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Psalm 41

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Psalmist In Sickness Complains of Enemies and False Friends The Blessing and Suffering of the Godly Prayer For Healing From Sickness
(A Lament)
A Prayer In Sickness Prayer of a Sufferer Deserted
MT Intro
"For the choir director. A Psalm of David"
       
41:1-3  41:1-3 41:1-3 41:1-3 41:1-3
41:4-9 41:4-6 41:4-10 41:4-9 41:4-9
  41:7-9      
41:10-12 41:10-12   41:10-13 41:10-12
    41:11-12    
41:13 41:13 41:13   41:13

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 41:1-3
 1How blessed is he who considers the helpless;
 The Lord will deliver him in a day of trouble.
 2The Lord will protect him and keep him alive,
 And he shall be called blessed upon the earth;
 And do not give him over to the desire of his enemies.
 3The Lord will sustain him upon his sickbed;
 In his illness, You restore him to health.

41:1-3 This first strophe is describing the blessings (BDB 80, see note at Ps. 1:1) of the person who obeys the Law of Moses, which requires Israel to be kind, supportive, and attentive to those in need (BDB 195, cf. Exod. 23:5; Lev. 14:21; Ps. 72:13; 82:3; 113:7; Pro. 19:17; 21:13; 28:3,8; 29:7,14). Those who help them are, in reality, helping their God (see Jesus' discussion about the last judgment in Matt. 25:31-46).

The type of persons described by this term.

1. widow (cf. Exod. 22:22; Deut. 10:18; 24:17-18; 27:19; Ps. 68:5)

2. orphan

3. alien (cf. Lev. 19:33-34; Exod. 22:21-22; Deut. 24:17-18; 27:19)

4. blind/lame

5. socially powerless (landless)

6. bereft of worldly provisions (no necessary things for life—food, shelter, work, etc.)

Notice what YHWH will do for an obedient covenant follower (helping the poor is just one item but it stands here for the whole law).

1. YHWH will deliver him in a day of trouble

2. YHWH will protect him

3. YHWH will keep him alive

4. he will be called "blessed" (MT has imperfect but the Masoretic scholars thought the perfect with a waw was better; the meaning does not change)

5. YHWH will not give him over to his enemies

6. YHWH will sustain him upon his sickbed

7. YHWH will restore him to health

Notice all the imperfect verbs, denoting ongoing actions by God throughout life.

Just a note about the general statements like this in Wisdom Literature. This should not be understood as a promise that affects every person, every time, who helps the poor. This is a general statement. This is true the majority of the time but not each and every time. We live in a fallen world!

This is a good illustration of Matthew 7. How one lives, how one speaks, how one allocates his resources and time reveal the priority commitment of the heart!

41:2 "upon the earth" The Hebrew word "land" (BDB 75) can mean

1. field

2. district

3. country

4. area

5. world

See Special Topic at Ps. 1:2. Only context can tell. I have been convinced by Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture that the flood of Genesis 6-9 was local because of the use of this word in that context. See my commentary on Genesis 1-11 online free at www.freebiblecommentary.org.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 41:4-9
 4As for me, I said, "O Lord, be gracious to me;
 Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You."
 5My enemies speak evil against me,
 "When will he die, and his name perish?"
 6And when he comes to see me, he speaks falsehood;
 His heart gathers wickedness to itself;
 When he goes outside, he tells it.
 7All who hate me whisper together against me;
 Against me they devise my hurt, saying,
 8"A wicked thing is poured out upon him,
 That when he lies down, he will not rise up again."
 9Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
 Who ate my bread,
 Has lifted up his heel against me.

41:4-9 The logical connection between these strophes is not stated. Possibly the author was a man like the one described in verses 1-3, but his life was in distress and under attack from others. Apparently he recognized that he had sinned (Ps. 41:4). Many of the last psalms of Book I (Psalm 1-41) mention a confession or acknowledgment of sin.

There are several problems mentioned.

1. he is sick of body and spirit

2. he has enemies who slander him (Ps. 41:5-7)

3. they are planning evil against him (Ps. 41:7-8)

4. his enemies were at one time close friends (Ps. 41:9; cf. Ps. 35:11-16; 55:12-13,20). This is quoted in John 13:18 about Judas' betrayal of Jesus.

 

41:7 "whisper together" This verb (BDB 538, KB 527, Hithpael imperfect) can be used of curses/charms (cf. Ps. 58:5; Eccl. 10:11; Isa. 3:2-3) or it could just be people speaking in a low voice so as not to be heard (cf. 2 Sam. 12:19) or a low voice in prayer (cf. Isa. 26:16).

If it does refer to a curse in this context, verse 8 is the result.

41:8

NASB"a wicked thing is poured out upon me"
NKJV"an evil disease, they say, clings to him"
NRSV"they think a deadly thing has fastened on to him"
TEV"They say, ‘He is fatally ill'"
NJB"a fatal sickness has a grip on him"
REB"an evil spell is cast on him, they say"

The term "wicked" (BDB 116) later became the title Belial (i.e., Deut. 13:13; 2 Cor. 6:15). It was used in several senses, a good sample is in 1 Sam.1:16; 2:12; 25:17.

The usage here seems to be a personification of a disease which they would have seen as being sent by YHWH because of the sin of the psalmist (cf. Job's three friends). But YHWH's actions toward him in Ps. 41:10-12 show that their statements are lies/slander.

41:9 "Has lifted his heel against me" This act of cultural rejection (notice there is no parallel passage) came after a fellowship/covenant meal (cf. Gen. 26:28-30; 31:51-54; Exod. 12:18; 24:5; Ps. 69:23).

It is possible to see this as

1. an act of aggression/violence against the psalmist (i.e., stomped with the feet)

2. an act of insult expressed by a gesture. In the Middle East it is still a strong insult to show someone the bottom of one's shoe.

The rejection is all the more poignant because of the apparent friendship between the two of them.

▣ "my close friend" This is literally "man of peace who turned out to be a child of Beliel" (Ps. 41:8a).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 41:10-12
 10But You, O Lord, be gracious to me and raise me up,
 That I may repay them.
 11By this I know that You are pleased with me,
 Because my enemy does not shout in triumph over me.
 12As for me, You uphold me in my integrity,
 And You set me in Your presence forever.

41:10-12 In verse 4 there were two requests (imperatives).

1. be gracious to me — BDB 335, KB 334, Qal imperative

2. heal my soul (nephesh, see note at Ps. 3:2) — BDB 950, KB 1272, Qal imperative

Now in the next strophe there are two imperatives and a cohortative.

1. same as #1 above, 41:4

2. raise me — BDB 877, KB 1086, Hiphil imperative (same request, different but parallel verb from #2 above), 41:4

3. that I may repay them — BDB 1022, KB 1532 Piel cohortative; the psalmist wants to be YHWH's instrument of justice

Healing will be a visible evidence that YHWH has heard and answered his prayers. It is not just the visible manifestation of YHWH that rejoices the psalmist but

1. it is a sign YHWH is pleased (BDB 342, KB 339, Qal perfect) with him

2. YHWH has upheld (BDB 1069, KB 1751, Qal perfect, cf. Ps. 63:8) his integrity (BDB 1070), which means innocence (cf. Ps. 25:21; 101:2; Pro. 10:9; 19:1; 20:7; 28:6)

3. YHWH set him (BDB 662, KB 714, Hiphil imperfect with waw) in His presence (i.e., tabernacle/temple, cf. Ps. 16:11; 23:6; 27:4-6) forever (see Special Topic at Ps. 9:5).

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 41:13
 13Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
 From everlasting to everlasting.
 Amen and Amen.

41:13 This is a doxological, liturgical close (cf. Ps. 72:18-19; 89:52; 103:19-22; 106:48; 150:6). It probably was not originally part of Psalm 41, but a general close to the first book (Psalm 1-41) of the Psalter.

1. Psalm 72:18-19 ends Book II

2. Psalm 89:52 ends Book III

3. Psalm 106:47-48 ends Book IV

4. Psalm 150:6 ends Book V

 

▣ "Amen, and Amen" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: AMEN

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Who is verse 1a referring to?

2. How are sin and sickness related?

3. Does verse 7 address gossip and slander or curses and charms?

4. What are "the wicked things" of verse 8?

5. How is verse 9 used in the NT?

What does it imply?

6. Exactly what is the psalmist asserting in verse 12? What does he want?

7. Why is verse 13 not part of the Psalm?