Psalm 6 – “Prayer for Healing”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist begs God to heal him from sickness.

II. Photo
The psalmist calls out to God: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I languish! Heal me, O Lord, for my bones shake with terror!” (v. 3)

III. Select Verses
2-4: O LORD, do not punish me in anger, do not chastise me in fury. Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I languish; heal me, O LORD, for my bones shake with terror. My whole being is stricken with terror, while You, LORD — O, how long!
6: For there is no praise of You among the dead; in Sheol, who can acclaim You?
7-8: I am weary with groaning; every night I drench my bed, I melt my couch in tears. My eyes are wasted by vexation, worn out because of all my foes.
10: The LORD heeds my plea, the LORD accepts my prayer.
11: All my enemies will be frustrated and stricken with terror; they will turn back in an instant, frustrated.

IV. Outline
1. Superscription
2-6. Invocations and petition for health
7-8. Complaint about enemies
9-11. Affirmation of confidence; Imprecation of enemies

V. Comment
Psalm 6 belongs to the genre that scholars call the Complaint/Petition of the Individual. This genre, which will be described in the days to come, often contains an imprecation against the author’s enemeis (e.g. Pss 35:4-8, 19, 25-26; 69:23-29; 109:6-20, 7-29). Our psalm is no exception, and verses 9-11 read as follows: “Away from me, all you evildoers, for the LORD heeds the sound of my weeping. The LORD heeds my plea, the LORD accepts my prayer. All my enemies will be frustrated and stricken with terror; they will turn back in an instant, frustrated.”

Who were these enemies and what were they like? Gerstenberger points to two types of enemies in the Psalms, those who come from “without” and those who come from “within.” He writes: “Research on group life has shown that any human aggregation of some inner coherence soon tries to define a boundary around itself, in terms of which it distinguishes in-group and out-group affairs and values, usually viewing outsiders as enemies and devils. This division of the world into friend and foe seems to be recognizable in psalms that stem from small-group relations. The defense mechanism of the primary, or natural, group work against all those outsiders identified as dangerous and hostile (Psalms 109 and 120). The same tendency becomes even more apparent in secondary organizations of larger-scale society, whether tribe, tribal alliance, or nation… All rituals of petition, thanksgiving, and praise, to be sure, betray an attempt to seek group survival and group dominance over foreign bands.

“Israelite theologians became increasingly aware, however, that there were also dangerous internal rifts. Even small-group complaints lament over friends who turn away from the suffering individual, thus betraying their duty to live in solidarity with one another (Pss  35:11-16; 55:13-15). Later in Israelite history we witness the development of a class society. Because of its centralized economic and military interests, the monarchy gave rise to a feudalism that ruthlessly exploited the small landowners and the agrarian and urban proletariat (cf. Amos 2:6-8; 5:11-12; Isa 5:8-10). The new stratification of society into rich and poor persisted through the exilic age (Neh 5:1-13) and is clearly reflected in many psalms (e.g., Psalms 12; 37; 49). In other words, Old Testament theologians were well aware of class distinctions and class interests within Israel herself. The enemy and the evil one were not simply to be located outside the chosen people. Psalmists frequently formulate stringent verdicts against oppressors within their own ethnic ranks (1 Sam 2:3-8; Psalm 10).” (31)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Craigie, Peter C. “Psalms 1-50” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 19 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1983).
Gerstenberger, Erhard S. “Psalms Part 1 with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” Forms of Old Testament Literature (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1988).
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