The Psalms, Tr. and Interpreted in the Light of Hebrew Life and Worship

By Elmer A. Leslie | Go to book overview

Chapter XI
PRAYERS OF THE SICK AND THE PENITENT

1. PRAYERS OF THE FALSELY ACCUSED AND ILL

IN A LARGE GROUP OF PSALMS, WITH WHICH WE WILL NOW DEAL, THE PSALMIST IN each case is suffering first and foremost under false accusation, in a matter which was to be settled at the Temple. In addition to this cause of suffering, he is ill. Although his illness is not the primary cause of the accusation, it tends to make it more severe, since according to the generally accepted view, which his accusers also hold, the sick man already has one sharp count against him, the divine disapproval. This opens the way for greater ruthlessness toward him than his accusers would ordinarily show. Such a situation we find in the psalms which now follow: 13; 22; 28; 31:9-24; 35; 41; 69; 71; 86; 102; 109:


Ps. 13. SINGING FORTH THE CERTAINTY OF DELIVERANCE

In Ps. 13 the psalmist has an affliction which he has already endured for a long time, and which has led him to feel that God had forgotten him, possibly forever. He is experiencing tormenting pain. It is probable that we should interpret verse 3 literally, and that this man is suffering a severe disease of the eyes, a type of physical malady which even today is prevalent in Palestine. His disease is increasing in severity and is threatening his very life.1

Yet almost more than by physical pain and suffering is he disturbed by the antagonism of an enemy who has risen up against him, an adversary who does not desire his restoration to health but gloats over the apparent fact that his situation is growing worse. No doubt the psalmist's physical condition was a factor leading to his being falsely accused by his enemy, although the nature of the accusation is not given.

The psalmist pours forth his lament in distress and in great impatience. Four times comes the characteristic lamenting question, "How long?"2

1 How long, O Lord, wilt Thou forget me forever? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?

2 How long must I harbor pain in my soul, Suffering in my heart day and night? How long shall my enemy rise up against me?

His petition follows, uttered in three penetrating sentences, one coming fast upon the other--"Show regard to me; answer me . . . ; lighten me"--and each closely related to the feelingful lament.

____________________
1
Cf. Schmidt, Die Psalmen, p. 22.
2
Cf. also Pss. 74:10; 79:5; 89:46; Isa. 6:11; the first two or national laments; the third a king's lament; the last an individual lament uttered under influence of familiarity with cultic practice.

-361-

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