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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible

Psalms 40



Verse 2

I waited patiently, Heb. in waiting I waited; which doubling of the word notes that he waited diligently and earnestly, patiently and perseveringly, until God should please to help him. He inclined, or, bowed, to wit, himself, as this very word is rendered, Jude 16:30; or, his ear, as it is more fully expressed, Psalms 17:6 31:2. Such ellipses or defects are frequent in Scripture, as Psalms 3:6 10:1 Ecclesiastes 6:3 7:15.

Out of an horrible pit; or, out of a sounding pit so called either from the clamours of men or beasts falling into it; or from the many waters which fall down into it, not without a great noise. I was not only upon the brink, but in the very bottom of the pit, i.e. in desperate dangers and calamities, as this phrase signifies, Psalms 18:16 69:1,2.

Out of the miry clay; in which my feet stuck fast.

Upon a rock; a place of strength and safety.

My goings, or, my steps, i.e. kept me from stumbling or falling into mischief.

Verse 3

He hath put a new song in my mouth; partly by giving me new matter or occasion for a song; and partly by inspiring me with the very words of it.

Shall see it, i.e. shall observe God’s wonderful mercies vouchsafed to me.

And fear, i.e. shall stand in awe of that God, who by this instance they see to have so great power, either to save or to destroy, and tremble at his judgments, and give him that reverence, and worship, and obedience which he requires. Yet their fear shall not drive them from God, or bring them into despair, but shall draw them to God, and be attended with trusting in God.

Verse 4

His trust, i.e. his only trust or refuge, as appears from the following words: q.d. 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.

Respecteth not. Heb. looketh not towards, to wit, with love and delight, and desire to imitate them; or with confidence and expectation of relief from thence, as this phrase is oft used, as Psalms 25:15 69:3 121:1 141:8, and as the opposition of this clause to the foregoing seems to imply.

The proud or, the mighty, i.e. the great and proud potentates of the world, to whom most men are apt to look and trust, and in whom the psalmist forbids us to put our trust, Psalms 146:3.

Such as turn aside, to wit, from God, in whom alone they ought to trust.

To lies, i.e. 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 here, and Psalms 4:2 62:9 Micah 1:14, and elsewhere, because they promise more than they can perform. See also Psalms 7:14 119:18 Hosea 10:13 12:1.

Verse 5

Thy wonderful works; for which I and the rest of thy people, included in the pronoun plural us, have abundant cause to praise thee, 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 he said, Psalms 40:4. And this verse, wherein he passeth from the singular number to the plural, 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 Messias, in the following verses.

Thy thoughts, i.e. thy gracious counsels or contrivances.

To us-ward, i.e. to me and to the rest of thy people, with whom David oft joins himself in this book. But these words may be, and are by some, joined to the following words, and the place thus rendered: It is not with us, or in our power, i.e. it passeth our skill, (and reach,) to order or to reckon them up in order unto thee, because indeed they are innumerable, and therefore cannot be digested into any order.

If I would declare; so the particle if or when is wanting, and to be supplied here, as it is Psalms 39:11, and in many other places. Heb. yet I will declare and speak, to wit, some part of them; which accordingly he doth in the following verses.

They are more than can be numbered; although I am not able to express or reckon them all.

Verse 6

These words 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, as negative expressions are frequently understood, as Matthew 9:13 1 Corinthians 1:17, and in this very case of sacrifices, as Psalms 51:16 Jeremiah 7:22,23 Ho 6:6. 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 literal and full sense they belong only to the person and times of the Messias, in whose name David uttereth these words. And so the sense of the place 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 and abolition of the legal sacrifices, and the substitution of a better instead of them.

Mine ears hast thou opened, Heb. bored. The sense is either,

1. Whereas many men have no ears to hear, as is implied, Revelation 2:7,11,17, or stop their ears, as Psalms 58:4 Zechariah 7:11, thou hast given me open ears to hear and obey thy precepts, as this phrase is used, Isaiah 1:5, although indeed there is another verb in that text, which much alters the case. Or,

2. I have wholly devoted myself to thy perpetual service, and thou hast accepted of me as such, and signified so much by the boring of mine ears, according to the law and custom in that case, Exodus 21:5,6 Deu 15:17. And whereas only one ear was then bored, and here it is ears, this may be either an ensilage of the plural number for the singular, whereof divers instances have been given; or else it may be so expressed emphatically, to intimate that Christ was more strictly obliged to a more universal obedience, not only active, to which the legal servants were bound, but passive also, to be obedient even unto the death, to which they were not obliged. The seventy Jewish interpreters, whom the apostle follows, Hebrews 10:5, translate these words, a body hast thou prepared me; wherein though the words differ, the sense is the same; for the ears suppose a body to whom they belong, and the preparing of a body implies the preparing Or disposing 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 signifies.

Verse 7

Then, when I understood and considered thy mind and will therein, expressed Psalms 40:6.

Said I either within myself, by a firm purpose; or unto thee by way of promise or engagement.

Lo, I come. He may seem to speak like a servant, answering to the call of his master, and signifying his readiness to obey him; in which sense it may be accommodated to David. But the servant’s answer is usually expressed in Scripture by another phrase, Here am I, and never to my remembrance in these words. Besides, this phrase in that sense seems not to be proper in this place, but rather, Lo, I hear, which best suits with the foregoing words, mine ears hast thou opened. But these words do most literally and truly belong to Christ, and the sense is this: Seeing thou requirest a better sacrifice than those of the law, lo, I do offer myself to come; and I will in due time come, to wit, from heaven, or in the flesh, or into the world, as this phrase is more fully expressed and explained in divers places of Scripture, and particularly Hebrews 10:5, where this place is explained and applied to Christ.

The two words volume and book are indifferently used

of any writing, and both words seem here to express the same thing, as may appear by comparing Jer 36$, where we have the very same words; and what is called the roll or volume of a book, Jeremiah 36:2,4, is called simply a roll or volume, Jeremiah 36:6,20,21, and the book, Jeremiah 36:10,13; it being usual with the Hebrews to join two words together in like manner, of which we have an instance here above, Psalms 40:2, miry clay, Heb. clay of mire. Now this volume of the book, is meant, either,

1. Of the book of predestination, in which Christ was written, as being foreordained before the foundation of the world, 1 Peter 1:20. But that is a secret book, not to be read by any man living, and therefore not fitly alleged as an evidence in this matter. Or,

2. Of a legal instrument, wherein the contract was drawn between God and him, wherein he did oblige himself to serve God, and to execute his will in all things; it being the manner of the Hebrews to write their contracts in a little volume or book. But,

1. We read of no such usage among the Hebrew in the contracts between master and servant, but only of the boring of the servant’s ear, Exodus 21:6. So the foundation of this allusion is destroyed.

2. At least there was no such contract written between God and him. And if it be said that he only speaks thus by way of allusion, that is but a supposition without ground. And when the words may be properly understood as they sound, of a thing really done, why should we forsake the plain sense without necessity?

3. The phrase here used doth not agree to this sense; for then he should have said, I am written in the volume of the book, i.e. in the catalogue of thy servants; for in that case the persons or their names are constantly said to be written, as Exodus 32:32,33 Psa 69:28 Daniel 12:1 Luke 10:20 Hebrews 12:23 Revelation 13:8 20:15 21:27, and not any thing to be written of them, as it is here. Or,

3. Of the Holy Scriptures; in which something indeed was written concerning David; namely, that he was a man after God’s own heart, 1 Samuel 13:14. But it must be remembered that those books were not written till after David’s death, in whose time here was no other book of Scripture extant but the five books of Moses, unless you will except the book of Job. And therefore this is meant of 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. See Ezekiel 3:1-3 Zechariah 5:1,2 Lu 4:17,20. And so this place manifestly points to Christ, and must necessarily be understood of him, and of him only, concerning whom much is said in the books of Moses, as is evident from Luke 24:27,44 Joh 5:46 Acts 3:22 26:22 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, I see no reason why I may not acquiesce in it.

Verse 8

I delight to do thy will. This, 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,) must be appropriated to Christ, of whom it is eminently true, and is here observed as an act of heroical obedience, that he not only resolved to do, but delighted in doing, the will of God, or what God had commanded him and he had promised to do, which was to die, and that a most shameful, and painful, and cursed death. See Luke 12:50 John 10:18 Hebrews 10:9,10.

Thy law is within my heart, i.e. I do not only hear and understand it, but I receive it with heartiest love and affection, delighting both to meditate of it, and to yield obedience to it.

Verse 9

Righteousness, to wit, thy righteousness, as it is expressed in the next verse, i.e. thy faithfulness, as it is there explained; or righteousness properly so called; for both were fully declared and demonstrated in Christ, the former in 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 other nations; to whom Christ preached by his apostles, as is observed, Ephesians 2:17.

I have not refrained my lips, to wit, from preaching it, out of sloth, or fear, or self love, but have preached it publicly, and even to the face of mine enemies, though I knew my preaching would cost me my life.

Thou knowest; I call thee to witness the truth of what I say.

Verse 10

I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I had it there, Psalms 40:8, but I did not smother or shut it up there, but spread it abroad for thy glory, and the good of the world; which thou hast wrought both for me and by me.

Verse 11

This prayer is uttered by David, either,

1. In the person of Christ; to whom it may agree. Or,

2. In his own person. Having been transported and carried forth by the Spirit of God to the contemplation and commemoration of the great mystery of the Messias, of whom he was an illustrious type, now he seems to be led back by the same Spirit to the consideration of himself and his own particular case.

Verse 12

Mine iniquities; either,

1. The punishment of mine iniquities, as Genesis 4:13 1 Samuel 28:10 Psalms 31:10. Or,

2. The iniquities themselves. This phrase cannot be understood of Christ. For although our sins are said to be laid upon Christ, Isa 53, and upon that account he is said to be made sin for us, 2 Corinthians 5:21; yet the Scripture every where represents him as one that never knew nor did any sin, as in that place, and 1 Peter 2:22, and elsewhere; and even when his punishment is described, yet it is expressly noted, that he did not suffer for himself, or for his own sins, but only for us, and for our sins, as Isaiah 53:4,5 Da 9:26 1 Peter 2:24. And therefore it is not probable that the Holy Ghost would use such an expression concerning the sinless Christ of God, as is never used in Scripture, but either of a man’s own sins, or of the punishment deserved by his own sins.

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 of them, as a serjeant takes hold of a man whom he arrests.

To look up unto God or men, with any comfort and confidence; I am ashamed and confounded, by reason of my numberless sins. Or, so that I was not able to see; either because he was as it were drowned or overwhelmed with his sins; or because his eyes did fail or were consumed through grief, as he complains, Psalms 6:7 38:10. Or he means that he could not foresee them; the simple verb being put for the compound, as it is frequently among the Hebrews. They came upon him unawares, and therefore were the more grievous to him. They, to wit, mine iniquities here mentioned, properly so called; for God’s people are more apt to aggravate their sins than the punishments of them. See Ezra 9:13,14.

Verse 13

Deliver me from my sins, and the punishments due to them.

Verse 14

Let them be ashamed, for the disappointment of their hopes and designs.

My soul, i.e. my life, as Exodus 4:9 1 Samuel 20:1.

Verse 15

Desolate, or amazed, or dismayed, or overthrown: of such imprecations I have spoken before.

Their shame, i.e. their sinful and shameful actions, as shame is put for a shameful idol, Hosea 9:10, and as fear is oft put for the evil feared.

Verse 16

Such as love thy salvation; either,

1. Such as desire and rejoice in the salvation and deliverance which thou givest to me and to others of thy people, which was a great eye-sore and grief to the wicked. Or,

2. Such as expect and seek for their salvation and happiness not from idols, nor from their wicked courses, nor from any creatures, as other men do, but from thee only, and gladly accept and embrace that salvation which thou hast promised, together with the conditions required to it, to wit, faith and repentance. Or,

3. Such as love thy Messias, upon whom both David’s and other holy prophets’ and saints’ thoughts and affections were much fixed, as is evident from many places of Scripture, as John 8:58 Acts 2:30,31 1 Peter 1:10,11; who is called the desire of all nations, Haggai 2:7, and the glory and consolation of Israel, Luke 2:25,32, yea, and by the very title here used, God’s salvation, Isaiah 62:11 Luke 2:30; whose appearance or coming the godly of all ages did love and long for; and of whom David had so lately and clearly spoken, Psalms 40:6,7, &c.; all which considered, this cannot seem a forced or very far-fetched interpretation. The Lord be magnified: let them have continual occasion to magnify God for his mercies vouchsafed to them.


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Bibliography Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 40:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

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