Psalm 119:81-88 CAPH - Gleanings from Historical Commentaries                                         Collected by Jack Kettler


Psalm 119:81-88 introductory observations from The Treasury of David:


“This portion of the gigantic Psalm sees the Psalmist in extremis. His enemies have brought him to the lowest condition of anguish and depression; yet he is faithful to the law and trustful in his God. This octave is the midnight of the Psalm, and very dark and black it is. Stars, however, shine out, and the last verse gives promise of the dawn. The strain will after this become more cheerful; but meanwhile it should minister comfort to us to see so eminent a servant of God so hardly used by the ungodly: evidently in our own persecutions, no strange thing has happened unto us.” (1)


81 My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word.


From Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible:


“CAPH.--The Eleventh Part.


CAPH. My soul fainteth for thy salvation, Either for temporal salvation and deliverance from enemies; which, being promised, was expected by him from the Lord; but not coming so soon as looked for, his spirits began to sink and faint: or for spiritual and eternal salvation, for a view of interest in it, for the joys and comforts of it, and for the full possession of is in heaven; and, particularly, for the promised Messiah, the author of it, often called the Salvation of God, because prepared and appointed by him to be the author of it: of him there was a promise, which gave the Old Testament saints reason to expect him, and for him they waited; his coming they earnestly wished for, but being long deferred, were sometimes out of heart, and ready to faint, which was here David's case;


but I hope in thy word; the word of promise concerning deliverance and salvation, especially by the Messiah, which supported him, and kept him from fainting; that being firm and sure, for ever settled in heaven, and has the oath of God annexed to it, for the confirmation of it; and God is faithful that has promised, and is also able to perform; so that his word lays a solid foundation for faith and hope.” (2)


Gleanings from Strong's Lexicon:

My soul

נַפְשִׁ֑י (nap̄·šî)

Noun - feminine singular construct | first person common singular

Strong's Hebrew 5315: 1) soul, self, life, creature, person, appetite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion 1a) that which breathes, the breathing substance or being, soul, the inner being of man 1b) living being 1c) living being (with life in the blood) 1d) the man himself, self, person or individual 1e) seat of the appetites 1f) seat of emotions and passions 1g) activity of mind 1g1) dubious 1h) activity of the will 1h1) dubious 1i) activity of the character 1i1) dubious


Cross-References for verse 81: Psalm 73:26; Psalm 84:2; Psalm 119:43; Psalm 119:166; Psalm 130:5


82 Mine eyes fail for thy word, saying, When wilt thou comfort me?


From The Pulpit Commentary:


“Verse 82. - Mine eyes fail for thy Word. Yet even here his "eyes fail" - he has looked so long for the aid promised, and it has not come. Saying, When wilt thou comfort me? "Lord, how long?" is the constant cry of God's servants under affliction or persecution. When will relief come and the tyranny be overpast?” (3)


Gleanings from Strong's Lexicon:

Looking for Your promise,

לְאִמְרָתֶ֑ךָ (lə·’im·rā·ṯe·ḵā)

Preposition-l | Noun - feminine singular construct | second person masculine singular

Strong's Hebrew 565: 1) utterance, speech, word 1a) word of God, the Torah


Cross-References for verse 82: Psalm 69:3; Psalm 119:123; Isaiah 38:14; Lamentations 2:11


83 For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes.


From Barnes' Notes on the Bible:


“For I am become like a bottle in the smoke - Bottles in the East were commonly made of skins. See the notes at Matthew 9:17. Such “bottles,” hanging in tents where the smoke had little opportunity to escape, would, of course, become dark and dingy, and would thus be emblems of distress, discomfort, and sorrow. The meaning here is, that, by affliction and sorrow, the psalmist had been reduced to a state which would be well represented by such a bottle. A somewhat similar idea occurs in Psalm 22:15: “My strength is dried up like a potsherd.” See the notes at that place.


Yet do I not forget thy statutes - Compare the notes at Psalm 119:51. Though thus deeply afflicted, though without comfort or peace, yet I do, I will, maintain allegiance to thee and thy law. The doctrine is that distress, poverty, sorrow, penury, and rags - the most abject circumstances of life - will not turn away a true child of God from obeying and serving him. True religion will abide all these tests. Lazarus from the deepest poverty - from beggary - from undressed sores - went up to Abraham's bosom.” (4)


Gleanings from Strong's Lexicon:

Your statutes.

חֻ֝קֶּ֗יךָ (ḥuq·qe·ḵā)

Noun - masculine plural construct | second person masculine singular

Strong's Hebrew 2706: 1) statute, ordinance, limit, something prescribed, due 1a) prescribed task 1b) prescribed portion 1c) action prescribed (for oneself), resolve 1d) prescribed due 1e) prescribed limit, boundary 1f) enactment, decree, ordinance 1f1) specific decree 1f2) law in general 1g) enactments, statutes 1g1) conditions 1g2) enactments 1g3) decrees 1g4) civil enactments prescribed by God


Cross-References for verse 83: Job 30:30; Psalm 18:22; Psalm 44:17; Psalm 119:61; Psalm 119:93


84 How many are the days of thy servant? When wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me?


From Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:


“84-87. The shortness of my life requires that the relief afforded to me from mine enemies should be speedy.” (5)


Gleanings from Strong's Lexicon:


מִשְׁפָּֽט׃ (miš·pāṭ)

Noun - masculine singular

Strong's Hebrew 4941: 1) judgment, justice, ordinance 1a) judgment 1a1) act of deciding a case 1a2) place, court, seat of judgment 1a3) process, procedure, litigation (before judges) 1a4) case, cause (presented for judgment) 1a5) sentence, decision (of judgment) 1a6) execution (of judgment) 1a7) time (of judgment) 1b) justice, right, rectitude (attributes of God or man) 1c) ordinance 1d) decision (in law) 1e) right, privilege, due (legal) 1f) proper, fitting, measure, fitness, custom, manner, plan


Cross-References for verse 84: Revelation 6:10; Psalm 39:4; Psalm 119:134


85 The proud have digged pits for me, which are not after thy law.


From Matthew Poole's Commentary:


“Have digged pits for me; have sought to destroy me by deceit and treachery, as well as by violence.


Which; either,

1. Which men have no respect to thy law, which forbids such things. Or rather,

2. Which thing, to wit, to dig pits for me, an innocent and just man, is not agreeable to thy law, but directly contrary to it.” (6)


Gleanings from Strong's Lexicon:

Your law.

כְתוֹרָתֶֽךָ׃ (ḵə·ṯō·w·rā·ṯe·ḵā)

Preposition-k | Noun - feminine singular construct | second person masculine singular

Strong's Hebrew 8451: 1) law, direction, instruction 1a) instruction, direction (human or divine) 1a1) body of prophetic teaching 1a2) instruction in Messianic age 1a3) body of priestly direction or instruction 1a4) body of legal directives 1b) law 1b1) law of the burnt offering 1b2) of special law, codes of law 1c) custom, manner 1d) the Deuteronomic or Mosaic Law


Cross-References for verse 85: Psalm 7:15; Psalm 35:7; Psalm 57:6; Jeremiah 18:22


86 All thy commandments are faithful: they persecute me wrongfully; help thou me.


From John Calvin:


“85 The proud have digged pits for me. He complains that he had been circumvented by the frauds and artifices of his enemies; as if he had said, they have not only endeavored to injure me by open force and the violence of the sword, but have also maliciously sought to destroy me by snares and secret arts. The additional clause, which thing is not according to thy Law, is introduced as an argument, to excite God to exercise his mercy; for he is the more inclined to succor his servants, when he sees that the attempts made upon their welfare involve the violation of his own Law. At the same time, the Psalmist furnishes a proof of his own innocence, intimating that he had deserved no such treatment at their hands, and that whatever they practiced, he, notwithstanding, patiently kept himself under restraint; not attempting anything which he knew to be contrary to the Divine Law.” (7)


Gleanings from Strong's Lexicon:

Your commandments

מִצְוֺתֶ֥יךָ (miṣ·wō·ṯe·ḵā)

Noun - feminine plural construct | second person masculine singular

Strong's Hebrew 4687: 1) commandment 1a) commandment (of man) 1b) the commandment (of God) 1c) commandment (of code of wisdom)


Cross-References for verse 85: Psalm 35:19; Psalm 109:26; Psalm 119:78; Psalm 119:138; Psalm 119:157; Psalm 119:161


87 They had almost consumed me upon earth; but I forsook not thy precepts.


From Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament:


“The eightfold Kaph. This strengthening according to God's promise is his earnest desire (כּלה) now, when within a very little his enemies have compassed his ruin (כּלּה). His soul and eyes languish (כּלה as in Psalm 69:4; Psalm 84:3, cf. Job 19:27) for God's salvation, that it may be unto him according to God's word or promise, that this word may be fulfilled. In Psalm 119:83 כּי is hypothetical, as in Psalm 21:12 and frequently; here, as perhaps also in Psalm 27:10, in the sense of “although” (Ew.֗362, b). He does not suffer anything to drive God's word out of his mind, although he is already become like a leathern bottle blackened and shrivelled up in the smoke. The custom of the ancients of placing jars with wine over the smoke in order to make the wine prematurely old, i.e., to mellow it (vid., Rosenmller), does not yield anything towards the understanding of this passage: the skin-bottle that is not intended for present use is hung up on high; and the fact that it had to withstand the upward ascending smoke is intelligible, notwithstanding the absence of any mention of the chimney. The point of comparison, in which we agree for the most part with Hitzig, is the removal of him who in his dungeon is continually exposed to the drudgery of his persecutors. כּמּה in Psalm 119:84 is equivalent to “how few.” Our life here below is short, so also is the period within which the divine righteousness can reveal itself. שׁיחות (instead of which the lxx erroneously reads שׂיחות), pits, is an old word, Psalm 57:7. The relative clause, Psalm 119:85, describes the “proud” as being a contradiction to the revealed law; for there was no necessity for saying that to dig a pit for others is not in accordance with this law. All God's commandments are an emanation of His faithfulness, and therefore too demand faithfulness; but it is just this faithfulness that makes the poet an object of deadly hatred. They have already almost destroyed him “in the land.” It is generally rendered “on earth;” but “in heaven” at the beginning of the following octonary is too far removed to be an antithesis to it, nor does it sound like one (cf. on the other hand ἐν τοῖς ouranoi's, Matthew 5:12). It is therefore: in the land (cf. Psalm 58:3; Psalm 73:9), where they think they are the only ones who have any right there, they have almost destroyed him, without shaking the constancy of his faith. But he stands in need of fresh grace in order that he may not, however, at last succumb.” (8)


Gleanings from Strong's Lexicon:

Your precepts.

פִקֻּודֶֽיךָ׃ (p̄iq·qu·w·ḏe·ḵā)

Noun - masculine plural construct | second person masculine singular

Strong's Hebrew 6490: 1) precept, statute


Cross-References for verse 87: Psalm 119:88; Proverbs 4:2; Isaiah 58:2


88 Quicken me after thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth.


From Matthew Poole's Commentary:


“Heb. and I will keep. I will testify my gratitude to thee by my obedience.” (9)


Gleanings from Strong's Lexicon:

And I will obey

וְ֝אֶשְׁמְרָ֗ה (wə·’eš·mə·rāh)

Conjunctive waw | Verb - Qal - Conjunctive imperfect Cohortative - first person common singular

Strong's Hebrew 8104: 1) to keep, guard, observe, give heed 1a) (Qal) 1a1) to keep, have charge of 1a2) to keep, guard, keep watch and ward, protect, save life 1a2a) watch, watchman (participle) 1a3) to watch for, wait for 1a4) to watch, observe 1a5) to keep, retain, treasure up (in memory) 1a6) to keep (within bounds), restrain 1a7) to observe, celebrate, keep (sabbath or covenant or commands), perform (vow) 1a8) to keep, preserve, protect 1a9) to keep, reserve 1b) (Niphal) 1b1) to be on one's guard, take heed, take care, beware 1b2) to keep oneself, refrain, abstain 1b3) to be kept, be guarded 1c) (Piel) to keep, pay heed 1d) (Hithpael) to keep oneself from


Cross-References for verse 88: Psalm 119:87; Psalm 119:89; Psalm 119:124



Concluding summary from Matthew Henry’s Bible Concise Commentary Psalm 119:81-88:


“119:81-88 The psalmist sought deliverance from his sins, his foes, and his fears. Hope deferred made him faint; his eyes failed by looking out for this expected salvation. But when the eyes fail, yet faith must not. His affliction was great. He was become like a leathern bottle, which, if hung up in the smoke, is dried and shrivelled up. We must ever be mindful of God's statutes. The days of the believer's mourning shall be ended; they are but for a moment, compared with eternal happiness. His enemies used craft as well as power for his ruin, in contempt of the law of God. The commandments of God are true and faithful guides in the path of peace and safety. We may best expect help from God when, like our Master, we do well and suffer for it. Wicked men may almost consume the believer upon earth, but he would sooner forsake all than forsake the word of the Lord. We should depend upon the grace of God for strength to do every good work. The surest token of God's good-will toward us, is his good work in us.” (10)


Notes on Psalm 119:81-88 CAPH:

  1. C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. II, (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson), p. 304.

2.      John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Psalms, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 1406.

3.      H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Psalms, Vol.8., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 108.

4.      Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Psalms, Vol. 5 p.1825-1826.

5.      Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 451.

  1. Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, vol. 2, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 187.

7.      John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries, Psalms, Volume VI, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), pp. 465-466.

8.      Keil-Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Psalms, vol. 5, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted 1985), p. 253-254.

9.      Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, vol. 2, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 187.

  1. Matthew Henry, Concise Commentary, Psalms, (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson), p. 960.


Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: