Psalm 6

Psalm 6[a]

Evening Prayer for God’s Mercy

1 For the director.[b] With stringed instruments. “Upon the eighth.” A psalm of David.

2 O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger
or punish me in your wrath.
3 Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am tottering;
help me, O Lord, for my body is in agony.[c]
4 My soul[d] is also filled with anguish.
But you, O Lord—how long?
5 Turn, O Lord, and deliver my soul;
save me because of your kindness.[e]
6 For among the dead who remembers you?
In the netherworld who sings your praises?[f]
7 I am exhausted from my sighing;
every night I flood my bed with my tears,
and I soak my couch with my weeping.
8 My eyes grow dim because of my grief;
they are worn out[g] because of all my foes.
9 Depart from me, all you evildoers,[h]
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
10 The Lord has listened to my pleas;
the Lord has accepted my prayer.
11 All my enemies will be shamed and terrified;
they will flee in utter confusion.[i]


  1. Psalm 6:1 This is the first of the so-called Penitential Psalms (6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143), a designation for psalms suitable for expressing repentance that goes back to the sixth century A.D. In affliction, the psalmist invokes the divine mercy, begs to be saved from death, confesses his wretchedness, and expresses faith in his own deliverance and his enemies’ total abasement.
  2. Psalm 6:1 For the director: these words are thought to be a musical or liturgical notation. Upon the eighth: probably a musical term referring to an eight-stringed instrument.
  3. Psalm 6:3 Body is in agony: literally, “bones are shaken.”
  4. Psalm 6:4 Soul: the Hebrew word, nephesh, usually means a person’s life-giving breath, which disappears at death. It is thus applied to a person’s very self as a living, conscious being (“my soul” equals “myself”). How long?: elliptical formula used in psalms of lamentation both in Babylonia and in Israel (see Pss 74:10; 80:5; 90:13; 94:3) to express anxiety over the divine aid that is late in coming.
  5. Psalm 6:5 Kindness: Hebrew, hesed, which may also be translated as “mercy” and refers to all that God promised to give to his people (see Deut 7:9, 12) through the Davidic dynasty (see Ps 89:25, 29, 34; 2 Sam 7:15; Isa 55:3). See also note on Ps 5:8.
  6. Psalm 6:6 The psalmist offers a motive for God to save him from death: it is the living who praise him. The netherworld was viewed as the place where the souls of the dead had a kind of shadowy existence, with no activity or lofty emotion. Just what that existence entailed at any given Old Testament period is difficult to gauge until the second century B.C. It is then that the sacred Books begin to speak more clearly about life after death (see Wis 3; Dan 12:1-3).
  7. Psalm 6:8 Eyes grow dim . . . worn out: a sign of failing strength (see Ps 38:11; 1 Sam 14:27, 29; Jer 14:6) or sorrow in affliction (see Pss 31:10; 88:10; Job 17:7; Lam 2:11) or dashed hopes (see Pss 69:4; 119:82, 123; Deut 28:32; Isa 38:14).
  8. Psalm 6:9 This apostrophe (taken up in Mt 7:23) has been prepared for by the end of verse 8. The enemies of the sick person, like the friends of Job, see in his trials a heavenly chastisement for hidden faults; they insult him and accuse him unjustly—a theme that is more developed elsewhere (see Pss 31; 35; 38; 69).
  9. Psalm 6:11 See notes on Pss 5:11; 35.

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