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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Psalms 130

Verses 1-8

Psalms 130:0

A Song of degrees

          Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.

2     Lord, hear my voice:

Let thine ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.

3     If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities,

O Lord, who shall stand?

4     But there is forgiveness with thee,

That thou mayest be feared.

5     I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait,

And in his word do I hope.

6     My soul waiteth for the Lord

More than they that watch for the morning:

I say, more than they that watch for the morning.

7     Let Israel hope in the Lord:

For with the Lord there is mercy,

And with him is plenteous redemption.

8     And he shall redeem Israel

From all his iniquities.


Contents and Composition.—The distress out of which the Psalmist cries to Jehovah is very deep, and as he feels himself sinking, he sends forth an urgent cry to God that He would hear him (Psalms 130:1-2). This supplication rests upon the power to forgive, which is possessed by God alone, and is indispensable to the sinner’s deliverance (Psalms 130:3-4). It flows from the hope cherished in his soul, which turns with longing to God and His word (Psalms 130:5-6). It also sympathizingly remembers the need which all Israel has of redemption, and therefore points, on the one hand, with exhortation, to the indispensable waiting upon Jehovah, and, on the other, to the mercy of God which is ready to be imparted (Psalms 130:7-8).

It is easily understood how the Church has regarded this as the sixth of the seven Penitential Psalms (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143) and how Luther reckoned it as one of the Pauline Psalms, which he specified, when asked which were the best of all the Psalms. When asked further which were the Pauline Psalms, he named Psalms 32, 51, 130, 143,

Several expressions which are found besides only in Nehemiah, Daniel, and Chronicles indicate that the Psalm was composed at a late period Yet it preceded the Books of the Chronicles; for the addition to the prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the Temple, 2 Chronicles 6:40-42, is composed of Psalms 130:2 and Psalms 132:8-10. [As additional evidence of a late origin, it may be remarked that the word meaning: attentive, in Psalms 130:2, is found besides only in 2 Chronicles 6:40; 2 Chronicles 7:15, and that rendered: forgiveness, Psalms 130:4, only in Daniel 9:9; Nehemiah 9:17.—J. F. M.]. The conjecture that this Psalm was first sung on the day of general humiliation, Ezra 9:5 f. (Rosenmüller) has no support more definite than this. There are many points of similarity with Psalms 86:0. Does it indicate design that God is named Jehovah four times, Adonai three times, and Jah once?

Psalms 130:1. Out of the depths.—These are not the depths of the soul, specially those of sorrow on account of the greatness of its sins (Amyrald, J. H. Mich.). Nor are they the depths of sin (Geier); but depths of distress, calamity and peril, represented by the image of deep waters (Psalms 69:3; Psalms 69:15; Isaiah 51:10), whose waves (Psalms 88:8), have passed over him (Psalms 42:8), so that he is pressed down very deep, sunk even unto the gates of death (Psalms 9:4; Psalms 107:18).

Psalms 130:3-4. God regards and marks human iniquities (Psalms 90:8; Job 10:14; Job 10:14), but retains them also in remembrance (Genesis 37:11), and, as it were, seals them up, keeping them (Job 14:17,) bearing them in mind (Amos 1:11; Jeremiah 3:5); He remembers them in the sense of imputing them (Psalms 32:2). The destruction of the sinner would thence follow, if the Divine punitive righteousness, which in its exercise nothing can resist (Isaiah 51:16; Nahum 1:6; Malachi 3:2; Ezra 9:15) were not by the mercy of God Himself manifested in such a way that the forgiveness of sins, effected thereby, should serve, on the one hand, to glorify His name as the only Redeemer and Author of salvation (Psalms 79:9), and, on the other, to quicken the true fear of Him.

Psalms 130:6 ff. the reference is not to those who wait from one watch to another (Sept., Syr., Luther), or to the watchers who hold the morning watch, that is, the last one (Chald., J. H. Mich., Rosenmüller). It is the watch, more generally, the morning dawn, when they shall be released from their tedious duty (Aben Ezra, Geier, and most.) [Delitzsch: “The repetition of the words gives the impression of painful and long-continued waiting. The anger beneath whose influence the Poet now lies, is the darkness of night, from which he would be transferred to the sunny influence of love (Mal. 3:20); and not he alone, but all Israel also, whose needs are the same, and for whom, as for him, faithful waiting is the way of salvation. With Jehovah, with Him exclusively, and with Him in all its fulness, is the mercy which releases from the guilt of sin and its consequences, and gives freedom, peace, and joy to the heart. And redemption is plenteous with Him, i.e., he possesses in abundant measure the willingness, power, and wisdom, needed in order to effect the redemption, which, like a wall of separation, (Exodus 8:19) is placed between the imperilled and ruin. To Him therefore must each one look, if he would obtain mercy; to Him must His people look; and this hope fixed upon Him will not be put to shame. He in the mighty fulness of His free grace, will redeem Israel from all his iniquities, in forgiving them and removing all baleful consequences within and without. The Poet comforts himself with this promise (comp. Psalms 25:22). He means complete and final spiritual deliverance from all that holds in bondage, just as in the New Testament.”—J. F. M.].


From the depths of thy distress send thy cry upward to God; from the depths of His compassion He will send help down.—A change in our situation would avail nothing without the forgiveness of sins; but the mercy of God effects our redemption.—He who waits for the Lord and His deliverance, must know how to wait in faith and patience, with watching and prayer, and learn to strengthen his hope in God’s word.—God possesses in fullest measure all that is necessary to our redemption, and from the fulness of His grace He imparts richly what serves to accomplish it. But the fulness of faith is only too often wanting in us.

Starke: The deeper men sink in the waters of temptation, tribulation, and distress, the stronger support do they find in the fathomless mercy of God.—Blessed is he who feels the depths of sin in a season of grace, and by cries of repentance to the Lord, is delivered from them; raised above them, he need not feel the depths of hell. The cry of supplication has no greater hindrance than the cries of sin, until they are removed by sincere repentance.—No man is so willing to pray to God as He is willing to be entreated; He will give us His benefits and forgive our sins.—Right views of God’s mercy do not lead to carnal security, but to a childlike fear and service of Him.—Justification is a source of sanctification; before a soul is justified it can have no childlike fear of God.—All the reasons which bind us to love God, constrain us also to hope in Him.—The Christian’s hope must be founded upon the word of God’s mercy. For to hope and believe without God’s word, is to tempt God.—The best consolation in the night of trial and sorrow is the promise of God that it will be followed by a clear day of rejoicing.—The many promises of the conversion of the Jewish people in the last time, urge the true Christian to pray the more fervently for this poor people.

Frisch: There are many depths into which sin plunges us. But, as Luther says, it is well for us, that, though we are all in deep distress, we do not feel it where we are.—The grace, long-suffering, and mercy of God, should incite us not to sin, but from sin, not to fall, but from falling, to repentance and conversion.—Rieger: It is the nature of the new man ever to manifest a constant waiting, hoping, trusting, and believing in God. But to the natural man such an attachment to God’s word is more difficult than the greatest work of any other kind.—Guenther: The distressed believer, in trusting, rises upward from the abyss, and the suppliant draws the Almighty down to him in his compassion. The greater the need the greater the assurance.—Engelhardt: The path of sincere repentance leads (1) into the depth of our hearts and is, a) knowledge of sin, b) prayer for gracious aid, c) distrust of our own righteousness; (2) to the paternal heart of God: there alone are to be found, a) compassion and forgiveness, b) certain help even when long delayed, c) final redemption from all sin.—Taube: The royal road from the depths of the misery of sin to the Heights of the consolation of redemption.

[Matt. Henry: There is an all sufficient fulness of merit and grace in the Redeemer, enough for all, enough for each; enough for me, saith the believer.—Bp. Horne: True repentance is founded upon a sense of our own wretchedness and faith in the Divine mercy. Without the former we should never seek for pardon and grace; without the latter we should despair of finding them.—Scott: Faith in His faithful testimony and sure promise, confirmed by experience, form the soul to a holy fear and love of the Lord our God.—J. F. M.]. 

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 130". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.