Psalm 88:5
Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) Free among the dead . . .—So the old versions without exception, taking chaphshî as an adjective, as in Job 3:19 (where used of an emancipated slave); 1Samuel 17:25 (free from public burdens). So of the separate house for lepers, who were cut off from society (2Kings 15:5). Hence some refer the psalm to Uzziah. The Targum explains, “freed from legal duties.” But plainly the meaning is here exactly that of defunctus. The verse offers an instance of introverted parallelism, and this clause answers to “they are cut off from thy hand.” Gesenius, however, makes the Hebrew word a noun (comp. Ezekiel 27:20), and renders, among the dead is my couch.

Whom thou.—The dead are “clean forgotten, out of mind” even to God.

From thy handi.e., from the guiding, helping hand which, though stretched out for living men, does not reach to the grave.

Psalm 88:5. Free among the dead — Well nigh discharged from the warfare of the present life, and entered, as a member, into the society of the dead; or, removed from all the affairs and conversation of men as if I were really dead. Like the slain, whom thou rememberest no more — Whom thou seemest wholly to neglect and to bury in oblivion. He speaks of these matters, not as they are in truth, for he knew very well that forgetfulness was not incident to God, and that God did remember all the dead, and would call them to an account; but only as to appearance, and the opinion of the world, and the things of this life. And they are cut off from thy hand From the care and conduct of thy providence, which is to be understood as the former clause.

88:1-9 The first words of the psalmist are the only words of comfort and support in this psalm. Thus greatly may good men be afflicted, and such dismal thoughts may they have about their afflictions, and such dark conclusion may they make about their end, through the power of melancholy and the weakness of faith. He complained most of God's displeasure. Even the children of God's love may sometimes think themselves children of wrath and no outward trouble can be so hard upon them as that. Probably the psalmist described his own case, yet he leads to Christ. Thus are we called to look unto Jesus, wounded and bruised for our iniquities. But the wrath of God poured the greatest bitterness into his cup. This weighed him down into darkness and the deep.Free among the dead - Luther renders this, "I lie forgotten among the dead." DeWette renders it, "Pertaining to the dead - (den Todten angehorend) - stricken down, like the slain, I lie in the grave," and explains it as meaning, "I am as good as dead." The word rendered "free" - חפשׁי chophshı̂y - means properly, according to Gesenius (Lexicon),

(1) prostrate, weak, feeble;

(2) free, as opposed to a slave or a captive;

(3) free from public taxes or burdens.

The word is translated "free" in Exodus 21:2, Exodus 21:5,Exodus 21:26-27; Deuteronomy 15:12-13, Deuteronomy 15:18; 1 Samuel 17:25; Job 3:19; Job 39:5; Isaiah 58:6; Jeremiah 34:9-11, Jeremiah 34:14; and at liberty in Jeremiah 34:16. It occurs nowhere else except in this verse. In all these places (except in 1 Samuel 17:25, where it refers to a house or family made free, and Job 39:5, where it refers to the freedom of the wild ass), it denotes the freedom of one who had been a servant or slave. In Job 3:19, it has reference to the grave, and to the fact that the grave delivers a slave or servant from obligation to his master: "And the servant is free from his master." This is the idea, I apprehend, here. It is not, as DeWette supposes, that he was weak and feeble, as the spirits of the departed are represented to be (compare the notes at Isaiah 14:9-11), but that the dead are made free from the burdens, the toils, the calamities, the servitudes of life; that they are like those who are emancipated from bondage (compare Job 7:1-2; Job 14:6); that death comes to discharge them, or to set them at liberty. So the psalmist applies the expression here to himself, as if he had already reached that point; as if it were so certain that he must die that he could speak of it as if it had occurred; as if he were actually in the condition of the dead. The idea is that he was to all appearance near the grave, and that there was no hope of his recovery. It is not here, however, the idea of release or emancipation which was mainly before his mind, or any idea of consolation as from that, but it is the idea of death - of hopeless disease that must end in death. This he expresses in the usual language; but it is evident that he did not admit any comfort into his mind from the idea of freedom in the grave.

Like the slain that lie in the grave - When slain in battle. They are free from the perils and the toils of life; they are emancipated from its cares and dangers. Death is freedom; and it is possible to derive solace from that idea of death, as Job did Job 3:19; but the psalmist here, as remarked above, did not so admit that idea into his mind as to be comforted by it.

Whom thou rememberest no more - As if they were forgotten by thee; as if they were no longer the object of thy care. They are suffered to lie and waste away, with no care on thy part to restore them to life, or to preserve them from offensiveness and decay. So the great, the beautiful, and the good lie neglected in the grave.

And they are cut off from thy hand - Margin, "by." The Hebrew is literally "from thy hand," but still the idea is that it was by the agency of God. They had been cut down, and were forgotten - as if God regarded them no more. So we shall all moulder in the grave - in that deep, dark, cold, silent, repulsive abode, as if even God had forgotten us.

5. Free … dead—Cut off from God's care, as are the slain, who, falling under His wrath, are left, no longer sustained by His hand. Free among the dead; well nigh discharged from the warfare of the present life, and entered es a member into the society of the dead; as Israelitish servants, when they were made flee, were thereby made denizens of the commonwealth of Israel. I expect no other freedom from my miseries but that which death gives, as Job 3:17,18.

Whom thou rememberest no more; whom thou seemest wholly to neglect and to bury in oblivion; for he speaks of these matters not as they are in truth, for he knew very well that forgetfulness was not incident to God, and that God did remember all the dead, and would call them to an account, but only as to sense and appearance, and the opinion of the world, and the state and things of this life.

From thy hand; from the care and conduct of thy providence, which is to be understood as the former clause. Or, by thy hand. But our translation seems better to agree both with the foregoing branch, which it explains and improves, and with the order of the words; for it seems improper, after he had represented the persons as dead, and in their graves, to add that they

are cut off, to wit, by death.

Free among the dead,.... If he was a freeman, it was only among the dead, not among the living; if he was free of any city, it was of the city of the dead; he looked upon himself as a dead man, as one belonging to the state of the dead, who are free from all relations, and from all business and labour, and removed from all company and society; he thought himself quite neglected, of whom there was no more care and notice taken than of a dead man:

like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more; in a providential way, as in life, to clothe them, and feed them, and protect and preserve them; in which sense God is said to be mindful of men, Psalm 8:4, who when dead have no need to be minded, and remembered in such a manner; otherwise God does remember the dead, and takes care of their dust, and will raise them again; and especially he remembers his own people, those that sleep in Jesus, who will be thought of in the resurrection morn, and will be raised first, and brought with Christ; see Job 14:13,

and they are cut off from thy hand; that is, the slain that lie in the grave, the dead that are buried there; these are cut off from the hand of Providence, they needing no supplies from thence as in the time of life. The Targum is,

"and they are separated from the face of thy majesty.''

or "they are cut off by thine hand" (i); by the immediate hand of God, in a judicial way; so Christ in his death was like one of these, he was cut off in a judicial way, not for his own sins, but for the transgressions of his people, Isaiah 53:8.

(i) "manu tua", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Amama.

{c} Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy {d} hand.

(c) For he who is dead is free from all cares and business of this life and thus he says because he was unprofitable for all matters concerning man's life, and as it were cut off from this world.

(d) That is, from your providence and care, which is meant according to the judgment of the flesh.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. Free among the dead] There can hardly be any allusion to Job 3:19, where the word is used of a welcome release from servitude, for it is a far-fetched interpretation to suppose that a new turn is given to the phrase and that it here means ‘dismissed against his will from the service of God.’ Render as R.V., cast off, or R.V. marg., cast away. A cognate word is used for ‘the house of separation’ in which Uzziah lived as a leper (2 Chronicles 26:21).

Another but doubtful translation is, My couch is among the dead: cp. Job 17:13.

the slain &c.] The slain in battle, whose corpses are flung into a nameless common grave. Cp. Ezekiel 32:24 ff.

whom thou rememberest no more] Sheol is the ‘land of oblivion,’ where men neither remember God (Psalm 6:5; Psalm 30:9) nor are remembered by Him. They are cut off from thy hand, severed from Thy gracious help and protection. Cp. Psalm 31:22; Lamentations 3:54; 2 Chronicles 26:21. On this gloomy view of the future state see Introd. pp. xciii ff.

Verse 5. - Free among the dead; or, "east out among the dead." Placed with corpses, as one that needs burial. Like the slain that lie in the grave. Like those who are thrown into a pit dug on a battlefield, among whom there are often some who have not breathed their last (see the Prayerbook Version). Whom thou rememberest no more. We have already beard the complaint that in death there is no remembrance of God on the part of man (Psalm 6:5); now we have the converse statement, that neither is there then any remembrance of man on the part of God. The psalmist speaks, not absolute truth, but the belief of his day - a belief which vanished when life and immortality were brought to light by the gospel. And they are out off from thy hand; i.e. severed from thee, shut up in a place where thou dwell eat not (see Job 10:21, 22). Psalm 88:5The 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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