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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Psalms 6

Psalms 6

Surrounded by enemies, the Psalmist cries to God for help, Psalms 6:1-7. He receives from God the assurance that He will hear him, and calls upon his enemies to desist from their projects, since the Lord has vouchsafed to him support, Psalms 6:8-10. The two main divisions here marked, are very obvious. Koester divides the first into three strophes, Psalms 6:1-3; Psalms 6:5-8; so that the measure would be 3. 2. 2. 3. But it is better to divide the Psalm into clear strophes of two verses, with a beginning and concluding verse. Then the strophical arrangement exactly agrees with the divisions in sense. In Psalms 6:2-3 the Psalmist grounds his prayer for deliverance on the fact, that through suffering he had become quite exhausted, faint in body and soul. In Psalms 6:4-5 he goes so far as to declare, that he had come nigh to death, and was consequently in danger of losing his highest good, that of being able to praise God, which God in His mercy ought not to take from him. In Psalms 6:6-7, he justifies his affirmation, that he had reached the precincts of the dead: consuming grief at the malice of his enemies had exhausted the springs of his life. Psalms 6:8-9 form the strophe of his acceptance and confidence. The ( Psalms 6:1) first and last ( Psalms 6:10) verses contain the quintessence of the whole; Psalms 6:2-7 being simply a further expansion of Psalms 6:1, and Psalms 6:10 drawing the conclusion from vers. 8 and 9. If we bring Psalms 6:1 and Psalms 6:10 together, we have the Psalm in nuce.

Traces of a formal arrangement, apart from the division into strophes, may be perceived. The Psalm has its course in the number ten; it contains, as it were, a decalogue for those who are sadly oppressed by their enemies. Further, we cannot look upon it as accidental, that, in accordance with the superscription according to the eight, the name of God occurs in it precisely eight times. The fact, also, that in the first part the name of God is found just five times, cannot be overlooked, when viewed in connection with the whole number of verses, ten. It would seem that the author wished in this way to mark the first part as the one half of his decalogue. See on the five, as the broken, half-completed number, Baehr Symbolik Th. I. p. 183. The repetition thrice of the name of God, in the second part, makes one just the more inclined to perceive a reference to the thrice repeated name of God in the Mosaic blessing, the fulfilment of which in himself the Psalmist here triumphantly announces, especially as in Psalms 4:7, and elsewhere frequently in the Psalms, there are distinct verbal allusions to the same.

The superscription ascribes the Psalm to David, and there is certainly nothing to throw a doubt upon its accuracy. What makes David so great—the deep feeling of his sins, and his unworthiness before God, united with firm confidence that God will not withdraw His favour from those who implore it with a broken heart—is all uttered here. Hitzig, indeed, maintains that the Psalmist exhibits a different character from that of David,—a desponding spirit, which permits itself to be easily dismayed,—a weak, languishing heart, certainly not that of a warrior; David did not behave so unmanfully when in danger of death, but always discovered a lively confidence in God, which is awanting here. To begin with the last point, that the Psalmist does not abandon himself to a comfortless despair, but has a lively confidence in God, is evident from his addressing a prayer full of expectation for help from the Lord. But if any one might overlook this in the prayer, he cannot fail to perceive it in the second part, which breathes nothing but triumphant confidence. That in David, however, when heavily oppressed with suffering, the natural man sunk not less than with the Psalmist here, is capable of abundant proof from his history. According to 1 Samuel 30:6, “David was greatly distressed, but he encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” According to 2 Samuel 12:16 sq., he fasted and wept for seven long days, after the prophet announced to him the death of his child. In 2 Samuel 15:30, he is said to “have gone up Mount Olivet weeping, and with his head covered,”—traits which ill agree with the ideal of a great man formed by the world. The whole argument rests upon the transference of this ideal to a sphere to which it does not belong. That supposed greatness of soul which considers suffering as a plaything, above which one should rise with manly courage, is not to be met with in Scripture: there we find constantly faint, weak and dissolving hearts, whose strength and consolation are in God alone. This circumstance arises from more than one cause. 1. Suffering has quite another aspect to the members of God’s Church than to the world. While the latter regard it only as the effect of accident, which one should meet with manly courage, the pious man recognises in every trial the visitation of an angry God, a chastisement for his sins. This is to him the real sting of the suffering, from which it derives its power to pierce into the marrow and bone. “Rightly to feel sin,” says Luther, “is the torture of all tortures.” He who considers sufferings in that light cannot without impiety attempt to cast it to the winds. He must regard it as his duty to allow it to go to his heart; and if this is not the case, even that must become again the object of his pungent sorrow. To make light of tribulations is equivalent, in the view of Scripture, to making light of God. 2. “The tenderer the heart, the deeper the pain.” Living piety makes the heart soft and tender, refines all its sensibilities, and, consequently, takes away the power of resistance, which the world possesses, from the roughness of its heart. Many sources of pain are opened up in the Christian, which are closed in the ungodly. Love is much more deeply wounded by hatred, than hatred itself; righteousness sees wickedness in a quite different light from what wickedness itself does; a soft heart has goods to lose, of which a hard one knows nothing. 3. The pious man has a friend in heaven, and on that account has no reason to be violently overcome by his sorrow. He permits the floods thereof quietly to pass over him; lets nature take its free, spontaneous course, knowing well, that besides the natural principle, another also exists within him, and that the latter develops power in the proportion in which the former gains its rights—that according to the depths of the pain, is the height of the joy derived from God—that every one is consoled according to the measure of the sufferings which he has borne—that the meat never comes but from the eater, and honey from the terrible. On the contrary, whosoever lives in the world without God, he perceives that, having lost himself, he has lost all. He girds himself up, gnashes at his pain, does violence to nature, seeks distractions, endeavours to supply to nature on the one side what it lacks on the other; and thus he succeeds in obtaining the mastery over his pain, so long as God pleases. 4. The pious man has no reason to prevent himself and others from seeing into his heart. His strength is in God, and so he can lay open his weakness. The ungodly, on the other hand, consider it as a reproach to look upon themselves in their weakness, and to be looked upon by others in it. Even when inwardly dissolved with pain, he feigns freedom from it, so long as he can.

What relation to sufferings is the right one, may be seen from the consequences to both classes. The pious man, regarding all suffering as a punishment, suffers it to lead him to repentance, and derives from it the fruit of righteousness. He, on the other hand, who looks upon suffering merely as the sport of accident, thereby deprives himself of all blessing from it. And while, in this respect, he is not the better for his suffering, he is decidedly the worse in another. He only gathers himself together, only raises himself above his suffering, in such a way as to strengthen as much as possible the fancy of his own worth, dignity, and excellence; and in proportion as pride grows, love decays; hardness becomes his inseparable companion. So that he in reality feeds upon his own fat, and quenches his thirst with his own heart’s blood; and those words apply here, “What shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” But suffering, when endured in faith, serves to free the heart of its natural hardness, to make it softer, and to open it to love. Finally, only the lighter sufferings can find consolation apart from God, even at this dear rate. Whereas no misfortune can crush the righteous, however great it may be—for he strengthens himself in God, whose power is infinite—on the contrary, the man who trusts in himself bears up only so long as “fate,” or in truth, He who sends the affliction, permits. Every moment he may be precipitated into the abyss of despair. He who never fainted, who mocked at the faintings of believers, and spake in a contemptuous tone of the “plaintive Psalms,” must then feel utterly undone. Human strength, even though everything be done to increase it, is still but a limited resource: it needs only find its proper antagonist to be wounded in the heel; then it gives way, and, along with the steadiness gained by force, vanishes also that which was feigned. Nothing is better fitted to show the insufficiency of all human power in the struggle against suffering, than the confession of King Frederick II., who spared no cost to elevate this power, and whose great and mighty soul certainly accomplished all that can be accomplished in that field. He says, among other places in the Ep. to D’Alembert, sec. 12, p. 9: “It is unfortunate, that all who suffer are forced flatly to contradict Zeno; for there is none but will confess pain to be a great evil.” P. 12:“It is a noble thing to rise above the disagreeable accidents to which we are exposed, and a moderate stoicism is the only means of consolation for the unfortunate. But whenever the stone, the gout, or the bull of Phalaris mix in the scene, the frightful shrieks which escape from the sufferers, leave no doubt that pain is a very real evil.” Again, p. 16: “When a misfortune presses us, which merely affects our person, self-love makes it a point of honour to withstand vigorously this misfortune; but the moment we suffer an injury which is for ever irreparable, there is nothing left in Pandora’s box which can bring us consolation, besides, perhaps, for a man of my advanced years, the strong conviction that I must soon be with those who have gone before me (i.e. in the land of nothingness). The heart is conscious of a wound, the Stoic says indeed to himself, ‘thou shouldst feel no pain;’ but I do feel it against my will; it consumes, it lacerates me; an internal feeling overcomes my strength, and extorts from me complaints and fruitless groans.”

We have not extended our remarks further than the subject demanded; for what Hitzig urges against this Psalm is but a particular shoot of that modern cast of thought, which finds a stumblingblock in the tone of deep lamentation that pervades the Psalms. Hence it appeared proper to employ this opportunity, in order, once for all, to cut up such objections by the root.

It is of importance for the exposition, to determine somewhat closely from the Psalm itself the situation in which the speaker was placed. From Psalms 6:7, and Psalms 6:8-10, it appears that he was sorely pressed with enemies. This serves of itself sufficiently to manifest the objectionableness of that view which represents the distress as consisting in a mere corporeal illness. There are certainly passages, such as Psalms 6:2, which could not, without the greatest violence, be understood of anything but of exhaustion of all bodily powers. But the whole becomes plain, when we represent to ourselves the position of the speaker thus: His distress proceeded at first from external enemies. But upon this arose another of a far heavier kind. He saw in that outward distress a punishment of his past sins, which now returned upon his soul with the weight of an oppressive load. He fell into a severe conflict, which left even his body weak and impoverished. At length he gives vent to his oppressed soul in this supplication; and then to his deep notes of lamentation, succeeds the most triumphant tone of joy. Now he mocks at outward distress, and in spirit sees his enemies already vanquished. De Wette and Hitzig, without the least ground, give the Psalm a national reference, and suppose, that under the image of a suffering individual, is represented the Israelitish people in exile. Not the slightest trace is to be found of such a reference. When De Wette appeals to the great resemblance this has to public songs of a plaintive nature, as Lamentations 3., he overlooks the fact, that these poems, descriptive of a nation’s grief, were imitations of personal poems of a like nature. Ewald remarks, in opposition to De Wette, of this and similar Psalms: “No exposition of such poems can be more erroneous than that which considers the representation of a severe illness as figurative, or which connects therewith the idea of a whole people’s lamentation being contained in it, instead of that of a single individual.” But we must not, on the other hand, attribute too much importance to the disease,—must not take it as something independent. The second part speaks decidedly against this. Inasmuch as the Psalmist here only expresses his triumphant confidence, that the Lord will deliver him from his enemies, and never mentions bodily sickness, such sickness can only have been the result of hostile attacks, the consequence of the anxiety which they occasioned him; hence, when the cause ceased, the effect ceased. The considerations which oppose the reference to mere bodily trouble, also oppose the exposition of Luther and others, who regard the Psalm as relating to a high spiritual conflict in the hour of death. “It is not to be supposed,” says Luther, “that all Christians are afflicted with the vexation and painful trials of which this Psalm speaks; for all are not exercised with the same kind of tribulation, although God tries all with many tribulations and hardships

He contends here with death and hell, a battle which is not waged with men, nor concerning temporal or spiritual temptations, but in the spirit within, nay, without and above the spirit in that last struggle, when no one either sees, or hears, or feels, save alone that Spirit, who with unutterable groans prays and intercedes for the saints.” The words, “because of all mine enemies,” in Psalms 6:7, and “depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity,” in Psalms 6:8, are quite inexplicable on this view.

As the Psalm does not contain a single feature of a personal kind, it is highly probable that David here expresses the feelings of those who are vexed to death with the long-continued assaults of malicious enemies. For this view, perhaps, Psalms 6:6-7 may be adduced, where the profound grief is described in a manner which seems to indicate a supposed, rather than an actual position. David’s desire is to impress on the minds of his companions in tribulation that even at the worst they ought not to despair: the desolation itself should be converted into a source of comfort, in that, on the ground thereof, we may implore God for help, who is ever ready to assist His own, when things are at the worst,—so that the lowest depth of sorrow is a sure harbinger of salvation, the approach of death a pledge of life. This general characteristic of the Psalm was perceived by Luther: “I conceive that we have here a common lesson and instruction, which is suited to every Christian who is plunged in such distress.”

It is of course plain, that what is here said primarily of the oppression of enemies, may be, substantially, equally applied to every other sort of trouble. The particular is the accident—what is true of the species is true of the kind, and of every other species of the kind. The remarks of the Berleburg Bible on, “Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity:” “Depart from me, ye false tormenting accusations, ye rage and fury of menacing spirits and powers, that terrify me to death, and have shut up my blessed life as in the abyss of hell; ye are the real evil-doers, whom my external foes merely represent,”—are perfectly correct, when considered as a theological exposition, but not as a grammatical historical one. That the special kind of affliction with which the Psalm is occupied does not so prominently appear under the New Testament dispensation, so that many cannot understand these incessant complaints regarding the malice of enemies, is a mighty proof of the world-transforming power of Christianity.

In regard to the principle which forms the basis of the Psalm, viz. that outward suffering is a chastisement for sin, nothing can be more superficial than to maintain, that this view is peculiar to the lower stage of the Old Testament. The same precisely is found in the New Testament; for example, in the declarations of our Lord Himself; John 5:14; and Luke 5:20, Luke 13:1, etc. In the first passage, sickness is threatened as a punishment for sin; in the second, taken away as such; in the third, the Lord threatens, on occasion of a heavy calamity, a similar calamity to all, if they repented not,—implying, therefore, that the evil already inflicted was to be regarded as a punishment for sin. If the suffering be not viewed as a punishment, it cannot be reconciled with the Divine righteousness, it loses all its influence for good, and it is no longer a call to repentance. The only error is to refer the suffering to some special sin, to some coarse offence, instead of to sin in general,—an error characterized as such by our Lord in John 9:2-3. Far, therefore, from turning up the nose at the religious standpoint of the old covenant, we should rather follow the admonition of Muis: “As often as we are visited with sickness, or any other suffering, we should, after the example of David, call our sins to remembrance, and flee to God’s compassion; not like the ungodly, who ascribe their evil, as well as their good, to any cause rather than God, and hence are never led, either by the one to repentance, or by the other to gratitude. Sickness or calamity is not to be estimated according to the mind of the flesh, but of the spirit; and we must reflect, that if God afflicts us, He deals with us as sons, that He may chasten and improve us.”

שמינית is taken by many expositors for a musical instrument, and because שמיני signifies eight, the kind of instrument is generally considered as a guitar with eight strings. It is impossible, however, that “the eight” can denote an instrument of eight cords. Besides, both here and in Psalms 12, the musical instrument is mentioned in addition, as also in 1 Chronicles 15:21. The correct explanation is given by those who take it for an indication of the time. The על is then put to mark the relation of the particular to the general; that which forms its substratum, upon which it is laid, and according to which it is measured and regulated. But our ignorance of Heb. music renders all more minute explanations impossible.

Verse 1

Ver. 1. O Lord, rebuke me not in Thine anger, neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure. Calvin: “I acknowledge, Lord, that I am indeed worthy of being destroyed by Thee; but as I am not in a condition to sustain Thy power, deal with me, not according to my desert, but rather pardon the sins, through which I have drawn Thine indignation upon me.” Most expositors remark with De Wette: “The sufferer prays not for a removal, but only for an alleviation of the calamity.” So also Luther: “This he regards not, nay, he will readily yield to be punished and chastened; but he begs that it may be done in mercy and goodness, not in anger and fury . . . . Therefore the prophet teaches us here, that there are two rods of God, one of mercy and goodness, another of anger and fury. Hence Jeremiah prays, Jeremiah 10:24, ‘O Lord, correct me, but with judgment, not in Thine anger, lest Thou bring me to nothing.’“ But that this exposition, flowing from an unseasonable comparison of the above passage in Jeremiah, is unsound, is evident from this, that the Psalmist, in what follows, always begs that chastisement in general may be taken away; but especially from the assurance in the second part, where he still experiences nothing but what he had prayed for (comp. “The Lord hath heard my supplication, the Lord will receive my prayer”), not merely of an alleviation of his suffering, but of an entire removal of it. The contrast is, therefore, not between a chastisement in love and a chastisement in anger, but between a loving deliverance and a chastisement, which always proceeds from a principle of anger. The sufferer prays that, as matters had come to an extremity with him, and his powers of endurance were now completely exhausted, the sun of grace might shine through the cloud of indignation, by which it had been so long obscured. Whereas the ungodly is subject to Divine wrath alone, the righteous, though always at the same time a sinner, is an object of Divine love, even in the midst of wrath; which love must manifest itself as soon as the expression of anger has fulfilled its purpose, and the sufferer is brought to the verge of destruction, which can alight only on the wicked. God does not deal in a soft way with His own: He consumes what remains in them of sin by hard sufferings, but He always orders it so that they are able to bear it; when it has proceeded to a certain point, then He turns, and, instead of concealed grace (for even the exhibition of anger has a part to serve in the work of grace), there is now given an open manifestation of it. But that the sufferer belongs to the number of the righteous, for whom the exchange from anger into grace is certain, he makes to appear by this, that though he feels nothing but anger, he still sees the light of grace shining through the midst of thick darkness. This he alone can do, who is closely related to God, and has a living faith. In the midst of distress, to pray for grace, to hope for grace, is a sure sign of being in the state of grace, a clear pledge that grace may be looked for. Luther: “This Psalm then teaches us, that when one is plied with such assaults, he must have recourse to no other refuge than to the angry Lord Himself; but that is a matter of difficulty and labour, and is always to believe against hope, Romans 4:18, and to strive against impossibilities.

But it is carefully to be borne in mind, that they who experience such distress should adhere with their whole heart to the doctrine of this Psalm, viz. that they should not let their feelings carry them too far, should not howl and cry, nor seek for human consolation; but should stand out against the heaviest trials, and suffer the hand of God, and, with the prophet here, apply nowhere but to the Lord, and say, Ah! Lord, rebuke me not in Thine anger, and chasten me not in Thy hot displeasure. When men do not conduct themselves in this prudent way, they fall, to their great hurt, out of the hand of God, who in this manner heals and purifies them; especially if they seek consolation in a worldly way, and have recourse to some poor creature, the issue cannot be otherwise with them. If the clay, while being turned, falls out of the hand of the potter, it becomes more completely shattered than before, insomuch that it is useless, and the potter throws it away as good for nothing.”—הוכיח to reprove. But the discourse here is of a sermo realis. God reproves the sinner’s guilt through the sufferings which He lays upon him. It is incorrect to say, that the verb here signifies precisely “to punish by deeds,” but elsewhere, “to punish with words.” חמה prop. heat, glow, then “the glow of anger.”

Verse 2

Ver. 2. Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am faint; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are terrified. The Psalmist, renouncing all disputes with God, and recognising thoroughly the righteousness of his sufferings, appeals alone to the Divine compassion. In this he lays down for his foundation the principle, that God can never suffer His own wholly to perish; and thus supporting himself, entreats help from the Lord, since matters had already gone to extremities with him. Muis: “He deals with God as with a father, and sets before Him his pain, in order to move Him to the communication of aid.” Such childlike confidence, far from being excluded by the conviction, that sufferings have the nature of punishment, only grows upon this soil, and the one disappears with the other. אמלל , withered, faint, properly of plants, cannot, on account of the Patach, be the partic. in Pulal with the מ dropt, but must be the pret., which, with the relative word intended to belong to it, is a substitute for the adjective—prop. I am one who is faint. The pret. is used precisely in this way in Isaiah 28:16. That the healing is not here to be taken for delivering, helping in general, is clear from the declaration, “I am faint, and my bones are terrified.” The healing, therefore, must be primarily understood of the removal of his state of bodily distress. But the means of healing is the repulsing of the enemies, with which the bodily exhaustion would cease of itself. The words, “My bones are terrified,” are admirably explained by Luther: “It is certain, that with those who suffer such assaults, their bones are so terrified in their body, that they cannot even do what bones are meant to do in the body. Just as, on the other hand, we see that those who have a merry heart, overflowing with joy, have also strong bones, apt to leap, and capable of lifting up and bearing along with them the heavy and sluggish body; so that they feel as if joy were spread through their bones, like as when one pours something moist or liquid over the whole body, which refreshes it, as Solomon says, Proverbs 3:8, ‘It shall be health, to thy navel, and marrow (pro. moistening) to thy bones.’ Where the heart, then, is troubled and sorrowful, the whole body is faint and broken; and where, again, the heart is full of gladness, the body becomes so much the stronger and more agile. Therefore, the prophet here speaks rightly, when he prays the Lord to heal him, and was so weak in body, that he could not stand upon his legs. So mighty end violent is the power of such assaults, not leaving a corner in the whole frame that is not appalled and bruised thereby.

But man cannot love God, much less have a heart-felt desire after Him, without being vexed with such great troubles, which constrain and drive him to seek God’s help and consolation with a vehement cry of the soul, especially when he has been sunk deep in sin, and his life has been spent in an indolent, corrupt death of flesh.”

Verse 3

Ver. 3. And my soul is greatly terrified; and Thou, O Lord, how long? The soul is placed in opposition to the bones. The general complaint, “I am faint,” the Psalmist carries out first in reference to his body, then to his soul. In the expression, how long, there is not properly an ellipsis, but an aposiopesis, occasioned by the violence of the pain, which caused the words to escape in a broken manner. This Domine quosque was Calvin’s motto. The most intense pain under trouble could never extort from him another word. Luther: “He not merely begs God to hasten to him with help, but, as one impatient of delay, he complains that this is very painful to him, since in all emotions of the heart, such as fear, love, hope, hatred, and the like, a state of suspense and delay is vexatious and difficult to be borne, as Solomon says in Proverbs 13:12, ‘Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.’ But in troubles of this kind, delay is the most severe and insupportable pain.”

Verse 4

Ver. 4. Return, O Lord, deliver my soul; Oh save me for Thy mercies’ sake. The words, my soul, are not here placed instead of the personal pronoun. The Psalmist feels himself so wretched in soul and body, that he believes himself to be near death. This clearly appears from the following verse. But the soul is the principle of life. Luther: “Not for mine own merits, which indeed are nothing, as is enough and more than enough proved by this terror at Thine anger, and my trembling bones, and the sadness of my heart and soul. Therefore, help me for Thy mercies’ sake, that Thine honour and the glory of Thy compassion may be for ever connected with my deliverance.”

Verse 5

Ver. 5. For in death there is no remembrance of Thee; in the grave (in sheol) who shall give Thee praise? David had prayed, that his God would deliver him, and not permit him to sink in despair. He seeks to move Him to grant the prayer by the consideration, that the dead do not praise Him and celebrate His goodness, but only the living. Comp. Psalms 115:17-18, “The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence; but we shall bless the Lord from this time forth and for evermore.” Psalms 88:10: “Wilt Thou show wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise Thee?” Comp. also Psalms 30:9; Isaiah 38:18. According to the common explanation, the thought that the Lord is not remembered and praised in death is here urged as a ground of deliverance, inasmuch as God Himself, to whom the praise of the righteous is the most acceptable sacrifice, must therefore be inclined to preserve them in life. The supposition on which the ground thus made out proceeds, viz. that the Lord delights in the praise of His people, is no more peculiar to the Old Testament than to the New. Comp., for example, Hebrews 13:15. As the living God has made men for His praise, He rejoices when this end of His creation is fulfilled, when the fruit of the lips that praise Him is offered. The God of the Bible is as far removed from the cold indifference and self-satisfaction of the Stoic’s God, as the Christian is from a Stoic. But for us this ground receives its full meaning, only when we place eternal death in the room of the bodily, agreeably to the clearer light which we have received regarding the state after death, and to the vast change which New Testament times have effected in reference to that future state. See the treatise on the Doctrine of the Psalms, where also will be investigated more fully the import of sheol. Then ought we also, having found consolation, to venture to plead the same ground before God, and, appealing to it, beg Him to turn away from us the troubles which threaten to shut our mouths for ever to His praise. There is another way, however, of explaining the ground:—the prayer for deliverance may so far be grounded on the fact of one’s not being able to praise God in death, as the praise of God was the Psalmist’s most blessed employment, to be deprived of which would be to him the heaviest loss. And this view is strongly confirmed by the preceding words, “for Thy mercies’ sake,” which naturally lead us to expect some reason connected with the Psalmist’s own interest. It would be contrary to the love of God to rob His own of their highest good, to make them inexpressibly miserable, by closing their mouths from praising Him, before the time fixed by the general law of mortality. Understood thus, the words afford a deep, and for us humiliating, insight into the heart of pious men under the old covenant. To consider the praise of God as the highest good, as the most essential thing in life, to love life only as furnishing the opportunity for that, is the highest proof of near fellowship with God.

The constr. of הודה with ל is explained by a modification of the meaning: to render praise to any one.

Verse 6

Ver. 6. The Psalmist shows in this and the following verse, that it was not in vain he asked for deliverance, that he had not without cause described himself as one whose mouth death was threatening to shut up from praising God. Consuming grief preyed upon his heart, and would soon carry him away. I am weary with my groaning, every night I make my bed to swim; I make my couch to dissolve with my tears. The groaning is here represented as the cause of all his exhaustion. The prep. ב , however, commonly marks the relation of effect to the cause. I make my couch to dissolve. מסה is of one meaning with the more common form מסס , to dissolve. Calvin: “Those who have even moderately experienced what it is to contend with the fear of eternal death, will find no straining in these words.”

Verse 7

Ver. 7. My eye consumes from vexation; it waxes old, because of all my enemies. עשׁ שׁ? , “to fall in, to go to decay,” is used of the eye in Psalms 31:9, as also of the soul. Some very improperly maintain, that the eye here is taken for the face, in which sense it never occurs. The eye is a mirror and gauge of soundness, not merely as respects the soul, but also the body. By long-continued suffering, the eye sinks, becomes dull and languid, like that of an aged person. Both verbs are hence perfectly suitable to the eye. כעס may here be appropriately taken in its common signification of displeasure, vexation. It is not necessary to give it the sense of grief, which is never ascribed to it without arbitrariness. Nay, the former sense is here recommended by the corresponding expression, “because of mine enemies,” where the ב again is to be explained thus, that the effect is considered as rooted in its cause.

Verse 8

Ver. 8. David, as Calvin remarks, assumes now, as it were, a new person. He announces, that God has heard his prayer, and admonishes his enemies to desist from him, as he had now again come under God’s protection. Amyrald: “Those violent motions, in which, after the most bitter and dolorous lamentations and testimonies concerning human weakness, faith suddenly regains the ascendant, and, through the offered hope of deliverance, sheds light and serenity over the mind, are very common in the Psalms.” Koester falsely: The Psalmist, in thankfulness, renounces the fellowship of sinners: this is contradicted by a comparison of the verse with the preceding context—also Psalms 6:10. Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity, for the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. The Berleb. Bible: “So soon can the righteous Lord change everything, and illuminate with the rays of His love the dark earth of men, which was before covered with thick clouds, while in the depth of their heart also all was dark.” It remarks on the for: “The winter is past, the rain is gone, the turtle-dove is again heard.” The voice of my weeping, my audible weeping. Roberts, Orient. Illustr. of the Sacred Scrip. p. 316: “Silent grief is not much known in the East. Hence when the people speak of lamentation, they say, Have I not heard the voice of his mourning?” It is not necessary to give to שמע here, and in similar places, the sense of “hearken.” If God hears the cry of His own, He also accepts of it: if He will not do this, then He turns away His ear from it.

Verse 9

Ver. 9. The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord receives my prayer. The matter of this prayer we learn from Psalms 6:10, where the Psalmist more minutely describes what he obtains in consequence of his being heard.

Verse 10

Ver. 10. All mine enemies shall be ashamed and terrified; they shall return, be ashamed suddenly. Their being terrified points back to Psalms 6:2-3. The terror passes over from the Psalmist to those who prepared it for themselves, according to God’s righteous retribution. ישבו יבשו may be expounded by, “They shall be again ashamed;” see Ewald, p. 631. But a more expressive meaning is yielded, if we take the word as standing by itself, and render, “they shall return.” David sees his enemies, gathered around him for the attack, all at once faint-heartedly give way. In confirmation of this speaks the “Depart from me,” Psalms 6:8, and still more, the “Return, O Lord,” in Psalms 6:4. The returning of the Lord, and the turning back of the enemies, stand related to each other as cause and effect.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 6". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/psalms-6.html.