This psalm contains very grievous lamentations, poured forth by its inspired penman when under very severe affliction, and almost at the point of despair. But he, at the same time, whilst struggling with sorrow, declares the invincible steadfastness of his faith; which he displayed in calling upon God to deliver him, even when he was in the, deep darkness of death.
A Song or Psalm of the sons of Korah. To the chief musician upon Machalath, to make humble. An instruction of Heman, the Ezrahite.
Heman, whose name appears in the inscription, is probably the same person who is mentioned in sacred history, 1 Kings 4:31, where Solomon, when commended for his wisdom, is compared with Ethan, Heman, Chalcol, and Darda. It is, therefore, not surprising that a man, so highly distinguished by the spirit of wisdom, was the author of this psalm. Some translate l-mhlt, al-machalath, upon infirmity; but it is probable, according to the ordinary use of the word, that it denotes either some instrument of music, or the beginning of some song. Of the other words I have already sufficiently spoken elsewhere. Moreover, it is of importance to bear in mind, that in the person of one man there is presented to our view an example at once of rare affliction and of singular patience. God, in so sorely exercising Heman, whom he had adorned with such excellent gifts to be an example to others, did not do this for the sake of his servant only. His object was to present common matter of instruction to all his people. Carrying out this object, Heman ascending, as it were, an elevated stage, testifies to the whole Church his infirmities as well as his faith and constancy. It greatly concerns us to look upon such a distinguished servant of God, and one who was so eminently adorned with the graces of the Holy Spirit, thus overwhelmed with so heavy a burden of afflictions as made him mournfully complain that he differed nothing from a dead man, -- it greatly concerns us, I say, to look on this spectacle, that our distresses, however grievous, may not overwhelm us with despair; or if we should at times be ready to faint through weariness, care, grief, sorrow, or fear, that we may not on that account despond, especially when we see that it is not without the highest effort that the holy prophet emerges from this profound darkness into the cheering light of hope. We should rather rest assured that the Spirit of God, by the mouth of Heman, has here furnished us with a form of prayer for encouraging all the afflicted who are, as it were, on the brink of despair to come to himself.