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Psalm 40



God Sustains His Servant Faith Persevering in Trial Thanksgiving For Deliverance From Trouble, Together With a Prayer for Help A Song of Praise Song of Praise and Prayer For Help
MT Intro
"For the choir director. A Psalm of David"
40:1-3  40:1-3 40:1-3 40:1-3 40:1
40:4-5 40:4-5 40:4-5 40:4-5 40:4
40:6-8 40:6-8 40:6-8 40:6-8 40:6-7a
40:9-10 40:9-10 40:9-10 40:9-10 40:9-10
40:11-12 40:11-12 40:11-12 40:11 40:11
      A Prayer For Help  
      40:12-15 40:12
40:13-17 40:13-15 40:13-15   40:13-14a
  40:16-17 40:16-17 40:16-17 40:16

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1I waited patiently for the Lord;
 And He inclined to me and heard my cry.
 2He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
 And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.
 3He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
 Many will see and fear
 And will trust in the Lord.

40:1-3 The psalmist praises YHWH for His past acts of deliverance. YHWH responded to his prayers (i.e., "inclined," BDB 639, KB 692, Qal imperfect and "heard," BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperfect).

YHWH had

1. brought him up out of the pit of destruction (lit. "pit of tumult/noise," BDB 92 construct BDB 981, cf. Ps. 69:2; this could be water imagery of death (cf. Ps. 18:4) or a flood (cf. Ps. 18:16)

2. brought him up out of the miry clay

a. used of mire in the streets — 2 Sam. 22:43; Micah 7:10; Zech. 9:3; 10:5

b. used of mire in a cistern — Jer. 38:6

c. used figuratively of distress — Ps. 40:2; 69:14 ("pit" also mentioned in Ps. 69:15)

d. possibly refers to Sheol (i.e., death, UBS Handbook, p. 381)

3. set his feet upon a rock making his footsteps firm — godly, faithful covenant followers were those who walked on straight, level, unobstructed paths (cf. Ps. 17:5; 18:36; 37:31; 44:18; 69:9; 73:2; 94:18; Job 23:11; 31:7)

4. put a new song in his mouth, a song of praise — new songs were a cultural way to acknowledge and glorify YHWH's acts of deliverance (cf. Exodus 15; Judges 5; Deuteronomy 32); see note at Ps. 33:5; also note Ps. 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Isa. 42:10; Rev. 5:9; 14:3

The purpose of YHWH's deliverance of the psalmist was not just special treatment for one human but to bless and protect His covenant followers so that others (i.e., "many," BDB 912 I) would become covenant followers.

1. see — BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperfect

2. fear — BDB 431, KB 432, Qal imperfect

3. trust — BDB 105, KB 120, Qal imperfect


40:1 "waited patiently" This is an infinitive absolute and a perfect verb of the same root (BDB 875, KB 1082) used to denote intensity.

▣ "inclined" This verb (BDB 639, KB 692, cf. Ps. 17:6; 88:2) means "to bend." The imagery is either YHWH bent His ear to hear clearly or YHWH bent down to hear (cf. Job 15:29).

40:2 "rock" See note at Psalm 18:2.

 4How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust,
 And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.
 5Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done,
 And Your thoughts toward us;
 There is none to compare with You.
 If I would declare and speak of them,
 They would be too numerous to count.

40:4-5 "How blessed is the man" This is the key thought of this strophe. This term (BDB 80) is used 26 times in the Psalms. See full note at Ps. 1:1. Psalm 41 starts with this phrase. It is used mostly in Psalms and Proverbs (i.e., Wisdom Literature), which focuses on a successful and prosperous life.

The reasons given for the blessed state are

1. who has made YHWH his trust

2. who has not turned (BDB 815, KB 937, Qal perfect) to the proud (LXX, NRSV, TEV see #2,3 referring to idols)

3. who has not turned (BDB 962, KB 1312, Qal participle, word found only here in the OT)

In verse 5 the attributes of YHWH are listed.

1. many are the wonders (see Special Topic at Ps. 9:1 and note at Ps. 40:5)

2. many are His thoughts toward the covenant people

3. none compare with You (cf. Ps. 16:2; Isa. 6:8-10; i.e., monotheism, see Special Topic at Ps. 2:7)

4. His wonders and thoughts are too numerous to count

a. declare — BDB 616, KB 665, Hiphil cohortative

b. speak — BDB 180, KB 210, Piel cohortative


40:5 This verse seems to be reflecting on YHWH's great acts of deliverance for Israel, especially the Exodus. The "us" must refer to the faith community from the descendants of Abraham (cf. Gen. 12:1-3). Within the covenant community are the faithful and the unfaithful (cf. Ps. 40:4), yet YHWH sustains the whole community. He has a universal, redemptive purpose for Israel (cf. Ps. 33:10-12).

The term "wonder" (BDB 810, see Special Topic at Ps. 9:1) is often used in connection to the Exodus.

1. verb — Exod. 3:20; 34:10; Deut. 28:59

2. noun — Exod. 15:11

The Exodus was the major evidence of YHWH's fidelity to His promises (cf. Gen. 15:12-21) and the demonstration of His power and purpose for Israel (cf. Gen. 12:3).

▣ "too numerous to count" This may be a verbal link to the promises to Abraham that his descendants would be too numerous to count (i.e., as dust, cf. Gen. 13:16; 28:14; Num. 23:10; as sand, cf. Gen. 22:17; 32:12; as stars, cf. Gen. 15:5; 22:17; 26:4). Another wonder of YHWH from an infertile, older couple!

A good parallel text would be Ps. 139:17-18, which also notes the numerous acts of deliverance by YHWH. Notice it mentions "outnumber the sand," which is another allusion to the promise of Abraham's descendants.

 6Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired;
 My ears You have opened;
 Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required.
 7Then I said, "Behold, I come;
 In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
 8I delight to do Your will, O my God; 
 Your Law is within my heart."

40:6-8 This strophe uses the Mosaic Law as a literary foil to the psalmist's new personal relationship based on the concept similar to the new covenant of Jer. 31:31-34 (i.e., the Law is within my heart, cf. Isa. 51:7). The motivation for worship, obedience, service, and perseverance is internal (cf. Deut. 6:6).

The sacrificial system was YHWH's method of dealing with human sin among His covenant community. Innocent animals died in the place of sinful humans (cf. Ezek. 18:4,20; Rom. 6:23). It was a typological model of the coming Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world (cf. John 1:29; Mark 10:45; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 10:1-18).

The problem with the Mosaic covenant is that for many Jews it became an external moral code instead of a means to intimate personal faith (cf. Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 4:4; 9:25; Rom. 2:28-29).

The NT sees this strophe (Ps. 40:6-8) as ultimately fulfilled by Jesus' life and death (cf. Heb. 10:5-7 from the LXX). He is the perfect fulfillment of these texts. He is the "ideal Israelite," dying on behalf of all (cf. Isaiah 53).

40:6 There are four different words used to describe the different sacrifices of Israel (cf. Leviticus 1-7).

1. sacrifices — BDB 257, general term for sacrifices where part of the animal was eaten in a fellowship with their Deity

2. meal offerings — BDB 585, originally referred to both animal and grain offerings but came to be used of grain only

3. burnt offerings — BDB 750 II, referred to an offering that was consumed completely on the altar

4. sin offerings — BDB 308, one of two feminine nouns; this is the rarer one; it is translated "great sin" in Gen. 20:9; Exod. 32:21,30,31; 2 Kgs. 17:21; and "sin" in Ps. 32:1; 109:7. Here it seems to refer to a sin offering because of the parallelism but the usage is unique.

This verse is not a rejection of the sacrificial system but its abuse (cf. 1 Sam.15:22; Ps. 50:8-14; 51:16-17; 69:30-31; Isa. 1:11-15; Jer. 7:22-23; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21-22).

NASB, NKJV"opened"
NASB margin"dug or pierced"
NRSV margin"dug"
LXX"a body you have prepared for me"

This verb (BDB 500, KB 496, Qal perfect) has this meaning only here. It is used of digging

1. a well — Gen. 26:25; Num. 21:18

2. a grave — Gen. 50:5

3. a pit — Exod. 21:23

4. figuratively a plot — Ps. 7:16; 57:7; 119:85; Pro. 16:27; 26:27; Jer. 18:20 (i.e., compare Jer. 6:10)

The NASB marginal suggestion, "pierced," possibly comes from Exod. 21:5-6 or Deut. 15:12-18, where a slave is made a permanent member of the household (cf. Ps. 40:17, different verb and "ear" is singular).

The LXX translation must be based on a different Hebrew manuscript or it paraphrased the thought sensing that "ears" stood for the whole body. The LXX was what the early church used and it is quoted in Heb. 10:5 (cf. Heb. 10:1-18).

In context the verb refers to the new relationship of faith and trust established by the new covenant model (i.e., "Your Law is within my heart," cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:26-27), which allows sinful humans to clearly know and do YHWH's will (i.e., 40:8).


NASB, NKJV"Behold, I come"
NRSV, REB"Here I am"
NJB"Here I am, I am coming"
LXX"Look, I have come"
NET"Look, I come"

The translation, "Here I am," comes from the use of the same interjection (BDB 243) used by Isaiah in Isa. 6:8, combined with the verb (BDB 97, KB 112, Qal perfect), "I come" (different verb from Isa. 6:8).

It is an idiom of availability and surrender to YHWH's will and plan for one's life (cf. Ps. 40:7b-8). In this context (i.e., sacrifice) it may refer to the fact that in the OT there was no sacrifice for known, intentional sin (cf. Lev. 4:2,22,27; 5:15-18; 22:14; Ps. 51:16-17). Only the sins of passion or ignorance were covered (i.e., unintentional). The psalmist sees that the only appropriate sacrifice was himself (cf. Rom.12:1). This is surely a foreshadowing of the Lamb of God (cf. John 1:29) who came to give Himself (cf. Mark 10:45; Isaiah 53).

▣ "In the scroll of the book" Some scholars see this as referring to YHWH's revelation to Moses. The king was given a copy (cf. Deut. 17:18-20; 1 Kgs. 2:3; 2 Kgs. 11:12). The Bible uses "book(s)" to denote YHWH's plans for each person (cf. Ps. 139:1-6,16) or memory of the lives of all humans who will one day stand before Him as judge. This imagery is expressed in two books, the book of life and the book of deeds. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TWO BOOKS OF GOD at Ps. 9:5.

40:8 "I delight to do Your will" What a radical change from Genesis 3. The damaged "image of God" has been restored! Fellowship at the deepest level is possible again. The independent spirit of the Fall is replaced by a dependent spirit.

Jesus modeled this servant attitude for us to see (cf. Matt. 26:39; John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38).

 9I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation;
 Behold, I will not restrain my lips,
 O Lord, You know.
 10I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;
 I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
 I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation.

40:9-10 The psalmist witnesses of YHWH's attributes in a temple/tabernacle (cf. Ps. 22:25) worship setting (i.e., the great congregation).

1. Your righteousness — BDB 842, see Special Topic at Ps. 1:5

2. Your faithfulness — BDB 53, see Special Topic at Ps. 12:1

3. Your salvation — BDB 448, see Special Topic at Ps. 13:5-6

4. Your lovingkindness — BDB 338, see Special Topic at Ps. 5:7

5. Your truth — BDB 54, see Special Topic at Ps. 12:1

Verse 11 adds to this list (the strophe division is uncertain).

6. Your compassion — BDB 933

7. Your lovingkindness — BDB 338

8. Your Trust — BDB 54

These are the great theological words of the OT which describe how the covenant God deals with the sons/daughters of Adam because of His special call of Abraham (see Special Topic at Psalm 2 Intro.).

40:9 "You know" YHWH knows the heart of His human creation (cf. Jos. 22:22; 1 Sam.2:3; 16:7; 1 Kgs. 8:39; 1 Chr. 28:9; Ps. 139:2-4; Jer. 17:10; 20:12; Luke 16:15; Acts 1:24; 15:8; Rom. 8:27).

40:10 Notice the series of verbs whereby the psalmist affirms his full and open testimony about YHWH.

1. I have proclaimed — BDB 142, KB 163, Piel perfect, Ps. 40:9

2. I have not hidden — BDB 491, KB 487, Qal perfect, Ps. 40:10

3. I have spoken — BDB 55, KB 65, Qal perfect, Ps. 40:10

4. I have not concealed — BDB 470, KB 469, Piel perfect

YHWH desires that His people lift up His character and actions in praise and witness, so that all humans made in His image (cf. Gen. 1:26-27) may come to know and worship Him!

 11You, O Lord, will not withhold Your compassion from me;
 Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.
 12For evils beyond number have surrounded me;
 My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to see;
 They are more numerous than the hairs of my head,
 And my heart has failed me.

40:11-12 This strophe describes the current situation of the psalmist. YHWH is surely with him but there are problems (a series of perfects).

1. evils beyond number have surrounded me — BDB 67, KB 79, Qal perfect; this list (AB, p. 247) is imagery taken from a pack of wild dogs attacking their prey; this number of problems is contrasted with YHWH's "wonders" in Ps. 40:5

2. my iniquities have overtaken me — BDB 673, KB 727, Hiphil perfect; in several Psalms in Book One the psalmist acknowledges his sin, cf. Ps. 25:11; 31:10; 32:5; 38:4,18; this may be a literary way of affirming the sinfulness of all humans

3. I am not able to see — BDB 407, KB 410, Qal perfect; possibly connected to constant weeping, cf. Ps. 69:3; sin always causes a disruption in our relationship with God and our ability to know His will

4. he acknowledges his iniquities are very many — BDB 782, KB 868, Qal perfect; the imagery of "hairs of the head" is repeated in Ps. 69:4 and used by Jesus of YHWH's knowledge of us in Matt. 10:30; it is an OT idiom, cf. 1 Sam.14:45; 2 Sam. 14:11; 1 Kgs. 1:52; Acts 27:34

5. his heart has failed (i.e., left) him — BDB 736, KB 806, Qal perfect

The life of the faithful follower is a struggle between indwelling sin (cf. Romans 7) and God's grace and mercy (cf. Romans 8).

 13Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me;
 Make haste, O Lord, to help me.
 14Let those be ashamed and humiliated together
 Who seek my life to destroy it;
 Let those be turned back and dishonored
 Who delight in my hurt.
 15Let those be appalled because of their shame
 Who say to me, "Aha, aha!"
 16Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
 Let those who love Your salvation say continually,
 "The Lord be magnified!"
 17Since I am afflicted and needy,
 Let the Lord be mindful of me.
 You are my help and my deliverer;
 Do not delay, O my God.

40:13-17 As usual the concluding strophe is a series of prayer requests (imperfects and jussives in synonymous parallelism). This is very similar to Psalm 70.

1. Be pleased (BDB 953, KB 1280, Qal imperative) to deliver me (BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil infinitive construct). AB, p. 247, suggests a vowel change to the root for "run," which parallels #2 better.

2. Make haste to help me — BDB 301, KB 300, Qal imperative, cf. Ps. 22:19; 38:22; 70:1,5; 71:12; 141:1

3. Let those who seek my life be ashamed — BDB 101, KB 116, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, cf. Ps. 35:4,26; 70:2; 63:17

4. Let those who seek my life be humiliated together — BDB 344, KB 346, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

5. Let those who delight in my hurt be turned back — BDB 690, KB 744, Niphal imperfect used in a jussive sense, cf. Ps. 35:4,26; 70:2 (this is military imagery)

6. Let those who delight in my hurt be dishonored — BDB 483, KB 480, Niphal imperfect used in a jussive sense

7. Let those who say to me "Aha, aha" (cf. Ps. 35:21; 70:3) be appalled — BDB 1030, KB 1563, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

At 40:16 the prayers change from negative to positive.

8. Let all those who seek You rejoice — BDB 965, KB 1314, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense (notice that the wicked "seek" his life [BDB 134, KB 152] but the psalmist seeks YHWH, cf. Ps. 40:16)

9. Let all those who seek You be glad — BDB 970, KB 1333, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

10. Let those who love Your salvation say. . . — BDB 55, KB 65, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense (faithful followers love YHWH by being obedient to His revealed will and way, cf. Deut. 6:5; 10:12; 11:1,13,22; 19:9; 30:15,16,19-20)

11. ". . .YHWH be magnified" — BDB 152, KB 178, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense (this is in contrast to what the wicked say in Ps. 40:15)

12. Let YHWH be mindful of me — BDB 362, KB 359, Qal jussive

13. Do not delay — BDB 29, KB 34, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense, cf. Ps. 70:5; this forms an inclusio with "make haste" of Ps. 40:13


40:17 Notice how the psalmist characterizes himself and YHWH.

1. himself

a. afflicted (BDB 776)

b. needy (BDB 2)

(these are often used of faithful followers, cf. Ps. 70:5; 86:1; 109:22; in this sense they are metaphorical of a sense of spiritual need, cf. Matt. 5:3-6)

2. YHWH (MT has Adon but some Hebrew MSS have YHWH)

a. his help (BDB 740 I)

b. his deliverer (BDB 812, KB 930, Piel participle)


▣ "O my God" In this Psalm YHWH and Elohim are used often and combined in Ps. 40:5.

1. YHWH, Ps. 40:1,3,4,9,11,13 (twice),16

2. Elohim, Ps. 40:3,5,8,17

See Special Topic at Psalm 1:1 for a detailed discussion of how the OT writers used these designations/titles/names for Deity to assert different aspects of His character and actions.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Describe the mood of verses 1-10; and then verses 11-17. What has changed?

2. List and explain the attributes of YHWH in verses 10-11.

3. How is the imagery of walking used to describe the life of faith?

4. Does verse 5 allude to Genesis or Exodus, or both? Why?

5. How can the LXX translation of Ps. 40:6b (cf. Heb. 10:5-7) be so different from the MT?

6. Is this a Messianic Psalm?

7. What "book" or "scroll" is verse 7b talking about?

8. Explain why verses 13-17 reappear in Psalm 70.


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