This Psalm was composed upon a particular occasion, to wit, Heman’s deep distress and dejection of mind almost to despair. But though this was the occasion of it, it is of more general use, for the instruction and consolation of all good men when they come into such despondencies, and therefore was by the direction of God’s Spirit made public, and committed to the sons of Korah.
Mahalath seems to be the name of the tune or instrument, as Psa 53.
Leannoth may be either the latter part of the proper name of the tune or instrument; or an appellative name, and so divers take it, and render it, to sing, or to be sung, to wit, alternately or by turns.
Heman; probably the same person who was famous in David’s time, both for his skill in music, and for general wisdom; of whom see 1 Kings 4:31 1 Chronicles 6:33.
The Ezrahite; as Ethan also is called, 1 Kings 4:31.
The psalmist declares his former practice of prayer to God Psalms 88:1; beggeth present audience, Psalms 88:2; acquainteth the Lord with his misery and frailty, Psalms 88:3,4, which he suffereth by God’s wrath, and his friends forsaking him, Psalms 88:5-8. His mourning and expostulation, Psalms 88:9-18.
Who hast so often saved me from former distresses, and, I hope, wilt do so at this time.
My soul, properly so called; for that he was under great troubles of mind from a sense of God’s wrath and departure from him, is evident from Psalms 88:14-16.
I am given up by my friends and acquaintance for a lost man.
Free among the dead; well nigh discharged from the warfare of the present life, and entered es a member into the society of the dead; as Israelitish servants, when they were made flee, were thereby made denizens of the commonwealth of Israel. I expect no other freedom from my miseries but that which death gives, as Job 3:17,18.
Whom thou rememberest no more; whom thou seemest wholly to neglect and to bury in oblivion; for he speaks of these matters not as they are in truth, for he knew very well that forgetfulness was not incident to God, and that God did remember all the dead, and would call them to an account, but only as to sense and appearance, and the opinion of the world, and the state and things of this life.
From thy hand; from the care and conduct of thy providence, which is to be understood as the former clause. Or, by thy hand. But our translation seems better to agree both with the foregoing branch, which it explains and improves, and with the order of the words; for it seems improper, after he had represented the persons as dead, and in their graves, to add that they
are cut off, to wit, by death.
Either, first, in the grave; the same thing being expressed in divers words; or, secondly, in hopeless and remediless calamities.
Thy wrath; either, first, the sense of thy wrath; or rather, secondly, the effects of it; as the next clause explains this.
With all thy waves; with thy judgments, breaking in furiously upon me like the waves of the sea.
I am so sad a spectacle of thy vengeance that my friends avoid and detest me, lest by conversing with me they should either be filled with terrors, which men naturally abhor, or be made partakers of my guilt or plagues.
I am shut up; either in the pit or deep, mentioned Psalms 88:6, or in my own house or chamber, being afraid or ashamed to go abroad.
Understand, without effect; for thou dost not hear nor answer me.
Wilt thou show wonders to the dead, to wit, in raising them to live again in this world? as it is in the next clause. I know that thou wilt not. And therefore now hear and help me, or it will be too late.
Praise thee, to wit, amongst mortal men in this world.
I am not without hopes that thou hast a true kindness for me, and wilt faithfully perform thy gracious promises made to me, and to all that love thee and call upon thee in truth. But then this must be done speedily, or I shall be utterly incapable of such a mercy.
In the dark; in the grave, which is called the land of darkness, Job 10:21,22.
In the land of forgetfulness; in the grave; so called, either, first, Actively, because there men forget and neglect all the concerns of this life, being indeed but dead carcasses without any sense or remembrance. Or rather, secondly, Passively, because there men are forgotten not only by men, as is noted, Job 24:20 Psalms 31:12, but by God himself, as he complained, Psalms 88:5.
i.e. Early, come to thee, before the ordinary time of morning prayer, or before the dawning of the day, or the rising of the sun. The sense is, Though I have hitherto got no answer to my prayers, yet I will not give over praying nor hoping for an answer.
This proceeding seems not to agree with the benignity of thy nature, nor with the manner of thy dealing with thy people.
From my youth up; my whole life hath been filled with a succession of deadly calamities. O Lord, take some pity upon me, and let me have a little breathing space before I die.
I suffer thy terrors upon my mind and conscience, which do accompany and aggravate my outward miseries.
As the waters of the sea encompass him which is in the midst and bottom of it.
See Poole "Psalms 88:8".
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 88". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany