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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
This Psalm contains a deprecation of eternal vengeance, Psalm 6:1; a petition to God for mercy, Psalm 6:2. This is enforced from a consideration of the psalmist's sufferings, Psalm 6:3; from that of the Divine mercy, Psalm 6:4; from that of the praise and glory which God would fail to receive if man were destroyed, Psalm 6:5; from that of his humiliation and contrition, Psalm 6:6, Psalm 6:7. Being successful in his supplication, he exults in God, Psalm 6:8, Psalm 6:9; and predicts the downfall of all his enemies, Psalm 6:10.
This Psalm has the following inscription: To the chief Musician on Neginoth, upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David; which the Chaldee translates, "To be sung on neginoth, a harp of eight strings." The various interpretations given to this inscription, both by ancients and moderns, show us that nothing is known concerning it. We have already seen that neginoth probably signifies all instruments which emitted sounds by strokes, or stringed instruments in general. This Psalm was to be accompanied with such instruments; but one of a particular kind is specified, viz., sheminith; so called from its having eight strings. The chief musician is directed to accompany the recital of this Psalm with the above instrument.
1‹‹To the chief Musician on Neginoth upon Sheminith, A Psalm of David.›› O LORD, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.
O Lord, rebuke me not - This Psalm, Which is one of the seven Penitential Psalms, is supposed to have been written during some grievous disease with which David was afflicted after his transgression with Bath-sheba. It argues a deep consciousness of sin, and apprehension of the just displeasure of God. It is the very language of a true penitent who is looking around for help, and who sees, as Bishop Horne well expresses it, "above, an angry God, ready to take vengeance; beneath, the fiery gulf, ready to receive him; without, a world in flames; within, the gnawing worm." Of all these, none so dreadful as an angry God; his wrath he particularly deprecates. God rebukes and chastens him, and he submits; but he prays not to be rebuked in anger, nor chastened in hot displeasure. because he knows that these must bring him down to total and final destruction.
2Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed.
Have mercy - I have no merit. I deserve all I feel and all Ifear.
O Lord, heal me - No earthly physician can cure my malady. Body and soul are both diseased, and only God can help me.
I am weak - אמלל umlal. I am exceedingly weak; I cannot take nourishment, and my strength is exhausted.
My bones are vexed - The disease hath entered into my bones.
3My soul is also sore vexed: but thou, O LORD, how long?
How long? - How long shall I continue under this malady? How long will it be before thou speak peace to my troubled heart?
4Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies' sake.
Return, O Lord - Once I had the light of thy countenance, by sin I have forfeited this; I have provoked thee to depart: O Lord, return! It is an awful thing to be obliged to say, Return, O Lord, for this supposes backsliding; and yet what a mercy it is that a backslider may Return to God, with the expectation that God will return to him!
5For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
In death there is no remembrance of thee - Man is to glorify thee on earth. The end for which he was born cannot be accomplished in the grave; heal my body, and heal my soul, that I may be rendered capable of loving and serving thee here below. A dead body in the grave can do no good to men, nor bring any glory to thy name!
6I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.
7Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies.
Mine eye is consumed - עששה asheshah, is blasted, withered, sunk in my head.
8Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; for the LORD hath heard the voice of my weeping.
Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity - It seems that while he was suffering grievously through the disease, his enemies had insulted and mocked him; - upbraided him with his transgressions, not to increase his penitence, but to cast him into despair.
The Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping - The Lord pitifully beheld the sorrows of his heart, and mercifully forgave his sins.
9The LORD hath heard my supplication; the LORD will receive my prayer.
10Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed: let them return and be ashamed suddenly.
Ashamed and sore vexed - May they as deeply deplore their transgressions as I have done mine! May they return; may they be suddenly converted! The original will bear this meaning, and it is the most congenial to Christian principles.