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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 38

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes


I. “Author of the psalm” - The psalm purports to have been written by David, and there is no reason to doubt that it was composed by him. There is no tradition to the contrary, and there is nothing in the psalm inconsistent with such a supposition.

II. “The title” - The psalm is said in the title to be designed “to bring to remembrance.” The same title occurs in Psalms 70:1-5, though there is no resemblance between the two, except that they both have reference to the attempts and purposes of the enemies of David, and to trials in different forms which had come from them. The Latin Vulgate renders this: “A Psalm of David, for remembrance concerning the Sabbath.” The Septuagint renders it in the same manner. The Arabic: In which there is a mention of the sabbath.” Whence these allusions to the sabbath were derived is unknown, as there is nothing in the Hebrew corresponding with them. The Aramaic Paraphrase has prefixed, “For a good memorial concerning Israel.” The Hebrew term used - להזכיר lehazekiyr - means simply “for bringing to remembrance,” or for reminding. The meaning is, that it is a record for the purpose of “reminding;” that is, of keeping the “remembrance” of something which had occurred in his own experience, and which might be useful to himself or to others; the record of some valuable lessons which had been learned from what he had experienced in the trials referred to. Compare Genesis 40:14; 1 Kings 17:18; Ezekiel 21:24. Gesenius (Lexicon) renders it, “To bring to remembrance, sc., oneself with God.” Grotius says of it, “This psalm is designed to inculcate the perpetual remembrance of David and his sin, and of the pardon that was granted.” There can be no doubt that the psalm had this design of making a permanent record of an important event in the life of the author, or of his “experience” in a time of great calamity; but why this title was affixed only to this psalm and to Psalms 70:1-5 is wholly unknown. There are many other psalms to which, it would seem, the title might have been prefixed with equal propriety, as containing important reminiscences of trials, and of religious experience under those trials.

III. “Occasion of the psalm” - The particular time or occasion on which the psalm was composed is unknown. There are no recorded events in the life of David to which this psalm would be “particularly” applicable, though, in a life of trial and suffering such as his was, there can be no doubt that there may have been many such occasions. It is impossible now, however, to fix the exact time or occasion with any degree of accuracy or probability. What is known is, that it was with reference to sickness Psalms 38:3-8, Psalms 38:10-11, and to the neglect which was evinced, and the cruel treatment which he received, in sickness Psalms 38:11-12, Psalms 38:19-20.

IV. The contents of the psalm.

(1) The psalm describes the condition of one who was suffering from “sickness,” Psalms 38:2-3, Psalms 38:5,Psalms 38:7-8, Psalms 38:10-11. Some have supposed that this is merely “figurative” language, and that it is designed to represent calamity, trouble, sorrow, heavily pressing upon him as if he were sick; others have supposed that it is intended to refer, not to David, but to the people of Israel as afflicted and persecuted, represented under the image of one suffering from disease; but the most natural and obvious interpretation is to regard it as a literal description of one who was suffering under some form of disease. There were doubtless occasions in the long life of David when this actually occurred; and there are occasions in the lives of the people of God of a similar kind, sufficiently numerous to make it proper that an inspired record of the experience of a good man thus suffering should be preserved, as an example of the proper spirit to be manifested in sickness. What was the “character” or “nature” of that sickness may appear in the examination of the particular expressions in the record.

(2) The condition of the sufferer as aggravated by two things:

(a) By the neglect of his friends - by their turning away from him in his trials, Psalms 38:11;

(b) By the efforts of his enemies - taking advantage of his sickness, and bringing against him accusations which he was not then able to meet, Psalms 38:12.

(3) He himself traces all these trials, arising either from his disease or from the attacks of his enemies, to his own sins, and regards them all as the expression of the divine displeasure against his transgressions, Psalms 38:3-4, Psalms 38:6,Psalms 38:18. The effect of his suffering from sickness was to bring his sins to remembrance - an effect not uncommon, and, under the Providence of God, not undesigned - though he may have erred, as the afflicted often do, in supposing that his sickness was a “specific punishment” for sin, or was intended to correct him for some “particular” transgression.

(4) His own calmness and meekness in respect to the charges which, amid his other trials, his enemies brought against him, Psalms 38:13-14. He says that he was like a deaf man that did not hear, and like a mute man that did not open his mouth. He “seemed” not to hear anything that was said to his disadvantage, and he was as silent as though he had been mute.

(5) His earnest prayer for the interposition of God in these circumstances of sickness and trial, Psalms 38:15-22. He says that his only help is in God, Psalms 38:15; he prays that God will not allow his enemies to triumph over him, Psalms 38:16; he says that he is ready to halt, or that his strength is nearly exhausted, and he fears that his patience will utterly give way, Psalms 38:17; he says that he will confess all his sin, Psalms 38:18; he refers to the fact that his enemies are “lively,” and are on the alert for his fall, Psalms 38:19-20; and in view of all this, he earnestly calls on God to save him, Psalms 38:21-22.

There is a striking resemblance between this psalm and Psalms 6:1-10, in the general structure, and in some of the particular expressions. Both appear to have been composed in a time of sickness, though not probably in the same sickness; and both express substantially the same feelings. The forty-first psalm, also, appears to have been composed on a similar occasion. In a revelation adapted to mankind, and designed to be applicable in its instructions and promises to the various conditions in which men are placed on the earth, it was to be presumed that there would be a not unfrequent reference to the sick bed - to the trials on a couch of languishing. And in an inspired book of “devotion,” like the Book of Psalms, designed to illustrate the nature of piety in the various and diversified situations of life, the object of a revelation could not be fully accomplished without an illustration of the feelings of piety in the time of sickness, and in the prospect of death - for such scenes must occur in the world, and it is eminently in such scenes that we desire to know what is the proper feeling to be cherished; what true religion is at such a time; what it will do to sustain and comfort the soul.

The Book of Psalms, therefore, would not have been complete without such an illustration of the nature of piety; and hence, it was every way probable that psalms like this would be composed, and every way improbable that no such psalms would be found in a book of inspired devotion. It seems to me, therefore, unnatural, and not demanded by any proper views of interpretation, to regard this psalm, and the other similar psalms, as DeWette, Hengstenberg, Rosenmuller and others do, and as the Aramaic Paraphrase and Jarchi do, as descriptive of “general calamity, Ungluck;” or of calamity coming upon “a people” - rather than a particular affliction in the form of sickness coming upon “an individual.” The great value of the book of Psalms consists in the fact that it furnishes illustrations of the nature and power of true religion in all the varied circumstances of the lives of individual friends of God.

Verse 1

O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath - See the notes at Psalms 6:1, where the same language occurs, except in the change of a single Hebrew “word,” that is, “wrath,” though expressing the same idea.

Neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure - See the notes at Psalms 6:1. The Hebrew in both is the same, except that in this place the negative particle is omitted, but without affecting the sense. It is not improbable that the one was copied from the other, or that this was composed with the language of the former in the memory. Thus we often use language with which we are familiar, as being well adapted to express our ideas.

Verse 2

For thine arrows stick fast in me - See the notes at Job 6:4. The word rendered “stick fast” - נחת nâchath - means properly to go or come down; to descend; and the literal idea here would be, “thine arrows come down upon me.” It is not so much the idea of their “sticking fast” when in the wound or flesh; it is that they come down upon one, and pierce him. The meaning is, that he was afflicted “as if” God had wounded him with arrows - arrows which pierced deep in his flesh. Compare the notes at Psalms 45:5. The allusion is to the disease with which he was afflicted.

And thy hand presseth me sore - The same word is used here which in the former part of the verse is rendered “stick fast.” The idea is, that the hand of God had “descended” or “come down” upon him, prostrating his strength, and laying him on a bed of pain.

Verse 3

There is no soundness in my flesh - There is no sound place in my flesh; there is no part of my body that is free from disease. The word used here - מתם methôm - occurs only in Judges 20:48, where it is rendered “men;” in Isaiah 1:6, and in this place, where it is rendered “soundness.” See the notes at Isaiah 1:6. It means that the body was wholly diseased; but what was the nature of the disease we are not informed. It would seem, however, that it was some cutaneous disease, or some disease that produced outward and loathsome eruptions that made his friends withdraw from him, Psalms 38:7, Psalms 38:11; compare Psalms 41:8.

Because of thine anger - That is, he regarded this as a punishment for sin; a specific manifestation of the divine displeasure on account of some particular offence or act of transgression. He does not refer, however, to the particular sin which he regarded as the cause of his sickness, and it is probable that this is just an instance of that state of mind, often morbid, in which we consider a particular calamity that comes upon us as a special proof of the divine displeasure. There are, undoubtedly, cases when sickness may be properly thus regarded; but it should be observed that, as this is not the universal rule in regard to sickness and other trials - as they come upon us under general laws, and because in sweeping over a community they often fall upon the righteous as well as the wicked, - we should not infer at once, when we are sick or otherwise afflicted, that it is for any “particular” sin, or that it is proof of any special displeasure of God against us. It is undoubtedly right to regard all affliction as having a close connection with sin, and to allow any calamity to suggest to us the idea of our depravity, for sin is the original cause of all the wretchedness and woe on earth; but under this general law we cannot always determine the “particular” reason why calamity comes on us. It may have other purposes and ends than that of being a specific punishment for our offences.

Neither is there any rest in my bones - Margin: “peace” or “health.” The Hebrew word means “peace.” The idea is, that there was no comfort; no rest. His bones were filled with constant pain. The flesh “and the bones” constitute the entire man; and the idea here is, that he was universally diseased. The disease pervaded every part of the body.

Because of my sin - Regarding his sin as the immediate cause of his suffering. In a general sense, as has been remarked above, it is not wrong to regard sin as the cause of all our misery, and we may allow our suffering to be, in some degree, a measure or gauge of the evil of sin. The error consists in our regarding a particular form of trial as the punishment of a particular sin. The effect in the case of tile psalmist was undoubtedly to bring to remembrance his sins; to impress his mind deeply with a sense of the evil of sin; to humble him at the recollection of guilt. This effect is not improper or undesirable, provided it does not lead us to the conclusion, often erroneous, that our affliction has come upon us on account of a particular transgression. That may be so indeed; but the idea that that is the universal rule in regard to affliction is one which we are not required to entertain. See the notes at Luke 13:1-5.

Verse 4

For mine iniquities are gone over mine head - This is merely an enlargement of the idea suggested in the last verse - that his present sickness was to be traced to his sin, and that he was suffering the punishment for sin. The idea is here that his sins were very numerous and very aggravated. They had risen up around him, or had so accumulated that the mass rose, like waves of the sea, above his head. A somewhat similar idea - though the thought there refers rather to the number of sins than the degree of guilt - occurs in Psalms 40:12 : “Mine iniquities ... are more than the hairs of my head.”

As an heavy burden ... - That is, they are so heavy that I cannot bear them, and my frame has sunk under them. This might mean either that the sense of sin was so great that he could not bear up under it, but had been crushed by it (compare Psalms 32:3-4); or that on account of sin, “as if” it were a heavy weight, he had been crushed by disease. The general idea is, that the real cause of his sickness was the fact that he was a great sinner, and that God was punishing him for it.

Verse 5

My wounds stink - The word rendered “wounds” here means properly the swelling or wales produced by stripes. See the notes at Isaiah 1:6; notes at Isaiah 53:5. The meaning here is, that he was under chastisement for his sin; that the stripes or blows on account of it had not only left a mark and produced a swelling, but that the skin itself had been broken, and that the flesh had become corrupt, and the sore offensive. Many expositors regard this as a mere figurative representation of the sorrow produced by the consciousness of sin; and of the loathsome nature of sin, but it seems to me that the whole connection rather requires us to understand it of bodily suffering, or of disease.

And are corrupt - The word used here - מקק mâqaq - means properly to melt; to pine away; and then, to flow, to run, as sores and ulcers do. The meaning here is, My sores run; to wit, with corrupt matter.

Because of my foolishness - Because of my sin, regarded as folly. Compare the notes at Psalms 14:1. The Scripture idea is that sin is the highest folly. Hence, the psalmist, at the same time that he confesses his sin, acknowledges also its foolishness. The idea of sin and that of folly become so blended together - or they are so entirely synonymous - that the one term may be used for the other.

Verse 6

I am troubled - Margin, “wearied.” The Hebrew word means to bend, to curve; then, to be distorted, to writhe with pain, convulsions, and spasms. In Isaiah 21:3, the same word is rendered, “I was bowed down at the hearing of it;” that is, Sorrow so took hold of him, that at the intelligence he writhed with pain as a woman in travail. So here it means that he was bent, or bowed down, or that he writhed in pain as the result of his iniquities.

I am bowed down greatly - Compare Psalms 35:14. The word means properly to bow down; then, to be brought low; to be depressed with pain, grief, sorrow: Psalms 10:10; Isaiah 2:11.

I go mourning all the day long - Constantly; without any intermission. On the word rendered “go mourning” - קדר qâdar - see the notes at Psalms 35:14. The idea here is, that, on account of sin, he was crushed and bowed down as a mourner is with his sorrows, and that he appeared constantly as be walked about with these badges of grief and heavy sorrow. The disease which he had, and which was so offensive to himself Psalms 38:5, and to others Psalms 38:11, was like the filthy and foul garments which mourners put on as expressive of their sorrow. See Job 1:20, note; Job 2:8, note.

Verse 7

For my bones are filled with a loathsome disease - This would seem to indicate the seat of the disease, though not its nature. The word used here, according to Gesenius (Lexicon), properly denotes the internal muscles of the loins near the kidneys, to which the fat adheres. The word rendered “loathsome” - the word “disease” being supplied by our translators - is derived from קלה qâlâh, a word which means to roast, to parch, as fruit, grain, etc.; and then, in the form used here, it means scorched, burned; hence, a burning or inflammation; and the whole phrase would be synonymous with “an inflammation of the kidneys.” The word used here does not imply that there was any eruption, or ulcer, though it would seem from Psalms 38:5 that this was the fact, and that the inflammation had produced this effect.

And there is no soundness in my flesh - See Psalms 38:3. His disease was so deep-seated and so pervading, that there did not seem to be “any” soundness in his flesh. His whole body seemed to be diseased.

Verse 8

I am feeble - The word used here means properly to be cold, or without warmth; and then, to be torpid or languid. Compare Genesis 45:26. Would not this be well represented by the idea of a “chill?”

And sore broken - This word means to break in pieces; to beat small; to crush; and then it may be used to denote being broken in spirit, or crushed by pain and sorrow: Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 53:5; Isaiah 19:10.

I have roared - I have cried out on account of my suffering. See the notes at Psalms 22:1.

By reason of the disquietness of my heart - The word here rendered “disquietness” means properly “a roaring,” as of the sea: Isaiah 5:30; and then, a groaning, or roaring, as of the afflicted. Here the “heart” is represented as “roaring” or “crying out.” The lips only gave utterance to the deeper groanings of the heart.

Verse 9

Lord, all my desire is before thee - That is, Thou knowest all that I would ask or that I need. This is the expression of one who felt that his only hope was in God, and that He fully understood the case. There was no need of repeating the request. He was willing to leave the whole case with God.

And my groaning is not hid from thee - My sighing; the expression of my sorrow and anguish. As God certainly heard these sighs, and as He wholly understood the case, David hoped that He would mercifully interpose in his behalf.

Verse 10

My heart panteth - The word rendered “panteth,” in its original form, means properly to go about; to travel around; and then, to travel around as a merchant or pedlar, or for purposes of traffic: Genesis 23:16; Genesis 37:28; Genesis 42:34. Applied to the heart, as it is here, it means to move about rapidly; to palpitate; to beat quick. It is an expression of pain and distress, indicated by a rapid beating of the heart.

My strength faileth me - It is rapidly failing. He regarded himself as rapidly approaching death.

As for the light of mine eyes - My vision; my sight.

It also is gone from me - Margin, as in Hebrew: “is not with me.” This is usually an indication of approaching death; and it would seem from all these symptoms that he appeared to be drawing near to the end of life. Compare Psalms 13:3; Psalms 6:7; Psalms 31:9.

Verse 11

My lovers - See the notes at Psalms 31:11. The reference here is to those who professed to be his friends.

And my friends - The word used here means properly an acquaintance, a companion, a friend, Job 2:11; Job 19:21; then, a lover, a friend, a neighbor. The phrase here would be synonymous with our word “kinsmen.”

Stand aloof - They are unwilling to come near me; they leave me to suffer alone.

From my sore - Margin: “stroke.” The Hebrew word means properly a stroke, a blow, Deuteronomy 17:8; Deuteronomy 21:5; then a stroke in the sense of calamities or judgments, such as God brings upon men: Genesis 12:17; Exodus 11:1. The meaning here is, that they stand aloof from him, or refuse to come near him, as if he were afflicted with some contagious disease.

And my kinsmen - Margin: “neighbors.” The Hebrew word used here - קרוב qârôb - means properly near, nigh; spoken of a place, Genesis 19:20; then of time, Isaiah 13:6; then of kindred or affinity, Numbers 27:11; and then of friendship, meaning our intimate acquaintance - as we should say, those who are “near” to us, Job 19:14. The word would be applicable to neighbors or to warm personal friends.

Verse 12

They also that seek after my life - This was a new aggravation of his affliction, that those who were his enemies now sought to accomplish their purposes against him with better hopes of success, by taking advantage of his sickness.

Lay snares for me - On the meaning of this phrase, see the notes at Psalms 9:15. The idea here is that they sought this opportunity of ensnaring or entrapping him so as to ruin him. They took advantage of the fact that he was weak and helpless, and of the fact that he was forsaken or abandoned by his friends, to accomplish his ruin. how this was done is not stated. It might have been by their coming on him when he was thus helpless; or it might have been by endeavoring in his weak condition to extort confessions or promises from him that might be turned to his ruin. An enemy may hope to succeed much better when the one opposed is sick than when he is well, and may take advantage of his weak state of body and mind, and of the fact that he seems to be forsaken by all, to accomplish what could not be done if he were in the enjoyment of health, or sustained by powerful friends, or by a public opinion in his favor.

And they that seek my hurt - They who seek to injure me.

Speak mischievous things - Slanderous words. They charge on me things that are false, and that tend to injure me. The very fact that he was thus afflicted, they might urge (in accordance with a prevailing belief, and with the conviction of the psalmist also, Psalms 38:3-5) as a proof of guilt. This was done by the three friends of Job; and the enemies of the psalmist may thus have taken advantage of his sickness to circulate false reports about him which he could not then well meet.

And imagine deceits - Imagine or feign deceitful things; things which they know to be false or unfounded.

All the day long - Constantly. They seem to have no other employment. See Psalms 35:20.

Verse 13

But I, as a deaf man, heard not - I was as if I had been deaf, and did not hear them or know what they were about. I took no notice of what they did anymore than if I had not heard them. That is, he did not reply to them; he did not become angry; he was as calm and patient as if they had said nothing.

And I was as a dumb man that openeth not his mouth - As if I were a man that could not speak. I was perfectly silent under all this persecution. Compare 2 Samuel 16:10. How eminently true was this of the Saviour! Isa 53:7; 1 Peter 2:23; Matthew 26:63; Matthew 27:12, Matthew 27:14.

Verse 14

Thus I was as a man that heareth not - The sentiment in the former verse is repeated here to show the greatness of his patience and forbearance, or to fix the attention on the fact that one who was so calumniated and wronged could bear it patiently.

And in whose mouth are no reproofs - As a man who never reproved another; who, whatever might be the wrong which he endured, never replied to it; as he would be who was incapable of reproof, or who had no faculty for reproving. The whole of this is designed to show his entire patience under the wrongs which he suffered.

Verse 15

For in thee, O Lord, do I hope - This shows the reason or ground of his patience. He committed his whole cause to God. He believed that God would take care of his reputation, and that he would vindicate him. See Psalms 37:5-6. He had no doubt that He would protect his character, and that, notwithstanding the reproaches of his enemies, his true character would at last be made to shine forth, so that all men would see that he had been unjustly aspersed. The exact idea here is expressed, and the sentiment was beautifully and perfectly illustrated, in what is said of the Lord Jesus: “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously,” 1 Peter 2:23.

Thou wilt hear, O Lord my God - Margin, as in Hebrew: “answer.” The idea is, that God would answer his prayers, and that his character would, in answer to those prayers, be set right before the world.

Verse 16

For I said - This is the prayer to which he referred in the previous verse. He prayed that he might not be permitted to fall away under the influence of his sins and sufferings; that his faith might remain firm; that he might not be allowed to act so as to justify the accusations of his enemies, or to give them occasion to rejoice over his fall. The entire prayer Psalms 38:16-18 is one that is based on the consciousness of his own weakness, and his liability to sin, if left to himself; on the certainty that if God did not interpose, his sins would get the mastery over him, and he would become in his conduct all that his enemies desired, and be in fact all that they had falsely charged on him.

Hear me, lest otherwise they should rejoice over me - literally, “For I said, lest they should rejoice over me.” It is the language of earnest desire that they might “not” thus be allowed to rejoice over his fall. The same sentiment occurs substantially in Psalms 13:3-4. The motive is a right one; alike

(a) in reference to ourselves personally - that our foes may not triumph over us by the ruin of our character; and

(b) in reference to its bearing on the cause of virtue and religion - that that cause may not suffer by our misconduct; compare Psalms 69:6.

When my foot slippeth -

(a) When my foot really has slipped, or when I have committed sin (as the psalmist did not deny that he had done, Psalms 38:3-5, Psalms 38:18); or

(b) when it “might” occur “again” (as he felt was possible); or

(c) if I deviate in the slightest degree from perfect virtue; if I inadvertently do anything wrong.

The slipping of the foot is an indication of the want of firmness, and hence, it comes to represent the falling into sin.

They magnify themselves against me - See Psalms 35:26. They exult over me; they triumph; they boast. They “make themselves great” on my fall, or by my being put down. This he says

(a) they were disposed to do, for they had shown a disposition to do it whenever he had fallen into sin;

(b) he apprehended that they would do it again, and they had already begun to magnify themselves against him, as if they were certain that it would occur.

He did not deny that there was ground to fear this, for he felt that his strength was almost gone Psalms 38:17, and that God only could uphold him, and save him from justifying all the expectations of his enemies.

Verse 17

For I am ready to halt - Margin, as in Hebrew, “for halting.” The word from which the word used here is derived means properly to lean on one side, and then to halt or limp. The meaning here is, that he was like one who was limping along, and who was ready to fall; that is, in the case here referred to, he felt that his strength was almost gone, and that he was in continual danger of falling into sin, or sinking under his accumulated burdens, and of thus giving occasion for all that his enemies said of him, or occasion for their triumphing over him. Men often have this feeling - that their sorrows are so great that they cannot hope to hold out much longer, and that if God does not interpose they must fall.

And my sorrow is continually before me - That is, my grief or suffering is unintermitted. Probably the reference here is particularly to that which “caused” his grief, or which was the source of his trouble - his sin. The fact that he was a sinner was never absent from his mind; that was the source of all his trouble; that was what so pressed upon him that it was likely to crush him to the dust.

Verse 18

For I will declare mine iniquity - That is, he was not disposed to hide his sin. He would make no concealment of the fact that he regarded himself as a sinner. He admitted this to be true, and he admitted that his sin was the cause of all his troubles. It was the fact that he was a sinner that so painfully affected his mind; and he was not disposed to attempt to conceal it from anyone.

I will be sorry for my sin - I will not deny it; I will not apologize for it. I admit the truth of what my conscience charges on me; I admit the correctness and the propriety of the divine judgment by which I have been affiicted on account of my sin; I desire to repent of all my transgressions, and to turn from them. Compare Leviticus 26:41. The calamity brought upon the psalmist for his sin had produced the desired effect in this respect, that it had brought him to true repentance; and now, with the full confession of his sin, he was anxious only lest he should fall utterly, and should give his enemies, and the enemies of the truth, the occasion to triumph over him which they desired.

Verse 19

But mine enemies are lively ... - DeWette renders this, “My enemies live and are strong.” The word translated “lively” - חיים chayiym - means properly “living, being alive.” The literal translation would be, “My enemies, being alive, are strong.” The idea is, that while he was weak and apparently near to death, they were in the full vigor of life and health. They were able to engage in active efforts to accomplish their purposes. They could take advantage of his weakness; and he could not contend with them, for he was no match for them. In every respect they had the advantage of him; and he prays, therefore, for the divine interposition in his behalf.

And they that hate me wrongfully - Hebrew, “falsely.” See Psalms 35:19.

Are multiplied - They are numerous. They are constantly increasing.

Verse 20

They also that render evil for good - They whose characteristic it is to return evil for good, are opposed to me. This implies that those who were now seeking his ruin had been formerly benefitted by him. They were persons who cherished no grateful recollection of favors bestowed on them, but who found a pleasure in persecuting and wronging their benefactor. Compare Psalms 35:12-16. “Are my adversaries.” Are now opposed to me; have become my enemies.

Because I follow the thing that good is - This properly means, Because I follow the good. The Hebrew word rendered “because” - תחת tachath - means properly the lower part; what is underneath; then, below; beneath. The idea here is, that the “underlying reason” of what they did was that he followed good, or that he was a righteous man; or, as we say, This was “at the bottom” of all their dealings with him. Sinner as he felt he was (and as he acknowledged he was) before God, and true as it was that his “sickness” was brought upon him by God for his sinfulness, yet the reason why “men” treated him as they did, was that he was a friend of God - a religious man; and their conduct, therefore, was sheer persecution. We may, with entire consistency, be very humble before God, and acknowledge that we deserve all that He brings upon us; and yet, at the same time, we may be sensible that we have not wronged men, and that their conduct toward us is wholly undeserved, is most ungrateful, is sheer malignity against us.

Verse 21

Forsake me not, O Lord - That is, Do not leave me in my troubles, my sickness, my sorrow. Leave me not to die; leave me not to complain and dishonor thee; leave me not to the reproaches of my enemies.

O my God, be not far from me - See Psalms 35:22. Compare Psalms 10:1; Psalms 13:1.

Verse 22

Make haste to help me - Margin, as in Hebrew: “for my help.” This is an earnest prayer that God would come immediately to his rescue.

O Lord my salvation - See the notes at Psalms 27:1. The effect, therefore, of the trials that came upon the psalmist was to lead him to cry most earnestly to God. Those sorrows led him to God. This is one of the designed effects of affliction. Trouble never accomplishes its proper effect unless it leads us to God; and anything that “will” lead us to him is a gain in the end. The deeper our trouble, therefore, the greater may be the ultimate good to us; and at the end of life, when we come to look over all that has happened in our journey through this world, that on which we may look back with most satisfaction and gratitude may be the sorrows and afflictions that have befallen us - for these will be then seen to have been among the chief instrumentalities by which we were weaned from sin; by which we were led to the Saviour; by which we were induced to seek a preparation for heaven. No Christian, when he comes to die, ever feels that he has been too much afflicted, or that any trial has come upon him for which there was not occasion, and which was not designed and adapted to do him good.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 38". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/psalms-38.html. 1870.
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