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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Psalms 40




Verse 1

(1) I waited patiently.—As the margin shows, this is expressed by the common Hebrew idiom the infinitive absolute with the preterite. We may nearly express it by repetition: I waited and waited.

Inclined . . .—Either intransitive (comp. Judges 16:30), or with ellipse of the word “ear,” which usually is found with the verb in this conjugation. (See Psalms 17:6; Psalms 31:2.)

Verse 2

(2) Horrible pit.—The rendering of the margin, “pit of noise,” takes shaôn in its primary sense, as in Isaiah 17:12, Psalms 65:7, and the idea of a noise of rushing water suits this passage. Most commentators, however, take it here in the sense the cognate bears in Psalms 35:8, “destruction.” The LXX. and Vulg. have “misery.”

Miry clay.—The word translated “clay” (comp. Psalms 69:2) is from a root meaning to boil up, or ferment. (One of its derivatives means “wine.”) Hence “froth,” or “slime.” LXX., ilus; Vulg., fœx. A verse of R. Browning’s perhaps expresses the poet’s image:—

“It frothed by,

A black eddy, bespate with flakes and fumes.”

Rock.—The common image of security (Psalms 18:2; Psalms 27:5), the occurrence of which makes it probable that the “pit” and “clay” are also not realities, but emblems of confusion and danger.

Verse 3

Verse 4

(4) Respecteth not.—Better, turneth not towards proud men and false apostates. The words are, however, somewhat obscure. The LXX. and Vulg. have “vanities and false madnesses.” The words we have rendered false apostates are by some translated “turners after idols.” Idolatry is doubtless implied, but not expressed.

Verse 5

Verse 6

(6) Mine ears hast thou opened.—Literally, Ears hast thou dug for me, which can hardly mean anything but “Thou hast given me the sense of hearing.” The words are an echo of 1 Samuel 15:22. The attentive ear and obedient heart, not formal rites, constitute true worship. Comp. the words so frequent on the lips of Christ, “He that hath ears to hear let him hear.” The fact that the plural ears is used instead of the singular, sets aside the idea of a revelation, which is expressed in Isaiah 48:8 by “open the ear” and 1 Samuel 9:15 “uncover the ear.” Not that the idea is altogether excluded, since the outward ears maybe typical of the inward. The same fact excludes allusion to the symbolic act by which a slave was devoted to perpetual servitude (Exodus 21:6), because then also only one ear was bored. For the well-known variation in the LXX. see New Testament Commentary, Hebrews 10:5. The latest commentator, Grätz, is of opinion that the text is corrupt, and emends (comp. Psalms 51:16) to, “Shouldest thou desire sacrifice and offering I would select the fattest,” a most desirable result if his arguments, which are too minute for insertion, were accepted.

Verse 7

(7) Then said I.—This rendering, which follows the LXX. and Vulg., and is adopted in the Epistle to the Hebrews, must be abandoned. The Hebrew means, Lo! I come, bringing the book written for me, which no doubt refers to the Law, which in the person of the poet, Israel here produces as warrant for its conduct. Some see a particular allusion to the discovery of the Book of Deuteronomy in Josiah’s reign. But if the conjecture of Grätz be accepted (see preceding Note), the reference will be rather to the Levitical regulation of sacrifice. “Shouldest thou require burnt-offering and sin-offering, then I say, Lo! I bring the book in which all is prescribed me,” i.e., I have duly performed all the rites ordained in the book.

The rendering “written on me,” i.e., “on my heart and mind,” might suit the contents of the book, but not the roll itself.

Verse 9

(9) I have preached.—Literally, I have made countenances glad.

Notice the rapid succession of clauses, like successive wave-beats of praise, better than any elaborate description to represent the feelings of one whose life was a thanksgiving.

Verse 13

(13) Be pleased.—From this verse onwards, with some trifling variations which will be noticed under that psalm, this passage occurs as Psalms 70, where see Notes.


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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 40:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

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