Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Israel is suffering the punishment of its sins, and humbly the Psalmist confesses that if Jehovah takes strict account of those sins, Israel’s case is desperate. But Jehovah has revealed Himself as a pardoning God, in order to gain man’s devotion (Psalm 130:1-4). Therefore he can wait in patient but eager expectation, and he bids Israel wait, in confidence that the day of redemption will come at last (Psalm 130:5-8).
Many commentators think that Psalm 130:7-8 stamp the Psalm as the prayer not of an individual but of the congregation: but the exhortation to the people in those verses does not necessarily imply that the speaker in Psalm 130:1-6 is Israel personified; in fact it rather tends to distinguish the speaker from Israel. At the same time “the depths” out of which the Psalmist calls are mainly if not wholly national not personal sufferings. The sense of national guilt weighed heavily on the hearts of men like Nehemiah, whose prayer (Nehemiah 1:4-11) is closely akin to this Psalm, and the Psalm may best be understood as the prayer of a representative godly Israelite, such as Nehemiah.
This Psalm is earlier than the Book of Chronicles, for the Chronicler in his addition to Solomon’s prayer (2 Chronicles 6:40-42) combines Psalm 130:2 with Psalm 132:8-9; Psalm 132:16; Psalm 132:10 b, 1. It might have been written in the Exile, but more probably it belongs to the time of Nehemiah. It has noticeable points of contact with the confession in Nehemiah 9, as well as with Nehemiah 1:4-11. It should also be compared with Psalms 86.
It is one of the four Psalms which Luther called ‘Pauline Psalms’ (32, 51, 130, 143); and as one of the seven Psalms known from ancient times in the Christian Church as ‘the Penitential Psalms,’ it is appointed as a Proper Psalm for Ash Wednesday.
A Song of degrees. Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD.1. Out of the depths] Deep waters are a common figure for distress and danger. Cp. Psalm 69:1-2; Psalm 69:14. It is not merely personal suffering that is meant, but national suffering, the burden of which the Psalmist feels intensely. Israel is in a danger of being overwhelmed by a sea of trouble.
have I called] He has long been praying and still continues to pray.
1–4. A cry of penitence from the depths of trouble to the God of pardon.
Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.2. let thine ears be attentive] Cp. 2 Chronicles 6:40; 2 Chronicles 7:15; Nehemiah 1:7; Nehemiah 1:11. Penitent Israel can plead for the audience which sin made impossible (Isaiah 59:1-2).
the voice &c.] Cp. Psalm 28:2.
If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?3. If thou, Jah, shouldest mark iniquities] Shouldest observe them and keep them in remembrance, instead of blotting them out of Thy record. Cp. Psalm 79:8. The same word is used of God’s ‘observing’ the sinner (Job 10:14; cp. Job 14:16-17), and of ‘keeping’ anger (Jeremiah 3:5; cp. Psalm 103:9). The P.B.V., “If thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is done amiss,” is one of Coverdale’s boldly beautiful paraphrases.
Lord] Adônai, as in Psalm 130:2, implies that the servant is addressing his Master.
who would stand] Before Thee in judgement. No one could maintain his innocence: all must inevitably be condemned as guilty at the bar of Divine justice. Cp. Psalm 1:5; Psalm 76:7; Psalm 143:2; Ezra 9:15. This verse is virtually a confession of sin and a plea for pardon.
But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.4. But there is forgiveness with thee] The Heb. conjunction, which literally means for (so P.B.V.), gives the reason for the truth implied in the preceding verse: ‘Thou dost not remember iniquities, for with thee is forgiveness’; and so it may be rendered But or Nay but. The word for forgiveness occurs again only in Nehemiah 9:17; Daniel 9:9 (in plur.): the adj. forgiving in Psalm 86:5. Cp. 1 John 2:1-2.
that thou mayest be feared] God forgives in order that men may fear Him. Man might dread a stern unforgiving God, but he could not fear Him with that devout reverence which is the animating spirit of Old Testament religion (Deuteronomy 5:29), and which still finds its place in the New Testament as an element in the relation of man to God (1 Peter 1:17). Cp. the plea for pardon in Psalm 79:9, “for thy name’s sake,” and 1 Kings 8:39-40; Romans 2:4.
Most of the Ancient Versions misunderstood this clause, and connected it with the next verse. Thus the LXX, “For thy name’s sake have I waited for thee,” or according to the reading of some MSS (probably taken from Theodotion) followed by the Vulg., “For thy law’s sake.” Jer. “since thou art to be feared.”
I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.5. I wait … my soul doth wait … do I hope] The perfect tense of the original denotes what long has been, as well as what still is, the attitude of the Psalmist’s mind.
in his word] Of promise (Psalm 119:74; Psalm 119:81) to pardon and deliver: e.g. such prophecies as those in Jeremiah 31:31-34; Jeremiah 33:8; &c.
5–8. In this confidence that Jehovah is a God of forgiveness the Psalmist can wait with patience and hope, and bid Israel wait, for the redemption that will surely come.
My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.6. My soul (looketh) for the Lord,
More than watchmen (look) for the morning,
(Yea, more than) watchmen for the morning (R.V.).
More anxiously than the watchman longs for the dawn which is to release him from his duty does the devout Israelite long for the end of the night of trouble and the dawn of a happier day. The repetition of watchmen for the morning gives a touch of pathetic earnestness. Most commentators suppose that military sentinels are meant by watchmen; but the Targum renders, “My soul waits for Jehovah, more than the keepers of the morning-watch which they keep in order to offer the morning sacrifice,” understanding the allusion to be to the custom that one of the Levites who kept the night watch in the Temple was appointed to watch for the moment of the dawn, at which the daily sacrifice was to be offered. This explanation adds point to the comparison, for the Levites were watching with eager expectation for a dawn which would bring not merely release from toil but positive blessing, in the renewed assurance of God’s covenant mercy.
The P.B.V. before the morning watch, I say, before the morning watch, is derived from Münster’s ante custodes matutinos, ante custodes, inquam, matutinos. Coverdale’s original rendering, frô the one morn-ynge to the other, was taken from the Zürich Version, “von einer morgenwacht zur anderen.”
Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.7. Hope, Israel, in Jehovah,
For with Jehovah Is lovingklndness.
The Psalmist exhorts the people, or if the preceding verses are taken as the words of the congregation, Israel exhorts itself, to wait in hope. Cp. Psalm 131:3.
plenteous redemption] Or, redemption in abundance, manifold ways and means of effecting Israel’s deliverance, according to the abundance of His lovingkindness and compassion. Observe how the thought that God’s manifold mercy and patience have not been exhausted by Israel’s persistent rebellion runs through the confession in Nehemiah 9; Nehemiah 9:17; Nehemiah 9:19; Nehemiah 9:27-28; Nehemiah 9:30-31; Nehemiah 9:35. Cp. Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 55:7.
And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.8. HE is emphatic. He Who possesses this infinite love and wisdom and power will deliver Israel from all his iniquities and from the calamities which are the punishment of those iniquities. Cp. Psalm 25:22.