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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Psalms 38



This is reckoned one of David’s penitential Psalms. It was composed upon occasion of some sore disease, or grievous calamity; which he rightly judged to be inflicted upon him for his sins.


1. To God, that by this humble and mournful prayer he might prevail with God to remember and pity him; for now he seemed quite to have forgotten him. Or,

2. To himself, that by reviewing this Psalm afterwards he might call to mind his former danger and misery, and God’s wonderful mercy in delivering him from them; which we are very apt to forget; and that others also might remember and consider what God had done to him, first in chastening, and then in restoring him, and might make use of his example for their benefit.

David, being visited with sickness, rehearseth his woeful condition, Psalms 38:1-3, by reason of his sins, Psalms 38:4-8; prayeth for forgiveness, help, and favour, Psalms 38:9,Psalms 38:10. He lays before God the unfaithfuless of his friends, Psalms 38:11-18, and the cruelty of his enemies, Psalms 38:19-22.

Verse 1

I confess I both deserve chastisement and need it, and therefore I desire not that thou wouldst remove it, but only moderate it. See the same expression Psalms 6:1.

Verse 2

Thine arrows, i.e. thy judgments inflicted upon my outward and inward man, oft compared to arrows, as Deuteronomy 32:23; Psalms 7:13; Psalms 45:5; Psalms 91:5.

Presseth me sore; or, comes down upon me; as when a strong man lifts up his hand and weapon, that it may fall down with greater violence, and make the deeper wound.

Verse 3

My disease or grief hath seized upon all the parts of my body, my very bones not excepted, so that my bed can give me no rest;

because of my sin, which hath provoked thee to deal, thus severely with me.

Verse 4

Mine iniquities; or, the punishment of mine iniquities, as this word is frequently used; which best agrees both with the foregoing and following verses, and with the metaphor here used; which in other places of Scripture is generally applied to afflictions, and not to sins.

Gone over my head, like deep waters, wherewith I am overwhelmed and almost drowned, Psalms 42:7; Psalms 69:2; Psalms 124:4,Psalms 124:5.

Verse 5

The bruises and sores caused by my disease are not only painful, but loathsome to myself and to others.

Foolishnss, i.e. sin, which really is, and is commonly called, folly, as Psalms 69:5; Proverbs 13:16; Proverbs 14:17; Proverbs 15:2, &c.

Verse 6

Troubled, Heb. distorted, or depressed; or, as it is expressed by another word, signifying the same thing,

bowed down, to wit, in my body, as diseased persons commonly are, and withal dejected in my mind. I go mourning, Heb. in black, the sign of mourning, which may here signify the thing, as signs oft do. When for my ease I rise out of my bed and walk, or rather creep about in my chamber, I do it with a sad heart and dejected countenance. Or if he did walk further, his disease had some intervals and mitigations. Or going may be here meant of his languishing, or going towards the grave, as this same word is used, Genesis 15:2, compared with Genesis 25:32; Joshua 23:14.

Verse 7

Or, with filthiness; or, with scorching heat. The disease might be some burning fever, being also malignant or pestilential, either burning inwardly, or breaking forth outwardly in carbuncles or boils. It is true, this and the other expressions may be taken figuratively, of some grievous calamity; but we should not forsake the proper and the literal sense of the words without necessity, which seems not to be in this place.

Verse 8

Roared, like a bear or a lion, through extreme pain and misery.

By reason of the disquietness of my heart; for the great anxiety and torment of my mind, caused by the deep sense of my sins, and of God’s wrath, and of the sad issue of my disease; which being added to my bodily pains, makes them more intolerable.

Verse 9

I do not utter all these complaints, nor roar out, that thou mayst hear and know them, for thou hearest and knowest even my lowest groans; yea, mine inward desires, and all my necessities. And therefore, I pray thee, pity and deliver me, as I trust thou wilt do.

Verse 10

Panteth; or, goes round; wanders hither and thither, as the word signifies; is perplexed and tossed with many and various thoughts, not knowing what to do, nor whither to go. Mine eyes are grown dim; either through grief and tears, as Psalms 6:7; or through weakness, as 1 Samuel 14:28,1 Samuel 14:29.

Verse 11

Either through neglect, and contempt, or disdain of me; or through delicacy and abhorrency from loathsome and sadding spectacles; or through fear of infection, or some other inconveniences.

Verse 12

Lay snares for me; that if my disease do not kill me, they may destroy me some other way.

Imagine deceits; they design mischief, but cover it with fair pretences.

Verse 13

I carried myself towards them as if I had no ears to hear what they said either to me or for me, nor a tongue to answer or reprove them for their reproaches and calumnies; which he did not for, want of just answers to them, but to testify his humiliation for his sins, and his patient submission to and acceptation of the punishment which he had brought upon himself; of which see an instance, 2 Samuel 16:10-12; wherein also he was an eminent type of Christ, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again, 1 Peter 2:23.

Verse 14

Or arguments, to convince or confute them, or to defend myself.

Verse 15

I bore their carriage silently and patiently, because I hoped and knew that thou wouldst answer for me, and plead my cause better than myself; which I would not prevent by my impatience, and avenging myself. Or, but in thee

do I hope, i.e. though friends forsake me, and mine enemies plot and practise against me, yet I do not despair, because I have thee on my side.

Verse 16

I said, to wit, in my heart and prayers; I used this argument, which I knew was prevalent.

Rejoice over me in my destruction, which also will reflect upon thee; who hast undertaken to defend and save me, and for whose sake I suffer so much from these wicked men, Psalms 38:20.

When my foot slippeth; when I fall either into any gross sin, or into any misery, or into both, as I have now done.

They magnify themselves against me; they triumph in the accomplishment of their designs or desires.

Verse 17

Ready to halt; just falling into utter destruction; see Jeremiah 20:10; and therefore if thou dost not help me speedily, it will be too late.

My sorrow is continually before me; I am deeply and constantly sensible of thy just hand, and of my sins, the cause of it; wherewith I shall be overwhelmed, if thou dost not prevent it.

Verse 18

Declare mine iniquity; either to thee; or publicly to the world, because my sin hath been public and scandalous.

I will be sorry, Heb. I will be (or, I am; futures being oft so taken) solicitous or anxious; full of grief for what is past, and of cares and fears for the future; partly lest I should relapse into the same folly upon new temptations; and partly lest thou shouldst cut me off for my sins. Therefore pity, and pardon, and save me.

For my sin; or, by reason of my sin, or upon that occasion.

Verse 19

Lively, Heb. living, i.e. thriving, or flourishing, or prosperous, as life is used, Psalms 22:26; Psalms 34:12, and elsewhere.

Verse 20

They render evil for good; they hate and persecute me, not only without any injury or provocation on my part, but as it were in requital of the good which I have done to them.

Because I follow the thing that good is; because I love and diligently practise justice and godliness, which they hate, and which they take to be a reproach to them, and which I did exercise, as I had opportunity, in the punishment of such as they are. Compare John 15:19; 1 John 3:12.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 38". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.