Another Look at Psalm 41, Jesus Last Song?

Psalm 41, Jesus’ Last Song

Could a Psalm written in 1,000 B.C. be the words of Jesus? This Psalm introduces us to some of the most fundamental issues concerning that question. For that reason, I want to start out with a well known translation and a detailed introduction to the concepts I am applying in these studies.


Psalm 41 (New American Standard Bible)

For the choir director. A Psalm of David.

1 How blessed is he who considers the helpless;

The LORD will deliver him in a day of trouble.

2 The LORD will protect him and keep him alive,

And he shall be called blessed upon the earth;

And do not give him over to the desire of his enemies.

3 The LORD will sustain him upon his sickbed;

In his illness, You restore him to health.

4 As for me, I said, “O LORD, be gracious to me;

Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.”

5 My enemies speak evil against me,

“When will he die, and his name perish?”

6 And when he comes to see me, he speaks falsehood;

His heart gathers wickedness to itself;

When he goes outside, he tells it.

7All who hate me whisper together against me;

Against me they devise my hurt, saying,

8 “A wicked thing is poured out upon him,

That when he lies down, he will not rise up again.”

9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted,

Who ate my bread,

Has lifted up his heel against me.

10 But You, O LORD, be gracious to me and raise me up,

That I may repay them.

11 By this I know that You are pleased with me,

Because my enemy does not shout in triumph over me.

12 As for me, You uphold me in my integrity,

And You set me in Your presence forever.

13 Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,

From everlasting to everlasting.

Amen and Amen.



Two verses in Psalm 41 (4 & 8) seem to have stumped the translators:

Verse 4 appears to present a doctrinal problem if applied to Jesus, and this is one of the reasons that Psalm 41 is not considered to be primarily about Jesus by anyone that I have discovered so far. However, there are several similar verses peppered throughout other Psalms, and I think it is best if I dealt with Psalm 41:4 as part of a list of all similar texts and considered them all at the same time on a topical basis. The translators are not really at fault. The problem is our natural tendency to oversimplify. We tend to apply Biblical concepts in a generally uniform manner no matter how poorly we understand them . Here the word “sinned” cannot be taken to mean that Jesus has “sinned against” God in the sense of Greek based New Testament doctrine, since in that language it is clearly stated the Jesus was without “sin.” But Jesus did have some days when exhaustion, disappointment and other factors pressed on Him with such weight that His soul was weary to the point that He could tell that He was not at His best, and that realization is what I consider to be implied by Psalm 41:4. My version which follows will show this.

Verse 8 is a problem because the meaning of one of the words used in the first phrase had changed from the time of David to the time of Jesus, and that change makes it unclear how to translate the word the same way every time. In the NASB, the phrase “a wicked thing” is used for the Hebrew word “belial.” If you compare other translations at this point you will find several that consider this a disease, and then they translate the rest of the verse as the consequences of that disease. But, if you try to understand it in the context of this Psalm, that all turns to nonsense. In fact, the word “saying” was added by several translations to the end of verse 7 in order to fix the problem caused by their wording, but that is a fiction. The word for “saying” does not exist in the text of verse 7 and is not even implied. I see this as evidence that they know that they have not clearly understood the verse’s actual meaning. This sort of “intentional translational blurring” is not without precedent, but when it does happen, it should eventually be corrected. It is my privilege to propose a solution for this one. I’ll explain it now, and then you will see how it works out in my version of the text.

The word “belial” may have started out meaning “worthless,” as in the phrase, “the sons of Eli were worthless men.” But by New Testament times, “Belial” was used as the name of a high ranking demon. The translators could not see how to apply that use of the word in Psalm 41:8, and the rest of the sentence made no sense either way. The word, disease, or the implication of disease is not based on the word “belial” but on the second half of the verse. It is also an unnecessary fiction.

The solution I propose is made possible in part by the special way in which I understand these kinds of Psalms to have been written. Psalm 41 is not “just” prophecy. David is not just composing a song under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the composer of this Psalm. Did you notice that it is in past tense? Many prophetic scholars are aware of the occasional prophecy being written in past tense, and they tend to consider it to be a poetic way of giving emphasis to the certainty of the truths revealed. I want to suggest that it may be in past tense because Jesus composed it after the fact, but revealed it to David 1,000 years beforehand. I realize that this seems to create a paradox, but I think that this is exactly the way some prophecies came into existence. When we get to the Psalm 69 and 109 you will see that this may be the best solution to the other references to Judas. Judas had free will. But these prophecies predate Judas’ birth by early 1,000 years. If they were actually composed after he betrayed Jesus, then these prophecies do not deny him free agency, nor do they imply that it was his destiny to betray Jesus. They simply record ahead of time what has, from Jesus’ perspective, already happened in the future. Let this soak in for a while. I know this is different, but I see it as being the best solution so far.

Psalm 41 starts out with 3 verses that do not seem topically related to the rest of the Psalm. It is in third person, not first. It is about God’s blessings on the person that helps the poor, and has no apparent connection to the description of Judas’ actions mentioned by Jesus at the Last Supper. Psalm 109 has similar language in it, but it is integrated in such a way that you can see that Jesus is talking about Himself, as some One who met the criteria for the blessings promised to such a person.

The written form of the Biblical collection of Psalms originally filled five scrolls. Psalm 41 is the last Psalm on the First Scroll of the Psalms. Psalm 41:13 is a benediction to the first 41 Psalms as a whole. It is not attributed to David, nor is it considered an integrated element of this Psalm. But Psalm 41 did exist in this form in Jesus’ time, and Jesus is likely to have sung it just like the Jewish cantors do today.

Although David did experience betrayal toward the end of his life, that event has little in common with the things described in this Psalm. Psalm 41 is not about David.

All translators must occasionally use words that appear to be implied. I think they should always tell us when they are doing so. I will, by placing those words in italics.


Psalm 41

A Personal Study Version by R.C. Wagoner,

adapted from the Zondervan Interlinear Hebrew and English Psalter, 1970.

Original Translators unknown. Hebrew text prepared by Van der Hooght.

Italics required for understanding.

Psalm 41 To the leader. A Psalm of David.

The Expectation of Preservation for the One who cared for the poor.

1 O the blessings of Him who considers the poor one

Yahveh will sustain Him in a day of evil.

2 Yahveh will preserve Him and keep Him alive,

And He shall be blessed in the land;

He will not be given over to the will of His enemies.

3 Yahveh will lift Him up from a couch of extreme weakness;

In His discomfort, You have changed His bed from misery to restoration.

Jesus applies these promises to Himself

in the context of the extreme hardship of His last days.

4 I said, “Yahveh, be gracious to Me;

Heal my soul, for in My weakness I have failed You.”

The expressed hope of Jesus’ enemies

5 My enemies speak evil to Me,

“When will He die, and His name perish?”

The vain Judas begins to make his arrangements

6 And when he comes to see Me, his words are vanity

His heart gathers iniquity itself;

He will go to the outsiders and talk with them.

Jesus’ enemies consult in whispers as they prepare their response to Judas

7 Those who hate Me whisper together against Me;

They plan evil for Me.”

Judas gives his promise to do the work of Satan, Jesus’ enemies accept his terms.

8 “He is firmly committed to a word of Belial

When he has laid down his terms, he cannot add to them.”

Judas, the betrayer, had enjoyed a special relationship with Jesus.

9 He is a man of My peace, in whom I confided,

One who shared My bread, has magnified his heel against Me.

Jesus trusts in His Father to raise Him up from the dead

and to make Him their judge when this is over.

10 But You, Yahveh, be gracious to Me and raise Me up,

And I will repay them.

11 By this I have known that You delighted in Me,

Because my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.

12 As for Me, in My righteousness You have maintained Me.

And You will make Me to stand in Your presence forever.

The Psalmist celebrates Yahveh

13 Blessed be Yahveh, the God of Israel,

From the eternity to the eternity.

Amen and Amen.


Meditation Starters

Verses 1-3 If it were not for similar language throughout Psalm 109, I would not have known how to relate these words to Jesus or this Psalm. Father, Your Son sees Himself as the One cares for the poor, but knows that He will also be the One in great need. His enemies will come against Him in His time of great weakness and exhaustion. And He is expressing His trust in You, in advance of His need. I know that there are other scriptures which tell of His depleted physical condition even before He was arrested, and that He had been fasting and was under the most extreme stress. Even Pilate was surprised at how quickly He died. And Paul mentioned Jesus’ weakness. Help me to understand how Your Son felt during those last days and hours,and how these verses gave Him hope. Could this have been the Psalm that Jesus and the Disciples sang after the Last Supper before they went to Gethsemane? It was certainly relevant to the occasion.

Verse 4. Since Jesus said “soul” I do not consider any of this to be about a literal disease. But in the context of Jesus’ last hours, there was so much at stake, and He was in such bad condition, that His heart was being torn apart. I know that the word for “sin” is in this verse, but John said that there is a least one kind of sin that does not lead to death, and I don’t know anyone who really understands that. Was Your Son so tired that He knew that He was not doing His best? When He prayed three times that He might not have to die this way, doesn’t that imply that His will was traumatized? What was Your Son really feeling? Did He think that He had let You down by praying such a prayer? Help me to see how real the stress on Jesus was, and how He trusted You, even in His depleted condition. Please reveal to me how You will help me when my time comes to feel that way.

Verse 5. The New Testament does not mention it in this context, but it is clear that later on some of the Jewish Sanhedrin were and had been thinking thoughts like this. He did die, but His name did not perish. They eventually died as well, but their names are almost totally forgotten, and those few that were remembered are still condemned for what they did. Father, I don’t know anyone who has personally known this kind of hatred aimed at them. Please help me and everyone I know not to be guilty of such hatred. But also, help me to understand how this effected Jesus, how He felt about it and how He responded. Perhaps such “anti-Christ” hatred is in our future, too.

Verse 6. This is not about the visit of Nicodemus. Did Judas have a private meeting with Jesus? Father is this what happened? Did Judas have a private moment with Jesus in which he displayed his personal vanity? Was he so disappointed with Jesus’ response that he went to talk with some Pharisees? This verse seems to say that Judas worked himself up to the point that he was willing to do something even more wicked than he was used to. “Church People” still do things like this, don’t they? Oh, its not just “Church People” is it?

Verse 7. Jesus knew they were planning to kill Him. This Psalm alone was enough for Him to know that, even without the rumors that were certainly brought to His attention by His followers. How are Christians to deal with such circumstances? Paranoia is not the answer. Having a mindset that is always suspicious of conspiracies is a waste of time. But, in Jesus case, it really happened. Help me to know how He handled this. Help us to understand and recognize and deal wisely with those who choose to be our enemies because of what they think of Jesus.

Verse 8. Judas made a pact with the devil. Not literally, but that is what it turned out to be. And once it was done, there was no way out. Satan, aka Belial, was driving Judas, and Judas had made it possible by his attitudes and vanity. Father, please protect all those who love Your Son from the strong and proud among us who make themselves useful to Satan.

Verse 9. Please help us to take Jesus’ attitude and faith into our hearts when we are threatened by those we love, but who do not know You. No one can hurt us more than those we trust. Please remove the Judas’s from among us before it is too late. I would rather die than become someone’s Judas.

Verse 10-12. Jesus knew that You would raise Him from the dead, and that You would make Him the judge of those who murdered Him. He knew by Your favor, He would be victorious over them. And He knew that His immortal glory would be restored to Him when He stands in Your presence forever. Father, help us to absorb Jesus’ confidence in You. Help us to be above reproach in the eyes of everyone who loves You, especially when we are dying inside because of the schemes of others who think they are doing Your will.

Verse 13. Father, Yahveh, God of Israel, open the eyes of my mind to conceive the Blessings that are Yours, that always have been and always will be. And Your intent to share them with those who love Your Son.