What does Psalm 38:5 mean?
ESV: My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness,
NIV: My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.
NASB: My wounds grow foul and fester Because of my foolishness.
CSB: My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness.
NLT: My wounds fester and stink because of my foolish sins.
KJV: My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness.
NKJV: My wounds are foul and festering Because of my foolishness.
Verse Commentary:
Scripture does not indicate that all sickness or hardship are the direct result of personal sin. In fact, it's often the opposite—earthly struggles can have no connection to our moral choices, at all (John 9:1–3). Then again, there are times when sin brings natural consequences, along with the convicting pressure of the Holy Spirit. In this case, David realizes his physical distress resulted from his foolishness. He was wrong to disobey God (Psalm 38:1, 18). While not specified, it's possible this psalm refers to his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:7–9).

Acts of sin may seem attractive at first, but they are foolish. The sinner will eventually come to realize how unwise such choices are. David initially thought he'd concocted a smart plan to cover his sin, but he was soon reminded that his plot simply multiplied the evil he'd done (2 Samuel 11—12).

That David experienced literal, physical sores like the ones depicted here is unlikely; his references in this psalm seem to be metaphors (Psalm 38:2). Scripture often uses the analogy of sores to convey the ugliness of sin. Addressing Judah as a sinful nation, Isaiah 1:5–6 says, "Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the who heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil." As David found out, the effects of sin are not pretty. They are ugly, and they hurt. Natural consequences and the Holy Spirit's conviction are a potent combination.
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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