Psalms 41

PSALM XLI

The blessedness of the man who is merciful to the poor, 1-3.

The psalmist complains of his enemies, and prays for support,

4-10;

and blesses God for having heard his prayer, and preserved him

from his adversaries, 11, 12.

A fine doxology closes the Psalm, 13.

NOTES ON PSALM XLI

The title as before. The Syriac says it was "A Psalm of David,

when he appointed overseers to take care of the poor." The Arabic

says, "It is a prophecy concerning the incarnation; and also of

the salutation of Judas." It appears to me to have been written on

the same occasion as the three former, and to relate to David's

malady and cure, and the evil treatment he had from his enemies

during his affliction. Our Lord, by accommodation, applies the

ninth verse to the treachery of Judas, Joh 13:18; but as to any

other direct reference to Christ, or his history, I believe the

Psalm has none.

Verse 1. Blessed is he that considereth] God is merciful; he

will have man to resemble him: as far as he is merciful, feels a

compassionate heart, and uses a benevolent hand, he resembles

his Maker; and the mercy he shows to others God will show to him.

But it is not a sudden impression at the sight of a person in

distress, which obliges a man to give something for the relief of

the sufferer, that constitutes the merciful character. It is he

who considers the poor; who endeavours to find them out; who

looks into their circumstances; who is in the habit of doing so;

and actually, according to his power and means, goes about to do

good; that is the merciful man, of whom God speaks with such high

approbation, and to whom he promises a rich reward.

Verse 2. The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive] It is

worthy of remark, that benevolent persons, who consider the poor,

and especially the sick poor; who search cellars, garrets, back

lanes, and such abodes of misery, to find them out, (even in the

places where contagion keeps its seat,) very seldom fall a prey to

their own benevolence. The Lord, in an especial manner, keeps them

alive, and preserves them; while many, who endeavour to keep far

from the contagion, are assailed by it, and fall victims to it.

God loves the merciful man.

Verse 3. The Lord will strengthen him] Good, benevolent, and

merciful as he is, he must also die: but he shall not die as other

men; he shall have peculiar consolations, refreshment, and

support, while passing through the valley of the shadow of death.

Thou wilt make all his bed] haphachta, thou hast turned

up, tossed, and shaken it; and thou wilt do so to all his bed-

thou wilt not leave one uneasy place in it-not one lump, or any

unevenness, to prevent him from sleeping. Thou wilt do every

thing, consistently with the accomplishment of the great decree,

"Unto dust thou shalt return," to give him ease, refreshment, and

rest. We may sum up the privileges of the merciful man: 1. He is

generally blessed, Ps 41:1. 2. He will be

delivered in the time of trouble, Ps 41:1. 3. He will be

preserved by a particular providence, Ps 41:2. 4. He shall be

kept alive amidst infection and danger, Ps 41:2. 5. He

shall be blessed on the earth in his temporal concerns,

Ps 41:2. 6. His enemies shall not be able to spoil or destroy

him, Ps 41:2. 7. He shall be

strengthened on a bed of languishing, to enable him to bear his

afflictions, Ps 41:3. 8. He shall have

ease, comfort, and support in his last hours, Ps 41:3.

Verse 4. I said, Lord, be merciful unto me] I need thy mercy

especially, because I have sinned against thee, and my sin is a

deadly wound to my soul; therefore heal my soul, for it has

sinned against thee.

Verse 5. Mine enemies speak evil] It is often a good man's lot

to be evil spoken of; to have his motives, and even his most

benevolent acts, misconstrued.

Verse 6. And if he come to see me] This may relate to

Ahithophel; but it is more likely that it was to some other

person who was his secret enemy, who pretended to come and inquire

after his health, but with the secret design to see whether death

was despatching his work.

When he goeth abroad, he telleth it.] He makes several

observations on my dying state; intimates that I am suffering deep

remorse for secret crimes; that God is showing his displeasure

against me, and that I am full of sorrow at the approach of death.

Verse 7. All that hate me whisper together against me] This is

in consequence of the information given by the hypocritical

friend, who came to him with the lying tongue, and whose heart

gathereth iniquity to itself, which, when he went abroad, he told

to others as ill-minded as himself, and they also drew their

wicked inferences.

Verse 8. An evil disease, say they, cleaveth fast unto him]

debar beliyaal yatsuk bo, a thing, word, or

pestilence of Belial, is poured out upon him. His disease is of

no common sort; it is a diabolical malady.

He shall rise up no more.] His disease is incurable without a

miracle; and he is too much hated of God to have one wrought for

him. Some apply this to the death and resurrection of Christ; he

lieth-he is dead and buried; he shall never rise again from the

dead.

Verse 9. Mine own familiar friend] This is either a direct

prophecy of the treachery of Judas, or it is a fact in David's

distresses which our Lord found so similar to the falsity of his

treacherous disciple, that he applies it to him, Joh 13:18. What

we translate mine own familiar friend, ish shelomi, is

the man of my peace. The man who, with the shalom lecha,

peace be to thee! kissed me; and thus gave the agreed-on signal to

my murderers that I was the person whom they should seize, hold

fast, and carry away.

Did eat of my bread] Was an inmate in my house. Applied by our

Lord to Judas, when eating with him out of the same dish. See

Joh 13:18, 26. Possibly it may refer to

Ahithophel, his counsellor, the man of his peace, his prime

minister; who, we know, was the strength of Absalom's conspiracy.

Verse 10. Raise me up] Restore me from this sickness, that I may

requite them. This has also been applied to our Lord; who, knowing

that he must die, prays that he may rise again, and thus

disappoint the malice of his enemies.

Verse 11. By this I know that thou favourest me] If thou hadst

not been on my side, I had perished by this disease; and then my

enemies would have had cause to triumph.

This also has been applied to our Lord; and Calmet says it is

the greatest proof we have of the divinity of Christ, that he did

not permit the malice of the Jews, nor the rage of the devil, to

prevail against him. They might persecute, blaspheme, mock,

insult, crucify, and slay him; but his resurrection confounded

them; and by it he gained the victory over sin, death, and hell.

Verse 12. Thou upholdest me] I am still enabled to show that my

heart was upright before God.

Settest me before thy face for ever.] Thou showest that thou

dost approve of me: that I stand in thy presence, under the smiles

of thy approbation.

This also has been applied to our Lord, and considered as

pointing out his mediatorial office at the right hand of God.

Verse 13. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel] By all these

circumstances and events glory shall redound to the name of God

for ever; for the record of these things shall never perish, but

be published from one generation to another; and it has been so.

From everlasting, and to everlasting.] mehaolam

vead haolam; From the hidden time to the hidden time; from that

which had no beginning to that which has no end.

To which he subscribes, Amen and Amen. Fiat, fiat.-Vulgate.

γενοιτογενοιτο.-Septuagint. The Chaldee says, "And let the

righteous say, Amen, and Amen." [Anglo-Saxon] "Be blessed, Lord

God of Israel, from world, and in world. Be it! So be

it!"-Anglo-Saxon. To which the Old Psalter approaches very

nearly: Blyssed Lord God of Isrel, fra werld, and in werld: Be it

done! be it done. Thus illustrated by the same, Fra werld in

werld; that es, fra the bygynnyng of this wereld, in til wereld

that lastes ay. Be it done, be it done. This dubblying schews that

it es at do of al men. In Latyn, it es, fiat, fiat! in Ebru, Amen

Amen es writyn: tharfore that Aquila translated vere, vel

fideliter, that es, sothfastly or trew.

Thus ends what the Hebrews call the first book of Psalms; for

the reader will recollect that this book is divided by the Jews

into five books, the first of which ends with this Psalm.

This doxology, Dr. Kennicott supposes, may have been added by

the collector of this book; and he thinks that the division into

books is not arbitrary; and that the Psalms were collected at

different times by different persons. See the Introduction. There

is certainly a considerable variety in the style of the several

books; in the examination of which the Hebrew critic will not lose

his labour.

ANALYSIS OF THE FORTY-FIRST PSALM

In this Psalm David shows how men should, and how commonly they

do, carry themselves towards men in affliction and trouble.

I. They should behave compassionately and kindly, which would

tend to their own happiness, and cause them to find mercy from

God, Ps 41:1-4.

II. But they commonly behave unkindly, and afflict the

afflicted, Ps 41:4-10.

III. On which unkindness he flies to God, and prays for mercy,

Ps 41:11; shows his hope and confidence in God, Ps 41:11, 12.

I. He begins with an excellent grave sentence: "Blessed is he

who considereth the poor;" that is, any man in trouble and want,

&c. This is a happy man. His particular comforts and privileges

are six:-

1. "The Lord will deliver him in the time of trouble."

2. The Lord will preserve him, "that he faint not in his

troubles."

3. The Lord will keep him alive. Prolong his life and days.

4. "He shall be blessed upon earth: "God shall enrich him, and

bless his substance.

5. He shall not be delivered unto the will of his enemies,-never

to their full desires, though often into their hands.

6. "The Lord will strengthen him upon a bed of languishing," and

make all his bed in his sickness: he shall have comfort and

assurance of God's favour.

II. He begins the second part with an ejaculation:-

1. "I said, The Lord be merciful unto me!" pardon my sin.

2. "Heal my soul:" extract the sting of sin, and all inward

corruption.

3. He prays thus, because he is sensible that he "has sinned

against the Lord."

The complaint against himself being ended, he begins to complain

of others.

1. Of their hatred and malice: "Mine enemies speak evil of me."

2. Of their cruelty; they longed for his death: "When shall he

die, and his name perish?" they would have even his memorial cut

off.

3. Their perfidious dealing and dissimulation. They came to

visit him: but it was fraudulently to search out his counsels, and

to entrap him in his words; and then to detail them abroad: "If he

come to see me," &c.

4. Of their plots and conspiracies: "All they that hate me

whisper," &c.

5. Their exultation at his misery: "An evil disease, say they,

cleaveth unto him," &c.

6. Of the perfidiousness of some particular friend, perhaps

Ahithophel: "Yea, mine own familiar friend hath lifted up his heel

against me."

III. And then, against all these evils, and in his own defence,

he prays: "But thou, O Lord, be merciful unto me, and raise me

up." For which he gives these reasons:-

1. That thereby, as a king, he should have power to do justice

on traitors: "That I may requite them."

2. By this he should have experience of God's favour: "By this I

know thou favourest me," &c.

3. It will be a testimony unto me that thou favourest not only

my person, but my cause: "As for me, thou upholdest me in mine

integrity, and settest me before thy face for ever."

The Psalm, and with it the first book of the Psalms, according

to the Jewish division, is closed with a doxology to God: "Blessed

be the Lord God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen

and Amen."

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