David, being afflicted by the hand of God, acknowledges that he had provoked the Divine wrath by his sins, and, therefore, in order to obtain relief, he prays for forgiveness. At the same time, he regrets, that by being taken out of the world, he would be deprived of an opportunity of praising God. Then, having obtained confidence, he celebrates the grace of God, and directs his discourse to his enemies, who triumphed over his calamities.

To the chief musician on Neginoth, upon the eighth. A song of David.

The name of Song shows that David composed this psalm, in which he describes the passionate workings of his grief in the time of his troubles after he had obtained deliverance from the evils which he deplores. What the kind of chastisement was of which he speaks is uncertain. Those who restrict it to bodily disease do not adduce in support of their opinion any argument of sufficient weight. They insist on the word lma, amal, which occurs in verse third, where he says, "I am weak," which indeed signifies to be sick; but it is more probable that it is here used metaphorically. They allege that Hezekiah, after his recovery from sickness, sung in the same strains as are here recorded, concerning death. But in <19B601>Psalm 116, where no mention is made of bodily disease, the same complaint is uttered by the Psalmist in the name of the whole Church. We can, indeed, gather from these words that the life of David was in the utmost danger, but it may have been some other kind of affliction than bodily sickness under which he labored. We may, therefore, adopt this as the more certain interpretation, that he had been stricken by some severe calamity, or that some punishment had been inflicted upon him, which presented to his view on every side only the shadow of death. It ought also to be considered, that this psalm was not composed at the very time when he presented to God the prayers recorded in it; but that the prayers which he had meditated and uttered in the midst of his dangers and sadness were, after he had obtained respite, committed to writing. This explains why he joins the sorrow with which he certainly had struggled for a time with the joy which he afterwards experienced. With respect to the word eighth, as we have before said that twnygn, Neginoth, signifies a musical instrument, I do not know whether it would be correct to say, that it was a harp of eight strings. I am rather inclined to the opinion that it refers to the tune, and points out the particular kind of music to which the psalm was to be sung.1 However, in a matter so obscure and of so little importance I leave every one at liberty to form his own conjecture.

1 Sheminith, or the eighth, "is thought to be the shrillest or loftiest note, as Alomoth is the lowest; of which see 1 Chronicles 15:20, 21. But all this is only conjecture; and the Jews themselves have no certain knowledge of their ancient music, and of the signification of the terms belonging to it." -- Poole's Annotations.