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Psalm 38[a]

A psalm of David, written to get God’s attention.[b]

38 O Lord, do not continue to rebuke me in your anger.
Do not continue to punish me in your raging fury.[c]
For your arrows pierce[d] me,
and your hand presses me down.[e]
My whole body is sick because of your judgment;[f]
I am deprived of health because of my sin.[g]
For my sins overwhelm me;[h]
like a heavy load, they are too much for me to bear.
My wounds[i] are infected and starting to smell,[j]
because of my foolish sins.[k]
I am dazed[l] and completely humiliated;[m]
all day long I walk around mourning.
For I am overcome with shame,[n]
and my whole body is sick.[o]
I am numb with pain and severely battered;[p]
I groan loudly because of the anxiety I feel.[q]
O Lord, you understand my heart’s desire;[r]
my groaning is not hidden from you.
10 My heart beats quickly;
my strength leaves me.
I can hardly see.[s]
11 Because of my condition,[t] even my friends and acquaintances keep their distance;[u]
my neighbors stand far away.[v]
12 Those who seek my life try to entrap me;[w]
those who want to harm me speak destructive words.
All day long they say deceitful things.
13 But I am like a deaf man—I hear nothing;
I am like a mute who cannot speak.[x]
14 I am like a man who cannot hear
and is incapable of arguing his defense.[y]
15 Yet[z] I wait for you, O Lord!
You will respond, O Lord, my God!
16 I have prayed for deliverance, because otherwise they will gloat over me;[aa]
when my foot slips they will arrogantly taunt me.[ab]
17 For I am about to stumble,
and I am in constant pain.[ac]
18 Yes,[ad] I confess my wrongdoing,
and I am concerned about my sins.
19 But those who are my enemies for no reason are numerous;[ae]
those who hate me without cause outnumber me.[af]
20 They repay me evil for the good I have done;
though I have tried to do good to them, they hurl accusations at me.[ag]
21 Do not abandon me, O Lord.
My God, do not remain far away from me.
22 Hurry and help me,[ah] O Lord, my deliverer.


  1. Psalm 38:1 sn Psalm 38. The author asks the Lord to deliver him from his enemies. He confesses his sin and recognizes that the crisis he faces is the result of divine discipline. Yet he begs the Lord not to reject him.
  2. Psalm 38:1 tn The Hebrew text reads simply, “to cause to remember.” The same form, the Hiphil infinitive of זָכַר (zakhar, “remember”), also appears in the heading of Ps 70. Some understand this in the sense of “for the memorial offering,” but it may carry the idea of bringing one’s plight to God’s attention (see P. C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50 [WBC], 303).
  3. Psalm 38:1 tn The words “continue to” are supplied in the translation of both lines. The following verses make it clear that the psalmist is already experiencing divine rebuke/punishment. He asks that it might Cf. Ps 38:1 with Ps 6:1, which has similar wording.
  4. Psalm 38:2 tn The verb Hebrew נָחַת (nakhat) apparently here means “penetrate, pierce” (note the use of the Qal in Prov 17:10). The psalmist pictures the Lord as a warrior who shoots arrows at him (see Ps 7:12-13).
  5. Psalm 38:2 tn Heb “and your hand [?] upon me.” The meaning of the verb נָחַת (nakhat) is unclear in this context. It could mean “your hand comes down on me.” It may be preferable to emend the form to וַתָּנַח (vattanakh) from the verb נוּחַ (nuakh, “rest”). In this case the text would read literally, “and your hand rests upon me” (see Isa 25:10, though the phrase is used in a positive sense there, unlike Ps 38:2).
  6. Psalm 38:3 tn Heb “there is no soundness in my flesh from before your anger.” “Anger” here refers metonymically to divine judgment, which is the practical effect of God’s anger at the psalmist’s sin.
  7. Psalm 38:3 tn Heb “there is no health in my bones from before my sin.”
  8. Psalm 38:4 tn Heb “pass over my head.”
  9. Psalm 38:5 sn The reference to wounds may be an extension of the metaphorical language of v. 2. The psalmist pictures himself as one whose flesh is ripped and torn by arrows.
  10. Psalm 38:5 tn Heb “my wounds stink, they are festering” (cf. NEB).
  11. Psalm 38:5 tn Heb “from before my foolishness.”
  12. Psalm 38:6 tn The verb’s precise shade of meaning in this context is not entirely clear. The verb, which literally means “to bend,” may refer to the psalmist’s posture. In Isa 21:3 it seems to mean “be confused, dazed.”
  13. Psalm 38:6 tn Heb “I am bowed down to excess.”
  14. Psalm 38:7 tn Heb “for my loins are filled with shame.” The “loins” are viewed here as the seat of the psalmist’s emotions. The present translation assumes that נִקְלֶה (niqleh) is derived from קָלָה (qalah, “be dishonored”). Some derive it instead from a homonymic root קָלָה (qalah), meaning “to roast.” In this case one might translate “fever” (cf. NEB “my loins burn with fever”).
  15. Psalm 38:7 tn Heb “there is no soundness in my flesh” (see v. 3).
  16. Psalm 38:8 tn Heb “I am numb and crushed to excess.”
  17. Psalm 38:8 tn Heb “I roar because of the moaning of my heart.”
  18. Psalm 38:9 tn Heb “O Lord, before you [is] all my desire.”
  19. Psalm 38:10 tn Heb “and the light of my eyes, even they, there is not with me.” The “light of the eyes” may refer to physical energy (see 1 Sam 14:27, 29), life itself (Ps 13:3), or the ability to see (Prov 29:23).
  20. Psalm 38:11 tn Or “wound,” or “illness.”
  21. Psalm 38:11 tn Heb “stand [aloof].”
  22. Psalm 38:11 tn Heb “and the ones near me off at a distance stand.”
  23. Psalm 38:12 tn Heb “lay snares.”
  24. Psalm 38:13 sn I am like a deaf man…like a mute. The psalmist is like a deaf mute; he is incapable of defending himself and is vulnerable to his enemies’ deception (see v. 14).
  25. Psalm 38:14 tn Heb “and there is not in his mouth arguments.”
  26. Psalm 38:15 tn Or perhaps “surely.”
  27. Psalm 38:16 tn Heb “For I said, ‘Lest they rejoice over me.’” The psalmist recalls the motivating argument of his petition. He probably prefaced this statement with a prayer for deliverance (see Pss 7:1-2; 13:3-4; 28:1).
  28. Psalm 38:16 tn Heb “they will magnify against me.” See Pss 35:26; 55:13.
  29. Psalm 38:17 tn Heb “and my pain [is] before me continually.”
  30. Psalm 38:18 tn Or “for.” The translation assumes that כִּי (ki) is asseverative here.
  31. Psalm 38:19 tn Heb “and my enemies, life, are many.” The noun חַיִּים (khayyim, “life”) fits very awkwardly here. The translation assumes an emendation to חִנָּם (khinnam, “without reason”; note the parallelism with שֶׁקֶר [sheqer, “falsely”] and see Pss 35:19; 69:4; Lam 3:52). The verb עָצַם (ʿatsam) can sometimes mean “are strong,” but here it probably focuses on numerical superiority (note the parallel verb רָבַב, ravav, “be many”).
  32. Psalm 38:19 tn Heb “are many.”
  33. Psalm 38:20 tn Heb “the ones who repay evil instead of good accuse me, instead of my pursuing good.”
  34. Psalm 38:22 tn Heb “hurry to my help.” See Ps 22:19.