Psalm 39:4
LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.
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(4) Rhythmically and from every other reason the psalm onward from this verse must be treated as the utterance to which the poet’s feelings have at length driven him.

How frail I am.—This is to be preferred to the margin, which follows the LXX. and Vulg. The Hebrew word, from a root meaning to “leave off,” though in Isaiah 53:3 it means “forsaken,” here, as in Ezekiel 3:27, is active, and implies “ceasing to live.”

Psalm 39:4. Lord, make me to know mine end — The end of my life, as is evident from the following words; and the measure of my days, what it is — How short it is; or, how near is the period of the days of my life; that I may know how frail I am — Hebrew, מה חדל אני, meh-chadeel ani, quam desinens sire, quam cito desinam esse, quam parum durem, what a transient, momentary being I am, how soon I shall cease to be, how little a while I shall continue, namely, on earth. He does not mean, Lord, let me know exactly how long I shall live, and when I shall die. He could not in faith ask this, God having nowhere promised his people such knowledge, but having in wisdom locked it up among the secret things which belong not to us, and which it would not be good for us to know; but his meaning is, Give me wisdom and grace to consider my end, and how short the measure of my days will be, and to improve what I know concerning it. The living know they shall die, but few so reflect on this as to make a right use of this knowledge. Bishop Patrick thus paraphrases his words: “Lord, I do not murmur nor repine at my sufferings; but that I may be able to bear them still patiently, make me sensible, I humbly beseech thee, how short this frail life is, and how soon it will have an end; that, duly considering this, I may be the less concerned about the miseries I endure, which will end together with it.” Thus, “wearied with the contradiction of sinners, and sickening at the prospect of so much wretchedness in the valley of weeping, the soul” of the pious Christian “looks forward to her departure from hence, praying for such a sense of the shortness of human life as may enable her to bear the sorrows of this world, and excite her to prepare for the joys of a better.”

39:1-6 If an evil thought should arise in the mind, suppress it. Watchfulness in the habit, is the bridle upon the head; watchfulness in acts, is the hand upon the bridle. When not able to separate from wicked men, we should remember they will watch our words, and turn them, if they can, to our disadvantage. Sometimes it may be necessary to keep silence, even from good words; but in general we are wrong when backward to engage in edifying discourse. Impatience is a sin that has its cause within ourselves, and that is, musing; and its ill effects upon ourselves, and that is no less than burning. In our greatest health and prosperity, every man is altogether vanity, he cannot live long; he may die soon. This is an undoubted truth, but we are very unwilling to believe it. Therefore let us pray that God would enlighten our minds by his Holy Spirit, and fill our hearts with his grace, that we may be ready for death every day and hour.Lord, make me to know mine end - This expresses evidently the substance of those anxious and troubled thoughts Psalm 39:1-2 to which he had been unwilling to give utterance. His thoughts turned on the shortness of life; on the mystery of the divine arrangement by which it had been made so short; and on the fact that so many troubles and sorrows had been crowded into a life so frail and so soon to terminate. With some impatience, and with a consciousness that he had been indulging feelings on this subject which were not proper, and which would do injury if they were expressed "before men," he now pours out these feelings before God, and asks what is to be the end of this; how long this is to continue; when his own sorrows will cease. It was an impatient desire to know when the end would be, with a spirit of insubmission to the arrangements of Providence by which his life had been made so brief, and by which so much suffering had been appointed.

And the measure of my days, what it is - How long I am to live; how long I am to bear these accumulated sorrows.

That I may know how frail I am - Margin: "What time I have here." Prof. Alexander renders this: "when I shall cease." So DeWette. The Hebrew word used here - חדל châdêl - means "ceasing to be;" hence, "frail;" then, destitute, left, forsaken. An exact translation would be, "that I may know at what (time) or (point) I am ceasing, or about to cease." It is equivalent to a prayer that he might know when these sufferings - when a life so full of sorrow - would come to an end. The language is an expression of impatience; the utterance of a feeling which the psalmist knew was not right in itself, and which would do injury if expressed before men, but which the intensity of his feelings would not permit him to restrain, and to which he, therefore, gives utterance before God. Similar expressions of impatience in view of the sufferings of a life so short as this, and with so little to alleviate its sorrows, may be seen much amplified in Job 3:1-26; Job 6:4-12; Job 7:7; Job 14:1-13. Before we blame the sacred writers for the indulgence of these feelings, let us carefully examine our own hearts, and recall what has passed through our own minds in view of the mysteries of the divine administration; and let us remember that one great object of the Bible is to record the actual feelings of men - not to vindicate them, but to show what human nature is even in the best circumstances, and what the human heart is when as yet but partially sanctified.

4-7. Some take these words as those of fretting, but they are not essentially such. The tinge of discontent arises from the character of his suppressed emotions. But, addressing God, they are softened and subdued.

make me to know mine end—experimentally appreciate.

how frail I am—literally, "when I shall cease."

This verse contains either,

1. A correction of himself for his impatient motions or speeches, and his retirement to God for relief under these perplexing and sadding thoughts. Or,

2. A declaration of the words which he spake.

Make me to know; either,

1. Practically, so as to prepare for it. Or,

2. Experimentally, as words of knowledge are oft used. And so this is a secret desire of death, that he might be free from such torments as made his life a burden to him. Or,

3. By revelation; that I may have some prospect or foreknowledge when my calamities will be ended; which argued impatience, and an unwillingness to wait long for deliverance.

My end, i.e. the end of my life, as is evident from the following words.

What it is; how long or short it is, or the utmost extent or period of the days of my life.

How frail I am; or, how long (or, how little, for the word may be and is by divers interpreters taken both ways) time I have or shall continue here.

Lord, make me to know mine end,.... Not Christ, the end of the law for righteousness, as Jerom interprets it; nor how long he should live, how many days, months, and years more; for though they are known of God, they are not to be known by men; but either the end of his afflictions, or his, latter end, his mortal state, that he might be more thoughtful of that, and so less concerned about worldly things, his own external happiness, or that of others; or rather his death; see Job 6:11; and his sense is, that he might know death experimentally; or that he might die: this he said in a sinful passionate way, as impatient of his afflictions and exercises; and in the same way the following expressions are to be understood;

and the measure of my days, what it is; being desirous to come to the end of it; otherwise he knew it was but as an hand's breadth, as he says in Psalm 39:5;

that I may know how frail I am; or "what time I have here"; or "when I shall cease to be" (u); or, as the Targum is, "when I shall cease from the world"; so common it is for the saints themselves, in an angry or impatient fit, to desire death; see Job 7:15; and a very rare and difficult thing it is to wish for it from right principles, and with right views, as the Apostle Paul did, Philippians 1:23.

(u) "quanti aevi ego", Montanus; "quamdiu roundanus ero", Vatablus; "quam brevis temporis sim", Musculus.

LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is: that I may know how frail I am.
4. His prayer is not that he may know how much of life is left him; as the P.B.V. that I may be certified how long I have to live, paraphrasing the LXX. ἵνα γνῶ τί ὑστερῶ ἐγώ: ut sciam quid desit mihi, Vulg.: but that he may realise how surely life must end, and how brief it must be at best. What it is = how short it is.

that I may know] Better, as R.V., let me know. Frail, lit, ceasing, transitory.

4–6. Silence has proved impossible. He must give vent to his emotions, and he breaks out into a prayer that he may be taught so to understand the frailty of his life and the vanity of human aims, that he may be led back from selfish, envious, murmuring thoughts, to rest in submission to God’s will. Cp. Psalm 90:12.

Verse 4. - Lord, make me to know mine end, and the number of my days. This is not exactly the request of Job, who desired to be at once cut off (Job 6:9; Job 7:15; Job 14:13), but it is a request conceived in the same spirit. The psalmist is weary of life, expects nothing from it, feels that it is "altogether vanity." He asks, therefore, not exactly for death, but that it may be told him how long he will have to endure the wretched life that he is leading. He anticipates no relief except in death, and feels, at any rate for the time, that he would welcome death as a deliverer. That I may know how frail I am. So most moderns; but Hengstenberg denies that חדל can ever mean "frail," and falls back upon the old rendering, "that I may know when I shall cease [to be]," which certainly gives a very good sense. Psalm 39:4(Heb.: 39:5-7) He prays God to set the transitoriness of earthly life clearly before his eyes (cf. Psalm 90:12); for if life is only a few spans long, then even his suffering and the prosperity of the ungodly will last only a short time. Oh that God would then grant him to know his end (Job 6:11), i.e., the end of his life, which is at the same time the end of his affliction, and the measure of his days, how it is with this (מה, interrog. extenuantis, as in Psalm 8:5), in order that he may become fully conscious of his own frailty! Hupfeld corrects the text to אני מה־חלד, after the analogy of Psalm 89:48, because חדל cannot signify "frail." But חדל signifies that which leaves off and ceases, and consequently in this connection, finite and transitory or frail. מה, quam, in connection with an adjective, as in Psalm 8:2; Psalm 31:20; Psalm 36:8; Psalm 66:3; Psalm 133:1. By הן (the customary form of introducing the propositio minor, Leviticus 10:18; Leviticus 25:20) the preceding petition is supported. God has, indeed, made the days, i.e., the lifetime, of a man טפחות, handbreadths, i.e., He has allotted to it only the short extension of a few handbreadths (cf. ימים, a few days, e.g., Isaiah 65:20), of which nine make a yard (cf. πήχυιος χρόνος in Mimnermus, and 1 Samuel 20:3); the duration of human life (on חלד vid., Psalm 17:14) is as a vanishing nothing before God the eternal One. The particle אך is originally affirmative, and starting from that sense becomes restrictive; just as רק is originally restrictive and then affirmative. Sometimes also, as is commonly the case with אכן, the affirmative signification passes over into the adversative (cf. verum, verum enim vero). In our passage, agreeably to the restrictive sense, it is to be explained thus: nothing but mere nothingness (cf. Psalm 45:14; James 1:2) is every man נצּב, standing firmly, i.e., though he stand never so firmly, though he be never so stedfast (Zechariah 11:16). Here the music rises to tones of bitter lament, and the song continues in Psalm 39:7 with the same theme. צלם, belonging to the same root as צל, signifies a shadow-outline, an image; the בּ is, as in Psalm 35:2, Beth essentiae: he walks about consisting only of an unsubstantial shadow. Only הבל, breath-like, or after the manner of breath (Psalm 144:4), from empty, vain motives and with vain results, do they make a disturbance (pausal fut. energicum, as in Psalm 36:8); and he who restlessly and noisily exerts himself knows not who will suddenly snatch together, i.e., take altogether greedily to himself, the many things that he heaps up (צבר, as in Job 27:16); cf. Isaiah 33:4, and on - ām equals αὐτά, Leviticus 15:10 (in connection with which אלה הדברים, cf. Isaiah 42:16, is in the mind of the speaker).
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