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Psalm 30

AFTER a title, giving the historical occasion of the psalm, ver. 1, the writer praises God for a signal deliverance from destruction, ver. 2–4 (1–3), and calls upon God’s people to join in the praise of the divine compassion, ver. 5, 6 (4, 5). He then reverts to the cause of his affliction, ver. 7, 8 (6, 7), and recounts the means which he employed for its removal, ver. 9–11 (8–10), and for the success of which he vows eternal thankfulness, ver. 12 (13), 11 (12). The occasion and design of the psalm will be considered in the exposition of the title or inscription, which constitutes the first verse of the Hebrew text.


1. A Psalm. A Song of Dedication (for) the House. By David. The construction house of David, although not ungrammatical, is forced, as that idea would, according to usage, have been otherwise expressed in Hebrew. This construction has moreover given rise to the false notion, that the psalm has reference to the dedication of the king’s own dwelling, whereas the house, as an absolute phrase, can only mean the house of God. The historical occasion of the psalm is furnished by the narrative in 2 Sam. 24 and 1 Chron. 21. David’s presumption in numbering the people had been punished by a pestilence, which raged until the destroying angel had, in answer to the king’s prayer, been required to sheathe his sword. The spot where this indication of God’s mercy had been given, was immediately purchased by David, and consecrated by the erection of an altar, upon which he offered sacrifices and received the divine approbation in the gift of fire from heaven (1 Chron. 21:26). This place the king expressly calls the house of God (1 Chron. 22:1), either in the wide sense of the patriarchal Bethel (Gen. 28:17, 22), or as the designated site of the temple, for which he immediately commenced his preparations (1 Chron. 22:2), and in reference to which this psalm might well be called a song of dedication, although naturally more full of the pestilence, and the sin which caused it, than of the sanctuary yet to be erected,


2 (1). I will exalt thee, O Jehovah, because thou hast raised me up, and hast not let my enemies rejoice respecting me. In the first clause there is an antithesis of thought, though not of form. “I will raise thee because thou hast raised me.” The second verb is a modified form of one meaning to draw water from a well (Exod 2:16, 19), and may therefore have been chosen for the purpose of suggesting the idea of a person drawn up from some depth in which he had been sunk, a figure not unfrequent elsewhere. See particularly Ps. 40:3 (2), below.—Hast not caused or permitted to rejoice by abandoning me to them.—לִי does not properly mean over me, but as to me. The specific idea of rejoicing over is suggested by the context.


3 (2.) Jehovah, my God, I cried to thee (for help) and thou didst heal me. The address, my God, is never unmeaning or superfluous, but always intimates a covenant relation as the ground of confidence. Any severe suffering is represented in Scripture under the figure of disease, and relief from it as healing. See above, on Ps. 6:3 (2), and compare Ps. 41:5 (4), 107:20, Jer. 14:19, 15:18, 17:14, 30:17. The healing here meant is identical with the help in ver. 4 (3) and the joy in ver. 12 (11,) and proves nothing therefore as to literal sickness in the Psalmist’s case. It is altogether natural, however, to suppose that David may himself have been affected by the prevalent disorder.


4 (3.) Jehovah, thou hast brought up out of hell my soul, thou hast made me alive from (among those) going down (into the) pit. The extremity of his danger is described in the strongest terms afforded by the language. The essential meaning of both clauses is, that God had saved him from what seemed to be inevitable and irrecoverable ruin.—Hell, sheol, the state of the dead. See above, on Ps. 6:6 (5).—Going down into the pit, i.e. dying. See above, on Ps. 22:30 (29).—Made me alive from them, i.e. separated me from them by restoring or preserving my life, so that I no longer can be numbered with them.


5 (4.) Make music to Jehovah, ye his gracious ones, and give thanks to the memory of his holiness. The exhortation in the first clause is to praise God by song with instrumental accompaniment. See above, on Ps. 7:18 (17), 9:3, (2), 11. His gracious ones, the objects of his mercy, and themselves endowed with the same attribute. See above, on Ps. 4:4 (3).—Memory, in this connection, does not mean the power or the act of remembering, but that which is remembered when we think of God, to wit, his glorious perfections, which are summed up in his holiness, as to the comprehensive sense of which, see above, on Ps. 22:4 (3). See also Hos. 12:6 (5), where the memory of God is particularly coupled with his mercy, and Exod. 3:15, Isa. 26:8, Ps. 135:13, where memory and name are used as parallel expressions.


6 (5). For a moment in his wrath, life in his favor; in the evening shall lodge weeping, and at the morning shouting (or singing). Some understand the contrast in the first clause to be one of duration; there is only a moment in his wrath, but a lifetime in his favour. It is simpler, however, and more agreeable to the usage of the word translated life, to read the clause without an antithesis; his wrath endures but a moment, and then his favour restores life, in its wide sense, as including all that makes existence desirable. The same idea is expressed in the last clause by a beautiful figure. Sorrow is only a sojourner, a stranger lodging for the night, to be succeeded, at the break of day, by a very different inmate. This, though primarily referring to the joys and sorrows of the present state, admits of a striking application to the contrast between this life and the next. See above, on Ps. 17:15.


7 (6). And I said in my security, I shall not be moved for ever. The pronoun is emphatic: it was I that said.—Security. The Hebrew word includes the ideas of prosperity, and of that self-confidence which it produces. Compare Deut. 8:11–18, 32:15, Hos. 13:6, 2 Chron. 32:25.—Moved, disturbed in my enjoyment, shaken from my present firm position. See above, on Ps. 10:6, 16:8, and compare Ps. 13:5 (4), 15:5, 21:8 (7).


8 (7). Jehovah, in thy favor thou didst establish to my mountain strength; thou didst hide thy face, I was confounded. It was only through God’s mercy that his power was established.—Thou didst confirm strength (literally, make it stand) to my mountain, a common figure for royal power, and especially for that of the theocracy, the central point of which was mount Zion. See 2 Sam. 5:9, 12, Neh. 3:15, Micah 4:8, Isa. 2:3. The idea of personal prosperity in general, though not expressed directly, is suggested by the special case of David’s official eminence.—Thou didst hide thy face, withdraw the tokens of thy presence and thy favour. See above, on Ps. 13:2 (1).—I was confounded, agitated, terrified, perplexed. See above, on Ps. 6:3, 4, 11 (2, 3, 10), and compare Ps. 2:5. The common version, troubled, is too weak.


9 (8). Unto thee, Jehovah, will I call, and to Jehovah I will cry for mercy. This was the resolution formed at the time when God concealed his face and he was troubled. The insertion of the words then said I, at the beginning of the verse, would render the connection clear, but is unnecessary. The translation of the futures as past tenses is a licence which could only be justified by extreme exegetical necessity, certainly not by the trivial circumstance, that the last clause speaks of Jehovah in the third person, which is not more surprising in a prayer than the second person of the first clause would be in a narrative. The sudden change of person is, of course, the same in either case.


10 (9). What profit (is there) in my blood, in my descending to corruption (or the grave)? Will dust praise (or thank) thee? Will it tell thy truth? This argument in favour of his being heard and rescued is the same as that in Ps. 6:6 (5), and reappears in Ps. 88:11–13 (10–12), and in Hezekiah’s psalm, Isa. 38:18, 19, both of which are obvious imitations of David. For the twofold etymology and sense of שַׁחַת, either of which is here appropriate, see above, on Ps. 16:10.—Dust, the lifeless and disorganised remains of the body.—Tell thy truth, attest the truth of thy promises by reciting their fulfilment, and so bear witness to the divine veracity and faithfulness. The questions of course imply negation. “My destruction can be no advantage to the divine glory, but must rather involve a loss of praise.”


11 (10). Hear, Jehovah, and have mercy on me; Jehovah, be a helper for (or to) me. This petition is an indirect conclusion from the reasoning of the preceding verse. The logical connection may be made clear by a change of form. “Since thy glory will not be promoted by my death, I am entitled to deliverance, not for my sake but thy own.” This last idea is suggested by his appealing to the divine mercy, as the ground on which he asked God to become his helper.


12 (11). Thou hast turned my lament into a dance for me; thou hast opened my sackcloth and hast girded me (with) joy. To his prayer he now adds the account of its fulfilment. The relief of his distress is described as an exchange of his lament or funeral song for a joyful dance, Compare Jer. 31:13, Lam. 5:15. In further allusion to the mourning customs of the east, he represents his mourning dress, made of the coarsest hair-cloth, as now opened, i.e. loosened, unfastened, for the purpose of removal, to be replaced not merely by a gay or festive dress, but by joy itself, poetically represented as a garment. See above, on Ps. 18:33, 40 (32, 39), and compare Isa. 61:3.


13 (12). In order that glory may make music to thee and not be dumb, Jehovah, my God, I will praise thee (or give thanks to thee) forever. This verse describes not only the effect but the design of the deliverance asked for, and so furnishes a counterpart to the argument in ver. 10 (9). As the death of the Psalmist would deprive God of praise, so his deliverance is intended to ensure it.—The use of glory in the first clause is obscure. Some understand by it the tongue or voice, which is entirely arbitrary; others the soul, the nobler part of man, as in Ps. 16:9, 57:9, 108:2 (1). But as the form in all these cases is my glory, it seems better to take glory here without the pronoun in the wide sense of every thing glorious, including the worshipper’s highest powers, and perhaps his regal dignity, as in Ps. 7:6 (5). As in God’s temple every thing says “Glory!” (Ps. 29:9), so every thing glorious among his works is bound to praise him.—Not be dumb, a stronger phrase than not be silent.—With the last clause compare the words of Hezekiah, Isa. 38:20.


Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 129–131). Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

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