Vol. 27 New Series June, 1966 No. 3
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, rebuke me not in Thine anger,
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:
Neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure."
"O YAHWEH, do not in thine anger correct me,
This is confirmed by Ronald Knox's version:
Nor in Thy wrath chastise me."
"Lord, when Thou dost reprove me, let it not be in anger;
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:
When Thou dost chastise me, let it not be in displeasure."
"The exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto
The supplication continues:
children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the
Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him; for whom
the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son
whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening God dealeth
with you as sons; for what son is he whom the father
"Have mercy upon me O Lord; for I am weak:
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,
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:
O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed:
My soul is also sore vexed."
"But Thou, O Lord, how long?"
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, O Lord, deliver my soul:
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."
Oh save me for Thy mercy's sake."
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
"For in death there is no remembrance of Thee:
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
In the grave who shall give Thee thanks?"
"I am weary with my groaning;
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."
All the night I make my bed to swim;
I water my couch with my tears."
"Mine eye is consumed because of grief;
It waxeth old because of all mine enemies."
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.
"Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity."
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:
"For the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping.
The prayer follows:
The Lord hath heard my supplication;
The Lord will receive my prayer."
"Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed:
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.
Let them return and be ashamed suddenly."
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
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