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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Psalms 130

Psalms 130

From the deepest distress the church cries to the Lord, Psalms 130:1-2, praying that he would in his compassion forgive their sins, through which they had been thrown into trouble, Psalms 130:3-4. They have a strong conviction that he will do this, and wait, full of faith, in longing expectation for the fulfilment of his promise, Psalms 130:5-6, and in this believing expectation upon the Lord, who is rich in mercy toward his people, and will redeem Israel from all his sins, the Psalmist admonishes them to continue waiting.

In Psalms 130:1-6 the Psalmist speaks in the name of Israel, in Psalms 130:7-8, to Israel. The distinction is only a formal one; for even in Psalms 130:1-6 behind the I a thou is concealed, the indirect exhortation is followed only at the close by the direct. Comp. on this exchange of the I and the thou, the Introd. to Psalms 91. The doctrine is this: the people of God should not murmur nor complain in their suffering, but pray to their compassionate Lord and Saviour, that he would forgive their sins, and save them from the deserved punishment of these, and rest in the assurance that he will do so. This is the royal way by which we may attain to peace in affliction, and rise from that to joy.

The formal arrangement is entirely the same as in Psalms 129. We have two strophes, each of four verses, that of the prayer and that of the hope, and each strophe falls again into two subordinate divisions of two verses. With the preceding Psalm this forms a whole of two parts, ruled throughout by the number four; four strophes, each Psalm with four pairs of verses, each strophe with four verses. The threefold occurrence of Jehovah in the preceding Psalm, and the fourfold here, make up the number seven, and with the threefold use of Jehovah in Psalms 128 comprise the number ten. The number of the whole names of God in our Psalm (Jehovah four times, Jah once, Adonai thrice), corresponds to the number of the verses.

The Psalm entirely accords with the situation which is common to all the nameless pilgrim-songs: Israel is plunged in deep distress. The adj. קשב in Psalms 130:2 points to a late time, as it occurs besides only in the Chronicles, and likewise סליחה in Psalms 130:4, which is found elsewhere only in Daniel and Nehemiah.

Verses 1-4

Ver. 1. A Song of the Pilgrimages. Out of the depths I cry to thee, Lord. Ver. 2. Lord, hear my voice, let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication. Ver. 3. If thou, Lord, wilt mark iniquities, Lord who shall stand? Ver. 4. For with thee is forgiveness that thou mayst be feared.

Great misery appears not unfrequently under the image of deep waters, comp. Psalms 40, Psalms 69:2, Psalms 69:14, Isaiah 51:10, Ezekiel 27:34; and of this we are certainly to think also here, although the more closely defining ים or מים is awanting. It is to be supplied from the well-known passages referred to. מעמקים is always used of water-depths.

On the words: to the voice of my supplication, Psalms 130:2, comp. Psalms 28:2. Psalms 130:1-2 contains only, in general, the request that God would hear the supplicating prayer: the object of that, the forgiveness of sins, is first more exactly defined in Psalms 130:3. שמר עין signifies not to preserve sin, but to observe sin, to take account of it, Job 10:14; Job 14:16, comp. Psalms 90:8: “for our iniquities thou placest before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.” The standing, in contrast to the sinking down of the guilty from anguish and the fearful expectation of things which are coming upon them—comp. Christol. on Malachi 3:2—or even under the heavy burden of the divine punishment, comp. Nahum 1:6, q. d., who then must not go to perdition! The כי preserves in Psalms 130:4 its common signification. For the expression: if thou wilt have respect to our iniquities, of the preceding verse is q. d. have not respect to my sins, and let me not go to destruction, is only a covert prayer for the forgiveness of sins, and one which is grounded here. The production of the fear of God is marked as the aim of the bestowal of the forgiveness of sins. The forgiveness of sin is the most glorious manifestation of the divine glory; the treasures of his love, compassion, and fidelity (he has guaranteed them to his own, of whom alone the discourse is here), are displayed in it, and the mind must, through the apprehension of these, be filled with childlike reverence at the greatness and holiness of God (this is here designated by fear, Lampe: “for since it follows pardon, it can no longer proceed from the fear of punishment.”) The merely punitive righteousness would not awaken the fear of God but destroy it. Calvin: “the apprehension of divine judgment without the hope of pardon strikes terror, which necessarily gives rise to hatred.”

Verses 5-8

Ver. 5. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and I hope in his word. Ver. 6. My soul waits upon the Lord more than watchmen for morning; watchmen for the morning. Ver. 7. Hope Israel upon the Lord, for with the Lord is mercy and much redemption with him. Ver. 8. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

The expression: my soul waits, in Psalms 130:5, is stronger than: I wait. I long from my heart. The word is, according to Psalms 119:74, Psalms 119:81-82, Psalms 119:114, Psalms 119:147, the word of promise. The Psalmist waits and hopes, that he might obtain the fulfilment of it in his own experience.

At the beginning of Psalms 130:6 the verb is to be supplied from the preceding verse. מן is prae. To the watchman the night is very long, and so is to the distressed the night of weeping. Anxious longing loves repetition. Luther falsely: from one morning watch to another. The redemption from iniquity, Psalms 130:8, is accomplished by the removal of their consequences. That we must not give to עונות the sense of punishment or sufferings, appears already from Psalms 130:3.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 130". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.