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Verses of Psalms 41

Psalms 41 Summary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

The Psalmist is suffering from an illness which threatens to be fatal. Treacherous enemies, and among them one who had been a trusted friend, eagerly anticipate his death. But his confidence in Jehovah remains unshaken.

It is much disputed whether the Psalmist is to be thought of as still lying on his sick-bed, or as restored to health and recording his past experience. In the latter case ‘I said’ in Psa 41:4 must be supposed to govern Psa 41:4-12, or at least Psa 41:4-10. But the former alternative appears preferable, for it is unnatural to regard the prayer of Psa 41:10 as part of a narrative, and the verb in Psa 41:4 can be rendered ‘I have said’, or ‘I say’.

The Psalm consists of four stanzas, of which the second and third cohere closely.

i. The first stanza is an expansion of the beatitude, ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’ The language is general, but the Psalmist is thinking of himself. Conscious, like Job (Job 30:25), of having shewn compassion towards others, he trusts that he may receive the blessings promised to the compassionate. And further, the picture of the spirit which wins divine approval emphasises the wickedness of the treatment which he is himself experiencing (Psa 41:1-3).

ii. iii. A prayer for restoration introduces the description of his present situation. The malice and hypocrisy of his enemies are vividly delineated. The climax of all is the perfidy of a trusted friend (Psa 41:4-9).

iv. From his enemies he turns to God with renewed prayer for restoration, and expression of confidence in the continuance of His favour (Psa 41:10-12).

If David was the author of the Psalm, the false friend can hardly be other than Ahithophel, and the Psalm must have been written shortly before the outbreak of Absalom’s rebellion. Absalom’s sneer at Hushai (2Sa 16:17) well illustrates the confidential relation of a trusted counsellor to the king, and the depth of his own perfidy.

It is true that the narrative in 2 Sam. makes no reference to an illness such as is here described; but that narrative necessarily passes over many details. Such an illness would account for the remissness in attending to his official duties, which Absalom’s words to the suitors for justice seem to imply (2Sa 15:3). It would account also for the strange failure of David’s natural courage which his flight from Jerusakm at the first outbreak of the rebellion appears to indicate.

Unnerved by sickness, in which he recognised a just punishment for his sins, David watched the growing disloyalty of his courtiers, and in particular of Ahithophel, without feeling able to strike and crush the conspiracy before it came to a head. Comp. generally, Psalms 55.

Verses of Psalms 41

Consult other comments:

Psalms 41:0 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Psalms 41:0 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Psalms 41:0 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Psalms 41:0 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Psalms 41:0 - Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary

Psalms 41:0 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Psalms 41:0 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Psalms 41:0 - Commentary Series on the Bible by Peter Pett

Psalms 41:0 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Psalms 41:0 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges