Psalm 32:3
When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.
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(3) When I kept.—He describes his state of mind before he could bring himself to confess his sin (the rendering of the particle ki by when, comp. Hosea 11:1, is quite correct). Like that knight of story, in whom

“His mood was often like a fiend, and rose

And drove him into wastes and solitudes

For agony, who was yet a living soul,”

this man could not live sleek and smiling in his sin, but was so tortured by “remorseful pain” that his body bore the marks of his mental anguish, which, no doubt, “had marr’d his face, and marked it ere his time.”

My bones waxed old.—For this expression comp. Psalm 6:2.

Psalm 32:3-5. When I kept silence — Namely, from a full and open confession of my sins, and from pouring out my soul to God in serious and fervent prayers for pardon and peace. My bones waxed old — My spirits failed, and the strength of my body decayed; through my roaring all the day long — Because of the continual horrors of my conscience, and sense of God’s wrath, wherewith I was, as yet, rather oppressed and overwhelmed than brought to a thorough repentance. For thy hand was heavy upon me — Thy afflicting hand, bringing my sins to remembrance, and filling me with thy terrors for them. My moisture is turned, &c. — My very radical moisture is, in a manner, dried up and wasted through excessive fears and sorrows. I said, I will confess my transgressions, &c. — At last I took up a full resolution that I would no longer vainly seek to hide my sins from the all-seeing eye of God, but that I would openly and candidly confess and bewail all my sins, with all their aggravations, and humbly implore the pardon of them. Observe, reader, this is the true and only way to find peace of conscience. Those that would have the comfort of the pardon of their sins must, like David, take shame to themselves by a penitent confession of them. And we must be particular in our confessions, Thus and thus have I done; and, in so doing, I have done very wickedly. And we must confess the justice of the punishment, or correction, we have been under for sin, saying, The Lord is just in all that he hath brought upon us, and we deserve much severer chastisement. I am no more worthy to be called thy son. We must confess our sins with shame and holy blushing, with fear and holy trembling. And if we bring forth fruit worthy of this repentance, we shall surely, like David, obtain forgiveness. And thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin — That is, the guilt of my sin, or my exceeding sinful sin; two words, signifying the same thing, (iniquity and sin,) being here put together by way of aggravation, according to the manner of the Hebrews. Observe again, reader: David speaks with confidence that the Lord had forgiven him. He received a sense of pardon, the knowledge of salvation, by the forgiveness of his sins, and so mayest thou: see Luke 1:77. O seek this blessing with all thy heart!32:3-7 It is very difficult to bring sinful man humbly to accept free mercy, with a full confession of his sins and self-condemnation. But the true and only way to peace of conscience, is, to confess our sins, that they may be forgiven; to declare them that we may be justified. Although repentance and confession do not merit the pardon of transgression, they are needful to the real enjoyment of forgiving mercy. And what tongue can tell the happiness of that hour, when the soul, oppressed by sin, is enabled freely to pour forth its sorrows before God, and to take hold of his covenanted mercy in Christ Jesus! Those that would speed in prayer, must seek the Lord, when, by his providence, he calls them to seek him, and, by his Spirit, stirs them up to seek him. In a time of finding, when the heart is softened with grief, and burdened with guilt; when all human refuge fails; when no rest can be found to the troubled mind, then it is that God applies the healing balm by his Spirit.When I kept silence - The psalmist now proceeds to state his condition of mind before he himself found this peace, or before he had this evidence of pardon; the state in which he felt deeply that he was a sinner, yet was unwilling to confess his sin, and attempted to conceal it in his own heart. This he refers to by the expression, "When I kept silence;" that is, before I confessed my sin, or before I made mention of it to God. The condition of mind was evidently this: he had committed sin, but he endeavored to hide it in his own mind; he was unwilling to make confession of it, and to implore pardon. He hoped, probably, that the conviction of sin would die away; or that his trouble would cease of itself; or that time would relieve him; or that employment - occupying himself in the affairs of the world - would soothe the anguish of his spirit, and render it unnecessary for him to make a humiliating confession of his guilt. He thus describes a state of mind which is very common in the case of sinners. They know that they are sinners, but they are unwilling to make confession of their guilt. They attempt to conceal it. They put off, or try to remove far away, the whole subject. They endeavor to divert their minds, and to turn their thoughts from a subject so painful as the idea of guilt - by occupation, or by amusement, or even by plunging into scenes of dissipation. Sometimes, often in fact, they are successful in this; but, sometimes, as in the case of the psalmist, the trouble at the remembrance of sins becomes deeper and deeper, destroying their rest, and wasting their strength, until they make humble confession, and "then" the mind finds rest.

My bones waxed old - My strength failed; my strength was exhausted; it seemed as if the decrepitude of age was coming upon me. The word here used, and rendered "waxed old," would properly denote "decay," or the wearing out of the strength by slow decay. All have witnessed the prostrating effect of excessive grief.

Through my roaring - My cries of anguish and distress. See the notes at Psalm 22:1. The meaning here is, that his sorrow was so great as to lead to loud and passionate cries; and this well describes the condition of a mind under deep trouble at the remembrance of sin and the apprehension of the wrath of God.

All the day long - Continually; without intermission.

3, 4. A vivid description of felt, but unacknowledged, sin.

When—literally, "for," as in Ps 32:4.

3 When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.

4 For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.

5 I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.

David now gives us his own experience; no instructor is so efficient as one who testifies to what he has personally known and felt. He writes well who like the spider spills his matter out of his own bowels.

Psalm 32:3

"When I kept silence." When through neglect I failed to confess, or through despair dared not to do so, "my bones," those solid pillars of my frame, the strongest portions of my bodily constitution, "waxed old," began to decay with weakness, for my grief was so intense as to sap my health and destroy my vital energy. What a killing thing is sin! It is a pestilent disease! A fire in the bones! While we smother our sin it rages within, and like a gathering wound swells horribly and torments terribly. "Through my roaring all the day long." He was silent as to confession, but not as to sorrow. Horror at his great guilt, drove David to incessant laments, until his voice was no longer like the articulate speech of man, but so full of sighing and groaning, that it resembled the hoarse roaring of a wounded beast. None know the pangs of conviction but those who have endured them. The rack, the wheel, the flaming fagot are ease compared with the Tophet which a guilty conscience kindles within the breast: better suffer all the diseases which flesh is heir to, than lie under the crushing sense of the wrath of almighty God. The Spanish inquisition with all its tortures was nothing to the inquest which conscience holds within the heart.

Psalm 32:4

"For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me." God's finger can crush us - what must his hand be, and that pressing heavily and continuously! Under terrors of conscience, men have little rest by night, for the grim thoughts of the day dog them to their chambers and haunt their dreams, or else they lie awake in a cold sweat of dread. God's hand is very helpful when it uplifts, but it is awful when it presses down: better a world on the shoulder, like Atlas, than God's hand on the heart, like David. "My moisture is turned into the drought of summer." The sap of his soul was dried, and the body through sympathy appeared to be bereft of its needful fluids. The oil was almost gone from the lamp of life, and the flame flickered as though it would soon expire. Unconfessed transgression, like a fierce poison, dried up the fountain of the man's strength, and made him like a tree blasted by the lightning, or a plant withered by the scorching heat of a tropical sun. Alas! for a poor soul when it has learned its sin but forgets its Saviour, it goes hard with it indeed. "Selah." It was time to change the tune, for the notes are very low in the scale, and with such hard usage, the strings of the harp are out of order: the next verse will surely be set to another key, or will rehearse a more joyful subject.

Psalm 32:5

"I acknowledged my sin unto thee." After long lingering, the broken heart bethought itself of what it ought to have done at the first, and laid bare its bosom before the Lord. The lancet must be let into the gathering ulcer before relief can be afforded. The least thing we can do, if we would be pardoned, is to acknowledge our fault; if we are too proud for this we doubly deserve punishment. "And mine iniquity have I not hid." We must confess the guilt as well as the fact of sin. It is useless to conceal it, for it is well known to God; it is beneficial to us to own it, for a full confession softens and humbles the heart. We must as far as possible unveil the secrets of the soul, dig up the hidden treasure of Achan, and by weight and measure bring out our sins. "I said." This was his fixed resolution. "I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord." Not to my fellow men or to the high priest, but unto Jehovah; even in those days of symbol the faithful looked to God alone for deliverance from sin's intolerable load, much more now, when types and shadows have vanished at the appearance of the dawn. When the soul determines to lay low and plead guilty, absolution is near at hand; hence we read, "And thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." Not only was the sin itself pardoned, but the iniquity of it; the virus of its guilt was put away, and that at once, so soon as the acknowledgment was made. God's pardons are deep and thorough' the knife of mercy cuts at the roots of the ill weed of sin. "Selah." Another pause is needed, for the matter is not such as may be hurried over:

"Pause, my soul, adore and wonder,

Ask, O why such love to me?

Grace has put me in the number

Of the Saviour's family.


When I kept silence, to wit, from a full and open confession of my sins, as appears from Psalm 32:5, and from pouring out my soul to God in serious and fervent prayers for pardon and peace. Whilst I concealed my sins, or smothered my fears, and, stifled the workings of my own conscience.

My bones waxed old; my spirits failed, and the strength of my body decayed:

Through my roaring all the day long; because of the continual horrors of my conscience, and sense of God’s wrath, wherewith I was as yet rather oppressed and overwhelmed, than brought to thorough repentance. When I kept silence,.... Was unthoughtful of sin, unconcerned about it, and made no acknowledgment and confession of it to God, being quite senseless and stupid; the Targum adds, "from the words of the law"; which seems to point at sin as the cause of what follows;

my bones waxed old; through my roaring all the day long; not under a sense of sin, but under some severe affliction, and through impatience in it; not considering that sin lay at the bottom, and was the occasion of it; and such was the violence of the disorder, and his uneasiness under it, that his strength was dried up by it, and his bones stuck out as they do in aged persons, whose flesh is wasted away from them; see Psalm 102:3.

When I kept {c} silence, my bones waxed old through my {d} roaring all the day long.

(c) Between hope and despair.

(d) Was not eased by silence nor crying, signifying that before the sinner is reconciled to God, he feels a perpetual torment.

3, 4. The illustration of this truth from the Psalmist’s own experience. He kept silence, refusing to acknowledge his sin to himself and to God; but meanwhile God did not leave him to himself (Job 33:16 ff.); His chastening hand was heavy upon him (Psalm 38:2; Psalm 39:10), making itself felt partly by the remorse of conscience, partly perhaps by actual sickness. He suffered and complained (Psalm 22:1; Psalm 38:8); but such complaint was no prayer (Hosea 7:14), and brought no relief, while he would not confess his sin.

my bones] See note on Psalm 6:2.

my moisture &c.] R.V. my moisture was changed as with (marg., into) the drought of summer: the vital sap and juices of his body were dried up by the burning fever within him. Cp. Psalm 22:15; Proverbs 17:22.

Selah] The musical interlude here may have expressed the Psalmist’s distress of mind, and prepared the way for the change in the next verse.Verse 3. - When I kept silence; i.e. so long as I did not acknowledge my sin - while I remained silent about it, quite aware that I hod sinned grievously, suffering in conscience, but not confessing it even to myself. The time spoken of is that which immediately followed the commission of the adultery, and which continued until Nathan uttered the words, "Thou art the man!" (2 Samuel 12:7). My bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long; i.e. I suffered grievous pain, both bodily and mental. My bones ached (comp. Psalm 6:2; Psalm 31:10); and I "roared," or groaned, in spirit, all the day long." Unconfessed sin rankles in the heart of a man who is not far gone in vice, but has been surprised into a wicked action, no sooner done than regretted. Such a one, in Archbishop Leighton's words, "Vulnus alit venis et caeco carpitur igne." (Heb.: 31:20-25) In this part well-grounded hope expands to triumphant certainty; and this breaks forth into grateful praise of the goodness of God to His own, and an exhortation to all to wait with steadfast faith on Jahve. The thought: how gracious hath Jahve been to me, takes a more universal form in Psalm 31:20. It is an exclamation (מה, as in Psalm 36:8) of adoring admiration. טוּב יהוה is the sum of the good which God has treasured up for the constant and ever increasing use and enjoyment of His saints. צפן is used in the same sense as in Psalm 17:14; cf. τὸ μάννα τὸ κεκρυμμένον, Revelation 2:17. Instead of פּעלתּ it ought strictly to be נתתּ; for we can say פּעל טּוב, but not פּעל טוּב. What is meant is, the doing or manifesting of טּוב springing from this טוּב, which is the treasure of grace. Jahve thus makes Himself known to His saints for the confounding of their enemies and in defiance of all the world besides, Psalm 23:5. He takes those who are His under His protection from the רכסי אישׁ, confederations of men (from רכס, Arab. rks, magna copia), from the wrangling, i.e., the slanderous scourging, of tongues. Elsewhere it is said, that God hides one in סתר אהלו (Psalm 27:5), or in סתר כּנפיו (Psalm 61:5), or in His shadow (צל, Psalm 91:1); in this passage it is: in the defence and protection of His countenance, i.e., in the region of the unapproachable light that emanates from His presence. The סכּה is the safe and comfortable protection of the Almighty which spans over the persecuted one like an arbour or rich foliage. With בּרוּך ה David again passes over to his own personal experience. The unity of the Psalm requires us to refer the praise to the fact of the deliverance which is anticipated by faith. Jahve has shown him wondrous favour, inasmuch as He has given him a עיר מצור as a place of abode. מצור, from צוּר to shut in (Arabic misr with the denominative verb maṣṣara, to found a fortified city), signifies both a siege, i.e., a shutting in by siege-works, and a fortifying (cf. Psalm 60:11 with Psalm 108:11), i.e., a shutting in by fortified works against the attack of the enemy, 2 Chronicles 8:5. The fenced city is mostly interpreted as God Himself and His powerful and gracious protection. We might then compare Isaiah 33:21 and other passages. But why may not an actual city be intended, viz., Ziklag? The fact, that after long and troublous days David there found a strong and sure resting-place, he here celebrates beforehand, and unconsciously prophetically, as a wondrous token of divine favour. To him Ziklag was indeed the turning-point between his degradation and exaltation. He had already said in his trepidation (חפז, trepidare), cf. Psalm 116:11 : I am cut away from the range of Thine eyes. נגרזתּי is explained according to גּרזן, an axe; Lamentations 3:54, נגרזתּי, and Jonah 2:5, נגרשׁתּי, favour this interpretation. He thought in his fear and despair, that God would never more care about him. אכן, verum enim vero, but Jahve heard the cry of his entreaty, when he cried unto Him (the same words as in Psalm 28:2). On the ground of these experiences he calls upon all the godly to love the God who has done such gracious things, i.e., to love Love itself. On the one hand, He preserves the faithful (אמוּנים, from אמוּן equals אמוּן, πιστοί, as in Psalm 12:2), who keep faith with Him, by also proving to them His faithfulness by protection in every danger; on the other hand, not scantily, but plentifully (על as in Isaiah 60:7; Jeremiah 6:14 : κατὰ περισσείαν) He rewardeth those that practise pride-in the sight of God, the Lord, the sin of sins. An animating appeal to the godly (metamorphosed out of the usual form of the expression חזק ואמץ, macte esto), resembling the animating call to his own heart in Psalm 27:14, closes the Psalm. The godly and faithful are here called "those who wait upon Jahve." They are to wait patiently, for this waiting has a glorious end; the bright, spring sun at length breaks through the dark, angry aspect of the heavens, and the esto mihi is changed into halleluja. This eye of hope patiently directed towards Jahve is the characteristic of the Old Testament faith. The substantial unity, however, of the Old Testament order of grace, or mercy, with that of the New Testament, is set before us in Psalm 32:1-11, which, in its New Testament and Pauline character, is the counterpart of Psalm 19:1-14.
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