Psalms 88

A song. A psalm of the Sons of Korah. For the director of music. According to mahalath leannoth. A maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.

1 [a][b][c]LORD, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you.
2 May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.
3 I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength.
5 I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.
6 You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.
7 Your wrath lies heavily on me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.[d]
8 You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. I am confined and cannot escape;
9 my eyes are dim with grief. I call to you, LORD, every day; I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
11 Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction[e] ?
12 Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?
13 But I cry to you for help, LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 Why, LORD, do you reject me and hide your face from me?
15 From my youth I have suffered and been close to death; I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
16 Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me.
17 All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me.
18 You have taken from me friend and neighbor— darkness is my closest friend.

Images for Psalms 88

Psalms 88 Commentary

Chapter 88

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.

Cross References 31

  • 1. S Psalms 51:14
  • 2. Psalms 3:4; Psalms 22:2; Psalms 27:9; Luke 18:7
  • 3. Psalms 6:3; Psalms 25:17
  • 4. S Job 33:22; Psalms 107:18,26
  • 5. S Psalms 31:12; Psalms 28:1
  • 6. Psalms 18:1
  • 7. S Psalms 31:22; Isaiah 53:8
  • 8. Psalms 30:1; S Psalms 69:15; Lamentations 3:55; John 2:3
  • 9. Psalms 7:11
  • 10. S Psalms 42:7
  • 11. S Job 19:13; Psalms 31:11
  • 12. Jeremiah 32:2; Jeremiah 33:1
  • 13. S Job 3:23
  • 14. S Psalms 38:10
  • 15. Psalms 5:2; Psalms 86:3
  • 16. Job 11:13; Psalms 143:6
  • 17. S Psalms 6:5
  • 18. S Psalms 30:9
  • 19. S Psalms 30:2
  • 20. Psalms 5:3; S Psalms 55:17
  • 21. Psalms 119:147
  • 22. S Psalms 43:2
  • 23. Job 13:24; Psalms 13:1
  • 24. Psalms 129:1; Jeremiah 22:21; Ezekiel 16:22; Hosea 2:15
  • 25. Psalms 9:12
  • 26. Job 6:4; S Job 18:11
  • 27. 2 Corinthians 4:8
  • 28. Psalms 7:11
  • 29. Job 6:4
  • 30. Psalms 22:16; Psalms 124:4
  • 31. ver 8; Job 19:13; Psalms 38:11

Footnotes 5

  • [a]. In Hebrew texts 88:1-18 is numbered 88:2-19.
  • [b]. Title: Possibly a tune, “The Suffering of Affliction”
  • [c]. Title: Probably a literary or musical term
  • [d]. The Hebrew has "Selah" (a word of uncertain meaning) here and at the end of verse 10.
  • [e]. Hebrew "Abaddon"

Chapter Summary


\\<>\\. 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}.

Psalms 88 Commentaries