Psalm 88 Bible Commentary

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

(Read all of Psalm 88)

Ps 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 enigmatic title (see on Ps 5:1, Ps 22:1, and Ps 45:1, titles), denoting the subject--that is, "sickness or disease, for humbling," the idea of spiritual maladies being often represented by disease (compare Ps 6:5, 6; 22:14, 15, &c.). On the other terms, see on Ps 42:1 and Ps 32:1. Heman and Ethan (see on Ps 89:1, title) were David's singers (1Ch 6:18, 33; 15:17), of the family of Kohath. If the persons alluded to (1Ki 4:31; 1Ch 2:6), they were probably adopted into the tribe of Judah. Though called a song, which usually implies joy (Ps 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, Ps 22:2; 31:2.

3. grave--literally, "hell" (Ps 16:10), death in wide sense.

4. go . . . pit--of destruction (Ps 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 Ps 63:9; 69:3.

7. Compare Ps 38:2, on first, and Ps 42:7, on last clause.

8. Both cut off from sympathy and made hateful to friends (Ps 31:11).

9. Mine eye mourneth--literally, "decays," or fails, denoting exhaustion (Ps 6:7; 31:9).
I . . . called-- (Ps 86:5, 7).
stretched out--for help (Ps 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 Ps 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 (Ps 18:41).

14. On the terms (Ps 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, 14).