Psalm 88:15
I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer your terrors I am distracted.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) Terrors.—Another of the many expressions which connect this psalm with the book of Job. (See Job 6:4; Job 9:34, &c.)

Distracted.—The Hebrew word is peculiar to the place. The ancient versions all agree in taking it as a verb, and rendering it by some general term denoting “trouble.” But the context evidently requires a stronger word, and possibly connecting with a cognate word meaning “wheel,” we may get, “I turn giddy.” A change of a stroke in one letter would give “I grow frigid.” (Comp. Psalm 38:8.)

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.I am afflicted and ready to die - I am so afflicted - so crushed with sorrow and trouble - that my strength is nearly gone, and I can endure it but a little longer.

From my youth up - That is, for a long time; so long, that the remembrance of it seems to go back to my very childhood. My whole life has been a life of trouble and sorrow, and I have not strength to bear it longer. It may have been literally true that the author of the psalm had been a man always afflicted; or, this may be the language of strong emotion, meaning that his sufferings had been of so long continuance that they seemed to him to have begun in his very boyhood.

While I suffer thy terrors - I bear those things which produce terror; or, which fill my mind with alarm; to wit, the fear of death, and the dread of the future world.

I am distracted - I cannot compose and control my mind; I cannot pursue any settled course of thought; I cannot confine my attention to anyone subject; I cannot reason calmly on the subject of affliction, on the divine government, on the ways of God. I am distracted with contending feelings, with my pain, and my doubts, and my fears - and I cannot think clearly of anything. Such is often the case in sickness; and consequently what we need, to prepare us for sickness, is a strong faith, built on a solid foundation while we are in health; such an intelligent and firm faith that when the hour of sickness shall come we shall have nothing else to do but to believe, and to take the comfort of believing. The bed of sickness is not the proper place to examine the evidences of religion; it is not the place to make preparation for death; not the proper place to become religious. Religion demands the best vigor of the intellect and the calmest state of the heart; and this great subject should be settled in our minds before we are sick - before we are laid on the bed of death.

15. from … youth up—all my life. From my youth up; my whole life hath been filled with a succession of deadly calamities. O Lord, take some pity upon me, and let me have a little breathing space before I die.

I suffer thy terrors upon my mind and conscience, which do accompany and aggravate my outward miseries. I am afflicted,.... In body and mind, from within and from without, by Satan, by the men of the world, and by the Lord himself; which is the common lot of God's people, Psalm 34:19 and was the case of the Messiah, who was afflicted both with the tongues and hands of men, by words, by blows, and by the temptations of Satan; and was smitten and afflicted of God, by divine justice, as the sinner's surety: see Psalm 22:24 or

I am poor (a); which as it is a character, which, for the most part, agrees with the saints, who are the poor of this world God has chosen, to whom the Gospel is sent, and by whom it is received, and who are effectually called by it, so likewise belongs to Christ, Zechariah 9:9,

and ready to die, from my youth up; a sickly unhealthful person from his infancy, and often in danger of death; which last was certainly the case of Christ in his infancy, through the malice of Herod; and many times afterwards, when grown up, through the attempts of the Jews to take away his life: some render it, "I am ready to die through concussion", or "shaking" (b); meaning some very rough and severe dispensation of Providence, such an one as Job expresses by shaking him to pieces, Job 16:12 and was literally true of Christ, when his body was so shaken by the jog of the cross, that all his bones were put out of joint, Psalm 22:14.

while I suffer thy terrors; or "bear" (c) them, or "carry", even terrible afflictions, in which he had terrible apprehensions of the wrath of God in them, of death they would issue in, and of an awful judgment that should follow that; all which are called the terrors of the Lord, Job 6:4, and which the saints, when left to God, have some dreadful apprehensions of: such were the terrors of the Lord the Messiah endured, when in a view of the sins of his people being laid upon him, and of the wrath of God coming on him for them, his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling to the ground, Luke 22:44. Compare with this Psalm 18:4.

I am distracted: not out of his mind, deprived of his senses, and without the use of reason; but his thoughts were distracted and confused, and his mind discomposed with the terrors of God upon him: the Hebrew word "aphunah" is only used in this place, and is difficult of interpretation, and is variously derived and rendered: some take it to be of the same root with "pen", which signifies "lest, perhaps" (d); seeing persons in a panic are apt to use such expressions; perhaps, or it may be, such and such things will befall me; forming and framing in their minds ten thousand dreadful things, which they fear are coming upon them; so Aben Ezra and Kimchi; and is applied by Cocceius (e) to the solicitous care and fear of Christ concerning his body, the church, Hebrews 5:7 others derive it from "ophen", which signifies a wheel, and so may be rendered, "I am wheeled about" (f); always in motion, and have no rest day nor night; as Christ was after his apprehension, being carried from place to place, and from bar to bar: others derive it from the Arabic word "aphan" (g), which signifies to be in want of counsel and advice: Christ though, as God, needed no counsel, nor did he take counsel with any; and, as Mediator, is the wonderful Counsellor; yet, as man, he needed it, and had it from his Father, for which he blesses him, Psalm 16:7, others from the Hebrew root "phanah", which signifies to look unto, as persons in a panic look here and there; and as Christ did when suffering, who looked, and there was none to help, Isaiah 63:5. The Syriac and Arabic versions render it "amazed", or "astonished", which is said of Christ, Mark 14:33, the Vulgate Latin version is "troubled", which also agrees with Christ, John 12:27 as he must needs be, when his enemies surrounded him, the sins of his people were upon him, the sword of justice awaked against him, and the wrath of God on him, as follows.

(a) "pauper", V. L. Pagninus, Junius & Tremellius; "inops", Cocceius, Michaelis. (b) "a concussione", Luther, Schmidt, Junius & Tremellius; "propter concussionem", Piscator; "prae concussione", Gejerus. (c) "portavi", Pagninus, Montanus; "fero", Tigurine version, Piscator; "tuli", Musculus, Cocceius; "pertuli portavi", Michaelis. (d) a "ne forte", Amama, Gejerus; "anxius timeo vel metno, ne hoc vel illud fiat", Michaelis. (e) Lex. Heb. p. 663. (f) Heb. "rotor, seu instar rotae circumagor", Piscator. (g) "consilii inops fuit", Castel. Lex. col. 199.

I am afflicted and ready to die {l} from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted.

(l) I am always in great dangers and sorrows as though my life would utterly be cut off every moment.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. Will God have no pity upon one whose whole life has been spent at the point of death? Could this be said of Israel as a nation? ‘From youth’ is of course frequently used of the nation (Psalm 129:1-2; Jeremiah 32:30; &c.), but Israel’s existence had not been continuously wretched and precarious.

while I suffer &c.] I have borne thy terrors (till) I am distracted. Terrors is a favourite word with Job. The word rendered distracted occurs here only and is of doubtful meaning. Possibly it is a false reading for another word meaning faint or stupefied (Psalm 38:8).Verse 15. - I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up. This is a new point. The psalmist's afflictions have not come upon him recently. He does not merely mean, as some have supposed, that, like other men, as soon as he was born he began to die, but speaks of something, if not absolutely peculiar to himself, yet at any rate rare and abnormal - a long continuance in a dying state, such as could only have been brought about by some terribly severe malady. While I suffer thy terrors I am distracted; literally, I have endured thy terrors; I am exhausted. (On the endurance of God's "terrors," see Job 6:4; Job 9:34; Job 13:21.) The natural result would be a state, not of distraction, but of exhaustion. (So Kay, and substantially Professor Cheyne.) The 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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