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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 41

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.

This psalm closes the first book of the Hebrew Psalter. Its strong resemblance to Psalms 38:0 indicates a similar occasion, while the prominence given to the perfidy of David’s intimate companion and table friend allies it to Psalm lv; but with this difference: the treachery of Ahithophel had now only first discovered itself as giving secret encouragement to Absalom’s plot “All that hate me whisper together against me,” Psalms 41:7 while in Psalm lv, the mask is fully thrown off. See 2 Samuel 16:15-23. We must, therefore, date this psalm earlier, while the conspiracy was still immature. David is sick, and his life hangs in doubtful suspense. His enemies are active, hypocritical, and cruel; visiting him under friendly pretensions, but whispering abroad slanders; professing fealty, but concocting rebellion. The internal evidence of the psalm shows that it was written after his forgiveness and moral restoration, though still suffering personal judgments. In Psalms 41:9 we find a marked type of Judas Iscariot in the faithless friend of David, and the Messianic principle pervades the psalm, with respect both to the character of Christ and that of his persecutors. Both David and Christ were watched by wily enemies under the guise of friendship; both were betrayed by intimate friends; and the traitors in both cases came to a similar end. See 2 Samuel 17:23 and Matthew 27:5. The psalm falls into three general divisions: Psalms 41:1-3, are introductory, and set forth the blessedness of him who considereth the poor; Psalms 41:4-9, contain a complaint against his enemies; Psalms 41:10-12, are a prayer for recovery, with expressions of gratitude and trust. The last verse is a doxology in the form of epilogue.

Verse 1

1. Considereth the poor A duty of the first rank in Christian morality. It is a discreet and appreciative care, flowing from a true sympathy in the welfare both of soul and body. See Matthew 25:36.

Poor The word means, sick, weak, or helpless, from whatever cause. David had practiced this sympathy for the sick and afflicted, (Psalms 35:13-14,) and while he comforts himself with the promise that God will remember him now and reward him good, his words also are an implied rebuke of the conduct of his enemies. See Psalms 41:6-7, and Psalms 35:15

Verse 2

2. Preserve him Namely, from destruction and from the hurtfulness of adversity.

Keep him alive Restore him to health, raise him up.

Blessed upon the earth He shall be happy, prosperous in the land.

Wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies They shall gain no advantage over him on account of his sickness.

Verse 3

3. Strengthen him The figure belongs to the sick bed, Thou wilt prop him up, support him, as a careful nurse would a sick person. See Song of Solomon 2:6.

Make all his bed Turn, turn over, change all his bed, namely, for the greater ease and comfort of the sick one. The most delicate and tender care is here described. God’s loving presence will make a sick bed easy. As the word rendered “make,” here, properly means to turn, and the word “bed” is derived from the verb to lie down, and sometimes means recumbency, it has been supposed that the turning the sick bed, that is, the recumbency or bedridden condition, denotes convalescence. Thus Delitzsch: “He gives complete turn to the sick bed towards recovery.” But the former is the more easy and natural sense.

Verse 4

4. I said The “I” is emphatic. “As for me, I said,” etc. It stands opposed to “mine enemies speak,” etc., Psalms 41:5. The contrast is given by a comparison of Psalms 41:1-3 with Psalms 41:5-8.

I have sinned Here is a depth of contrition, and an openness of confession, which point unmistakably to the psalmist’s one great sin forgiven, indeed, but always lamented.

Verse 5

5. When shall he die This shows that his death was expected, and his enemies were impatient for it.

His name perish His memorial perish. They wished to blot out his fame, and influence, and posterity.

Verse 6

6. If he come to see me Professedly to inquire after my health as a friend.

He speaketh vanity His professions of friendship are empty and hypocritical.

His heart gathereth iniquity Not only is his false profession of friendship an accumulation of his guilt, but it is in his heart even there to gather up material for my injury. Nay, this was the real object of his professedly friendly visit. Compare with this the feigned friendship but real malignity of Christ’s enemies. Luke 20:20.

He telleth it He reports my sickness, and my private conversation, in a way to hurt me with the people.

Verse 7

7. Whisper together The conspiracy was conducted with the utmost privacy.

Verse 8

8. An evil disease… cleaveth fast unto him Hebrew, An affair of Belial is firm in him. On Belial, see Psalms 18:4. דבר , ( dabar,) (English version, disease,) may take the sense of matter, cause, forensically, that is, suit at law, as Exodus 18:16; Exodus 18:19-20; and יצוק , ( yatzook,) (English version, cleaveth fast,) takes the sense of firmness, fixedness, as in Job 41:23, “they are firm in themselves;” and Job 41:24, “His heart is as firm as a stone; yea, as hard as a piece of the nether millstone.” [Hebrews of vers. 15, 16.] The sense is, that David’s sickness was regarded as evidence of a hopeless controversy with God, in which the king, who is supposed to be fixed and stubborn, would surely fall.

Verse 9

9. Yea גם , ( gam,) here takes the sense of also, moreover, even, as giving an accession to what had already been said. Not only had enemies conspired against him, but even his own familiar friend Hebrew, A man of my peace, my trusted counsellor.

Which did eat of my bread My table companion. A designation of familiar confidence. See a further description, Psalms 55:13-14.

Hath lifted up his heel Hebrew, hath magnified his heel, a proverbial phrase for a formidable and treacherous conspiracy. On “heel,” see note on Psalms 49:5, where the same word occurs. The reference is to Ahithophel, 2 Samuel 16:23. Our Lord quotes this passage as prophetic of Judas Iscariot, John 13:18, where in Psalms 41:9 he interprets, “lifted up his heel,” by “one of you shall betray me.” See the introductory note of this psalm.

Verse 10

10. That I may requite them Their sin was high treason, which by the laws of all nations is punishable with death. But as they had conspired against the throne of David no less than against his person, the issue lay primarily between them and God, who had anointed David as king, and promised perpetuity to his dynasty. The stability of government, involving the public welfare, demanded that proper notice should be taken of their proceedings.

Verse 11

11. By this I know Already David discovers the hand of God in his favour, because, although not yet restored to health and power, his enemies do not succeed.

Verse 12

12. And as for me Literally, And I. The “I” is emphatic, as in Psalms 41:4. He contrasts God’s treatment towards him with that of his enemies, whom God had doomed to destruction.

Mine integrity As between him and his enemies David could plead his blamelessness, but as between his soul and God he confessed, as in Psalms 41:4, his sin.

Settest me before thy face A mark of noble rank and royal favour. See Psalms 34:16.

For ever To eternity, which only is the duration of this rule and dignity of David, realized in his illustrious seed, Messiah, who is blessed for evermore.

Verse 13

13. From everlasting, and to everlasting Literally, from the eternity, and unto the eternity. The sentence must be taken literally, and proves the faith of the author in the immortality of man. The Amen, and Amen, are a climax of the doctrine of the doxology, and of faith in the word of God.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 41". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.