Psalm 6

Submitted by admin on Mon, 2006-04-17 09:40.

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Like Psalm 4 (which see), this psalm, at the direction of the “musical director” or “leader,” may have been sung to the accompaniment of stringed instruments. (See the Notes section for additional comments about the Hebrew term thought to mean musical director or leader.)

Possible explanations of the expression “according to Sheminith” are based on a connection to the number eight (sheminí, eighth). The Septuagint reads, “concerning the eighth.” Common conjectures about a more specific meaning include “on an instrument with eight strings,” “on the eighth string of an instrument,” or “in a lower octave” (a significance that rests on the supposition that the ancient Israelites thought in terms of an eight-note octave).

This “psalm” or “song” is attributed to David. The mention of serious illness parallels Psalm 41 and suggests that it relates to a period during Absalom’s plotting to seize the throne. The comments that follow link the contents of the song with David.

Apparently on account of the serious illness he regarded as divine chastisement for his sin, David pleaded that YHWH not rebuke him in his anger or correct him in his wrath. This meant that David wanted to be shown compassion. Longing for relief from his distressing situation, he pleaded for YHWH to bestow his favor and added that he was weak, feeble, or languishing. His entire organism (his “bones”) appears to have been wracked with pain, prompting his petition to be healed.

When referring to his “soul” (néphesh), David was speaking of himself. He keenly sensed the ailment that robbed him of the sense of well-being and brought torment to his whole body. Having suffered for an extended period, he questioned YHWH about how much longer it would be before he would be granted relief.

David’s plea took on a tone of urgency. He believed that he might die and so begged YHWH to save his “soul” or life. David prayed on the basis of YHWH’s compassionate care (Hebrew, chésed) or mercy (Greek, éleos). Additionally, he sorrowfully expressed the thought that the dead had no remembrance of YHWH and could not praise him in Sheol, in the realm of the dead.

Apparently severe pain caused David to moan to such an extent that he felt worn out. At night, he shed so many tears that he spoke of them as being enough to cause his bed to swim. His “couch” was soaked. (“Bed” and “couch” are parallel expressions.)

On account of the many tears of grief he had shed, David found that his eye had become weak prematurely (this being a condition that often accompanies advanced age). The fact that David was surrounded by foes made his grief more intense and his ailment more difficult to bear. Apparently the enemies were gloating about what had befallen him.

Understandably, David prayed that these hateful foes depart from his presence. Despite his distressing situation, he continued to cling to his faith in YHWH as the One who heard his sobbing.

The song reaches a climax in David’s expression of unwavering faith. YHWH had heard his supplication and had granted his favorable acceptance. Therefore, David was confident that his foes would experience shame. This would apparently have been upon David’s recovery when their hateful gloating and mockery would have been exposed as having been without any basis. Faced with divine retribution, these foes would be greatly troubled or terrified. Their turning back may signify that they would be frustrated, likely upon seeing David recovering when they had desired the worst for him. For the foes to be put to shame suddenly or in an instant would mean that calamity would befall them without delay.


In the Septuagint, the superscription is, “To the end; among hymns concerning the eighth; a psalm to David.”

The Hebrew expression natsách (preceded by the preposition “to”) is commonly thought to signify “to the musical director” or “leader.” In the Septuagint, the rendering is “to the end.” An ancient Latin translation of the Hebrew Psalter reads victori (“to the victor”), probably because of linking the Hebrew expression to a root meaning “to defeat.” This suggests that considerable uncertainty exists about the significance of natsách.

Regarding the divine name (YHWH), see Psalm 1.

For an explanation of the words chésed and éleos, see Psalm 5.