David, suffering under some severe and dangerous malady, as may be conjectured, acknowledges that he is chastened by the Lord, and entreats him to turn away his anger from him. In order the more effectually to induce God to have mercy upon him, he bewails before him the severity of his afflictions in a variety of particulars. These we shall consider separately, and in order.
A Psalm of David to bring to remembrance.1
The title of this psalm refers to its subject. Some suppose that it is the beginning of a common song, because in other psalms the beginning of the song, to the tune of which they were set, is commonly prefixed: but such an interpretation is unnatural, and without foundation. Instead of this, I rather think that the title indicates that David composed this psalm as a memorial for himself, as well as others, lest he should too soon forget the chastisement by which God had afflicted him. He knew how easily and speedily the chastisements with which God visits us, and which ought to serve as a means of instruction to us all our life, pass away from the mind. He was also mindful of his own high calling; for, as he was appointed master and teacher over the whole Church, it was necessary that whatever he had himself learned in particular by divine teaching should be made known, and appropriated to the use of all, that all might profit thereby. Thus we are admonished that it is a very profitable exercise often to recall to remembrance the chastisements with which God has afflicted us for our sins.
1 This title occurs only here and in the 70th psalm. This psalm is the third of what are called the Penitential Psalms. The two before this are the 6th and the 32d; and the four which follow it are the 51st, the 102d, the 130th, and the 143d. It is a curious fact, that when Galileo was sentenced to be confined in the dungeons of the Inquisition for an indefinite period, for having maintained the Copernican system, he was enjoined to repeat as a penance these seven Penitential Psalms every week for three years; by which it was doubtless intended to extort a sort of confession from him of his guilt, and an acknowledgement of the justice of his sentence.