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Psalm 88

Prayer for Help in Despondency

A Song. A Psalm of the Korahites. To the leader: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.


O Lord, God of my salvation,

when, at night, I cry out in your presence,


let my prayer come before you;

incline your ear to my cry.



For my soul is full of troubles,

and my life draws near to Sheol.


I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;

I am like those who have no help,


like those forsaken among the dead,

like the slain that lie in the grave,

like those whom you remember no more,

for they are cut off from your hand.


You have put me in the depths of the Pit,

in the regions dark and deep.


Your wrath lies heavy upon me,

and you overwhelm me with all your waves.Selah



You have caused my companions to shun me;

you have made me a thing of horror to them.

I am shut in so that I cannot escape;


my eye grows dim through sorrow.

Every day I call on you, O Lord;

I spread out my hands to you.


Do you work wonders for the dead?

Do the shades rise up to praise you?Selah


Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,

or your faithfulness in Abaddon?


Are your wonders known in the darkness,

or your saving help in the land of forgetfulness?



But I, O Lord, cry out to you;

in the morning my prayer comes before you.


O Lord, why do you cast me off?

Why do you hide your face from me?


Wretched and close to death from my youth up,

I suffer your terrors; I am desperate.


Your wrath has swept over me;

your dread assaults destroy me.


They surround me like a flood all day long;

from all sides they close in on me.


You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me;

my companions are in darkness.

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Ps 88:1-18. Upon Mahalath—either an instrument, as a lute, to be used as an accompaniment (Leannoth, "for singing") or, as others think, an enigmatic title (see on Ps 5:1, Ps 22:1, and Ps 45:1, titles), denoting the subject—that is, "sickness or disease, for humbling," the idea of spiritual maladies being often represented by disease (compare Ps 6:5, 6; 22:14, 15, &c.). On the other terms, see on Ps 42:1 and Ps 32:1. Heman and Ethan (see on Ps 89:1, title) were David's singers (1Ch 6:18, 33; 15:17), of the family of Kohath. If the persons alluded to (1Ki 4:31; 1Ch 2:6), they were probably adopted into the tribe of Judah. Though called a song, which usually implies joy (Ps 83:1), both the style and matter of the Psalm are very despondent; yet the appeals to God evince faith, and we may suppose that the word "song" might be extended to such compositions.

1, 2. Compare on the terms used, Ps 22:2; 31:2.

3. grave—literally, "hell" (Ps 16:10), death in wide sense.

4. go … pit—of destruction (Ps 28:1).

as a man—literally, "a stout man," whose strength is utterly gone.

5. Free … dead—Cut off from God's care, as are the slain, who, falling under His wrath, are left, no longer sustained by His hand.

6. Similar figures for distress in Ps 63:9; 69:3.

7. Compare Ps 38:2, on first, and Ps 42:7, on last clause.

8. Both cut off from sympathy and made hateful to friends (Ps 31:11).

9. Mine eye mourneth—literally, "decays," or fails, denoting exhaustion (Ps 6:7; 31:9).

I … called—(Ps 86:5, 7).

stretched out—for help (Ps 44:20).

10. shall the dead—the remains of ghosts.

arise—literally, "rise up," that is, as dead persons.

11, 12. amplify the foregoing, the whole purport (as Ps 6:5) being to contrast death and life as seasons for praising God.

13. prevent—meet—that is, he will diligently come before God for help (Ps 18:41).

14. On the terms (Ps 27:9; 74:1; 77:7).

15. from … youth up—all my life.

16, 17. the extremes of anguish and despair are depicted.

18. into darkness—Better omit "into"—"mine acquaintances (are) darkness," the gloom of death, &c. (Job 17:13, 14).