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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Psalms 39:12

"Hear my prayer, O Lord , and give ear to my cry; Do not be silent at my tears; For I am a stranger with You, A sojourner like all my fathers.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Afflictions and Adversities;   Desire;   Ear;   Tears;   Thompson Chain Reference - Life;   Pilgrimage;   Tears;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Affliction, Prayer under;   Pilgrims and Strangers;   Titles and Names of Saints;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Jeduthun;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Foreigner;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Citizenship;   Foreigner;   Hospitality;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Alien;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Ecclesiastes, the Book of;   Pentateuch;   Proselytes;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - English Versions;   Greek Versions of Ot;   Jeduthun;   Moth;   Psalms;   Sin;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Stranger, Alien, Foreigner;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Stranger;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Psalms the book of;  
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Dumb;   Foreigner;   Proselyte;   Psalms, Book of;   Tears;  

Clarke's Commentary

Verse Psalms 39:12. Hear my prayer — Therefore, O Lord, show that mercy upon me which I so much need, and without which I must perish everlastingly.

I am a stranger with thee — I have not made this earth my home; I have not trusted in any arm but thine. Though I have sinned, I have never denied thee, and never cast thy words behind my back. I knew that here I had no continuing city. Like my fathers, I looked for a city that has permanent foundations, in a better state of being.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 39:12". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Psalm 38-39 The cries of the sick

The psalmist David felt that sometimes punishment for his sins took the form of sickness (e.g. Psalms 6:0) or opposition from those who envied or hated him (e.g. Psalms 25:0). Both elements appear again in the prayer of Psalms 38:0, which, being a confession of sin, was suitable to be offered with certain sacrifices.

As the suffering David cries to God for mercy, he admits that, because of his sin, he deserves what he has got (38:1-4). He vividly describes the sickness, sores and pain that he has to endure (5-7), but his inner suffering is much greater. It leaves him crushed and repentant before God (8-10). Friends forsake him and enemies plot against him (11-12), but he bears their slanders as if he cannot hear them and cannot reply to them (13-14). He can only leave the matter in God’s hands and trust that his downfall will give his enemies no cause to gloat over him or dishonour God (15-17). Although he has confessed his sins, his enemies still persecute him. He prays that God will not leave him alone in his hour of grief (18-22).

Psalms 39:0 views sickness in a different context from the previous psalm. As the psalmist looks back on his sickness, he asserts that he did not want to complain, in case he gave the wicked an excuse for dishonouring God. In the end, he could restrain himself no longer (39:1-3). His illness made him see how short and uncertain life is (4-6). He now sees this as all the more reason why he should trust in God and seek his forgiveness. He does not want to be mocked as one whose faith leaves him with fear and uncertainty in the face of death (7-8).

In view of all he has been through, the psalmist now asks for relief from his sufferings. The lesson God has taught him is that he should not place too high a value on the temporary things of life (9-11). He sees himself as a traveller, as a passing guest, and prays that his divine host will treat him with fitting kindness in the few days of life that remain (12-13).

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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Psalms 39:12". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

"Hear my prayer, O Jehovah, and give ear unto my cry;

Hold not thy peace at my tears:

For I am a stranger with thee,

A sojourner, as all my fathers were."

"Hold not thy peace at my tears" (Psalms 39:12). God is ever concerned with human tears. Our Lord said to the widow of Nain, "Weep not"! and to Mary Magdalene, "Woman, why weepest thou? .... If a man can scarcely ignore a person's tears, how much less can God? God numbers the tears of believers (Psalms 56); and the ultimate purpose of the Father is to 'Wipe away all tears from human eyes' (Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:17; 21:4)."[22]

"A sojourner, as all my fathers were" (Psalms 39:12). Men are tempted to treat this world as a permanent residence, but it is not so.

"We are here today, and gone tomorrow;

Yes I know, that is so."

- From Gilbert and Sullivan's H. M. S. Pinafore.

The word "pilgrim" is often used as a synonym for "sojourner," and it is extremely appropriate. A "pilgrim," is literally, "one who crosses the field." The word came from the period of the Crusades, when lonely persons attempting to make their way to the Holy Land, could often be seen "crossing the fields" of homesteaders; and, of course, they appeared briefly only once and then vanished forever. That is the way it is with all of us pilgrims and sojourners.

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Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 39:12". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear unto my cry - That is, in view of my affliction and my sins; in view, also, of the perplexing questions which have agitated my bosom; the troublous thoughts which passed through my soul, which I did not dare to express before man Psalms 39:1-19.39.2, but which I have now expressed before thee.

Hold not thy peace - Be not silent. Do not refuse to answer me; to speak peace to me.

At my tears - Or rather, at my weeping; as if God heard the voice of his weeping. Weeping, if uncomplaining, is of the nature of prayer, for God regards the sorrows of the soul as he sees them. The weeping penitent, the weeping sufferer, is one on whom we may suppose God looks with compassion, even though the sorrows of the soul do not find “words” to give utterance to them. Compare the notes at Job 16:20. See also Romans 8:26,

For I am a stranger - The word used - גר gêr - means properly a sojourner; a foreigner; a man living out of his own country: Genesis 15:13; Exodus 2:22. It refers to a man who has no permanent home in the place or country where he now is; and it is used here as implying that, in the estimation of the psalmist himself, he had no permanent abode on earth. He was in a strange or foreign land. He was passing to a permanent home; and he prays that God would be merciful to him as to a man who has no home - no permanent abiding place - on earth. Compare the notes at Hebrews 11:13; notes at 1 Peter 2:11.

And a sojourner - This word has substantially the same signification. It denotes one living in another country, without the rights of a citizen.

As all my fathers were - All my ancestors. The allusion is doubtless derived from the fact that the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob thus lived as men who had no permanent home here - who had no possession of soil in the countries where they sojourned - and whose whole life, therefore, was an illustration of the fact that they were “on a journey” - a journey to another world. 1 Chronicles 29:15 - “for we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers; our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.” Compare the notes at Hebrews 11:13-58.11.15.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 39:12". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

12 Hear my prayer, O Jehovah! David gradually increases his vehemence in prayer. He speaks first of prayer; in the second place, of crying; and in the third place, of tears This gradation is not a mere figure of rhetoric, which serves only to adorn the style, or to express the same thing in different language. This shows that David bewailed his condition sincerely, and from the bottom of his heart; and in this he has given us, by his own example, a rule for prayer. When he calls himself a stranger and a sojourner, he again shows how miserable his condition was; and he adds expressly, before God, not only because men are absent from God so long as they dwell in this world, but in the same sense in which he formerly said, My days are before thee as nothing; that is to say, God, without standing in need of any one to inform him, knows well enough that men have only a short journey to perform in this world, the end of which is soon reached, or that they remain only a short time in it, as those who are lodged in a house for pay. (78) The purport of the Psalmist’s discourse is, that God sees from heaven how miserable our condition would be, if he did not sustain us by his mercy.

(78) “ Comme des gens qui sont logez en une maison par emprunt.” — Fr.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Psalms 39:12". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Psalms 39:1-19.39.13

Psalms 39:1-19.39.13 . Jeduthun was one of David's musicians, as was Asaph.

I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me; while I was musing the fire burned ( Psalms 39:1-19.39.3 ):

Have you ever had that experience where you are just seething inside? While you are thinking on it you just start burning. "While I was musing, while I was thinking on the thing, man, did I burn inside." And David said,

and then I spoke ( Psalms 39:3 ),

It is best not to speak when you are in that shape. But David spoke to the right person; he spoke to the Lord. He said,

LORD, make me to know my end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am ( Psalms 39:4 ).

God, help me to realize that I'm not so macho as I think. Help me to know my days. God, help me to really number my days. You know, I don't have long. Life is short. If you live to be seventy, if you go on beyond that it's going to be with hardship. Lord, teach me to number my days. Help me to realize how frail I am.

Behold, you have made my days just as a handbreadth; and my age is as nothing before thee ( Psalms 39:5 ):

I like that. Don't put any candles on my birthday cake. As far as God is concerned my age is as nothing.

verily every man at his best state is altogether empty ( Psalms 39:5 ).

Man, poor man, so ignorant in that which he knows best. What is your best field of knowledge? What is your particular field of study? What was your major? How much is there to be known in that field in which you major? How much do you know in relationship to all that is to be known in that particular field? I think that, of course, Bible was my major, and I know the Bible better than any other single subject. But I'll tell you, I am so ignorant in the Bible as far as all that there is to be known about this Word. Man, poor man, so ignorant in that which he knows best. "Man at his best is altogether empty."

Surely every man walks in a vain show: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heaps up riches, but he knows not who's going to spend them. And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee. Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish. I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because you did it ( Psalms 39:6-19.39.9 ).

In other words, I didn't complain against the stroke that was upon me, because I knew that it was from you.

Remove thy stroke from me: I am consumed by the blow of your hand. When you with rebukes correct man for iniquity, you make his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is empty. Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were. O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more ( Psalms 39:10-19.39.13 ). "

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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Psalms 39:12". "Smith's Bible Commentary". 2014.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Psalms 39

David seems to have composed this individual lament during a prolonged illness that almost proved fatal (cf. Job). He petitioned God to extend his days rather than to continue the chastening. This psalm is quite similar to the preceding one, but in this one David did not mention opposition from his enemies.

Jeduthun, mentioned in the title, was one of David’s chief musicians (1 Chronicles 16:41-42). Perhaps David wrote the psalm for Jeduthun to perform or lead, or for the group of musicians under his direction.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 39:12". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

2. The importance of faith in God 39:7-13

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 39:12". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

In closing, David asked God to remove His chastening, whatever it was, so he could enjoy his final years of life. [Note: See W. A. M. Beuken, "Psalms 39 : Some Aspects of the Old Testament Understanding of Prayer," The Heythrop Journal 19 (1978):1-11.]

The brevity of life impresses one increasingly as he or she grows older. People are usually more conscious of this in times of sorrow than in happy times. It is natural for a believer to want God to teach him or her to live wisely, and want Him to be patient with one’s sinfulness in view of life’s shortness.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 39:12". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Hear my prayer, O Lord,.... Which was, that he would remove the affliction from him that lay so hard and heavy upon him;

and give ear unto my cry; which shows the distress he was in, and the vehemency with which he put up his petition to the Lord;

hold not thy peace at my tears; which were shed in great plenty, through the violence of the affliction, and in his fervent prayers to God; see Hebrews 5:7;

for I [am] a stranger with thee; not to God, to Christ, to the Spirit, to the saints, to himself, and the plague of his own heart, or to the devices of Satan; but in the world, and to the men of it; being unknown to them, and behaving as a stranger among them; all which was known to God, and may be the meaning of the phrase "with thee"; or reference may be had to the land of Canaan, in which David dwelt, and which was the Lord's, and in which the Israelites dwelt as strangers and sojourners with him, Leviticus 25:23; as it follows here;

[and] a sojourner, as all my fathers [were]; meaning Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their posterity; see Genesis 23:4; as are all the people of God in this world: this is not their native place; they belong to another and better country; their citizenship is in heaven; their Father's house is there, and there is their inheritance, which they have a right unto, and a meetness for: they have no settlement here; nor is their rest and satisfaction in the things of this world: they reckon themselves, while here, as not at home, but in a foreign land; and this the psalmist mentions, to engage the Lord to regard his prayers, since he has so often expressed a concern for the strangers and sojourners in the land of Israel.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Psalms 39:12". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Confidence in God; David Pleading with God.

      7 And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.   8 Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish.   9 I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it.   10 Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thine hand.   11 When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah.   12 Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.   13 O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.

      The psalmist, having meditated on the shortness and uncertainty of life, and the vanity and vexation of spirit that attend all the comforts of life, here, in these verses, turns his eyes and heart heaven-ward. When there is no solid satisfaction to be had in the creature it is to be found in God, and in communion with him; and to him we should be driven by our disappointments in the world. David here expresses,

      I. His dependence on God, Psalms 39:7; Psalms 39:7. Seeing all is vanity, and man himself is so, 1. He despairs of a happiness in the things of the world, and disclaims all expectations from it: "Now, Lord, what wait I for? Even nothing from the things of sense and time; I have nothing to wish for, nothing to hope for, from this earth." Note, The consideration of the vanity and frailty of human life should deaden our desires to the things of this world and lower our expectations from it. "If the world be such a thing as this, God deliver me from having, or seeking, my portion in it." We cannot reckon upon constant health and prosperity, nor upon comfort in any relation; for it is all as uncertain as our continuance here. "Though I have sometimes foolishly promised myself this and the other from the world, I am now of another mind." 2. He takes hold of happiness and satisfaction in God: My hope is in thee. Note, When creature-confidences fail, it is our comfort that we have a God to go to, a God to trust to, and we should thereby be quickened to take so much the faster hold of him by faith.

      II. His submission to God, and his cheerful acquiescence in his holy will, Psalms 39:9; Psalms 39:9. If our hope be in God for a happiness in the other world, we may well afford to reconcile ourselves to all the dispensations of his providence concerning us in this world: "I was dumb; I opened not my mouth in a way of complaint and murmuring." He now again recovered that serenity and sedateness of mind which were disturbed, Psalms 39:2; Psalms 39:2. Whatever comforts he is deprived of, whatever crosses he is burdened with, he will be easy. "Because thou didst it; it did not come to pass by chance, but according to thy appointment." We may here see, 1. A good God doing all, and ordering all events concerning us. Of every event we may say, "This is the finger of God; it is the Lord's doing," whoever were the instruments. 2. A good man, for that reason, saying nothing against it. He is dumb, he has nothing to object, no question to ask, no dispute to raise upon it. All that God does is well done.

      III. His desire towards God, and the prayers he puts up to him. Is any afflicted? let him pray, as David here,

      1. For the pardoning of his sin and the preventing of his shame, Psalms 39:8; Psalms 39:8. Before he prays (Psalms 39:10; Psalms 39:10), Remove thy stroke from me, he prays (Psalms 39:8; Psalms 39:8), "Deliver me from all my offences, from the guilt I have contracted, the punishment I have deserved, and the power of corruption by which I have been enslaved." When God forgives our sins he delivers us from them, he delivers us from them all. He pleads, Make me not a reproach to the foolish. Wicked people are foolish people; and they then show their folly most when they think to show their wit, by scoffing at God's people. When David prays that God would pardon his sins, and not make him a reproach, it is to be taken as a prayer for peace of conscience ("Lord, leave me not to the power of melancholy, which the foolish will laugh at me for"), and as a prayer for grace, that God would never leave him to himself, so far as to do any thing that might make him a reproach to bad men. Note, This is a good reason why we should both watch and pray against sin, because the credit of our profession is nearly concerned in the preservation of our integrity.

      2. For the removal of his affliction, that he might speedily be eased of his present burdens (Psalms 39:10; Psalms 39:10): Remove thy stroke away from me. Note, When we are under the correcting hand of God our eye must be to God himself, and not to any other, for relief. He only that inflicts the stroke can remove it; and we may then in faith, and with satisfaction, pray that our afflictions may be removed, when our sins are pardoned (Isaiah 38:17), and when, as here, the affliction is sanctified and has done its work, and we are humbled under the hand of God.

      (1.) He pleads the great extremity he was reduced to by his affliction, which made him the proper object of God's compassion: I am consumed by the blow of thy hand. His sickness prevailed to such a degree that his spirits failed, his strength was wasted, and his body emaciated. "The blow, or conflict, of thy hand has brought me even to the gates of death." Note, The strongest, and boldest, and best of men cannot bear up under, much less make head against, the power of God's wrath. It was not his case only, but any man will find himself an unequal match for the Almighty, Psalms 39:11; Psalms 39:11. When God, at any time, contends with us, when with rebukes he corrects us, [1.] We cannot impeach the equity of his controversy, but must acknowledge that he is righteous in it; for, whenever he corrects man, it is for iniquity. Our ways and our doings procure the trouble to ourselves, and we are beaten with a rod of our own making. It is the yoke of our transgressions, though it be bound with his hand,Lamentations 1:14. [2.] We cannot oppose the effects of his controversy, but he will be too hard for us. As we have nothing to move in arrest of his judgment, so we have no way of escaping the execution. God's rebukes make man's beauty to consume away like a moth; we often see, we sometimes feel, how much the body is weakened and decayed by sickness in a little time; the countenance is changed; where are the ruddy cheek and lip, the sprightly eye, the lively look, the smiling face? It is the reverse of all this that presents itself to view. What a poor thing is beauty; and what fools are those that are proud of it, or in love with it, when it will certainly, and may quickly, be consumed thus! Some make the moth to represent man, who is as easily crushed as a moth with the touch of a finger, Job 4:19. Others make it to represent the divine rebukes, which silently and insensibly waste and consume us, as the moth does the garment. All this abundantly proves what he had said before, that surely every man is vanity, weak and helpless; so he will be found when God comes to contend with him.

      (2.) He pleads the good impressions made upon him by his affliction. He hoped that the end was accomplished for which it was sent, and that therefore it would be removed in mercy; and unless an affliction has done its work, though it may be removed, it is not removed in mercy. [1.] It had set him a weeping, and he hoped God would take notice of that. When the Lord God called to mourning, he answered the call and accommodated himself to the dispensation, and therefore could, in faith, pray, Lord, hold not thy peace at my tears,Psalms 39:12; Psalms 39:12. He that does not willingly afflict and grieve the children of men, much less his own children, will not hold his peace at their tears, but will either speak deliverance for them (and, if he speak, it is done) or in the mean time speak comfort to them and make them to hear joy and gladness. [2.] It had set him a praying; and afflictions are sent to stir up prayer. If they have that effect, and when we are afflicted we pray more, and pray better, than before, we may hope that God will hear our prayer and give ear to our cry; for the prayer which by his providence he gives occasion for, and which by his Spirit of grace he indites, shall not return void. [3.] It had helped to wean him from the world and to take his affections off from it. Now he began, more than ever, to look upon himself as a stranger and sojourner here, like all his fathers, not at home in this world, but travelling through it to another, to a better, and would never reckon himself at home till he came to heaven. He pleads it with God: "Lord, take cognizance of me, and of my wants and burdens, for I am a stranger here, and therefore meet with strange usage; I am slighted and oppressed as a stranger; and whence should I expect relief but from thee, from that other country to which I belong?"

      3. He prays for a reprieve yet a little longer (Psalms 39:13; Psalms 39:13): "O spare me, ease me, raise me up from this illness that I may recover strength both in body and mind, that I may get into a more calm and composed frame of spirit, and may be better prepared for another world, before I go hence by death, and shall be no more in this world." Some make this to be a passionate wish that God would send him help quickly or it would be too late, like that, Job 10:20; Job 10:21. But I rather take it as a pious prayer that God would continue him here till by his grace he had made him fit to go hence, and that he might finish the work of life before his life was finished. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Psalms 39:12". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.