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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

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Commentary on Psalms

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Ps. 40 :

The psalmist seeks a public and permanent venue for praising God, to acknowledge God's past favors and in anticipation of the current favor now requested. This balance between anticipatory praise and a request for deliverance is not unusual (cf. Ps. 22 ), but here the emphasis is on praise rather than on complaint about misfortune. This psalm is perhaps a combination of two psalms, the second of which (vv. 14–18 ) is preserved as Ps. 70 . (NJPS makes the break after v. 12 .) Alternatively, the psalm was one composition and Ps. 70 has lost the first part.

3 :

Pit…slimy clay, synonyms for the abode of the dead; as in 30.4 , death is used to refer to grave illness. The terra firma image of a rock contrasts with the slippery and sinking image of slimy clay.

4 :

A new song, cf. Ps. 33.3 .

5 :

Ps. 34.9; Prov. 16.20 .

6 :

Cannot be set out before you, or, “cannot be compared to you.”

7–9 :

Difficult to interpret. A general statement about sacrifice is illustrated by listing several main types: sacrifice, a nonspecific term for animal offerings; meal offering, a grain offering accompanying animal sacrifice; burnt offering, in which the entire sacrifice is consumed by fire; sin offering, a purification offering. This is not a critique of the sacrificial system, but rather a notice that sacrifice is not required in this instance and does not satisfy the psalmist's desire to do what pleases…God. God is pleased if people follow his teaching, his torah, written in a scroll (cf. Deut. 31.26 ). Doing what pleases God is preferable to sacrifice (1 Sam. 15.22; Jer. 7.21–23; Mic. 6.6–7 ). For the idea that a psalm or prayer may please God more than a sacrifice or may take the place of (unavailable) sacrifice, cf. Pss. 69.30–32; 141.2 .

8 :

This v. is a crux. NJPS interprets a scroll as the psalmist's hymn or a record of his experience. Other interpretations are: the Torah (Jer. 31.31–34 ); or the book of life, which appears elsewhere in the Bible (e.g., Exod. 32.32; Pss. 69.29; 139.16; Dan. 12.1 )—this idea is further developed in later Judaism, especially in the Rosh Ha‐Shanah liturgy; or, if the psalmist is a king, the law of the king (Deut. 17.14–20 ). Recounting what befell me translates Heb “katuv ‘alay,” “written on/about me.” According to this translation, the psalmist brings a written, and therefore permanent, account of his experience in place of a sacrifice—a very literary touch by a man of words. Others understand “written of me” to mean “prescribed to me,” that is, the Torah is prescribed to the psalmist.

10 :

Great congregation, the psalmist's community, participants in the thanksgiving ceremony (cf. Pss. 22.26; 35.18 ). Praise is only meaningful if it is public.

13 :

God's deeds are too numerous to recount (v. 6 ) and the psalmist's misfortunes are too many to list.

15–17 :

The psalmist prays that the enemy be repulsed and shamed, and that those who seek God join the psalmist in praise, a typical trope in Psalms.

18 :

The righteous are often called poor and needy (cf. Ps. 86.1 ). Do not delay, lit. “do not be late,” as though only a short time remains.

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