Psalm 40 New International Version (NIV) Psalm 40[a] For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. 1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. Footnotes: a. Psalm 40:1 In Hebrew texts 40:1-17 is numbered 40:2-18.
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In my opinion, David was speaking of being lifted out of a slimy pit in a figurative sense, saying that whatever difficulties or troubles he had faced had seemed as impossible to escape as digging one's way out of a cesspool would have been (due to a lack of firm footing and the thick, adhering nature of the pit's contents, such as later confronted the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38:6)), but that God had delivered him, and had also placed him in a situation where he was once again on firm ground -- that is, able to act without constraint.
Perhaps David was in the depths of depression, feeling overwhelmed and helpless, unable to climb out of it on his own. From this deep place he desperately cried for help to God, that He would come and rescue him.
Psalm 40:2 I think “pit” is definitely figurative, and David is a poet. Thus, he can use figurative language. He lifted me out of the watery pit, 1 out of the slimy mud. 2 He placed my feet on a rock and gave me secure footing. 3 NET © Notes 1 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 (sha’on, “roaring”) refers elsewhere to the crashing sound of the sea’s waves (see Ps 65:7). 2 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. 3 tn Heb “he established my footsteps.” What is “the pit”? A. The pit could be any of a number of life’s trials. David does not specify exactly what the trials of the first pit entailed. The second pit clearly involved the consequences of David’s sins (40:12) and many enemies that were trying to destroy him (40:14-15). But he doesn’t exactly say what the first pit was, except to describe it as a “pit of destruction” and “the miry clay” (40:2). Some think that it was David’s enemies, while others think that it could have been physical illness or some deep emotional distress. Perhaps as with Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” we are not told so that we can relate all of our trials to David’s situation. S. Cole writes, “Marla and I do a fair amount of hiking, and we have encountered a lot of mud. We were hiking a muddy trail in Kauai when the man in front of us fell flat on his face, covering his entire front side with mud. We were hiking in the rain in Nepal when Marla slipped and hurt herself. Arizona mud is especially sticky and slippery. It gets on your shoes and you can’t walk. If you fell into a pit whose walls and bottom were mud, you would be in big trouble! That’s where David was. He was trapped and unable to free himself. If you have not yet cried out to God to save you from judgment and eternal punishment for your sins, then you are in a deep pit with no human way out. You may not feel like you’re in that pit. You may feel as if life is going reasonably well. But Paul describes your future this way (2 Thess. 1:7b-9), “when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” It’s the worst of all pits to be in! Your pit could be poor health, the loss of your job, former friends that turned against you, an unfaithful mate, rebellious children, or any other overwhelming problem. You may be responsible for being in your pit, or you may be a victim of the sins of others. David’s situation in the second pit seems to have been a combination of both. He acknowledges his many sins, which have overtaken him like a fog so that he can’t see his way clear (40:12). I think that he is not referring to sins that he was currently committing, but rather to the consequences of past sins that were now coming home to roost. But, also, the consequences involved wicked people who were wrongly intent on destroying David (40:14).” Psa 40:2] He Brought Me Out My heart was distressed ’neath Jehovah’s dread frown, And low in the pit where my sins dragged me down; I cried to the Lord from the deep miry clay, Who tenderly brought me out to golden day. Refrain He brought me out of the miry clay, He set my feet on the Rock to stay.
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