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Psalms: Chapter 40

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Text view alone

For the leader. A psalm of David.

1 2I put my hope in the LORD; He inclined toward me, and heeded my cry. 3He lifted me out of the miry pit, the slimy clay, and set my feet on a rock, steadied my legs. 4He put a new song into my mouth, a hymn to our God. May many see it and stand in awe, and trust in the LORD. 5Happy is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who turns not to the arrogant or to followers of falsehood. 6 a‐ Or “You, O Lord my God, have done many things—/ the wonders You have devised for us; / none can equal You.” You, O LORD my God, have done many things; the wonders You have devised for us cannot be set out before You; ‐a Or “You, O Lord my God, have done many things—/ the wonders You have devised for us; / none can equal You.” I would rehearse the tale of them, but they are more than can be told. 7 b‐ Meaning of Heb. uncertain. You gave me to understand that ‐b Meaning of Heb. uncertain. You do not desire sacrifice and meal offering; You do not ask for burnt offering and sin offering. 8Then I said, b‐ Meaning of Heb. uncertain. “See, I will bring a scroll recounting what befell me.” ‐b Meaning of Heb. uncertain. 9To do what pleases You, my God, is my desire; Your teaching is in my inmost parts. 10I proclaimed [Your] righteousness in a great congregation; see, I did not withhold my words; O LORD, You must know it. 11I did not keep Your beneficence to myself; I declared Your faithful deliverance; I did not fail to speak of Your steadfast love in a great congregation. 12O LORD, You will not withhold from me Your compassion; Your steadfast love will protect me always. 13For misfortunes without number envelop me; my iniquities have caught up with me; I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; c‐ Or “my courage fails me.” I am at my wits' end. ‐c Or “my courage fails me.” 14 d With vv. 14–18 , cf. Ps. 70 . O favor me, LORD, and save me; O LORD, hasten to my aid. 15Let those who seek to destroy my life be frustrated and disgraced; let those who wish me harm fall back in shame. 16Let those who say “Aha! Aha!” over me be desolate because of their frustration. 17But let all who seek You be glad and rejoice in You; let those who are eager for Your deliverance always say, “Extolled be the LORD!” 18But I am poor and needy; may the Lord devise [deliverance] for me. You are my help and my rescuer; my God, do not delay.

Notes:

a‐a Or “You, O Lord my God, have done many things—/ the wonders You have devised for us; / none can equal You.”

b‐b Meaning of Heb. uncertain.

c‐c Or “my courage fails me.”

d With vv. 14–18 , cf. Ps. 70 .

Text Commentary view alone

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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