Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Psalms 88

Verse 1-2

Psalm 88:1-18. Upon Mahalath - either an instrument, as a lute, to be used as an accompaniment (Leannoth, “for singing”) or, as others think, an enigmatic title (see on Psalm 5:1, see on Psalm 22:1, and see on Psalm 45:1, titles), denoting the subject - that is, “sickness or disease, for humbling,” the idea of spiritual maladies being often represented by disease (compare Psalm 6:5, Psalm 6:6; Psalm 22:14, Psalm 22:15, etc.). On the other terms, see on Psalm 42:1 and see on Psalm 32:1. Heman and Ethan (see on Psalm 89:1, title) were David‘s singers (1 Chronicles 6:18, 1 Chronicles 6:33; 1 Chronicles 15:17), of the family of Kohath. If the persons alluded to (1 Kings 4:31; 1 Chronicles 2:6), they were probably adopted into the tribe of Judah. Though called a song, which usually implies joy (Psalm 83:1), both the style and matter of the Psalm are very despondent; yet the appeals to God evince faith, and we may suppose that the word “song” might be extended to such compositions.

Compare on the terms used, Psalm 22:2; Psalm 31:2.

Verse 3

grave — literally, “hell” (Psalm 16:10), death in wide sense.

Verse 4

pit — of destruction (Psalm 28:1).

as a man — literally, “a stout man,” whose strength is utterly gone.

Verse 5

Free … dead — Cut off from God‘s care, as are the slain, who, falling under His wrath, are left, no longer sustained by His hand.

Verse 6

Similar figures for distress in Psalm 63:9; Psalm 69:3.

Verse 7

Compare Psalm 38:2, on first, and Psalm 42:7, on last clause.

Verse 8

Both cut off from sympathy and made hateful to friends (Psalm 31:11).

Verse 9

Mine eye mourneth — literally, “decays,” or fails, denoting exhaustion (Psalm 6:7; Psalm 31:9).

I  …  called — (Psalm 86:5, Psalm 86:7).

stretched out — for help (Psalm 44:20).

Verse 10

shall the dead — the remains of ghosts.

arise — literally, “rise up,” that is, as dead persons.

Verse 11-12

amplify the foregoing, the whole purport (as Psalm 6:5) being to contrast death and life as seasons for praising God.

Verse 13

prevent — meet - that is, he will diligently come before God for help (Psalm 18:41).

Verse 14

On the terms (Psalm 27:9; Psalm 74:1; Psalm 77:7).

Verse 15

from … youth up — all my life.

Verse 16-17

the extremes of anguish and despair are depicted.

Verse 18

into darkness — Better omit “into” - “mine acquaintances (are) darkness,” the gloom of death, etc. (Job 17:13, Job 17:14).

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 88". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfb/psalms-88.html. 1871-8.