Psalms 39


The psalmist's care and watchfulness over his thoughts, tongue,

and actions, 1-3.

He considers the brevity and uncertainty of human life, 4-7;

prays for deliverance from sin, 8-11;

and that he may be protected and spared till he is fitted for

another world, 12, 13.


The title says, To the chief Musician, Jeduthun himself, A Psalm

of David. It is supposed that this Jeduthun is the same with

Ethan, 1Ch 6:44, compared with 1Ch 16:41; and is there

numbered among the sons of Merari. And he is supposed to have been

one of the four masters of music, or leaders of bands, belonging

to the temple. And it is thought that David, having composed this

Psalm, gave it to Jeduthun and his company to sing. But several

have supposed that Jeduthun himself was the author. It is very

likely that this Psalm was written on the same occasion with the

preceding. It relates to a grievous malady by which David was

afflicted after his transgression with Bath-sheba. See what has

been said on the foregoing Psalm.

Verse 1. I said, I will take heed to my ways] I must be cautious

because of my enemies; I must be patient because of my

afflictions; I must be watchful over my tongue, lest I offend

my GOD, or give my adversaries any cause to speak evil of me.

Verse 2. I held any peace, even from good] "I ceased from the

words of the law," says the Chaldee. I spoke nothing, either good

or bad. I did not even defend myself.

My sorrow was stirred.] My afflictions increased, and I had an

exacerbation of pain. It is a hard thing to be denied the benefit

of complaint in sufferings, as it has a tendency to relieve the

mind, and indeed, in some sort, to call off the attention from the

place of actual suffering: and yet undue and extravagant

complaining enervates the mind, so that it becomes a double prey

to its sufferings. On both sides there are extremes: David seems

to have steered clear of them on the right hand and on the left.

Verse 3. My heart was hot within me] A natural feeling of

repressed grief.

While I was musing] What was at first a simple sensation of heat

produced a flame; the fire broke out that had long been smothered.

It is a metaphor taken from vegetables, which, being heaped

together, begin to heat and ferment, if not scattered and exposed

to the air; and will soon produce a flame, and consume themselves

and every thing within their reach.

Verse 4. Lord, make me to know mine end] I am weary of life; I

wish to know the measure of my days, that I may see how long I

have to suffer, and how frail I am. I wish to know what is wanting

to make up the number of the days I have to live.

Verse 5. My days as a handbreadth] My life is but a span;


And mine age is as nothing] keein, as if at were

not before thee. All time is swallowed up in thy eternity.

Verily every man at his best state] col adam nitstab,

"every man that exists, is vanity." All his projects, plans,

schemes, &c., soon come to nothing. His body also moulders with

the dust, and shortly passes both from the sight and remembrance

of men.

Verse 6. Walketh in a vain show] betselem, in a shadow.

He is but the semblance of being: he appears for a while, and then

vanisheth away. Some of the fathers read, "Although every man

walketh in the image of God, yet they are disquieted in vain."

He heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.] He

raketh together. This is a metaphor taken from agriculture: the

husbandman rakes the corn, &c., together in the field, and yet, so

uncertain is life, that he knows not who shall gather them into

the granary!

Verse 7. And now, Lord, what wait I for?] Have I any object of

pursuit in life, but to regain thy favour and thine image.

Verse 8. Deliver one from all my transgressions] I seek the

pardon of my sins; I expect it from thy mercy. Grant it, "that I

be not the reproach of the foolish," (the godless and the

profane,) who deride my expectation, and say no such blessings can

be had. Let them know, by thy saving me, that there is a God who

heareth prayer, and giveth his Holy Spirit to all them that ask


Verse 10. Remove thy stroke away from me] This seems to be a

figure taken from gladiators, or persons contending in single

combat. One is wounded so as to be able to maintain the fight no

longer: he therefore gives in, and prays his adversary to spare

his life. I am conquered; I can hold the contest no longer: thou

art too powerful for me. He cries what our ancestors used to term

craven; the word spoken by him who was conquered in the battle

ordeal, or trial by combat.

Verse 11. When thou with rebukes dost correct man]

tochachoth signifies a vindication of proceedings in a court of

law, a legal defence. When God comes to maintain the credit and

authority of his law against a sinner, he "causes his beauty to

consume away:" a metaphor taken from the case of a culprit, who,

by the arguments of counsel, and the unimpeachable evidence of

witnesses, has the facts all proved against him, grows pale, looks

terrified; his fortitude forsakes him, and he faints in court.

Surely every man is vanity.] He is incapable of resistance; he

falls before his Maker; and none can deliver him but his Sovereign

and Judge, against whom he has offended.

Selah.] This is a true saying, an everlasting truth.

Verse 12. Hear my prayer] Therefore, O Lord, show that mercy

upon me which I so much need, and without which I must perish


I am a stranger with thee] I have not made this earth my home; I

have not trusted in any arm but thine. Though I have sinned, I

have never denied thee, and never cast thy words behind my back. I

knew that here I had no continuing city. Like my fathers, I looked

for a city that has permanent foundations, in a better state of


Verse 13. O spare me] Take me not from this state of probation

till I have a thorough preparation for a state of blessedness.

This he terms recovering his strength-being restored to the favour

and image of God, from which he had fallen. This should be the

daily cry of every human spirit: Restore me to thine image, guide

me by thy counsel, and then receive me to thy glory!


This Psalm was apparently written on the same occasion as the

preceding. The psalmist is still suffering as before, yet is

silent and patient; but the suffering at last becoming very sharp,

he could hold his peace no longer: then he spoke. And we have

reason to be thankful that he broke silence, as whoever considers

the weighty truths which he spoke must allow.

There are three parts in this Psalm:-

I. His own account of his resolution to keep silence, Ps 39:1,

and the consequences of it, Ps 39:2, 3.

II. His expostulation with God on the shortness, uncertainty,

and frailty of life, Ps 39:4-6.

III. His petition to have his sin pardoned, Ps 39:8; to be

saved from punishment, Ps 39:10; and for farther grace and

respite, Ps 39:12, 13.

I. David acquaints us with his resolution: I said-I fully

purposed to keep silence.

1. "I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my


2. This resolution he kept for a while: "I was dumb; I held my

peace even from good," even from making a just defence.

3. But in this I found great difficulty, nay, impossibility.

1. For all the time "my sorrow was stirred." My pain was

increased by silence.

2. "My heart was hot." I was strongly incited to utter my mind.

3. "And, while thus musing, the fire burned;" what was within I

saw should not be longer concealed: "Then spake I with my tongue."

II. He expostulates with God: and, being greatly oppressed both

in body and mind, prays to know how long he is to live; or,

rather, how soon he may get rid of his maladies, false friends,

and deceitful enemies. Many considerations render his life


1. It is very brittle and frail: "Make me to know how frail I


2. It is very short: "Behold, thou hast made my days as a


3. Yea, when carefully considered, it was even less, of no

consideration: "Mine age is as nothing before thee."

4. It was full of vanity: "Verily, every man at his best estate

(in his strength, riches, power) is altogether vanity." His

labours promise much, perform little.

5. It is unstable and uncertain, as a shadow. "Surely, every man

walketh in a vain shadow."

6. It is full of trouble and inquietude: "Surely, they are

disquieted in vain."

7. Man labours for he knows not whom: "He heapeth up riches, and

knoweth not who shall gather them."

Notwithstanding all this, he finds that even here God is a

sufficient Portion for them that trust in him. Let others toil for

riches; admire dignities, empires, pleasures; let them be proud of

these, and complain that their life is too short to enjoy them; I

have a stronger hold; I am persuaded that the Lord will have mercy

upon me, and be my Support in all the troubles and uncertainties

of life: "And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in thee."

III. On this confidence he again begins to pray,-

1. For remission of sin: "Deliver me from all my


2. For defence against malicious tongues: "Make me not a

reproach to the foolish."

3. For submission under Divine chastisement: "I was dumb,

because thou didst it."

4. For a removal of his punishment: "Take away thy plague from


1. And he adds the cause;-either remove thy hand, or I must

needs perish: "I am even consumed by the blow of thy hand."

2. This he amplifies by the similitude of a moth; and adds a

second reason: "When thou with rebukes dost correct man, thou

makest his beauty to consume away like the moth," which frets and

destroys a garment. And, for confirmation, delivers his former

opinion, which is to be considered as an incontrovertible maxim:

"Surely, every man is vanity. Selah." Mark that!

3. To which he adds a third-the consideration of our present

condition in this life. We and all our fathers are but pilgrims in

this life: "I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my

fathers were." Therefore, spare me.

Faith has always to struggle with difficulties. Though he was

confident, Ps 39:7, that God was his hope; yet his calamities,

his sickness, his enemies, the brevity, fugacity, and troubles of

life, come ever into his memory; and, therefore, he prays again

for them. And this rises by a climax or gradation:-

1. He prays for audience: "Hear my prayer, O Lord!"

2. That his cry, for such it was, be heard: "Give ear unto my


3. For admission of his tears: "Hold not thy peace at my tears.

The reason, as a stranger. Thy grace, thy favour.

4. For some relaxation and ease: "O spare me, that I may recover

strength;" which he urges with this motive, "before I go hence,

and be no more." Restore me to thy favour in this life. Hereafter,

it will be too late to expect it. Let me not die unsaved!

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