I said, LORD, be merciful to me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)I said.—After the general statement, the poet applies it to his own case, which showed such sadly different conduct on the part of friends from whom more than sympathy might have been expected. The pronoun is emphatic: In my case, I said, etc.
But it is a singular mark of the psalmist’s sincerity and genuineness that he first looks into his own heart for its evil before exposing that of his friends.Psalm 41:4. I said, Lord, be merciful unto me — He appeals to mercy, as one that knew he could not stand the test of strict justice. The best saints, even those that have been merciful to the poor, have not made God their debtor; but must throw themselves on his mercy. When we are under the rod, we must thus recommend ourselves to the tender mercy of our God. Heal my soul — Sin is the sickness of the soul and the soul is healed when, being pardoned by mercy, it is also renewed by grace. And this spiritual healing we should be more earnest for than for bodily health. For I have sinned against thee — And, therefore, my soul needs healing: I am a sinner, a miserable sinner; and, therefore, God, be merciful to me. The psalmist does not appear here to refer to any particular gross act of sin, but to his sins in general, which his sickness, and the troubles he met with, set in order before him; and the dread of the consequences of which made him pray, Heal my soul.
Be merciful unto me - In forgiving my sins, and restoring me to health.
Heal my soul - In restoring my soul to spiritual health by forgiving the sin which is the cause of my sickness; or it may mean, Restore my life - regardng his life as (as it were) diseased and in danger of extinction. The probability, however, is that he had particular reference to the soul as the word is commonly understood, or as designating himself; heal, or restore me.
For I have sinned against thee - Regarding his sin as the cause of his sickness. See the notes at Psalm 38:3-5.
5 Mine enemies speak evil of me, When shall he die, and his name perish?
6 And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity: his heart gathereth iniquity to itself; when he goeth abroad, he telleth it.
7 All that hate me whisper together against me; against me do they devise my hurt.
8 An evil disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth he shall rise up no more.
9 Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.
Here we have a controversy between the pleader and his God. He had been a tender friend to the poor, and yet in the hour of his need the promised assistance was not forthcoming. In our Lord's case there was a dark and dreary night in which such arguments were well befitting himself and his condition.
"I said" - said it in earnest prayer - "Lord, be merciful unto me." Prove now thy gracious dealings with my soul in adversity, since thou didst aforetime give me grace to act liberally in my prosperity. No appeal is made to justice; the petitioner but hints at the promised reward, but goes straightforward to lay his plea at the feet of mercy. How low was our Redeemer brought when such petitions could come from his reverend mouth, when his lips like lilies dropped such sweet smelling but bitter myrrh! "Heal my soul." My time of languishing is come, now do as thou hast said, and strengthen me, especially in my soul. We ought to be far more earnest for the soul's healing than for the body's ease. We hear much of the cure of souls, but we often forget to care about it. "For I have sinned against thee." Here was the root of sorrow. Sin and suffering are inevitable companions. Observe that by the Psalmist sin was felt to be mainly evil because directed against God. This it, of the essence of true repentance. The immaculate Saviour could never have used such language as this unless there be here a reference to the sin which he took upon himself by imputation; and for our part we tremble to apply words so manifestly indicating personal rather than imputed sin. Applying the petition to David and other sinful believers, how strangely evangelical is the argument: heal me, not for I am innocent, but "I have sinned." How contrary is this to all self-righteous pleading! How consonant with grace! How inconsistent with merit! Even the fact that the confessing penitent had remembered the poor, is but obliquely urged, but a direct appeal is made to mercy on the ground of great sin. O trembling reader, here is a divinely revealed precedent for thee, be not slow to follow it.
"Mine enemies speak evil of me." It was their nature to do and speak evil; it was not possible that the child of God could escape them. The viper fastened on Paul's hand: the better the man the more likely, and the more venomous the slander. Evil tongues are busy tongues, and never deal in truth. Jesus was traduced to the utmost, although no offence was in him. "When shall be die, and his name perish?" They could not be content till he was away. The world is not wide enough for evil men to live in while the righteous remain, yea, the bodily presence of the saints may be gone, but their memory is an offence to their foes. It was never merry England, say they, since men took to Psalm-singing. In the Master's case, they cried, "Away with such a fellow from the earth, it is not fit that he should live." If persecutors could have their way, the church should have but one neck, and that should be on the block. Thieves would fain blow out all candles. The lights of the world are not the delights of the world. Poor blind bats, they fly at the lamp, and try to dash it down; but the Lord liveth, and preserveth both the saints and their names.
"And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity." His visits of sympathy are visitations of mockery. When the fox calls on the sick lamb his words are soft, but he licks his lips in hope of the carcass. It is wretched work to have spies haunting one's bedchamber, calling in pretence of kindness, but with malice in their hearts. Hypocritical talk is always fulsome and sickening to honest men, but especially to the suffering saint. Our divine Lord had much of this from the false hearts that watched his words. "His heart gathereth iniquity to itself." Like will to like. The bird makes its nest of feathers. Out of the sweetest flowers chemists can distil poison, and from the purest words and deeds malice can gather groundwork for calumnious report. It is perfectly marvellous how spite spins webs out of no materials whatever. Its is no small trial to have base persons around you lying in wait for every word which they may pervert into evil. The Master whom we serve was constantly subject to this affliction. "When he goeth abroad, he telleth it." He makes his lies, and then vends them in open market. He is no sooner out of the house than he outs with his lie, and this against a sick man whom he called to see as a friend - a sick man to whose incoherent and random speeches pity should be showed. Ah, black-hearted wretch! A devil's cub indeed. How far abroad men will go to publish their slanders! They would fain placard the sky with their falsehoods. A little fault is made much of; a slip of the tongue is a libel, a mistake a crime, and if a word can bear two meanings the worse is always gathered upon it. Tell it in Gath, publish it in Askelon, that the daughters of the uncircumcised may triumph. It is base to strike a man when he is down, yet such is the meanness of mankind towards a Christian hero should he for awhile chance to be under a cloud.
continued...My soul, i.e. either,
1. Myself, to wit, my body. So it is a double synecdoche. And the soul is so taken Psalm 16:10. Or,
2. My soul properly so called; which is said to be healed, when it is pardoned and purged, as 2 Chronicles 30:20 Isaiah 53:5, compared with 1 Peter 2:24 Matthew 13:15, compared with Mark 4:12 Jam 5:16. So he strikes at the root of his misery, and prays for the removal of the sin of his soul, as the cause of the disease of his body.
For I have sinned against thee: this may be added, either,
1. As a reason or motive to God; Grant this request, for I have sinned, and therefore thy grace in healing me will be more glorious and admirable. Or, for I acknowledge that I have sinned; for the act is oft put for the declaration of it, as Exodus 33:13 Psalm 51:5. Or,
2. As a reason moving him thus to pray, I said, Lord, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; and great reason I had to say so, for I have sinned against thee. Psalm 40:11;
heal my soul; not that it was diseased with sin in such sense as the souls of other men are; but it is to be understood as a petition for comfort while bearing the sins of others, and which Christ as man stood in need of when in the garden and on the cross; so healing signifies comfort in trouble, as in Isaiah 57:18;
for I have sinned against thee; or "unto thee", or "before thee", as the Targum; not that any sin was committed by him in his own person, but he having all the sins of his people on him, which he calls his own, Psalm 40:12; he was treated as a sinner, and as guilty before God, Isaiah 53:12; and so the words may be read, "for I am a sinner unto thee" (u); I am counted as one by thee, having the sins of my people imputed to me; and am bound unto thee, or under obligation to bear the punishment of sin; or thus, "for I have made an offering for sin unto thee" (w), so the word is used, Leviticus 6:26; and so it might be rendered in Leviticus 5:7; and perhaps may be better rendered so in Leviticus 4:3; and be understood, not of the sin of the anointed priest, but of his offering a sacrifice for the soul that sinned through ignorance, Psalm 41:2, which offering is directed to: and then the sense here is, heal me, acquit me, discharge me, and deliver me out of this poor and low estate in which I am; for I have made my soul an offering for sin, and thereby have made atonement for all the sins of my people laid upon me; and accordingly he was acquitted and justified, 1 Timothy 3:16.I said, LORD, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)4. I said] Or, I, even I, have said. This has been and is my prayer. Psalm 41:10 seems to imply that the sickness is not yet a thing of the past.
be merciful] Be gracious (Psalm 4:1; &c.).
heal my soul] The soul is the man’s whole ‘self;’ the living personality which results from the union of spirit and flesh. See Oehler’s Old Test. Theology, § 70. The bodily sickness is the sign and symptom of spiritual disease: he would fain be healed of both. Cp. Psalm 6:2-3; Jeremiah 17:14.
for I have sinned against thee] Cp. Psalm 51:4; Psalm 31:10 He has offended against God; the chastisement comes from Him; and He alone can heal. Cp. Hosea 6:1.
4–6. The foregoing sketch of the blessedness of the compassionate man serves to introduce the Psalmist’s description of his own case, partly as a foil and contrast to the heartless treatment he is experiencing, partly because he feels that he can himself plead for a share in the mercy promised to the merciful.Verse 4. - I said; rather, as for me, I said. The writer pointedly marks that he turns here from considering the blessedness of the compassionate man to contemplation of his own case - his afflictions and sufferings. Lord, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee. The worst of all his woes - the root and origin of them all - fons et origo mall, is his own sinfulness. Unless that is cured, all other alleviation is vain. Hence, after the first general cry for mercy, he goes to the root of the matter, "Heal my soul." There, within me, in the depths of my nature, is the worst malady. Heal that, and soon all will be well with me. Psalm 40:14 turns with רצה towards the will of God; for this is the root of all things. As to the rest, it resembles Psalm 22:20 (Psalm 38:23). The persecuted one wishes that the purpose of his deadly foes may as it were rebound against the protection of God and miserably miscarry. לספּותהּ, ad abripiendam eam (with Dagesh in the פ according to Ges. 45, 2, Ew. 245, a, and not as Gesenius, Thesaurus, p. 1235, states, aspirated),
(Note: After ל the aspirate usually disappears, as here and in Psalm 118:13; but there are exceptions, as לנתושׁ ולנתוץ, Jeremiah 1:10, and frequently, לשׁדוד, ib. Psalm 57:4. After ב and כ it usually remains, as in Psalm 87:6, Job 4:13; Job 33:15; 2 Samuel 3:34; 1 Kings 1:21; Ecclesiastes 5:10; but again there are exceptions, as בּשׁכּן, Genesis 35:22, בּזכּר, Jeremiah 17:2. In Genesis 23:2 it is pointed לבכּתהּ according to the rule, and in my Comment. S. 423 it is to be read "with a Dagesh.")
is added to מבקשׁי נפשׁי by way of explanation and definiteness. ישׁמּוּ, from שׁמם, to become torpid, here used of outward and inward paralysis, which is the result of overpowering and as it were bewitching surprise or fright, and is called by the Arabs ro‛b or ra‛b (paralysis through terror) cf. Job, note at Psalm 18:12. An על following upon ישׁמּוּ looks at first sight as though it introduced the object and reason of this fright; it is therefore not: as a reward, in consequence of their infamy, which would not be על־עקב, but merely the accusative עקב (Isaiah 5:23, Arabic ‛qîba), it is rather: on account of the reward (Psalm 19:12) of their disgrace (cf. as belonging to the same period, Psalm 109:29; Psalm 35:26), i.e., of the reward which consists in their being put to shame (Hitzig). לי as in Psalm 3:3; Psalm 41:6 : with reference to me. האח האח (Aquila, ἀὰ ἀὰ, αὐτῇ συγχρησάμενος, as Eusebius says, οὕτως ἐχούσῃ τῇ Ἑβραΐκῆ φωνῇ) is an exclamation of sarcastic delight, which finds its satisfaction in another's misfortune (Psalm 35:25).
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