New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 30:1 By David- The primary context may have been David's relief at having been healed and forgiven after his sin with Bathsheba.

I will extol You, Yahweh, for You have raised me up, and have not made my enemies to rejoice over me-
The political threats to David immediately after his sin with Bathsheba aren't detailed in the historical narratives, but the Psalms often refer to them. However, David suffered so much from Bathsheba's grandfather Ahithophel, his own son Absalom and others. So his rejoicing as if all consequences of the sin were somehow annulled is in a sense incorrect.

Psa 30:2 Yahweh my God, I cried to You, and You have healed me-
Whilst this applies to David's healing of his mortal sickness after the sin with Bathsheba, the same word for "healed" is used of Hezekiah's healing (2 Kings 20:8). So many of the Psalms were clearly rewritten with reference to Hezekiah.

Psa 30:3 Yahweh, You have brought up my soul from Sheol. You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit-
"Brought up" is the language of resurrection. The language on one hand suggests a kind of living death; and yet there is also the clear hint at resurrection, because finally it was only true of the Lord Jesus.

Psa 30:4 Sing praise to Yahweh, You saints of His, give thanks to His holy name-
David wanted the whole world and brotherhood of his time to praise God- because of the grace shown to him. This was the great positive outcome of David's awful sins. 

Psa 30:5 For His anger is but for a moment; His grace is for all our lifetime. Weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning-
There is no indication in the historical records that God's anger was visibly poured out upon David because of his sin. But the Psalms so often imply this. The silence of the historical record about his mortal sickness at the time is perhaps because the record reflects the forgiveness and blessing given at the time. God's anger with the exiles is likewise likened to being only for a relatively short moment; a night of weeping to be followed by an eternal dawn. The restoration prophets are full of these images.

Psa 30:6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, I shall never be moved-
What David learnt from the Bathsheba failure is in essence what we all have to learn. Psalm 26 was surely written before he sinned with her. He speaks of how he had walked in integrity before God “without wavering” (Ps. 26:1 RV), and how his foot did not slip (Ps. 26:12). What else does this evidently pre-Bathsheba Psalm indicate about David’s attitude, and what changed after Bathsheba? He speaks in Ps. 26:5 of how he refuses to sit at table with sinners. Yet the Lord rejoiced to do just this. He contrasts his righteousness with the sinfulness of the wicked (Ps. 26:10,11)- a far cry from Paul’s insistence in Romans that we have sinned just as much as the world has, in the sense that we desperately need salvation by grace. When David asks for forgiveness in Ps. 26:11 (“redeem me, and be merciful unto me”), he therefore was apparently asking for mercy in an almost technical way, perhaps seeing the only mercy he required as a resurrection from the dead.  All these attitudes changed radically after his Bathsheba experience. He could look back and reflect how “As for me, I said in my prosperity, I shall never be moved” (Ps. 30:6), perhaps looking back to Ps. 26:10, where he had felt confident his foot had never been moved. And he speaks of how he only stands strong because of God’s gracious favour (Ps. 30:7). God works through sin and failure- to bring us to know His grace. We follow the same learning curve as David, if we are truly God’s man or woman. The soliloquy of David is commented upon in Rom. 4:6: “David pronounceth blessing upon the man [i.e. any man, each of us] unto whom God reckoneth righteousness…” (RV). Rom. 4:9 RV likewise speaks of David in the soliloquy of Ps. 32 pronouncing blessing upon us.

It has been rightly noted that David's remaining at Jerusalem " at the time when kings go forth to battle" (11:1) is the classic example of the devil finding work for idle hands. It was the set up for David's sin with Bathsheba. That he was lying down on his bed in the late afternoon rather than working would exemplify the same thing. He appears to recognize his attitude problem in Ps. 30:6: " In my prosperity I said, I shall never be (spiritually) moved" . In the lead up to the sin, God had given him victory after victory- leading him to think that he must therefore be spiritually OK because of his many physical blessings (1 Chron. 18:6 RV). His conscience had been blunted. David may have cleverly alluded to this when he comments that the ark was abiding in a tent, and therefore he would not go down to his house (2 Sam. 11:11). The tension between a tent and a house is surely intended to take David back to his words in 2 Sam. 7:2, where he laments as unacceptable the fact that he lives in a house but the ark is in a tent. And David was ‘tarrying’, living in a settled way, in a house in Jerusalem now. 

The fact that he is condemned for having "despised the commandment of the Lord" (2 Sam. 12:9) in David's sin with Bathsheba indicates that He knew all along what God's will really was. The fact that the flesh took over does not in any way mitigate his responsibility in this. This is a direct quote from the Law's definition of the sin of presumption: "The soul that doeth ought presumptuously... because he hath despised the word of the Lord... that soul shall utterly be cut off" (Num. 15:30,31). Knowing David’s emotional nature and also the fact that he did not completely turn away from God afterwards, we would have expected a quicker repentance if it had been a passing sin of passion. It would therefore seem reasonable to assume that the sin was of presumption rather than passion. In his prosperity he had said “I shall never be moved” and he was determined that he couldn’t be (Ps. 30:6). Hearing those words from Nathan must have struck real fear into David- he was being incriminated for the supreme sin of presumption, for which there was no provision of sacrifice or repentance.

David in his earlier Psalms exalts and boasts to God that his feet have not slipped, indeed he was overly confident that his feet would never slip / "be moved" (Ps. 17:5; 21:7; 55:22; 62:2,6; 125:1). His more mature reflection is that he had wrongly said "I shall never slip [AV "be moved"]" (Ps. 30:6), and his feet had indeed slipped, not least over the Bathsheba incident (Ps. 38:16; 94:18). Solomon didn't learn this lesson, for he likewise assumed that the righteous would never be moved / slip (Prov. 10:30), although he appears to accept that even a righteous man like his father had indeed slipped (Prov. 25:26). And Solomon himself did so, not learning the lesson from his father's mistaken assumption that the righteous can never slip.

Psa 30:7 You, Yahweh, when You favoured me, made my mountain stand strong; but when You hid Your face, I was troubled-
David's mountain presumably refers to his kingdom. The troubles that came to David's kingdom as a result of his sin with Bathsheba never really left him; the kingdom was never really "strong" as it had been before. It was full of division and infighting.


Psa 30:8 I cried to You, Yahweh; to Yahweh I made supplication-
"Supplication" is the same word translated "have mercy" in :10, and is the term used in David's plea for forgiveness in Ps. 51:1. The cry for mercy suggests the moral guilt of the sin with Bathsheba, which had its consequence in David's mortal sickness with which it seems he was stricken soon afterwards (as in Ps. 41:4).

Psa 30:9 What profit is there in my destruction, if I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise You? Shall it declare Your truth?-
These are very much the thoughts of Hezekiah when terminally ill. But David clearly had these same thoughts. There is the clear implication that there is no conscious survival of death. After death there is no praise of God; and that points up the critical importance to use life to praise Him. The implication of David's argument, even if it could appear somewhat manipulative, is that God ought to keep him alive as he can then praise God. But God isn't interested in receiving praise for its own sake; otherwise there would be no death in this life for the righteous. So there seems some error of logic in the argument, although it is true so far as it goes. "Declare" is the word used for David's declaration of praise after his forgiveness concerning Bathsheba (Ps. 51:15). The "truth" which David declared after his forgiveness (Ps. 30:9) was the ultimate truth, of God's forgiveness of him by grace; a 'declaring' of his sin (Ps. 38:18 s.w.) and God's forgiveness.

Psa 30:10 Hear, Yahweh, and have mercy on me. Yahweh, be my helper-
Earlier David had sought Yahweh's help (s.w.) on the basis that he had been obedient to God's word (Ps. 119:173 s.w.), and was innocent (Ps. 119:86 s.w.). But the sin with Bathsheba led David to beg for God to be his helper purely on the basis of grace (Ps. 30:10 s.w.). He had asked for God's words to be his "helper" (Ps. 119:175), but now he quits his academic study and begs directly for God Himself to be his "helper".

Psa 30:11 You have turned my mourning into dancing for me. You have removed my sackcloth, and clothed me with gladness-
David removed his sackcloth when his child died (2 Sam. 12:20-22). It was perhaps at this point that he realized that he had been truly forgiven; hence the strange and much observed paradox of David's relative rejoicing at a time when he was supposed to be mourning for his child's death.


Psa 30:12 To the end that my heart may sing praise to You, and not be silent. Yahweh my God, I will give thanks to You forever!
- David often uses the idea of ‘confession’, in the double Hebrew sense of both confessing sin and yet also confessing the knowledge of God to others (e.g. Ps. 30:12 AV cp. NEB). Imagine his attitude in preaching! There must have been a true humility in his style of speaking, his body language and in his message- coupled with an earnestness and intensity few have since matched.