Psalm 6:4
Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Psalm 6:4-5. Return — Unto me, from whom thou hast withdrawn thy smiling countenance and helping hand. Deliver my soul — From guilt and fear; or preserve my life, for the word soul often signifies life. David, and other pious men in those times, were much averse to, and afraid of death, partly because the manifestations of God’s love to his people, and the discoveries of an immortal state of glory awaiting them after death, were then more dark and doubtful; and partly because thereby they were deprived of all opportunities of advancing God’s glory and kingdom in the world. For in death — Or among the dead, or in the grave, as it follows; there is no remembrance of thee — This is meant only of the bodies of persons deceased; not of their souls, which still survive, and do not sleep till the resurrection, as some have vainly imagined: and yet even their souls are incapable, when departed from the body, of remembering, praising, and glorifying God, in his church on earth; of celebrating his mercy and grace in the land of the living; of propagating his worship, or of exciting others to piety by their example: which is the remembrance of God of which he speaks. Hence, also, good men have often desired to have their lives prolonged, even under the Christian, as well as under the Patriarchal and Jewish dispensation, that they might be capable of glorifying God, and of fully executing his will in this world, in order, as the Hebrews speak, to increase the reward of their souls in the world to come.

6:1-7 These verses speak the language of a heart truly humbled, of a broken and contrite spirit under great afflictions, sent to awaken conscience and mortify corruption. Sickness brought sin to his remembrance, and he looked upon it as a token of God's displeasure against him. The affliction of his body will be tolerable, if he has comfort in his soul. Christ's sorest complaint, in his sufferings, was of the trouble of his soul, and the want of his Father's smiles. Every page of Scripture proclaims the fact, that salvation is only of the Lord. Man is a sinner, his case can only be reached by mercy; and never is mercy more illustrious than in restoring backsliders. With good reason we may pray, that if it be the will of God, and he has any further work for us or our friends to do in this world, he will yet spare us or them to serve him. To depart and be with Christ is happiest for the saints; but for them to abide in the flesh is more profitable for the church.Return, O Lord, deliver my soul - As if he had departed from him, and had left him to die. The word "soul" in this place is used, as it often is, in the sense of "life," for in the next verse he speaks of the grave to which he evidently felt he was rapidly descending.

O save me - Save my life; save me from going down to the grave. Deliver me from these troubles and dangers.

For thy mercies' sake -

(a) As an act of mere mercy, for he felt that he had no claim, and could not urge it as a matter of right and justice; and

(b) in order that God's mercy might be manifest, or because he was a merciful Being, and might, therefore, be appealed to on that ground.

These are proper grounds, now, on which to make an appeal to God for his interposition in our behalf; and, indeed, these are the only grounds on which we can plead with him to save us.

4. Return—that is, to my relief; or, "turn," as now having His face averted.

for thy mercies' sake—to illustrate Thy mercy.

Return unto me, from whom thou hast withdrawn thyself, and thy smiling countenance, and thy helping hand.

Deliver my soul, i.e. save me or my life, as the soul oft signifies, as Genesis 9:5 12:5 Job 36:4 Psalm 33:19. David and other good men in those times were much afraid of death, partly because the manifestations of God’s grace to his people were then more dark and doubtful, and partly because thereby they were deprived of all opportunities of advancing God’s glory and kingdom in the world. Compare Isaiah 38:1-3.

Return, O Lord,.... By this it seems that the Lord had withdrawn himself, and was departed from the psalmist, wherefore he entreats him to return unto him, and grant him his gracious presence. God is immense and omnipresent, he is everywhere: going away and returning cannot be properly ascribed to him; but he, nay be said to depart from his people, as to sensible communion with him, and enjoyment of him, when he hides his face, withdraws his gracious presence, and the comfortable discoveries and influences of his love; and he may be said to return when he visits them again, and manifests his love and favour to them: the Jewish writers (d) interpret it,

"return from the fierceness of thine anger,''

as in Psalm 85:3; and though there is no such change in God, as from love to wrath, and from wrath to love; but inasmuch as there is a change in his dispensations towards his people, it is as if it was so; and thus it is apprehended by them;

deliver my soul; from the anxiety, distress, and sore vexation it was now in, for of all troubles soul troubles are the worst: and from all enemies and workers of iniquity which were now about him, and gave him much grief and uneasiness; and from death itself, he was in fear of;

O, save me for thy mercy's sake; out of all troubles of soul and body, and out of the hands of all enemies, inward and outward; and with temporal, spiritual, and eternal salvation; not for his righteousness's sake, as Kimchi well observes; for salvation is according to the abundant mercy of God, and not through works of righteousness done by men, otherwise it would not be of grace.

(d) Jarchi, Aben Ezra, Kimchi, & Ben Melech in loc.

Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. Return] For Jehovah seems to have abandoned him. Cp. Psalm 90:13.

O save me for thy mercy’s sake] R.V., save me for thy lovingkindness’ sake. Jehovah declares Himself to be “a God … plenteous in lovingkindness and truth, who keeps lovingkindness for thousands” (Exodus 34:7-8), and the Psalmist intreats Him to be true to this central attribute in His own revelation of His character.

4–7. He renews his prayer, and in a calmer tone, reasons with God.

Verse 4. - Return, O Lord. God seemed to have withdrawn himself, to have, forsaken the mourner, and gone far away (comp. Psalm 22:1). Hence the cry, "Return" (comp. Psalm 80:14; Psalm 90:13). Nothing is so hard to endure as the feeling of being deserted by God. Deliver my soul. "The psalmist feels himself so wretched in soul and body, that he believes himself to be near death" (Hengstenberg). His prayer here is, primarily, for deliverance from this impending danger, as appears clearly from the following verse, Save me for thy mercys' sake. Either a repetition of the preceding prayer in other words, or an enlargement of it so as to include salvation of every kind. Psalm 6:4(Heb.: 6:5-8) God has turned away from him, hence the prayer שׁוּבה, viz., אלי. The tone of שׁוּבה is on the ult., because it is assumed to be read שׁוּבה אדני. The ultima accentuation is intended to secure its distinct pronunciation to the final syllable of שׁובה, which is liable to be drowned and escape notice in connection with the coming together of the two aspirates (vid., on Psalm 3:8). May God turn to him again, rescue (חלּץ from חלץ, which is transitive in Hebr. and Aram., to free, expedire, exuere, Arab. chalaṣa, to be pure, prop. to be loose, free) his soul, in which his affliction has taken deep root, from this affliction, and extend to him salvation on the ground of His mercy towards sinners. He founds this cry for help upon his yearning to be able still longer to praise God, - a happy employ, the possibility of which would be cut off from him if he should die. זכר, as frequently הזכּיר, is used of remembering one with reverence and honour; הודה (from ודה) has the dat. honoris after it. שׁאול, Psalm 6:6, ἅδης (Revelation 20:13), alternates with מות. Such is the name of the grave, the yawning abyss, into which everything mortal descends (from שׁאל equals שׁוּל Arab. sâl, to be loose, relaxed, to hang down, sink down: a sinking in, that which is sunken in,

(Note: The form corresponds to the Arabic form fi‛âlun, which, though originally a verbal abstract, has carried over the passive meaning into the province of the concrete, e.g., kitâb equals maktûb and ilâh, אלוהּ equals ma‛lûh equals ma‛bûd (the feared, revered One).)

a depth). The writers of the Psalms all (which is no small objection against Maccabean Psalms) know only of one single gathering-place of the dead in the depth of the earth, where they indeed live, but it is only a quasi life, because they are secluded from the light of this world and, what is the most lamentable, from the light of God's presence. Hence the Christian can only join in the prayer of v. 6 of this Psalm and similar passages (Psalm 30:10; Psalm 88:11-13; Psalm 115:17; Isaiah 38:18.) so far as he transfers the notion of hades to that of gehenna.

(Note: An adumbration of this relationship of Christianity to the religion of the Old Testament is the relationship of Islam to the religion of the Arab wandering tribes, which is called the "religion of Abraham" (Din Ibrâhim), and knows no life after death; while Islam has taken from the later Judaism and from Christianity the hope of a resurrection and heavenly blessedness.)

In hell there is really no remembrance and no praising of God. David's fear of death as something in itself unhappy, is also, according to its ultimate ground, nothing but the fear of an unhappy death. In these "pains of hell" he is wearied with (בּ as in Psalm 69:4) groaning, and bedews his couch every night with a river of tears. Just as the Hiph. השׂחה signifies to cause to swim from שׂחה to swim, so the Hiph. המסה signifies to dissolve, cause to melt, from מסה (cogn. מסס) to melt. דּמעה, in Arabic a nom. unit. a tear, is in Hebrew a flood of tears.

In Psalm 6:8 עיני does not signify my "appearance" (Numbers 11:7), but, as becomes clear from Psalm 31:10; Psalm 88:10, Job 17:7, "my eye;" the eye reflects the whole state of a man's health. The verb עשׁשׁ appears to be a denominative from עשׁ: to be moth-eaten.

(Note: Reuchlin in his grammatical analysis of the seven Penitential Psalms, which he published in 1512 after his Ll. III de Rudimentis Hebraicis (1506), explains it thus: עשׁשׁה Verminavit. Sic a vermibus dictum qui turbant res claras puras et nitidas, and in the Rudim. p. 412: Turbatus est a furore oculus meus, corrosus et obfuscatus, quasi vitro laternae obductus.)

The signification senescere for the verb עתק is more certain. The closing words בּכל־צוררי (cf. Numbers 10:9 הצּר הצּרר the oppressing oppressor, from the root צר Arab. tsr, to press, squeeze, and especially to bind together, constringere, coartare

(Note: In Arabic ציר dir is the word for a step-mother as the oppressor of the step-children; and צרר dirr, a concubine as the oppressor of her rival.)),

in which the writer indicates, partially at least, the cause of his grief (כּעס, in Job 18:7 כּעשׁ), are as it were the socket into which the following strophe is inserted.

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