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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Psalms 38

 

 

Verse 1

Psalms 38:1 « A Psalm of David, to bring to remembrance. » O LORD, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.

A Psalm of David, to bring to remembrance] Made purposely for a memorial, both of what he had suffered and from what he had been delivered. See 1 Chronicles 16:4, Exodus 30:16, Leviticus 2:2; Leviticus 6:15. Recordatio autem intelligitur miseriae ex misericordia, Psalms 132:1, Isaiah 62:6; Isaiah 63:7. It is probable that David had so laid to heart the rape of his daughter Tamar, the murder of his eldest son, Amnon, the flight of his next son, Absalom, and other troubles that befell him (Basil thinks Absalom’s conspiracy, Ahithophel’s perfidy, Shimei’s insolence, &c.), that it cost him a great fit of sickness; out of which hardly recovering, he penned this and some other psalms (as the 35th, 39th, 40th), but this especially, for a memento, to remind him of his own recent misery and God’s never failing mercy to him. Both these we are wondrous apt to forget, and so both to lose the fruit of our afflictions, by falling afresh to our evil practices (as children soon forget a whipping), and to rob God, our deliverer, of his due praises; like as with children eaten bread is soon forgotten. Both these mischiefs to prevent, both in himself and others (for we are bound not only to observe God’s law, but also to preserve it as much as may be from being broken), David composed this psalm, for to record, or to cause remembrance (see the like title, Psalms 70:1), and for a form for a sick man to pray by, as Kimchi noteth; not to be sung for those in purgatory, as some Papists have dreamed.

Ver. 1. O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath] He beginneth and endeth the psalm with petitions, filleth it up with sad complaints; wherein we shall find him groaning, but not grumbling; mourning, but not murmuring, for that is not the guise of God’s people. He beginneth with Eheu Iehova non recuso coargui et castigari. "Correct me, O Lord, but with judgment; not in anger, lest thou bring me to nothing," Jeremiah 10:24. See Psalms 6:1. {See Trapp on "Psalms 6:1"}


Verse 2

Psalms 38:2 For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore.

Ver. 2. For thine arrows stick fast in me] i.e. Sicknesses of body and troubles of mind, Job 6:4, Psalms 18:14. The Jewish doctors say, that he had a leprosy for six months; and that the Divine presence was taken away from him; so that he complained not without uause (R. Obadiah). But these were sagittae salutis, saith Chrysostom; arrows of salvation, love tokens from the Lord, Dens amat quos sagittat (Aug.), not unlike Jonathan’s arrows, 1 Samuel 20:36, and he had been forewarned of them by Nathan the prophet, 2 Samuel 12:9-12, and so bore them the better. Praevisa iacula minus feriunt, Darts foreseen are in a manner dintless.

And thy hand presseth me sore] Heb. Thou lettest down thy hand upon me. Now, God’s hand is a mighty hand, 1 Peter 5:6, and the weight of it is importable, but that una eademque manus, &c.


Verse 3

Psalms 38:3 [There is] no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither [is there any] rest in my bones because of my sin.

Ver. 3. There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger] This was the immediate cause of David’s misery, it came from love displeased; and scandalous sins seldom scape better. But, blessed be our Almighty physician, who bringeth health out of sickness, by bringing thereby the body of death into a consumption.

Neither is there any rest in my bones] Bis repetit, more lugentium. He saith the same thing twice, as mourners use to do; but with an aggravation of his pain, reaching to his very bones.

Because of my sin] This was the remote cause of his present sufferings; and is the true mother of all man’s misery. Now when these two (God’s wrath and man’s sin) meet in the soul, as medicine and sickness in the stomach, there must needs be much unrest till they be vomited up by confession. It is as natural for guilt to breed disquiet as for putrid matter to breed vermin. Let God therefore be justified, and every mouth stopped.


Verse 4

Psalms 38:4 For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me.

Ver. 4. For mine iniquities are gone over my head] So that I am even overwhelmed by them, and almost drowned in perdition and destruction. Sicut aquae praevalentes in quibus erat absorptus (Kimchi). The gospel is post naufragium tabula; and assureth us that God hath cast all our sins into the bottom of the sea; and this keepeth the head of a sinking soul above-water.

As an heavy burden] How light soever sin seemeth in the committing, it will lie full heavy, even as a talent of lead, Zechariah 5:7, or as a huge mountain, Hebrews 12:1, when once we come to a sight and sense of it, when God’s wrath and man’s sin shall face one another, as the former verse hath it, according to the original. A facie irae tuae. A facie peccati mei. A facie stultitiae meae. From the face of your wrath, from the face of my sin, from the face of my foolishness.


Verse 5

Psalms 38:5 My wounds stink [and] are corrupt because of my foolishness.

Ver. 5. My wounds stink and are corrupt] What his grief or disease was we read not; some say the leprosy; some take all this allegorically. The word rendered wounds, signifieth stripes, scars, wales, Livores vibices tumices, mattery sores, running ulcers, the effects of the envenomed arrows of the Almighty. Could we but foresee what sin will cost us we durst not but be innocent. That we do not is extreme foolishness, as David here acknowledgeth.

Because of my foolishness] In not considering beforehand the heinousness of my sin nor the heaviness of the divine displeasure. The word signifieth unadvised rashness, Proverbs 14:17, and it is probable he meaneth his great sin with Bathsheba, wherein he was miscarried by his lusts to his costs. See Psalms 107:17-18. Because of my foolishness, i.e. Quia non praeveni Nathanem confessione, saith R. Obadiah, because I anticipated not Nathan’s coming, by a voluntary confession of my sin unto the Lord.


Verse 6

Psalms 38:6 I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long.

Ver. 6. I am troubled (Heb. wryed;) I am bowed down, &c.] Incurvus et prorsus obstipus, atroque vultu squallidus, vix corpus traho, I am a pitiful poor creature, and in a most heavy condition, as appeareth by my gait, my gesture, my looks, and habit. See Psalms 35:14.


Verse 7

Psalms 38:7 For my loins are filled with a loathsome [disease]: and [there is] no soundness in my flesh.

Ver. 7. For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease] The loins, those scats of lust, are now grievously inflamed and pained with some imposthumated matter or pestilential carbuncle: Morbo vilissimo quem nominare dedecet, saith Aben Ezra. Femora mea prorsus occupat ardens uleus (Vat.). In quibus est concupiscentia (Theodoret). God oft punisheth sin in kind, and speaketh to the conscience in its own language, that such a sickness was the fruit of such a sin.

And there is no soundness in my flesh]

Principium dulce est, sed finis Amoris amarus,

Laeta venire Venus, tristis abire solet.

Sin is as the poison of asps, which first tickles him that is stung, and maketh him laugh; till, by little and little, it gets to the heart and then puts him to intolerable torture.


Verse 8

Psalms 38:8 I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart.

Ver. 8. I am feeble and sore broken] Through the length and nature of my distemper, Isaiah 38:10; Isaiah 38:12. The same Hebrew word signifieth pining sickness and a thrum, because of the thinness and weakness of it.

I have roared] But not repined. This nature prompteth to, when we are in extremity; and grace is not against it.


Verse 9

Psalms 38:9 Lord, all my desire [is] before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee.

Ver. 9. Lord, all my desire is before thee] Confused desires, broken requests, if from a broken spirit, are upon the file of heaven, and stand before God till they may have an answer.

And my groaning is not hid from thee] No, not my breathing, Lamentations 3:56. God can feel breath; but the groanings of his people go to his heart.


Verse 10

Psalms 38:10 My heart panteth, my strength faileth me: as for the light of mine eyes, it also is gone from me.

Ver. 10. My heart panteth] Heb. runneth about, or is tossed to and fro, circuivit cor meum, inordinate movetur, et non quiescit, saith Aben Ezra. The Hebrew word signifieth such a kind of motion as that of merchants, who run up and down from one country to another. Also the two last radicals are doubled; to note that it is more than an ordinary stirring and motion of the spirit, because it is not come to its rest. All earthly things to the soul are but as the air to the stone; can give it no stay till it come to God, the centre. As the circle is the most perfect figure, because it beginneth and endeth, the points do meet together, as (mathematicians give the reason) the last point meeteth in the first, from whence it came. So shall we never come to perfection or satisfaction (saith the reverend man) till our souls come to God, till God make the circle meet, &c. The wicked walk the round from one creature to another, Psalms 12:8, but they come not at God; and hence they are so dissatisfied. Return to thy rest (Heb. rests), saith David to his soul, that is, to God, to whom he here maketh his moan. Miser animus in varias subinde partes abreptus me deserit.

As for the light of mine eyes] That lumen ami cum of mine eyes is almost quite benighted.


Verse 11

Psalms 38:11 My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore; and my kinsmen stand afar off.

Ver. 11. My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore] Heb. my stroke, which, therefore, some Jewish doctors will have to be the leprosy, which was noisome and contagious; and, therefore, by the law of God, none were to come near such, Prae horrore detrectantes accedere (Trem.). So among the Persians none might come near a Pisaga (so they called a leper), and therefore Megabyzus, having offended Artaxerxes, kept himself five years from court, pretending himself a leper, and in that space made his peace with the king (Ctes. Pers.). But in David’s friends, who dealt thus with him, it was not so much fear of danger as pride and perfidy that made them deny him all duty and friendship, Psalms 31:11. Job was so used, Job 6:15; and our Saviour, when he hung naked on the cross, Luke 23:49; and St Paul, when he made his defence before Nero, 2 Timothy 4:16. So was not Orestes by his friend Pylades, nor Damon by his Pythias, nor Achilles by Patroclus, which made Alexander cry out, O felicem iuvenem! O faithful youth, Trouble trieth who are friends, who traitors (Sophoc.; Val. Max.; Plutarch in Alex.).


Verse 12

Psalms 38:12 They also that seek after my life lay snares [for me]: and they that seek my hurt speak mischievous things, and imagine deceits all the day long.

Ver. 12. They also that seek after my life] That seek and would suck my blood. As his friends were slack to help him, so his foes were active to hurt him. This David relateth before the Lord, that he may pity him, and be so much the more engaged to him; for he knew that where human help faileth divine beginneth.

Speak mischievous things] Exitialia, such things as wring from me that lamentable voice, Woe and Alas, woeful evils, הוות from הוי, voce σχετλιαστικη.

And imagine deceits] Or, Murmur.


Verse 13

Psalms 38:13 But I, as a deaf [man], heard not; and [I was] as a dumb man [that] openeth not his mouth.

Ver. 13. But I, as a deaf man, heard not] But possessed any soul in patience; in quietness and confidence was my strength, Isaiah 30:15. As they were masters of their tongues, so was I of mine ears. He that cannot bear calumnies, reproaches, and injuries, cannot live, saith Chytraeus; let him even make up his pack, and get him out of the world. Virus Theodorus sends to advise with Melancthon what to do when Osiander preached against him? Melancthon desired him for God’s sake to make no reply, but to behave himself as a deaf man, that heard not. Virus writeth back that this was very hard; yet he would obey. Another bravely answered one that railed upon him, Facile est in me dicere, cum non sim responsurus, Thou mayest speak what thou wilt, but I will hear no more than I wish, and punish thee with silence, or rather with a merry contempt. Princes use not to chide when ambassadors offer them indecencies, but to deny them audience. That man certainly enjoyeth a brave composedness who setteth himself above the flight of the injurious claw.

And I was as a dumb man, &c.] He answered them by silence and taciturnity; which is the best answer to words of scorn and petulance. Thus Isaac answered his brother Ishmael; and our Saviour Pilate, Herod, and Caiaphas; and Giles of Brussels, when the barking friars reviled him, held his peace continually; insomuch that those blasphemers would say abroad that he had a dumb devil in him. This is a great victory, not to render evil for evil, or railing for railing, 1 Peter 3:9. Nihil fortius, nihil magis egregium quam audire noxia, et non respondere contraria, saith Cassiodore, Nothing is more courageous, or egregious, than to hear reproaches and return no answer. As, on the contrary, In rixa is inferior est qui victor est, In a brawl he goes by the worst that hath the better, saith Basil. And, Sile, et funestam dedisti plagam, saith Chrysostom, Say nothing in such a case, and thou thereby giveth thine adversary a deadly blow.


Verse 14

Psalms 38:14 Thus I was as a man that heareth not, and in whose mouth [are] no reproofs.

Ver. 14. Thus I was as a man that heareth not] He doubleth his speech, to show his holy pertinace in a prudent and patient silence, though greatly provoked. David was, as it is reported of Severus, the emperor, επιμελης των πρακτεων, careful of what was to be done by him, but careless of what was said of him by others. As Augustus, he did but laugh at the satires and buffooneries published against him. He knew that as physical pills must not be chewed, but swallowed whole; so must many injuries and indignities, Convitia spreta exolescunt.


Verse 15

Psalms 38:15 For in thee, O LORD, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God.

Ver. 15. For in thee, O Lord, do I hope] This was the ground of his patience, and differenced it from that of heathens, which was rather pertinace than patience, and came not from a right principle.

Thou wilt hear] Or answer; and, therefore, what need is there of my answer?


Verse 16

Psalms 38:16 For I said, [Hear me], lest [otherwise] they should rejoice over me: when my foot slippeth, they magnify [themselves] against me.

Ver. 16. For I said, Hear me, lest otherwise, &c.] He spread their vile speeches before the Lord, as afterwards good Hezekiah did Rabshakeh’s letter; and as it was said of Charles V., that he spake more to God than to men; so did David. His former silence, therefore, was not either from stupidity (a sheep bitten by a dog is as sensible thereof as a swine, though he make not so great a noise) or inability to make his own defence, if it had been to any purpose, for he was both innocent and eloquent; but he thought it far better to sustain himself in faith and patience, and meekly to commit himself to God in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator. Besides, he feared lest if he spake at all in this case, he should speak unadvisedly with his lips (as it is very easy to exceed), and so give occasion to the enemy to triumph, as the Papists did over Luther, for his hot and hasty speeches.

When my foot slippeth] Or, When my tongue lasheth out in the least, they desire no other sport, but lay it in my dish as a foul disgrace. My motto, therefore, shall be, and my practice according, Taceo, Fero, Spero, I say nothing, but suffer, and hope for better.


Verse 17

Psalms 38:17 For I [am] ready to halt, and my sorrow [is] continually before me.

Ver. 17. For I am ready to halt] i.e. To misbehave mysetf and so to mar a good cause by ill-managing it, and then what will become of thy great name? This is a very forcible motive to prevail with a jealous and just God.

And my sorrow is continually before me] That is, my sin, as Ecclesiastes 11:10 : or, my sorrow, but much more my sin the cause of it.


Verse 18

Psalms 38:18 For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.

Ver. 18. For I will declare mine iniquity] To them that visit me in this disease, saith Aben Ezra, that they may pray for me, according to James 5:16; or rather to God, that he may pardon me and ease me. Or thus, When I declare, &c. Then


Verse 19

Psalms 38:19 But mine enemies [are] lively, [and] they are strong: and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied.

Ver. 19. Mine enemies are lively, &c.] q.d. It is nuts to them, and they soon compose comedies out of my tragedies, growing more insolent by mine afflictions, and upbraiding me with my sins.


Verse 20

Psalms 38:20 They also that render evil for good are mine adversaries; because I follow [the thing that] good [is].

Ver. 20. They also that render evil for good] While they rejoice at my misery, who fasted for them in their adversity, Psalms 35:15.

Are mine adversaries] Heb. They satanically hate me, as if they were transformed into so many breathing devils.

Because I follow the thing that good is] This was devil-like indeed; this was to hate and persecute God in David (Tertul.). Thus Cain, the devil’s patriarch, hated his brother Abel, and slew him. And why? "Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous," 1 John 3:12. For like cause Moab fretted at Israel, Numbers 22:3-4, and the courtiers at Daniel, Psalms 6:5.


Verse 21

Psalms 38:21 Forsake me not, O LORD: O my God, be not far from me.

Ver. 21. Forsake me not, O Lord] This was that he most of all feared, spiritual desertion. So Jeremiah, Be not thou a terror unto me, O God; and then I care not what else can befall me.

O my God, be not far from me] Though my friends stand aloof, Psalms 38:11, yet be thou ever at hand to help me.


Verse 22

Psalms 38:22 Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation.

Ver. 22. Make haste to help me] Nam mora frangit etiam fortes, God oft delayeth, that he may set an edge on our desires; he holdeth us in request, that he may commend his blessings to us.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 38:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/psalms-38.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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