Psalm 88:11
Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction?
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(11, 12) In these verses appear three prominent features of the Hebrew conception of the underworld. It is a place of “destruction” (comp. Job 26:6; Job 28:22), of “darkness” (comp. Psalm 88:6), and of “forgetfulness,” which may imply not only that the dead are forgotten, both of God and men (comp. Psalm 31:12 with Psalm 88:5), but that they themselves have, to borrow the heathen figure, drunk of the water of Lethe. (Comp. Psalm 6:5; Psalm 30:9, and for both ideas combined Ecclesiastes 9:5-10.)

(11) Lovingkindness.—Better here, covenant grace. The grave knew nothing of this. Death severed the covenant relationship. So “faithfulness,” “wonders,” “righteousness” are all used in their limited sense as determined by the covenant.

88:10-18 Departed souls may declare God's faithfulness, justice, and lovingkindness; but deceased bodies can neither receive God's favours in comfort, nor return them in praise. The psalmist resolved to continue in prayer, and the more so, because deliverance did not come speedily. Though our prayers are not soon answered, yet we must not give over praying. The greater our troubles, the more earnest and serious we should be in prayer. Nothing grieves a child of God so much as losing sight of him; nor is there any thing he so much dreads as God's casting off his soul. If the sun be clouded, that darkens the earth; but if the sun should leave the earth, what a dungeon would it be! Even those designed for God's favours, may for a time suffer his terrors. See how deep those terrors wounded the psalmist. If friends are put far from us by providences, or death, we have reason to look upon it as affliction. Such was the calamitous state of a good man. But the pleas here used were peculiarly suited to Christ. And we are not to think that the holy Jesus suffered for us only at Gethsemane and on Calvary. His whole life was labour and sorrow; he was afflicted as never man was, from his youth up. He was prepared for that death of which he tasted through life. No man could share in the sufferings by which other men were to be redeemed. All forsook him, and fled. Oftentimes, blessed Jesus, do we forsake thee; but do not forsake us, O take not thy Holy Spirit from us.Shall thy loving-kindness be declared in the grave? - Thy goodness; thy mercy. Shall anyone make it known there? shall it there be celebrated?

Or thy faithfulness in destruction? - In the place where destruction seems to reign; where human hopes perish; where the body moulders back to dust. Shall anyone there dwell on the fidelity - the truthfulness - of God, in such a way as to honor him? It is implied here that, according to the views then entertained of the state of the dead, those things would not occur. According to what is now made known to us of the unseen world it is true that the mercy of God will not be made known to the dead; that the Gospel will not be preached to them; that no messenger from God will convey to them the offers of salvation. Compare Luke 16:28-31.

11, 12. amplify the foregoing, the whole purport (as Ps 6:5) being to contrast death and life as seasons for praising God. I am not without hopes that thou hast a true kindness for me, and wilt faithfully perform thy gracious promises made to me, and to all that love thee and call upon thee in truth. But then this must be done speedily, or I shall be utterly incapable of such a mercy.

Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave?.... Where he saw himself now going, and where should he be detained, and not raised out of it, the lovingkindness of God to him, as his Son, and as man and Mediator, and to his people in the gift and mission of him to be their Saviour and Redeemer, how would that be declared and made known? now it is, Christ being raised, and his ministers having a commission from him to preach the Gospel, in which the lovingkindness of God is abundantly manifested:

or thy faithfulness in destruction? the grave, so called from dead bodies being cast into it, and wasted, consumed, and destroyed in it: the meaning may be, that should he be laid in the grave, and there putrefy and rot, and not be raised again, where would be the faithfulness of God to his purposes, to his covenant and promises, to him his Son, and to his people?

Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction?
11. To proclaim God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness is the delight of His people (Psalm 40:10; Psalm 92:2), but in the grave they will neither have cause nor power to do it. These two attributes, so often coupled together, are the keynote of Psalms 89.

‘Destruction,’ Heb. Abaddon, is almost a proper name for Sheol as the place of ruin: elsewhere only in the ‘Wisdom literature,’ Job 26:6; Job 28:22; Job 31:12; Proverbs 15:11; Proverbs 27:20. Cp. Revelation 9:11, where it is the name of “the angel of the abyss,” Gk. Apollyon, ‘the Destroyer.’

Verse 11. - Shall thy loving kindness be declared in the grave? Wilt thou wait till I am in my grave before thou showest any mercy upon me? or, Will not that be too late? Can thy faithfulness to thy promises be shown in destruction? literally, in Abaddon; i.e. "perdition" - a name of Sheol (cf. Job 26:6; Job 28:22). Psalm 88:11The octastichs are now followed by hexastichs which belong together in pairs. The complaint concerning the alienation of his nearest relations sounds like Job 19:13., but the same strain is also frequently heard in the earlier Psalms written in times of suffering, e.g., Psalm 31:9. He is forsaken by all his familiar friends (not: acquaintances, for מידּע signifies more than that), he is alone in the dungeon of wretchedness, where no one comes near him, and whence he cannot make his escape. This sounds, according to Leviticus 13, very much like the complaint of a leper. The Book of Leviticus there passes over from the uncleanness attending the beginning of human life to the uncleanness of the most terrible disease. Disease is the middle stage between birth and death, and, according to the Eastern notion, leprosy is the worst of all diseases, it is death itself clinging to the still living man (Numbers 12:12), and more than all other evils a stroke of the chastening hand of God (נגע), a scourge of God (צרעת). The man suspected of having leprosy was to be subjected to a seven days' quarantine until the determination of the priest's diagnosis; and if the leprosy was confirmed, he was to dwell apart outside the camp (Leviticus 13:46), where, though not imprisoned, he was nevertheless separated from his dwelling and his family (cf. Job, at Job 19:19), and if a man of position, would feel himself condemned to a state of involuntary retirement. It is natural to refer the כּלא, which is closely connected with שׁתּני, to this separation. עיני, Psalm 88:10, instead of עיני, as in Psalm 6:8; Psalm 31:10 : his eye has languished, vanished away (דּאב of the same root as tābescere, cognate with the root of דּונג, Psalm 68:3), in consequence of (his) affliction. He calls and calls upon Jahve, stretches out (שׁטּח, expandere, according to the Arabic, more especially after the manner of a roof) his hands (palmas) towards Him, in order to shield himself from His wrath and to lead Him compassionately to give ear to him. In Psalm 88:11-13 he bases his cry for help upon a twofold wish, viz., to become an object of the miraculous help of God, and to be able to praise Him for it. Neither of these wishes would be realized if he were to die; for that which lies beyond this life is uniform darkness, devoid of any progressive history. With מתים alternates רפאים (sing. רפא), the relaxed ones, i.e., shades (σκιαὶ) of the nether world. With reference to יודוּ instead of להודות, vid., Ewald, 337, b. Beside חשׁך (Job 10:21.) stands ארץ נשׁיּה, the land of forgetfulness (λήθη), where there is an end of all thinking, feeling, and acting (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, Ecclesiastes 9:10), and where the monotony of death, devoid of thought and recollection, reigns. Such is the representation given in the Old Testament of the state beyond the present, even in Ecclesiastes, and in the Apocrypha (Sir. 17:27f. after Isaiah 38:18.; Baruch 2:17f.); and it was obliged to be thus represented, for in the New Testament not merely the conception of the state after death, but this state itself, is become a different one.
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