Psalms 39

For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David.

1 [a]I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.”
2 So I remained utterly silent, not even saying anything good. But my anguish increased;
3 my heart grew hot within me. While I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue:
4 “Show me, LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.[b]
6 “Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be.
7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.
8 Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools.
9 I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this.
10 Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
11 When you rebuke and discipline anyone for their sin, you consume their wealth like a moth— surely everyone is but a breath.
12 “Hear my prayer, LORD, listen to my cry for help; do not be deaf to my weeping. I dwell with you as a foreigner, a stranger, as all my ancestors were.
13 Look away from me, that I may enjoy life again before I depart and am no more.”

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Psalms 39 Commentary

Chapter 39

David meditates on man's frailty. (1-6) He applies for pardon and deliverance. (7-13)

Verses 1-6 If an evil thought should arise in the mind, suppress it. Watchfulness in the habit, is the bridle upon the head; watchfulness in acts, is the hand upon the bridle. When not able to separate from wicked men, we should remember they will watch our words, and turn them, if they can, to our disadvantage. Sometimes it may be necessary to keep silence, even from good words; but in general we are wrong when backward to engage in edifying discourse. Impatience is a sin that has its cause within ourselves, and that is, musing; and its ill effects upon ourselves, and that is no less than burning. In our greatest health and prosperity, every man is altogether vanity, he cannot live long; he may die soon. This is an undoubted truth, but we are very unwilling to believe it. Therefore let us pray that God would enlighten our minds by his Holy Spirit, and fill our hearts with his grace, that we may be ready for death every day and hour.

Verses 7-13 There is no solid satisfaction to be had in the creature; but it is to be found in the Lord, and in communion with him; to him we should be driven by our disappointments. If the world be nothing but vanity, may God deliver us from having or seeking our portion in it. When creature-confidences fail, it is our comfort that we have a God to go to, a God to trust in. We may see a good God doing all, and ordering all events concerning us; and a good man, for that reason, says nothing against it. He desires the pardoning of his sin, and the preventing of his shame. We must both watch and pray against sin. When under the correcting hand of the Lord, we must look to God himself for relief, not to any other. Our ways and our doings bring us into trouble, and we are beaten with a rod of our own making. What a poor thing is beauty! and what fools are those that are proud of it, when it will certainly, and may quickly, be consumed! The body of man is as a garment to the soul. In this garment sin has lodged a moth, which wears away, first the beauty, then the strength, and finally the substance of its parts. Whoever has watched the progress of a lingering distemper, or the work of time alone, in the human frame, will feel at once the force of this comparison, and that, surely every man is vanity. Afflictions are sent to stir up prayer. If they have that effect, we may hope that God will hear our prayer. The believer expects weariness and ill treatment on his way to heaven; but he shall not stay here long : walking with God by faith, he goes forward on his journey, not diverted from his course, nor cast down by the difficulties he meets. How blessed it is to sit loose from things here below, that while going home to our Father's house, we may use the world as not abusing it! May we always look for that city, whose Builder and Maker is God.

Cross References 39

  • 1. 1 Kings 2:4; Psalms 119:9,59; Proverbs 20:11
  • 2. Job 2:10; S Job 1:22; Psalms 34:13; James 3:2
  • 3. S Job 6:24; James 1:26
  • 4. ver 9; S Job 31:34; Psalms 77:4; Psalms 38:13
  • 5. Psalms 6:3; S Psalms 25:17; Psalms 31:10
  • 6. Luke 24:32
  • 7. Psalms 1:2; Psalms 48:9; Psalms 77:12; Psalms 119:15
  • 8. Jeremiah 5:14; Jeremiah 20:9; Jeremiah 23:29
  • 9. S Job 14:5; Psalms 90:12
  • 10. S Job 14:2
  • 11. S Genesis 47:9; S Job 7:7; Psalms 103:14
  • 12. S Job 10:20; Psalms 89:45; Psalms 102:23
  • 13. S Job 7:7; Psalms 62:9
  • 14. Job 8:9; Psalms 102:11; Ecclesiastes 6:12; S James 4:14; 1 Peter 1:24
  • 15. James 1:11
  • 16. Psalms 127:2
  • 17. S Job 27:17
  • 18. Luke 12:20
  • 19. S Psalms 9:18; S Psalms 25:5; Psalms 38:15
  • 20. Psalms 6:4; Psalms 51:14; Psalms 51:9
  • 21. Psalms 32:1; Psalms 51:1; Isa 53:5,8,10; Psalms 44:13
  • 22. S Deuteronomy 28:37; Psalms 69:7; Psalms 79:4; Isaiah 43:28; Daniel 9:16
  • 23. S ver 2
  • 24. Psalms 38:13; Job 2:10
  • 25. Isaiah 38:15
  • 26. 2 Chronicles 21:14; Ezekiel 7:9; Ezekiel 24:16
  • 27. S Exodus 9:3; Job 9:34; Psalms 32:4
  • 28. S Deuteronomy 28:20; Isaiah 66:15; Ezekiel 5:15; 2 Peter 2:16
  • 29. Psalms 94:10; Isaiah 26:16
  • 30. Psalms 90:7
  • 31. S Job 13:28; S Isaiah 51:8; Luke 12:33; S James 5:2
  • 32. S Job 7:7
  • 33. S Psalms 17:1
  • 34. S Deuteronomy 1:45
  • 35. S 2 Kings 20:5
  • 36. Leviticus 25:23; 1 Peter 2:11
  • 37. S Genesis 23:4; S Hebrews 11:13
  • 38. S Genesis 47:9; S 1 Chronicles 29:15
  • 39. S Job 10:21; Job 14:10

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. In Hebrew texts 39:1-13 is numbered 39:2-14.
  • [b]. The Hebrew has "Selah" (a word of uncertain meaning) here and at the end of verse 11.

Chapter Summary

To the chief Musician, [even] to Jeduthun, a Psalm of David. Some take Jeduthun to be the name of a musical instrument, as Jarchi, on which, and others the first word of a song, to the tune of which, this psalm was sung, as Aben Ezra; though it seems best, with Kimchi and others, to understand it as the name of the chief musician, to whom this psalm was sent to be made use of in public service; since Jeduthun was, with his sons, appointed by David to prophesy with harps and psalteries, and to give praise and thanks unto the Lord, 1 Chronicles 16:41; he is the same with Ethan {s}. The occasion of it is thought, by some, to be the rebellion of his son Absalom; so Theodoret thinks it was written when he fled from Absalom, and was cursed by Shimei; or rather it may be some sore affliction, which lay upon David for the chastisement of him; see Psalm 39:9; and the argument of the psalm seems to be much the same with that of the preceding one, as Kimchi observes.

{s} Vid. Hiller. Onomastic. Sacr. p. 513, 805.

Psalms 39 Commentaries

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