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Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, [1834], at

Psalms Chapter 30


psa 30:0

This is said to be "A Psalm or Song at the dedication of the house of David." There is no reason to call in question the correctness of this inscription, though it cannot be certain that it was prefixed by the author himself. The words of the title are found in the Hebrew, and it is to be presumed that they were affixed to the psalm by some one of the inspired writers.

It is clearly implied in the title, though not expressly affirmed, that David was the author of the psalm, for it is to be presumed that he would himself compose the hymn or song that was to be used at the dedication of his own dwelling. In fact, the title, as Rosenmuller has remarked, might not improperly be read, "A Psalm, a song of dedication of a house, of David," so that the words "A Psalm of David" might not improperly be regarded as united.

It is not absolutely certain what occasion is referred to in the psalm. Some have supposed that the tabernacle is meant; but the tabernacle was dedicated long before the time of David. Others, and among them several Jewish interpreters, have supposed that it was prepared in order to be sung either at the dedication of the temple which Solomon built, or the dedication of that which was erected after the return from the Babylonian captivity. Others have supposed that it was intended to be used at the dedication of the house or palace which David built for himself on Mount Zion, Sa2 5:11. It was usual for the Hebrews to "dedicate" a house when it was finished; that is, to devote it in a solemn manner to God, probably with appropriate religious exercises. Deu 20:5, "what man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it."

Compare also Neh 12:27. Others, as Rosenmuller and Prof. Alexander, suppose that the psalm was designed to be used at the dedication of the altar reared by David on the "threshing-floor" of Ornan, which David purchased at the time of the pestilence which came upon the people for his sin in numbering the people, Ch1 21:15-26. But there is no certain evidence of this. Apart from the incongruity of calling an altar a "house," the circumstances are not such as to lead us to believe that the psalm was composed for that occasion. The allusion in the psalm is rather to a previous state of depression, trouble, and sorrow, such as occurred in the life of David before he conquered his enemies, and before he was peaceably established on his throne - and to the joy which he felt when he had triumphed over his foes, and was peacefully established as king in Jerusalem. All the circumstances seem to me to accord best with the time when David erected a house for his own abode - a palace - upon Mount Zion, and to the act of dedicating such a house to God. See Sa2 5:9-12; Sa2 7:1-2. It may be added that that was properly called "the house of David" - a name which could be given neither to the altar erected on the threshing-floor of Ornan, nor to the tabernacle, nor to the temple.

But although the psalm was composed for the purpose of being used at the dedication of his "house," it was in view of some important circumstances of his past life, and particularly of his feelings in time of dangerous illness, and of his obligation on his recovery to devote himself to God. In the dedication of his house to God he recurs with deep interest to that period of his life, and dwells with grateful satisfaction on the goodness of God manifested in his restoration to health. On entering his new abode, he seems to have felt that there was a special propriety in his recognizing the fact that he owed his life to God; his life, not only in general, but in this special act of goodness, by which he had been raised up from the borders of the grave. "His former condition of calamity and sorrow as contrasted with his present happy and prosperous condition," therefore, suggested the train of thought in the psalm at the dedication of his house. In the course of the psalm, as illustrating his feelings, he adverts to the following points:

(1) His former state of self-confidence or security when he was in health, and when he thought his "mountain" stood "strong," Psa 30:6-7.

(2) His sickness as a means of humbling him, and teaching him his dependence, Psa 30:2-3.

(3) His prayer for deliverance when he was sick, Psa 30:2, Psa 30:8-10.

(4) His deliverance as an act of God Psa 30:2-3, Psa 30:11.

(5) His obligation to give thanks to God for his mercy, Psa 30:1, Psa 30:4,Psa 30:12.

These would suggest most appropriate topics of meditation on entering a near abode, and looking forward to the vicissitudes which might and which would probably occur there.

That the allusion in the psalm is to "sickness," seems to me to be evident from Psa 30:2-3, Psa 30:9, though at what time of life this occurred, or what was the particular form of disease, we are not informed. From Psa 30:3, Psa 30:9, however, it is certain that it was a "dangerous" illness; that he anticipated death; and that he was saved from death only in answer to fervent prayer. The psalm, therefore, in this respect, has a resemblance to Psa 6:1-10; Ps. 35; Psa 41:1-13; psalms composed also in view of sickness. In a book claiming to be from God, and designed for all mankind in a world where sickness so abounds, it was to be expected that there would be allusions to disease as well as to other forms of affliction, and that in the examples of ancient saints suffering on beds of pain, we should be able to find illustrations of proper pious feeling; that we should be directed by their example to the true sources of consolation, and should be made acquainted with the lessons which God designs to teach us in sickness.

The direct contents of the psalm are as follows:

I. The author recounts the signal mercy of God to him in the time of his danger. God had lifted him up, and had not allowed his enemies to exult over his death, Psa 30:1-3.

II. He calls upon others to unite with him in praising God, and especially in view of the truth that affliction, as endured by the people of God, would not continue long, and that it would certainly be followed by peace and joy, as the light of the morning will certainly follow the darkest night, Psa 30:4-5.

III. He adverts again, in illustration of this, to his former state, saying that there was a time when he thought he should never be moved; when he supposed that his "mountain" stood "strong," and that he was secure; but that God had hid His face, and troubled him, teaching him not to confide in his own strength, or in the mere fact that he was prosperous, Psa 30:6-7.

IV. He adverts to his earnest prayer in the time of his affliction, and recounts the substance of that prayer, Psa 30:8-10. The "argument" which he then urged was that there could be no "profit" or advantage to God "in his blood," or in his being cut off; that the "dust," that is, the dead, could not praise Him or declare His truth. He, therefore, prayed that God would keep him alive, that he might honor Him upon the earth.

V. In Psa 30:11-12, he refers to the fact that the prayer was heard, and to the reason why it was heard. God had turned his mourning into dancing; he had put off his sackcloth, and girded him with gladness. The reason why God had done this was, that his "glory," that is, his tongue (margin), might give praise to God, and not be silent; and, in view of all the goodness of God to him, he expresses his purpose to praise God forever.

It will be seen, therefore, that the contents of the psalm are every way suitable to the occasion supposed to be referred to - the dedication of his house to God. On entering such a habitation for the first time it was proper to recall the past scenes of his life - his perils and troubles; it was proper to acknowledge the goodness of God in delivering him from those perils and troubles; it was proper to express his solemn purpose to serve God in that dwelling, and to consecrate himself and all that he had to Him and to His service evermore. What was proper for the royal author of this psalm is proper for all; and there can be nothing more appropriate when we have erected a house to dwell in than to dedicate it to God, with a suitable recollection of his dealings with us in our past life, and to pray that He may also condescend to dwell with us there.

Psalms 30:1

psa 30:1

I will extol thee - literally, "I will exalt thee;" that is, he would make God first and supreme in his thoughts and affections; he would do what he could to make Him known; he would elevate Him high in his praises.

For thou hast lifted me up - To wit, from the state of danger in which I was Psa 30:2-3. The Hebrew word used here means properly to draw out, as from a well; and then, to deliver, to set free. As God had thus lifted him up, it was proper that he should show his gratitude by "lifting up" or extolling the name of God.

And hast not made my foes to rejoice over me - Hast not suffered them to triumph over me; that is, thou hast delivered me from them. He refers to the fact that he had been saved from a dangerous illness, and that his enemies had not been allowed to exult over his death. Compare the notes at Psa 41:5.

Psalms 30:2

psa 30:2

O Lord my God, I cried unto thee - In the time of trouble and danger.

And thou hast healed me - Thou didst restore me to health. The language here evidently refers to the fact that he had been sick, and had then been restored to health.

Psalms 30:3

psa 30:3

O, Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave - My life; me. The meaning is, that he had been in imminent danger of death, and had been brought from the borders of the grave. The word here rendered "grave" is "Sheol" - a word which, properly used, commonly denotes the region of the dead; the underworld which is entered through the grave. Compare Isa 14:9, note; Psa 6:5, note.

Thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit - More literally, "thou hast caused me to live from them which go down to the pit;" that is, thou hast distinguished me from them by keeping me alive. The word "pit" here means the same as the grave. See the notes at Psa 28:1.

Psalms 30:4

psa 30:4

Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his - This call upon others to give thanks to God is in view of the mercy which he had experienced. He invites them to unite with him in celebrating the praises of that God who had showed him so much mercy. It was not because they had been benefited by these tokens of the divine favor; but:

(a) because when we are partakers of the divine mercy, we desire that others may assist us in giving utterance to the praise due to God; and

(b) because others may learn from the mercies bestowed on us that God is worthy of praise, or may see in His dealings with us an argument for His goodness; and may, therefore, appropriately unite in His praise.

Thus religion diffuses its influence on all around us, and tends to "unite" the hearts of many in every manifestation of the character of God. Infidelity is solitary and dissocial; religion is social; and, no matter on whom the favor is bestowed, its effect is to unite the hearts of many to each other and to God.

And give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness - Margin, "to the memorial." The Hebrew is, "to the memory of his holiness." The sense is, in calling to recollection the acts of his holiness, or his holy perfections. Compare the notes at Psa 22:3. The word "holiness" here is used in a large sense as denoting, not so much the hatred of sin, as benevolence, kindness, mercy - the divine compassion toward those who are in trouble or danger. It is true that it is a proper subject of rejoicing and praise that God is a holy God, a God of truth and justice, a God who cannot look upon sin but with abhorrence, a God in whose nature is combined every possible perfection; but that is not the exact idea here. The word refers to his compassion, goodness, kindness; and to the acts by which that had been manifested to the psalmist, as laying a proper foundation for gratitude and praise.

Psalms 30:5

psa 30:5

For his anger endureth but a moment - Margin: There is but "a moment in his anger." So the Hebrew. That is, his anger endures but a short time, or brief period. The reference here is to the troubles and sorrows through which the psalmist had passed, as compared with his subsequent happiness. Though at the time they might have seemed to be long, yet, as compared with the many mercies of life, with the joy which had succeeded them, and with the hopes now cherished, they seemed to be but for a moment. God, according to the view of the psalmist, is not a Being who cherishes anger; not one who lays it up in his mind; not one who is unwilling to show mercy and kindness: he is a Being who is disposed to be merciful, and though he may be displeased with the conduct of men, yet his displeasure is not cherished and nourished, but passes away with the occasion, and is remembered no more.

In his favor is life - It is his nature to impart life. He spares life; He will give eternal life. It is, in other words, not His nature to inflict death; death is to be traced to something else. Death is not pleasing or gratifying to Him; it is pleasing and gratifying to Him to confer life. His favor secures life; death is an evidence of His displeasure - that is, death is caused by sin leading to His displeasure. If a man has the favor of God, he is sure of life; if not life in this world, yet life in the world to come.

Weeping may endure for a night - Margin: "in the evening." So the Hebrew. The word here rendered "endure" means properly "to lodge, to sojourn," as one does for a little time. The idea is, that weeping is like a stranger - a wayfaring person - who lodges for a night only. In other words, sorrow will soon pass away to be succeeded by joy.

But joy cometh in the morning - Margin: "singing." The margin expresses the force of the original word. There will be singing, shouting, exultation. That is, if we have the friendship of God, sorrow will always be temporary, and will always be followed by joy. The morning will come; a morning without clouds; a morning when the sources of sorrow will disappear. This often occurs in the present life; it will always occur to the righteous in the life to come. The sorrows of this life are but for a moment, and they will be succeeded by the light and the joy of heaven. Then, if not before, all the sorrows of the present life, however long they may appear to be, will seem to have been but for a moment; weeping, though it may have made life here but one unbroken night, will be followed by one eternal day without a sigh or a tear.

Psalms 30:6

psa 30:6

And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved - I shall never be visited with calamity or trial. This refers to a past period of his life, when everything seemed to be prosperous, and when he had drawn around him so many comforts, and had apparently made them so secure, that it seemed as if they could never be taken from him, or as if he had nothing to fear. To what precise period of his life the psalmist refers, it is now impossible to ascertain. It is sufficient to say, that men are often substantially in that state of mind. They have such vigorous constitutions and such continued health; their plans are so uniformly crowned with success; everything which they touch so certainly turns to gold, and every enterprise so certainly succeeds; they have so many and such warmly attached friends; they have accumulated so much property, and it is so safely invested - that it seems as if they were never to know reverses, and they unconsciously suffer the illusion to pass over the mind that they are never to see changes, and that they have nothing to dread. They become self-confident. They forget their dependence on God. In their own minds they trace their success to their own efforts, tact and skill, rather than to God. They become worldly-minded, and it is necessary for God to teach them how easily he can sweep all this away - and thus to bring them back to a right view of the uncertainty of all earthly things. Health fails, or friends die, or property takes wings and flies away; and God accomplishes his purpose - a purpose invaluable to them - by showing them their dependence on Himself, and by teaching them that permanent and certain happiness and security are to be found in Him alone.

Psalms 30:7

psa 30:7

Lord, by thy favor thou hast made my mountain to stand strong - Margin: "settled strength for my mountain." This refers, I apprehend, to his former state of mind; to his confidence in that which constituted his prosperity as referred to in the previous verse; to his feeling, in that state, that everything pertaining to himself was safe; to his freedom from any apprehension that there would be any change. The word "mountain" seems to be used as denoting that on which he relied as his security or strength, as the mountain, or the inaccessible hills, constituted a refuge and security in times of danger. See Psa 18:1-2, Psa 18:33; Psa 27:5. It does not refer to Mount Moriah, or Mount Zion, as some have supposed, for the passage relates to a former period of his life when these were not in his possession; but he speaks of himself as having, through the favor of God, put himself into a strong position - a position where he feared no enemy and no change; where he thought himself entirely secure - the state of "prosperity" to which he had referred in the previous verse. In that state, however, God showed him that there was no real security but in his favor: security not in what a man can draw around himself, but in the favor of God alone.

Thou didst hide thy face - That is, at the time when I was so confident, and when I thought my mountain stood so strong, and that I was so secure. Then I was shown how insecure and uncertain was all that I relied on, and how absolutely, after all that I had done, I was dependent for safety on God. To "hide the face" is synonymous in the sacred writings with the withdrawing of favor, or with displeasure. See the notes at Psa 13:1. Compare Psa 104:29.

And I was troubled - I was confounded, perplexed, agitated, terrified. I was thrown into sudden fear, for all that I had so confidently relied on, all that I thought was so firm, was suddenly swept away. We do not know what this was in the case of the psalmist. It may have been the strength of his own fortifications; it may have been the number and discipline of his army; it may have been his own conscious power and skill as a warrior; it may have been his wealth; it may have been his bodily health - in reference to any of which he may have felt as if none of these things could fail. When that on which he so confidently relied was swept away, he was agitated, troubled, anxious. The same thing may occur now, and often does occur, whenpeople rely on their own strength; their health; their wealth. Suddenly any of these may be swept away; suddenly they are often swept away, to teach such men - even good men - their dependence on God, and to show them how vain is every other refuge.

Psalms 30:8

psa 30:8

I cried to thee, O Lord - That is, when those reverses came, and when that on which I had so confidently relied was taken away, I called upon the Lord; I uttered an earnest cry for aid. The prayer which he uttered on the occasion is specified in the following verses. The idea here is, that he was not driven from God by these reverses, but TO him. He felt that his reliance on those things in which he had put his trust was vain, and he now came to God, the true Source of strength, and sought His protection and favor. This was doubtless the design of the reverses which God had brought upon him; and this will always be the effect of the reverses that come upon good men. When they have placed undue reliance upon wealth, or health, or friends, and when these are taken away, the effect will be to lead them to God in earnest prayer. God designs to bring them back, and they do come back to him. Afflictions are always, sooner or later, effectual in bringing good men back to God. The sinner is often driven from God by trial; the good man is brought back to find his strength and comfort in God. The one complains, and murmurs, and is wretched; the other prays, and submits, and is made more happy than he was in the days of his prosperity.

Psalms 30:9

psa 30:9

What proof is there in my blood - That is, What profit or advantage would there be to thee if I should die? What would be "gained" by it? The argument which the psalmist urges is that he could better serve God by his life than by his death; that his death, by removing him from the earth, would prevent his rendering the service which he might by his life. The same argument is presented also in Psa 6:5 (see the notes at that verse), and is found again in Psa 88:10-12, and in the hymn of Hezekiah, Isa 38:18-19. See the notes at that passage. The prayer used here is to be understood, not as a prayer at the time of the composition of the psalm, but as that which the psalmist employed at the time when he thought his mountain stood strong, and when God saw suitable to humble him by some calamity - perhaps by a dangerous illness, Psa 30:6-7.

When I go down to the pit? - To the grave; or, If I should go down to the grave. See the notes at Psa 30:3.

Shall the dust praise thee? - That which turns to dust; the lifeless remains. See the notes at Psa 6:5.

Shall it declare thy truth? - Can a lifeless body stand up in defense of the truth, or make that truth known to the living? This shows on what his heart was really set, or what was the prevailing desire of his soul. It was to make known the truth of God; to celebrate his praise; to bring others to an acquaintance with him. It cannot be denied that the statement here made is founded on obscure views, or on a misconception of the condition of the soul after death - a misconception which we are enabled to correct by the clearer light of the Christian religion; but still there is a truth here of great importance. It is, that whatever we are to do for making known the character and perfections of God on earth - for bringing others to the knowledge of the truth, and saving their souls - is to be done before we go down to the grave. whatever we may do to honor God in the future world - in the vast eternity on which we enter at death - yet all that we are to do in this respect on earth is to be accomplished before the eyes are closed, and the lips are made mute in death. We shall not return to do what we have omitted to do on earth; we shall not come back to repair the evils of an inconsistent life; we shall not revisit the world to check the progress of error that we may have maintained; we shall not return to warn the sinners whom we neglected to warn. Our work on earth will be soon done - and done finally and forever. If we are to offer prayer for the salvation of our children, neighbors, or friends, it is to be done in this world; if we are to admonish and warn the wicked, it is to be done here; if we are to do anything by personal effort for the spread of the Gospel, it is to be done before we die. Whatever we may do in heaven, these things are not to be done there, for when we close our eyes in death, our personal efforts for the salvation of men will cease for ever.

Psalms 30:10

psa 30:10

Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me, - etc. This, too, is the prayer which he uttered in the calamities adverted to in Psa 30:7. It is a cry for mercy founded on the idea referred to in Psa 30:9.

Psalms 30:11

psa 30:11

Thou hast turned for me - In my behalf. That is, God had heard his prayer; he had brought his troubles to an end; he had caused his sorrows to be succeeded by correspondent joy.

My mourning into dancing - Joy, exultation, every expression of rejoicing, had been made to succeed his deep sorrows. Compare Psa 30:5. It was this which he commemorated at the dedication of his house; this joy succeeding scenes of sorrow that he now called to remembrance as he entered the place which he had reared for a permanent abode. The contrast of his circumstances now - in a palace, with every comfort of plenty and peace around him - with his former circumstances which had been so sad, made it proper for him thus to celebrate the goodness of God.

Thou hast put off my sackcloth - That which I wore, or had girded around me, as an emblem of sorrow, or in the time of my mourning. See Isa 3:24, note; Job 16:15, note; and Mat 11:21, note.

And girded me with gladness - Instead of a girdle of sackcloth he had been clothed in a festive dress, or with such a dress - girded with an elegant girdle - as was worn on joyous and festive occasions. See the notes at Mat 5:38-41.

Psalms 30:12

psa 30:12

To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee - Margin, my "tongue," or my "soul." DeWette renders it, "my heart." The Aramaic Paraphrase: "that the honorable of the world may praise thee." The Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate: "my glory." The reference is, undoubtedly, to what the psalmist regarded as most glorious, honorable, exalted, in himself. There is no evidence that he referred to his "tongue" or his "heart" particularly, but the expression seems to be equivalent to "my highest powers" - all the powers and faculties of my nature. The "tongue" would indeed be the instrument of uttering praise, but still the reference is rather to the exalted powers of the soul than to the instrument. Let all that is capable of praise within me, all my powers, be employed in celebrating the goodness of God.

And not be silent - Be employed in praise.

O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever - Compare the notes at Isa 38:20. This verse states the purpose which the psalmist now saw that God intended to accomplish by his dealings with him in the varied scenes of his past life; and his own purpose now as he entered his new abode. "The purpose of God," in all these various dealings - in the prosperity which had been bestowed on him Psa 30:6-7; in the reverses and trials by sickness or otherwise which had come upon him Psa 30:3, Psa 30:7; and in the deliverance which God had granted him in answer to his prayers Psa 30:2-3, Psa 30:10-11 - was, that he should learn to praise the Lord. "His own purpose" now, as he entered his new habitation and dedicated it to God, was, to praise God with his highest powers forever: to consecrate all that he had to his gracious preserver; to make his house, not a habitation of gaiety and sin, but an abode of serious piety - a home where the happiness sought would be that which is found in the influence of religion. It is scarcely necessary to add that every new dwelling should be entered by a family with feelings similar to these; that the first act of the head of a family on entering a new habitation - whether it be a palace or a cottage - should be solemnly to consecrate it to God, and to resolve that it shall be a house where His praises shall be celebrated, and where the influence of religion shall be invoked to guide and sanctify all the members of the household.

Next: Psalms Chapter 31