Bible Commentaries
Psalms 6

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


To the chief Musician on Neginoth upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David. David, to whom this psalm is ascribed, is in great affliction, arising from two causes personal sickness and political enemies. The latter, it would seem, took advantage of his sufferings to reproach, and conspire against, him. His affliction is not one of those chastenings which a loving Father might appoint to a loving and obedient child; but a judgment, and in this light David accepts and bows to it. The psalm is the complaint of a penitent and subdued heart, and is the first of the so-called “SEVEN PENITENTIAL PSALMS,” (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143,) although in this there is no confession of sin. This may be accounted for on the fact that the sin itself had been forgiven, though the temporal judgment, as a consequence of sin, was not averted. The natural outburst of the great affliction in tears, and moans, and complaints, are not inconsistent with the true heroism of David. His was not a heroism which despised danger and suffering as mere physical accidents, but a moral courage which viewed events in their moral relations. Here is no call for martial courage, but for penitence, sorrow, and humility. He that treats affliction as a trifle will treat sin as a trifle, and the divine law with contempt. Stoical indifference to suffering as the result of physical causes, and hence inevitable, will never cultivate the moral sensibility, and is grounded only in the doctrine of fate. This is not manliness, but, in the light of human accountability, is madness. The heroes of Scripture have no superiors in history for courage and fortitude, but their courage is grounded in the will of God and their consciousness of rectitude. They were fearless in the right, but had no courage to do wrong. Penitence is not a weakness, but a virtue, and he only is truly brave who fears to sin and dares to repent.

Our psalm, which we must date after David’s great sin, is divided into three strophes: Psalms 6:1-4, his prayer; Psalms 6:5-7, an argument why God should interpose, arising out of the imminence of death and the great force of his affliction; Psalms 6:8-10, the answer of his prayer, bringing assurance, and a call upon his enemies to desist from their works and depart.


On Neginoth (Plural of neginah,) stringed instruments; either a general name for all stringed instruments, or one similar to the kinnor, or harp of eight strings, probably played with a bow or plectrum, as among the Greeks. See note on title of Psalms 4:0.

Sheminith This word is an ordinal adjective, signifying the eighth, which some take as an instrument of eight strings; Furst, as the eighth division of the choristers; but it is better to understand it as denoting the lowest and gravest notes sung by men the modern bass, as opposed to alamoth, or soprano. Compare 1 Chronicles 15:20-21

Verse 1

1. Rebuke me not The strong depreciations of this verse indicate that the heavy affliction was a divine judgment for sin. The words “rebuke,” “chasten,” “anger,” “hot displeasure,” fully corroborate this view.

Verse 2

2. Weak Withered, languid, with sorrow.

My bones are vexed My bones have been troubled. The Niphal preterite of the verb indicates a disease of some continuance. So also the significant “how long?” Psalms 6:3. The direct allusion to bodily suffering, in the absence of any confession of sin, and the prayer heal me ( ופא ) the usual word for restoring the health all point to some physical suffering.

Verses 3-4

3, 4. My soul is… sore vexed Causes of mental, not less than of physical, trouble existed. Body and soul lay under the consuming force of the wrathful judgment. The word used to describe the effect upon his bones (“vexed, troubled”) is the same as defines the state of his soul. Delitzsch gives the sense of outward overthrow and inward consternation, the effect of fright, which disconcerts one, and of excitement, that deprives one of self-control.

How long Literally, till when? The interrogation is emphatic, and supposes the answer delayed, and the evil complained of such as cannot long be endured. See Exodus 10:3; Psalms 90:13; Isaiah 6:11. With this the perfect tense of the preceding verb (my soul has been vexed) agrees, as also the earnest return, (Psalms 6:4,) as if God had gone away from him. Compare 2 Corinthians 4:8: “Perplexed, but not in despair.”

Verse 5

5. In death David had grounded his prayer (Psalms 6:4) on the mercy of God, that it might be honoured by his deliverance; now, he rests it on the state of the dead, as unable to praise Him. The language shows, that to human appearance death is now so near, that from it God alone can deliver him.

No remembrance of thee “Remembrance,” here, and the giving of thanks in the next line, are synonymous. It is the memorial of praise and ascriptions due to delivering mercy. The Hebrews believed in a future state and life after death, but had not New Testament conceptions of the place and state of pious souls immediately after death. This shrinking from death, especially premature death, (Psalms 102:23-24,) was not from a fear of punishment hereafter, much less of annihilation, but the dread of being cut off from the worship of God among the living, and seeming to be dishonoured by a short life and an unfinished work, which were considered in the light of judgment and calamity. David desires to live only as he desires to honour God before living men in acts of praise and thanksgiving. See notes on Psalms 115:17-18; Psalm 138:10.

In the grave In שׁאול , ( sheol;) Greek, αδης , ( hades;) the under world, the place or region of the dead, the grave. Its literal meaning is, deep pit, then, grave, region of the dead, etc.; but it is sometimes used to denote the state of the wicked, or place of punishment after death, as in Psalms 9:17; Proverbs 5:5; Proverbs 7:27; Proverbs 9:18; Proverbs 15:24; Proverbs 23:14. (See note on Psalms 16:10.) In the New Testament, hades (which in the Septuagint always stands for sheol) sometimes takes the same restricted sense: as Matthew 11:23; Luke 10:15; Luke 16:23. The imagination of the Hebrew often united the place of the dead with the fancied region of ghosts, manes, or departed spirits, so that sheol was not a well defined region, but took different limitations of meaning in different places, the connexion, according to a common law in all languages, determining its application.

Verse 6

6. My bed to swim A hyperbole for copious weeping.

Water my couch Dissolve, saturate, my couch. Another hyperbole, but a lessening of the figure from “swim” in the preceding line. This profuse weeping was in or during all the night, that is, every night. The psalmist thus shows that not without cause had he urged his plea for help, and viewed death as nigh.

Verse 7

7. Mine eye is consumed… waxeth old By reason of long continued suffering and weeping his eyes had grown languid, and dull, and sunken in the head, as in extreme age. He here finishes the picture of his sorrow, and as Calvin says, “They who know only in some small degree what it is to wrestle with the fear of eternal death, will find in these words no exaggeration.”

Verse 8

8. Depart from me The psalmist suddenly assumes a new character. From the darkness and storm of his sufferings he announces the answer of his prayer, and warns his oppressors to withdraw and desist.

The Lord hath heard God has now taken the matter in hand.

Voice of my weeping “Silent grief is not much known in the East; therefore, when the people speak of sorrow, they say its voice: ‘Have I not heard the voice of his lamentation?’” Roberts. He is so filled with joy and confidence upon receiving assurance of answer to prayer, that three times, Psalms 6:8-9, he reiterates the joyful fact: the Lord hath heard my weeping; the Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer.

Verse 10

10. The evil that he dreaded, which his enemies had prepared, shall now fall upon them. This was in strictest accordance with retributive justice. They shall be ashamed Pale with disappointment. They shall be sore vexed Terrified. See on Psalms 6:3. They shall return Retreat from their purpose and be marked as defeated men. They shall be ashamed suddenly Literally, in a moment. Their judgment shall come in the twinkling of an eye. God will return to David, (Psalms 6:4,) and this shall be the cause and signal of the return the turning back, in shame and terror, and in a moment, of his enemies.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 6". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.