What does Psalm 38:4 mean?
ESV: For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
NIV: My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.
NASB: For my guilty deeds have gone over my head; Like a heavy burden they weigh too much for me.
CSB: For my iniquities have flooded over my head; they are a burden too heavy for me to bear.
NLT: My guilt overwhelms me — it is a burden too heavy to bear.
KJV: For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
NKJV: For my iniquities have gone over my head; Like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.
Verse Commentary:
Sinless perfection is not something we can attain in this life. A true believer may still sin, but when they do so, that experience will come with conviction and God's correction. In that spirit, David laments his sinning (Psalm 38:18). He feels the shame and guilt of his sin such that it seems overwhelming.

When a believer sins, the Holy Spirit convicts, and the sinner should feel a certain burden as a result. As David did, the repentant believer can long to have the Lord lift that weight. Fortunately, Jesus lifts the crushing pressure of shame and guilt and gives peace to anyone who comes to Him in faith. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus says: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Writing prophetically about Jesus' crucifixion for our sin, Isaiah portrays iniquity being laid on the Messiah, Jesus. He writes "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6).
Verse Context:
Psalm 38:1–8 resembles Psalm 32:3–4. In both passages, David describes pain he experiences because of his sin. He recognizes here that his physical suffering has come because of his immoral action. He sees the pain as part of the Lord's disciplining of him. In the moment, his situation seems too much to bear, making him miserable. It's possible Psalm 38 was written in response to David's sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:7–9).
Chapter Summary:
David cries out to God in repentance for his sin. He feels the weight of shame and conviction, as if being pierced by arrows, ravaged by disease, crushed, and blinded. His friends have abandoned him; his enemies plot his demise. All of these have been brought about because of his "iniquity." Throughout this misery, David does not abandon hope. Instead, he confidently calls on the Lord to forgive and rescue him.
Chapter Context:
Psalm 38 and Psalm 32 are similar. They both express David's deep sense of guilt, his contrition, and his confession. Both psalms refer to the ill effect David's sins exerted on his physical condition. Psalm 38's descriptions seem mostly symbolic, but his anguish is very literal. Likely, the sins in question were adultery with Bathsheba and the arranged murder of her husband (2 Samuel 12:7–9). If so, these themes connect directly to Psalm 51. David asks God to forgive him and heal him.
Book Summary:
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context.
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