Psalms 30 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

Psalm 30
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

This psalm, which is plainly an expression of thankfulness for recovery from a dangerous, and nearly fatal, sickness, does not in a single line or word bear out the title, which suggests either the dedication of the site of the future temple (2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21) or of the citadel on Zion (2 Samuel 5:11), or of the rededication of the palace profaned by Absalom. On the other hand, the fact that the psalm is, in the Jewish ritual, used at the Feast of Dedication, the origin of which is to be found in 1 Maccabees 4:52 seq., suggests that the title may have been appended after the institution of that feast, in order to give an historical basis for the use of the psalm. The reason of its choice we must look for in the feelings produced by the first successes in the war of independence. After the sad period of humiliation and persecution, the nation felt as the writer of this psalm felt—as if saved from the brink of the grave. Thus the psalm is in application national, though in origin and form individual. Who the author was, it is vain to conjecture; the tone and even the language suggest Hezekiah or Jeremiah. (See Notes.) The parallelism is not strongly marked.

A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the house of David. I will extol thee, O LORD; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.
(1) Thou hast lifted me up.—The Hebrew word seems to mean to dangle, and therefore may be used either of letting down or drawing up. The cognate noun means bucket It is used in Exodus 2:19, literally of drawing water from a well; in Proverbs 20:5, metaphorically of counsel. Here it is clearly metaphorical of restoration from sickness, and does not refer to the incident in Jeremiah’s life (Jeremiah 38:13), where quite a different word is used.

O LORD my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.
O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
(3) Grave.Sheôl (See Note to Psalm 6:5.)

That I should not go down to the pit.—This follows a reading which is considered by modern scholars ungrammatical. The ordinary reading, rightly kept by the LXX. and Vulg., means from these going down to the pit, i.e., from the dead. (Comp. Psalm 28:1.)

Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
(4) Sing unto . . .—Better, Play to Jehovah, ye saints of his. (See Note, Psalm 16:10.)

And give thanks.—Better, and sing praises to his holy name. (See margin.) Possibly Exodus 3:15 was in the poet’s mind. (Comp. Psalm 97:12.)

For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
(5) For his anger.—Literally,

“For a moment (is) in his anger,

Life in his favour;

In the evening comes to lodge weeping,

But at morning a shout of joy.”

Some supply comes to lodge with the last clause, but the image is complete and finer without. It is thoroughly Oriental. Sorrow is the wayfarer who comes to the tent for a night’s lodging, but the metaphor of his taking his leave in the morning is not carried on, and we have instead the sudden waking with a cry of joy, sudden as the Eastern dawn, without twilight or preparation. Never was faith in the Divine love more beautifully expressed. (Comp. Isaiah 54:7-8.)

And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.
(6) And in.—Better, But as for me, in, &c. The pronoun is emphatic. The mental struggle through which the psalmist had won his way to this sublime faith is now told in the most vivid manner, the very soliloquy being recalled.

Prosperity.—Better, security.

I shall never be moved.—Better, I shall never waver.

LORD, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.
(7) Lord, by thy favouri.e., and all the while thou (not my own strength) hadst made me secure. The margin gives the literal rendering, but the reading varies between the text “to my mountain,” “to my honour” (LXX., Vulg., and Syriac), and “on mountains,” the last involving the supply of the pronoun “me.” The sense, however, is the same, and is obvious. The mountain of strength, perhaps mountain fortress, is an image of secure retreat. Doubtless Mount Zion was in the poet’s thought.

Thou didst . . .—The fluctuation of feeling is well shown by the rapid succession of clauses without any connecting conjunctions.

I cried to thee, O LORD; and unto the LORD I made supplication.
(8) I cried to thee.—The very words of “this utter agony of prayer” are given. But it is better to keep the futures in Psalm 30:8, instead of translating them as preterites, and make the quotation begin here. So Symmachus, “Then I said, I will cry to thee, O Lord,” &c

What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?
(9) What profit . . .i.e., to God. For the conception of death as breaking the covenant relation between Israel and Jehovah, and so causing loss to Him as well as to them (for Sheôl had its own king or shepherd, Death) by putting an end to all religious service, comp. Hezekiah’s song; Isaiah 38:18. Comp. also Psalm 6:5, and note Psalm 88:11.) Plainly as yet no hope, not even a dim one, had arisen of praising God beyond the grave. The vision of the New Jerusalem, with the countless throngs of redeemed with harps and palms, was yet for the future.

Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper.
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
(11) Thou hast turned for me.—This verse gives the answer to the prayer. Mourning is literally beating the breast, and therefore dancing forms a proper parallelism; or else, according to one derivation of the word, machôl would suggest piping. (See margin, Psalm 149:3; Psalm 150:4; see Smith’s Bible Dictionary, under “Dance;” and Bible Educator, vol. ii., p. 70; and comp. Note to Song of Solomon 6:13.)

To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.
(12) My glory.—The suffix is wanting in the Hebrew, and in all the older versions except LXX. and Vulg. The Chaldee versions make the word concrete and render “the nobles.” The Syriac, reading the verb in a different person, makes glory the object—“then will I sing to thee, Glory.” My glory would, as in Psalm 108:1, mean my heart. (See Note, Psalm 16:9.) Without the pronoun, we must (with Jerome) understand by “glory” renown or praise, which, as it were, itself raises songs; or it must be concrete, “everything glorious.”

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