Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Psalms 40:12

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Innumerable evils have compassed me about - This part does not comport with the preceding; and either argues a former experience, or must be considered a part of another Psalm, written at a different time, and on another occasion, and, were we to prefix the two first verses of the seventieth Psalm to it we should find it to be a Psalm as complete in itself as that is.

They are more than the hairs of mine head - This could not be said by any person who was exulting in the pardoning mercy of God, as David was at the time he penned the commencement of this Psalm.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

For innumerable evils have compassed me about - Have surrounded me, or have beset me on every side. The evils here referred to, understood as being those which came upon the Messiah, were sorrows that came upon him in consequence of his undertaking to do what could not be done by sacrifices and offerings Psalm 40:6; that is, his undertaking to save men by his own “obedience unto death.” The time referred to here, I apprehend, is that when the full effects of his having assumed the sins of the world to make expiation for them came upon him; when he was about to endure the agonies of Gethsemane and Calvary.

Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me - On this passage, as constituting one of the main objections, and the strongest objection, to the application of the psalm to the Messiah, and on the way in which such objection may be met, see introduction to this psalm (3b).

So that I am not able to look up - This is not the exact idea of the Hebrew word. That is simply, I am not able to see; and it refers to the dimness or failure of sight caused by distress, weakness, or old age. 1 Samuel 3:2; 1 Samuel 4:15; 1 Kings 14:4; compare Psalm 6:7. The idea here is, not that he was unable to look up, but that the calamities which came upon him were so heavy and severe as to make his sight dim, or to deprive him of vision. Either by weeping, or by the mere pressure of suffering, he was so affected as almost to be deprived of the power of seeing.

They are more than the hairs of mine head - That is, the sorrows that come upon me in connection with sin. The idea is that they were innumerable - the hairs of the head, or the sands on the seashore; being employed in the Scriptures to denote what cannot be numbered. See Psalm 69:4. Compare Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:12; Joshua 11:4; 2 Samuel 17:11.

Therefore my heart faileth me - Margin, as in Hebrew: “forsaketh.” The idea is that he sank under these sufferings; he could not sustain them.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The best saints see themselves undone, unless continually preserved by the grace of God. But see the frightful view the psalmist had of sin. This made the discovery of a Redeemer so welcome. In all his reflections upon each step of his life, he discovered something amiss. The sight and sense of our sins in their own colours, must distract us, if we have not at the same time some sight of a Saviour. If Christ has triumphed over our spiritual enemies, then we, through him, shall be more than conquerors. This may encourage all that seek God and love his salvation, to rejoice in him, and to praise him. No griefs nor poverty can render those miserable who fear the Lord. Their God, and all that he has or does, is the ground of their joy. The prayer of faith can unlock his fulness, which is adapted to all their wants. The promises are sure, the moment of fulfilment hastens forward. He who once came in great humility, shall come again in glorious majesty.
Ellen G. White
Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, 662.1

Avoid Negative Thinking—As we are not our own, as we are bought with a price, it is the duty of everyone who professes to be a Christian to keep his thoughts under the control of reason and oblige himself to be cheerful and happy. However bitter may be the cause of his grief, he should cultivate a spirit of rest and quietude in God. The restfulness which is in Christ Jesus, the peace of Christ, how precious, how healing its influence, how soothing to the oppressed soul! However dark his prospects, let him cherish a spirit to hope for good. While nothing is gained by despondency, much is lost. While cheerfulness and a calm resignation and peace will make others happy and healthy, it will be of the greatest benefit to oneself. Sadness and talking of disagreeable things is encouraging the disagreeable scenes, bringing back upon oneself the disagreeable effect. God wants us to forget all these—not look down but up, up!—Letter 1, 1883. 2MCP 662.1

Read in context »