Psalm 38:16
For I said, Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me: when my foot slips, they magnify themselves against me.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) Lest.—It is better to carry on the force of the particle of condition:

For I said, Lest they should rejoice over me:

Lest, when my foot slipped, they should vaunt themselves against me.

38:12-22 Wicked men hate goodness, even when they benefit by it. David, in the complaints he makes of his enemies, seems to refer to Christ. But our enemies do us real mischief only when they drive us from God and our duty. The true believer's trouble will be made useful; he will learn to wait for his God, and will not seek relief from the world or himself. The less we notice the unkindness and injuries that are done us, the more we consult the quiet of our own minds. David's troubles were the chastisement and the consequence of his transgressions, whilst Christ suffered for our sins and ours only. What right can a sinner have to yield to impatience or anger, when mercifully corrected for his sins? David was very sensible of the present workings of corruption in him. Good men, by setting their sorrow continually before them, have been ready to fall; but by setting God always before them, they have kept their standing. If we are truly penitent for sin, that will make us patient under affliction. Nothing goes nearer to the heart of a believer when in affliction, than to be under the apprehension of God's deserting him; nor does any thing come more feelingly from his heart than this prayer, Be not far from me. The Lord will hasten to help those who trust in him as their salvation.For I said - This is the prayer to which he referred in the previous verse. He prayed that he might not be permitted to fall away under the influence of his sins and sufferings; that his faith might remain firm; that he might not be allowed to act so as to justify the accusations of his enemies, or to give them occasion to rejoice over his fall. The entire prayer Psalm 38:16-18 is one that is based on the consciousness of his own weakness, and his liability to sin, if left to himself; on the certainty that if God did not interpose, his sins would get the mastery over him, and he would become in his conduct all that his enemies desired, and be in fact all that they had falsely charged on him.

Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me - literally, "For I said, lest they should rejoice over me." It is the language of earnest desire that they might "not" thus be allowed to rejoice over his fall. The same sentiment occurs substantially in Psalm 13:3-4. The motive is a right one; alike

(a) in reference to ourselves personally - that our foes may not triumph over us by the ruin of our character; and

(b) in reference to its bearing on the cause of virtue and religion - that that cause may not suffer by our misconduct; compare Psalm 69:6.

When my foot slippeth -

(a) When my foot really has slipped, or when I have committed sin (as the psalmist did not deny that he had done, Psalm 38:3-5, Psalm 38:18); or

(b) when it "might" occur "again" (as he felt was possible); or

(c) if I deviate in the slightest degree from perfect virtue; if I inadvertently do anything wrong.

The slipping of the foot is an indication of the want of firmness, and hence, it comes to represent the falling into sin.

They magnify themselves against me - See Psalm 35:26. They exult over me; they triumph; they boast. They "make themselves great" on my fall, or by my being put down. This he says

(a) they were disposed to do, for they had shown a disposition to do it whenever he had fallen into sin;

(b) he apprehended that they would do it again, and they had already begun to magnify themselves against him, as if they were certain that it would occur.

He did not deny that there was ground to fear this, for he felt that his strength was almost gone Psalm 38:17, and that God only could uphold him, and save him from justifying all the expectations of his enemies.

15-17. for he is confident the

Lord—literally, "Sovereign" (to whom he was a servant), would answer his prayer (Ps 3:4; 4:1), and not permit their triumph in his partial halting, of which he was in danger.

16 For I said, Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me: when my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me.

17 For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me.

18 For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.

19 But mine enemies are lively, and they are strong: and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied.

20 They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries; because I follow the thing that good is.

Psalm 38:16

"For I said, hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me." The good man was not insensible, he dreaded the sharp stings of taunting malice; he feared lest either by his conduct or his condition, he should give occasion to the wicked to triumph. This fear his earnest desires used as an argument in prayer as well as an incentive to prayer. "When my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me." The least flaw in a saint is sure to be noticed; long before it comes to a fall the enemy begins to rail, the merest trip of the foot sets all the dogs of hell barking. How careful ought we to be, and how importunate in prayer for upholding grace! We do not wish, like blind Samson, to make sport for our enemies; let us then beware of the treacherous Delilah of sin, by whose means our eyes may soon be put out.

Psalm 38:17

"For I am ready to halt." Like one who limps, or a person with tottering footsteps, in danger of falling. How well this befits us all. "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." How small a thing will lame a Christian, how insignificant a stumbling-block may cause him to fall! This passage refers to weakness caused by pain and sorrow; the sufferer was ready to give up in despair; he was so depressed in spirit that he stumbled at a straw. Some of us painfully know what it is to be like dry tinder for the sparks of sorrow; ready to halt, ready to mourn, and sigh and cry upon any occasion, and for any cause. "And my sorrow is continually before me." He did not need to look out of window to find sorrow, he felt it within, and groaned under a body of sin which was an increasing plague to him. Deep conviction continues to irritate the conscience; it will not endure a patched-up peace; but cries war to the knife till the enmity is slain. Until the Holy Ghost applies the precious blood of Jesus, a truly awakened sinner is covered with raw wounds which cannot be healed nor bound up, nor mollified with ointment.

Psalm 38:18

"For I will declare mine iniquity." The slander of his enemies he repudiates, but the accusations of his conscience he admits. Open confession is good for the soul. When sorrow leads to hearty and penitent acknowledgment of sin it is blessed sorrow, a thing to thank God for most devoutly. "I will be sorry for my sin." My confession shall be salted with briny tears. It is well not so much to bewail our sorrows as to denounce the sins which lie at the root of them. To be sorry for sin is no atonement for it, but it is the right spirit in which to repair to Jesus, who is the reconciliation and the Saviour. A man is near to the end of his trouble when he comes to an end with his sins.

Psalm 38:19

"But mine enemies are lively, and they are strong." However weak and dying the righteous man may be, the evils which oppose him are sure to be lively enough. Neither the world, the flesh, nor the devil, are ever afflicted with debility or inertness; this trinity of evils labours with mighty unremitting energy to overthrow us. If the devil were sick, or our lusts feeble, or Madame Bubble infirm, we might slacken prayer; but with such lively and vigorous enemies we must not cease to cry mightily unto our God. "And they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied." Here is another misery, that as we are no match for our enemies in strength, so also they outnumber us as a hundred to one. Wrong as the cause of evil is, it is a popular one. More and more the kingdom of darkness grows. Oh, misery of miseries, that we see the professed friends of Jesus forsaking him, and the enemies of his cross and his cause mustering in increasing bands!

Psalm 38:20

continued...

I said, to wit, in my heart and prayers; I used this argument, which I knew was prevalent.

Rejoice over me in my destruction, which also will reflect upon thee; who hast undertaken to defend and save me, and for whose sake I suffer so much from these wicked men, Psalm 38:20.

When my foot slippeth; when I fall either into any gross sin, or into any misery, or into both, as I have now done.

They magnify themselves against me; they triumph in the accomplishment of their designs or desires. For I said, hear me,.... This he had expressed in prayer to God; he had committed his cause to him, and entreated him that he would hear and answer him; giving this as a reason,

lest otherwise they should rejoice over me; at his misfortunes and calamities, at the continuance of his trouble and distress, both of body and mind;

when my foot slippeth; as it sometimes did through the corruptions of nature, the temptations of Satan, and the snares of the world; which is more or less the case of all the people of God, who are all subject to slips and falls, though they shall not finally and totally fall away;

they magnify themselves against me; that is, his enemies exulted and triumphed over him: this was what he found by experience; and therefore makes use of it as an argument with God, that he would hear and answer and deliver him out of his trouble, and preserve him from falling.

For I said, Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me: {l} when my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me.

(l) That is, if they see that you do not help me in time, they will mock and triumph as though you had forsaken me.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. For I said, Lest they rejoice over me (R.V.). This was the plea which he urged in his prayer (Psalm 25:2; Psalm 35:19). The enemies of the godly man rejoice at his calamities, for they see in them a proof of God’s disfavour (Psalm 41:11).

when my foot slippeth] Lit. is moved, a metaphor for misfortune of any kind (Psalm 13:4).

magnify themselves] Cp. Psalm 35:26.Verse 16. - For I said, Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me; rather, for I said, I will be silent, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me. I feared lest by answering rashly or intemperately I might give my enemies occasion against me. I knew by experience that, when my foot slippeth, they magnify themselves against me. They are always on the watch to catch at any slip on my part, and make it a ground for magnifying themselves and denying me. Hence my silence. (Heb.: 38:10-15) Having thus bewailed his suffering before God, he goes on in a somewhat calmer tone: it is the calm of weariness, but also of the rescue which shows itself from afar. He has complained, but not as if it were necessary for him first of all to make God acquainted with his suffering; the Omniscient One is directly cognisant of (has directly before Him, נגד, like לנגד in Psalm 18:25) every wish that his suffering extorts from him, and even his softer sighing does not escape His knowledge. The sufferer does not say this so much with the view of comforting himself with this thought, as of exciting God's compassion. Hence he even goes on to draw the piteous picture of his condition: his heart is in a state of violent rotary motion, or only of violent, quickly repeated contraction and expansion (Psychol. S. 252; tr. p. 297), that is to say, a state of violent palpitation (סחרחר, Pealal according to Ges. 55, 3). Strength of which the heart is the centre (Psalm 40:13) has left him, and the light of his eyes, even of these (by attraction for גּם־הוּא, since the light of the eyes is not contrasted with anything else), is not with him, but has become lost to him by weeping, watching, and fever. Those who love him and are friendly towards him have placed themselves far from his stroke (nega`, the touch of God's hand of wrath), merely looking on (Obadiah 1:11), therefore, in a position hostile (2 Samuel 18:13) rather than friendly. מנּגד, far away, but within the range of vision, within sight, Genesis 21:16; Deuteronomy 32:52. The words וּקרובי מרחק עמדוּ, which introduce a pentastich into a Psalm that is tetrastichic throughout, have the appearance of being a gloss or various reading: מנּגד equals מרחק, 2 Kings 2:7. His enemies, however, endeavour to take advantage of his fall and helplessness, in order to give him his final death-blow. וינקּשׁוּ (with the ק dageshed)

(Note: The various reading וינקּשׁוּ in Norzi rests upon a misapprehended passage of Abulwald (Rikma, p. 166).)

describes what they have planned in consequence of the position he is in. The substance of their words is הוּות, utter destruction (vid., Psalm 5:10); to this end it is מרמות, deceit upon deceit, malice upon malice, that they unceasingly hatch with heart and mouth. In the consciousness of his sin he is obliged to be silent, and, renouncing all self-help, to abandon his cause to God. Consciousness of guilt and resignation close his lips, so that he is not able, nor does he wish, to refute the false charges of his enemies; he has no תּוכחות, counter-evidence wherewith to vindicate himself. It is not to be rendered: "just as one dumb opens not his mouth;" כ is only a preposition, not a conjunction, and it is just here, in Psalm 38:14, Psalm 38:15, that the manifest proofs in support of this are found.

(Note: The passages brought forward by Hupfeld in support of the use of כ as a conjunction, viz., Psalm 90:5; Psalm 125:1; Isaiah 53:7; Isaiah 61:11, are invalid; the passage that seems most to favour it is Obadiah 1:16, but in this instance the expression is elliptical, כּלא being equivalent to כאשׁר לא, like ללא, Isaiah 65:1, equals לאשׁר לא. It is only כּמו (Arab. kmâ) that can be used as a conjunction; but כ (Arab. k) is always a preposition in ancient Hebrew just as in Syriac and Arabic (vid., Fleischer in the Hallische Allgem. Lit. Zeitschr. 1843, Bd. iv. S. 117ff.). It is not until the mediaeval synagogal poetry (vid., Zunz, Synagogal-poesie des Mittelalters, S. 121, 381f.) that it is admissible to use it as a conjunction (e.g., כּמצא, when he had found), just as it also occurs in Himjaritic, according to Osiander's deciphering of the inscriptions. The verbal clause appended to the word to which this כ, instar, is prefixed is for the most part an attributive clause as above, but sometimes even a circumstantial clause (Arab. ḥâl), as in Psalm 38:14; cf. Sur. lxii. 5: "as the likeness of an ass carrying books.")

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