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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Psalms 39

Verses 1-3

David harbored some strong feelings that he refrained from expressing publicly. As a fire within him they burned to come out, but he held them in fearing that he might regret his words. His feelings arose out of his discipline at God’s hand (Psalms 39:9).

Verses 1-6

1. The brevity of life 39:1-6

Verses 1-13

Psalms 39

David seems to have composed this individual lament during a prolonged illness that almost proved fatal (cf. Job). He petitioned God to extend his days rather than to continue the chastening. This psalm is quite similar to the preceding one, but in this one David did not mention opposition from his enemies.

Jeduthun, mentioned in the title, was one of David’s chief musicians (1 Chronicles 16:41-42). Perhaps David wrote the psalm for Jeduthun to perform or lead, or for the group of musicians under his direction.

Verses 4-6

David finally found relief in expressing his frustration to God. He prayed that God would teach him to appreciate the brevity of human life (cf. Psalms 90:10; Psalms 90:12). Evidently David was an old man at this time. His life seemed very short looking back on it. People measured short distances with handbreadths in David’s time (Psalms 39:5). The pursuits of life are relatively insignificant in view of the short time we live.

Verse 7

The psalmist threw himself on the Lord, trusting Him to make the rest of his life enjoyable.

Verses 7-13

2. The importance of faith in God 39:7-13

Verses 8-9

David’s suffering was due to God’s chastening. Perhaps he had sinned with his mouth and therefore felt compelled to guard his speech closely (cf. Psalms 39:1-2).

Verses 10-11

David needed relief. He spoke as though he felt God was chewing up his life as a moth eats a garment. The long duration of his affliction made him sense the brevity of life. God was disciplining him (cf. Hebrews 12:5-11).

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to arouse a deaf world." [Note: C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, p. 81.]

Verses 12-13

In closing, David asked God to remove His chastening, whatever it was, so he could enjoy his final years of life. [Note: See W. A. M. Beuken, "Psalms 39 : Some Aspects of the Old Testament Understanding of Prayer," The Heythrop Journal 19 (1978):1-11.]

The brevity of life impresses one increasingly as he or she grows older. People are usually more conscious of this in times of sorrow than in happy times. It is natural for a believer to want God to teach him or her to live wisely, and want Him to be patient with one’s sinfulness in view of life’s shortness.

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 39". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/psalms-39.html. 2012.