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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 41

Verses 1-13

Book 1

The Pss. in this book are probably among the earliest in the Psalter, and include most of those generally regarded as Davidic. They seem to have existed separately as an early hymn-book, which, with some slight additions from the final editor, was used as the nucleus of the entire collection. They have two wellmarked characteristics: (1) the constant use of the name Jehovah (rendered the Lord), and the comparative absence of the name God (Heb. Elohim); the former occurring 272 times, the latter only 15 times: and (2) the description of them all, with the exception of Psalms 1, 2, 10, , 33, as ’of David’ (Heb. Le David), a fact which has been taken to indicate their derivation from a still earlier collection which bore David’s name. The first two Pss. seem to have been prefixed to the others when the present Psalter was formed. Historical notices are attached to some of them, connecting them with the life of David, but these are of doubtful importance. Most of the Pss. contained in the book are spontaneous and unaffected in their style, but a few of them are of artificial construction, Psalms 9, 10, 25, 34, , 37 being acrostics.

The contents are exceedingly varied, and the same Ps. sometimes expresses such diverse feelings as joy and sorrow, bitter disappointment and lofty aspiration. Usually, however, there is some great thought more or less prominent, which enables us to make the following rough classification of their subjects:—(a) the contrast between the righteous and the wicked, 1, 5, 10, 37; (b) the cry of the righteous in presence of trouble, 3, 4, 6, 7, 12, 13, 22, 31, 38, 39, 40; (c) the glory of God in nature, 8, 19, 29; (d) the law, 1, 19; (e) the king, 2, 18, 20, 21; (f) the future life, 16. In addition, there is a reference to sacrifice in Psalms 37, an allusion to the Temple services in Psalms 24, and a foreshadowing of the Messianic hope in Psalms 2, 20, 28, , 40. The following Pss. are either quoted from or distinctly referred to in NT.: 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 14, 16, 18, 22, 24, 32, 34, 40, 41. In several instances the NT. writer finds the fulfilment of the OT. passage in Christ. Thus Psalms 2, with its defence of Jehovah’s righteous King, of whom He says, ’Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee,’ is regarded as descriptive of Christ in Acts 13:33 and Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 5:5 and Psalms 22, with its pathetic presentment of the suffering Servant of Jehovah, is reported to have been actually quoted by Christ upon the cross (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:34), and Psalms 22:18 is asserted in John 19:24 to have been literally fulfilled in one of the incidents of His crucifixion.

The moral teaching of this first book of Psalms is simple and emphatic. It rests upon an unswerving belief in the will and power of God to uphold the moral values of life, and mete out punishments and rewards according to personal desert. In whatever circumstances they may be placed, the writers never lose hold of their conviction of the ultimate prosperity of the righteous and destruction of the wicked. Appearances may seem to contradict their faith, but they cling to it all the more strenuously, and insist that in the long run the balance will be redressed. The ideal’ character portrayed by them is that of the good man, defamed, wronged, and oppressed by irreligious foes, but holding fast his faith in God, and trusting confidently that, in His own good time, He will deliver him. Sometimes there is a note of joy and thankfulness at the accomplishment of the deliverance; and this leads on to the anticipation of a time when, throughout the whole world, the justice of God will be manifested, and His power felt.

Verses 1-13

The Psalmist has been brought low by sickness, and pronounces a blessing on those who consider such sufferers as himself (Psalms 41:1-3). His own experience has been of an opposite kind. His enemies have triumphantly anticipated his end, and their hypocritical sympathy has only been the guise of malice (Psalms 41:5-8). One friend in particular has done his utmost to injure him (Psalms 41:9). He asks God to restore his health that he may requite all this unkindness, and finally expresses his confidence in God’s favour and unchanging support (Psalms 41:10-12). In John 13:18 the words of Psalms 41:9 are appropriately applied to Judas. Psalms 41:13 is not a part of the Ps., but forms the concluding doxology to Book 1 of the Psalter.

1. Poor] a different word from that so often used for the afflicted righteous. It means the ’weak’ or ’sick.’

2. Blessed upon the earth] rather, ’counted happy in the land.’

6. The visitor who comes in pretended sympathy only seeks information to be maliciously used outside.

8. An evil disease] or, a result of wickedness; lit. ’a thing of belial.’

9. Which did eat.. my bread] The ties of hospitality, which in the East are regarded as specially sacred, had been violated as well as those of friendship. Lifted up his heel] a figure for unfeeling violence and brutality.

10. That I may requite them] a touch of vindictiveness which Christians may not imitate: see Intro.

11. Recovery has begun. The enemy has been disappointed of his triumph. This is already taken as a proof of God’s favour.

12. Integrity] The consciousness of an upright purpose is not inconsistent with the confession of sin in Psalms 41:4: see on Psalms 25:21. Settest me before thy face for ever] the opposite of the fate predicted by his enemies in Psalms 25:5, Psalms 25:8. To be in God’s presence is to enjoy true and unending life.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Psalms 41". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.