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Psalms 88:1-18

Context
Psalm 88 1 

A song, a psalm written by the Korahites; for the music director; according to the machalath-leannoth style; 2  a well-written song 3  by Heman the Ezrachite.

88:1 O Lord God who delivers me! 4 

By day I cry out

and at night I pray before you. 5 

88:2 Listen to my prayer! 6 

Pay attention 7  to my cry for help!

88:3 For my life 8  is filled with troubles

and I am ready to enter Sheol. 9 

88:4 They treat me like 10  those who descend into the grave. 11 

I am like a helpless man, 12 

88:5 adrift 13  among the dead,

like corpses lying in the grave,

whom you remember no more,

and who are cut off from your power. 14 

88:6 You place me in the lowest regions of the pit, 15 

in the dark places, in the watery depths.

88:7 Your anger bears down on me,

and you overwhelm me with all your waves. (Selah)

88:8 You cause those who know me to keep their distance;

you make me an appalling sight to them.

I am trapped and cannot get free. 16 

88:9 My eyes grow weak because of oppression.

I call out to you, O Lord, all day long;

I spread out my hands in prayer to you. 17 

88:10 Do you accomplish amazing things for the dead?

Do the departed spirits 18  rise up and give you thanks? (Selah)

88:11 Is your loyal love proclaimed in the grave,

or your faithfulness in the place of the dead? 19 

88:12 Are your amazing deeds experienced 20  in the dark region, 21 

or your deliverance in the land of oblivion? 22 

88:13 As for me, I cry out to you, O Lord;

in the morning my prayer confronts you.

88:14 O Lord, why do you reject me,

and pay no attention to me? 23 

88:15 I am oppressed and have been on the verge of death since my youth. 24 

I have been subjected to your horrors and am numb with pain. 25 

88:16 Your anger overwhelms me; 26 

your terrors destroy me.

88:17 They surround me like water all day long;

they join forces and encircle me. 27 

88:18 You cause my friends and neighbors to keep their distance; 28 

those who know me leave me alone in the darkness. 29 

1 sn Psalm 88. The psalmist cries out in pain to the Lord, begging him for relief from his intense and constant suffering. The psalmist regards God as the ultimate cause of his distress, but nevertheless clings to God in hope.

2 tn The Hebrew phrase מָחֲלַת לְעַנּוֹת (makhalat lÿannot) may mean “illness to afflict.” Perhaps it refers to a particular style of music, a tune title, or a musical instrument. The term מָחֲלַת also appears in the superscription of Ps 53.

3 tn The meaning of the Hebrew term מַשְׂכִּיל (maskil) is uncertain. The word is derived from a verb meaning “to be prudent; to be wise.” Various options are: “a contemplative song,” “a song imparting moral wisdom,” or “a skillful [i.e., well-written] song.” The term occurs in the superscriptions of Pss 32, 42, 44, 45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88, 89, and 142, as well as in Ps 47:7.

4 tn Heb “O Lord God of my deliverance.” In light of the content of the psalm, this reference to God as the one who delivers seems overly positive. For this reason some emend the text to אַלֹהַי שִׁוַּעְתִּי (’alohay shivvatiy, “[O Lord] my God, I cry out”). See v. 13.

5 tn Heb “[by] day I cry out, in the night before you.”

6 tn Heb “may my prayer come before you.” The prefixed verbal form is understood as a jussive, indicating the psalmist’s desire or prayer.

7 tn Heb “turn your ear.”

8 tn Or “my soul.”

9 tn Heb “and my life approaches Sheol.”

10 tn Heb “I am considered with.”

11 tn Heb “the pit.” The noun בּוֹר (bor, “pit,” “cistern”) is sometimes used of the grave and/or the realm of the dead.

12 tn Heb “I am like a man [for whom] there is no help.”

13 tn Heb “set free.”

14 tn Heb “from your hand.”

15 tn The noun בּוֹר (bor, “pit,” “cistern”) is sometimes used of the grave and/or the realm of the dead. See v. 4.

16 tn Heb “[I am] confined and I cannot go out.”

17 tn Heb “I spread out my hands to you.” Spreading out the hands toward God was a prayer gesture (see Exod 9:29, 33; 1 Kgs 8:22, 38; 2 Chr 6:12-13, 29; Ezra 9:15; Job 11:13; Isa 1:15). The words “in prayer” have been supplied in the translation to clarify this.

18 tn Heb “Rephaim,” a term that refers to those who occupy the land of the dead (see Isa 14:9; 26:14, 19).

19 tn Heb “in Abaddon,” a name for Sheol. The noun is derived from a verbal root meaning “to perish,” “to die.”

20 tn Heb “known.”

21 tn Heb “darkness,” here a title for Sheol.

22 tn Heb “forgetfulness.” The noun, which occurs only here in the OT, is derived from a verbal root meaning “to forget.”

sn The rhetorical questions in vv. 10-12 expect the answer, “Of course not!”

23 tn Heb “[why] do you hide your face from me?”

24 tn Heb “and am dying from youth.”

25 tn Heb “I carry your horrors [?].” The meaning of the Hebrew form אָפוּנָה (’afunah), which occurs only here in the OT, is unclear. It may be an adverb meaning “very much” (BDB 67 s.v.), though some prefer to emend the text to אָפוּגָה (’afugah, “I am numb”) from the verb פוּג (pug; see Pss 38:8; 77:2).

26 tn Heb “passes over me.”

27 tn Heb “they encircle me together.”

28 tn Heb “you cause to be far from me friend and neighbor.”

29 tn Heb “those known by me, darkness.”



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