Partner with as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 38

Verse 1

Psalms 38:0.

David moveth God to take compassion of his pitiful case.

A Psalm of David, to bring to remembrance.

Title. להזכיר לדוד מזמור mizmor ledavid lehazkiir. A psalm of David, &c.— David's memorial psalm, Whether David really laboured under any grievous sickness which gave occasion to this psalm; or whether, under the representation of a sick man, he poetically describes his own lamentable distress; this psalm was composed by him, to put him in remembrance of that affliction, with which he confesses his sinfulness had provoked God to visit him. Theodoret, and many other commentators, think that David was not sick; but that in this psalm he called to remembrance all the sad disasters which had befallen him; as the murder of his son Amnon, the rebellion of his son Absalom, and all the other calamities mentioned in his history. But Dr. Delaney is of opinion, that this psalm, as well as the three next, were occasioned by a grievous distemper with which David was afflicted, and which he considered as the chastisement of God upon him for his sins. That this calamity fell upon him about the time when a dangerous and rebellious conspiracy was formed against him, appears from the same psalms; and, forasmuch as we hear of no more than one conspiracy of that kind formed against him, it follows that his sickness fell upon him about this time: and, that his distemper was that which is now known to us under the name of the smallpox, is, as I conceive, very probable from the same psalms. The reader will find this opinion defended in the 7th chapter of the 4th book of the Life of David. But, whether this psalm be understood in a literal or allegorical sense, David bewails his sins so pathetically in it, that it is reckoned among the penitential psalms. We would just observe, that by bringing to remembrance, in the title, may be meant his praying to God to remember him, and deliver him out of his afflictions.

Verse 2

Psalms 38:2. For thine arrows, &c.— For thine arrows are entered deep into me, and thy hand is come down upon me. Mudge.

Verse 4

Psalms 38:4. For mine iniquities i.e. The punishment of them; as Psalms 31:10; Psalms 32:5.—Are gone over my head, is an allusion to the boisterous waves of the sea; under which a man who is shipwrecked is just ready to sink. This comparison is frequent in the psalms. Compare Psalms 42:7; Psalms 69:2; Psalms 124:4-5.

Verse 5

Psalms 38:5. Because of my foolishness i.e. "As a just punishment of my folly; whereby, to satisfy my unreasonable desires, I have inconsiderately offended thee." See 2 Samuel 11:2-4. David in the next verse represents the greatness of his affliction by the posture in which mourners walked at funerals; I am bowed down greatly, &c. Compare Psalms 35:14.

Verse 7

Psalms 38:7. For my loins are filled, &c.— An anonymous writer on the psalms, who differs in opinion from Dr. Delaney, observes, that these words are not to be taken literally, but as figurative expressions, signifying the excessive misery and extreme wretchedness of the Psalmist's condition. We find the same way of speaking, and almost the same words, used in Scripture, for the same purpose, by the prophets. Thus Ezekiel 21:6. Sigh therefore, thou son of man! with the breaking of thy loins; and with bitterness sigh before their eyes: where the latter part of the verse explains the former, meaning the same thing. So Isa 21:3 exclaims upon a like occasion, Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken hold upon me, as the pangs of a woman who travaileth; I was bowed down at the hearing of it. Now no man ever imagined that Ezekiel's loins were broken; or that Isaiah had a pain in his back, like that of a woman in labour; but every one understands these expressions properly; viz. as denoting the prophet's great grief and concern: and why should we not conclude that the prophet David used the like expressions in a like sense; especially as he almost begins this psalm with bold figurative expressions, and describes his miserable condition, Psa 38:2 by the arrows of God sticking in him, and his hand pressing him sore? See also Eze 29:7 which should be, and madest all their loins to shake; by which this seems to have been a sort of proverbial expression, to signify great fear, as well as grief; and so we find Daniel describing the horror which seized Belshazzar, chap. 5: Psalms 38:6, by the joints of his loins being loosed.

Verse 12

Psalms 38:12. Lay snares for me Use violence against me.

Verses 15-16

Psalms 38:15-16. For in thee, O Lord, &c.— For I wait for thee, O Lord; thou shalt answer, O Lord my God: Psalms 38:16. For I thought with myself, lest they triumph over me: when my foot slippeth, &c. David seems to give this 16th verse as a reason why he should not undertake his own defence, but leave himself wholly to God. For if he should attempt to do it in the weak condition wherein he then was, overwhelmed with his pains and sins, he should only give the enemy a fresh opportunity of insult; for his mouth could then utter nothing but his sins and pains, and this would be matter of triumph for them. Mudge.


1. David earnestly deprecates the wrath of God, the sense of which was the most intolerable part of his sufferings.
2. He spreads his distressing case before the Father of mercies, bewailing his wretchedness, but most bewailing his sins.
3. Though perplexed, he is not in despair. Hope supported his fainting heart; God knew that his groaning was no feigned sorrow; and his desire, all his desire was before him, who saw his deep distress, and what above all things he sought, even pardon and peace with God. Note; It is some comfort that when the penitent feels the sense of guilt, his compassionate God sees his anguish.

2nd, While within were fears, without were fightings. His enemies took advantage of his sickness and distress to insult and assail him.
1. He complains of them to God, who was not an unconcerned spectator of their wickedness. Note; (1.) The great quarrel against the people of God is because of his image that they bear; whatever pretext is made use of, this enmity against God is at the bottom. (2.) So fixed is the hatred of the wicked against goodness for its own sake, that, though benefited by it, they detest it, abhor the prayers offered for them, and can scarcely give a civil answer to the kindest inquiries. (3.) When the views of our utter helplessness lead us to seek Divine strength, then shall we out of weakness be made strong.

2. He mentions, with satisfaction, his own unruffled temper under these provocations, and the cause of it; namely, that he committed his case to God, his covenant God, not doubting but in him to find a friend when all forsook him; and that he would hear, or answer for him; hear his prayer to help him, and answer for him by appearing in judgment as his vindicating God. Note; (1.) To be calm and composed under severe provocation, is the mark of a truly blessed spirit. (2.) It is wise to appear ignorant of many unkindnesses done us. (3.) When answering will but exasperate, we must be content silently to suffer. (4.) Thus did the Lamb of God appear dumb before his shearers. (5.) Hope in God is the great support against oppression and wrong. (6.) They who contentedly leave their cause with him, shall not be disappointed, nor want an advocate to plead for them.

3. Though he was silent before man, he is not silent before God, in whose presence he desires to humble his soul. To him he declares his iniquity, which had been the just cause of all his sufferings; and with unfeigned sorrow bewails his sins. Note; (1.) A sense of our own offences against God, will serve to make us patient under the provocation of men. (2.) They who have a true sight and sense of sin, cannot but be deeply sorry for having offended a God so holy, and grieved him who is so gracious.

4. He directs his prayer to God for help, for present help; forsake me not, O Lord; though left of all beside, let thy presence comfort, thy power support me: O my God, be not far from me; my God in whom, by promise, I have an interest; whose nearness to me I now peculiarly need; make haste to help me, for I am ready to halt, under such complicated and continual sorrow; make haste then, O Lord, my salvation; on thee I place my hope; from thee alone my help must come, and cheerfully I resign myself up to thee. Let us then in the deepest affliction, still trust in the Lord.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 38". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.