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Question: The King James Version of Psalm 88: 5 reads:


Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand.


What does the Psalmist David mean by ‘free among the dead’?


Answer: Since those in the grave are completely unconscious and unaware out of existence a fact that David as a Jew knew well, he could not have meant that he was with dead ones milling around in an invisible spirit world. This faulty impression is created by the way this verse is translated.


David’s lament throughout this psalm touches on his apparent abandonment by God (v. 7) and persecution by his enemies (vs. 17, 18). In other words, he felt cut off from society, treated as though he were dead, separated (freed, exempted) from the land of the living.


Alternative renderings offer some illumination on the verse:


American Standard Version: ‘Cast off among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, . . .’


Jerusalem Bible: ‘a man alone, down among the dead, among the slaughtered in their graves, . . .’New English Bible: ‘like a man who lies dead or the slain who sleep in the grave, . . .’



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