Matthew Poole's Commentary
To the chief Musician on Neginoth upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David. O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.Neginoth; of which See Poole "Psalm 4:1".
Upon Sheminith; or, upon the eighth. It is thought to be the shrillest or loftiest note, as alamoth is the lowest; of which see 1 Chronicles 15:20,21; and, as some add, Muth-labben, Psalm 9$, the mean. But all this is only conjecture; and the Jews themselves have no certain knowledge of their own ancient music, and of the signification of the terms belonging to it.
A Psalm of David: the occasion of the Psalm seems plainly to have been some grievous distress or disease of the body then upon him, accompanied also with great trouble of conscience for his sins, whereby he had brought it upon himself.
David, being very weak and feeble, presenteth his misery before God, Psalm 5:1-3; prayeth for his mercy and recovery, Psalm 5:4-7; and being assured of a gracious hearing, triumphs over all his enemies, Psalm 5:8-10.
Rebuke me not, i.e. do not chasten or correct me, as the next clause explains it, and as this word is frequently used, as Job 22:4 Psalm 50:21 Isaiah 37:4 Revelation 3:19.
In thine anger; with rigour or severity, as my sins deserve, but with gentleness and moderation, Jeremiah 10:24 46:28, or so as it may not be the effect of thy strict justice or anger, but of thy mercy and faithfulness.
Neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure; the same thing repeated, after the manner.
Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed.Have mercy upon me; I plead not my merit, but thy free mercy.
I am weak; or, I languish; my body pines away and my spirit fails through my excessive pains or troubles.
Heal me, i.e. the distempers of my soul and body, of both which this word is used, Psalm 41:4 107:18,20.
My bones are vexed; my torment is so deep and so general, that it reacheth and is very grievous even to my bones, though they are inward, and might seem to be out of the reach of it, and also strong and senseless, and therefore can best bear it. See the like expressions Job 4:14 33:19 Psalm 38:3 51:8.
My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?My soul is also sore vexed; partly by sympathy with my body; and partly with the burden of my sins, and the sense of thine anger, and my own danger and misery.
How long wilt thou suffer me to lie and languish in this condition? It is a figure called aposiopesis, very agreeable to men in pain or anguish, who use to cut their words short.
Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake.Return unto me, from whom thou hast withdrawn thyself, and thy smiling countenance, and thy helping hand.
Deliver my soul, i.e. save me or my life, as the soul oft signifies, as Genesis 9:5 12:5 Job 36:4 Psalm 33:19. David and other good men in those times were much afraid of death, partly because the manifestations of God’s grace to his people were then more dark and doubtful, and partly because thereby they were deprived of all opportunities of advancing God’s glory and kingdom in the world. Compare Isaiah 38:1-3.
For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?In death; amongst the dead; or in the grave, as it follows.
There is no remembrance of thee; to wit, by me David, consisting both of soul and body; and no such remembrance, to wit, in way of thankfulness and praise, as the next clause of the verse limits and explains it; which he might fear would be true, not only because he should not have occasion to praise God for this deliverance, but also because he was in grievous agonies of conscience, and under terrors of God’s wrath, and his eternal damnation; which being oft incident to the saints of God under the New Testament, it is not strange if it were so also under the Old Testament. Besides he speaks of the remembrance or celebration of God’s name and grace in the land of the living, to the enlargement and edification of God’s church, and the propagation of true religion among men; which is not done in the other life, and was justly prized at so high a rate by David and other holy men, to whom therefore it must needs be a great grief to be for ever deprived of such opportunities. For otherwise David very well knew, and firmly believed, that souls departed were not extinct, but did go to God, Ecclesiastes 12:7, and there remember, and adore, and enjoy God, though quite in another way than that of which he here speaks.
I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.All the night; he mentions this time, by way of aggravation of his misery, because that season, which is to others by God’s appointment a time of rest, was to him very sad and doleful, whether from his disease, which then came upon him more strongly, as it is usual; or from the opportunity which the solitude or silence of the night gave him to think of his own sins, or his enemies’ perfidiousness and malice, or God’s displeasure, or his future estate.
Make I my bed to swim, to wit, with tears. See the like hyperbole Jeremiah 9:1 Lamentations 3:48,49.
I water my couch; or, my bedstead.
Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.Consumed; or, grown dim or dull, through plenty of salt tears which I shed; or through the decay of my spirits.
Because of grief, i.e. my grief arising from mine enemies, as the next clause interprets it, and from the consideration of their multitude, and rage, and falseness.
Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.Depart from me; I advise you for your own sakes to cease from opposing or molesting me, or insulting over me, or approaching to me with design of deceiving and betraying me; for all your labour will be lost.
All ye workers of iniquity; all you wicked enemies of mine.
The Lord hath heard, i.e. he will hear, the past time being put for the future, as is usual in prophetical passages, such as this was; David having received by the Spirit of God particular assurance that God would hear and deliver him.
The voice of my weeping, i.e. of my fervent prayers joined with my tears.
The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer.The Lord hath heard, and therefore will hear, as it follows. He draws an argument from his former experience.
Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.Ashamed of their vain hopes and confidence of conquering and destroying me. Or, they shall be ashamed, because of their great and unexpected disappointment.
Let them return, to wit, from their wicked ways, from their hostile and malicious practices against me, and let them come and submit to me, from whom they have revolted. Or, let them turn back, as it is expressed, Psalm 56:9; let them be put to flight. Or, let them be converted, i.e. repent of their sins, and return to their obedience to me. Although it seems more probable, both from the foregoing and following words, that this turning or returning is rather penal than penitential. Or, they shall turn or return. Or this verb may be taken adverbially, and joined to the following verb, as it is frequently in other places, and both may be thus rendered, let them, or they shall, be again ashamed; clothed, as it were, with double shame. Suddenly; sooner than I could hope, or they did expect or believe.