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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 41

Verse 1

Psalms 41:0.

God's care of the poor. David complaineth of his enemies' treachery: he fleeth to God for succour.

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.

Title. לדוד מזמור למנצח lamnatseach mizmor ledavid. The ground of this psalm is the same with that of the 38th and 39th. The author labours under some illness. He complains of the insult and treachery of his enemies, and of one in particular: he prays to be relieved, and accordingly is relieved. This mercy of God to him, he seems to attribute in the first three verses to his own compassion for the afflicted. Dr. Delaney is of opinion, that this psalm was written by David after his sickness, when Absalom conspired against him. There is no doubt (says he) but the king, who, as we suppose, discovered the conspiracy in his sickness, took immediate measures to defeat it, as soon as he found himself recovering: Nor is it improbable that he dissembled his recovery as long as he could, to prevent the effects of his son's ambition and impetuosity; who appears sufficiently from this psalm to have been determined upon his father's destruction, and fully resolved to out-do the malignity of his disease, and cut him off, if that should spare him; for those, I am satisfied, are Absalom's own words, recorded by David in the 8th verse, And now that he lieth, he shall rise up no more. It must doubtless have been matter of great surprise, and inexpressible affliction, to David, to find the two men in the world, whom he seems to have loved and most confided in, combining against him, and compassing his death. Absalom and Achitophel, his son and his counsellor: both of these are, as I apprehend, clearly characterised in this psalm: the vanity and lying spirit of Absalom in the 6th verse, and the treachery of Achitophel in the 9th, where we have a complaint, not only of trust betrayed, but of the rights of hospitality violated. The man who did this had eaten of his bread. In this exigency David had recourse, as usual, to the divine mercy and protection, Psa 41:10 and finding their devices so far defeated as not to terminate in his immediate destruction, he gradually gathered hope and confidence from that delay; which he quickly perceived not to have arisen from any abatement of their malignity, but from the interposition of providence in his behalf, Psalms 41:11-12. If it be urged, that all this is only a comment upon a psalm, not grounded upon any historical relation; I answer, that the psalm itself is plainly historical; is confessedly written by David, and personally applied to himself; and consequently must refer to some circumstances of his life: It can refer to no other but this; and when applied to this gives, as I conceive, new light to the sacred historian's account of Absalom's rebellion. See Life of David, b. i. c. 8. I would only observe, that, supposing the truth of this application, David may properly be considered here as the type of Christ, and Achitophel of Judas; in which view the whole may be applied to our Saviour, who has led us to this application, by referring one verse of it to himself. See John 13:18.

Verse 3

Psalms 41:3. Thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness Thou turnest all his bed in his sickness. This expresses the ease and refreshment which God had just before given him in his sickness; as great as a person feels from his bed being made up smooth around him. Mudge.

Verse 4

Psalms 41:4. Heal my soul As rational conjectures, says Dr. Delaney, are oftentimes useful inlets to knowledge, the candid reader will, I hope, be indulgent to mine, in relation to David's distemper, (see the note on the title of the 38th psalm,) which I am far from obtruding as a truth; for, after all, possibly, all his psalms upon this head may be no more than figurative descriptions of the state of his mind, sick with sin; nor is this supposition ill-grounded upon the present verse: And, agreeably to this way of thinking, we find sin figured out to us, in the prophetic style, under the ideas of bruises, and wounds, and putrifying sores, Isaiah 1:6, See on Psalms 38:7. We cannot any where introduce more properly the following judicious observations from Bishop Lowth's 8th Prelection.

"The Hebrew laws," says he, "are very much occupied in discriminating things clean and unclean, in removing and expiating what is foul, polluted, profane; in which ceremonies, as under a veil, the most holy and weighty meanings are couched, as is evident from the thing itself, as well as from many plain and express declarations. Amongst these, certain diseases and infirmities of the body have place; which, however light they may seem to a cursory, appear of great consequence to an attentive reader. It is on this account not to be wondered, that the sacred poets apply these images in expressing the most important matters, when they either lay open the defilement of the human mind, wholly depraved and contaminated; Isa 44:6 or Eze 36:17 or lament the miserable, abject, and most contemptible lot of the virgin, the daughter of Zion, spoiled and made bare: Lamentations 1:8-9; Lamentations 1:17; Lamentations 2:2. Images which, considered in themselves, are truly deformed and hateful; if referred to their true origin, and to religion, are devoid neither of weight nor majesty. Of this kind, or at least analogous to this kind, are those which the royal poet (who in his divine poems generally sustains a character far more august than his own) pours forth full of sorrow and the most ardent affections; when he complains, as in Psalms 38:0 that he is worn down, and wearied out with punishments and sufferings, and entirely depressed with the most grievous burden of sin, to the support whereof human nature is absolutely unequal: In which passages some have enquired under what disease the writer then laboured; not less absurdly, in my judgment, than if they had sought after the situation and name of the river in which he was plunged, when he says that he was overwhelmed with great floods of waters."

Verse 8

Psalms 41:8. An evil disease, &c.— Or, A word of Belial cleaveth, &c. Literally, says Houbigant, a thing of Belial is poured out upon him; i.e. his wickedness is brought round upon, or overflows him. Green renders it, Let the base thing he has been guilty of stick close to him.

Verse 9

Psalms 41:9. Hath lifted up his heel against me Hath shewn great treachery towards me. Mudge. St. John, who wrote in Greek, quotes the words from the Greek version, as he found them, without altering the translation.

Verse 12

Psalms 41:12. And as for me, thou upholdest, &c.— Accordingly, for my own part, because of my integrity, thou hast upheld me, and set me before thy face for ever. Mudge; who observes, that as the division of the Psalms into five books or portions is quite arbitrary, they seem to have ended them where they happened to find such a doxology as in the last verse; yet, as not only this but the three following verses end with the same doxology, I am rather inclined to the opinion of Bishop Hare and other learned commentators, who think that these doxologies were added to the end of each book by the person who collected and digested the Psalms.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The labour of love is never labour lost; so the Psalmist assures us.

1. He pronounces the man blessed who considereth the poor; either in general the poor in this world, compassionating their wants, sympathizing with them in their sorrows, and seeking by counsels, influence, and liberal distribution, to relieve the distresses of the necessitous; or it may refer to that poor man whom so few remember, Ecc 9:15 the lowly Jesus, exposed for our sakes to want, and having nowhere to lay his head: to consider his humiliation for us, is the way to true blessedness.

2. He shews wherein this blessedness consists. In trouble, God would deliver him, preserve him from his enemies, support him on the bed of languishing, and tenderly watch over him in his sickness. Note; (1.) Kindness to God's poor and afflicted ones, is highly our interest as well as duty; none ever lost by lending thus to the Lord. (2.) God's blessing is the comfort of every estate; it can make the bed of languishing cheerful, give rest in trouble, and make even grief to smile.

3. Having some good hope, through grace, that he could claim the character, he is emboldened in prayer to seek the promises. Yet, as a miserable sinner, in himself utterly undeserving, he pleads for mercy with God, and begs that his sickness may be healed, that worst and most dangerous disease, corruption, in his soul.
2nd, They who live in a wicked world, may expect to meet with much deceit, as David did, to the great discomfort of his soul.
1. They spoke against him with inveterate rancour, and wished that every evil might attend him; death seize his body, and blot out his name for ever. And thus did Christ's enemies revile him with every opprobrious character, wish and contrive his death, and hope that then the memory of his miracles, and the doctrines of his gospel, would perish with him. But lo! their malice makes his memorial more glorious and abiding. Let not Christ's servants count it strange, then, if the worst wishes and words attend them: their Lord hath suffered it before them.
2. If they came on pretence of paying him a friendly visit, their professions were hypocrisy, their designs malignant, to observe his words and behaviour, that they might report them to his disadvantage. The Scribes and Pharisees for this purpose attended the Saviour, to entangle him in his talk; and, while they pretended to admire him in his preaching and piety, sought to impeach him as a teacher of sedition. If we meet with the same deceitful men, and hear the most invidious remarks or misrepresentations made of us, let us remember that so was our Lord treated.
3. They flattered themselves that they should sooner or later prevail. In secret they whispered, plotted their wicked devices; and when an evil disease, some dangerous sickness, seized him, or some vile aspersion, which they had forged and propagated, cleaved to him, then they hoped he would never again recover his health or his character. Such whisperers contrived the Saviour's death; with perjured evidence the sons of Belial swore against him; and having procured his condemnation and death, and sealed his sephulchre, they promised themselves he should never rise up again. How vain the hopes, as well as vile the efforts, of wicked men!

4. His bosom friend betrayed him, and sought to spurn him from his throne, in return for the most obliging kindness. Ingratitude is a sin almost as common as odious. We are assured, Joh 13:18 that David looked farther than his own case. Judas the traitor was his familiar friend, and, from the very table where Jesus fed him, went to the priests to betray him. Put not your trust in any child of man; friends may be faithless; the friend of sinners alone will never deceive or disappoint those who trust him.

5. He directs his prayer to God for mercy and help, that he may requite them, either do them good for their evil, or rather, as their king, punish them for their wickedness.—In answer to the Redeemer's prayer, he was raised from the dust of death, and with swift destruction recompensed his enemies into their own bosom. Neither Satan nor all the powers of darkness, nor the high-priest and all his wicked train, were permitted to triumph, when on the resurrection-day all their devices were confounded; and he, of whom they said, Persecute him, for there is none to deliver him, arose then most eminently, declared to be the Son of God with power. Note; The very trials that we are exposed to, serve to make the love of God to souls more evident and precious.

6. He expresses his confidence in God, and acknowledges that the work must be entirely God's grace, both to uphold and reward him. The Son of David, in unspotted integrity, stood fast; and, after an obedience unto death, received the reward in glory, where now he sits at God's right hand, enthroned for evermore. May we come in his good time to sit down by him! In order thereto, we must be sensible, [1.] That the work is entirely of grace. [2.] That, left to ourselves, we must inevitably fall.
7. He concludes with a thanksgiving for such a glorious hope; and well he deserves the everlasting praise who brings the faithful soul to everlasting blessedness. The whole Israel of God, the faithful of every age, in the view of this glorious work, cannot but echo back the sound, with hearts warm with gratitude, and bursting with gladness: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, from everlasting, and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen!

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 41". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.