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Psalms 40:1-5

Context
Psalm 40 1 

For the music director; By David, a psalm.

40:1 I relied completely 2  on the Lord,

and he turned toward me

and heard my cry for help.

40:2 He lifted me out of the watery pit, 3 

out of the slimy mud. 4 

He placed my feet on a rock

and gave me secure footing. 5 

40:3 He gave me reason to sing a new song, 6 

praising our God. 7 

May many see what God has done,

so that they might swear allegiance to him and trust in the Lord! 8 

40:4 How blessed 9  is the one 10  who trusts in the Lord 11 

and does not seek help from 12  the proud or from liars! 13 

40:5 O Lord, my God, you have accomplished many things;

you have done amazing things and carried out your purposes for us. 14 

No one can thwart you! 15 

I want to declare them and talk about them,

but they are too numerous to recount! 16 

1 sn Psalm 40. The psalmist combines a song of thanksgiving for a recent act of divine deliverance (vv. 1-11) with a confident petition for renewed divine intervention (vv. 12-17).

2 tn Heb “relying, I relied.” The infinitive absolute precedes the finite verbal form to emphasize the verbal idea. The emphasis is reflected in the translation through the adverb “completely.” Another option is to translate, “I waited patiently” (cf. NASB, NIV, NRSV).

3 tn Heb “cistern of roaring.” The Hebrew noun בּוֹר (bor, “cistern, pit”) is used metaphorically here of Sheol, the place of death, which is sometimes depicted as a raging sea (see Ps 18:4, 15-16). The noun שָׁאוֹן (shaon, “roaring”) refers elsewhere to the crashing sound of the sea’s waves (see Ps 65:7).

4 tn Heb “from the mud of mud.” The Hebrew phrase translated “slimy mud” employs an appositional genitive. Two synonyms are joined in a construct relationship to emphasize the single idea. For a detailed discussion of the grammatical point with numerous examples, see Y. Avishur, “Pairs of Synonymous Words in the Construct State (and in Appositional Hendiadys) in Biblical Hebrew,” Semitics 2 (1971): 17-81.

5 tn Heb “he established my footsteps.”

6 sn A new song was appropriate because the Lord had intervened in the psalmist’s experience in a fresh and exciting way.

7 tn Heb “and he placed in my mouth a new song, praise to our God.”

8 tn Heb “may many see and fear and trust in the Lord.” The translation assumes that the initial prefixed verbal form is a jussive (“may many see”), rather than an imperfect (“many will see”). The following prefixed verbal forms with vav (ו) conjunctive are taken as indicating purpose or result (“so that they might swear allegiance…and trust”) after the introductory jussive.

9 tn The Hebrew noun is an abstract plural. The word often refers metonymically to the happiness that God-given security and prosperity produce (see Pss 1:1, 3; 2:12; 34:9; 41:1; 65:4; 84:12; 89:15; 106:3; 112:1; 127:5; 128:1; 144:15).

10 tn Heb “man.” See the note on the word “one” in Ps 1:1.

11 tn Heb “who has made the Lord his [object of] trust.”

12 tn Heb “and does not turn toward.”

13 tn Heb “those falling away toward a lie.”

14 tn Heb “many things you have done, you, O Lord my God, your amazing deeds and your thoughts toward us.” The precise meaning of the text is not clear, but the psalmist seems to be recalling the Lord’s miraculous deeds on Israel’s behalf (see Pss 9:1; 26:7), as well as his covenantal decrees and promises (see Ps 33:11).

15 tn Heb “there is none arrayed against you.” The precise meaning of the text is unclear, but the collocation עָרַךְ אֶל (’arakhel, “array against”) is used elsewhere of military (Judg 20:30; 1 Chr 19:17) or verbal opposition (Job 32:14).

16 tn Heb “I will declare and I will speak, they are too numerous to recount.” The present translation assumes that the cohortatives are used in a hypothetical manner in a formally unmarked conditional sentence, “Should I try to declare [them] and speak [of them]…” (cf. NEB, NIV, NRSV). For other examples of cohortatives in the protasis (“if” clause) of a conditional sentence, see GKC 320 §108.e. (It should be noted, however, that GKC understands this particular verse in a different manner. See GKC 320 §108.f, where it is suggested that the cohortatives are part of an apodosis with the protasis being suppressed.) Another option is to take the cohortatives as a declaration of the psalmist’s resolve to announce the truth expressed in the next line. In this case one might translate: “I will declare and speak [the truth]: They are too numerous to recount.”



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