Down Among The Dead Men

Psalm 88

An EasyEnglish Translation with Notes (about 1200 word vocabulary) on Psalm 88

Gordon Churchyard

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.

The translated Bible text has yet to go through Advanced Checking.


Jesus went into a town called Nain. Many of his *disciples and a lot of people went with him. Now when he came near to the gate of the town, he saw a dead man. They were carrying him out. His mother was a *widow and the dead man was her only son. A big crowd of people from the town was with her. And when the Lord (Jesus) saw her, he was very sorry for her. He said to her, "Do not weep". And he came and touched the *coffin. The men carrying it stood *still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, get up”. And the dead man got up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him to his mother. And everybody was afraid. They said that God was really great and that a *prophet had come among them. And (they said) that God had visited his people. (Luke 7:11-16)

Psalm 88

  (This) song (is a) psalm for the sons of *Korah.
The music leader (must use music called) "*mahalath leannoth".
(It is) a *maskil by Heman the Ezrahite.

v1   *LORD, (you are) the God that makes me safe.
  I always cry to you in the day and at night for help.

v2   I want you to hear the words that I am praying.
  Listen to my *cry for help!

v3   Because I have a lot of trouble
  and my life is coming near to *Sheol.

v4   (People) say that I am among those that are going to the *Pit.
  I am *like a strong man that has become weak (and ill).

v5   I am almost with those that are already dead.
  (I am) *like dead people lying in their *graves.
  You do not remember them any more
  and you cannot give them help where they are.

v6   You are putting me in the lowest *Pit,
  in a very dark and deep place.

v7   You are very angry with me.
  You are like a heavy sea,
  pouring all over me and knocking me down.

v8   You have taken my best friends away from me.
  You have made me seem very bad to them.
  The place that I am in is *like a prison that I cannot leave.

v9   My eyes are weak because I am so sad.
  *LORD, every day I pray to you.
  I lift my hands up to you (while I pray).

v10   Do you do *miracles for people that are dead?
  Do dead people get up and say that you are great?

v11   Do people talk about your kind love in the *grave?
  (Do they say) in *Abaddon that you continue to be good to people?

v12   Do they know about your *miracles in dark places.
  (Do they know about) the good things that you do
  in the land where people forget (everything).

v13   But *LORD, I cry to you for help.
  Every morning I pray to you.

v14   *LORD, why are you throwing me away?
  Why do you hide your face from me?

v15   I have been ill and near to death since I was young.
  You have let bad things happen to me
  and I do not know what to do.

v16   Your *fury pours over me.
  You are attacking me and destroying me!

v17   (The things that you do), they are all round me *like a *flood.
  They are on every side of me.

v18   You have taken away from me my friends
  and the people that love me.
  My only friend is *darkness.

The Story of Psalm 88

This is a psalm by someone that was ill since he was a child. It may have been Heman himself, or someone that Heman knew. It is the saddest of the psalms. He prays, but God does not seem to listen. So he feels that he is already in *Sheol. *Sheol was a dark place under the ground. The *Jews believed that people went there when they died. The worst bit of *Sheol was the *Pit. People that went there never came out. But nowhere does the psalm say that the writer had done something very wrong. Yet God was attacking him, doing very bad things to him. Why? God gives no reason. Yet Heman still says "every morning I pray to you", verse 13. That is what the psalm teaches us. If things get bad … pray to God every morning!

What Psalm 88 means

In verses 7, 16 and 17, Heman writes about water. His trouble is *like the sea. It is heavy and pours over him. It is all round him *like a *flood. It makes him feel that he cannot move. It was *like being in a prison, verse 8, and he cannot get out. We do not know what the prison was. Maybe he was so ill that he could not move. Maybe people put him in a place where they could not see him. This was because he looked so bad. His friends and the people that loved him did not want to look at him, verses 8, 18. He made them feel sick!

Maybe the prison in verse 8 is *Sheol itself. He is "near to *Sheol", verse 3, which means "almost dead", verse 5. There is nothing that he can do, only pray: and God does not answer! He sends no help. Heman asks if God does *miracles for the people in *Sheol. The answer then was "No!" But the story from Luke’s *Gospel at the top of the psalm says that for Christians the answer may be "Yes". Jesus made the *widow’s son alive again! He came back from *Sheol. But this is not usual. We must make sure that we tell God that we believe in him and love him before we die!

Something to do

1.  Tell God that you believe that he loves you, and that you love him. This means that you are sorry for what you have done wrong, and will try to obey God in future days.

2.  If you have a Bible, try to read some of the Book of Job. Could Job have written Psalm 88?

Word List

Abaddon ~ a place in *Sheol where they destroy people.

Adonai ~ *Lord or master; (or better, my *Lord or my master) in *Hebrew.

church ~ all those people that believe all about Jesus.

coffin ~ box made of wood that they bury dead bodies in.

covenant ~ two people have agreed what each should do (here, God and his people). Look after Psalm 25 in Book 1 of the Psalms of David for more about the covenant.

cry ~ words that you say aloud when you are frightened or sad.

darkness ~ when there is no light.

disciples ~ people that Jesus taught.

flood ~ deep water.

fury ~ what you feel when you are very, very angry.

Gospel ~ one of the four books at the beginning of the New Testament [see New Testament].

grave ~ a hole in the ground where they bury dead bodies.

Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke when they wrote the Psalms of David.

Jehovah ~ how some languages say *Yahweh, one of the names of God in *Hebrew.

Jew ~ someone who was born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.

Korah ~ look in the Introduction in Book 3 of the Psalms of David.

like ~ another word for "as".

Lord ~ a name for God; it means he has authority, or 'master'; *Adonai in *Hebrew. Look also at *LORD below.

LORD ~ a special name for God that his people use. It is the *covenant name of God. In *Hebrew it is *Yahweh or *Jehovah. Look after Psalm 25 in Book 1 of the Psalms of David for more about the names of God.

mahalath leannoth ~ maybe it means "when you are ill" in *Hebrew. Bible students are not sure.

maskil ~ a psalm that teaches you something.

miracles ~ great things that only God can do.

New Testament ~ the last part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after the life of Jesus. It is about the things that Jesus did and taught and about the church [see church].

Pit ~ the worst bit of *Sheol.

prophet ~ someone that says what God thinks and will do.

SELAH ~ a place to pray or think or make music.

Sheol ~ where *Jews said that you went when you died.

still ~ not moving.

widow ~ woman whose husband is dead.

Yahweh ~ the *covenant name for God. Most Bibles translate it *LORD with 4 capital letters. It means something *like "I am" or "always alive".


© 2001-2002, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

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

January 2002

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