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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Psalms 40

Verse 1

I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.

Psalms 40:1-17.-Messiah's new song of thanksgiving for redemption accomplished in His resurrection (Hebrews 10:6-8). He represents Himself as the end of all the typical sacrifices, according to the volume of Scripture: doing God's will perfectly, yet encompassed with man's innumerable iniquities. Praise for past deliverances (Psalms 40:1-3); blessed is he who makes the Lord his trust, seeing that God's works and thoughts toward us are so wonderful (Psalms 40:4-5); he cometh to do God's will, having God's law in his heart, which is the end of all sacrifices (Psalms 40:6-8); he preaches God's righteousness in the great congregation (Psalms 40:9-10); prayer for deliverance from countless foes in His work (Psalms 40:11-17). Psalms 70:1-5 repeats the latter part.

I waited patiently for the Lord - Hebrew, 'waiting I waited,' implying continuous, patient, and unwearied waiting on and for the Lord.

Verse 2

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit - literally, 'from a deep of roaring.' The Hebrew [ mibowr (H953) shaa'own (H7588), from a root, shaa'ah (H7582), to roar like waves] is the same as in Isaiah 17:12, "like the rushing of mighty waters." As water does not 'roar' in a "pit," we must understand, not a cistern, but a vast deep cavity, into which roaring waters rush. The "pit" is used of Sheol or Hades, Psalms 28:1; cf. the parallel, Psalms 69:2; Psalms 18:4; Psalms 18:16. What shows that not a cistern pit, but a deep of roaring waters, is meant, is that "a rock" stands in suitable contrast to the latter, but would not do so to the former. Wasteness, misery, want, and howling sounds are all suggested by the Hebrew word (cf. Deuteronomy 32:10). Messiah, in His sufferings for us, had to bear the thunders of the divine justice against our sins, the horror of the maledictory sentence of the law, the mockings of men, and the howlings of insulting demons.

Out of the miry clay - the mud at the bottom of the deep roaring waters (Psalms 69:2). So Jeremiah, the type, "sunk in the mire" at the bottom of the dungeon of Malchiah, until he was drawn up and taken out by Ebed-melech.

And set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. "A rock" is the image of security (Psalms 18:2; Psalms 18:33). Christ is our Rock, as the Father was His rock in the days of His flesh.

Verse 3

And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.

And he hath put a new song in my mouth - literally, 'He hath given a new song,' etc. The theme of 'the new song,' though one in essential substance, has many particular variations. Redemption is its theme. The song is led by Christ, the Prince-Leader of our salvation, and is taken up by all the redeemed in common (Revelation 1:5-6; Revelation 5:9-10). His deliverance from the grave, and our consequent deliverance through Him, form its subject.

Praise unto our God - "our," not merely 'my God:' for "many" shall form the choir which Messiah leads.

Many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord. See and fear, in the Hebrew, form a play on similar sounds [ yir'uw (H7200) ... wªyiyraa'uw (H3372)]. The 'sight' of God's deliverance of Christ, first from sin and death, and then of Christ's people through Him, their Saviour, shall create reverent "fear" in many (Psalms 52:4; Psalms 130:4; Jeremiah 33:9). That fear shall not be slavish dread, but fear of offending One who showed His abhorrence of sin, and redeemed us from it at such an awful cost, even the sacrifice of His only-begotten Son; therefore "trust" in Him is inseparably joined to it. The deep internal connection of seeing and fearing God in Christ is marked by the paronomasia.

Verse 4

Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.

The inference from the gracious deliverance vouchsafed by the Lord to Him (as the Sufferer in confident faith foresees it will be).

Blessed is that man that ... respecteth not the proud - literally, 'turneth not himself to' them. So Job 36:21, "regard not (Hebrew, 'turn not thyself to') iniquity." Doth not go over to the same party as "the proud," the opposite to those "that make the Lord their trust." The latter are "poor in spirit" and humble; and feeling their own nothingness, make the Lord their sole confidence.

Nor such as turn aside to lies - i:e., such as through self-conceit deviate from God, the true object of trust, to all vain confidences (Romans 1:21-23; Romans 1:25). All else that man leans upon, beside the living God, belies him with deceitful hopes-idols (Jeremiah 16:9) and all creaturely dependencies (Psalms 62:9).

Verse 5

Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.

From his own deliverance he passes to those vouchsafed to the people of God, not only to Israel of old (2 Samuel 7:22-24), but also to the spiritual Israel, through the 'wonderful work' of redemption.

And thy thoughts which are to us-ward - thy loving thoughts (Isaiah 63:7; Jeremiah 29:11). Contrast the thoughts of the wicked (Psalms 56:5).

They cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee - rather, as the Septuagint, Vulgate, Arabic, Ethiopic, and Syriac, 'there is nothing to be compared to thee' [ 'eeyn (H369) `ªrok (H6186) 'eeleykaa (H413): understand lª- before `ªrok (H6186)]. Compare Exodus 15:11; 2 Samuel 7:22; Psalms 89:6.

Thus the Lord and His wonderful works for His people are contrasted with the "lies," or lying objects of trust, whose works are fatal disappointment to their votaries. The English version is good sense-`there is no ordering them unto thee;' i:e., one cannot so recount them before thee as to praise thee adequately. So the Chaldaic. Psalms 139:17-18 is then parallel - "How precious are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand."

Verse 6

Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.

The second half of the first part, Psalms 40:6-10. The petitioner testifies that he doeth God's will from the heart, not merely in external forms.

Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire. The Hebrew zebach (H2077) and minchaah (H4503) are, respectively, the bloody and the unbloody offerings. The natural man vainly tries to compound for obedience with sacrifice. Obedience of heart and act, the moral duty, is the main thing, and is the end for which the positive ordinance was instituted. Where the sacrifice was the expression of faith and obedience, there it was accepted; otherwise it was valueless before God (cf. Psalms 50:5; Psalms 50:8-14; Psalms 51:16-17; Hosea 6:6; 1 Samuel 15:22; Jeremiah 7:22-24). In regard to expiation, what God desired was not the blood of bulls and goats, but the sacrifice which alone could put away sin-namely, that of "Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God" (Hebrews 9:13-14; Hebrews 10:4-10.

Mine ears hast thou opened - literally, 'thou hast digged.' The sense is, thou hast made me willingly obedient; as in the passage of Jeremiah just quoted, and in Isaiah 50:5, where also, as here, Messiah is the speaker - "The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious." As the way in which he testified his obedience was by the assumption of a human body, the Septuagint version, which Hebrews 10:5-10 gives inspired sanction to, translate, 'a body thou hast prepared me'-literally, 'fitted for me' [ kateertisoo (G2675) moi (G3427)]. See my note there. The apostle brings out the deep sense latent in the psalm. The ear is the member of the body which symbolizes obedience. Hence, the boring of a bond-servant's ear was the token whereby he signified his desire still to remain his master's servant, when he might be free (Exodus 21:6; Deuteronomy 15:17). So the Divine Word testified His desire to become the Father's servant by voluntarily assuming a human body, in order to offer the one only expiatory sacrifice which the Father desired, and of which all other 'sacrifices' were but shadowy types, having in themselves nothing acceptable to God. God opened Messiah's internal ear - i:e., framed Him as the sinless man, willing to offer such a wonderful proof of obedience.

Burnt offering and sin offering - here joined, because they had this in common, that neither were partaken of by the offerer.

Verse 7

Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me,

Then ( 'aaz (H227)) - when sacrifices and offerings, such as the Mosaic law prescribed, were proved not to be what God desired for the expiation of sin, or even for the perfect fulfillment of the law of obedience. Then, "when the fullness of the time was come" (Galatians 4:4). The Son was from eternity willing, but at His advent He openly showed His willingness in act. On His marvelous willingness, even unto death, cf. Mark 10:32-34; Luke 9:51.

Said I, Lo, I come. Christ's voluntary coming into our fallen world is the most perfect exhibition of the obedience to God's will which was expressed in the words (Psalms 40:6), "Mine ears hast thou opened." Compare also Psalms 40:8.

In the volume ( bimªgilat (H4039 ), roll; from gaalal (H1556 )) of the book it is written of me. "The volume of the book" is the roll of the Scripture, which contained the Pentateuch. It was written from the earliest time on prepared skins or parchment, which, when not in use, was rolled round a wooden cylinder. The absence of the article in the Hebrew is no objection to the Pentateuch being meant; because the phrase was understood by all Israelites as referring to the one grand statute-book, the Magna Charta of their constitution, the Pentateuch, without the article being needed. The Hebrew for "book" [ ceeper (H5612)] implies a complete account of events; from saphar, to count. It marks that the sacred writings form one whole. Like the term "Scripture" [ grafee (G1124) or grafai (G1124)], it is peculiarly applied to the inspired writings. The Hebrew for "of me" is literally 'upon,' or 'concerning [ `al (H5921)] me.' Luke 24:44; John 5:45, "Moses wrote of me." Hengstenberg translates, 'it is prescribed to me,' as the Hebrew, 2 Kings 22:13; Joshua 1:7; 1 Kings 2:3. Even so, the sense is not materially altered. 'I, Messiah, come to fulfill all that the will of God, expressed in the Pentateuch by predictions, promises, and types, has prescribed to me.' What was written of Messiah before His coming, was virtually written to Him as His rule, since He came to fulfill the law. The Septuagint, Vulgate, Chaldaic, Syriac, and Ethiopic support the English version.

Verse 8

I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.

I delight to do thy will - (John 4:34; John 6:38; John 17:4.) As the Son saith, "I delight" to do the Father's will, so the Father saith of the Son (Isaiah 42:1), "Behold my servant ... mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth."

Yea, thy law is within my heart ( mee`aay (H4578)) - literally, 'in the midst of my bowels,' or 'inward parts.' None but Christ realized this perfectly. Old Testament believers, in some measure, had the law in their heart (Psalms 37:31; Deuteronomy 6:6; Deuteronomy 27:3; Proverbs 3:3; Proverbs 7:3); yet the fullness of the Spirit, whereby the law was written in the hearts of God's people (Jeremiah 31:33), was reserved for the times of the Gospel of Jesus, in whose heart first, as man, the law was perfectly written (Matthew 5:17; Romans 10:4). Christ alone fully reconciles the opposites (which would be, as applied, to a mere man like David, self-contradictions) - 'delighting to do God's will,' and having 'the law within His heart,' and yet encompassed with 'innumerable iniquities' (not His own, but ours, laid on Him by imputation). In a less strict sense, the seeming opposites hold good of the believer: Romans 7:22-23, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin."

Verse 9

I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, thou knowest.

I have preached righteousness in the great congregation. From the fulfilling of God's will in deeds he I have preached righteousness in the great congregation. From the fulfilling of God's will in deeds he passes to words. The Hebrew for "preached" [ baasar (H1319)] means to announce good tidings, new and unheard before, as "Gospel" means. So the Septuagint translate here [eueengelisameen], and the Ethiopic. So in Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 61:1. The Syriac, Arabic, and Vulgate read, 'thy righteousness.' The Septuagint, in most manuscripts, read, 'my righteousness.' The believer's righteousness is not his own, but Christ's imputed to him. The "righteousness" of God is especially "declared" in redemption (Daniel 9:24; Romans 3:25-26). The law of God, violated by man, is therein vindicated and magnified by the Son of man (Isaiah 42:21). In relation to David, the type, "the righteousness of God" consisted in God's having given to him, as having a righteous cause, and to his enemies, as having an unrighteous cause, their respective dues. Messiah, David's Antitype, declares that He not merely had the law of God within his heart (Psalms 40:8), but that He proclaimed with His lips "righteousness" in general as the essence of that law; then, in Psalms 40:10, he proceeds to appropriate that "righteousness" as altogether and peculiarly God's: 'THY righteousness I hide not in my heart,' in qualification of the previous, "thy law is within my heart" (Psalms 40:8). Though within my heart, as its inner seat, I do not hide it from outward manifestation to others.

Verse 10

I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.

I have not concealed thy loving-kindness and thy truth from the great congregation (Psalms 22:22; Psalms 22:25; Psalms 35:18) - i:e., from the fully-perfected congregation of the redeemed. Christ, by His ministers, declares the salvation which has been purchased by Himself unto the glory of the Father, to all who have been, are, and shall be gathered into the Church. He finally shall lead the praises of the Church perfected. This last He speaks of as if it were already accomplished, so certain is its fulfillment.

Second part. Prayer for deliverance, resting upon the foundation laid in the first part.

Verse 11

Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O LORD: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.

Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O Lord - even as I have not withheld (the Hebrew verb, tiklaa' (H3607), here is the same as in Psalms 40:9, "refrained") my lips from thy praises. The measure of further "mercies" is proportional to the degree of thankfulness for mercies already vouchsafed.

Let thy loving-kindness and thy truth continually preserve me - even as "I have not concealed thy loving-kindness and thy truth from the great congregation" (Psalms 40:10).

Verse 12

For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.

For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me - the aggregate of both the sins of the whole world and their penal consequences (Isaiah 53:4-6; Mark 15:28; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Not only was He "compassed" on all sides with countless "evils," but the mass of "iniquities" was laid upon His head.

So that I am not able to look up - mine eye-sight fails me through anguish (Psalms 38:10; Job 16:16). In the parallelism, the first of this verse's four clauses answers to the third, and the second to the fourth.

Verses 13-14

Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me: O LORD, make haste to help me.

Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me ... Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek after my soul ...

Verses 15-16

Let them be desolate for a reward of their shame that say unto me, Aha, aha.

Let them be desolate for a reward of their shame ... Let all those that seek thee rejoice ... let such as love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified. There are here two pairs, with the same petitions, in reverse order respectively. Psalms 40:13-14, 'Deliver me ... shame them that seek after my soul;' Psalms 40:14-15, 'Shame them ... let all those that seek thee rejoice, and magnify thee for thy salvation.' These petitions constitute the main body of the second part, and are introduced by Psalms 40:11-12, and concluded by Psalms 40:17. "Those that seek thee" form a beautiful contrast to "them that seek after my soul." "Let them be desolate for a reward of their shame" - i:e., for a reward of the shame with which they tried to load me. As their conduct to me is a shame, so let shame and desolation be their "reward" (cf. Psalms 70:3). The Hebrew [ `al (H5921) `eqeb (H6118)] of "for a reward" is idiomatic, meaning on account of. L. de Dieu, after Septuagint, Vulgate, and Syriac, explains "shame" to be passive not active-the shame with which they are overwhelmed, 'Let them bear (i:e., be desolated with) their shame forthwith' (literally, upon the heel, as the Latin 'e vestigio'). I prefer the former view.

That say unto me, Aha, aha! - (Psalms 22:7-8; Psalms 35:21-22.) That say unto me, Aha, aha! - (Psalms 22:7-8; Psalms 35:21-22.)

Let all those that seek thee rejoice ... say continually, The Lord be magnified - (Psalms 35:27.)

Verse 17

But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.

But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me - and therefore will care for me (1 Peter 5:7), and supply my needs out of the riches of His grace. Compare Psalms 40:5, "thy thoughts which are to us-ward."

Make no tarrying, O my God - (Psalms 70:5.) God tarries not a moment beyond the right time for interposing in His people's behalf (Habakkuk 2:3; 2 Peter 3:9; Luke 12:45).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 40". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.