O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger - As if God was rebuking him by the affliction which he was bringing upon him. This is the point on which the attention of the psalmist is now fixed. He had been apparently contemplating his afflictions, and inquiring into their cause, and he was led to the conclusion that it might be for his sins, and that his trials were to be interpreted as proof that God was angry with him. He speaks, therefore, of God as visiting him in his "anger," and in his "hot displeasure," and pleads with him that he would "not" thus rebuke and chasten him. The word "rebuke" here, like the word rendered "chasten," properly refers to the reproof of an offender "by words," but may also be used to denote the reproof which God administers by his providential dealings when he brings judgment upon anyone for his sins. This is the meaning here. The psalmist did not apprehend that God would openly "reprove" him for his sins; but he regarded his dealings with him as such a reproof, and he pleads that the tokens of the reproof might be taken away. The whole language is that which indicates a connection between suffering and sin; the feeling which we have when we are afflicted that it must be on account of our sins.
Neither chasten me - A word denoting substantially the same thing; used here in the sense of "punishing."
In thy hot displeasure - literally, "in thy heat." We speak of anger or wrath as "burning," or "consuming." Compare Genesis 39:19; Numbers 11:33; Deuteronomy 11:17; Psalm 106:40; Job 19:11; Job 32:2-3; Psalm 2:12.
Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed.
Have mercy upon me, O Lord - That is, be gracious to me; or, show me compassion. This language may be used either in view of sin, of suffering, or of danger. It is a cry to God to interpose, and remove some present source of trouble, and may be employed by one who feels that he is a sinner, or by one on a bed of pain, or by one surrounded by enemies, or by one at the point of death, or by one who is looking out with apprehension upon the eternal world. It is commonly, indeed (compare Psalm 51:1), a cry to God in view of sin, pleading for pardon and salvation; but here it is a cry in view of trouble and danger, outward sorrow and mental anguish, that had overcome the strength of the sufferer and laid him on a bed of languishing. See introduction to the psalm, Section 3.
For I am weak - The original word here, אמלל 'ûmlal, means properly to languish or droop, as plants do that are blighted, Isaiah 24:7, or as fields do in a drought, Isaiah 16:8, and is here applied to a sick person whose strength is withered and gone. The condition of such an one is beautifully compared with a plant that withers for lack of moisture; and the word is used in this sense here, as referring to the psalmist himself when sick, as the result of his outward and mental sorrows. Such an effect has not been uncommon in the world. There have been numberless cases where sorrow has prostrated the strength - as a plant withers - and has brought on languishing sickness.
O Lord, heal me - This is language which would be properly applied to a case of sickness, and therefore, it is most natural to interpret it in this sense in this place. Compare Isaiah 19:22; Isaiah 30:26; Job 5:18; Genesis 20:17; Psalm 60:2; 2 Chronicles 16:12; Deuteronomy 28:27.
For my bones are vexed - The word "vexed" we now commonly apply to mental trouble, and especially the lighter sort of mental trouble - to irritate, to make angry by little provocations, to harass. It is used here, however, as is common in the Scriptures, in reference to torment or to anguish. The bones are the strength and framework of the body, and the psalmist means here to say that the very source of his strength was gone; that that which supported him was prostrated; that his disease and sorrow had penetrated the most firm parts of his body. Language is often used in the Scriptures, also, as if the "bones" actually suffered pain, though it is now known that the bones, as such, are incapable of pain. And in the same manner, also, language is often used, though that use of the word is not found in the Scriptures, as if the "marrow" of the bones were especially sensitive, like a nerve, in accordance with what is the common and popular belief, though it is now known that the marrow of the bones is entirely insensible to suffering. The design of the psalmist here is to say that he was crushed and afflicted in every part of his frame.
My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?
My soul is also sore vexed - The word "soul" here is used in the sense in which it is commonly with us, as denoting the mind. The idea is, that his sorrows were not merely those of the bodily frame. They had a deeper seat than even the bones. His mind, his soul, was full of anguish also, in view of the circumstances which surrounded him, and which had brought on these bodily afflictions.
But thou, O Lord - This is a broken sentence, as if he had commenced an address to God, but did not complete it. It is as if he had said, "Here I suffer and languish; my sorrows are deep and unmitigated; as for thee, O Lord" - as if he were about to say that he had hoped God would interpose; or, that his dealings were mysterious; or, that they seemed strange or severe; but he ends the sentence by no language of complaint or complaining, but by simply asking "how long" these sorrows were to continue.
How long? - That is, how long wilt thou leave me thus to suffer? How long shall my unmitigated anguish continue? How long will it be ere thou wilt interpose to relieve me? The language implies that in his apprehension it was already a long time - as time usually seems long to a sufferer (compare Job 7:2-4), and that he was constantly looking out for God to interpose and help him. This is language such as all persons may be inclined to use on beds of pain and languishing. It seems indeed long to them now; it will, however, seem short when they look back upon it from the glories of the heavenly world. Compare 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.
Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake.
Return, O Lord, deliver my soul - As if he had departed from him, and had left him to die. The word "soul" in this place is used, as it often is, in the sense of "life," for in the next verse he speaks of the grave to which he evidently felt he was rapidly descending.
O save me - Save my life; save me from going down to the grave. Deliver me from these troubles and dangers.
For thy mercies' sake -
(a) As an act of mere mercy, for he felt that he had no claim, and could not urge it as a matter of right and justice; and
(b) in order that God's mercy might be manifest, or because he was a merciful Being, and might, therefore, be appealed to on that ground.
These are proper grounds, now, on which to make an appeal to God for his interposition in our behalf; and, indeed, these are the only grounds on which we can plead with him to save us.
For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
For in death - In the state of the dead; in the grave.
There is no remembrance of thee - They who are dead do not remember thee or think of thee. The "ground" of this appeal is, that it was regarded by the psalmist as a "desirable" thing to remember God and to praise him, and that this could not be done by one who was dead. He prayed, therefore, that God would spare his life, and restore him to health, that he might praise him in the land of the living. A sentiment similar to this occurs in Psalm 30:9, "What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?" So also Psalm 88:11, "Shall thy loving-kindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction?" So also in Isaiah 38:18, in the language of Hezekiah, "The grave cannot praise thee; death cannot celebrate thee; they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth." See the notes at that passage. A similar sentiment also is found in Job 10:21-22. See the notes at that passage. In regard to the meaning of this it may be remarked
(a) that it is to be admitted that there was among the ancient saints much less light on the subject of the future state than there is with us, and that they often, in giving utterance to their feelings, seemed to speak as if all were dark beyond the grave.
(b) But, though they thus spoke in their sorrow and in their despondency, they also did, on other occasions, express their belief in a future state, and their expectation of happiness in a coming world (compare, for example, Psalm 16:10-11; Psalm 17:15).
(c) Does not their language in times of despondency and sickness express the feelings which "we" often have now, even with all the light which we possess, and all the hopes which we cherish? Are there not times in the lives of the pious, even though they have a strong prevailing hope of heaven, when the thoughts are fixed on the grave as a dark, gloomy, repulsive prison, and "so" fixed on it as to lose sight of the world beyond? And in such moments does not "life" seem as precious to us, and as desirable, as it did to David, to Hezekiah, or to Job?
In the grave - Hebrew, בשׁאול bishe'ôl, "in Sheol." For the meaning of the word, see Isaiah 5:14, note; Isaiah 14:9, note; Job 7:9, note. Its meaning here does not differ materially from the word "grave."
Who shall give thee thanks? - Who shall "praise" thee? The idea is that "none" would then praise God. It was the land of "silence." See Isaiah 38:18-19. This language implies that David "desired" to praise God, but that he could not hope to do it in the grave.
I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.
I am weary with my groaning - I am exhausted or worn out with it. That is, his sorrows were so deep, and his groaning was so constant, that his strength failed. He became "faint" under the weight of his sorrows. All persons in trouble have experienced this effect - the sense of weariness or exhaustion from sorrow.
All the night make I my bed to swim - That is, he wept so much that his bed seemed to be immersed in tears. This is, of course, hyperbolical language, expressing in a strong and emphatic manner the depth of his sorrows.
I water my couch with my tears - The word here rendered "water" means to melt, to flow down; then, in the Hiphil, to cause to flow, to dissolve. The sense here is, that he caused his couch to "flow" or "overflow" with his tears. We would say, he "flooded" his bed with tears. This verse discloses the true source of the trials referred to in the psalm. It was some deep mental anguish - some source of grief - that exhausted his strength, and that laid him on a bed of languishing. No circumstances in the life of David better accord with this than the troubles which existed on account of the ungrateful and rebellious conduct of Absalom, and it is most natural to refer it to this. Many a parent since the time of David has experienced "all," both mental and bodily, which is here described as a consequence of the ingratitude and evil conduct of his children. The tragedy of "Lear" turns entirely on this.
Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.
Mine eye is consumed - The word here rendered "consumed" - עשׁשׁ ‛âshêsh - means properly to fall in, to fall away, and is applied here to the "eye" as pining or wasting away from care, anxiety, and sorrow. Tears were poured forth from the eye, and it seemed to be exhausting itself in this manner. The meaning is, that it had grown "dim," or that its sight began to fail, like that of an old man, on account of his troubles. Many have understood the word here rendered "eye" as referring to the "countenance;" but it is doubtful whether the word ever has this signification; and at any rate the common signification, referring it to the "eye," best suits this connection.
It waxeth old - It seems to grow old; it experiences the effects commonly produced by age in blunting the power of vision. This is not an uncommon effect of grief and sadness. Even while I am writing this I am called in my pastoral visitations to attend on a young lady lying on a bed of languishing, and probably of death, one of whose symptoms is a quite diminished, and indeed almost total loss of vision, as the effect of trouble and disease.
Because of all mine enemies - From the trouble which they have brought upon me. The reference here, according to the interpretation proposed of the psalm, is to Absalom and those who were associated with him. Their conduct had been such as to bring upon David this overwhelming tide of sorrows.
Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.
Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity - Referring, by the "workers of iniquity," to his enemies, as if they now surrounded him, and calling on them "now" to leave him, since God had heard his prayer, and they could not be successful in their purposes. This is an indirect but most emphatic way of saying that God had heard his prayer; and the sentiment in this verse is strongly in contrast with the desponding state of feeling - the deep and dreadful sorrow - indicated in the previous verses. Light broke in suddenly upon him; his prayer had come up before God, and, in some way, he was assured that it would be answered. Already he sees his enemies scattered, and his own cause triumphant; and in this exulting feeling he addresses his foes, and commands them to leave him. This is, therefore, a remarkable and striking proof that prayer may be heard, even while we are speaking to God (compare Isaiah 65:24); that the assurance may be conveyed suddenly to the mind that God will hear and answer the prayer which is addressed to him; and also a beautiful illustration of the effect of this on a mind overwhelmed with trouble and sorrow, in giving it calmness and peace.
For the Lord hath heard - That is, my prayer has ascended before him, and I am certain that he regards it favorably, and will answer it. "In what way" he had this assurance he does not inform us. As he was an inspired man, we may suppose that the assurance was given to him directly by the Holy Spirit. "We" are not to expect the "same kind" of assurance that our prayers are heard; we are to look for no revelation to that effect; but there may be "as real" an intimation to the mind that our prayers are heard - as real "evidence" - as in this case. There may be a firm confidence of the mind that God is a hearer of prayer now coming to the soul with the freshness of a new conviction of that truth; and there may be, in trouble and sorrow, a sweet calmness and peace breathed through the soul - an assurance that all will be right and well, as if the prayer were heard, and such as there would be if we were assured by direct revelation that it is heard. The Spirit of God can produce this in our case as really as he did in the case of David.
The voice of my weeping - The voice of prayer that accompanied my weeping, or the voice of the weeping itself - the cry of anguish and distress which was in itself of the nature of prayer.
The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer.
The Lord hath heard my supplication - Repeating the sentiment in the previous verse, to express his assurance and his joy. Nothing is more natural in such circumstances than to dwell on the joyous thought, and to repeat it to ourselves, that it may make its full impression.
The Lord will receive my prayer - As he has done it, so he will still do it. This allays all fears of the future, and makes the mind calm. The state of mind here is this: "The Lord has heard my prayer; I am assured that he will do it hereafter; I have, therefore, nothing to fear."
Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.
Let all mine enemies be ashamed - Be so brought to see their folly that they shall be ashamed of their conduct. The wish is that they might be brought to see their own guilt - a wish certainly which it is right to cherish in regard to all evil-doers.
And sore vexed - Compare the notes at Psalm 5:10. The same Hebrew word is used here which occurs in Psalm 6:2-3, and rendered "vexed." It is a word which denotes trouble, trembling, consternation; and the meaning here is, that the psalmist prayed that they might be confounded or disconcerted in their plans - a prayer which is certainly proper in regard to all the purposes of the wicked. No one should desire that the purposes of the wicked should prosper; and not to desire this is to desire that they may be foiled and overcome in their schemes. This must be the wish of every good man.
Let them return - Turn back, or be turned back; that is, let them be repulsed, and compelled to turn back from their present object.
And be ashamed suddenly - Hebrew, "In a moment;" instantaneously. He desired that there might be no delay, but that their defeat might be accomplished at once. As it was right to pray that this might occur, so it was right to pray that it might occur without delay, or as speedily as possible. The sooner the plans of sinners are confounded, the better.