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Psalm chapter 39

New International Version

1 For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David. I said, 'I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.' 2 So I remained utterly silent, not even saying anything good. But my anguish increased;
3 my heart grew hot within me. While I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: 4 Show me, LORD, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.
6 Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be. 7 But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. 8 Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools. 9 I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this. 10 Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand.
11 When you rebuke and discipline anyone for their sin, you consume their wealth like a moth-- surely everyone is but a breath. 12 Hear my prayer, LORD, listen to my cry for help; do not be deaf to my weeping. I dwell with you as a foreigner, a stranger, as all my ancestors were. 13 Look away from me, that I may enjoy life again before I depart and am no more.'
English Standard Version

1 To the choirmaster: to Jeduthun. A Psalm of David. I said, “I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle, so long as the wicked are in my presence.” 2 I was mute and silent; I held my peace to no avail, and my distress grew worse. 3 My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: 4 “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! 5 Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah 6 Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather! 7 “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. 8 Deliver me from all my transgressions. Do not make me the scorn of the fool! 9 I am mute; I do not open my mouth, for it is you who have done it. 10 Remove your stroke from me; I am spent by the hostility of your hand. 11 When you discipline a man with rebukes for sin, you consume like a moth what is dear to him; surely all mankind is a mere breath! Selah 12 “Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears! For I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers. 13 Look away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more!”
King James Version

1 {To the chief Musician, even to Jeduthun, A Psalm of David.} I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me. 2 I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. 3 My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue, 4 LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. 5 Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. 6 Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.
7 And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee. 8 Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish. 9 I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it. 10 Remove thy stroke away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thine hand. 11 When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah. 12 Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear unto my cry; hold not thy peace at my tears: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were. 13 O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more.
New American Standard Bible

1 I said, 'I will keep watch over my ways So that I do not sin with my tongue; I will keep watch over my mouth as with a muzzle While the wicked are in my presence.' 2 I was mute and silent, I refused to say even something good, And my pain was stirred up. 3 My heart was hot within me, While I was musing the fire burned; Then I spoke with my tongue: 4 'LORD, let me know my end, And what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am. 5 Behold, You have made my days like hand widths, And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; Certainly all mankind standing is a mere breath. Selah 6 Certainly every person walks around as a fleeting shadow; They certainly make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them. 7 'And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You. 8 Save me from all my wrongdoings; Do not make me an object of reproach for the foolish. 9 I have become mute, I do not open my mouth, Because it is You who have done it. 10 Remove Your plague from me; Because of the opposition of Your hand I am perishing. 11 With rebukes You punish a person for wrongdoing; You consume like a moth what is precious to him; Certainly all mankind is mere breath! Selah 12 'Hear my prayer, LORD, and listen to my cry for help; Do not be silent to my tears; For I am a stranger with You, One who lives abroad, like all my fathers. 13 Turn Your eyes away from me, that I may become cheerful again Before I depart and am no more.'
New Living Translation

1 For Jeduthun, the choir director: A psalm of David. I said to myself, 'I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will hold my tongue when the ungodly are around me.' 2 But as I stood there in silence--not even speaking of good things--the turmoil within me grew worse. 3 The more I thought about it, the hotter I got, igniting a fire of words: 4 'LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered--how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.' Interlude
6 We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. 7 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. 8 Rescue me from my rebellion. Do not let fools mock me. 9 I am silent before you; I won't say a word, for my punishment is from you. 10 But please stop striking me! I am exhausted by the blows from your hand.
11 When you discipline us for our sins, you consume like a moth what is precious to us. Each of us is but a breath. Interlude
12 Hear my prayer, O LORD! Listen to my cries for help! Don't ignore my tears. For I am your guest--a traveler passing through, as my ancestors were before me. 13 Leave me alone so I can smile again before I am gone and exist no more.
Christian Standard Bible

1 I said, "I will guard my ways so that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle as long as the wicked are in my presence." 2 I was speechless and quiet; I kept silent, even from speaking good, and my pain intensified. 3 My heart grew hot within me; as I mused, a fire burned. I spoke with my tongue: 4 "Lord, make me aware of my end and the number of my days so that I will know how short-lived I am.
5 In fact, you have made my days just inches long, and my life span is as nothing to you. Yes, every human being stands as only a vapor. Selah
6 Yes, a person goes about like a mere shadow. Indeed, they rush around in vain, gathering possessions without knowing who will get them. 7 "Now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you. 8 Rescue me from all my transgressions; do not make me the taunt of fools. 9 I am speechless; I do not open my mouth because of what you have done. 10 Remove your torment from me. Because of the force of your hand I am finished.
11 You discipline a person with punishment for iniquity, consuming like a moth what is precious to him; yes, every human being is only a vapor. Selah 12 "Hear my prayer, Lord, and listen to my cry for help; do not be silent at my tears. For I am here with you as an alien, a temporary resident like all my ancestors. 13 Turn your angry gaze from me so that I may be cheered up before I die and am gone."

What does Psalm chapter 39 mean?

This psalm features themes related to those seen in Psalm 38. Both mention David's repentance of sin and the consequences brought by God's discipline. The Bible assigns no incident to this passage, but it may be tied to David's sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:7–9).

David begins with a resolution to avoid speaking in the presence of certain evil people. These might have been critics, slanderers, or other enemies. His motive might have been to avoid giving them any further cause for attack. Or David might have worried his anger would cause him to speak inappropriately about the Lord. In either case, his frustration grows. Rather than holding back his feelings, David goes to God in prayer. He asks for a renewed appreciation for his own limitations. His life, and his troubles, are tiny from God's perspective. This attitude helps David place his trust in the Lord, not other people (Psalm 39:1–7).

Next, as in parts of Psalm 38, David expresses remorse for his personal sin (Psalm 38:8, 18). Perhaps the critics he mentioned earlier were provoked by his mistake. Instead of complaining, David seems to take this in stride, recognizing God as the one ultimately responsible for rebuking sin and wrongdoing. He asks to be forgiven and rescued from his stressful situation. David properly notes that he is only passing through this world, with an ultimate destination of eternity. He pleads to be removed from under God's judgment and restored to a condition of joy (Psalm 39:8–13).