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Psalm 30

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1. The term yntyld is probably being used figuratively in Psalm 30:2, given its use in other contexts. It is used in Ex. 2:16,19 to literally refer to drawing water from a well. It is used in a figurative sense in Proverbs 20:5: it refers to a "man of understanding being able to draw out the purposes which come from the deep waters of another man's heart." The term is used in one other obscure passage (Prov. 26:7; BDB says it also occurs in Exodus 2:6, but I was unable to find it in BHS). It does seem that it literally refers to drawing water and therefore in this context it can be regarded as figuratively referring to God drawing the psalmist up out of the reach of his enemies.

Perhaps the psalmist in his use of this particular term, wanted his readers to see his enemies as waters in which he was going to drown, until God lifted him out. (This would parallel the account of Moses being drawn out of the river and delivered from his enemy, Pharaoh.)

2. I think the term is being used literally here. The psalmist seems to indicate that the result of God healing him was physical well being instead of literal death (v. 3, 9). It appears that the term is used of physical healing in other places in the Psalms as well. Psalm 6:3 seems to be a prayer that God would physically heal the psalmist for he says that "his bones are in agony" and that death is a possibility if YHWH does not intervene. Psalm 41:5, because of the mention of the "sickbed" in verse 4, seems to refer to physical healing. (The fact that the psalmist's enemies thought he had a vile disease seems to further support a literal understanding of apr in this context,
cf. v. 9). Psalm 103:3 and 107:20 seem to speak to this end as well. One of the problems in being certain about these conclusions, seems to stem from the fact that the Hebrews held the ideas of God physically healing a person and their being restored to right relation to God as almost one in the same idea (cf. Jn 9:2). From my limited study of the Old Testament and the Psalms in particular, this seems to be the case.

3. The term ydrym should be parsed as a Qal infinitive construct from dry "go down" with a 1 c. s. suffix and the prefixed preposition /m!. The NASB takes the phrase rob ydrym as a negative modal idea, i.e. "that I should not go down to the pit." (The NASB sees the 1 c.s. suffix as a subjective genitive and the negative idea as coming from the prefixed preposition.) The preposition /m! is being used to express a "negative consequence, lit. away from..., i.e. so as not to, so that not." The evidence for the infinitive reading is as follows: multi manuscripts (mlt; perhaps 20); Aquila (a v); Symmachus (s v); the Targum (); Jerome (Hier; Hieronymus) as well as (ut) the Qer (Q).

The term yd@r=oYm should be parsed as a G active ptcp m.p. construct from dry "go down." The NASB margin translates the term as "Thou hast kept me alive...from among those who go down into the pit." The textual evidence to support the participle is as follows: the Ketib (K); the LXX; Theodotian (q v); oJ JEbrai`o" Origenis (o ebr v) and the Syriac version.

4. The NIV and NASB versions translate the term <yYj as "lifetime." Perhaps they do this to bring out the contrast between ugr and <yYj. In other words, NIV and NASB see a merism (i.e. between <yYj and ugr) and they are trying to bring the force of it out. BDB understands the word here to refer to as "life: as consisting of earthly felicity combined (often) with spiritual blessedness." The TNK and the REB translate the term as "life" as well.

There is contextual support for taking the term as physical "life." The psalmist has just said that God has lifted him out of a deadly situation (v.1 Eng.); that God had healed him (v. 2; given the likelihood that physical healing is in view here) and that God had literally kept him alive (v.3). This would tend to support the TNK and REB's understanding of the term. Because of: 1) the contextual evidence; 2) the fact that according to BDB the term means "life" in many passages in the psalms and elsewhere, and 3) the fact that BDB does not seem to say that the term <yYj refers to a length of time per se (at least not with out yn@v=), but rather qualitatively to life itself, I tend to lean toward "life" as the best translation.

5. BDB says that bru suggests the ending of the day and rqb suggests the ending of night. This literal usage would form the basis for BDB's understanding of the figurative use: "bright joy after a night of distress" (BDB lists Ps. 30:6 twice, once conforming to a literal use and once to indicate a figurative use). The point seems to be that the night symbolizes "weeping" which is a result of God's anger and the morning or dawn of a new day symbolizes "joy" which comes as a result of God's favor.

A. A. Anderson seems to think this phrase suggests the suddenness of God's help (NCBC). Craigie, following N. Airoldi, suggests that night symbolizes the experience of anger and the breaking of dawn symbolizes deliverance or salvation (p. 254). Perowne says that "just as the sun in Eastern lands, without any long prelude of twilight to announce his coming, leaps as it were in a moment above the horizon, so does the light of God's love dispel in a moment the long night and darkness of sorrow." The ideas of Both Anderson and Perowne do not seem to fit really well here. The focus is not on the speed of the sunrise, but on the fact that joy is to be equated with daytime and weeping with the night. I agree more with Craigie here, except for the idea of resurrection.

6. The term arqa should be parsed as a Qal impf 1 c.s. fr. arq "call." The term /Njta should be parsed as a Hithp. impf 1 c.s. fr. /nj "make supplication, seek favor." Verses 10 and 11 were first spoken by the psalmist at some point in the past, when there was imminent threat of death, and therefore, the imperfects should be translated as futures (i.e. in the past this is what the psalmist was going to pray in light of his problems). This line of reasoning is based primarily on the fact that v.9 is introducing vv. 10, 11 and chronologically prior to the thoughts expressed in them.

7. BDB says that ymd is figurative referring to death. They base this on the fact that ymd is parallel to tjv la ytdrb ("down to the pit," where pit=grave).

The noun rpu, according to BDB, is figurative as well referring to death (779).

8. The parallel term to hjmc is lojml ("dancing" = metonymy of effect for cause ["joy"]). Since "joy" is not a physical thing such as sack cloth, it must be being used figuratively here.

9. BDB says that dobk is equivalent here to "my honour" referring poetically to the seat of honour in the inner man, the noblest part of man. They feel that it parallels the idea of "my soul" (yvpn). In the case of Ps 30:13 the dobk of the psalmist "is called upon to sing." Grammatically BDB sees dobk as the subject of JrMzy.

The NIV is assuming the ydbk variant. BDB suggests that it be translated as "my liver." If this be taken figuratively, since according to BDB the liver is often regarded figuratively as the seat of strong emotions (p. 458; cf. also Lam. 2:11), then the psalmist would in effect be saying that his innermost being sings fervently to God (Note: ydbk as well as dbk, both masculine singular nouns would fit grammatically with the 3 m.s. imperfect JrMzy.)

Outline of the Psalm

Summary of the Psalm

The psalmist praises God who answered his cry for mercy, delivering him from death and humiliation before his enemies.

Summary of Each Major Part

    I. The psalmist praises God for delivering him from death (1-3).

      A. The psalmist praises God for lifting him out of the depths and not allowing his enemies to gloat over him (1).

      B. The psalmist called to God for help and He answered (2).

      C. God spared the life of the psalmist (3).

    II. The psalmist summarizes his praise to God by calling all the saints to praise God because ( yK!, v.6 BHS) His anger is short-lived while His favor brings life (4, 5).

      A. The psalmist calls upon all God's saints to praise Him (4).

      B. The psalmist says that God's anger lasts only for a moment, as do tears of sorrow, but that his favor brings life and joy (5).

    III. The psalmist reports on how God delivered him from his enemies when he cried out to God for mercy (6-10).

      A. The psalmist states that he felt secure and impenetrable (6).

      B. The psalmist claims that he felt firm when God favored him, but dismayed during his struggles (7)

      C. The psalmist recounts how he cried out to God for mercy, pleading the logic of his case as one who if dead could not praise God (8-10).

    IV. The psalmist returns again to praise God and acknowledge that God delivered him from such great sorrow so that he might sing praises to Him (11-12b).

      A. The psalmist acknowledges that it was God who turned his mourning into joy (11).

      B. The psalmist realizes that God delivered him so that he might praise Him (12a).

    V. The psalmist renews a vow to give thanks to God forever (12b).

Note: Section IV and V, according to my understanding of the form of thanksgiving psalms, are usually reversed: Section IV would be a renewed vow and section V, further praise or instruction.

Applicational Idea

We should cry out to God for mercy and help when we face difficult struggles


Greg Herrick graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary with the Th.M. in 1994 and is working on his Ph.D. Greg and his wife are transplanted Canadians living with their four children in North Texas.

Related Topics: Suffering, Trials, Persecution, Comfort