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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Psalms 40

Psalms 40

THE Psalmist announces, that the Lord had granted to him a glorious deliverance, and thereby much confirmation to his faith, Psalms 40:1-3, and pronounces blessed, primarily on the ground of this experience, that man, who has placed his confidence upon the Lord, while for the farther grounding of this encomium of bliss, as connected with his personal experience, he rises aloft to the entire circle of the glorious manifestations of God in the history of his people, Psalms 40:4-5. This is what God has done to the Psalmist. How must he show his gratitude for such kindness? This question is answered in Psalms 40:6-10. The first presentation of thanks in Psalms 40:6-8, is by deed. Here God has in all external gifts, as such, no pleasure, he desires only one thing, obedience, and to this he has made the heart of the Psalmist willing. Hence he comes forth ready to do the will of his Lord, which has been made known to him out of the written law of God, which with desire he fulfils, because the law does not merely stand before him as an outward letter, but is written in his heart. The second presentation of thanks in Psalms 40:9-10, is by word: the Psalmist is unwearied in proclaiming what the Lord has done for him.

But still, though the sufferer has been fortunately delivered from one great distress, he is always encompassed by great sufferings and dangers. He therefore turns himself in the second part, Psalms 40:11-17, with importunate supplication to the Lord, that he, who, from the tenor of the first part, had evidently not lavished his gifts on an ungrateful person, would rescue him from the multiplied troubles that had come upon him in consequence of his sins, and would put his enemies to shame, expressing toward the close his confident hope of the fulfilment of his prayer.

An artificial, formal arrangement, unquestionably presents itself to us in this Psalm. The first part, occupying itself with the divine aid already received, is made good in the number ten; the second, taking the new aid into consideration, in seven. The two divisions of the first part, the former representing what God has done, the other what the Psalmist will do, have each five verses, thereby appearing as two connected halves. Each of these divisions again falls into a subdivision of three, and one of two verses. In the second part, which takes into account the new divine help, we find likewise in accordance with the four subdivisions of the first part four such, three of two verses, and a conclusion of one. In the position of the name of God also, there is evidently design. It is found ten times in the Psalm, (nine times Jehovah, and once Adonai) five in each of the two main divisions, which are even by this discovered to be two connected halves, as the two subdivisions of the first part by the number five of the verses.

The situation is that of one who, on one side, set free from a heavy affliction, is still oppressed on the other. The question, whether for this an individual occasion afforded the ground, is to be answered in the negative. Especially in the second part, the not-individual character of the Psalm comes clearly out. The prayers have the standing characteristic which we perceive in the not-individual Psalms. That the first part has more of an individual caste is to be explained from the circumstance, that it is taken up with the main thought of the Psalmist, the necessity of an active expression of thankfulness, as a foundation for acceptable prayer. After he has brought out this main thought in striking colours, he surrenders himself to the customary path, treading very close especially on Psalms 35. By so doing he taught the lesson, that thankfulness is always the groundwork of prayer, and also brought the first part of the same Psalm into remembrance, in which that thought was not expressly uttered. But even the first part bears, with all its peculiarities, undeniable marks in another respect of a not-individual character. In the first half, the distress of the Psalmist, from which he was delivered by God, is obviously delineated in so general a manner, that the description suits every great distress. In the second half, the hortatory tendency is but thinly veiled, and behind the words: I come, etc., the meaning: thou must come, etc., may be descried.

This manifest not-individual character of the Psalm already suffices to disprove the exposition, otherwise extremely constrained and arbitrary, which Hoffmann gives of Psalms 40:6-8 in his prophecy and its fulfilment. According to it, these verses contain a meaning, which exclusively applies to David.

The direct Messianic exposition, which was very wide-spread in former times, has but a weak foundation in the quotation of Psalms 40:6-8 in Hebrews 10 : and affirmations such as that put forth by the author himself at the beginning of his career: “there can be no doubt, that he, who acknowledges the divine authority of the Epistle to the Hebrews, must decide for the Messianic exposition,” lose all meaning when a deeper insight has been obtained into the way and manner in which the New Testament, and especially the Epistle to the Hebrews, handles the declarations of the Old Testament. In the sacrifices, particularly the sin-offerings, a double element was contained,—what the man performed in presenting them, and what God imparted through them. Now, in this Psalm, the subjective side alone is brought into view, but what is said in reference to them, that they were not substitutionary, but only representative, that under their image the man himself, his personal obedience was desired by God, this holds also of the objective. How could they properly be efficacious here of themselves alone, and there only indicative? As through the sacrifices the personal guiltiness of men was only imaged, not contained, so was also the substitution through them only represented (the necessity of it indicated, conscience kept alive about it), not provided. So that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews could not produce for his assertion: “it is impossible that the blood of bulls and of goats could take away sin,” a more apposite passage from the Old Testament than Psalms 40:6-8 of this Psalm, which he puts into the mouth of Christ at his entrance into the world, and thus makes him frighten those, who placed a foolish confidence upon the shew-sacrifice.

The second part of the Psalm returns again with many alterations, as Psalms 70. Also here, as with Psalms 53 in relation to Psalms 14, with 2 Samuel 22 in relation to Psalms 18, everything bears the mark of intention, nothing of accident. The superscription להזכיר (for remembrance), by which Psalms 70 is designated as a supplicatory prayer, (comp. Psalms 38 super.) points to the design of the undertaking. In Psalms 40 two elements were combined together, thanks and prayer, which occur also thus combined in Psalms 9, comp. on the design of such connection, Vol. i. p. 138. For the good of those who had not already received any manifest tokens of divine grace, and for whom there was needed only a short form of prayer, the author gave independent existence to the second part. But he would thereby have us to understand; that we have before us not an original whole, but only a selected part of a whole. This he accomplishes by means of the number five, the sign of incompleteness—the half. In order to effect this, the two first of the seven verses, which compose the second part, are cut away, the more striking, as these stand in immediate connection with the first part. So also he makes the names of God complete themselves in the number five; and changes, for the sake of doing so, the אלהי , my God, in Psalms 40:17, which could not be reckoned, because everywhere those names of God only, which are not burdened, with suffixes, are taken into account—into Jehovah. The same purpose also is aimed at in the omission of רצה , let it please thee, which gives to the beginning an abrupt character, and to the whole the nature of a fragment. Besides, there are other changes. Various words, not absolutely indispensable to the sense, are dropt, the author being disposed thereby to shew that he would abbreviate in the little, as he had done also in the great. The change here could not have occurred by accident, were it only because the relation between two texts is never a reverse one. While in Psalms 11 only Jehovah occurs, Psalms 70 exchanges Jehovah with Elohim, insomuch that in the first and last verses the rise is from Jehovah to Elohim; Elohim thus standing at the beginning, and Jehovah at the end, while in Psalms 40:4, Elohim is used, because Jehovah has just preceded. This connection of Jehovah and Elohim, intimating what was so consolatory for the tempted, that the God of Israel is at the same time the Godhead, is to be met with also in the speeches of David in the historical books, (comp. my Beitr. Th. II. p. 312,) and again in Psalms 69 at the close of Psalms 69:32, ss., to which, as we shall see by and bye, Psalms 70 stands in a very close relation. Instead of ישמו , they are confounded, in Psalms 40, Psalms 70 has ישובו , they shall turn back, give way, an agreeable variation which the undoubtedly original ישמו must not supplant. Instead of חושב לי Psalms 40:5 has חושהלי , make haste to me, obviously that the close might point back to the beginning, so that here also we cannot think of an accident.

Scarcely even the semblance of an argument has been brought against David’s being the author of both Psalms. The assertion of Hitzig, that “whoever the author of Psalms 11 might be, he is identical with that of Psalms 69,” we admit, but deny that the latter Psalm contains any thing, which is at variance with its Davidic authorship, and find in this very internal agreement of the two Psalms, which the superscriptions attribute to the same author, an. instance corroborative of the authority of the superscriptions. What Hitzig alleges against David, from Psalms 40:7, that the author must have lived in a time, when people wrote with reeds and ink on parchment, which he thinks could not be before Jeremiah’s time, has been already set aside by the proof brought forward in my Beitr. Th. II. p. 489, etc., showing that the use of skins for writing was the original mode, and that the Pentateuch was from the first written on polished skins of beasts.

Verses 1-3

Ver. 1 . I waited for the Lord, and he inclined to me and heard my cry. The inf. קוה being placed first, brings the action strongly out: I waited, Ew. Gr. p. 561. This strong emphasis on the waiting has the force of an admonition; it suggests to the sufferer, that every thing depends on waiting. Berleb. Bible: “if we only wait in patience upon God, he will presently manifest himself.” As the נטה unquestionably occurs often in the sense of inclining one’s self, there is no reason for supposing an ellipsis: he inclined his ear. Ver. 2. And drew me out of the roaring deep and out of the mud, and set my feet upon a rock, established my goings. שאין has always the meaning of noise, roaring, even in Jeremiah 46:17, as is shown by comp. Amos 2:2, and Jeremiah 25:31, Jeremiah 51:55; and it is hence arbitrary to translate with many: pit of destruction, the more so as in Psalms 65:7, Isaiah 17:12, the word is used of the noise of great waters. It is urged against the application of this meaning here, that the water in a pit does not rage and make a noise. But that בור which even occurs of Sheol, Psalms 28:1, is here a figurative designation for a water-pit, and that we are not to think of a cistern, is clear even from שאון , also from the comparison of Psalms 69:3, “I came into deep waters, and the floods overflowed me,” and especially Psalms 69:15, “Let not the water-flood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up;” further, from a comparison of the parallel passages, such as Psalms 18:4, Psalms 18:16; Psalms 32:6; Psalms 144:7; 2 Samuel 22:5; finally, from the circumstance, that, the rock forms no suitable opposition to a cistern, while it does so to a deep of raging waters. Hence, by the mud also we must understand, not a muddy cistern, but the mud of a deep of waters, in agreement with Psalms 69:2, “I sink in deep mire, and cannot stand.” On טיט היון comp. the lutulentum coenum of Plautus. The יון , which occurs only here and in Psalms 69, appears to be the stronger; out of slimy mud. The steps are made firm, when they receive a sure foundation; comp. the: I cannot stand, in Psalms 69:2.

Ver. 3. And hast given in my mouth a new song, praise for our God; many will see it and be afraid, and trust in the Lord. The new song, (comp. on Psalms 33:3), is not precisely this Psalm, which is rather to be regarded as only a particular form of it. The rich new theme admits of many variations; the new song may divide itself into a multitude of particular songs. The expression: our God, not my God, prepares the way for the following: many shall see it, etc. The seeing goes not upon the new song, but upon the object of that, the deliverance. As to the substance, he has given me a new song, is, q. d. he has manifested toward me new acts of kindness. The fear is, as its connection with the trusting already shows, reverential fear: God’s glorious manifestation will fill them with a holy dread of his majesty, and at the same time with confidence in him, whose help also they must be looking for. The paronomasia between יראו and ייראו points to the internal connection between seeing and fearing, and consequently to the greatness of the salvation experienced by the Psalmist.

Verse 4

Ver. 4. Blessed is the man, who sets his hope on the Lord, and turns not himself to the proud, and such as bend aside to lies. The Psalmist himself speaks here, not the “many” of the preceding verse. He draws from his experience, as exhibited in the preceding verse, the conclusion, that nothing is better and safer, than to place all his hope in the Lord. מבטח , object of trust. To turn one’s self to any one, is as much as, to take up with his side, to go over to his party, to espouse his principles; comp. in Job 36:21, “turn not thyself to iniquity,” and in Ezekiel 29:16, פנה אחרי .

The proud—the adj. רָ הָ ב only here,—come into consideration here, either as those who place their confidence upon their own strength, or as those who, in the proud imaginations of their hearts, put in the place of the eternal God the workmanship of their own thoughts and hands, and on that rest their confidence. שוט , occurring only here, is equivalent to שטח , to bend aside, deviate. They fall away from the right object of confidence to the false. Lies marks here, either everything beside the living God upon which man places his confidence, which belies him that rests upon it, feeds him with false hopes, his own and other men’s power, (comp. Psalms 62:9, “men of low degree are vanity, men of high degree a lie,”) also idols, or it must be understood specially only of the latter, comp. Jeremiah 16:19. According to the exposition given, there are placed in opposition to those, who, in the time of trouble trust in the Lord, those who, misled by high-mindedness, put their trust upon their own strength, and upon idols, or only upon the latter. According to some, the expression: to turn one’s self is the same as: to seek help; the proud those, from whom help is sought, and who must be named lying, because they cannot afford the aid which they promise. But the proud manifestly stand in opposition to those, who humbly trust in the Lord; שטי כזב cannot signify, faithless of a lie, but only the turning aside of the,=to the, lie: turning aside from God, the legitimate object of confidence, who alone does not disappoint the trust placed in him, to a lie.

Verse 5

Ver. 5. Many makest thou, O Lord my God, thy wonders, and thy thoughts toward us: nothing is to be compared to thee. I will declare and speak of them; they are not to be numbered. The ascription of blessedness to those, who place their confidence on the Lord, which the Psalmist derived, in the first instance, from his own experience, he here grounds farther by rising from the particular to the general, to the larger manifestations of God throughout the entire history of Israel. A precisely similar transition from the particular to the general is to be found in the thanksgiving of David in 2 Samuel 7, which presents so strong a resemblance generally to the first part of this Psalm: “For there is none like thee, neither is there any God besides thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears,” etc. 2 Samuel 7:22-24. The words: and thy thoughts towards us, are in the nom. absol., and it is in reference to his thoughts toward Israel that God is designated as incomparable. The ערךְ? is inf., literally: there is not to be compared with thee. Many expositors, after Luther: Great are thy wonders, and thy thoughts toward us. But then we have a trailing period; the parallelism is destroyed; the thoughts must be characterised more minutely than as being salutary; the last words refer immediately to the “wonders” and “thoughts,” which can therefore not be separated from them by a parenthesis.

The Psalmist declares, in the second half of the first part, how he would show his gratitude for the goodness manifested toward him.

Verse 6

Ver. 6. Sacrifices and meat-offerings please thee not, ears hast thou dug through for me, burnt-offerings and sin-offerings thou desirest not. At the beginning and at the end, the Psalmist rejects a false way of presenting thanks, and in the middle he places the right one, acceptable to God. In what respect it is said here, that God did not wish sacrifices, since he had expressly commanded them, appears from the contrast. Obedience, the willing performance of the divine command, is set over against the presentation of offerings. Offerings, therefore, are rejected in so far as they form a compensation for that, in so far as they would in a manner satisfy, put off God. It is not such offerings that are demanded in the law. It is not such offerings that are demanded in the law. They are rather the caricature, which the natural man makes of them, always seeking to get rid of the most difficult of all sacrifices. Comp. on Psalms 50. Those have quite erred from the right view, who have supposed, that offerings are here not absolutely rejected, but only placed in subordination to obedience. Offerings are either of no worth, or quite equivalent to obedience. Not a mere depreciation, but rather an unconditional rejection of offerings is also to be found in 1 Samuel 15:22, to which the expositors in question refer: “behold to obey is better than sacrifices, (which indeed are nothing worth,) and to hearken than the fat of lambs.” With perfect justice does the Berleb. Bible add besides: “And so also, in regard to words and prayers, and all outward services, without the obedience of faith.” Offerings come into consideration only as a species in the genus, comp. Isaiah 1 where, along with this, many other kinds are expressly named. As to the particulars, the sacrifice זבח , here as often=שלמים , peace-offerings, united into a pair with the unbloody offering, מנחה , the symbolical representation of good works, (comp. Beitr. P. p. 649, 650,) because both belong to those, who are already justified and pardoned; sin-offerings and burnt-offerings are placed together because they have this in common, that the offerer partook of no part of them.

We turn now to the middle member. Several commentators explain: ears hast thou dug to me, supporting themselves by this, that אזנים has not the article, and that כרה signifies to dig, and not to dig through. But the want of the article in poetry is very common, comp. for ex. in אזן itself, Isaiah 50:5, and so small a modification of the meaning may very readily obtain, especially in the poetic style. We might, however, say: thou hast dug to me the ears, for dug through. But it is to be urged against this, that the supposition that אזנים marks here precisely spiritual ears, in opposition to bodily ones, runs counter to all analogy, and that in the related modes of expression &#פתח אזן גלה אזן , the discourse is always of the ear. We can then understand the expression thou hast dug through the ears to me, in a twofold manner, Some take it thus thou makest me to understand, to discern, thou givest me an internal revelation on the point, that sacrifices are not well pleasing in thy sight. But, according to others, the Psalmist must in these words, place the obedience, to which he was internally drawn by God, in contrast to sacrifices, q. d. thou hast made me hearing, obedient. Against the first exposition, and for the second, the following reasons are decisive: 1 The subsequent context requires, that in this verse it should be contained, not merely what God does not desire, but also what he does desire. 2. The doctrine that sacrifices, as opus operatum, are of no value, cannot be indicated as the object of a special revelation. It is, as Stier justly remarks, “a truth, from the first openly declared to Israel, although certainly not received by many.” No Israelite of real piety was in doubt upon this subject. 3. Precisely the same contrast between obedience and sacrifices exists in the parallel, probably fundamental passage, 1 Samuel 15:22: “And Samuel said, Hath the Lord delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as that one should hearken to the voice of the Lord? Behold, to hearken is better than sacrifice, and to attend than the fat of lambs.” The exposition of obedience is likewise confirmed by the parallel passage, Jeremiah 7:22, Jeremiah 7:33: “For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them; in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, a word of burnt-offerings and sacrifices, but this word did I command them, obey my voice, . . . and walk ye in all the ways which I have commanded you,” compare ver. 24 “but they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear.” See also a similar contrast in Hosea 6:6, Psalms 16, Psalms 17.

The LXX. have rendered the words by σῶ?μα δὲ? κατηρτί?σω μοι , but a body hast thou prepared for me, and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews has adopted them, because the thought is not altered by this translation. The contrast there also is the presentation of thanks through the whole life and conduct, in opposition to single and merely external offerings: thou hast given me a body, so that I willingly serve thee in the execution of thy will. Compare the words: Lo, I come, in Psalms 40:7.

Verse 7

Ver. 7. Then I said: Lo, I come, in the volume of the book it is prescribed to me. Then, under these circumstances, since thou dost not desire offerings, but obedience, and hast made me internally willing to perform what is desired, I come, in order to do what is well pleasing to thee. The second member indicates, that the Psalmist, in his readiness to do the will of God, has the means furnished him, through which he can recognise this will with certainty, and in its whole compass, through which he is taken out of the region of his own imaginings in this respect; in the written law of God, it is told him, what is good, and what his God desires of him, so that he has no need to speculate and make curious inquiries, but can proceed straight to action. As God has given him the inclination to obedience, so has he also given him a law for that. The volume, or rollbook, is the Pentateuch, which from the first was written on parchment. The ground which some have found against the reference to the Pent., from the want of the article, is of no force, since the article is more rare in poetry, which is fond of brief and ornate expressions, than in prose, and might the more readily be dispensed with here, since, in the time of David, when no other sacred book existed, every one would at once understand what was meant by the roll-book. כתב with על prop. to write over any one, therefore to write, that the thing written lies upon him, occurs in 2 Kings 13 in a quite similar connection in the sense of prescribing: “Because our fathers have not hearkened to the words of this book, to do according to all that is written upon us,” ככל הכתוב עלינו . Parall. pass. are Joshua 1:7, “That thou mayest observe to do according to all this law, which Moses, my servant, commanded thee,” and 1 Kings 2:3, where the dying David says to Solomon, “That thou walk in his ways, and keep his commandments . . . . as it is written in the law of Moses.” These parallel passages, as also the connection, decide against the exposition of the Messianic interpreters: it is written of me. The exposition of De Wette: I come with the book-roll written to me in the heart, destroys the parallelism, leaves the parallel passage without consideration, and is contrary to all analogy, since it is often said of the law itself, that it is written in the heart or interior, but not of the law-book, that it is written upon men. The exposition of Gesenius: “Lo, I come with the book’s roll, which has been prescribed to me,” likewise destroys the parallelism, and leaves the parallel passages unnoticed; then it refers what is written to the book, instead of making it refer, as it should, according to this view, to the roll; finally, it cannot be said of the book, that it has been prescribed, at least no parallel passage is anywhere to be found.

Verse 8

Ver. 8. To do thy will, my God, I delight, and thy law is in my inner part, prop. within my bowels. But these denote the innermost, in opposition to the exterior. To be convinced how groundless the opinion of Hoffmann is, that ל in לעשות could not be dependent on חפצתי , which would have ב with it, we have only to cast a glance at Psalms 143:10, and the places cited by Gesenius, in his Thes. p. 507. The law in the inwards of the Psalmist forms the contrast to that which had been externally prescribed to him. Where matters are as they should be, there the law is not merely prescribed, but also inscribed. The Messianic expositors have maintained, that the substance of the verse is not applicable to David, who presently complains, that his sins are more numerous than the hairs of his head: and Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 31:33, disclaims the writing of the law in the heart as belonging to the old covenant, and speaks of it as peculiar to the new. Tholuck still thinks, that the Spirit of God had, in a hallowed hour, put words into the Psalmist’s mouth, which, in the full sense, could be used by no one but the Son of God. But to have the law of God in the heart, and to sin is no contrast, else would the promise respecting the new covenant in Jeremiah not have been fulfilled. That the distinction between the old and the new covenants in this respect was only a relative one, has been shown in my Christology, P. III. p. 577, ss. But we cannot rob the old covenant of the writing of the law in the heart, without making its members destitute of all true and living piety; and consequently being put to the blush by such persons as David and many others. Already in Deuteronomy 6:6, it is said: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart,” (not merely upon the stones, Deuteronomy 27:3, and upon the book-roll.) David describes, in Psalms 37:31, the righteous as one, in whose heart the law of his God is. Solomon directs in Proverbs 3:3, Proverbs 7:3: “Write them (the commandments) upon the table of thy heart.” In Isaiah 51:7, God addresses the people, in whose heart is his law.

Verses 9-10

With the giving of thanks by deeds must also be coupled the doing of it by words. Ver. 9. I preach righteousness in the great congregation; lo, I will not close my lips, O Lord, thou knowest. Ver. 10. Thy righteousness I conceal not in my heart, of thy faithfulness and thy salvation I speak, I conceal not thy loving-kindness and thy truth from the great congregation. It may seem, on a superficial consideration, as if David used here too many words. But they will judge quite otherwise, who understand the natural coldness of the human heart, its lukewarmness in the praise of God, its forgetfulness and unthankfulness, and the inclination of the lazy mouth to silence. For such every word here will be as a sharp arrow in the heart. צדק , in Psalms 40:9, is to be distinguished from צדקה in Psalms 40:10, thus, that the first marks the merely being righteous, showing one’s self righteous, as that was here brought in, while the latter marks righteousness as a fixed property, compare Ew. Large Gr. p. 313. The: O Lord, thou knowest, points to the fact, how easily one can deceive himself and others, by the imagination and the appearance as to his readiness for the praise of God. Let each consider, whether he can, with a good conscience, appeal in this respect to the testimony of God.

Verses 11-12

The second part begins now, in which the building of the prayer raises itself upon the foundation laid in the first part. Ver. 11. Do Thou, O Lord, withhold not from me thy tender mercies, let thy loving-kindness and thy truth continually preserve me. Ver. 12. For innumerable evils compass me about, my transgressions have taken hold upon me, so that I cannot see, they are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart has failed me. In the relation of the “withhold not,” to the “I will not withhold,” in Psalms 40:9, there is expressed the doctrine, that the measure of the further salvation proceeds according to the measure of thankfulness for the earlier. This internal reference of the second part to the first, serves also for a proof against those who think that the second part was appended by another hand. The second part is properly that, to which the other points. The didactic aim of the whole is to shew, how we may pray acceptably in the time of distress. This can only be done by the prayer having thankfulness for its foundation, first manifesting itself in the walk, and then in acknowledgment. As the expression, “withhold not,” refers to “I will not withhold,” so the words: “let thy loving-kindness and thy truth continually preserve me,” point back to: “I will not conceal thy loving kindness and thy truth,” with which the Psalmist had closed his promise of thanksgiving. That we will not conceal God’s loving-kindness and truth, is the sure means, but also the indispensable condition of its further manifestation in our experience. אפף with על is stronger than אפפוני in Psalms 18:4, as has already been remarked by Calvin: “he says, that he is not only surrounded on all sides, but that a mass of evils lay upon his head.” עונות signifies here, as always, not punishments, but transgressions, which, however, overtake the sinner in their consequences, so that in substance: my transgressions, etc., is as much as: the punishments for my transgressions; comp. Deuteronomy 28:15, “all these curses shall come upon thee and overtake thee,” 1 Samuel 28:10. That the Psalmist speaks here of his numerous offences, and treats of his suffering as the righteous punishment of these, forms an irrefragable proof against the direct Messianic exposition. This cannot derive support from Isaiah 53. For here there is no word to indicate, that the offences, which the sufferer describes as his, were only those of others laid to his charge. And of such we can the less think, on account of the many almost literally agreeing parallel passages in the Psalms, where personal sins alone can be thought of, and especially on account of the repetition in Psalms 70. The expression: I cannot see, many expound: I cannot survey them. But against this there is the want of the suffix, and the circumstance that to see cannot mean to look over, or survey. The argument, which is derived from the assumed parallel: they are more than the hairs of my head, is nothing; for this corresponds to the expression: without number; as: I cannot see; to: my heart has failed me. The right view was already given by Luther in his gloss: “that my sight gives way under great sorrow.” The expression elsewhere always marks the failure of the eyesight, comp. 1 Samuel 3:2, “his eyes began to be dim, and he could not see,” 1 Samuel 4:15; 1 Kings 14:4. Such a darkening of the visage takes place under deep pain, which exhausts all the powers, comp. Job 16:16, “lighten mine eyes,” Psalms 38:10, “the light of mine eyes is gone from me.” The heart is here not exactly the feeling, spirit, but is rather considered as the seat of the powers of life. “My strength faileth me,” in Psalms 38:10, is parallel.

Verses 13-16

Ver. 13. Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me, Lord hasten to me for help. Ver. 14. Let them be ashamed and abashed together, who seek after my soul to destroy it; let them recoil backwards and be put to shame, who have pleasure in my misfortune. Ver. 15. Let them be confounded for their shame, who say to me: there, there. Ver. 16. Let all those rejoice and be glad in thee, who seek thee: let them say continually: great is the Lord, who love thy salvation. As Psalms 40:13 and Psalms 40:14, so also these two form a pair. The petitions stand in the two pairs of verses in reverse order; the first: deliver me, then: put to shame my enemies; here first: put to shame my enemies, then: give to me and to all those, who in heart sigh after thee and thy favour, occasion of joy through thy salvation. These two pairs form the kernel of the second part. They are shut in by the introduction in Psalms 40:11 and Psalms 40:12, and the conclusion in Psalms 40:17. Upon על עקב , on account of, comp. the lex. and on the words: who say to me, there, there, Psalms 22:7; Psalms 35:21, Psalms 35:25. On Psalms 40:16, see Psalms 35:27.

Verse 17

Ver. 17. And I am poor and needy, the Lord will care for me, my help and my deliverer art thou: my God tarry not. John Arnd: “Thou art my help in heaven, because I have no helper and deliverer on earth. Therefore delay not. I know, thou wilt choose the right time, and not neglect me. For this our faith certainly concludes: God cares for thee, hence he choose the right time, and will not unduly delay.”

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 40". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.