Psalm 38:6-10

6. I am bent, I am, bowed down beyond measure: I go mourning [literally black] all the day long, 7. For my reins are filled with burning, [or, inflammation1] and there is no soundness in my flesh. 8. I am very feeble and sore broken: I have roared because of the roaring of my heart. 9. O Lord!2 thou knowest all my desire, and my groaning is not hid from thee. 10. My heart hath turned round, my strength hath failed me: and as for the light of my eyes, it also is gone from me.


6. I am bent. This description clearly shows that this holy man was oppressed with extreme grief, so much so, that it is marvellous how, under such a vast accumulation of miseries, his faith was sufficiently strong to bear up his mind. When he says bowed down, he seems tacitly to contrast his humility and dejection with the pride and stubbornness of many, who refuse to be humbled by the many chastisements with which God afflicts them, but rather harden themselves, daring to resist and oppose him. They must, no doubt, of necessity, feel the pain of their afflictions, but they fall into such a state of insensibility, that they are not affected by it. David then, from this circumstance, draws an argument to induce his heavenly Judge to have compassion on him, showing that he was not one of those who obstinately rebel against him, and refuse to bow in humble submission, even while the hand of God is upon them; but that he is abased and humbled, even as the Apostle Peter exhorts all the godly to

"humble themselves under the mighty hand of God."
(1 Peter 5:6)

Let us therefore learn, that there is no other way by which we can obtain consolation under our afflictions, than by laying aside all stubbornness and pride, and humbly submitting to the chastisement of God. The word rdwk, koder, which I have translated black, is rendered by others clad in black,3 and explained as referring to the outward apparel, the black color of which has always been a token of grief. But the opinion of those who understand it of the blackness of the skin is more correct; for we know that grief renders men's countenances lean, wan, and black. David, therefore, by this token of grief, describes the greatness of his affliction, because the natural color of his face had faded, and he was like a corpse, already withered and shrunk.

In the next verse, the word Mylok, kesalaim, which I have rendered reins, is by some translated the flanks. But the more generally received opinion is, that it denotes the part under the reins, which extends towards the haunch, or the space between the thighs and flanks, where it is supposed there had been a sore. Commentators also differ in their opinion respecting the word hlqn, nikleh, which I have rendered burning. In my translation I have followed those who adhere to the original meaning of the word; for the verb hlq, kalah, signifies to burn, or to consume with fire. Others, indeed, explain it not improperly in the sense of filthiness and corruption. I am, however, not inclined to limit it to a sore. In my opinion, the sense simply is, that his reins, or flanks, or thighs, were filled with an inflammatory disease, or at least were covered over with putrid sores; for these parts of the body are most subject to inflammation, and most liable to contract putrid humours. Some expound it allegorically, as meaning, that David seemed loathsome in his own eyes, when he thought of his reproach; but this appears too forced. When he adds that he was weakened and sore broken, he still farther confirms what he had said in the preceding verses: for by these various terms he wished to express the intolerable vehemence of his grief. Now, as a man, who is distinguished by courage, does not cry out and complain, and as we know that David did not shrink in bearing his afflictions, we may gather from this, that his sufferings were severe and painful in the extreme, inasmuch as he not only wept bitterly, but was also forced to cry out and complain. The noun tmhn, nahamath, which I have rendered roaring, may be derived from another verb than that which David has here used; but the meaning is obvious, namely, that the incontrollable emotions of his heart forced him to cry out.

9. O Lord! thou knowest all my desire. He adds this, not so much in respect of God, as to strengthen himself in the hope of obtaining some alleviation of his trouble, and thus to animate himself to persevering prayer. It may be explained in a twofold sense, either as denoting his confident assurance that his prayers and groanings were heard by the Lord, or a simple declaration that he had poured out before God all his cares and troubles; but the meaning is substantially the same: for as long as men entertain any doubt whether their groanings have come up before God, they are kept in constant disquietude and dread, which so fetters and holds captive their minds, that they cannot elevate their souls to God. On the contrary, a firm persuasion that our groanings do not vanish away in their ascent to God, but that he graciously hears them, and familiarly listens to them, produces promptitude and alacrity in engaging in prayer. It might, therefore, prove no small ground of encouragement to David, that he approached God, not with a doubting and trembling heart, but strengthened and encouraged by the assurance of which we have spoken, and of which he himself speaks in another place, that his tears were laid up in God's bottle, (Psalm 56:8.) In order that we may obtain access to God, we must believe that he is "a rewarder of them that diligently seek him," as the apostle states in his Epistle to the Hebrews, (Hebrews 11:6.) But I rather approve of the other interpretation, That David here declares that he had disburdened all his sorrows into the bosom of God. The reason why the greater part of men derive no profit from complaining grievously in their sorrow is, that they direct not their prayers and sighs to God. David, then, in order to encourage himself in the assured conviction that God will be his deliverer, says, that he had always been a witness of his sorrows, and was well acquainted with them, because he had neither indulged in a fretful spirit, nor poured out into the air his complaints and howlings as the unbelieving are wont to do, but had spread out before God himself all the desires of his heart.

10. My heart hath turned round. The verb which David here uses signifies to travel or wander hither and thither; but here it is taken for the agitation or disquietude which distress of heart engenders when we know not what to do. According as men are disquieted in mind, so do they turn themselves on all sides, and so their heart may be said to turn round, or to run to and fro. But since faith, when it has once brought us into obedience to God, holds our minds fixed on his word, it might here be asked by way of objection, How it is that the heart of David was so affected by disquietude and trouble? To this I answer, That although he continued to walk in the ways of God, while he was sustained by the promises of God, yet he was not altogether exempted from human infirmity. And, indeed, it will always happen, that as soon as we fall into some danger, our flesh will suggest to us various shifts and devices, and lead us into many errors in search of counsel; so that even the most confident would fail and go astray, unless he laid upon himself the same restraint by which David was preserved and kept in subjection, namely, by keeping all his thoughts shut up within the limits of God's word. Nay, even in the prayers which we offer up when our minds are at ease, we experience too well how easily our minds are carried away, and wander after vain and frivolous thoughts, and how difficult it is to keep them uninterruptedly attentive and fixed with the same degree of intensity upon the object of our desire. If this happen when we are not exercised by any severe trial, what will be the case when we are agitated by violent storms and tempests which threaten a thousand deaths, and when there is no way to escape them? It is, therefore, no great wonder if they carried away the heart of David, so that it was subject to various emotions amidst such tempestuous agitations. He adds, that his strength had failed him, as if he had compared himself to a dead man. What he adds concerning the light of his eyes some understand as if he had said, that he was so much oppressed with despair on all sides, that no counsel or foresight was left to him. The more simple meaning, however, is, that the light of life was taken away from him, because in it the energy of the soul principally shows itself.

1 Berlin reads, "aestu torrente;" Horsley, "with a parching heat;" and this is the view taken by Hare, Dathe, Gesenius, and the Chaldee.

2 Dominus. In the Hebrew Bible it is ynda, Adonai; but several MSS. read hahy, Yehovah.

3 "rdq is literally 'dressed in mourning;' hence it may, by an easy figure, denote the melancholy looks of a mourner." -- Horsley. This is the sense put upon the expression by the Septuagint, "Olhn th<n hJmeron scuqrwpa>z wn ejporeuo>mhv;" -- "I went with a mourning countenance all the day".


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