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Psalm 39

An EasyEnglish Translation with Notes (about 1200 word vocabulary) on Psalm 39

Gordon Churchyard

Words in boxes are from the Bible. Words in brackets, ( ), are not in the Hebrew Bible.


Jesus said, "Animals have holes and birds have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to sleep". (Matthew 8:20) (the Son of Man is Jesus)

Psalm 39

  (This is) a psalm of David.
It is for Jeduthun, the leader of the music.

v1   I said, I will be careful what I do so that I do not sin.
  I will be careful what...

v2   I say.
  I will shut my mouth when the godless are near me.

v3   I will be like a dumb man and not speak.
  I will not even talk about good things.
  But it hurt me to do this and the pain in my heart grew worse.
  It was like a fire inside me when I thought about it.
  I just had to say something!

v4   O LORD, tell me about my life,
  how long it will be and when it will finish.
  Then I will know how weak I am.

v5   Look, you have made my life just as wide as my hand!
  The length of my life is as nothing to you.
  It is true that the life of everybody is like the wind.   SELAH

v6   People walk about just like shadows.
  They are like the wind.
  They get a lot of money,
  but they do not know who will have it when they die.

v7, v8   Now, what do I hope for, O Lord?
  I am hoping for you to save me from all the bad things that I do!
  Do not put me where fools will laugh at me.

v9   I will not say anything.
  I will not open my mouth, because you have done something!

v10   Do not hit me again.
  Your hand is hurting and destroying me.

v11   You speak angrily to people about sin and you punish them.
  You make all that is pleasant in them fly away like a moth!
  It is true that everyone is like the wind.   SELAH

v12   O LORD, hear my prayer.
  Listen to me when I cry. Do not be dumb to my tears.
  I am an alien to you. I am a stranger, like all my fathers were.

v13   Look away from me.
  Then I will be happy until I live no more and die.

Word list

angrily ~ in an angry way

moth ~ an insect that flies in the night

alien ~ from another country

The story of Psalm 39

In Psalm 38 David was ill. We think that Psalm 39 is about the same time in David’s life. He thought that he would soon die. So he thinks about death in this psalm. He says that life is short. People soon go from the earth. They are like shadows, or the wind. One minute they are there, the next they are gone! So David finishes by with a prayer: let me live a little longer.

What Psalm 39 means

Verses 1 – 3: David says that he is not going to say anything. Even though godless people make him want to speak, he will not. But this makes him feel worse. So David decides that he will say something.

Verses 4 – 6: David asks God how long he will stay alive. He says that his life is "as wide as my hand". A hand is not very wide so this means that his life is not very long. Our lives are so short they seem like the wind blowing for a short time, or a shadow that goes when the sun goes down.

Verses 7 – 9: Now David says what he really wants. He wants God to make him safe from the results of the bad things that he did. David thought that one of the results was his illness.

Verses 10 – 13: Here David says that God is hitting him, hurting him and destroying him. He means that God is punishing him for his sin. David believes that God is doing this by making him ill. "fly away like a moth" means that for a while you can see it, then it flies away and you cannot see it. "do not be dumb" means "speak to me". Until God speaks, David will feel that he and God are in different places! "my fathers" means father, grand-father and so on.


The Bible tells us that 3 men helped David to make music. They were Jeduthun, Heman and Asaph. They told the singers what to do. They all wrote psalms, or somebody wrote psalms for them. Heman’s is Psalm 88, Jeduthun’s is 39 and Asaph’s 50 and 73-83.

Something to do

When you are ill, ask God why. There are several reasons:

  ·   you have sinned and God is punishing you

  ·   God is not punishing you but bad people are hurting you

  ·   it is a result of the sin that is in the world


© 2001, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level A (1200 words)

January 2001

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