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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 88

Verse 1

Psalms 88:0.

A prayer, containing a grievous complaint.

A Song or Psalm for the sons of Korah: to the chief Musician upon Mahalath Leannoth, Maschil of Heman the Ezrahite.

Title. האזרחי להימן משׂכיל לענות מחלת על למנצח קרה למני מזמור שׂיר Shiir mizmor libnei korach lamnatseach al machalath leannoth maskiil leheiman haezrachii] The author of this psalm is called Heman the Ezrahite; but who he was, or when he lived, is not known. See 1 Chronicles 2:6. Bishop Patrick supposes him to have lived in the time of the captivity, being confined in prison; and that there, in the bitterness of his soul, he composed this melancholy lamentation. לענות מחלת machalath leannoth may be rendered by the hollow instruments for answering. Houbigant translates it, for the choirs, that they may answer. See the title of the 53rd psalm. Mudge renders לענות leannoth, to create dejection; to raise a pensive gloom or melancholy in the mind; agreeably to the tenor of the psalm. Fenwick applies the title of this psalm to our Saviour. See his Thoughts, p. 67.

Psalms 88:1. I have cried In the day-time I cry unto thee; in the night I call aloud before thee.

Verses 4-5

Psalms 88:4-5. I am as a man that hath no strength I am become as a man that hath no substance: [A mere shadow without solidity.] Psalms 88:5. Set loose among the dead: [Set at liberty, as it were, from under the hand, the government of God:] Like the slain that are laid in the sepulchre, whom thou rememberest no more; for they are cut off from under thy hand. The meaning is, that he was removed from all the affairs and conversation of men, as much as if he were really dead. Thus in 2Ch 26:21 it is said of Uzziah the leper, that he dwelt in a several house; or, according to the original, in a house of freedom; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord: The meaning of which is, that, after the manner of lepers, he was excluded from the temple, and dwelt in some separate place without Jerusalem, which was therefore called the house of freedom, because such as were there were exempt from the common affairs of the world: and in like manner they who are as it were dead, and laid in their graves, i.e. overwhelmed and buried in affliction, are here said to be free.

Verse 8

Psalms 88:8. I am shut up, and I cannot come forth This is the description of a person confined for leprosy, which causes him to be avoided, as a subject of abhorrence even to all his friends.

Verses 10-13

Psalms 88:10-13. Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead The Psalmist in this, and the following verses, exaggerates his own distress, and the seeming impossibility of relief, by representing himself as a dead man, and his state of misery and affliction as a state of death: nor can the words be taken in the literal sense, except they be referred to Him to whom God did indeed declare his loving-kindness in the grave, and his faithfulness in death. We need not observe to the scriptural reader, that strong figures of this kind are extremely common in the Hebrew poets.

Verse 15

Psalms 88:15. I am afflicted, and ready to die I have been low and expiring from my youth: i.e. "Even from my youth I have laboured under this misery, which now so dreadfully afflicts me."

Verse 17

Psalms 88:17. Like water "Like floods coming from several places, and at last meeting together to inclose and swallow me up."

Verse 18

Psalms 88:18. And mine acquaintance into darkness My acquaintance are not to be seen. Literally, My acquaintance a place of darkness; Lost in darkness; vanished out of sight.

REFLECTIONS.—1. The prayer of the Psalmist is fervent and importunate. O Lord God of my salvation, from whom alone I can expect relief, I have cried day and night before thee, long and often, and still continue to look up, though my troubles are unabated. Let my prayer come before thee, and incline thine ear unto my cry; thus in the days of his flesh the Redeemer poured out his prayers, with strong crying and tears, unto him who was able to save him from death, Heb 5:7 and, in all our trials, must we continually fly to a throne of grace, and never faint, or be weary of praying or waiting upon God, till he is pleased to visit us with his salvation, and say to our tempestuous souls, Peace, be still.

2. His sorrows are enlarged. For my soul is full of troubles, and the troubles of the soul are the severest of all; and my life draweth nigh unto the grave, unable to support the burden; so dreadful were his apprehensions, now that the light of God's countenance was withdrawn. The Son of God repeated these deep complaints, and with a bitterness which never any soul but his tasted, Matthew 26:38; Matthew 27:46.

3. He is reduced to the brink of despair. I am counted with them that go down into the pit, as a dead man; or among malefactors, whose dead bodies were cast into the pit together. I am as a man that hath no strength, helpless and hopeless: free among the dead, of that ghastly family, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more, no longer the objects of his providential care, and they are cut off from thy hand, no more stretched out to feed them, or by thy hand, and that is of all deaths the most miserable, which is sent as a judgment from God. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, sunk under the most deplorable distress, in darkness, both with regard to the concerns of body and soul; and in the deeps, lower he can hardly be, but in the belly of hell. Among those who go down to the lowest pit, yea, among the vilest malefactors was the Son of God reckoned; and, though the mighty God, as if unable to help himself, he yielded up his body to be nailed to the tree: with the slain he lay down, and visited the mansions of the dead, cut off by the hand of justice, under the sins of a world, 1 John 2:2.

4. A sense of divine wrath was the bitterest part of his sufferings. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, such were then his gloomy fears: and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves, one dark providence and distressing fear succeeding another, as if God was about to overwhelm him in the abyss of misery. What he feared, really fell on Jesus, our substitute, who bore our sins, and the wrath due to them, in his own body on the tree; and over him every wave of justice broke terrible, till in death he paid the dreadful debt.

5. His friends deserted him in his troubles; but he saw God's hand in the affliction. Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me; to find a kind and compassionate friend is an alleviation to our sorrows, but he had none; or by divine Providence they were removed from him, or incapacitated for serving him; thou hast made me an abomination unto them; perhaps, like Job's friends, they misinterpreted his sufferings, as if they proved him a wicked man, and shunned him as such, which made it the more grievous; thus was Jesus also betrayed by one disciple, denied by another, and forsaken of all. Let no follower of his therefore wonder, if dearest friends forsake, slight, or abhor him; he is then but as his Lord.

6. His case appeared remediless. I am shut up, confined with bodily affliction, or in a prison of spiritual darkness, and I cannot come forth, see no door open, have no power to help myself, and can only vent my disconsolate sorrows. The agonizing prayers of Jesus spoke his deep apprehensions of the Divine wrath, from which the Humanity shrunk, and wished the cup to pass from him.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 88". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.