Introduction: Faith and Psalms | Davidic Authorship: Historicity and Psalms

Traditionally Psalms 6, 32, 38, and 51 were considered written after David had committed sin with Bathsheba. Hence, these psalms presented a look into a truly penitent heart. They show a faithful servant of God who confessed and repented of his sin, who knew God had forgiven him, and who knew God would be glorified by his confession.

Now if one were to remove the traditional historical setting from these psalms, will we still arrive at the same conclusions presented above, or will we arrive at fundamentally different conclusions—thus affecting the faith of the 21st century Christian.


O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger,

Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure.

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak;

O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled.

My soul also is greatly troubled;

But You, O Lord—how long?

Return, O Lord, deliver me!

Oh, save me for Your mercies’ sake!

For in death there is no remembrance of You;

In the grave who will give You thanks?

I am weary with my groaning;

All night I make my bed swim;

I drench my couch with my tears.

My eye wastes away because of grief;

It grows old because of all my enemies.

Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity;

For the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping.

The Lord has heard my supplication;

The Lord will receive my prayer.

Let all my enemies be ashamed and greatly troubled;

Let them turn back and be ashamed suddenly.

The Various Views and their significance:

  1. No specific author, but written under the reign of Manasseh: This is the view held by Samuel Terrien who notes the strong affinities between Jeremiah and this psalm, and due to this correlation he concludes Psalm 6 was therefore written around the same time. Thus, since the author is unknown the setting becomes a worshiper who lives under extreme times; not one who understands he has wronged God, but who currently struggles under Manasseh’s reign. A further important aspect to note is that Terrien still holds this psalm to be one of the seven penitential.
  2. An unknown author pleads to God to remove his aggressors: This view, held by John Goldingay, argues the author “expresses no awareness of sin or penitence.” Goldingay claims that the suppliant expresses a statement of undeserved trouble, that everything in this psalm “can be brought to God without expressing either a correlative awareness of sin that needs confessing or a conviction about personal commitment.”
  3. David, expressing proper fear of God: Keil and Delitzsch best express this view; they contend that God’s wrath is not always a proper motive of chastening, for the book of Job was written to refute this line of thought. Therefore, this psalm presents a David who not only knows why he is being chastised, but also a David who knows what the proper response to chastisement from God is. Furthermore, David displays confidence in what God’s reaction will be.

In summary, each of the above views presents a drastically different understanding of Psalm 6. However, since the purpose of this exploration is on faith, I will present the argument as follows. View (1) paints a picture of a faithful servant of God living under hard times. Everyone around him lives a worldly life, he petitions God for his brethren; he shows remorse for their wrong doings. View (2) depicts a worshiper who does not understand the predicament he is in; however, he expects God will deliver him. View (3) presents a sorrow-filled heart over a specific sin. King David understands God’s loving discipline is behind His chastising hand. Views (1) and (3) both correctly show a cry of distress leading toward a complete and believing confidence. In my opinion view (2) presents at best only a watered-down look at faith, and at worst a ‘why me?’ situation.

At this juncture it is difficult to fully claim view (3) as the proper view on the basis of what it represents concerning faith; keep in mind I have only scratched the surface. Yet, view (1) does not standout as anything significant; on the other hand view (3) presents a faithful individual who has repented and knows the Lord has heard and received his prayers.

And that is faith.

-Next, Psalm 38-

[1] Samuel Terrien, The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary, ECC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), pp 110-116.

[2] See Ps 6:1 and Jer 10:24; Ps 6:2,4 and Jer 17:14; and Ps 6:6 with Jer 45:3.

[3] The seven penitential psalms are 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143. These psalms display the worshiper’s remorseful heart over sin committed against God.

[4] John Goldingay, Psalms Volume 1: Psalms 1-41, BCOTWP (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), pp 134-141.

[5] Goldingay explains that the author is aware of God’s chastisement, but claims victim and not aggressor (Ibid., pp. 135-136). Hence, to Goldingay Psalm 6 should not be considered one of the penitential psalms.

[6] Ibid., p. 141.

[7] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament (1867), 10 vols. in 5, Trans. Bolton (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996), pp. 78-82.

[8] Ibid., p. 79.