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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Psalms 30

 

 

Verse 1

PSALM 30

THANKSGIVING FOR DELIVERANCE FROM DEATH

There are no satisfactory reasons for rejecting the ancient inscription which identifies this psalm as "A Psalm of David." The further note in some versions that it is, "A Song at the Dedication of the House," also generally received as accurate, is the basis of several opinions regarding its meaning.

A summary of various views as to what is meant by the "Dedication of the House" is as follows:

It refers to the Temple of Zerubbabel in 165 B.C.[1] Some say it refers to the Temple of Solomon. Some think it means the house of David's palace, Others assign it to the purgation and re-dedication of David's house (palace) after Absalom left.

Calmet believed the psalm was written by David on the occasion of the dedication of the Threshing Floor of Araunah, after the awful plague that followed David's numbering of the people (2 Samuel 24:25; 1 Chronicles 21:26).

Adam Clarke discussed all of these opinions and then wrote, "All parts of this Psalm agree to Calmet's opinion so well, and to no other hypothesis, that I feel justified in basing my comment upon this understanding alone."[2]

Leupold also accepted the same understanding of the occasion for this psalm, pointing out that, "1 Chronicles 22:1 uses the identical words that appear in the heading of this Psalm, namely, `Here shall be the House.' We feel that this Psalm fits this historical situation as a glove fits the hand."[3]

There are a number of places in the psalm itself which correspond closely with the historical occasion; and we shall notice some of these in the comments below. The following paragraphs appear in the psalm.

(Psalms 30:1-3) Thanksgiving is offered for a great deliverance. (Psalms 30:4,5) The people are invited to join in the thanksgiving. (Psalms 30:6-7) David confesses his sin which was to blame for the catastrophe. (V:8-10) David's appeal to God and his earnest supplications. (Psalms 30:11-12) The sudden and complete relief, the burst of joy, and the pledge to praise God forever.

THANKSGIVING FOR A GREAT DELIVERANCE

Some think of a terrible illness into which David fell, but the more likely explanation is that David, feeling his own blame and guilt connected with the awful plague that destroyed 70,000 people in a single day, knowing that he certainly deserved to die and probably expecting his death momentarily, thanks the Lord, not for a delivery from illness, but for a deliverance "from death" as the heading states. (2 Samuel 24:15f).

Psalms 30:1-3

"I will extol thee, O Jehovah, for thou hast raised me up,

And hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.

O Jehovah my God,

I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.

O Jehovah, thou hast brought up my soul from Sheol;

Thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit."

There are five things for which David here thanks God: (1) God has raised him up, (2) has not allowed his foes to rejoice over him, (3) healed him, (4) brought up his soul from Sheol, (5) and kept him alive.

"Thou hast raised me up" (Psalms 30:1). The marginal reading here is "drawn me up"; and, "This is the word for pulling up a bucket from a well."[4] This appears to us as an expression more appropriate for an acute state of depression and fear than it would be for some kind of an illness.

"Thou hast healed me" (Psalms 30:2). "The word `healed' here is perhaps used metaphorically for the removal of mental sufferings. David's grief when he saw the suffering and death of so many of his people from the plague (for which he was to blame) seems to have prostrated him both in mind and in body."[5] "David was keenly aware of the danger that threatened him. Many were dying in Israel, and he knew himself to be the chief sinner that brought it about, thus feeling that his doom was as good as sealed."[6] It was David's sin of numbering the people that caused the plague.


Verse 4

THE PEOPLE WERE INVITED TO JOIN THE THANKSGIVING

Indeed, they would certainly have done so. The sin of their king was responsible for the death of 70,000 in a single day; and the good news that God had forgiven the king was certainly the very best news possible for the people.

"Sing praise unto Jehovah, O ye saints of his.

And give thanks to his holy memorial name.

For his anger is but for a moment;

His favor is for a lifetime:

Weeping may tarry for the night,

But joy cometh in the morning."

"O ye saints of his" (Psalms 30:4). These were the faithful Israelites who were keepers of God's covenant.

"Thanks to his memorial name" (Psalms 30:4). "This is, `The equivalent of, `Give thanks to his holy name."[7] The KJV rendition here is, "Give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness"; and Adam Clarke's comment of more than one hundred fifty years ago appears to us as applicable today as it was when he wrote it.

"Most so-called Christians hate the doctrine of holiness, never hear it mentioned without pain; and the principal part of their studies, and that of their pastors, is to find out with how little holiness they can rationally expect to enter heaven. O fatal and soul-destroying delusion!"[8]

"Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psalms 30:5). This means, `Sorrow may stay all night, but tomorrow is a happier day.' This whole verse contrasts God's momentary displeasure with his favor all the days of life.

The Anchor Bible has a very interesting rendition of Psalms 30:5, as follows:

"For death is in his anger, life eternal in his favor; In the evening one falls asleep crying, but at dawn there are shouts of joy."[9]

"This sequence is not a contrast between life and death, but rather a contrast between death which is inevitable, and eternal life which will follow. The psalmist is confident eternal life will follow; and this conviction finds expression in numerous texts of the Psalter."[10]


Verse 6

DAVID'S CONFESSION OF SIN

"As for me, I said in my prosperity, I shall never be moved.

Then, Jehovah, of thy favor hadst made my mountain to stand strong:

Thou didst hide thy face; I was troubled."

"I shall never be moved" (Psalms 30:6). "His heart was lifted up, and in a spirit of self-glorification, he gave command for the numbering of the people."[11]

"Of thy favor" (Psalms 30:7). This is an acknowledgment on David's part that in those days of prosperity and egotistical pride, he had not been fully conscious that it was God's favor which had elevated him, not his own ability or skill.

"Thou didst hide thy face" (Psalms 30:7). Ah, how quickly life can change! What seems like unending prospects of success and prosperity can change in a single moment to unqualified failure and disaster. "We presume upon health, but God sends sickness; we presume upon friends, but God raises up enemies; we presume upon our reputation, but suddenly Satan takes that away from us; we presume upon our worldly riches; but a fire, a revolution, an earthquake, a war, a hurricane, a misplaced trust, or something else leaves us with nothing!"[12]

We may not count upon tomorrow's following today's pattern. Maclaren tells us that before the terrible eruption of Vesuvius, the bottom of the crater had immense oak trees that had been growing for centuries. "It would have been difficult to think, looking at them, that they would ever be torn up and whirled aloft in fire by a new outburst."[13] Men daily need to thank God and to pray for his continued mercies.

This sudden hiding of God's face shook David out of his attitude of self-confidence and sufficiency and led to his casting himself upon the mercy of God.

"I was troubled" (Psalms 30:7). The word here rendered `troubled,' in Hebrews is `dismayed,' as in the RSV. "This is a very strong word implying shattering terror."[14]


Verse 8

DAVID'S EARNEST SUPPLICATIONS

"I cried to thee, O Jehovah;

And unto Jehovah I made my supplication;

What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit?

Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?

Hear, O Jehovah, and have mercy upon me;

Jehovah, be thou my helper."

"What profit is there in my blood" (Psalms 30:9). This means, "What benefit to God is there in my death?" Dummelow, and many others have commented on this to the effect that, "This verse shows how little the future life counted in Old Testament thought."[15] We do not believe such comments are justified.

As Barnes said, "It must be admitted that the ancient saints knew much less about the hope of eternal life than Christians have in the New Testament, and that they sometimes spoke in such language as that which we have here, due to their despondency; but, upon other occasions they expressed their belief in a future state and their expectation of happiness in a coming world."[16]

Abraham lifted the sacrificial knife against Isaac, "Accounting that God was able to raise him from the dead" (Hebrews 11:19); and many of the Old Testament saints suffered all kinds of hardships, even torture, "that they might obtain a better resurrection" (Hebrews 11:35). David himself gave us Psalms 16:10; and there is no doubt at all that Psalms 23:6 speaks of eternal life. Furthermore, Job gave us that soul-cheering line immortalized in Handel's Messiah, "I know that my Redeemer liveth .... and that after death, I shall see God" (Job 19:25,26)."

We might add that expressions of Old Testament writers expressing such dread of death are still duplicated by the thoughts even of Christians facing the awful extremities of suffering and death.

"Shall the dust praise thee" (Psalms 30:9)...In these verses, David shows that, "His prayer for God's saving his life was not for the sake of worldly possessions and enjoyment, but for the praise and glory of God."[17]

"David does not here speak of death in general, as if Old Testament saints had no hope beyond the grave, but of the kind of death where God hides his face in displeasure. For such a death, there is indeed no hope beyond the tomb."[18]

"Have mercy upon me ... be my helper" (Psalms 30:10). Here we feel that David has thoroughly abandoned all over-confidence in himself and that he now relies solely upon the merciful approval of God. "One feels that at this point, the chastisements have fully accomplished their purpose, and that the psalmist is shaken completely out of his false feeling of `security.'"[19]


Verse 11

SUDDEN RELIEF; ABOUNDING JOY; PRAISE GOD FOREVER

"Thou hast turned for me; my mourning into dancing;

Thou hast loosed my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;

To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee and be not silent.

O Jehovah my God, I will give thanks unto thee forever."

"Thou hast turned" (Psalms 30:11). What had happened so quickly? The explanation is in 2 Samuel 24:18, which records how God sent the Prophet Gad to David with word that the plague was ended.

"Thou hast loosed my sackcloth" (Psalms 30:11). "That the king had clothed himself in sackcloth upon this occasion is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 21:16,"[20] the same being another evidence that this psalm is tied to that event.

"That my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent" (Psalms 30:12). Perhaps the RSV should be followed here, where the rendition is, "That my soul may praise thee, and not be silent."

Adam Clarke preferred the rendition in KJV, which is followed in our version (American Standard Version). He interpreted it to mean that the wealth, splendor, and glory of David's kingdom were here pledged by the king to be employed in praising the Lord. "Once my glory sang praise to itself; now it shall be employed for another purpose; it shall give thanks to God and never be silent."[21] There is the possibility that the older versions are correct.

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 30:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/psalms-30.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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