Psalm 6: O LORD, Deliver My Life

This one comes with the following note:

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith.a A Psalm of David.

Sheminith refers to the lowest note a man can sing, so I believe the intent is to have the stringed instruments play but with that one as the key.

Psalm 6

1O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
2Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
3My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O LORD—how long?

4Turn, O LORD, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
5For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who will give you praise?

6I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
7My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.

8Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.
9The LORD has heard my plea;
the LORD accepts my prayer.
10All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

Here again we have a psalm that asks God for help but this one has a much more desperate tone. The author, whether David himself or someone writing to go with David’s music, seems to know he did something wrong that has resulted in some undesireable consequences. He implores God to not be mad at him, writing beautifully of the sorrow he already feels and then simply makes the request.

Deliver my life. Save me for the sake of your steadfast love.

In other words, don’t save me because I deserve it, but because you love me anyway. Verse 5 is the one that irks me a little. Why wouldn’t God be remembered in the afterlife? Why wouldn’t He be praised in Sheol?

 There’s no explanation for that in either my study Bible nor the textbook on Psalms that I have (borrowing the one my husband had for his class). They do mention that the author is gravely ill because of the use of words like “languishing” here and “stricken” in the other translation. I don’t personally getting a feeling of illness from this so much as a feeling of depression. Sure, depression is illness, but not the kind they refer to. This person just seems to me in mental distress rather than sounding injured somehow.

The last few verses contribute to that feeling for me. The author wants the “workers of evil” to get away from them and I feel like the sentiment is more directed at people who talk trash to depressed or otherwise grief-striken people. It reminds me of Job’s friends. He was in the middle of all that grief and hardship and all they wanted to talk about was what he could have done to bring it on himself. And then they were shamed, silenced. And Job’s prayers were answered. He was even “prosperous” yet again.

I also found it interesting that it begins by addressing God directly and then moves on to a more general rambling. He asks for the deliverance and then, sure that it will come, moves on in the same psalm to telling off his enemies who he knows will be shamed by God. It’s an interesting style choice.

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