Psalm 88:11
Shall your loving kindness be declared in the grave? or your 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). The poet finds himself in the midst of circumstances gloomy in the extreme, but he does not despair; he still turns towards Jahve with his complaints, and calls Him the God of his salvation. This actus directus of fleeing in prayer to the God of salvation, which urges its way through all that is dark and gloomy, is the fundamental characteristic of all true faith. Psalm 88:2 is not to be rendered, as a clause of itself: "by day I cry unto Thee, in the night before Thee" (lxx and Targum), which ought to have been יומם, but (as it is also pointed, especially in Baer's text): by day, i.e., in the time (Psalm 56:4; Psalm 78:42, cf. Psalm 18:1), when I cry before Thee in the night, let my prayer come... (Hitzig). In Psalm 88:3 he calls his piercing lamentation, his wailing supplication, רנּתי, as in Psalm 17:1; Psalm 61:2. הטּה as in Psalm 86:1, for which we find הט in Psalm 17:6. The Beth of בּרעות, as in Psalm 65:5; Lamentations 3:15, Lamentations 3:30, denotes that of which his soul has already had abundantly sufficient. On Psalm 88:4, cf. as to the syntax Psalm 31:11. איל (ἅπαξ λεγομ. like אילוּת, Psalm 22:20) signifies succinctness, compactness, vigorousness (ἁδρότης): he is like a man from whom all vital freshness and vigour is gone, therefore now only like the shadow of a man, in fact like one already dead. חפשׁי, in Psalm 88:6, the lxx renders ἐν νεκροῖς ἐλεύθερος (Symmachus, ἀφεὶς ἐλεύθερος); and in like manner the Targum, and the Talmud which follows it in formulating the proposition that a deceased person is חפשׁי מן חמצוות, free from the fulfilling of the precepts of the Law (cf. Romans 6:7). Hitzig, Ewald, Kster, and Bttcher, on the contrary, explain it according to Ezekiel 27:20 (where חפשׁ signifies stragulum): among the dead is my couch (חפשׁי equals יצועי, Job 17:13). But in respect of Job 3:19 the adjectival rendering is the more probable; "one set free among the dead" (lxx) is equivalent to one released from the bond of life (Job 39:5), somewhat as in Latin a dead person is called defunctus. God does not remember the dead, i.e., practically, inasmuch as, devoid of any progressive history, their condition remains always the same; they are in fact cut away (נגזר as in Psalm 31:23; Lamentations 3:54; Isaiah 53:8) from the hand, viz., from the guiding and helping hand, of God. Their dwelling-place is the pit of the places lying deep beneath (cf. on תּחתּיּות, Psalm 63:10; Psalm 86:13; Ezekiel 26:20, and more particularly Lamentations 3:55), the dark regions (מחשׁכּים as in Psalm 143:3, Lamentations 3:6), the submarine depths (בּמצלות; lxx, Symmachus, the Syriac, etc.: ἐν σκιᾷ θανάτου equals בצלמות, according to Job 10:21 and frequently, but contrary to Lamentations 3:54), whose open abyss is the grave for each one. On Psalm 88:8 cf. Psalm 42:8. The Mugrash by כל־משׁבריך stamps it as an adverbial accusative (Targum), or more correctly, since the expression is not עניתני, as the object placed in advance. Only those who are not conversant with the subject (as Hupfeld in this instance) imagine that the accentuation marks ענּית as a relative clause (cf. on the contrary Psalm 8:7, Psalm 21:3, etc.). ענּה, to bow down, press down; here used of the turning or directing downwards (lxx ἐπήγαγες) of the waves, which burst like a cataract over the afflicted one.
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