The Unkind Friend

Psalm 41

An EasyEnglish Translation with Notes (about 1200 word vocabulary) on Psalm 41

Gordon Churchyard

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


Jesus said, "The Bible says that this will happen: the man that eats food with me will lift up his heel against me". (John 13:18) (We explain "lift up his heel" in "What Psalm 41 means")

Psalm 41

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

v1   Anyone that is kind to the poor will be very happy.
  The LORD will help him when life is difficult.

v2   The LORD will make him safe and keep him alive.
  He will be happy where he lives.
  (The LORD) will not give him to his enemies (for them)
  to do what they want to do (with him).

v3   The LORD will be like a nurse to him when he is ill in bed.
  Every time that he is ill you will make him well again.

v4   I said, "LORD, have mercy on me.
  Heal me, even though I have broken your rules".

v5   My enemies say bad things about me.
  (They say) "When will he die?
  When will people forget his name?"

v6   And if one (of them) comes to see me, he tells lies.
  He fills his mind with bad things to say about me.
  Then he goes out and tells (everyone).

v7   All the people that hate me whisper to each other about me.
  They hope that worse things will happen to me.

v8   (They say that) "someone put a death-wish on him,
  so he will never get up from his bed".

v9   Even my best friend has lifted up his heel against me.
  He was someone that I trusted,
  someone that I often ate food with (in my home).

v10   But you, LORD, have mercy on me.
  Raise me up so that I can repay them.

v11   I know that you are pleased with me
  because my enemy does not shout over me (that he has won).

v12   You will help me because I am honest.
  You will always keep me near to you.

v13   Say good things about the LORD.
  He always was the God of Israel and he always will be!
  Amen and amen!

Word list

the poor ~ the people that are poor, weak, ill or have no help

have mercy ~ be kind and excuse when you donít have to excuse

heal ~ give health to; make well again

whisper ~ talk ,but not aloud

death-wish ~ hope that he will die

heel ~ back part of foot

repay ~ .pay back

amen ~ it is true; we agree

The Story of Psalm 41

David was ill. He tells us this in verse 4. He says it is because he had broken Godís rules. We think that this was when he sent Uriah to die, so that he might marry Uriahís wife. The story is in 2 Samuel 11:6-17.

When David was ill, many people came to visit him. David thought that they were his friends. They were not. They were looking for bad things to say about David. They wanted him to die so that there would be a new king. The new king would be Absalom, one of Davidís sons. You will find the story in 2 Samuel 15-18.

One of Davidís visitors was his best friend. This is in verse 9. We do not know who the "best friend" was, but we do know that he was an unkind friend. Like the other visitors, he only came to find bad things to say about David.

Jesus repeated verse 9 just before he died. Our translation is from the Hebrew Bible. This is the Bible that the Jews still use. But 200 years before Jesus came to the earth they made another translation. It was in Greek. This was the Bible Jesus used in John 13:18. That is why the words are not the same. The unkind friend that Jesus had was Judas.

But there was also a good visitor. It was the LORD God. The psalm makes him sound like a nurse that made David well again. This was the Jewsí way of saying that God helped David.

What Psalm 41 means

Study Psalm 41 in 5 parts:

Verses 1 - 3a: What the LORD will do for people that are kind to the poor. (3a means the first part of verse 3.)

Verses 3b Ė 4: David prays to the LORD. David thinks that God will do these things for him because David is kind to the poor and ill.

Verses 5 Ė 9: David writes about his unkind friends.

Verses 10 Ė 12: David finishes his prayer.

Verse 13: Words put in by the people that made the Book of Psalms. The words finish the First Book of Psalms, numbers 1 - 41.

Verse 1: "when life is difficult" is "in the day of trouble" in Hebrew.

Verse 2: "where he lives" is "on the earth" in Hebrew.

Verse 3: This is "you will change all his bed when he is ill" in Hebrew. We have put what we think that it means.

Verse 4: "have mercy" is an English way to say "do not hurt me even though you ought to hurt me".

Verse 5: "people forget his name" probably means "his family all die so that nobody remembers them".

Verse 7: "worse things happen to me" means "that I will not only be ill but die".

Verse 8: "death-wish" in Hebrew is "Belial". This is a name for the Devil, Godís enemy. David knew, as we know, that nobody can put a death-wish on people that obey God.

Verse 9: "lifted up his heel" is how the Jews said "was very unkind to me", or "kicked me".

Verse 10: As David was king it was his job to repay them, or hurt them, because they were bad.

Something to do

1.  Read the story of Absalom in 2 Samuel 15-18.

2.  Help the poor when you meet them. If you have nothing to give them then pray for them.


© 2001, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

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

January 2001

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