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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 40

A.M. 2962. B.C. 1042.

In this Psalm David celebrates God’s great goodness to him and all his people. In its primary sense, it may be applicable to the deliverance which God had granted him from sickness, or from the distress to which he had been reduced by his enemies, (see the contents of the two preceding Psalms,) in devout thankfulness for which deliverance he may be supposed to declare his resolution to serve God cheerfully and faithfully. There are some passages, however, in this Psalm, which do not properly belong to David, or to that time and state of the Church; but only to Christ and the times of the New Testament, to which they are applied by the author of the epistle to the Hebrews. In these passages David speaks not in his own name and person, but in the name and person of Christ, of whom he was an eminent type: and yet there are other passages which cannot belong to Christ, and which David, therefore, spoke in his own person.

(1,) He praises God for delivering him out of deep distress, Psalms 40:1-5 .

(2,) Thence takes occasion to speak of the work of our redemption by Christ, Psalms 40:6-10 .

(3,) Prays for mercy and grace, both for himself and for his brethren, Psalms 40:11-17 .

Verses 1-2

Psalms 40:1-2. I waited patiently for the Lord Hebrew, קוה קויתי , kavvo kivviti, in waiting I waited, or, in hoping I hoped, which doubling of the word signifies that he waited or hoped diligently and earnestly, patiently and perseveringly, until God should be pleased to help him. And he inclined unto me Or bowed himself, or his ear: see Judges 16:30; Psalms 17:6; Psalms 31:2. He brought me up also out of a horrible pit

From desperate dangers and calamities, signified by a similar phrase, Psalms 18:16; Psalms 69:1-2. I was not only on the brink, but in the very bottom of this pit; out of the miry clay In which my feet stuck fast. As David often compares himself in distress to a sinking and drowning man; so here he compares the affliction from which he had been delivered to that of a man thrown into some loathsome and filthy dungeon. And set my feet upon a rock A place of strength and safety; and established my goings Or my steps; that is, kept me from stumbling, or falling again into misery.

Verse 3

Psalms 40:3 . He hath put a new song into my mouth Both by giving me new matter for a song, and by inspiring me with the very words of it. Many shall see it Shall observe God’s wonderful mercies vouchsafed to me; and fear Shall stand in awe of that God, whom they see to have so great power, either to save or to destroy; and shall trust in the Lord Their fear shall not drive them from God, but draw them to him, and be attended with trusting in him.

Verse 4

Psalms 40:4. Blessed is the man, &c. I said, many shall trust in the Lord, and they shall not be losers by it, nor disappointed of their hope; but they are and shall be blessed. And respecteth not ולא פנה , velo-panah, looketh not toward, namely, with delight and desire to imitate; or with confidence and expectation of relief; the proud Or the mighty; the great and proud potentates of the world, to whom most men are apt to look and trust. Nor such as turn aside From God, in whom alone they ought to trust. To lies To lying vanities, such as worldly power, and wisdom, and riches, and all other earthly things or persons, in which men are prone to trust; which are called lies, because they promise more than they perform.

Verse 5

Psalms 40:5. Many are thy wonderful works For which I and the rest of thy people, included in the plural pronoun us, have abundant cause to praise and to trust in thee, as was said Psalms 40:3. And by which it will appear that he that trusteth in thee is in a most blessed and safe condition, as expressed Psalms 40:4. And this verse, wherein he passes from the singular to the plural number, may seem to be interposed as a wall of partition between that which David speaks in his own person, and that which he speaks in the person of the Messiah. And thy thoughts Thy gracious counsels or contrivances; which are to us-ward To me and the rest of thy people; to whom David often joins himself in this book. They cannot be reckoned up, &c. It passes our skill to order or reckon them up in order unto thee, because, indeed, they are innumerable.

Verse 6

Psalms 40:6. Sacrifice, &c. These and the four following verses may, in an improper sense, belong to the person and time of David; when God might be said, not to desire, or require, legal sacrifices, comparatively. So the sense is, Thou didst desire obedience more, or rather, than sacrifices, as was said 1 Samuel 15:22. But in a proper and full sense, they belong only to the person and time of the Messiah, in whose name David utters these words. And so the sense is, God did not desire or require them for the satisfaction of his own justice and the expiation of men’s sins, which could not possibly be done by the blood of bulls or goats, as is said Hebrews 10:4-6; but only by the blood of Christ, which was typified by them, and which Christ came into the world to shed, in pursuance of his Father’s will, as it here follows, Psalms 40:7-8. So here is a prediction concerning the cessation of the legal sacrifices, and the substitution of a better instead of them. Mine ears hast thou opened Hebrew, bored. I have devoted myself to thy perpetual service, and thou hast accepted of me as thy servant, and signified so much by the boring of mine ears, according to the law and custom in that case, Exodus 21:5-6. The seventy Jewish interpreters, whom the apostle follows, Hebrews 10:5, translate these words, a body hast thou prepared me. In which translation, though the words differ, the sense is the same; for the ears suppose a body to which they belong, and the preparing of a body implies the preparing of the ears, and the obligation of the person for whom a body was prepared, to serve him who prepared it; which the boring of the ear signified.

Verse 7

Psalms 40:7. Then When I understood and considered thy mind and will therein expressed, Psalms 40:6, I said within myself, by a firm purpose; or unto thee, by way of promise, or engagement, Lo, I come If these be considered as the words of a servant, answering to the call of his master, and signifying his readiness to obey him, they may be accommodated to David. But they much more literally and truly belong to Christ, and the sense is, Seeing thou requirest a better sacrifice than those of the law, lo, I offer myself to come, and I will in due time come into the world, as this phrase is explained in divers places of Scripture, and particularly Hebrews 10:5, where this place is expressly applied to Christ. In the volume of the book These two words, volume and book, are used of any writing, and both express the same thing. Now this volume of the book is the law of Moses, which is commonly and emphatically called the book, and was made up in the form of a roll or volume, as the Hebrew books generally were. And so this place manifestly points to Christ, concerning whom much is said in the books of Moses, as is evident from Luke 24:27; Luke 24:44; John 5:46; Acts 3:22; and Acts 26:22; and Acts 28:23. And this sense being plain and natural, and unforced, and exactly agreeing both with the words, and with the truth of the thing, and with the belief of all Christians, there can be no good reason why we should not acquiesce in it.

Verse 8

Psalms 40:8. I delight to do thy will This also, though in a general sense it may be true of David, and of all God’s people, yet, if it be compared with the foregoing verse, and with the explication thereof in the New Testament, (in which those mysteries, which were darkly and doubtfully expressed in the Old Testament, are fully and clearly revealed,) it must be appropriated to Christ, of whom it is eminently true; and it is here observed as an act of heroic obedience, that he not only resolved to do, but delighted in doing the will of God, or what God had commanded him, which was to die, and that a most shameful, and painful, and cursed death. Yea, thy law is within my heart I do not only understand it, but receive it with heartiest love, delighting both to meditate on it, and to yield obedience to it.

Verses 9-10

Psalms 40:9-10. I have preached righteousness Namely, thy righteousness, as it is expressed in the next verse; that is, thy faithfulness, as it is there explained; or, righteousness properly so called; for both were fully declared and demonstrated in Christ; the former in God’s sending him into the world, according to his promise, Acts 13:23; and the latter in inflicting death upon him for man’s sin, Romans 3:25-26. In the great congregation In the most public and solemn assemblies; not only to the Jews, but also to all nations; to whom Christ preached by his apostles, as is observed, Ephesians 2:17. I have not refrained From preaching it, even to the face of mine enemies, though I knew my preaching would cost me my life. O Lord, thou knowest I call thee to witness the truth of what I say. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart I had it there, Psalms 40:8; but did not shut it up there, but spread it abroad for thy glory and the good of mankind. I have declared thy salvation Which thou hast wrought both for me and by me.

Verses 11-12

Psalms 40:11-12. Withhold not thy tender mercies, &c. This prayer is uttered by David, either, 1st, In the person of Christ, to whom it may agree; or, rather, 2d, In his own person. For having been transported by the Spirit of God to the commemoration of the great mystery of the Messiah, of whom he was an illustrious type, he now seems to be led back by the same Spirit to the consideration of his own case. Mine iniquities Either, 1st, The punishment of mine iniquities, as Genesis 4:13, and elsewhere; or, 2d, The iniquities themselves. This cannot be understood of Christ. For although our sins were said to be laid upon him, Isaiah 53:6, and upon that account he is said to be made sin for us, 2 Corinthians 5:21; yet the Scripture everywhere represents him as one that never knew or did any sin; and, therefore, it is not probable that the Holy Ghost would use such an expression concerning him, as is never used in Scripture, but either of a man’s own sins, or of the punishment deserved by them. Have taken hold upon me Men’s sins are figuratively said to follow them, 1 Timothy 5:24, and to find them out, Numbers 32:23; and here to take hold on them as an officer takes hold on a man, whom he arrests. So that I am not able to look up Unto God or men with any comfort or confidence; I am ashamed and confounded. They are more than the hairs of my head Namely, mine iniquities here mentioned, properly so called; for God’s people are more apt to aggravate their sins than the punishments of them.

Verses 13-16

Psalms 40:13-16. Be pleased to deliver me From my sins, and the punishment due to them. Let them be ashamed For the disappointment of their hopes and designs. That seek after my soul That is, my life. Let them be desolate Or, They shall be desolate, or dismayed, or overthrown, as ישׁמו , jashommu, also signifies. For a reward of their shame That is, Their sinful and shameful actions, as shame is put for a shameful idol, Hosea 9:10, and as fear is often put for the evil feared. Let such as love thy salvation That great salvation of which the prophets inquired and searched diligently, and which the Redeemer undertook to work out, when he said, Psalms 40:7, Lo! I come. All that shall be saved love God’s salvation, which is not only a salvation from hell, but a salvation from sin. Say continually, The Lord be magnified Let them have continual occasion to magnify Jehovah for his mercies vouchsafed to them.

Verse 17

Psalms 40:17. I am poor and needy, &c. “The church, like her Redeemer, is often poor and afflicted in this world, but Jehovah thinketh upon her, and is solicitous for her support; she is weak and defenceless, but Jehovah is her help and her deliverer. With such a Father, and such a friend, poverty becometh rich, and weakness itself is strong. In the mean time, let us remember, that he who once came in great humility, shall come again in glorious majesty. Make no tarrying, O our God; but come, Lord Jesus, come quickly,” Revelation 22:20. Horne.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 40". Benson's Commentary. 1857.