Psalm 88

Psalm 88


A Song. A PsalmI of the Korahites.II To the leader:III

Notes on superscript-a

I “Psalm” = mizmor. From zamar (making music; used specially of music to worship God; music with singing, singing praise, singing psalms); may be from zamar (to trim or prune). This is a melody or a psalm.
II “Korahites” = ben + Qorach. Literally, “children of Korah.” Ben is from banah (to build or obtain children). This is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense. Qorach is from qarach (to shave bald, perhaps frozen). This is Korah, perhaps meaning “ice,” “frost,” “hail,” or “baldness.” See
III “leader” = natsach. Properly, something that glitters from a distance. So, something that stands out, excels, has status/standing (such as a chief musician or superintendent of Temple services). This can also mean to be permanent or enduring.

according to MahalathIV Leannoth.V A MaskilVI of HemanVII the Ezrahite.VIII

Notes on superscript-b

IV “Mahalath” = Machalath. 2x in OT. From chalah (to be worn; hence, being weak, sick, or afflicted; to grieve or, positively, to flatter or entreat). This is Mahalath, a part of the superscript of two psalms. It is probably a tune name and may mean “sickness.”
V “Leannoth” = anah. This is to be bowed down. It can refer to a sense of humility or to a sense of being browbeaten, oppressed, afflicted, or depressed. This can be literal or figurative – depressed in mood or circumstance.
VI “Maskil” = maskiyl. 13x in OT. From sakal (to consider or be prudent; to instruct, be an expert; dealing prudently, which implies success and prospering; can mean laying cross-wise). This is maskil or maschil. It is a poem used for instruction.
VII “Heman” = Heman. 17x in OT. From aman (to believe, endure, fulfill, confirm, support, be faithful, put one’s trust in, be steadfast. Figuratively, this is to be firm, steadfast, or faithful, trusting, believing, being permanent, morally solid). This is Heman, a name meaning “faithful.”
VIII “Ezrahite” = Ezrachi. 3x in OT. From zarach (to rise, shine, or dawn; can also describe symptoms of leprosy). This is Ezrahite, one whose ancestor is Zerah. It may mean “born of the native” or “son of dawn” or “sprung up” or “of the family of Zerah.” See

O Lord,IX GodX of my salvation,XI
    when,XII at night,XIII I cry outXIV in your presence,XV

Notes on verse 1

IX “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
X “God” = Elohim.
XI “salvation” = yeshuah. From yasha (to deliver, defend, help, preserve, rescue, be safe. Properly, to be open, wide or free, which implies being safe. Used causatively, it means to free). This is salvation, deliverance, health, victory, prosperity.
XII “when” = yom. Root may mean being hot. This is the day in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean birth, age, daylight, continually or other references to time.
XIII “night” = layil. Properly, this refers to light twisting away. It is used for night or midnight. Figuratively, this can mean adversity.
XIV “cry out” = tsaaq. This is to cry out or call together, to shriek. It can mean, by implication, calling for an assembly.
XV “presence” = neged. From nagad (to declare, make conspicuous, stand in front, manifest, predict, explain). This is in front of, opposite to. It can refer to a counterpart or partner, one corresponding to or in the sight of.

let my prayerXVI comeXVII beforeXVIII you;
    inclineXIX your earXX to my cry.XXI

Notes on verse 2

XVI “prayer” = tephillah. From palal (to judge for oneself or in an official capacity; to pray or make supplication, to entreat). This is prayer or intercession. It can also be a hymn.
XVII “come” = bo. This is to enter, come in, advance, fulfill, bring offerings, enter to worship, attack. It can also have a sexual connotation.
XVIII “before” = paneh. From panah (to turn, face, appear). This is face in a literal or figurative sense. It could be face, presence, anger, respect. It can also be used of God to indicate divine favor or presence.
XIX “incline” = natah. This is to stretch or spread out, to extend, or bend. In can also imply moral deflection.
XX “ear” = ozen. This is ear, hearing, audience, show. Properly, it is broadness – applied to its ear in reference to its shape.
XXI “cry” = rinnah. From ranan (a cry of joy or a joyful song; properly, emitting a shrill sound, especially one of joy). This is a song, shout, cry of joy, or proclamation. It could also be a shout of grief.

For my soulXXII is fullXXIII of troubles,XXIV
    and my lifeXXV draws nearXXVI to Sheol.XXVII

Notes on verse 3

XXII “soul” = nephesh. Related to naphash (to refresh or be refreshed). This is soul, self, person, emotion. It is a breathing creature. Can also refer to appetites and desires.
XXIII “is full” = saba. To be satisfied or full in a literal or figurative sense. Also, to have plenty of.
XXIV “troubles” = ra’. From ra’a’ (to be evil, bad, afflict; properly, to spoil – to destroy by breaking into pieces; figuratively, to cause something to be worthless; this is bad in a physical, social, or moral sense; that which displeases, to do harm or mischief, to punish or vex). This is bad, disagreeable, that which causes pain, misery, something having little or no value, something that is ethically bad, wicked, injury, calamity. This refers to anything that is not what it ought to be – a natural disaster, a disfigurement, an injury, a sin.
XXV “life” = chay. From chayah (to live or keep alive literally or figuratively). This is alive, living, lifetime. It can also be used to describe someone’s age. It can refer to animals, plants, water, or a company or congregation of people. It is life in a very broad sense.
XXVI “draws near” = naga. This is touch, reach, arrive, come near, strike. This is touching for any reason including sexual or violent.
XXVII “Sheol” = Sheol. Perhaps from sha’al (to ask, request). This is the place where the dead go, the grace, the underworld.

I am countedXXVIII among those who go downXXIX to the Pit;XXX
    I amXXXI like thoseXXXII who have no help,XXXIII

Notes on verse 4

XXVIII “counted” = chashab. This is properly to braid or interpenetrate. Literally it is to create or to wear. Figuratively, it can mean plotting – generally in a negative sense. More broadly, this can also mean think, consider, or make account of.
XXIX “go down” = yarad. This is to go down, descend; going down in a literal or figurative sense. It can be going to the shore or a boundary, bringing down an enemy.
XXX “Pit” = bor. From bur (to bore; figuratively, to explain, examine, or clear up). This is a pit – generally a cistern or dungeon. It could also be a well or fountain.
XXXI “am” = hayah. Related to “Lord” in v1. See note IX above.
XXXII “those” = geber. From gabar (to be strong or mighty; to prevail or to be insolent) This is man, warrior, a person generally, or a valiant person.
XXXIII “help” = eyal. 1x in OT. From Aramaic OR related to ayil (strength; things that are strong or powerful: political chiefs, rams, posts, trees, oaks); from the same as ul (mighty, strength, body, belly; root may mean to twist and that implies strength and power). This is help or strength.

like those forsakenXXXIV among the dead,XXXV
    like the slainXXXVI that lieXXXVII in the grave,XXXVIII
like those whom you rememberXXXIX no more,
    for they are cut offXL from your hand.XLI

Notes on verse 5

XXXIV “forsaken” = chophshi. 17x in OT. From chaphash (to be free or loose; figuratively used for freeing slaves). This is free, liberty, or a free person. It can mean exempt from bondage, taxation, or worry.
XXXV “dead” = mut. This is to die in a literal or figurative sense. It can also refer to being a dead body.
XXXVI “slain” = chalal. From chalal (to pierce, to wound; figuratively, making someone or something profane or breaking your word; to begin as though one opened a wedge; to eat something as a common thing). This is to pierce, profane or pollute. It can also refer to slain or deadly.
XXXVII “lie” = shakab. This is to lie down, lodge. It is lying for sleep, sex, or other reasons.
XXXVIII “grave” = qeber. From qabar (to bury). This is a place where one is buried such as a grave or tomb.
XXXIX “remember” = zakar. This is to remember, to mark something so that it can be recalled, to be mindful of, to mention.
XL “cut off” = gazar. 13x in OT. This is to cut or cut down. Used figuratively, it can mean to divide, exclude, decree, or destroy.
XLI “hand” = yad. This is hand, ability, power. Hand in a literal sense, but also what one can do or the means by which one does it.

You have putXLII me in the depthsXLIII of the Pit,
    in the regions darkXLIV and deep.XLV

Notes on verse 6

XLII “put” = shith. This is to place, set, bring, appoint, consider, bring, array or look.
XLIII “depths” = tachti. 19x in OT. From tachat (underneath, below, the bottom, instead of). This is beneath, the depths, foot of a mountain, a pit, the womb.
XLIV “dark” = machshak. 7x in OT. From chashak (to be or become dark). This is darkness or a place that is dark.
XLV “deep” = metsolah. 11x in OT. From the same as tsulah (root may mean to sink; ocean depths, the abyss of the sea). This is depth, bottom, or otherwise somewhere deep that is watery or muddy.

Your wrathXLVI lies heavyXLVII upon me,
    and you overwhelmXLVIII me with allXLIX your waves.L SelahLI

Notes on verse 7

XLVI “wrath” = chemah. From yacham (to be hot, mate; figuratively, to conceive). This is heat – figuratively it can be anger or fury. It can also refer to poison or venom as they can cause fever.
XLVII “lies heavy” = samak. This is to lean, rest, support, brace, uphold, sustain, or establish. It is to lean on in a positive or negative sense.
XLVIII “overwhelm” = anah. Same as “Leannoth” in superscript. See note V above.
XLIX “all” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
L “waves” = mishbar. 5x in OT. From shabar (break, collapse, destroy, break in pieces, tear; bursting in a literal or figurative sense). This is a breaker or wave in the water.
LI “Selah” = Selah. From salal (to lift up, build, pile, extol, exalt; can also be used for opposing as a dam holds back water). This is to lift up or exalt. Also, “selah” in the psalms where its precise meaning is uncertain. It could be a pause in the music, a moment of silence. It could signal a change in the service or mean something akin to amen.

You have caused my companionsLII to shunLIII me;
    you have madeLIV me a thing of horrorLV to them.
I am shut inLVI so that I cannot escape;LVII

Notes on verse 8

LII “companions” = yada. This is to know, acknowledge, advise, answer, be aware, be acquainted with. Properly, this is to figure something out by seeing. It includes ideas of observation, recognition, and care about something. It can be used causatively for instruction, designation, and punishment.
LIII “shun” = rachaq. This is to widen, become distant, cast, or remove. It can be in a literal or figurative sense.
LIV “made” = shith. Same as “put” in v6. See note XLII above.
LV “thing of horror” = toebah. Perhaps from ta’ab (to abhor or morally detest). This is something that instills one with moral contempt or disgust. It can mean abhorrence and is often in reference to idolatry or idols.
LVI “shut in” = kala. 18x in OT. This is to stop in the sense of holding back or restraining. It could be keep, refuse, forbid, or to prohibit by word.
LVII “escape” = yatsa. This is to go or come out, bring forth, appear. It is to go out in a literal or figurative sense.

    my eyeLVIII grows dimLIX through sorrow.LX

EveryLXI dayLXII I callLXIII on you, O Lord;
    I spread outLXIV my handsLXV to you.

Notes on verse 9

LVIII “eye” = ayin. This is eye in a literal or figurative sense so eye, appearance, favor, or a fountain (the eye of the landscape).
LIX “grows dim” = daeb. 3x in OT. This is to languish, grow faint, pine, waste away.
LX “sorrow” = oniy. Related to “Leannoth” in superscript. From anah (see note V above). This is misery, poverty, or affliction.
LXI “every” = kol. Same as “all” in v7. See note XLIX above.
LXII “day” = yom. Same as “when” in v1. See note XII above.
LXIII “call” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.
LXIV “spread out” = shatach. 6x in OT. This is to expand, spread out, scatter.
LXV “hands” = kaph. From kaphaph (to bend – from a root meaning curve or bend down). This is palm of the hand or sole of the foot, footstep, grasp. Figuratively, it can also mean power.

10 Do you workLXVI wondersLXVII for the dead?
    Do the shadesLXVIII rise upLXIX to praiseLXX you? Selah

Notes on verse 10

LXVI “work” = asah. This is to make, do, act, appoint, become in many senses.
LXVII “wonders” = pele. 13x in OT. This is a wonder, marvelous thing, or a miracle.
LXVIII “shades” = rapha. 8x in OT. From raphah (to slacken in a literal or figurative sense. So, it could be to hang, be feeble, fail, drop, be helpless, relax, slink, subside, or wait) OR from rapha (properly, to repair by stitching – figuratively to heal or cure; to make whole). This is ghosts or shades.
LXIX “rise up” = qum. To arise, stand, accomplish, establish, abide. This is rising as in rising against, getting up after being sick or asleep, arising from one state to another, becoming powerful, or rising for action. It can also be standing in a figurative sense.
LXX “praise” = yadah. From yad (hand). This is to throw one’s hands into the air in a gesture of praise. So, it is to praise, give thanks, or make a confession.

11 Is your steadfast loveLXXI declaredLXXII in the grave,
    or your faithfulnessLXXIII in Abaddon?LXXIV

Notes on verse 11

LXXI “steadfast love” = chesed. From chasad (being good, kind, merciful; may mean bowing one’s neck as is done in the presence of an equal for courtesy’s sake; so, if one in a superior position is treating you like an equal, that is what is captured here). This is favor, goodness, kindness, loving kindness, pity, reproach, or a good deed. When done by God to humanity, this is mercy/loving kindness. When done by humanity to God, it is piety.
LXXII “declared” = saphar. From sepher (writing, document, book, evidence). This is properly to tally or record something. It can be enumerate, recount, number, celebrate, or declare.
LXXIII “faithfulness” = emunah. Related to “Heman” in superscript. From aman (see note VII above). This word is literally firmness, but figuratively fidelity, faithfulness, honesty, responsibility, trust, truth, steadfastness. This word shares a root with the word “Amen.”
LXXIV “Abaddon” = Abaddon. 5x in OT. From abad (to wander off, lose self; to perish, destroy, die, vanish, or be broken or corrupt). This is Abaddon – ruin or perishing. It can also refer to the underworld.

12 Are your wonders knownLXXV in the darkness,LXXVI
    or your saving helpLXXVII in the landLXXVIII of forgetfulness?LXXIX

Notes on verse 12

LXXV “known” = yada. Same as “companions” in v8. See note LII above.
LXXVI “darkness” = choshek. Related to “dark” in v6. From chashak (see note XLIV above). This is literal darkness is contrast to light. Figuratively, it can be obscurity, sorrow, misery, blindness, wickedness, destruction, death. It can also be hiding places. Additionally, it can mean judgment, mourning, ignorance, evil, or sin.
LXXVII “saving help” = tsedaqah. From the same as tsedeq (rightness, righteousness, vindication. It is everything that is just or ethical. That which is right in a natural, moral, or legal sense. It also includes just weights (i.e. true weights). Figuratively, this is justice, righteousness, equity – even prosperity). This is righteousness, justice, righteous acts, and moral virtue.
LXXVIII “land” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.
LXXIX “forgetfulness” = neshiyyah. 1x in OT. From nashah (to forget, neglect, remove, deprive). This is forgetfulness or oblivion.

13 But I, O Lord, cry outLXXX to you;
    in the morningLXXXI my prayer comes beforeLXXXII you.

14 O Lord, why do you cast meLXXXIII off?LXXXIV
    Why do you hideLXXXV your faceLXXXVI from me?

Notes on verses 13-14

LXXX “cry out” = shava. This is crying or shouting aloud, generally seeking freedom from some kind of trouble.
LXXXI “morning” = boqer. From baqar (to seek, plow, break forth, admire, care for). This refers to the break of day. So it is dawn, early, morning, or morrow.
LXXXII “comes before” = qadam. Perhaps from qedem (front, formerly, before, east, eternal, everlasting, antiquity). This is to come in front or be in front and so meet, anticipate, confront, receive, or rise. It sometimes means to meet for help.
LXXXIII “me” = nephesh. Same as “soul” in v3. See note XXII above.
LXXXIV “cast…off” = zanach. This is to cast aside, reject, remove, forsake.
LXXXV “hide” = sathar. This is hide, conceal, or be absent. It is hiding because something is covered – used in a literal or figurative sense.
LXXXVI “face” = paneh. Same as “before” in v2. See note XVIII above.

15 WretchedLXXXVII and close to deathLXXXVIII from my youthLXXXIX up,
    I sufferXC your terrors;XCI I am desperate.XCII

Notes on verse 15

LXXXVII “wretched” = ani. Related to “Leannoth” in superscript & “sorrow” in v9. From anah (see note V above). The Hebrew here is pronounced “ani ani,” literally, “afflicted I.”
LXXXVIII “close to death” = gava. This is to breathe out, which implies expire or die.
LXXXIX “youth” = noar. 4x in OT. From the same as naar (child or a servant; a child in their active years so they could be aged anywhere from infancy to adolescence); perhaps from naar (to shake, toss up and down, tumble around). This is youth or childhood.
XC “suffer” = nasa. This is to lift in a broad sense, literally and figuratively. So it could be to carry, take, or arise. It could also be bring forth, advance, accept.
XCI “terrors” = emah. 17x in OT. From the same as ayom (dreadful, frightful, awesome). This is terror, fright, horror, fearsome, idol.
XCII “am desperate” = pun. 1x in OT. Perhaps from puach (to puff, breathe or blow, whether the breath or air; to light a fire, utter, speak, snore, hasten, or scoff). This is to be distracted or desperate. It may also mean perplexed.

16 Your wrathXCIII has sweptXCIV over me;
    your dread assaultsXCV destroyXCVI me.

Notes on verse 16

XCIII “wrath” = charon. From charah (to be displeased, burn with anger, glow, become warn; figuratively a blaze of anger, zeal, or jealousy). This is burning anger, fierceness, or wrathfulness.
XCIV “swept” = abar. This is to pass over or cross over. It is used for transitions, whether literal or figurative. It can also mean to escape, alienate, or fail. This is the root verb from which “Hebrew” is drawn.
XCV “dread assaults” = biuthim. 2x in OT. From baat (to terrify, startle, overwhelm, terrorize, or fall upon). This is terror or alarm.
XCVI “destroy” = tsamat. 15x in OT. This is to destroy, cut off, silence, or vanish. It is to put an end to in a literal or figurative sense.

17 They surroundXCVII me like a floodXCVIII all day long;
    from all sidesXCIX they close inC on me.

18 You have caused friendCI and neighborCII to shun me;
    my companions are in darkness.CIII

Notes on verses 17-18

XCVII “surround” = sabab. This is turning around, going around; to surround, cast, walk, fetch. It is to revolve or border in a literal or figurative sense.
XCVIII “flood” = mayim. This is water, waters, or waterway in a general sense. Figuratively, it can also mean juice, urine, or semen.
XCIX “all sides” = yachad. From yachad (to join, be united). This is a unit, both, altogether, unitedness, alike.
C “close in” = naqaph. 19x in OT. This is to strike, cut down, surround, destroy, corrode, knock together, or enclose. It can be to surround as a guard or like the sea. It can meaning coming to the end of a festival time or enclosing in a net or trap.
CI “friend” = aheb. This is to love, beloved, friend. It is to have affection for sexually or otherwise.
CII “neighbor” = rea. From raah (to associate with). This is the same as neighbor in Leviticus 19:18 “love your neighbor as yourself.” This is friend, companion, fellow, neighbor. It is someone with whom you associate, whether more or less close.
CIII “darkness” = machshak. Same as “dark” in v6. See note XLIV above.

Image credit: “What the Hell?” by Howard Duncan, 2019.

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