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Psalm 38

A Penitent Sufferer’s Plea for Healing

A Psalm of David, for the memorial offering.


O L ord, do not rebuke me in your anger,

or discipline me in your wrath.


For your arrows have sunk into me,

and your hand has come down on me.



There is no soundness in my flesh

because of your indignation;

there is no health in my bones

because of my sin.


For my iniquities have gone over my head;

they weigh like a burden too heavy for me.



My wounds grow foul and fester

because of my foolishness;


I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;

all day long I go around mourning.


For my loins are filled with burning,

and there is no soundness in my flesh.


I am utterly spent and crushed;

I groan because of the tumult of my heart.



O Lord, all my longing is known to you;

my sighing is not hidden from you.


My heart throbs, my strength fails me;

as for the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.


My friends and companions stand aloof from my affliction,

and my neighbors stand far off.



Those who seek my life lay their snares;

those who seek to hurt me speak of ruin,

and meditate treachery all day long.



But I am like the deaf, I do not hear;

like the mute, who cannot speak.


Truly, I am like one who does not hear,

and in whose mouth is no retort.



But it is for you, O L ord, that I wait;

it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.


For I pray, “Only do not let them rejoice over me,

those who boast against me when my foot slips.”



For I am ready to fall,

and my pain is ever with me.


I confess my iniquity;

I am sorry for my sin.


Those who are my foes without cause are mighty,

and many are those who hate me wrongfully.


Those who render me evil for good

are my adversaries because I follow after good.



Do not forsake me, O L ord;

O my God, do not be far from me;


make haste to help me,

O Lord, my salvation.

17 Surely I am ready to halt This verse has led expositors to suppose that David was afflicted with some sore, from which he was afraid of having brought upon him the infirmity of halting all his days; but I have already shown, in Psalm 35:15, that this supposition is very improbable. We have certainly no greater reason for supposing that David was lame than that Jeremiah was so, when he said,

“All my familiars watched for my halting.” —
(Jeremiah 20:10,)

I therefore think that David here employs a metaphorical mode of expression, and that his meaning is, that if God did not soon come to his aid, there was no hope of his ever being restored to his former condition; and that he was so greatly afflicted, that he would walk as if he had been maimed or lame all the days of his life. 5757     “Et que son affliction est telle, qu’il ne sera jour de sa vie qu’il ne s’en sente.” — Fr. “And that his affliction was such, that there would not be a day of his life but he would feel it.” It next follows by way of exposition, that his sorrow was continually before him. The sense is, that he was so grievously afflicted, that he could not forget it for a single moment, so as to obtain some relaxation. In both the clauses of the verse, David confesses that his disease is incurable, unless he obtain some remedy from God, and that he cannot endure it, unless he be raised up and sustained by the hand of God himself. This is the reason why he directs all his thoughts and his requests to God alone; for as soon as he shall turn aside from him, he sees nothing but immediate ruin.

18 and 19 Surely I declare my iniquity. By comparison, he amplifies what he had just said concerning the pride and the reproachful conduct of his enemies; for he says, that whilst he is lying in a filthy and wretched condition, like a wicked man, and one abandoned by God, they fly about in mirth and gladness, nay, they carry their heads high, because they are rich and powerful. But first, it is proper to notice in what sense it is that he declares his sin. Those, in my judgment, are mistaken, who understand this passage simply in the sense of a confession of his guilt before God, that he might obtain forgiveness. According to their interpretation, the Psalmist is supposed to repeat here what we have seen he said

“I acknowledged my sin unto thee,
and mine iniquity have I not hid.”— (Psalm 32:5)

But in this place he is not speaking so much of his repentance, as he is bewailing his sad and miserable condition; and, therefore, sin and iniquity are to be understood of the afflictions and chastisements which are the tokens of God’s wrath; as if he had said, that the hand of God was against him, and lying so heavily upon him, that from the very sight of the misery to which he was reduced, the world in general might regard him as a condemned and reprobate man. In order to render the meaning more obvious, the 18th and 19th verses must be read together, thus: I declare my iniquity, and my enemies are living; I am dismayed because of my sin, but they are become strong. I do not, however, deny that he regards the miseries to which he was subjected as proceeding from his sins. In this respect, the godly differ from the wicked, that, being admonished of their transgression by adversity, they humbly sist themselves before the judgment-seat of God. Accordingly, judging of the cause from the effects, he takes into account these two things: First, That thus overwhelmed and afflicted, he is lying under a heavy load of miseries; and, secondly, That all these evils are justly inflicted as chastisements for sin.

This living, 5858     Ainsworth reads, “are alive, or living;” “that is,” says he, “lively, lusty, cheerful, hale, and sound, or rich, as the word seemeth to mean in Ecclesiastes 6:8.” Dr Lowth, instead of חיים, chayim, living, proposes to read here חאנם, chinam, without causewithout cause have strengthened themselves. “I think,” says he, “חינם, here for חיים, is a remarkable instance of a reading merely conjectural, unsupported by any authority but that of the context, of the truth of which, no possible doubt can be made. Hare and Houbigant, and I suppose every other competent reader, has hit upon it. You see the two hemistichs are parallel and synonymous, word answering to word.” — Dr Lowth in Mr Merricks Note on this place. — Street and Dr Adam Clarke agree in this alteration. which he attributes to his enemies, implies as much as to enjoy continued and abundant prosperity in all things; and therefore he adds, that they are become strong and increase in power I interpret the word רבב, rabbab, in this place, increase in power, because he would speak improperly were he to be understood as saying, that they were multiplied. He does not here complain that they increased in number, but rather exalts their greatness, because the more they acquired of riches, they acquired so much the greater audacity in oppressing the good and the simple. He tells us that he is assailed by them wrongfully, and without cause, that he may induce God to be the more favorable and propitious to him. And surely, if we would have the favor of God for our defense, we must always take care not to injure any man, and to do nothing to provoke the hatred of any against us.

This is more fully confirmed in the following verse, in which he declares that they requited him evil for the good which he had done them. More than this, however, is implied in the language of David. It implies that he not only abstained from all hurtful dealing towards his enemies, but that he had done them all the good which was in his power; and on this account the rage of the wicked is the less excusable, which not only moves them to do harm to others without cause, but which likewise cannot be appeased by any marks of kindness exercised towards them. It is indeed true, that there is nothing which wounds those of an ingenuous disposition of mind more than when wicked and ungodly men recompense them in a manner so dishonorable and unjust; but when they reflect upon this consolatory consideration, that God is no less offended with such ingratitude than those to whom the injury is done, they have no reason to be troubled beyond measure. To mitigate their sorrow, let this doctrine be the subject of their frequent meditation, That whenever the wicked, to whom we have endeavored to do good, shall requite us evil for good, God will certainly be their judge. In the last place, it is added, as the highest degree of their desperate wickedness, that they hated David because he studied to practice uprightness: They are opposed to me, because I follow that which is good It must be admitted, that those are froward and wicked in the extreme, nay, even of a devilish disposition, who hold uprightness in such abhorrence that they deliberately make war upon those who follow after it. It is, indeed, a very sore temptation, that the people of God, the more sincerely they endeavor to serve him, should procure to themselves so much the more trouble and sorrow; but this consideration ought to prove a sufficient ground of consolation to them, that they are not only supported by the testimony of a good conscience, but that they also know that God is ever ready, and that, too, for this very reason, to manifest his mercy towards them. On the ground of this assurance, they dare to appear in the presence of God, and entreat him, as it is his cause as well as theirs, that he would maintain and defend it. There can be no doubt that David, by his own example, has prescribed this as a common rule to all the faithful, rather to incur the hatred and ill-will of the world, than in the least degree to swerve from the path of duty, and without any hesitation to regard those as their enemies whom they know to be opposed to that which is just and righteous.

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