Psalm 30

Submitted by admin on Tue, 2006-05-30 11:32.

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Before the designation “psalm,” the Septuagint reads, “to the end.” This composition is called “song at the dedication of the house” and is ascribed to David. Perhaps this psalm related to the dedication of David’s house or palace. If that is the case, the song, in view of the contents, might be regarded as an appreciative reflection on God’s care prior to David’s being firmly established in his kingship and in a position to build a palace.

The psalmist determined to exalt or extol YHWH, praising him. Because the Almighty had drawn him up or delivered him from grave danger and not permitted him to experience the kind of fall that would have provided his enemies with an occasion to be gleeful, David had good reason for extolling YHWH.

Apparently while in a sickly condition, David cried to YHWH for help, evidently for healing, and he did recover. The affliction had seemingly been so grave that the psalmist thought that he would die. His recovery proved to be as if YHWH had brought up his “soul” or life from Sheol, the realm of the dead. From among those descending to the pit, his experience was comparable to having the Most High restore him to life.

The “holy ones” would be persons who conducted themselves in a divinely approved manner. Upon recovering from his serious affliction, David apparently was moved to invite these godly ones to sing praises to YHWH and to give thanks to his holy “memorial” or name (YHWH himself, the One represented by the name).

Probably because the serious situation he apparently regarded as an expression of divine anger had passed, David was moved to acknowledge that being under God’s anger is but for a little while. This “moment” of divine displeasure that served as purposeful discipline is contrasted with being under God’s favor for a lifetime.

Faced with distressing circumstances, God’s servants may weep during the hours of darkness. The period of weeping might be comparable to a traveler’s taking up lodging for the night. But with the arrival of the morning, the distressing situation may have ended or changed for the better, leading to rejoicing at that time.

While at ease or enjoying prosperity, the psalmist felt that, for all time to come, he would not be moved or would remain secure. Possibly this expression reflects the self-assurance of a person in an untroubled state. “Complacent, I once said, ‘I shall never be shaken.’” (NAB) When all is going well, with no trouble on the horizon, one tends not to think that the situation might quickly change. If, however, the psalmist’s words are directly linked to the next verse regarding what YHWH had done for him, the expression would reflect faith in his God as the One who would continue to help, protect, and bless him. In the Tanakh, the thought of verse 6(7) is combined with the beginning of the next verse. “When I was untroubled, I thought, ‘I shall never be shaken,’ for You, O LORD, when You were pleased made [me] firm as a mighty mountain.”

David acknowledged that it was by YHWH’s favor, pleasure, or will that his “strong mountain” had been made to stand. The reference to the “strong mountain” could be to his kingship, which had been firmly established. (Compare 2 Samuel 5:12.) Numerous translators, however, have chosen to add the word “me” and render the words as meaning that God had firmly established the psalmist like a strong mountain. “By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain.” (NRSV) “You, LORD, were my friend, and you made me strong as a mighty mountain.” (CEV) The Septuagint includes no reference to “mountain” but reads, “O Lord, in your pleasure, you lent strength to my beauty,” suggesting that the psalmist came to possess both dignity and might.

When YHWH hid (“turned away,” LXX) his face, seemingly not responding to prayers, the psalmist came to be horrified or deeply troubled. Nevertheless, he continued to cry out to YHWH, not letting up on making supplication to him.

Apparently upon finding himself in a life-threatening situation, the psalmist asked how God would benefit if his shed blood were to descend to the pit. Could the dust, to which he would eventually have been reduced, praise the Most High and tell of his trueness or faithfulness (evidently with reference to the fulfillment of his promises)? The implied answer to the rhetorical questions is: YHWH would not benefit from the psalmist’s having his lifeblood shed. Lifeless dust cannot praise the Most High or tell about his faithfulness.

The psalmist continued to ask that YHWH hear him (responding to his petitions) and show him favor (“pity” him or show him mercy, LXX). He prayed for his God to be his helper.

At this point, David focused on the joy he experienced upon YHWH’s effecting a reversal of his distressing circumstances. The Most Might had transformed the psalmist’s mourning into an occasion for joyous dancing. The coarse sackcloth mourners customarily wore had been replaced by a belt of gladness. From the standpoint of the psalmist, YHWH had granted him such joy that he could speak of himself as being girded with it.

David appreciatively acknowledged that this reversal had a purpose. It was that his “glory” (possibly meaning all his God-given faculties or everything that made him glorious or the possessor of dignity; he himself in every aspect of his noble being) might praise God and not be silent about what the Most High had done for him. Modern translations generally do not preserve the word “glory” in their renderings but endeavor to convey the sense in various ways. “With my whole being I sing endless praise to you.” (NAB) “I thank you from my heart, and I will never stop.” (CEV) “...so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.” (NRSV) It was the psalmist’s determination to acknowledge, thank, or praise YHWH for all time to come.

Notes:

Regarding the divine name (YHWH), see Psalm 1.

The Septuagint (in verse 6[7]) does not refer to being under God’s anger “for a moment.” It reads, “For anger [is] in his fury, and life in his pleasure.”

In verse 8(9), the Masoretic Text reads “YHWH” and then “Lord”; the Septuagint, “Lord” and then “God.” A partially preserved part of this verse in a Dead Sea Psalms scroll has “YHWH” where the Masoretic Text says “Lord” and the Septuagint reads “God.”

Instead of being an appeal for divine favor and for YHWH to be his helper, the Septuagint rendering of verse 10(11) is: “The Lord heard and pitied me; the Lord came to be my helper.”

In the concluding verse, the Septuagint does not have a verb for “be silent.” The rendering is a form of the word katanýsso, which means “to be pierced,” “to be stabbed,” or “to be deeply pained.” According to this rendering, the psalmist, in every aspect of the glory or dignity of his being, would joyously sing praises and no longer be deeply pained by distressing circumstances.