Psalm 40:2
He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
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(2) Horrible pit.—The rendering of the margin, “pit of noise,” takes shaôn in its primary sense, as in Isaiah 17:12, Psalm 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 Psalm 35:8, destruction.” The LXX. and Vulg. have “misery.”

Miry clay.—The word translated “clay” (comp. Psalm 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 (Psalm 18:2; Psalm 27:5), the occurrence of which makes it probable that the “pit” and “clay” are also not realities, but emblems of confusion and danger.

40:1-5 Doubts and fears about the eternal state, are a horrible pit and miry clay, and have been so to many a dear child of God. There is power enough in God to help the weakest, and grace enough to help the unworthiest of all that trust in him. The psalmist waited patiently; he continued believing, hoping, and praying. This is applicable to Christ. His agony, in the garden and on the cross, was a horrible pit and miry clay. But those that wait patiently for God do not wait in vain. Those that have been under religious melancholy, and by the grace of God have been relieved, may apply ver. 2 very feelingly to themselves; they are brought up out of a horrible pit. Christ is the Rock on which a poor soul can alone stand fast. Where God has given stedfast hope, he expects there should be a steady, regular walk and conduct. God filled the psalmist with joy, as well as peace in believing. Multitudes, by faith beholding the sufferings and glory of Christ, have learned to fear the justice and trust in the mercy of God through Him. Many are the benefits with which we are daily loaded, both by the providence and by the grace of God.He brought me up also out of an horrible pit - Margin: "A pit of noise." The word used here means a pit; a cistern; a prison; a dungeon; a grave. This last signification of the word is found in Psalm 28:1; Psalm 30:4; Psalm 88:4; Isaiah 38:18; Isaiah 14:19. It may refer to any calamity - or to trouble, like being in a pit - or it may refer to the grave. The word rendered "horrible" - שׁאון shâ'ôn - means properly "noise, uproar, tumult," as of waters; of a crowd of men; of war. Then it seems to be used in the sense of "desolation" or "destruction," as applicable to the grave. DeWette understands it here of a pit, a cavern, or an abyss that roars or is tumultuous; that is, that is impassable. Perhaps this is the idea - a cavern, deep and dark, where the waters roar, and which seems to be filled with horrors. So Rosenmuller understands it. The Septuagint renders it: ἐκ λάκκου ταλαιπωρίας ek lakkou talaipōrias, "a lake of misery." It is a deep and horrid cavern, where there is no hope of being rescued, or where it would seem that there would be certain destruction.

Out of the miry clay - At the bottom of the pit. Where there was no solid ground - no rock on which to stand. See Jeremiah 38:6; Psalm 69:2, Psalm 69:14.

And set my feet upon a rock - Where there was firm standing.

And established my goings - Or, fixed my steps. That is, he enabled me to walk as on solid ground; he conducted me along safely, where there was no danger of descending to the pit again or of sinking in the mire. If we understand this of the Redeemer, it refers to that time when, his sorrows ended, and his work of atonement done, it became certain that he would never be exposed again to such dangers, or sink into such a depth of woes, but that his course ever onward would be one of safety and of glory.


Ps 40:1-17. In this Psalm a celebration of God's deliverance is followed by a profession of devotion to His service. Then follows a prayer for relief from imminent dangers, involving the overthrow of enemies and the rejoicing of sympathizing friends. In Heb 10:5, &c., Paul quotes Ps 40:6-8 as the words of Christ, offering Himself as a better sacrifice. Some suppose Paul thus accommodated David's words to express Christ's sentiments. But the value of his quotation would be thus destroyed, as it would have no force in his argument, unless regarded by his readers as the original sense of the passage in the Old Testament. Others suppose the Psalm describes David's feelings in suffering and joy; but the language quoted by Paul, in the sense given by him, could not apply to David in any of his relations, for as a type the language is not adapted to describe any event or condition of David's career, and as an individual representing the pious generally, neither he nor they could properly use it (see on [584]Ps 40:7, below). The Psalm must be taken then, as the sixteenth, to express the feelings of Christ's human nature. The difficulties pertinent to this view will be considered as they occur.

1-3. The figures for deep distress are illustrated in Jeremiah's history (Jer 38:6-12). Patience and trust manifested in distress, deliverance in answer to prayer, and the blessed effect of it in eliciting praise from God's true worshippers, teach us that Christ's suffering is our example, and His deliverance our encouragement (Heb 5:7, 8; 12:3; 1Pe 4:12-16).

inclined—(the ear, Ps 17:6), as if to catch the faintest sigh.

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, Judges 16:30; or, his ear, as it is more fully expressed, Psalm 17:6 31:2. Such ellipses or defects are frequent in Scripture, as Psalm 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, Psalm 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.

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit,.... Which, with the following phrase,

out of the miry clay, expresses the state and condition Christ was in at the time of his bloody sweat, his crucifixion, and his lying in "sheol", the pit or grave, sometimes rendered hell, which these figurative phrases fitly signify; when it is observed, that he was made sin, and had the sins of all his people on him; and, as the type of Joshua, was clothed with their filthy garments; he might be truly said to be in the miry clay; and also that he was made a curse for them, and bore the wrath of God in their room and stead; and was forsaken by his God and Father, and so endured both the punishment of loss and sense, and what was tantamount to the sufferings of the damned in hell; see Psalm 69:1; to which may be added the noisy insults of malignant men, and the infernal fiends, who surrounded him on the cross; when he was in an horrible, or "noisy pit", as the words may be rendered (k), the allusion being to subterraneous caverns or pits, in which the falls of water make so horrible a noise as is intolerable; or to deep pits, into which anything cast makes a great sound: and the issue of all this was, that he was laid in the pit of the grave, and held under the power and with the cords of death; from all which he was delivered when he was raised from the dead, justified in the Spirit, and glorified in the human nature by his God and Father;

and set my feet upon a rock; on Mount Zion in heaven, whither he was carried up after his resurrection; where he will remain until his second coming, being set down at the right hand of God, in a most stable, firm, and unalterable state, as well as an honourable one; for he will die no more, and death shall no more have dominion over him;

and established my goings; in treading the path of life, which was shown him at his resurrection; in passing through the air, the territory of Satan, at his ascension; and in his entrance into his glory, and making his way to his Father's right hand and throne.

(k) "e cisterna sonitus", Pagninus, Montanus; "strepitus", Vatablus, the Targum & Kimchi; and to the same purpose Musculus, Cocceius, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "out of the pit of sounding calamity", Ainsworth.

He brought me up also out of an {b} horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.

(b) He has delivered me from great dangers.

2. And brought me up out of a pit of destruction, out of the miry slough:

And set my feet upon a rock, made firm my steps.

A literal reference to Jeremiah’s imprisonment in the dungeon can hardly be intended. The second line, setrock, makes it plain that the whole verse is to be understood figuratively. He compares his plight to that of a prisoner in a dungeon (Lamentations 3:53; Lamentations 3:55), or even a dead man in the grave (Psalm 28:1; Psalm 88:4; Psalm 88:6); to that of a traveller floundering in a morass, or quicksand. Quagmires, ‘treacherous to the last degree,’ are common in Palestine. Thomson’s Land and the Book, p. 360. Now he has been given firm footing (Psalm 27:5), and the possibility of secure advance (Psalm 17:5; Psalm 37:31).

Verse 2. - He brought me up also out of an horrible pit; literally, a pit of tumult or uproar, which is variously explained. Some imagine a pit with rushing water at the bottom of it, but such pits are scarcely known in Palestine. Others a pit which is filled with noise as a warrior, with crash of arms and amid the shouts of enemies, falls into it. But pits, though used in hunting, were not employed in warfare. The explanation that שׁאון here is to be taken in the secondary sense of "destruction" or "misery," seems to me preferable (see the Septuagint, ἐκ λάκκου ταλαιπωρίας). Out of the miry clay (comp. Psalm 69:2, 14). Such "clay "would be frequently found at the bottom of disused cisterns. And set my feet upon a rock; i.e. upon solid ground, where I had a firm footing. And established my goings; literally, and make my steps firm (comp. Psalm 17:5; Psalm 18:36; Psalm 94:18). Psalm 40:2David, who, though not without some hesitation, we regard as the author, now finds himself in a situation in which, on the one hand, he has just been rescued from danger, and, on the other, is still exposed to peril. Under such circumstances praise rightly occupies the first place, as in general, according to Psalm 50:23, gratitude is the way to salvation. His hope, although תּוחלת ממשּׁכה (Proverbs 13:12), has not deceived him; he is rescued, and can now again sing a new song of thanksgiving, an example for others, strengthening their trust. קוּה קוּיתי, I waited with constancy and perseverance. יהוה is the accusative as in Psalm 25:5; Psalm 130:5, and not the vocative as in Psalm 39:8. אזנו is to be supplied in thought to ויּט, although after the analogy of Psalm 17:6; Psalm 31:3, one might have looked for the Hiph. wayaT instead of the Kal. בור שׁאון does not mean a pit of roaring (of water), since שׁאון standing alone (see, on the other hand, Psalm 65:8, Isaiah 17:12.) has not this meaning; and, moreover, "rushing, roaring" (Hengstenberg), tumultuous waters of a pit or a cistern does not furnish any idea that is true to nature; neither does it mean a pit of falling in, since שׁאה does not exhibit the signification deorsum labi; but the meaning is: a pit of devastation, of destruction, of ruin (Jeremiah 25:31; Jeremiah 46:17), vid., supra on Psalm 35:8. Another figure is "mire of the marsh" (יון found only here and in Psalm 69:3), i.e., water, in the miry bottom of which one can find no firm footing - a combination like מטר־גּשׁם, Zechariah 10:1, אדמת־עפר, Daniel 12:2, explained in the Mishna, Mikvaoth ix. 2, by טיט הבורות (mire of the cisterns). Taking them out of this, Jahve placed his feet upon a rock, established his footsteps, i.e., removed him from the danger which surrounded him, and gave him firm ground under his feet. The high rock and the firm footsteps are the opposites of the deep pit and the yielding miry bottom. This deliverance afforded him new matter for thanksgiving (cf. Psalm 33:3), and became in his mouth "praise to our God;" for the deliverance of the chosen king is an act of the God of Israel on behalf of His chosen people. The futures in Psalm 40:4 (with an alliteration similar to Psalm 52:8) indicate, by their being thus cumulative, that they are intended of the present and of that which still continues in the future.
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