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YHWH,

            God of my salvation

            Day, I cry out to you

            By night, close before you.

Let it come before your face, this prayer

Turn your ear to my cry.

My soul is crammed with evils

And my life touches upon Sheol.

I am reckoned with those who go down into the Pit

I have become as a man of strength with no strength.

Among the Dead, free,

Like one of the slain, lying in the grave

Never remembered at all

Cut-off from your hand.

 

You appoint me to the Pit of Depths

To shades of darkness.

 

Over me rolls your poisonwrath

All these, your waves, break me.

 

You drive those knowing me far from me

You appoint me as their hated thing;

Locked-in, I cannot go out.

 

My eyes falter from my pain

I call out to you, YHWH

All the days

I force my hands open before you.

 

Do you show wonder to the dead?

Do the dead spirits rise and praise you,

                                    Selah

Is your loyal love rehearsed in the grave?

-Or, your faithfulness in the place of destruction?

It is known in that darkness, the wonder of you?

Or your righteousness in that land of forgetting?

 

But I, unto you YHWH, I cry

In the morning, my prayer goes out to meet you.

 

Why O YHWH do you cast off my soul

And cause your face to hide from me?

 

Afflicted I am and dying since youth

Bearing the horrors of you.

 

Your wrath washes over me

Your terrors silence me,

They surround me like waters all the day

They encircle me altogether.

You drive the beloved far from me;

My companions: darkness.

 

NOTES ON THE TRANSLATION AND INTERPRETATION:

THIS is the darkest, saddest Psalm in all the Psalter. It is one wail of sorrow from beginning to end. It is the only Psalm in which the expression of feeling, the pouring out of the burdened heart before God, fails to bring relief and consolation. In every other instance, however heavy the gloom, however oppressed and dejected the spirit of the sufferer, prayer and supplication are mingled with thanksgiving, the accents of lamentation are changed into the notes of triumph, the darkness of midnight gives way to the brightness of faith’s morning-dawn. The deeper the sorrow at the opening, the greater the joy at the close. But here the darkness continues to the end. There is no confidence expressed that prayer will be heard no hope uttered, much less any triumph. The Psalm ends with complaint, as it began. Its last word is “darkness.” One ray of light only struggles through the gloom, one star pieces that thick midnight blackness; it is the name by which the Psalmist addresses God: “O God of my salvation.” That he can address God by that name is a proof that faith and hope are not dead within him: it is the pledge of his deliverance, though he cannot yet taste its comfort. There is but one such Psalm, as if to teach us that our Father’s will concerning us is not to leave us in our dejection, but, in answer to the prayer of faith, to lift us out of it; there is one, that we may remember that even His truest servants may be called upon “to walk in darkness and have no light,” that thus they may be the better trained, like a child holding his father’s hand in the dark, “to trust in the name of the Lord, to stay themselves upon their God.”

The older expositors commonly interpreted the Psalm of Christ and of His Passion either in Gethsemane or on the Cross. And our Church has, in a measure, sanctioned this application by appointing this as one of the Psalms for Good Friday.

 

 

J. J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms; A New Translation, with Introductions and Notes, Explanatory and Critical, vol. 2, Fifth Edition, Revised. (London; Cambridge: Deighton Bell and Co.; George Bell and Sons, 1882), 140–141.

 

What trouble of wounded spirit some of God’s children have felt in former times, others dear to God may find the like in after ages, and all men ought to prepare for the like, and should not think the exercise strange when it cometh, but must comfort themselves in this, that other saints whose names are recorded in Scripture, have been under like affliction; for the psalm is appointed to give instruction: it is Maschil of Heman.

David Dickson, A Brief Explication of the Psalms, vol. 2 (Glasgow; Edinburgh; London: John Dow; Waugh and Innes; R. Ogle; James Darling; Richard Baynes, 1834), 96.

However, all is not perplexity and hopelessness in the psalm; it is not “a psalm of mute depression” (Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms, 80). The prayer is addressed to God and the speaker assumes that God hears the complaints. The speaker has “no option but to deal with Yahweh”—which is basic for all the life of Israel—the speaker must deal with Yahweh even in the silence of divine absence. Prayer and speech form a lifeline human beings cannot do without. God is addressed throughout the psalm, though he cannot be praised. The reader knows, however, that the complaints could become praise. The speaker is on the brink of death, but prayer is the lifeline which keeps him/her from the Pit. Even the greatest of those in Sheol cannot rise to praise Yahweh, but the speaker keeps death away by conversation directed to God. “This author, like Job, does not give up. He completes his prayer, still in the dark and totally unrewarded” (Kidner, 319). Further, the silence of God will not last forever. Our memory stirs and we recall a line from another psalm: “Even the darkness is not dark to thee,/the night is bright as the day,/for darkness is as light with thee” (139:12, RSV). Or, perhaps, we leap ahead and remember that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5, RSV).

 

Marvin E. Tate, Psalms 51–100, vol. 20, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 405.

 

יְ֭הוָה אֱלֹהֵ֣י יְשׁוּעָתִ֑י יוֹם־צָעַ֖קְתִּי בַלַּ֣יְלָה נֶגְדֶּֽךָ׃

YHWH

            God of my salvation.

Day I call out

By night, before you.

YHWH: vocative

אֱלֹהֵ֣י

The accent and the construct state draw a tight connection to the proceeding noun, “my salvation”.

The final clause contains two ellipses: First, there is no preposition with “day”. It literally reads, “day I call/cry out”.  One would expect beth + yom=daily. The following “night” is proceeded by the beth. However, this second phrase lacks the verb and simply reads, “by night before you.” The compression in the language marks emphasis: Day and night I call. Neged: opposite, across from; not merely “before”.

It is possible to read the יום as “on the day when” or “when” (e.g., in Pss 56:4; 78:42; cf. 102:3; 18:1 which has ביום; see Delitzsch, III, 25): “when I cry before you in the night.” Goulder (The Psalms of the Sons of Korah, 201, 204) adopts this approach and reads: “On the day that I have cried by night before thee, let my prayer enter …,” assuming that 2b is a clause whose main sentence follows in v 3. This fits his theory that the psalm is a prayer of a representative of the community who prays through the night in a penitential rite, perhaps intended to be a prayer at dawn. Kraus (II, 771–72) reads vv 1–2 as: “O Yahweh, God of my salvation,/at daytime I cry to you,/at night I stand before you./May my prayer come before you!/Incline your ear to my lamentations!”—a self-description of the speaker, who wants to declare that the prayer is that of one who holds on unceasingly to trust in Yahweh: “The darkest of all Old Testament psalms stands under the certitude: You are the ‘God of my salvation’ ” (774). This is a possible reading which avoids emendation, but it seems to me that v 2 should be read as complaint rather than as a statement of confidence. LXX reads: “I have cried by day and in the night before you,” which seems in keeping with the idea of incessant prayer, as in v 14. I assume that יום is equivalent to בימם (cf. Pss 18:1; 102:3) or the adverb ימם (“daily”), and that the statement means: “I have cried out for help before you day and night.”

 

Marvin E. Tate, Psalms 51–100, vol. 20, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 395–396.

 

צעק

HALOT interestingly has a cognate use, “thunderstruck”, stun, stupefy. The verb seems to connote cries for assistance and calling troops (in the niphal) to muster.

The perfect of I call/cry: “The qatal is used for an instantaneous action which, being performed at the very moment of utterance, is assumed to belong to the past….Instances are especially common with verbs of saying ….” (Jouon  & Muraoka, 112(h), 362)

1–2 In the first place, the psalmist fasteneth his faith and resolution to pray constantly to God, till he receive answer; and requesteth comfort now at last. Whence learn, 1. Whosoever have fled to God for grace, and have received the offer of reconciliation made to the church in the Messiah, are entered into covenant with God for their everlasting salvation, and ought to stand fast in the holding of this covenant, whatsoever hard condition they may fall into, as Heman doth here, saying to God, O Lord God of my salvation. 2. When a soul hath received the offer of grace made to the church, in the common tender of the covenant of grace, he is entered into covenant with God so particularly, as if the indenture were passed between God and that soul by name, so that the believer may read his own name in God’s everlasting styles and titles, and may read in himself the mark of God’s interest in him, and the mark of his interest in God for evermore: for, O God of my salvation importeth no less. 3. When a believer hath laid hold on eternal life, he may by the same right ask and expect comfort in, and deliverance out of ever, trouble, as an appendix of the great salvation, which is coming unto him, as here Heman doth. 4. God can love a man, and keep him in faith and exercise of prayer a long time, without a comfortable answer, and all in love, wise love: I have cried day and night before thee, saith Heman, and the answer is not come yet. 5. There is a difference of the lamentation of the worldly man, and of the believer. The worldly man sighs and cries, and he knows not to whom, but the godly present themselves in their lamentations to God; I have cried day and night before thee; as his dolor cleaved unto him, or was renewed upon him, so he had his recourse to God at all times. 6. Albeit our prayer, being presented before God, seem to us not to have been admitted, yet must our bill lie still, and be put up to God again and again, till it be received to our sense and knowledge: let my prayer come before thee. 7. The believer may be sure to have a good answer at length, but he must be instant, and deal still with God for it, and press it hard, and patiently wait for it, as Heman here doth: incline thine ear unto my cry.

 

David Dickson, A Brief Explication of the Psalms, vol. 2 (Glasgow; Edinburgh; London: John Dow; Waugh and Innes; R. Ogle; James Darling; Richard Baynes, 1834), 97–98.

By applying to Him the appellation of the God of his salvation, casting, as it were, a bridle upon himself, he restrains the excess of his sorrow, shuts the door against despair, and strengthens and prepares himself for the endurance of the cross. When he speaks of his crying and importunity, he indicates the earnestness of soul with which he engaged in prayer. He may not, indeed, have given utterance to loud cries; but he uses the word cry, with much propriety’, to denote the great earnestness of his prayers. The same thing is implied when he tells us that he continued crying days and nights. Nor are the words before thee superfluous. It is common for all men to complain when under the pressure of grief; but they are far from pouring out their groanings before God. Instead of this, the majority of mankind court retirement, that they may murmur against him, and accuse him of undue severity; while others pour forth their cries into the air at random. Hence we gather that it is a rare virtue to set God before our eyes, that we may address our prayers to him.

 

John Calvin, Psalms

1–2. We hear in these words the voice of our suffering Redeemer. As man, he addresseth himself to his Father, “the Lord God of his salvation,” from whom he expected, according to the promises, a joyful and triumphant resurrection: he pleadeth the fervency and importunity of his prayers, offered up continually, “day and night,” during the time of his humiliation and sufferings; and he entreateth to be heard in these his supplications for his body mystical, as well as his body natural; for himself, and for us all.

 

George Horne, A Commentary on the Book of Psalms (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1856), 316.

תָּב֣וֹא לְ֭פָנֶיךָ תְּפִלָּתִ֑י הַטֵּֽה־אָ֝זְנְךָ֗ לְרִנָּתִֽי׃

Let it come before your face, my prayer

Turn your ear to my cry.

The first verb is imperfect in form and jussive in meaning. The precise phrase of “let it come before you” is found in Psalm 79:11, “Let the groans of the prisoners come before you”.

נטה:

Stretch out, turn aside. With the ear, turn, incline – movement is indicated.

Whence learn, 1. Albeit we had nothing to bring before God but our grief and misery, we want not matter of confidence to find favour from our pitiful God, as this example teacheth us: incline thine ear, for my soul is full of troubles. 2. If the godly should smother their grief, and not go to God with it, then sorrow were able to choke them; but it is no small ease to them that they have God to go to, to whom they may freely vent their mind, as here we see. 3. Soul-troubles are the most pressing troubles, and with those readily will the Lord exercise his children, when he mindeth to try their faith, making their spirits to smart with trouble after trouble, with a number of troubles, which they are neither able to reckon nor to bear: my soul is full of troubles. 4. The dolors of the mind are able to waste away the body, which cannot but shrink and pine away when the soul is sick with anguish: my life draweth near to the grave, saith he; and this is the second degree of his trouble.

 

David Dickson, A Brief Explication of the Psalms, vol. 2 (Glasgow; Edinburgh; London: John Dow; Waugh and Innes; R. Ogle; James Darling; Richard Baynes, 1834), 98–99.

 

 

כִּֽי־שָֽׂבְעָ֣ה בְרָע֣וֹת נַפְשִׁ֑י וְחַיַּ֗י לִשְׁא֥וֹל הִגִּֽיעוּ׃

For full of evils [is] my soul

My very life has come to touch Sheol.

Ki marks the reason for the crying.

Evil is a plural of abstraction – the evil may have various manifestations in the concrete.

שׂבע

Full, filled – usually in a good sense.

The beth marks what the soul is filled with.

Life is plural: lives, my lives. Plural of intensity.

נגע

The idea is “draw near” but the verb connotes close enough to touch.

 

Psalm 16:9–10 (ESV)

 

9       Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;

my flesh also dwells secure.

10       For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,

or let your holy one see corruption.

 

נֶ֭חְשַׁבְתִּי עִם־י֣וֹרְדֵי ב֑וֹר הָ֝יִ֗יתִי כְּגֶ֣בֶר אֵֽין־אֱיָֽל׃

I reckon myself with those going down to the pit

I am like a strong man of no strength

 

Psalm 28:1–2 (ESV)

 

1       To you, O LORD, I call;

my rock, be not deaf to me,

lest, if you be silent to me,

I become like those who go down to the pit.

2       Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy,

when I cry to you for help,

when I lift up my hands

toward your most holy sanctuary.

 
Although he breathed still among the living, yet the many deaths with which he was threatened on all sides were to him so many graves by which he expected to be swallowed up in a moment. And he seems to use the word גבר, geber, which is derived from גבר, gabar, he prevailed, or was strong,c511in preference to the word which simply signifies man, — themore emphatically to show that his distresses were so great and crushing as to have been sufficient to bring down the strongest man.

 

John Calvin, Psalms

This makes sense of “strong man with no strength”

Next to the troubles of Christ’s soul, are mentioned the disgrace and ignominy to which he submitted. He who was the fountain of immortality, he from whom no one could take his life, who could in a moment have commanded twelve legions of angels to his aid, or have caused heaven and earth, at a word speaking, to fly away before him, he was “counted with them that go down into the pit;” he died, to all appearance, like the rest of mankind; nay, he was forcibly put to death as a malefactor; and seemed, in the hands of his executioners, “as a man that had no strength,” no power or might, to help and to save himself. “His strength went from him; he became weak, and like another man.” The people shook their heads at him, saying, “He saved other, himself he cannot save.”

 

George Horne, A Commentary on the Book of Psalms (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1856), 316.

 

 

חשׁב

Niphal, the ESV translates it as a passive, “I am counted”, but I wonder if it could even be reflexive: I count myself as

‘im + participle with those engaged in the action of [going down to] the pit.  Those going down is a construct modified by pit: pit-goers.

Geber is a commonly a strong, young man. Ironic here: he has no strength.

 

בַּמֵּתִ֗ים חָ֫פְשִׁ֥י כְּמ֤וֹ חֲלָלִ֨ים׀ שֹׁ֥כְבֵי קֶ֗בֶר אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹ֣א זְכַרְתָּ֣ם ע֑וֹד וְ֝הֵ֗מָּה מִיָּדְךָ֥ נִגְזָֽרוּ׃

 

Among the dead, free

Like one the slain lying down [in the] grave

Who is not remembered again

And you from hands they are cut off

חָפְשִׁי

Adjective: free, as opposite to captive or enslaved.

Kimo: Like one [of the slain ones]. The image is grotesque, because he Psalmist is alive and yet among the dead and slain.

שֹׁ֥כְבֵי

Construct participle: the ones lying down; modified by “grave”. The phrase modified by “grave”.

Next a relative clause: who will not be remembered (ever).

They from your hand, they will be cut-off.

“Cut off,” says Bishop Lowth, “from all intercourse with the living,” referring to 2 Kings 15:5.; where בית חפשיח signifies the house of the leprous king’s retirement. The import of the word here is by no means obvious.

[B]—“like the slain.” E. T. חללים. Vide Ps. 89:10. The חללים, and the שכבי קבר, are different persons. The former, just at the last gasp; the latter, dead and buried. See Psalm 89:10.

Samuel Horsley, The Book of Psalms; Translated from the Hebrew: With Notes, Explanatory and Critical, Fourth Edition. (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans; F. & J. Rivington, 1845), 332.

 

 

שַׁ֭תַּנִי בְּב֣וֹר תַּחְתִּיּ֑וֹת בְּ֝מַחֲשַׁכִּ֗ים בִּמְצֹלֽוֹת׃

You have put [me] in the deepest pit, pit of depths

In the darkest place of shades

Plurals of intensity.

Psalm 31:3–13 (ESV)

 

3       For you are my rock and my fortress;

and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;

4       you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,

for you are my refuge.

5       Into your hand I commit my spirit;

you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.

 

6       I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,

but I trust in the LORD.

7       I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,

because you have seen my affliction;

you have known the distress of my soul,

8       and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;

you have set my feet in a broad place.

 

9       Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;

my eye is wasted from grief;

my soul and my body also.

10       For my life is spent with sorrow,

and my years with sighing;

my strength fails because of my iniquity,

and my bones waste away.

 

11       Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,

especially to my neighbors,

and an object of dread to my acquaintances;

those who see me in the street flee from me.

12       I have been forgotten like one who is dead;

I have become like a broken vessel.

13       For I hear the whispering of many—

terror on every side!—

as they scheme together against me,

as they plot to take my life.

 

Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit. The Psalmist now acknowledges more distinctly, that whatever adversities he endured proceeded from the Divine hand. Nor indeed will any man sincerely betake himself to God to seek relief without a previous persuasion that it is the Divine hand which smites him, and that nothing happens by chance. It is observable that the nearer the prophet approaches God the more is his grief embittered; for nothing is more dreadful to the saints than the judgment of God.

 

John Calvin, Psalms

7. The sustaining hope of resurrection, verses 10 (with a solemn pause, “Selah”), 11, 12. The “land of forgetfulness,” and “the dark,” express the unseen world, which, to those on this side of the vail, is so unknown, and where those who enter it are to us as if they had for ever been forgotten by those they left behind. God’s wonders shall be made known there. There shall be victory gained over death and the grave: God’s “loving-kindness” to man, and his “faithfulness,” pledge him to do this new thing in the universe. Messiah must return from the abodes of the invisible state; and in due time, Heman, as well as all other members of the Messiah’s body, must return also. Yes, God’s wonders shall be known at the grave’s mouth. God’s righteousness, in giving what satisfied justice in behalf of Messiah’s members, has been manifested gloriously, so that resurrection must follow, and the land of forgetfulness must give up its dead. O morning of surpassing bliss, hasten on! Messiah has risen; when shall all that are his arise? Till that day dawn, they must take up their Head’s plaintive expostulations, and remind their God in Heman’s strains of what he has yet to accomplish.

 

Andrew A. Bonar, Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1860), 264.

 

Psalm 143:1–4 (ESV)

1       Hear my prayer, O LORD;

give ear to my pleas for mercy!

In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!

2       Enter not into judgment with your servant,

for no one living is righteous before you.

 

3       For the enemy has pursued my soul;

he has crushed my life to the ground;

he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.

4       Therefore my spirit faints within me;

my heart within me is appalled.

 

Lamentations 3:1–6 (ESV)

3 I am the man who has seen affliction

under the rod of his wrath;

2       he has driven and brought me

into darkness without any light;

3       surely against me he turns his hand

again and again the whole day long.

 

4       He has made my flesh and my skin waste away;

he has broken my bones;

5       he has besieged and enveloped me

with bitterness and tribulation;

6       he has made me dwell in darkness

like the dead of long ago.

 

עָ֭לַי סָמְכָ֣ה חֲמָתֶ֑ךָ וְכָל־מִ֝שְׁבָּרֶ֗יךָ עִנִּ֥יתָ סֶּֽלָה׃

Upon me she lays your poison wrath

And all your waves afflict me

An ocean of poisoned wrath.

 

הִרְחַ֥קְתָּ מְיֻדָּעַ֗י מִ֫מֶּ֥נִּי שַׁתַּ֣נִי תוֹעֵב֣וֹת לָ֑מוֹ כָּ֝לֻ֗א וְלֹ֣א אֵצֵֽא׃

You have caused those knowing me from me

You have caused [me to be] an abomination to them

Being shut up and not I go out

 

Ver. 8. “Shut-up-apart.” This I take to be the proper sense of כלא. When it denotes “confinement,” it always implies “solitary confinement.”

Samuel Horsley, The Book of Psalms; Translated from the Hebrew: With Notes, Explanatory and Critical, Fourth Edition. (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans; F. & J. Rivington, 1845), 332.

He was now destitute of all human aid, and that also he attributes to the anger of God, in whose power it is either to bend the hearts of men to humanity, or to harden them, and render them cruel. This is a point well worthy of our attention; for unless we bear in mind that our destitution of human aid in any case is owing to God’s withdrawing his hand, we agitate ourselves without end or measure. We may indeed justly complain of the ingratitude or cruelty of men whenever they defraud us of the just claims of duty which we have upon them; but still this will avail us nothing, unless we are thoroughly convinced that God, being displeased with us, takes away the means of help which he had destined for us; just as it is easy for him, whenever he pleases, to incline the hearts of all men to stretch forth their hand to succor us.

 

John Calvin, Psalms, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1998), Ps 88:8.

 

עֵינִ֥י דָאֲבָ֗ה מִנִּ֫י עֹ֥נִי קְרָאתִ֣יךָ יְהוָ֣ה בְּכָל־י֑וֹם שִׁטַּ֖חְתִּי אֵלֶ֣יךָ כַפָּֽי׃

 

My eyes languish from my misery/oppression

I cry out to your YHWH every day

I force the palm of my hands out to you.

Spread out is in the piel without an apparent change in meaning from the qal. Yet, it must mean some sort of intensification in feel if not denotive meaning.

In the third place, the psalmist wrestleth by prayer with God for comfort, using for this end four reasons to strengthen his faith and hope to be comforted. The first is, from the consciousness of his earnest seeking his comfort and relief from his trouble only in God. Whence learn, 1. Godliness maketh not men senseless of grief, nor doth it hinder tears or mourning, or any other effects of sorrow to be seen in their body: mine eye mourneth because of affliction. 2. Sorrow should neither hinder the godly to seek God, nor move them to seek their consolation elsewhere: Lord, I have called daily upon thee. 3. It is possible that a godly man may be instant daily with God, praying with tears for comfort, and yet not obtain for a long time, as this example teacheth. 4. As in serious prayer, specially in secret, the affections of the heart utter themselves in the answerable gestures of the body, as well as in the voice and words of the mouth; so those gestures have their own speech unto God, no less than the words of the mouth have: as here, I have stretched out my hands unto thee, is brought forth to express his submissive rendering up of himself unto God, and his dependence upon him.

 

David Dickson, A Brief Explication of the Psalms, vol. 2 (Glasgow; Edinburgh; London: John Dow; Waugh and Innes; R. Ogle; James Darling; Richard Baynes, 1834), 101–102.

 

הֲלַמֵּתִ֥ים תַּעֲשֶׂה־פֶּ֑לֶא אִם־רְ֝פָאִ֗ים יָק֤וּמוּ׀ יוֹד֬וּךָ סֶּֽלָה׃

For the dead do you create/make/do a wonder?

Do the departed/dead spirits rise up making praise to you?

 

הֲלַמֵּתִ֥ים

Article + lamed + dead (plural)

רְ֝פָאִ֗ים

A new word for the dead. Not the corpses but the spirits, shades of the dead.

The exact meaning of the word רפאים is uncertain, except to say that it “clearly suggests the inhabitants of Sheol” (Anderson, II, 628).

Marvin E. Tate, Psalms 51–100, vol. 20, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 397.

 

Whence learn, 1. When the Lord delayeth to comfort a believing supplicant, he calleth him to wrestle in prayer, and to exercise his faith so much the more, as here we find this saint to do, expounding God’s dispensation, and bending his spirit in his supplication to wrestle for comfort, as those often interrogations make evident. 2. When faith is fixed upon the covenant, and promises, and power, and goodness of God, it will expect miracles, rather than fear breach of God’s promise: as, wilt thou shew wonders to the dead doth import. 3. A true believer should love to be comforted, yea and to live in the world, not so much for his own satisfaction, as that he may glorify God in his life: as, shall the dead rise and praise thee doth import. 4. It will not content a believer to have the use of any benefit unto himself alone, but he resolveth to make it forthcoming; as to the glory of God, so also to the edification of others; and therefore he loveth to have the benefits which he seeketh mainly for that end: as, shall thy loving-kindness be declared in the grave doth import. 5. The only time to glorify God, so as others may be edified, is this present life. After death a man may praise God in heaven, but shall not instruct any ignorant person there by his example or counsel; as, shall thy faithfulness be declared in destruction doth import: and that which followeth also showeth the same: shall thy wonders be known in the dark, and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? 6. There is no commerce between the living and the dead; the dead know not what men are doing on the earth, for death is the land of forgetfulness, wherein the living and dead so part and go asunder, as those do who forget one another. 7. A soul acquainted with God, hath no will to die, till the sense of wrath be removed, and the feeling of the sense of reconciliation be granted, as this example showeth: and no wonder in this, for it is a fearful thing to have the terror both of temporal and eternal death to encounter at once.

 

David Dickson, A Brief Explication of the Psalms, vol. 2 (Glasgow; Edinburgh; London: John Dow; Waugh and Innes; R. Ogle; James Darling; Richard Baynes, 1834), 102–103.

 

 

 

הַיְסֻפַּ֣ר בַּקֶּ֣בֶר חַסְדֶּ֑ךָ אֱ֝מֽוּנָתְךָ֗ בָּאֲבַדּֽוֹן׃

Is it rehearsed/recounted in [the] grave your steadfast love?

Your immovable truth in the Abaddon?

25. Perdition-land. Heb. ‘Abaddon.’ Like ‘Death’ a synonym for Sheol (see Job 26:6; 28:22). Abaddon was one of the seven hells in the Talmud (cp. on 40:3). Milton well renders, ‘in perdition.’

T. K. Cheyne, The Book of Psalms: Translated from a Revised Text with Notes and Introduction, vol. 2 (New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1904), 60.

 

הֲיִוָּדַ֣ע בַּחֹ֣שֶׁךְ פִּלְאֶ֑ךָ וְ֝צִדְקָתְךָ֗ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ נְשִׁיָּֽה׃

It is known in the dark your wonder

And your righteousness in the ground/land of forgetting.

This sounds like Lethe.

 

וַאֲנִ֤י׀ אֵלֶ֣יךָ יְהוָ֣ה שִׁוַּ֑עְתִּי וּ֝בַבֹּ֗קֶר תְּֽפִלָּתִ֥י תְקַדְּמֶֽךָּ׃

But I unto you YHWH I call for help

And in the morning my prayer goes out to meet you.

 

לָמָ֣ה יְ֭הוָה תִּזְנַ֣ח נַפְשִׁ֑י תַּסְתִּ֖יר פָּנֶ֣יךָ מִמֶּֽנִּי׃

Why YHWH do you reject/cast away my soul

[why] do you cause your face to hid from me

 

עָ֘נִ֤י אֲנִ֣י וְגֹוֵ֣עַ מִנֹּ֑עַר נָשָׂ֖אתִי אֵמֶ֣יךָ אָפֽוּנָה׃

Afflicted I am and perishing from my youth

I carry your horrors and grow cold.

 

עָ֭לַי עָבְר֣וּ חֲרוֹנֶ֑יךָ בִּ֝עוּתֶ֗יךָ צִמְּתוּתֻֽנִי׃

Over me they pass your burning angers

Your terrors destroy me.

 

סַבּ֣וּנִי כַ֭מַּיִם כָּל־הַיּ֑וֹם הִקִּ֖יפוּ עָלַ֣י יָֽחַד׃

They surround me like waters all the day

They encircle me altogether.

We are not to imagine that the holy Jesus suffered for us only at Gethsemane and on mount Calvary. His whole life was one continued passion; a scene of labour and sorrow, of contradiction and persecution; “he was afflicted,” as never man was, “from his youth up,” from the hour of his birth; when, thrust out from the society of men, he made his bed in the stable at Bethlehem; he was “ready to die,” a victim destined and prepared for that death which by anticipation, he tasted of through life; he saw the flaming sword of God’s “fierce wrath” waiting to “cut him off” from the land of the living; the “terrors” of the Almighty set themselves in array against him, threatening, like the mountainous waves of a tempestuous sea, to overwhelm his amazed soul. Let not the church be offended or despond, but rather let her rejoice in her sufferings, by which, through every period of her existence, from youth to age, she “filleth up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ,” who suffers and will be glorified in his people, as he hath already suffered and been glorified for them. See Col. 1:24.

 

George Horne, A Commentary on the Book of Psalms (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1856), 318–319.

 

הִרְחַ֣קְתָּ מִ֭מֶּנִּי אֹהֵ֣ב וָרֵ֑עַ מְֽיֻדָּעַ֥י מַחְשָֽׁךְ׃

You make them depart from me/go far from [the] beloved near one

Those who know me: darkness.

DARKNESS, lit. “the place of darkness,” the dark kingdom of the dead, is now all I have to look to, instead of friends, or, as we might say, The grave is now my only friend. Similar expressions occur in Prov. 7:4, and in Job 17:14, “I have said to the grave, Thou art my father,” &c. Or perhaps the sense is rather, “I have no friends. When I look for them, I see nothing but darkness.” “The Psalm ends with an energetic expression of its main thought—the immediate vicinity of death. The darkness is thickest at the end, just as it is in the morning before the rising of the sun.”—Hengstenberg. But here, at least, the sun does not rise.

 

J. J. Stewart Perowne, The Book of Psalms; A New Translation, with Introductions and Notes, Explanatory and Critical, vol. 2, Fifth Edition, Revised. (London; Cambridge: Deighton Bell and Co.; George Bell and Sons, 1882), 144.

 

It also teacheth that, seeing God can sustain a soul by secretly supporting a man’s faith without comfortable sense, yea, and that under the saddest sense of wrath, therefore a believer in God must lay hold on God’s goodness, promise, and covenant, and must trust still in the Lord, albeit he should seem to slay him; as the example of Heman the Ezrahite here teacheth us.

 

David Dickson, A Brief Explication of the Psalms, vol. 2 (Glasgow; Edinburgh; London: John Dow; Waugh and Innes; R. Ogle; James Darling; Richard Baynes, 1834), 107.
Whence also proceeded his doubting.c521for a sense of the divine anger must necessarily have agitated his mind with sore disquietude. But it may be asked, How can this wavering agree with faith? It is true, that when the heart is in perplexity and doubt, or rather is tossed hither and thither, faith seems to be swallowed up. But experience teaches us, that faith, while it fluctuates amidst these agitations, continues to rise again from time to time, so as not to be overwhelmed; and if at any time it is at the point of being stifled, it is nevertheless sheltered and cherished, for though the tempests may become never so violent, it shields itself from them by reflecting that God continues faithful, and never disappoints or forsakes his own children.

 

John Calvin, Psalms

 

His loneliness of soul, verse 18. Hengstenberg renders the last clause of this verse more literally—“The dark kingdom of the dead is instead of all my companions.” What unutterable gloom! completed by this last dark shade—all sympathy from every quarter totally withdrawn! Forlorn indeed! Sinking from gloom to gloom, from one deep to another, and every billow sweeping over him, and wrath, like a tremendous mountain, “leaning” or resting its weight on the crushed worm! Not even Psalm 22 is more awfully solemnising, there being in this deeply melancholy Psalm only one cheering glimpse through the intense gloom, namely, that of resurrection hoped for, but still at a distance. At such a price was salvation purchased by Him who is the resurrection and the life. He himself wrestled for life and resurrection in our name—and that price so paid is the reason why to us salvation is free. And so we hear in solemn joy the harp of Judah struck by Heman, to overawe our souls not with his own sorrows,* but with what Horsley calls “The lamentation of Messiah,” or yet more fully,

The sorrowful days and nights of the Man of Sorrows.

 

Andrew A. Bonar, Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1860), 264–265.