Psalm 6:5
For in death there is no remembrance of you: in the grave who shall give you thanks?
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(5) For in death.—As in Psalm 30:9, the sufferer urges as a further reason for Divine aid the loss Jehovah would suffer by the cessation of his praise. The Israelite’s natural dread of death was intensified by the thought that the grave separated him from all the privileges of the covenant with God. (Comp. Isaiah 38:18.) There can be neither remembrance of His past mercies there, nor confession of His greatness. The word translated grave, in exact parallelism with death, is sheôl, or underworld, in the early conception merely a vast sepulchral cave, closed as rock-tombs usually were by gates of stone or iron (Isaiah 38:10; Job 17:16). The derivation of the word is disputed, but the primary meaning appears to have been hollowness. It occurs sixty-five times in the Bible, and is rendered in the Authorised version three times “pit,” and then with curious impartiality thirty-one times “grave,” and as many “hell.” When it ceased to be merely a synonym for “grave,” and began to gather a new set of ideas we cannot ascertain. It was before the time of which we have any contemporary records. But it acquired these new ideas very slowly. Sheol was for a very long time only a magnified grave, into which all the dead, bad and good alike, prince and peasant, went; where they lay side by side in their niches, as the dead do in the loculi of eastern tombs now, without sense of light or sound, or any influence from the upper world (1Kings 2:2; Job 30:23; Psalm 89:48). It is something more than death, put it is not life. The “sleep of death” expresses it. As in Homer’s Hades, the dead are men without the minds or energies of men—“soulless men; so the dead in the Hebrew conception are rephaim, that is, weak, shadowy existences. Indeed, the Biblical representation is even less tolerable than the Greek. Homer’s heroes retain many of their interests in the living world; they rejoice in the prosperity of their friends—their own approval or disapproval makes a difference to those still on earth—and, apart from this continued connection with the upper air, they had gone to a realm of their own, with its sovereign lord, its laws and customs, its sanctions, and penalties. Not so in the Jewish belief—“the dead know not anything”; “there is no wisdom in sheol.” It would be of no use for God to show any wonders among those incapable of perceiving them (Ecclesiastes 9:5-10; Psalm 88:10). They have passed altogether from all the interests and relations of life, even from the covenant relation with Jehovah. (Comp. Isaiah 38:18; Psalm 115:17.) How the Hebrew conscience, helped, possibly, by the influence of foreign ideas, gradually struggled into a higher light on these subjects, belongs to the history of eschatology. The fact that Psalms 6 reflects the earlier undeveloped doctrine, is an argument against any very late date for it.

6:1-7 These verses speak the language of a heart truly humbled, of a broken and contrite spirit under great afflictions, sent to awaken conscience and mortify corruption. Sickness brought sin to his remembrance, and he looked upon it as a token of God's displeasure against him. The affliction of his body will be tolerable, if he has comfort in his soul. Christ's sorest complaint, in his sufferings, was of the trouble of his soul, and the want of his Father's smiles. Every page of Scripture proclaims the fact, that salvation is only of the Lord. Man is a sinner, his case can only be reached by mercy; and never is mercy more illustrious than in restoring backsliders. With good reason we may pray, that if it be the will of God, and he has any further work for us or our friends to do in this world, he will yet spare us or them to serve him. To depart and be with Christ is happiest for the saints; but for them to abide in the flesh is more profitable for the church.For in death - In the state of the dead; in the grave.

There is no remembrance of thee - They who are dead do not remember thee or think of thee. The "ground" of this appeal is, that it was regarded by the psalmist as a "desirable" thing to remember God and to praise him, and that this could not be done by one who was dead. He prayed, therefore, that God would spare his life, and restore him to health, that he might praise him in the land of the living. A sentiment similar to this occurs in Psalm 30:9, "What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?" So also Psalm 88:11, "Shall thy loving-kindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction?" So also in Isaiah 38:18, in the language of Hezekiah, "The grave cannot praise thee; death cannot celebrate thee; they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth." See the notes at that passage. A similar sentiment also is found in Job 10:21-22. See the notes at that passage. In regard to the meaning of this it may be remarked

(a) that it is to be admitted that there was among the ancient saints much less light on the subject of the future state than there is with us, and that they often, in giving utterance to their feelings, seemed to speak as if all were dark beyond the grave.

(b) But, though they thus spoke in their sorrow and in their despondency, they also did, on other occasions, express their belief in a future state, and their expectation of happiness in a coming world (compare, for example, Psalm 16:10-11; Psalm 17:15).

(c) Does not their language in times of despondency and sickness express the feelings which "we" often have now, even with all the light which we possess, and all the hopes which we cherish? Are there not times in the lives of the pious, even though they have a strong prevailing hope of heaven, when the thoughts are fixed on the grave as a dark, gloomy, repulsive prison, and "so" fixed on it as to lose sight of the world beyond? And in such moments does not "life" seem as precious to us, and as desirable, as it did to David, to Hezekiah, or to Job?

In the grave - Hebrew, בשׁאול bishe'ôl, "in Sheol." For the meaning of the word, see Isaiah 5:14, note; Isaiah 14:9, note; Job 7:9, note. Its meaning here does not differ materially from the word "grave."

Who shall give thee thanks? - Who shall "praise" thee? The idea is that "none" would then praise God. It was the land of "silence." See Isaiah 38:18-19. This language implies that David "desired" to praise God, but that he could not hope to do it in the grave.

5. (Compare Ps 115:17, 18; Isa 38:18). There is no incredulity as to a future state. The contrast is between this scene of life, and the grave or Sheol, the unseen world of the dead.

give … thanks—or, "praise for mercies."

In death; amongst the dead; or in the grave, as it follows.

There is no remembrance of thee; to wit, by me David, consisting both of soul and body; and no such remembrance, to wit, in way of thankfulness and praise, as the next clause of the verse limits and explains it; which he might fear would be true, not only because he should not have occasion to praise God for this deliverance, but also because he was in grievous agonies of conscience, and under terrors of God’s wrath, and his eternal damnation; which being oft incident to the saints of God under the New Testament, it is not strange if it were so also under the Old Testament. Besides he speaks of the remembrance or celebration of God’s name and grace in the land of the living, to the enlargement and edification of God’s church, and the propagation of true religion among men; which is not done in the other life, and was justly prized at so high a rate by David and other holy men, to whom therefore it must needs be a great grief to be for ever deprived of such opportunities. For otherwise David very well knew, and firmly believed, that souls departed were not extinct, but did go to God, Ecclesiastes 12:7, and there remember, and adore, and enjoy God, though quite in another way than that of which he here speaks. For in death there is no remembrance of thee,.... Of the goodness, truth, power, and faithfulness of God; no notice can be taken nor mention, made either of the perfections or works of God, whether of nature or of grace, by a dead man to others; he is wholly useless to men on earth with respect to these things;

in the grave who shall give thee thanks? for mercies temporal or spiritual; the dead cannot praise the Lord among men, only the living; see Psalm 30:9; wherefore the psalmist desires that he might live and praise the Lord: this argument is taken from the glory of God, which end cannot be answered among men by death, as by life. It does not follow from hence that the soul either dies or sleeps with the body, and is inactive until the resurrection morn, neither of which are true; or that the souls of departed saints are unemployed in heaven; they are always before the throne, and serve the Lord day and night; they remember, with the utmost gratitude and thankfulness, all the goodness and grace of God unto them, and praise him for all his wondrous works: but the sense is, that when a saint is dead, he can no more serve and glorify God on earth among men.

For in {d} death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?

(d) He laments that opportunity should be taken from him to praise God in the congregation.

5. A further plea. There can be no gain in his death. Nay, Jehovah will be the loser by it. For man is created to praise God, and God delights in his praise. But in the state to which man passes at death, he can no longer gratefully call to mind His goodness (Psalm 145:7), or celebrate His praise.

Here, as in Psalm 30:9, Psalm 88:10-12, Psalm 115:17 (cp. Isaiah 38:18 ff.; the Book of Job; Ecclesiastes 9:5; Ecclesiastes 6:10); we meet with that dreary despairing view of the state after death, which the Hebrews shared with the rest of the ancient world. They did not look forward to annihilation, but to a dreamy, shadowy, existence which did not deserve the name of life. The dead, they thought, were cut off from all activity and enjoyment, and worst of all, from the consciousness of God’s presence, and from that communion with Him, which is the essence of ‘life’ (Psalm 30:5). It is hardly possible for us who live in the light of Christ’s Resurrection (2 Timothy 1:10), to realise what the lifelong slavery to the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15) meant to the faithful Israelite, and the bold struggles of his faith to break the fetters. See Introd. p. xciii ff.

in the grave] It is far better, with the R.V., to retain the Hebrew word Shěôl to denote the abode of the departed. It is the O.T. equivalent of Hades, by which it is rendered in the LXX. It was thought of as a vast subterranean abyss, where all alike were gathered; a place of gloom and silence, but withal of rest, however joyless, for its shadowy denizens have no more power to do harm than good. “There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.” Cp. Job 3:13-19; Isaiah 14:9 ff. See Oehler’s O.T. Theology, § 78.Verse 5. - For in death there is no remembrance of thee (comp. Psalm 30:9; Psalm 88:11; Psalm 115:17; Psalm 118:17; Isaiah 38:18). The general view of the psalmists seems to have been that death was a cessation of the active service of God - whether for a time or permanently, they do not make clear to us. So even Hezekiah, in the passage of Isaiah above quoted. Death is represented as a sleep (Psalm 13:3), but whether there is an awakening from it does not appear. No doubt, as has been said ('Speaker's Commentary,' vol. 4. p. 182), "the cessation of active service, even of remembrance or devotion, does not affect the question of a future restoration," and the metaphor of sleep certainly suggests the idea of an awakening. But such a veil hung over the other world, under the old dispensation, and over the condition of the departed in it, that thought was scarcely exercised upon the subject. Men's duties in this life were what occupied them, and they did not realize that in another they would have employments - much less form any notion of what those employments would be. The grave seemed a place of silence, inaction, tranquillity. In the grave (Hebrew, in Sheol) who shall give thee thanks? (comp. Psalm 115:17, 18). (Heb.: 5:11-13) The verb אשׁם or אשׁם unites in itself the three closely allied meanings of becoming guilty (e.g., Leviticus 5:19), of a feeling of guilt (Leviticus 5:4.), and of expiation (Psalm 34:22.); just as the verbal adj. אשׁם also signifies both liable to punishment and expiating, and the substantive אשׁם both the guilt to be expiated and the expiation. The Hiph. האשׁים signifies to cause any one to render the expiation due to his fault, to make him do penance. As an exception God is here, in the midst of the Jehovic Psalms, called אלהים, perhaps not altogether unintentionally as being God the Judge. The מן of ממּעצותיהם (with Gaja by the מן and a transition of the counter-tone Metheg into Galgal, as in Hosea 11:6 into Meajla, vid., Psalter ii. 526) is certainly that of the cause in Hosea 11:6, but here it is to be explained with Olsh. and Hitz. according to Sir. 14:2, Judith 11:6 (cf. Hosea 10:6): may they fall from their own counsels, i.e., founder in the execution of them. Therefore מן in the sense of "down from, away," a sense which the parallel הדּיחמו thrust them away (cf. דּחוּ from דּחה Psalm 36:13), presupposes. The ב of בּרב is to be understood according to John 8:21, John 8:24 "ye shall die ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν." The multitude of their transgressions shall remain unforgiven and in this state God is to cast them into hades. The ground of this terrible prayer is set forth by כּי מרוּ בך. The tone of מרוּ, for a well-known reason (cf. e.g., Psalm 37:40; Psalm 64:11; Psalm 72:17) has retreated to the penult. מרה, root מר, prop. to be or hold one's self stiff towards any one, compare Arab. mârr, tmârr, to press and stiffen against one another in wrestling, Arab. mârâ, tmârâ, to struggle against anything, whether with outward or mental and moral opposition. Their obstinacy is not obstinacy against a man, but against God Himself; their sin is, therefore, Satanic and on that account unpardonable. All the prayers of this character are based upon the assumption expressed in Psalm 7:13, that those against whom they are directed do not wish for mercy. Accordingly their removal is prayed for. Their removal will make the ecclesia pressa free and therefore joyous. From this point of view the prayer in Psalm 5:12 is inspired by the prospect of the result of their removal. The futt. do not express a wish, but a consequence. The division of the verse is, however, incorrect. The rise of the first half of the verse closes with בך (the pausal form by Pazer), its fall is לעולם ירנּנוּ; then the rise begins anew in the second half, extending to בך which ought likewise to be pointed בך, and אהבי שׁמך is its fall. ותסך עלימו (from הסך Hiph. of סכך Psalm 91:4) is awkward in this sequence of thoughts. Hupfeld and Hitzig render it: "they shall rejoice for ever whom Thou defendest;" but then it ought not only to be pointed ירנּנוּ, but the ו must also be removed, and yet there is nothing to characterise תסך עלימו as being virtually a subject. On the other hand it does not harmonise with the other consecutive futures. It must therefore, like יפּלוּ, be the optative: "And do Thou defend them, then shall those who love Thy name rejoice in Thee." And then upon this this joy of those who love the name of Jahve (i.e., God in His revelation of Himself in redemption) Psalm 69:37; Psalm 119:132, is based by כּי־אתּה from a fact of universal experience which is the sum of all His historical self-attestations. עלימו is used instead of עליהם as a graver form of expression, just like הדּיחמו for הדּיחם as an indignant one. The form ויעלצוּ (Ges. 63, 3) is chosen instead of the יעלצוּ found in Psalm 25:2; Psalm 68:4, in order to assist the rhythm. The futt. are continuative. תּעטרנּוּ, cinges eum, is not a contracted Hiph. according to 1 Samuel 17:25, but Kal as in 1 Samuel 23:26; here it is used like the Piel in Psalm 8:6 with a double accusative. The צנּה (from צנן Arab. tsân, med. Waw, Aethiop. צון to hedge round, guard) is a shield of a largest dimensions; larger than מגן 1 Kings 10:16. (cf. 1 Samuel 17:7, where Goliath has his צנּה borne by a shield-bearer). כּצּנּה "like a shield" is equivalent to: as with a shield (Ges. 118, 3, rem.). The name of God, יהוה, is correctly drawn to the second member of the verse by the accentuation, in order to balance it with the first; and for this reason the first clause does not begin with כי־אתה יהוה here as it does elsewhere (Psalm 4:9; Psalm 12:8). רצון delight, goodwill, is also a synonym for the divine blessing in Deuteronomy 33:23.
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