Introduction

\\INTRODUCTION TO PSALM 88\\ \\<>\\. Of the word "maalath", \\see Gill on "Ps 53:1"\\. "Leannoth" signifies "to answer". Perhaps this song was to be sung alternately, or by responses. Both words are thought by some, as Aben Ezra, to be the beginning of a song, to the tune of which this was set; and by others a musical instrument, on which it was sung; a hollow one, as the word "maalath" seems to signify, a wind instrument: others are of opinion that they intend the subject matter of the psalm, and render them, "concerning the disease to afflict", or "the afflicting disease" {a}; either a bodily one, which threatened with death, under which the psalmist now was; or a soul disorder, being under desertions, and a sense of divine wrath, which were very afflicting. The psalm is called "Maschil", which may be translated "causing to understand"; it being instructive to persons in a like case to apply to God, as he did; and if it respects Christ, it teaches many things concerning him, his sorrows and his sufferings: the author of it is said to be Heman the Ezrahite; the Targum calls him Heman the native, and the Septuagint render it Heman the Israelite, and Arama says this is Abraham. There were two of this name, one the son of Zerah, the son of Judah, and so might be called the Zerahite, and with the addition of a letter the Ezrahite; he is mentioned along with others as famous for wisdom, \\#1Ch 2:6 1Ki 4:31\\, but this man seems to be too early to be the penman of this psalm: though Dr. Lightfoot {b} is of opinion that this psalm was penned by this Heman many years before the birth of Moses; which and the following psalm are the oldest pieces of writing the world has to show, being written by two men who felt and groaned under the bondage and affliction of Egypt, which Heman here deplores, and therefore entitles his elegy "Maalath Leannoth, concerning sickness by affliction"; and accordingly he and his brethren are called the sons of Mahali, \\#1Ki 4:31\\. There was another Heman, who was both a singer in David's time, and the king's seer, who seems most likely to be the person, \\#1Ch 6:33 15:17,19 25:1,5\\, he was when he wrote this psalm under sore temptations, desertions, and dejections, though not in downright despair; there is but one comfortable clause in it, and that is the first of it; many interpreters, both ancient and modern, think he is to be considered throughout as a type of Christ, with whom everything in it more exactly agrees than with anyone man else. The Targum, Jarchi, and Kimchi, interpret it of the people of Israel in captivity; and so the Syriac version entitles it, ``concerning the people that were in Babylon;'' but a single person only is designed throughout. Spinosa {c} affirms, from the testimony of Philo the Jew, that this psalm was published when King Jehoiachin was a prisoner in Babylon, and the following psalm when he was released: but this is not to be found in the true Philo, but in Pseudo-Philo {d}.