The psalmist pours out his soul to God in lamentation. (1-9) He wrestles by faith, in his prayer to God for comfort. (10-18)
Verses 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.
Verses 10-18 Departed souls may declare God's faithfulness, justice, and lovingkindness; but deceased bodies can neither receive God's favours in comfort, nor return them in praise. The psalmist resolved to continue in prayer, and the more so, because deliverance did not come speedily. Though our prayers are not soon answered, yet we must not give over praying. The greater our troubles, the more earnest and serious we should be in prayer. Nothing grieves a child of God so much as losing sight of him; nor is there any thing he so much dreads as God's casting off his soul. If the sun be clouded, that darkens the earth; but if the sun should leave the earth, what a dungeon would it be! Even those designed for God's favours, may for a time suffer his terrors. See how deep those terrors wounded the psalmist. If friends are put far from us by providences, or death, we have reason to look upon it as affliction. Such was the calamitous state of a good man. But the pleas here used were peculiarly suited to Christ. And we are not to think that the holy Jesus suffered for us only at Gethsemane and on Calvary. His whole life was labour and sorrow; he was afflicted as never man was, from his youth up. He was prepared for that death of which he tasted through life. No man could share in the sufferings by which other men were to be redeemed. All forsook him, and fled. Oftentimes, blessed Jesus, do we forsake thee; but do not forsake us, O take not thy Holy Spirit from us.
Psalms 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 or disease, for humbling," the idea of spiritual maladies being often represented by disease (compare Psalms 6:5 Psalms 6:6 , Psalms 22:14 Psalms 22:15 , &c.). On the other ( 1 Chronicles 6:18 1 Chronicles 6:33 , 15:17 ), of the family of Kohath. If the persons alluded to ( 1 Kings 4:31 , 1 Chronicles 2:6 ), they were probably adopted into the tribe of Judah. Though called a song, which usually implies joy ( Psalms 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, Psalms 22:2 , 31:2 .
3. grave--literally, "hell" ( Psalms 16:10 ), death in wide sense.
4. go . . . pit--of destruction ( Psalms 28:1 ).
as a man--literally, "a stout man," whose strength is utterly gone.
5. Free . . . dead--Cut off from God's care, as are the slain, who, falling under His wrath, are left, no longer sustained by His hand.
6. Similar figures for distress in Psalms 63:9 , 69:3 .
7. Compare Psalms 38:2 , on first, and Psalms 42:7 , on last clause.
8. Both cut off from sympathy and made hateful to friends ( Psalms 31:11 ).
9. Mine eye mourneth--literally, "decays," or fails, denoting exhaustion ( Psalms 6:7 , 31:9 ).
I . . . called--( Psalms 86:5 Psalms 86:7 ).
stretched out--for help ( Psalms 44:20 ).
10. shall the dead--the remains of ghosts.
arise--literally, "rise up," that is, as dead persons.
11, 12. amplify the foregoing, the whole purport (as Psalms 6:5 ) being to contrast death and life as seasons for praising God.
13. prevent--meet--that is, he will diligently come before God for help ( Psalms 18:41 ).
14. On the terms ( Psalms 27:9 , 74:1 , 77:7 ).
15. from . . . youth up--all my life.
16, 17. the extremes of anguish and despair are depicted.
18. into darkness--Better omit "into"--"mine acquaintances (are) darkness," the gloom of death, &c. ( Job 17:13 Job 17:14 ).