New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 41:1 For the Chief Musician. A Psalm by David- Jeduthun was perhaps "the chief musician" (Ps. 39:1) who was to perform the Psalms or teach them to others (1 Chron. 16:41,42,44; 25:3-6).

Blessed is he who considers the poor. Yahweh will deliver him in the day of evil-
The Hebrew for "consider" really means to understand- that’s how it is normally translated. To be sensitive to the poor, to understand them, to have a heart that bleeds for them- this is what God seeks in us. And yet David appears here to be justifying himself as delivered from his day of evil because he had been generous to the poor- when in fact David was saved by grace and not by such good works. Many of the Psalms are clearly relevant to David, and yet just as clearly relevant to Hezekiah and other Kings. Thus Ps. 41 is David’s reflection on the situation of 2 Sam. 15- but evidently it’s been re-written with reference to Hezekiah, also afflicted with an “evil disease”; and Ahithophel’s part in David’s life was played out in Hezekiah’s life by Shebna (Is. 22:15). It seems apparent they were re-written over time, and hence have relevance to various historical settings.

Psa 41:2 Yahweh will preserve him, and keep him alive. He shall be blessed on the earth, and he will not surrender him to the will of his enemies-
As noted on :1, David was preserved by grace and not by the fact he had been generous to the poor (:1), as he liked to imagine.

Psa 41:3 Yahweh will sustain him on his sickbed, and restore him from his bed of illness-
The previous Psalms (Ps. 38-40) have described David on his bed of apparently terminal sickness after the sin with Bathsheba, being saved by grace. And he wishes to encourage all men to share in his path of healing and experience of grace.

Psa 41:4 I said, Yahweh, have mercy on me! Heal me, for I have sinned against You-
"Have mercy" here and in :10 is the term used in David's plea for forgiveness in Ps. 51:1. The cry for mercy suggests the moral guilt of the sin with Bathsheba, which had its consequence in David's mortal sickness with which it seems he was stricken soon afterwards (as in Ps. 30:8).

Psa 41:5 My enemies speak evil against me: When will he die, and his name perish?-
David's prayers for restoration after the crisis with Bathsheba do indeed include a bald admission of sin as in :4. But his prayers seem to spend far more time in asking for deliverance from his enemies, avoidance of personal shame, and judgment upon them- again suggesting his repentance was not all it might have been.

Psa 41:6 If he comes to see me, he speaks falsehood. His heart gathers iniquity to itself. When he goes outside, he tells it-
The person in view is his "familiar friend" of :9. He doesn't perhaps name Ahithophel because these Psalms were written whilst he still felt the possibility of restoring his relationship with Ahithophel and didn't want to openly state what he knew Ahithophel (Bathsheba's grandfather) was up to. Whilst on his bed of sickness, it seems Ahithophel visited David, speaking falsehood to him, and then went outside and slandered him to the world, as in :8.

Psa 41:7 All who hate me whisper together against me. They imagine the worst for me-
2 Sam. 12:19 speaks of David's courtiers whispering about him soon after the sin with Bathsheba. So we can assume that his courtiers are in view here, caught up in the conspiracy to overthrow him, putting around the idea that he was too weak to resist any conspiracy (:8).

Psa 41:8 An evil disease, they say, has afflicted him. Now that he lies he shall rise up no more-
Heb. 'a disease of Belial'. The idea was that because David had sinned, some kind of supernatural 'devil' or demons had smitten David and he would die. We notice that David didn't share this mistaken, paganic view; instead he repeatedly attributes his disease to Yahweh, and believed that therefore Yahweh could lift it.

Psa 41:9 Yes, my own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, who ate bread with me-
The person in view is clearly Ahithophel, David's counsellor, the "man of my peace" (2 Sam. 15:12), referenced also in Ps. 55:13,14. The king's counsellor in oriental courts always ate at his table. The Lord's invitation to all, sinners included, to eat at His table... is therefore a sublime insight into how radically inclusive He was and is.

The verse is quoted specifically about Judas in Jn. 15:18. The Lord knew beforehand that Judas would betray Him, just as Samson knew surely that Delilah would; although neither man could admit it to himself. This is just a psychological condition typical of human beings. It helps explain why the Lord Jesus knew from the beginning that Judas would betray him (Jn. 6:64), and yet how He could really trust in Judas as his own familiar friend, confide in him (Ps. 41:9), tell him that he would sit with the other eleven on thrones in the Kingdom (Mt. 19:28). This was ever a serious contradiction for me, until considering the Samson : Delilah relationship in depth. A man can know something about someone on one level, but act and feel towards them in a quite different way than this knowledge requires.

Has lifted up his heel against me- Apparently an allusion to how the seed of the woman would strike the seed of the serpent with his heel (Gen. 3:15). Ahithophel was treating David as the seed of the serpent, rather than realizing that a member of the seed of the woman can still sin, be forgiven and remain on the Lord's side rather than that of the serpent.

Psa 41:10 But You, Yahweh, have mercy on me, and raise me up, that I may repay them-
As noted on :4, the cry for mercy and being raised up from the bed of sickness was primarily in the context of David's sin with Bathsheba. But even in that dire situation, David is still thinking of repaying his enemies. Grace is such a difficult concept to totally grasp, and the old ways of behaviour-based judgment die so hard.

Psa 41:11 By this I know that You delight in me, because my enemy doesn’t triumph over me- 
Tenses in Hebrew aren't exact (unlike in Greek). Seeing this is a prayer for help (:10),, the idea may be 'I will now that You delight in me if you save me from my enemies'. This would be manipulative. David has previously claimed that his only desire is for forgiveness; whereas here he reveals how desperately he wanted to be saved from the consequences of those sins. And Nathan's prophetic word had made it clear that God intended him to suffer those consequences.

Psa 41:12 As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, and set me in Your presence forever-
He looked forward to eternity as being in God's presence eternally. His focus was not upon living on a perfected earth, true as that may be; but rather upon relationship with God.

The Bathsheba Psalms, and those written after that time, clearly reflect how David had a sense of integrity before God. Ps. 41:4,12 is a good example: “I said, Lord, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned…as for me, thou upholdest me in mine integrity, and settest me before thy face for ever”. How could David, David the adulterer and the murderer, speak of his integrity…? Only, surely, because he truly believed in imputed righteousness. Although I have noted the possibility throughout the Psalms that David was perhaps not as repentant as he might have been for his sin. Yet forgiven sinners- and none of us are essentially any different to David- can have genuine integrity before God and men, because of this wonderful thing called imputed righteousness, justification by grace, call it by whatever theological term we like. But the bottom line in practice is that we can have genuine integrity before God and man. Yet, of course, men are no so willing to accept this… those who break that 11th commandment ‘Thou shalt not be caught!’ are very often treated as if they can never have any integrity, and are for ever second class citizens in their community. But this isn’t the way of those who seek to reflect God’s way of dealing with sin.

Psa 41:13 Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Israel, from everlasting and to everlasting! Amen and amen
- David was bidding all people share in his experience of grace through joining in with his Psalms; he wishes them to say "Amen and amen" on a personal level, thus personalizing his experiences to themselves.