מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד לְהַזְכִּיר׃ 38:1
Psal. 38:1 A psalm of David's, for remembering:
From the last word of this first verse, I assume this psalm is a reminder of events that happened in the past. It is described as if it were in the present for the psalmist, but that is often the style in which biblical Hebrew poetry is written or translated.
יְהוָה אַל־בְּקֶצְפְּךָ תוֹכִיחֵנִי וּבַחֲמָתְךָ תְיַסְּרֵנִי׃ 38:2
Psal. 38:2 Lord, do not rebuke me in Your “anger,”
or chasten me in Your “wrath.”
The psalmist assumes, much as most Jews have and do, that his distress is God’s punishment for his misdeeds. As I have remarked elsewhere, I believe that distress is the result of our own ignorance. There is always something to be learned (individually or collectively) from our distress, and to my mind that is the purpose of trials and tribulations. The Lord does not punish; He teaches us to return to and follow the right path, the path outlined in His Torah.
כִּי־חִצֶּיךָ נִחֲתוּ בִי וַתִּנְחַת עָלַי יָדֶךָ׃ 38:3
Psal. 38:3 Indeed Your arrows have penetrated into me,
and Your “hand” has descended upon me.
אֵין־מְתֹם בִּבְשָׂרִי מִפְּנֵי זַעְמֶךָ אֵין־שָׁלוֹם בַּעֲצָמַי מִפְּנֵי חַטָּאתִי׃ 38:4
Psal. 38:4 There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your “indignation;”
there is no peace in my bones because of my sin.
כִּי עֲוֺנֹתַי עָבְרוּ רֹאשִׁי כְּמַשָּׂא כָבֵד יִכְבְּדוּ מִמֶּנִּי׃ 38:5
Psal. 38:5 Indeed my iniquities pass through my head;
if a great burden, they would be heavier than me.
הִבְאִישׁוּ נָמַקּוּ חַבּוּרֹתָי מִפְּנֵי אִוַּלְתִּי׃ 38:6
Psal. 38:6 My wounds are odious;
they fester, because of my folly.
נַעֲוֵיתִי שַׁחֹתִי עַד־מְאֹד כָּל־הַיּוֹם קֹדֵר הִלָּכְתִּי׃ 38:7
Psal. 38:7 I am twisted, bowed down greatly;
I go mourning all the time.
כִּי־כְסָלַי מָלְאוּ נִקְלֶה וְאֵין מְתֹם בִּבְשָׂרִי׃ 38:8
Psal. 38:8 For my loins are full of burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
נְפוּגוֹתִי וְנִדְכֵּיתִי עַד־מְאֹד שָׁאַגְתִּי מִנַּהֲמַת לִבִּי׃ 38:9
Psal. 38:9 I am feeble and deeply broken;
I cry out in distress from the groaning of my heart.
אֲדֹנָי נֶגְדְּךָ כָל־תַּאֲוָתִי וְאַנְחָתִי מִמְּךָ לֹא־נִסְתָּרָה׃ 38:10
Psal. 38:10 Master, all my desire is before You,
and my sighing is not hidden from You.
לִבִּי סְחַרְחַר עֲזָבַנִי כֹחִי וְאוֹר־עֵינַי גַּם־הֵם אֵין אִתִּי׃ 38:11
Psal. 38:11 My heart flutters; my strength fails me;
and the light of my eyes, they are also not with me.
אֹהֲבַי וְרֵעַי מִנֶּגֶד נִגְעִי יַעֲמֹדוּ וּקְרוֹבַי מֵרָחֹק עָמָדוּ׃ 38:12
Psal. 38:12 My friends and my companions must stand away from my plague,
and my dear ones remain at a distance.
As I see it, the use of the term plague is a synonym for David’s distress. The implication is that his friends, companions, and dear ones are unaware of his internal turmoil, or they stay away because of his continual complaints that they are tired of hearing.
וַיְנַקְשׁוּ מְבַקְשֵׁי נַפְשִׁי וְדֹרְשֵׁי רָעָתִי דִּבְּרוּ הַוּוֹת וּמִרְמוֹת כָּל־הַיּוֹם יֶהְגּוּ׃ 38:13
Psal. 38:13 And those desiring of my life lay snares,
and the seekers of my injury speak calamities
and might utter deceits at any time.
וַאֲנִי כְחֵרֵשׁ לֹא אֶשְׁמָע וּכְאִלֵּם לֹא יִפְתַּח־פִּיו׃ 38:14
Psal. 38:14 So I am as deaf; I will not listen,
and as a mute, he will not open his mouth.
David seems to shut his ears and his mouth because he doesn’t want to hear the abuse of his tormenters or respond to their taunts. See also the next verse.
וָאֱהִי כְּאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר לֹא־שֹׁמֵעַ וְאֵין בְּפִיו תּוֹכָחוֹת׃ 38:15
Psal. 38:15 So I have become as one who is not hearing
and in his mouth there are no rebukes.
כִּי־לְךָ יְהוָה הוֹחָלְתִּי אַתָּה תַעֲנֶה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהָי׃ 38:16
Psal. 38:16 But I wait for You, the Lord.
You shall answer, my Master, my God.
כִּי־אָמַרְתִּי פֶּן־יִשְׂמְחוּ־לִי בְּמוֹט רַגְלִי עָלַי הִגְדִּילוּ׃ 38:17
Psal. 38:17 Though I say, “Let them not rejoice about me,”
they magnify themselves against me on my slipping foot.
כִּי־אֲנִי לְצֶלַע נָכוֹן וּמַכְאוֹבִי נֶגְדִּי תָמִיד׃ 38:18
Psal. 38:18 For I am prepared to stumble,
as my pain is continually before me.
כִּי־עֲוֺנִי אַגִּיד אֶדְאַג מֵחַטָּאתִי׃ 38:19
Psal. 38:19 Indeed, I shall declare my iniquity;
I must be concerned because of my sin.
וְאֹיְבַי חַיִּים עָצֵמוּ וְרַבּוּ שֹׂנְאַי שָׁקֶר׃ 38:20
Psal. 38:20 Yet my living enemies are strong,
and my haters become greater. Deceit!
The last Hebrew word, rq,v, in this verse doesn’t seem to fit here, and it makes the second part of the verse difficult to translate properly. The problem is that the word before it, ya;n>f, which I translate as my haters, is plural, but the last word shouldn’t be translated as its adjective (for example, as deceitful) or adverb (for example, as deceitfully) because it is singular. Others ignore this problem and translate the last word as the adjective or adverb of the preceding word, and the usual translation of the phrase is something like “... and those that hate me wrongfully are multiplied.” A typical overlooking and ignoring of Hebrew grammar! In my translation, I interpret the last word as a epithet expressed in despair or chagrin.
וּמְשַׁלְּמֵי רָעָה תַּחַת טֹובָה יִשְׂטְנוּנִי תַּחַת (רְדֹופִי) [רָדְפִי]־טֹוב׃ 38:21
Psal. 38:21 And the repayers of evil for good would oppose me
in return for my pursuit of good.
The word in the parentheses, which I translate as my pursuit, should not have the vav. The correct spelling appears in the brackets.
אַל־תַּעַזְבֵנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהַי אַל־תִּרְחַק מִמֶּנִּי׃ 38:22
Psal. 38:22 Do not forsake me, O Lord, my God!
Do not be far from me!
חוּשָׁה לְעֶזְרָתִי אֲדֹנָי תְּשׁוּעָתִי׃ 38:23
Psal. 38:23 Come quickly to be my Help, my Master, my Salvation!
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