Psalm 88:1
A Song or Psalm for the sons of Korah, to the chief Musician upon Mahalath Leannoth, Maschil of Heman the Ezrahite. O LORD God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Psalm 88:1-4. O Lord God of my salvation — Who hast so often saved me in former distresses; I have cried day and night before thee — Thus God’s own elect are said, by Christ, to cry to him, Luke 18:7; and thus ought men always to pray and not to faint. Let my prayer come before thee — To be accepted of thee. For my soul is full of troubles — Troubles of mind, from a sense of God’s wrath and departure from him, as appears Psalm 88:14-16. I am counted with them that go down into the pit — I am given up by my friends and acquaintance for a lost man.

88:1-9 The first words of the psalmist are the only words of comfort and support in this psalm. Thus greatly may good men be afflicted, and such dismal thoughts may they have about their afflictions, and such dark conclusion may they make about their end, through the power of melancholy and the weakness of faith. He complained most of God's displeasure. Even the children of God's love may sometimes think themselves children of wrath and no outward trouble can be so hard upon them as that. Probably the psalmist described his own case, yet he leads to Christ. Thus are we called to look unto Jesus, wounded and bruised for our iniquities. But the wrath of God poured the greatest bitterness into his cup. This weighed him down into darkness and the deep.O Lord God of my salvation - On whom I depend for salvation; who alone canst save me. Luther renders this, "O God, my Saviour."

I have cried day and night before thee - literally, "By day I cried; by night before thee;" that is, my prayer is constantly before thee. The meaning is, that there was no intermission to his prayers; he prayed all the while. This does not refer to the general habit of his life, but to the time of his sickness. He had prayed most earnestly and constantly that he might be delivered from sickness and from the dangers of death. He had, as yet, obtained no answer, and he now pours out, and records, a more earnest petition to God.

PSALM 88

Ps 88:1-18. Upon Mahalath—either an instrument, as a lute, to be used as an accompaniment (Leannoth, "for singing") or, as others think, an enigmatic title (see on [619]Ps 5:1, [620]Ps 22:1, and [621]Ps 45:1, titles), denoting the subject—that is, "sickness or disease, for humbling," the idea of spiritual maladies being often represented by disease (compare Ps 6:5, 6; 22:14, 15, &c.). On the other terms, see on [622]Ps 42:1 and [623]Ps 32:1. Heman and Ethan (see on [624]Ps 89:1, title) were David's singers (1Ch 6:18, 33; 15:17), of the family of Kohath. If the persons alluded to (1Ki 4:31; 1Ch 2:6), they were probably adopted into the tribe of Judah. Though called a song, which usually implies joy (Ps 83:1), both the style and matter of the Psalm are very despondent; yet the appeals to God evince faith, and we may suppose that the word "song" might be extended to such compositions.

1, 2. Compare on the terms used, Ps 22:2; 31:2.

1 O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee,

2 Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry;

3 For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave.

4 I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength:

5 Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand.

6 Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.

7 Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah.

8 Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me; thou hast made me an abomination unto them: I am shut up, and I cannot come forth.

9 Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: Lord, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee.

10 Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah.

11 Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction?

12 Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

13 But unto thee have I cried, O Lord; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee.

14 Lord, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me?

continued...THE ARGUMENT

This Psalm was composed upon a particular occasion, to wit, Heman’s deep distress and dejection of mind almost to despair. But though this was the occasion of it, it is of more general use, for the instruction and consolation of all good men when they come into such despondencies, and therefore was by the direction of God’s Spirit made public, and committed to the sons of Korah.

Mahalath seems to be the name of the tune or instrument, as Psalm 53.

Leannoth may be either the latter part of the proper name of the tune or instrument; or an appellative name, and so divers take it, and render it, to sing, or to be sung, to wit, alternately or by turns.

Heman; probably the same person who was famous in David’s time, both for his skill in music, and for general wisdom; of whom see 1 Kings 4:31 1 Chronicles 6:33.

The Ezrahite; as Ethan also is called, 1 Kings 4:31.

The psalmist declares his former practice of prayer to God Psalm 88:1; beggeth present audience, Psalm 88:2; acquainteth the Lord with his misery and frailty, Psalm 88:3,4, which he suffereth by God’s wrath, and his friends forsaking him, Psalm 88:5-8. His mourning and expostulation, Psalm 88:9-18.

Who hast so often saved me from former distresses, and, I hope, wilt do so at this time.

O Lord God of my salvation,.... The author both of temporal and spiritual salvation; see Psalm 18:46 from the experience the psalmist had had of the Lord's working salvation for him in times past, he is encouraged to hope that he would appear for him, and help him out of his present distress; his faith was not so low, but that amidst all his darkness and dejection he could look upon the Lord as his God, and the God of salvation to him; so our Lord Jesus Christ, when deserted by his Father, still called him his God, and believed that he would help him, Psalm 22:1.

I have cried day and night before thee, or "in the day I have cried, and in the night before thee"; that is, as the Targum paraphrases it,

"in the night my prayer was before thee.''

prayer being expressed by crying shows the person to be in distress, denotes the earnestness of it, and shows it to be vocal; and it being both in the day and in the night, that it was without ceasing. The same is said by Christ, Psalm 22:2 and is true of him, who in the days of his flesh was frequent in prayer, and especially in the night season, Luke 6:12 and particularly his praying in the garden the night he was betrayed may be here referred to, Matthew 26:38.

(a) "pro infirmitate ad affligendum", so some in Munster; "de miseria ad affligendum", Tigurine version; "de infirmitate affligente", Piscator, so Gussetius, p. 622. (b) Works, vol. 1. p. 699. (c) Tractat. Theolog. Politic. c. 10. p. 184. (d) Apud Meor Enayim, c. 32. p. 106.

<or Psalm for the sons of Korah, to the chief Musician upon Mahalath {a} Leannoth, Maschil of Heman the Ezrahite.>> O LORD God of my salvation, I have cried day and night {b} before thee:

(a) That is, to humble. It was the beginning of a song by which tune this psalm was sung.

(b) Though many cry in their sorrows, yet they cry not earnestly to God for remedy as he did whom he confessed to be the author of his salvation.

1. O Lord God &c.] Jehovah, the God of my salvation. Cp. Psalm 27:9.

I have cried day and night before thee] Parallels such as Psalm 22:2 suggest that this is the meaning intended, but it is difficult to extract it from the Heb. text, even if we assume that “the broken language corresponds to the weakness of the gasping sufferer” (Kay). An ingenious and plausible emendation removes the difficulty thus:

Jehovah my God, I have cried for help in the day time,

And in the night hath my crying been before thee.

Cp. Psalm 88:13; Psalm 30:2; Job 19:7; Psalm 42:8. Though God has forsaken him, he can still address Him as my God (Psalm 22:1). Like Job, he must appeal to God even when God seems wholly alienated from him.

1–8. The Psalmist appeals for a hearing, supporting his appeal by a pathetic description of the chastisements by which God has brought him to the very edge of the grave.

Verse 1. - O Lord God of my salvation. This is the one "word of trust," which some get rid of by an emendation. But the Septuagint supports the existing Hebrew text; and it is in harmony with the rest of Scripture. The saints of God never despair. I have cried day and night before thee; literally, by day have I cried - by night before thee; a trembling, gasping utterance (Kay). Psalm 88:1The poet finds himself in the midst of circumstances gloomy in the extreme, but he does not despair; he still turns towards Jahve with his complaints, and calls Him the God of his salvation. This actus directus of fleeing in prayer to the God of salvation, which urges its way through all that is dark and gloomy, is the fundamental characteristic of all true faith. Psalm 88:2 is not to be rendered, as a clause of itself: "by day I cry unto Thee, in the night before Thee" (lxx and Targum), which ought to have been יומם, but (as it is also pointed, especially in Baer's text): by day, i.e., in the time (Psalm 56:4; Psalm 78:42, cf. Psalm 18:1), when I cry before Thee in the night, let my prayer come... (Hitzig). In Psalm 88:3 he calls his piercing lamentation, his wailing supplication, רנּתי, as in Psalm 17:1; Psalm 61:2. הטּה as in Psalm 86:1, for which we find הט in Psalm 17:6. The Beth of בּרעות, as in Psalm 65:5; Lamentations 3:15, Lamentations 3:30, denotes that of which his soul has already had abundantly sufficient. On Psalm 88:4, cf. as to the syntax Psalm 31:11. איל (ἅπαξ λεγομ. like אילוּת, Psalm 22:20) signifies succinctness, compactness, vigorousness (ἁδρότης): he is like a man from whom all vital freshness and vigour is gone, therefore now only like the shadow of a man, in fact like one already dead. חפשׁי, in Psalm 88:6, the lxx renders ἐν νεκροῖς ἐλεύθερος (Symmachus, ἀφεὶς ἐλεύθερος); and in like manner the Targum, and the Talmud which follows it in formulating the proposition that a deceased person is חפשׁי מן חמצוות, free from the fulfilling of the precepts of the Law (cf. Romans 6:7). Hitzig, Ewald, Kster, and Bttcher, on the contrary, explain it according to Ezekiel 27:20 (where חפשׁ signifies stragulum): among the dead is my couch (חפשׁי equals יצועי, Job 17:13). But in respect of Job 3:19 the adjectival rendering is the more probable; "one set free among the dead" (lxx) is equivalent to one released from the bond of life (Job 39:5), somewhat as in Latin a dead person is called defunctus. God does not remember the dead, i.e., practically, inasmuch as, devoid of any progressive history, their condition remains always the same; they are in fact cut away (נגזר as in Psalm 31:23; Lamentations 3:54; Isaiah 53:8) from the hand, viz., from the guiding and helping hand, of God. Their dwelling-place is the pit of the places lying deep beneath (cf. on תּחתּיּות, Psalm 63:10; Psalm 86:13; Ezekiel 26:20, and more particularly Lamentations 3:55), the dark regions (מחשׁכּים as in Psalm 143:3, Lamentations 3:6), the submarine depths (בּמצלות; lxx, Symmachus, the Syriac, etc.: ἐν σκιᾷ θανάτου equals בצלמות, according to Job 10:21 and frequently, but contrary to Lamentations 3:54), whose open abyss is the grave for each one. On Psalm 88:8 cf. Psalm 42:8. The Mugrash by כל־משׁבריך stamps it as an adverbial accusative (Targum), or more correctly, since the expression is not עניתני, as the object placed in advance. Only those who are not conversant with the subject (as Hupfeld in this instance) imagine that the accentuation marks ענּית as a relative clause (cf. on the contrary Psalm 8:7, Psalm 21:3, etc.). ענּה, to bow down, press down; here used of the turning or directing downwards (lxx ἐπήγαγες) of the waves, which burst like a cataract over the afflicted one.
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