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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.

5 My wounds 5050     “The proper meaning of חכר is not a wound, but a bruise or wale made by a severe blow. My wales through my severe chastisement are become putrid and running sores.” — Fry have become putrid In this verse, he pleads the long continuance of his disease as an argument for obtaining some alleviation. When the Lord declares, concerning his Church,

“that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned,
for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins,”
(Isaiah 40:2)

his meaning is, that when he has sufficiently chastised his people, he is quickly pacified towards them; nay, more, that if he continue to manifest his displeasure for too long a time, he becomes through his mercy, as it were, weary of it, so that he hastens to give deliverance, as he says in another place,

“For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off. Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.”— (Isaiah 48:9, 10)

The object, therefore, which David has in view, in complaining of the long continuance of his misery is, that when he had endured the punishment which he had merited, he might at length obtain deliverance. It was certainly no slight trial to this servant of God to be thus kept in continual languishing, and, as it were, to putrify and be dissolved into corruption in his miseries. In this his constancy is the more to be admired, for it neither broke down from the long period of delay, nor failed under the immense load of suffering. By using the term foolishness instead of sin, he does not seek in this way to extenuate his faults, as hypocrites do when they are unable to escape the charge of guilt; for in order to excuse themselves in part, they allege the false pretense of ignorance, pleading, and wishing it to be believed, that they erred through imprudence and inadvertence. But, according to a common mode of expression in the Hebrew language, by the use of the term foolishness, he acknowledges that he had been out of his right mind, when he obeyed the lusts of the flesh in opposition to God. The Spirit, by employing this term in so many places to designate crimes the most atrocious, does not certainly mean to extenuate the criminality of men, as if they were guilty merely of some slight offenses, but rather charges them with maniacal fury, because, blinded by unhallowed desires, they wilfully fly in the face of their Maker. Accordingly, sin is always conjoined with folly or, madness. It is in this sense that David speaks of his own foolishness; as if he had said, that he was void of reason and transported with madness, like the infatuated rage of wild beasts, when he neglected God and followed his own lusts.

6 I am bent This description clearly shows that this holy man was oppressed with extreme grief, so much so, that it is marvellous how, under such a vast accumulation of miseries, his faith was sufficiently strong to bear up his mind. When he says bowed down, he seems tacitly to contrast his humility and dejection with the pride and stubbornness of many, who refuse to be humbled by the many chastisements with which God afflicts them, but rather harden themselves, daring to resist and oppose him. They must, no doubt, of necessity, feel the pain of their afflictions, but they fall into such a state of insensibility, that they are not affected by it. David then, from this circumstance, draws an argument to induce his heavenly Judge to have compassion on him, showing that he was not one of those who obstinately rebel against him, and refuse to bow in humble submission, even while the hand of God is upon them; but that he is abased and humbled, even as the Apostle Peter exhorts all the godly to

“humble themselves under the mighty hand of God.”
(1 Peter 5:6)

Let us therefore learn, that there is no other way by which we can obtain consolation under our afflictions, than by laying aside all stubbornness and pride, and humbly submitting to the chastisement of God. The word כודר, koder, which I have translated black, is rendered by others clad in black, 5353     “קדר is literally ‘dressed in mourning;’ hence it may, by an easy figure, denote the melancholy looks of a mourner.” — Horsley. This is the sense put upon the expression by the Septuagint, “Ολην τὴν ἡμερον σχυθρωπάζ ων ἐπορευόμης;” — “I went with a mourning countenance all the day." and explained as referring to the outward apparel, the black color of which has always been a token of grief. But the opinion of those who understand it of the blackness of the skin is more correct; for we know that grief renders men’s countenances lean, wan, and black. David, therefore, by this token of grief, describes the greatness of his affliction, because the natural color of his face had faded, and he was like a corpse, already withered and shrunk.

In the next verse, the word כסלים, kesalaim, which I have rendered reins, is by some translated the flanks. But the more generally received opinion is, that it denotes the part under the reins, which extends towards the haunch, or the space between the thighs and flanks, where it is supposed there had been a sore. Commentators also differ in their opinion respecting the word נקלה, nikleh, which I have rendered burning In my translation I have followed those who adhere to the original meaning of the word; for the verb קלה, kalah, signifies to burn, or to consume with fire. Others, indeed, explain it not improperly in the sense of filthiness and corruption. I am, however, not inclined to limit it to a sore. In my opinion, the sense simply is, that his reins, or flanks, or thighs, were filled with an inflammatory disease, or at least were covered over with putrid sores; for these parts of the body are most subject to inflammation, and most liable to contract putrid humours. Some expound it allegorically, as meaning, that David seemed loathsome in his own eyes, when he thought of his reproach; but this appears too forced. When he adds that he was weakened and sore broken, he still farther confirms what he had said in the preceding verses: for by these various terms he wished to express the intolerable vehemence of his grief. Now, as a man, who is distinguished by courage, does not cry out and complain, and as we know that David did not shrink in bearing his afflictions, we may gather from this, that his sufferings were severe and painful in the extreme, inasmuch as he not only wept bitterly, but was also forced to cry out and complain. The noun נהמת, nahamath, which I have rendered roaring, may be derived from another verb than that which David has here used; but the meaning is obvious, namely, that the incontrollable emotions of his heart forced him to cry out.

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