Introduction: Faith and Psalms | Davidic Authorship: Historicity and Psalms
Part I: Psalm 6

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.

PSALM 38

O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your wrath,

Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure!

For Your arrows pierce me deeply,

And Your hand presses me down.

There is no soundness in my flesh

Because of Your anger,

Nor any health in my bones

Because of my sin.

For my iniquities have gone over my head;

Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.

My wounds are foul and festering

Because of my foolishness.

I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly;

I go mourning all the day long.

For my loins are full of inflammation,

And there is no soundness in my flesh.

I am feeble and severely broken;

I groan because of the turmoil of my heart.

Lord, all my desire is before You;

And my sighing is not hidden from You.

My heart pants, my strength fails me;

As for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me.

My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague,

And my relatives stand afar off.

Those also who seek my life lay snares for me;

Those who seek my hurt speak of destruction,

And plan deception all the day long.

But I, like a deaf man, do not hear;

And I am like a mute who does not open his mouth.

Thus I am like a man who does not hear,

And in whose mouth is no response.

For in You, O Lord, I hope;

You will hear, O Lord my God.

For I said, “Hear me, lest they rejoice over me,

Lest, when my foot slips, they exalt themselves against me.”

For I am ready to fall,

And my sorrow is continually before me.

For I will declare my iniquity;

I will be in anguish over my sin.

But my enemies are vigorous, and they are strong;

And those who hate me wrongfully have multiplied.

Those also who render evil for good,

They are my adversaries, because I follow what is good.

Do not forsake me, O Lord;

O my God, be not far from me!

Make haste to help me

O Lord, my salvation!

The Various Views and their significance:

  1. An authoritative, but ostracized prophet: To keep the argument clear, I will maintain the order of authors from the previous post. Hence, Terrien contends this view; he holds that the strong commanding language of Psalm 38 “is not available to the casual religionist.” Terrien dates this Psalm later than Psalm 6, just prior to the 70 years of captivity by the Babylonians. He notes that prayers of the sick often rest on the experiences mentioned throughout the psalm; not just physical but spiritual as well. Lastly, this petitioner understood and talked to God with similar familiarity as Christians might today, Terrien notes the author’s anticipation toward the Christian’s present day freedom.
  2. A traditional prayer for the suffering: Goldingay posits this view positioning: “It is hard to imagine this carefully expressed and structured poetic piece being composed by a person who is undergoing the suffering and attacks described in the psalm. Indeed, it is hard to imagine someone having all these symptoms.” Therefore, Goldingay places Psalm 38 within a communal setting. He contends this psalm is an expression of trust and repentance among those who have sickness and pain. Unlike Psalm 6, Goldingay holds Psalm 38 does incorporate penitence; however, he relegates it as a non-central theme. I found a bit of interest in his thoughts on communal prayer. Goldingay notes Ezra 9 and Nehemiah 9 as community prayers with a possible acknowledgment of sin in connection with affliction. He contends Psalm 38 supports the notion of suffering as a possible result of personal sin.
  3. David’s outpouring of depressed feelings toward the truth of his situation: In this view, Keil and Delitzsch paint a penitent David who is conscience of the consequences his sin has brought. They hold David has abandoned all to God, he has no choice but to remain silent to his attackers. His attackers assault, and David knows he only a bystander within God’s grand design; nothing can be done apart from God. Keil and Delitzsch further note that David’s friends and enemies alike have cast him off due to his public sin; yet, Psalm 38 ends on a high step of faith as David fights though the consequences of his actions through heartfelt prayer.

As stated before, the theological implications are not the focus of this study; the effect of faith on Christianity is. To begin with, view (2)’s removal of a possible historical situation drastically effects how one views this Psalm; by transferring this psalm into a communal setting, Goldingay effectively removes faith. When placed into a communal setting, the personal aspects of this psalm become null-and-void; an empty shell that would serve little purpose apart from one who is suffering from a persistent illness. Hence, we are again left with views (1) and (3).

Here, one can begin to see how differences in setting affect faith; but I’m getting ahead of myself. Suffice it to say that at this juncture view (1) does present an authoritative petitioner who cries out and expects God to deliver him and his people; a great example of faith during troubling times. But view (3) depicts a petitioner—A Jewish King—who due to covering up his sin with Bathsheba has reached spiritual rock bottom and the kingdom knows it. Psalm 38 exposes, under view (3), a penitent follower who has finally given all to God.

A heart after God, a heart of faith.

-Next, Psalm 51-


[1] Terrien’s thoughts on this matter are mostly correct (Psalms, p. 328). He would claim these words belong to a mystic of Judaism, I would contend they are the words of a true and faithful Jew. Either way, Terrien is correct that these are not the words of a casual believer, this author believes.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Goldingay appears to continuously shy away from any possibility of Davidic authorship (Psalms, p. 538). Throughout my reading of his study I constantly keep asking why remove David? He does explain in his introduction that ‘psalm of David’ has multiple possible interpretations and therefore leaves the answer ambiguous; yet, with many psalms, as is the case with Psalm 38, Goldingay replaces a personal setting with that of the communal thus completely annulling all possibility for Davidic authorship.

[4] Ibid., p. 550.

[5] I find it interesting that Goldingay supports this view for I would tend to agree (Ibid., pp. 550-552). Taking the view that suffering is the direct result of sin means that the original author was at the time suffering; contra Goldingay’s stated view that the author knew about suffering and sin. My point is, if the original author was indeed suffering at the time of authorship, David’s sin with Bathsheba holds the most weight. With all that said, please don’t misunderstand what I have said. While I would agree that suffering can be the direct result of sin, this is normally not the case. The NT supports the notion that no connection exists between suffering and personal sin; however, we must also remember that sin (Adam’s) is the cause of all current suffering. Furthermore, as Goldingay explains, Psalm 38 (and others) shows a connection appears to exist. I personally acknowledge that a tension exists which we do not fully grasp; I would also claim, most of the time personal suffering is not directly attributed to personal sin. I would also differ to this psalm, arguing that if one were suffering from a personal sin you would know it; when God chastens we know why.

[6] Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 5, pp. 289-292.

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