24: PSALM 30 -
will extol you, O Lord, for you have lifted me up"
A song of
Psalm. A song at the dedication of the house. Of David.
(2) I will
extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up,
and You have not made my enemies rejoice over me.
(3) O Lord,
my God, I cried out to You,
and You healed me.
(4) O Lord,
You brought me up from She'ol.
You kept me alive,
that I should not go down to the pit.
praise to the Lord, O you His pious ones,
and give thanks at the mention of His holiness.
(6) For He
remains a moment in His anger,
a lifetime in His favor.
In the evening one goes to sleep weeping,
but in the morning - joy.
(7) But I
said in my prosperity,
I will not stumble ever.
(8) O Lord,
by Your favor You made my mountain stand
You hid your face - I was dismayed.
(9) To You,
O Lord, I cried,
and to the Lord I made supplication.
(10) What profit is
there in my blood,
when I go down to the pit?
Can You be acknowledged by dust?
Can it declare Your truth?
(11) Hear, O Lord, and
O Lord, be my helper.
(12) You turned for me
my mourning into dancing.
You loosened my sackcloth and girded me with
(13) so that glory will
sing praise to You not be silent.
O Lord, my God, I will forever give thanks to You.
Why did Natan Sharansky find this psalm most suitable to express his
feelings when he was informed about his impending release? The answer is clear:
this is a vigorous psalm of thanksgiving, in which the psalmist expresses his
gratitude to God for having saved him from the danger of death, and for the fact
that his deliverance involved a speedy and radical turn of events - "from a deep
pit to a high pinnacle."
Of course, this is not the only thanksgiving psalm in the book of
Tehilim. There are several others like it; some of them are national or
communal psalms of thanksgiving,
while others, like our psalm, are individual psalms of thanksgiving.
There are also several additional psalms of thanksgiving outside the book of
What are the
characteristic components of individual psalms of thanksgiving? There appear to
be four such features, each of which is found in our
A retelling of the individuals deep distress.
An account of his calling out to God for salvation.
A description of God's answer the deliverance of the
An expression of thanksgiving to God for answering his prayers and saving
him from his trouble.
Of course, these
components do not appear in the psalms of thanksgiving in the chronological and
logical order presented here. The point of departure in a thanksgiving psalm is
the stage of thanksgiving for the deliverance the fourth component listed
However, in order for the psalmist's expression of gratitude to be well
reasoned, the psalm, by its very nature, must relate to all three earlier
Let us illustrate
this point with respect to the first three stanzas of our psalm: The opening
words of the psalm, "I will extol You (aromimkha), O Lord," already
allude that the topic of the psalm is thanksgiving to God (the verb
"le-romem" appears several times in the book of Tehilim
paralleling "le-hodot" ["to thank"] or "le-hallel" ["to praise"]).
In the continuation of stanza 1, the invocation at the beginning of the stanza
is explained by the fact that God had "lifted up" the petitioner from his lowly
state, and thus prevented his enemies from rejoicing in his
In stanza 2, the
petitioner thanks God for having heard his cry and healed him, and in stanza 3
it says that the danger in which he had been, and from which God had saved him,
was a mortal danger. That is to say, we have here all four components
intermingled together, except that the fourth component that of thanksgiving
constitutes the point of departure, and establishes the perspective on the
various other components.
Let us try now to
reconstruct the events serving as a backdrop to our psalm: What happened to the
psalmist from the time that he fell into terrible trouble and until he uttered
the words of thanksgiving recorded in our psalm? From what was said earlier, it
is clear that this must be reconstructed from the psalm as a whole, for the
events are not arranged in their order of occurrence. We, however, will try to
arrange the information that can be culled from this thanksgiving prayer in
Trouble struck the psalmist all of a sudden, at a time when he was
enjoying prosperity, and this caused him great dismay stanzas
He was in mortal danger stanzas 3, 10-11.
His enemies hoped to rejoice in his downfall stanza
In his time of trouble, the psalmist pleaded before God that He should
save him from his trouble stanzas 2, 9-12.
During his time of trouble, the psalmist conducted himself in the manner
of a mourner, donning sackcloth and sounding a eulogy stanza
God heard his prayer and saved him in a short time, and thus his trouble
lasted for only "a moment" a night, and the morning afterwards he was already
saved stanzas 5-6.
His rescue utterly changed his situation, and brought him to gladness and
thanksgiving stanza 13.
After being saved, he sounded a moving thanksgiving prayer to God who had
rescued him stanzas 1-3.
As a continuation of his expression of gratitude to God, the psalmist
turns to God's pious ones and invites them to thank and sing praise to Him for
the Divine lovingkindness that became manifest through his deliverance stanzas
10) His singing and
offering of thanks to God will not cease, but rather they will continue forever
We have here a rich
and detailed account that describes the events that form the backdrop of our
psalm. What is missing from this account? Only one thing: what was that sudden
and terrible trouble that brought the psalmist to the gates of death? The nature
of his rescue from that danger is also not clear, for the one depends on the
At first glance, it
might be argued that this claim is wrong: Surely, in stanza 2 it says: "I cried
out to You, and You healed me," and so it is explicitly stated that the
trouble in our psalm is a difficult and dangerous illness from which God healed
the psalmist. In fact, two of the classical commentators understood our psalm in
this manner. The first is the Ibn Ezra, who says: "At that time [= when David
dedicated his house of cedars], David took ill, and recovered from his illness."
And in his commentary to verse 3, he writes: "I cried out to You to you alone,
and not to a doctor, and You healed me." The Malbim offers a similar
explanation: "The entire psalm was meant to offer thanksgiving after he was sick
and then recovered from his illness."
however, is far from certain: Words derived from the root, resh-peh-alef,
occasionally appear in Scripture in the metaphoric sense of repair, improvement,
or rescue, both in the real sense and in the spiritual
In several places, a
sinner is likened to a sick person, and the acceptance of his repentance to his
Accordingly, Rashi, Radak, and other commentators explain that "You healed me"
in our psalm refers to "the pardon of sin" (Rashi).
As stated, however,
the root, resh-peh-alef, is used in reference to repair and
rehabilitation in other realms as well.
Accordingly, the words "You healed me" in our psalm can be understood as a
metaphor for the psalmist's rescue from the calamity and misfortune discussed at
length in the psalm, but without that trouble being defined.
It turns out then
that the words, "You healed me," do not suffice to establish that the psalmist's
trouble was an illness. Such an assertion would have been justified were the
trouble described elsewhere in the psalm in a manner characteristic of an
This, however, is not the case: the mortal danger that lasts for a short time,
the enemies' hope to rejoice all these can characterize various types of
This phenomenon that
we have just see is exceedingly typical of the book of Tehilim: the
psalms of supplication and thanksgiving provide rich and detailed background to
the misfortune and deliverance that they describe, but they do not clarify the
precise nature of the misfortune and deliverance. They leave these matters open,
so that every reader in every situation can adopt the psalm to express his own
trouble and his own rescue. Thus, there is created a gap between the detailed
description of the emotional reality in these psalms, with which anybody
in a similar situation can identify, and the blurring of the physical
reality of the situations described therein, a blurring that allows everyone
to find in these psalms an expression of what is going on in his own
(Translated by David
(6) In the
evening one goes to sleep weeping,
(11) Can You be
acknowledged by dust? Can it declare Your truth?