Psalm 88
Matthew Poole's Commentary
A Song or Psalm for the sons of Korah, to the chief Musician upon Mahalath Leannoth, Maschil of Heman the Ezrahite. O LORD God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee:

This Psalm was composed upon a particular occasion, to wit, Heman’s deep distress and dejection of mind almost to despair. But though this was the occasion of it, it is of more general use, for the instruction and consolation of all good men when they come into such despondencies, and therefore was by the direction of God’s Spirit made public, and committed to the sons of Korah.

Mahalath seems to be the name of the tune or instrument, as Psalm 53.

Leannoth may be either the latter part of the proper name of the tune or instrument; or an appellative name, and so divers take it, and render it, to sing, or to be sung, to wit, alternately or by turns.

Heman; probably the same person who was famous in David’s time, both for his skill in music, and for general wisdom; of whom see 1 Kings 4:31 1 Chronicles 6:33.

The Ezrahite; as Ethan also is called, 1 Kings 4:31.

The psalmist declares his former practice of prayer to God Psalm 88:1; beggeth present audience, Psalm 88:2; acquainteth the Lord with his misery and frailty, Psalm 88:3,4, which he suffereth by God’s wrath, and his friends forsaking him, Psalm 88:5-8. His mourning and expostulation, Psalm 88:9-18.

Who hast so often saved me from former distresses, and, I hope, wilt do so at this time.

Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry;
No text from Poole on this verse.

For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave.
My soul, properly so called; for that he was under great troubles of mind from a sense of God’s wrath and departure from him, is evident from Psalm 88:14-16.

I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength:
I am given up by my friends and acquaintance for a lost man.

Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand.
Free among the dead; well nigh discharged from the warfare of the present life, and entered es a member into the society of the dead; as Israelitish servants, when they were made flee, were thereby made denizens of the commonwealth of Israel. I expect no other freedom from my miseries but that which death gives, as Job 3:17,18.

Whom thou rememberest no more; whom thou seemest wholly to neglect and to bury in oblivion; for he speaks of these matters not as they are in truth, for he knew very well that forgetfulness was not incident to God, and that God did remember all the dead, and would call them to an account, but only as to sense and appearance, and the opinion of the world, and the state and things of this life.

From thy hand; from the care and conduct of thy providence, which is to be understood as the former clause. Or, by thy hand. But our translation seems better to agree both with the foregoing branch, which it explains and improves, and with the order of the words; for it seems improper, after he had represented the persons as dead, and in their graves, to add that they

are cut off, to wit, by death.

Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.
Either, first, in the grave; the same thing being expressed in divers words; or, secondly, in hopeless and remediless calamities.

Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah.
Thy wrath; either, first, the sense of thy wrath; or rather, secondly, the effects of it; as the next clause explains this.

With all thy waves; with thy judgments, breaking in furiously upon me like the waves of the sea.

Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me; thou hast made me an abomination unto them: I am shut up, and I cannot come forth.
I am so sad a spectacle of thy vengeance that my friends avoid and detest me, lest by conversing with me they should either be filled with terrors, which men naturally abhor, or be made partakers of my guilt or plagues.

I am shut up; either in the pit or deep, mentioned Psalm 88:6, or in my own house or chamber, being afraid or ashamed to go abroad.

Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: LORD, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee.
Understand, without effect; for thou dost not hear nor answer me.

Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah.
Wilt thou show wonders to the dead, to wit, in raising them to live again in this world? as it is in the next clause. I know that thou wilt not. And therefore now hear and help me, or it will be too late.

Praise thee, to wit, amongst mortal men in this world.

Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction?
I am not without hopes that thou hast a true kindness for me, and wilt faithfully perform thy gracious promises made to me, and to all that love thee and call upon thee in truth. But then this must be done speedily, or I shall be utterly incapable of such a mercy.

Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
In the dark; in the grave, which is called the land of darkness, Job 10:21,22.

In the land of forgetfulness; in the grave; so called, either, first, Actively, because there men forget and neglect all the concerns of this life, being indeed but dead carcasses without any sense or remembrance. Or rather, secondly, Passively, because there men are forgotten not only by men, as is noted, Job 24:20 Psalm 31:12, but by God himself, as he complained, Psalm 88:5.

But unto thee have I cried, O LORD; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee.
i.e. Early, come to thee, before the ordinary time of morning prayer, or before the dawning of the day, or the rising of the sun. The sense is, Though I have hitherto got no answer to my prayers, yet I will not give over praying nor hoping for an answer.

LORD, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me?
This proceeding seems not to agree with the benignity of thy nature, nor with the manner of thy dealing with thy people.

I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted.
From my youth up; my whole life hath been filled with a succession of deadly calamities. O Lord, take some pity upon me, and let me have a little breathing space before I die.

I suffer thy terrors upon my mind and conscience, which do accompany and aggravate my outward miseries.

Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off.
No text from Poole on this verse.

They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together.
As the waters of the sea encompass him which is in the midst and bottom of it.

Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.
See Poole "Psalm 88:8".

Matthew Poole's Commentary

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