, but CHANAN is an appeal to compassion and an exercise of grace. There are no grounds for claiming any rights to clemency. For I am weak (UMLAL). The only occurrence in the Scriptures of the O.T. The LXX. in this place translates the passage using the word ASTHENES, which is used in the N.T. in its various forms about 85 times to denote infirmity, sickness, impotence, weak-mindedness, doubting or wretchedness. O Lord, heal (RAPHA) me. This appears to have a medical connotation, as the English word would suggest. Ferrar Fenton translates the words "relieve me, for my bones ache." The A.V., for my bones (ETSEM) are vexed (BAHEL). BAHEL or BAHAL is translated mostly troubled, but Ronald Knox uses the word tremble, saying "My limbs tremble." The same word is used in the next sentence, of my soul (NEPHESH). The soul is that life established in the senses, which came into being by the action of God's breath of life being inspired into the body of Adam and transmitted to mankind. The experience of being vexed, troubled or aching is not only a physical, but also a psychical one. My soul is sore (MEOD), very, exceedingly or greatly vexed, is an indication of his great distress and prepares one for the following cry: The sentence is incomplete and so one must look to the context for help to understand it. The anticipation of death appears to be in the mind of the supplicant. It may be the seeking of death as the only possible relief, or it may be the fear of death overcoming him and cutting him off from active service and worship of God. In either case it indicates his desire for early relief from further suffering by passing into SHEOL, the grave or by the direct intervention of God on his behalf. Ronald Knox translates it, "Lord, wilt thou never be content"; Ferrar Fention, "I am brought near to death." Other versions agree with the Authorised. Return (SHUB)—369 times 'return again'—0 Lord, deliver (CHALATS), my soul: Oh save (YASHA), give safety or ease, for Thy mercies (CHESED), loving kindness sake. This word has already been referred to above, in verse two. F.F. gives, for this verse, "Cease, O Lord, to strip my soul,—and save for you are kind."

From supplication the writer turns to the making of a statement of his reason. If we are to accept that these words are but the writer giving his own ideas we get little help from his words; but if we believe that he was receiving inspiration to pen them in the light of Acts 1:16, they are of the utmost importance. It is one of the Scripture passages that tells us something about the state of death. It is revelation from God to us and must be believed as such.

Alongside these words the following passages should be read and it will be observed that the witness to their meaning is consistent and forceful; Psalms 30:9; 88:10-12; 115:17; 118:17; Isaiah 38:18, 19; Ecclesiastes 9:10. It looks very much, therefore, that the supplication having been made, the writer is holding out to the Lord, 'How can I fulfil the service that I am able to give and the worship that I am able to offer if I am dead and have been laid in the grave?' Therefore give heed to my supplication and restore me by Thy favourable intervention. In these two verses we pass from the abstract into the physical, from his thoughts that have brought about his supplication to the condition where he was lying. I am weary (YAGA), fatigued with my groaning (ANACHAH), sighing. He has been brought to utter exhaustion by the multitude of his tears; his eye is consumed (ASHESH), aged, (only here and in Ps. 31:9 and 10), because of grief (KAAS), sometimes provocation. F.F. gives, "Grief has dimmed my eyes, my woes oppress like age."

Now, assurance seems to assert itself, not self assurance, but that which comes from the Lord, confidence that His grace is sufficient for all contingencies, whatever befall.

This is a figure of speech APOSTROPHE, switching away from the one he is addressing to another. The workers of iniquity are the inward doubts, fears and temptations to which he had been subject, the enemies (TSARAR) of the previous verse, those things that were distressing him. F.F. translates, "Turn from me all my passion." It seems that in these words he pulls himself together and confidently says: The prayer follows: It is difficult to assess whether the literal enemies are here indicted as the cause of his anxieties or the anxieties themselves in figure, but whichever or both, they have the same vexation called down upon them as he himself had to endure.

As has already been indicated this is called a psalm of David. If this be so and the occasion that has been suggested be correct, then we have the representation of Man as the victim of worries and anxieties, brought about by circumstances and individuals with whom he is associated, getting him down. But in his turning to God he finds assurance and peace and courage to meet and deal with those worries and the men that have caused them.

The picture can be imagined of Hezekiah making use of this psalm personally, as he lay upon his bed of sickness as described in Isaiah 38 which should be read. Either David or Hezekiah could be here the type of suffering Messiah of Whom this psalm is descriptive as the Son of Man, the "Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief," "Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried out sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted."

J.G.H.S. Last updated 13.6.2006