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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Psalms 6

 

 


Verse 1

PSALM 6

PRAYER FOR MERCY IN SICKNESS

(FOR THE CHIEF MUSICIAN; ON STRINGED INSTRUMENTS; SET TO THE SHEMINITH. A PSALM OF DAVID)

For ages, Christian scholars have considered this Psalm to be one of the seven Penitential Psalms, namely, Psalms 6; Psalms 32; Psalms 38; Psalms 51; Psalms 102; Psalms 130; and Psalms 143. However, no sin whatever is mentioned in the Psalm; and it is not exactly clear why David felt that he was under the wrath of God.

Based upon the fact that David's enemies are mentioned, Leupold supposed that, "It was the opposition of David's enemies that made him feel that God was angry with him to such an extent that his health was badly impaired."[1] However, Rhodes believed that David's illness, from whatever cause, might have caused David's feelings of sinful guilt. He cited the common belief in those ages that, "Men suffered in proportion to their sins."[2] Certainly Job's "comforters" attributed his sickness to sin; and even the apostles of Jesus Christ indicated their acceptance of that generally-accepted opinion (John 9:1-3).

Our own view of the passage is that David was indeed guilty of some specific sin, or sins, which had, for a season alienated him from the love of God. The fact that we have no idea whatever regarding the exact nature of such sin has nothing whatever to do with it. Certainly, David himself was conscious of his own guilt and the ensuing wrath of God.

Regarding the ancient superscription (in parenthesis, above), "Set to the Sheminith," according to the margin in our version, means "set to the eighth," a reference to some specific tune, much as one of our song leaders would instruct the Church to turn to a certain hymn number.

Psalms 6:1-3

"O Jehovah, rebuke me not in thine anger,

Neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.

Have mercy upon me, O Jehovah, for I am withered away,

O Jehovah, heal me, for my bones are troubled.

My soul also is sore troubled:

And thou, O Jehovah, how long?"

"Thine anger ... thy hot displeasure." Such a consciousness of God's anger and displeasure is always the result of the believer's indulgence in some sin; but, as noted above, we are not given any hint whatever of what David's actual sin in this instance might have been.

David's terrible illness was threatening his very life, and he had earnestly prayed for God's healing hand to be laid upon him; but that healing had not come. This is evident in the words of Psalms 6:3, "O Jehovah, how long?"

"Have mercy upon me, O Jehovah." In Dr. George DeHoff's commentary on this verse, he has this priceless little paragraph:

"David did not cry for justice; he cried for mercy. I once participated in a funeral with a splendid young minister who kept saying, "The deceased is in the hands of a just God." I suggested to him that if he ever had a part in preaching my funeral, I would appreciate it if he would say that, "I am in the hands of a merciful God." It is mercy and not justice that all of us need."[3]

Leupold also commented on this, writing that, "There is no thought of personal worth that deserves recognition."[4] David did not plead any innocence or merit upon his own part, but the loving mercy of God as the basis of his plaintive cry for God to help him.


Verse 4

"Return, O Jehovah, deliver my soul:

Save me for thy lovingkindness' sake.

For in death there is no remembrance of thee:

In Sheol who shall give thee thanks?"

"For thy lovingkindness' sake." All mortals must approach God, not upon the basis of their worth, their innocence, or their merit, but solely upon the basis of God's mercy, God's grace, and God's lovingkindness.

"In death there is no remembrance of thee." Radical critics have tried to use this statement to prove that, "Life beyond the grave is scarcely worthy of the name."[5]

Whatever this expression means, it cannot reflect upon David's conviction of life after death, as attested by Psalms 16:10. Furthermore, David was doubtless familiar with Job 19:25ff and other Old Testament passages that provide fleeting glimpses of life after death. Also, as Leupold said, "There is ample evidence of the Davidic authorship of Psalms 16, and that Isaiah 26 can be attributed to none other than Isaiah."[6] This, of course completely frustrates the device of critically late-dating such passages for the false purpose of establishing the alleged late "addition" of the doctrine of the resurrection and life after death to the Divine teaching God granted to the Covenant people. In the New Testament we learn that as far back as Abraham, that patriarch was positively certain of God's ability to restore life to the dead (Hebrews 11:19).

Despite the certainty of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead having been effectively mentioned in the Old Testament, as for example in Daniel 12:2-3, it nevertheless remained for the Lord Jesus Christ to bring the full revelation of it to mankind in the New Testament. "According to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before times eternal, but hath now been manifested by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 2:10).

David's reference here to the inability of the dead to praise God in all likelihood has no other significance than the fact that dead people cannot go to church and worship God.


Verse 6

"I am weary with my groaning:

Every night make I my bed to swim;

I water my couch with my tears.

Mine eye wasteth away because of grief;

It waxeth old because of all mine adversaries."

Here we have a classical example of Biblical hyperbole. exaggeration for the purpose of emphasis, as for example, when someone says, "We had a party and everyone came! Did everyone come? Certainly not; but the statement is a legitimate hyperbole, as is the passage before us.

Such tears and grief were ample evidence of David's repentance of the sin that had caused God's displeasure. One does not often see in these days actual tears of repentance; and yet that does not mean that there is any shortage of actual repentance. As Spurgeon once said, quoting a writer named Watson, "It is not so much the weeping eye that God respects as the broken heart."[7]

Nevertheless, genuine sorrow for sin is a vital part of repentance. "Godly sorrow worketh repentance" (2 Corinthians 7:10); and one who has never shed a tear because of his sins might indeed wonder if he ever truly repented.

In respect to the Penitential Psalms, it is recorded of Augustine that in his last sickness he ordered these Psalms to be inscribed in a visible place on a wall in his chamber, where he might fix his eyes and heart upon them, and make their words his own in the breathing out of his soul to God.[8]

There is an abrupt, dramatic change in the tone of this Psalm beginning with verse 8 (below).


Verse 8

"Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity;

For Jehovah hath heard the voice of my weeping."

The first clause here was quoted verbatim by our Lord himself, as noted in two of the gospels (Matthew 7:23; Luke 13:27).

The proximity of David's separating himself from evil doers to the statement that Jehovah had indeed heard his prayers, suggests the possibility of a relationship between the events. It is mentioned first that David put away the workers of iniquity; and, although it is made to be a result of Jehovah's having forgiven him, there could have been a somewhat closer connection as well. Getting rid of evil companions is a very necessary step in any man's repentance.

In any case, David was suddenly conscious of God's gracious forgiveness, bringing with it a surge of renewed confidence and spiritual power. Many a person, like David, has repented of transgressions, prayed for forgiveness, and risen from his knees to attain new heights of power and achievement.


Verse 9

"Jehovah hath heard my supplication;

Jehovah will receive my prayer.

All mine enemies shall be put to shame and sore troubled:

They shall turn back, they shall be put to shame suddenly."

Notice the future tense in the second clause, which might lend some credibility to the suggestion made in the previous verse, that David had first proved his repentance by thrusting away all evil companions either prior to or in close connection with God's forgiveness of his sins.

It is paradoxical that the best people on earth, namely, the children of God, should have any enemies whatsoever. Yet it is eternally true that the righteous are indeed continually encompassed with bitter, determined, and ruthless enemies.

Why? Why did Cain hate his brother Able and climax it with his murder? "Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous" (1 John 3:12). Servants of the devil hate the Christ; and as Jesus said, "Ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake" (Luke 21:17). Thus, the very name Christian is sufficient to incur the hatred and persecution of any true follower of Christ. All of the apostles experienced the world's savage and vicious hatred and warned all of us that, "All that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12).

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 6:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/psalms-6.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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Monday, November 30th, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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