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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 41

A.M. 2962. B.C. 1042.

The occasion of this Psalm was manifestly some sore disease or affliction, with which God had visited David, and which gave his enemies an opportunity of discovering their hatred and malice against him. He lays hold on God’s promise, and prays for mercy, Psalms 41:1-4 . Complains of the pride and malice of his enemies, Psalms 41:5-9 . Flees to God for succour, and praises him, Psalms 41:10-13 .

Verse 1

Psalms 41:1. Blessed is he that considereth the poor Or, poor man; that conducts himself wisely and prudently toward him; as משׂכיל , maschil, properly signifies, that does not rashly and foolishly censure and condemn him, much less insult over him, but considers his case with prudence and tenderness, remembering it may be his own, and therefore pities and helps him; and thus takes the likeliest way to obtain similar pity for himself when in trouble. But the word דל dal, here rendered the poor, means the weak, sick, or languishing person, as appears by comparing this with Psalms 41:3, where the mercy which he is supposed to have afforded to him is returned to himself, and with Psalms 41:8. To conduct ourselves wisely toward such, is to take cognizance of their wants and miseries; to sympathize with them, and judge charitably concerning them; to pity and relieve them according to our power, or to take measures to provide for their relief. The Lord will deliver him The poor afflicted man. Though his enemies conclude his case to be desperate, Psalms 41:8, God will confute them and deliver him. Or, rather, the considerer of the poor, the person that visits and relieves him. And so it is a promise of recompense. The wise and merciful man shall find mercy.

Verses 2-3

Psalms 41:2-3. The Lord will keep him alive Hebrew, Will quicken him, that is, revive and restore him. God will either preserve him from trouble, or, if he see that trouble is necessary, or will be useful for him, and therefore suffers him to fall into it, he will raise him out of it. Thou wilt not deliver him, &c. To the destruction which his enemies earnestly desire and endeavour to effect. Wilt make all his bed in his sickness Wilt give him ease and comfort, which sick men receive by the help of those who turn and stir up their bed, to make it soft and easy for them.

Verse 4

Psalms 41:4 . I said, Lord, be merciful unto me He appeals to mercy, as one that knew he could not stand the test of strict justice. The best saints, even those that have been merciful to the poor, have not made God their debtor; but must throw themselves on his mercy. When we are under the rod, we must thus recommend ourselves to the tender mercy of our God. Heal my soul Sin is the sickness of the soul and the soul is healed when, being pardoned by mercy, it is also renewed by grace. And this spiritual healing we should be more earnest for than for bodily health. For I have sinned against thee And, therefore, my soul needs healing: I am a sinner, a miserable sinner; and, therefore, God, be merciful to me. The psalmist does not appear here to refer to any particular gross act of sin, but to his sins in general, which his sickness, and the troubles he met with, set in order before him; and the dread of the consequences of which made him pray, Heal my soul.

Verses 5-7

Psalms 41:5-7. Mine enemies speak evil of me Designing thereby to grieve my spirit, ruin my reputation, and sink my interest. And if he come to see me If any of mine enemies visit me in my sickness, according to the custom; he speaketh vanity Or falsehood, pretending sympathy with, and friendship to me, while he is contriving mischief in his heart against me. His heart gathereth iniquity, &c. Even when he is with me, and pretends a sincere affection for me, his heart is devising evil against me. When he goeth abroad he telleth it Partly to delight his companions, and partly to encourage them to, and direct them in, their malicious designs against me. They whisper together against me Secretly defame me, and closely plot against me.

Verses 8-9

Psalms 41:8-9. An evil disease cleaveth fast unto him Hebrew, דבר בליעל , debar Belijagnal, a word, or thing of Belial. Literally, says Houbigant, A thing of Belial is poured out upon him, that is, his wickedness is brought round upon, or overflows him. The reproach wherewith they had loaded him, they hoped, would cleave so fast to him, that his name would perish with him, and they should gain their point. Or, their meaning was, The disease, wherewith he is now afflicted, will certainly make an end of him; for it is the punishment of some great, enormous crime, which he will not repent of, and which proves him, however he has appeared, a son of Belial. And now he lieth, he will rise up no more Seeing God has begun to punish him, he will continue so to do till he destroy him, and then we shall be rid of him, and divide the spoil of his preferments. Yea, mine own familiar friend Probably he means Ahithophel, who had been his bosom friend, and prime minister of state; in whom he had trusted, as one inviolably firm to him, and on whose advice he had relied much, in dealing with his enemies: which did eat of my bread With whom he had been very intimate, and whom he had taken to sit at the table with him; nay, whom he had maintained and given a livelihood to, and so obliged both in gratitude and interest to adhere to him; hath lifted up his heel against me A phrase implying injury joined with insolence and contempt; taken from an unruly horse, which kicks at him that owns and feeds it. He not only deserted, but insulted; opposed and endeavoured to supplant him. Those are wicked indeed, whom no courtesy done them, no confidence reposed in them, will oblige. Although these words were literally fulfilled in David, yet the Holy Ghost, who dictated them, looked further in them, even to Christ and Judas, in whom they received a further and fuller accomplishment; and to whom, therefore, they are applied, John 13:18.

Verse 10

Psalms 41:10. But thou, O Lord, be merciful unto me They censure me grievously, and conclude my case to be desperate; but, Lord, do thou vindicate me, and confute them. Raise me up, that I may requite them Hebrew, ואשׁלמה , veashallemah, and I will requite them, that is, punish them for their malicious, perfidious, and wicked practices, which, being now a magistrate, it was his duty to do, for the public good. For he was not to bear the sword in vain, but, being a minister of God, invested with his authority, was to be a revenger, to execute wrath upon those that did evil, Romans 13:4; although, when a private person, he was so far from revenging himself that he rendered good for evil, Psalms 35:12-13. In this prayer of David, that God would raise him up, is included a prophecy of the exaltation of Christ, whom God raised from the dead, that he might be a just avenger of all the wrongs done to him and to his people, particularly by the Jews, whose utter destruction followed not long after. Thus, “the hour is coming when the church shall arise to glory, and all her enemies shall be confounded.” Horne.

Verses 11-12

Psalms 41:11-12. By this I know that thou favourest me Bearest a good will to me, and art resolved to make good thy promises to me, and wilt plead my righteous cause; because mine enemy doth not triumph over me Because hitherto thou hast supported me, and prolonged my days to the disappointment of his hopes, and designed triumphs. This mercy I thankfully receive as a token of further mercy. Thou upholdest me in mine integrity As, through thy grace, I have kept my integrity, so thou hast kept me in and with it. Or, thou upholdest me for my integrity; that is, because thou hast seen my innocence, notwithstanding all the calumnies of mine enemies; and settest me before thy face for ever Hebrew, ותציבני , vetatzibeeni, wilt set, confirm, or establish me in thy presence, under thine eye and special care; to minister unto thee, as a king over thy people. And in regard of his posterity, the kingdom was established for ever. Let us learn from hence, if at any time we suffer in our reputation, to make it our chief care to preserve our integrity, and then cheerfully to leave it to God to secure our reputation. We must remember, however, that we cannot hold our integrity any longer than God upholds us in it; for, by his grace we are what we are: if we be left to ourselves we shall not only fall but fall, away. But it may be a comfort to us to know, that, however weak we are, God is able to uphold us in our integrity, and will do it, if we commit the keeping of our souls to him in well doing; and that those whom he now upholds in their integrity, he will set before his face for ever, and make them happy in the vision and fruition of himself. He that endures to the end shall be saved.

Verse 13

Psalms 41:13. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel A God in covenant with his people; who has done great and kind things for them, and has more and better in reserve; from everlasting to everlasting Or, from age to age, as long as the world lasts, and to all eternity. Amen and amen Amen, especially a double amen, signifies a hearty assent and approbation, and withal an earnest desire of the thing to which it is annexed. And as the Psalms are divided into five books, so each of them is closed with this word: the first here; the second, Psalms 72:0: the third, Psalms 89:0: the fourth, Psalms 106:0: the last in the end of Psalm cl: the doubling of the word shows the fervency of his spirit in this work of praising God.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 41". Benson's Commentary. 1857.