The Tomb of David and Psalm 30
By David Sielaff, February 2008
Read the accompanying Newsletter for February 2008
As I wrote previously, Psalm 30 has a direct relation to the Tomb of King David of Israel. 1 This article will show that relationship in light of 2 Samuel 7:18–29. Then I shall analyze Psalm 30 which is David’s answer to God’s sentence of death upon David, God’s beloved, by God making “the house of David” which is the Tomb of David.
Soon after David made the request to God to build a Temple (2 Samuel 7:1–3), and after God’s rejection of that request (2 Samuel 7:4–17), “Then went king David in, and sat before YHWH” (2 Samuel 7:18). David’s sitting “before YHWH” meant that he went to the tabernacle he had erected for the Ark of the Covenant that was placed in Zion, the City of David (2 Samuel 6:17, 7:2; and 2 Chronicles 5:2).
Although God refused permission for David to build the Temple, God gave him promises that were more glorious than David could imagine at the time. Much to his surprise God pronounced David’s death, but then God immediately made promises about David’s seed and David’s kingdom proceeding from that seed. But first God promised that He would “make” David a “house” 2:
“Also YHWH tells you that he [YHWH] will make you an house. And when your days be fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers [after your death; then], I will set up your seed after you, which shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.” 3
2 Samuel 7:11–12
The word “made” is the same very common Hebrew verb Moses used to describe that God “made” the firmament in Genesis 1:7, “made” the two great lights (sun and moon) in Genesis 1:16, “made” the animals in Genesis 1:25, and “made” man in Genesis 1:26. Therefore when YHWH says to David that “He will make you an house” this means that it was a creation specifically for David by YHWH Himself, similar to the way that God made portions of the physical creation. This bit of information also tells us that David’s “house” was a physical creation that likely did not exist until after God spoke those words to David through Nathan the prophet.
God in 2 Samuel 7:12–17 tells how one of David’s descendants will construct the Temple that David so greatly desired to build for God’s glory. At the time God spoke to David that descendant had not yet been born. David did not realize that fact when his death sentence was declared by God. David thought he was going to die soon after the pronouncement. David responded to God in 2 Samuel 7:18–29.
The entire incident of 2 Samuel chapter 7 took place at least three years before David committed adultery with Bathsheba. It was at least that long because David’s armies fought three wars and battles. Two of the wars were in northern Syria (at the Euphrates River near Iraq today), probably one war each year or longer. All this took place before David ever saw Bathsheba.
These three wars took place after God’s announcement of death to David. The accounts of these wars are in 2 Samuel 8:1–18 (with a parallel account in 1 Chronicles 18:1–17). Then came the siege and capture of the city of Rabbah (2 Samuel 11:1, 12:26–31; 1 Chronicles 20:1–3). It was during that siege that David’s adultery with Bathsheba took place. Then came the subsequent murder of Bathsheba’s husband, the birth of David and Bathsheba’s first child (after 9 months), and the death of their firstborn child:
“But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”
2 Samuel 12:23
Solomon’s conception and gestation took another 9 months. 4 All of these events took place before Solomon, the promised seed of David, was born (1 Chronicles 28:5–6). This encompasses a time period at least 3 years and more likely 5 years, from the time of God’s rejection of David’s request to build the Temple (and pronouncement of David’s death) to the birth of Solomon. Solomon became king at an unknown age, but apparently he was anywhere between 16 to 20 years old when David died and Solomon succeeded to the throne. 5
David reigned 7½ years in Hebron, 33 years in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:5, 2 Kings 2:10–11; 1 Chronicles 3:4, 29:27). David died some 20 to 25 years later at age 70 (2 Samuel 5:4–5) after the sentence of death was given in 2 Samuel 7:11. This means that, of course, God knew David would not die until decades after David was given a death sentence in 2 Samuel 7:11, but David did not know that fact. He had been given a death sentence from God Himself without a timetable for when that would occur. However, David probably realized that the only other person to have their death pronounced by God, Moses, died soon afterwards (Deuteronomy 31:14–16, 34: 5–7).
Now look at another portion of 2 Samuel chapter 7 that I have not dealt with before. After God’s shocking pronouncement of death, God tells David about the future after his death. One of David’s descendants will be chosen by God to build the Temple. His seed and David’s kingdom will continue.
The only subject of 2 Samuel 7:18–29 is “the house of David” and what it means to David. Everything else in that passage revolves around the central focus of the house of David. The death pronouncement by God upon David (from 2 Samuel 7:11–12) is stated back to God by David in 2 Samuel 7:11–12. 6 Notice how David goes and boldly confronts YHWH who has just pronounced a death sentence upon him:
18 “Then went king David in, and sat before YHWH, and he said, ‘Who
am I, O Lord YHWH? and what is my house [the house of David,
David’s tomb], that you have brought me hitherto [so far]?
19 And this was yet a small thing in your sight, O Lord YHWH; but
you have spoken also of your servant's house [the house of David]
for a great while to come. 7 And is this the manner [torah, law]
of man, O Lord YHWH?
20 And what can David say more unto you? for you, Lord YHWH, know
21 For your word's sake, and according to your own heart, have you
done all these great things, to make your servant know them.
22 Wherefore you are great, O YHWH Elohim: for there is none like you,
neither is there any Elohim beside you, according to all that we have
heard with our ears.
23 And what one nation in the earth is like your people, even like Israel,
whom Elohim went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make
him a name, and to do for you great things and terrible, for your land,
before your people, which you redeemed to yourself from Egypt, from
the nations and their elohim?
24 For you have confirmed to yourself your people Israel to be a people
unto you for ever [for the eon]: and you, YHWH, are become their
25 And now, O YHWH Elohim, the word that you have spoken concerning
your servant, and concerning his house [the house of David], establish
it for ever [olam, for the eon], and do as you have said.
26 And let your name be magnified for ever [for the eon], saying, The
YHWH of hosts is the Elohim over Israel: and let the house of your
servant David be established before you.
27 For you, O YHWH of hosts, Elohim of Israel, have revealed [lit. “opened
the ear”] to your servant, saying, I will build you an house [the house of
David]: therefore has your servant found in his heart to pray this
prayer unto you:
28 And now, O Lord YHWH, you are that Elohim, and your words be true,
and you have promised this goodness unto your servant:
29 Therefore now let it please you to bless the house of your servant
[the house of David], that it may continue for ever [for the eon] before
you: for you, O Lord YHWH, have spoken it: and with your blessing let
the house of your servant [i.e., the house of David] be blessed for
ever [olam, for the eon].’”
2 Samuel 7:18–29
The Hebrew term “house” occurs 7 times in this passage, each time referring to “the house of David.” And this is considering that David spends most of this passage rehearsing what God has done in the past for Israel, and for himself up to and including his kingship. David speaks to YHWH regarding his own actions:
● David asks YHWH several rhetorical questions that David answers for
(1) “Who am I, O Lord YHWH? and what is my house, that
you have brought me hitherto? David is wondering if God
brought him to the height of power over Israel just to kill
him, and place him in the “house” or tomb.
(2) “is this the manner [torah, law] of man, O Lord YHWH?”
David is wondering, is this how things work? You raise me
up and then kill me? Yet, David submits to what God has in
store for him.
(3) “what can David say more unto you?” David is unable to
understand or question more. God knows him well, and
David acknowledges this fact.
● In verses 25–27 David declares five things for God to do:
(1) “the word that you have spoken concerning your servant,
and concerning his house [the house of David], establish it
for ever [olam, for the eon], …”
(2) “do as you have said”
(3) “let your name be magnified for ever [for the eon]”
(4) “let the house of your servant David be established
(5) “therefore has your servant found in his heart to pray this
prayer unto you.”
● In verse 29 David asks two things of God, after noting that God
“promised this goodness unto your servant”:
(1) “let it please you to bless the house of your servant
[the house of David]”
(2) “with your blessing let the house of your servant be
blessed for ever [for the eon].”
This submission of David to God’s should be an example to us all. David has very little information available to him other than God’s pronouncement. He resolves not to question God any longer. We should all take notice of what David has said and done. He is not pleased with what God has told him, he is confused, but David will submit to whatever God wants of him.
David’s resolve is shown in the five actions he takes. He submits to God’s word and desires God’s word to be established even though it appears to mean his own death. He wants God do as His word has said. David desires God to be magnified and glorified by what He will do by accomplishing His words. He acknowledges that David’s “house” or tomb will be “established” before God, which we have noted elsewhere means it will be near to God. David implies he sees all this as good.
Finally, David says that his prayer is from his heart. He asks God’s blessing on the “house” and that the blessing be for the eon. Why? Because God has said it to be so, and if God says it, it shall be so for the entire time God says it shall be for.
As a subordinate ruler (for David is after all a king appointed and anointed by God), David speaks to his superior with proper respect. That being said, David is saying, God, you have made a promise, now make it so, make it happen. This is exactly how someone used to command would speak to a superior.
Second Samuel 7:18–29 shows that David came to accept that “the house of David” was made by God to be his tomb, located in the city of David (1 Kings 2:10). After God “made” (2 Samuel 7:11) and “built” (2 Samuel 7:27, 1 Chronicles 17:10, 25) the house, David finished the inside of the house/tomb with furniture and other items. Josephus tells us that such items were in the tomb, and some of them were removed by King Herod:
“As for any money, he found none, as Hyrcanus had done, but that furniture of gold, and those precious goods that were laid up there; all which he took away.
Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 16:181
This is typical in ancient times for tombs of major kings, and David was one of ancient history’s greatest kings, both in deeds as well as wealth (2 Samuel 7:9). Just one example suffices to show the “finishing” of an ancient king’s tomb. That would be King Tut’s tomb, which was richly adorned with art on every wall and ceiling, with implements, including furniture filling the several rooms. Every great king of ancient times decorated their tomb, and similar things are likely inside King David’s tomb, the house of David.
Remember that David was not allowed to build a Temple to God. But he was allowed to gather every–thing necessary for the future construction by David’s successor (2 Chronicles 22:2–4). David also spent considerable time and effort finishing out his tomb, and by accounts in Josephus, storing gold and silver in his tomb (see note 1 above).
Psalm 30 is a short psalm that has a most interesting title attached to it. The title specifically mentions the “house of David.” The theme throughout the twelve verses of Psalm 30 is death. The psalm tells of David’s rescue from God’s anger and an unknown illness that would have led directly to David’s death. God’s reprieve from death gave David an extension of life, just as King Hezekiah was given 15 years extra life during the time of Isaiah the prophet (2 Kings 20:6 and Isaiah 38:5). David eventually died, of course, 8 but David’s extension of life did occur, and it too was to God’s glory. The house of David, the tomb of David is also specified to be to God’s glory.
Below I quote Psalm 30 in full from the King James Version. When using the KJV (which I use most often) I insert YHWH and Elohim where the Hebrew has them. I do this for clarity and to reduce ambiguity. It is always important to know and understand when YHWH or Elohim are used. They do not mean the same thing. YHWH is God the Father’s personal name. Elohim is the generic title for God. Unfortunately the KJV usage diminishes that understanding as do most all translations. Also, I change “thee-s,” “thou-s,” and “shalt-s” to you, you, and shall, etc.
In Psalm 30 the name of God, YHWH, is used 10 times while Elohim is used twice. This means that David is directly addressing YHWH by name in song. I have set out the Psalm into a poetic structure. No one really knows what the true structure might be, so there is no right or wrong to doing this. Create your own structure if it helps your understanding.
The first line of the title sets the stage for understanding the entire psalm:
1 “A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the house of David.
I will extol you, O YHWH; for you have lifted me up, and
have not made [let] my foes to rejoice over me.
2 O YHWH my Elohim, I cried unto you, and you have healed me.
3 O YHWH, you have brought up my soul from the grave [sheol]:
you have kept me alive, that I should not go down [descend]
to the pit [crypt].
4 Sing unto YHWH, O you saints of his, and
give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
5 For his anger endures but a moment; in his favor is life:
weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
6 And in my prosperity I said, I shall never [not olam, not for the eon]
7 YHWH, by your favor you have made my mountain to stand strong:
you did hide your face, and I was troubled.
8 I cried to you, O YHWH; and unto YHWH 9 I made supplication.
9 What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit [grave]?
Shall the dust praise you?
shall it declare your truth?
10 Hear, O YHWH, and have mercy upon me:
YHWH, be you my helper.
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing:
you have put off my sackcloth, and
[you have] girded me with gladness [joy];
12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to you, and not be silent.
O YHWH my Elohim, I will give thanks unto you for ever [olam, for
To the chief Musician 10
• Psalm 30:1–12 & 31:1
The first thing I want to point out is that there are no direct quotations of Psalm 30 anywhere else in the Bible. There are allusions, however, and we shall look at several of them as we analyze this short psalm.
Psalm 30 is attributed to have been authored by King David himself as it says in the title of verse 1, and it is included with the Psalms from 1–72 inclusive. Psalm 72:20 makes David’s authorship explicit: “The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended” meaning that all those psalms are from David. More importantly it has an intriguing title phrase, “at the dedication of the house of David,” about which scholars show confusion. Their confusion exists because that title topic does not seem to relate to the subject of the psalm itself.
Psalm 30 relates King David’s thoughts commemorating an event, a ceremony. That event was the dedication of the house of David. That house was the tomb that God had made for David, which David had properly finished and prepared for the body of God’s anointed King of Israel.
In the psalm David looks back to his past. Psalm 30 describes his thoughts when God announced his death, his thoughts of his subsequent healing, his relief when he realized he was not going to soon die, and his joy that God was delaying his death sentence. Here is one commentator’s brief analysis of Psalm 30:
“Psalm 30 Overconfident … overwhelmed … overjoyed. In a time of prosperity, David had become overconfident (30:6). When illness came, he was overwhelmed (30:1–5, 7–10). Then came the healing, and his mourning turned to joy.”
Wilmington’s Bible Handbook 11
All the emotions of Psalm 30 take place within the context of God’s revelation about the house of David which was to be his sepulcher. Note again the alliteration in another analysis of Psalm 30 by the same author, H.L. Willmington 12:
I. David’s Triumphs (30:1–3): David praises God for victory over
A. Danger (30:1): David’s enemies did not triumph over
B. Disease (30:2): God restored David’s health.
C. Death (30:3): The Lord kept David from being killed.
II. David’s Troubles (30:6–10): David recounts when he was
overwhelmed and cried out to God.
III. David’s Testimony (30:4–5, 11–12): David praises God for
rescuing him once again, turning his mourning into joy.
These two analyses are typical of the content of Psalm 30, but neither they, nor do any other scholars connect the title with the content of Psalm 30. It is a total mystery to them.
Most all psalms in the Bible are contained within the Book of Psalms. The psalms in the Book of Psalms are organized into a five-fold structure. This structure corresponds to the 1st five books of the Old Testament, the Torah, and to the structure of the 5 books of the Megilloth, the wisdom books of the Bible. Book 1 is made up of Psalms 1 through 41. Psalm 30 is within this “Book 1” of the Psalms which relates to Genesis.
[ To refresh your memory regarding the placement of the entire Book of Psalms within the Old Testament and within the entire Bible, see Dr. Martin’s article “Appendix One: Preliminary Suggestions for the Structure of Psalms” at http://askelm.com/restoring/res040.htm. Dr. Martin notes:
“Book 1 of the Psalms corresponds to the Song of Songs which was sung at the Passover season. The whole of the 41 psalms (1 plus 40) relate to this theme.”
This is indeed true for Psalm 30. To see visually how the Book of Psalms fits within the structure of the Bible, look at the schematic at http://www.askelm.com/restoring/res000a.gif, from Dr. Martin’s book Restoring the Original Bible. ]
According to Dr. Bullinger, Book 1 of Psalms concerned man: man’s blessings, man’s rebellion, man’s prayer, the man of the earth, the anointed man (Jesus Christ), and the life of man. He groups Psalms 30, 31, 32, and 33 together as a series of psalms of praise. 13 This appears to be the case.
Most commentators agree with Matthew Henry’s Commentary regarding a label for Psalm 30. It is considered a psalm of thanksgiving. However, there are varying ideas regarding the occasion being celebrated. One thought is that the Psalm celebrated the dedication of King David’s house of cedar, his palace, built with the help of David’s friend Hiram King of Tyre (2 Samuel 5:11, 7:2; 1 Chronicles 14:1, 17:1; and 2 Chronicles 2:3). Matthew Henry’s Commentary notes the problem as it tries to describe the purpose of the psalm:
“This is a psalm of thanksgiving for the great deliverances which God had wrought for David, penned upon occasion of the dedicating of his house of cedar, and sung in that pious solemnity, though there is not any thing in it that has particular reference to that occasion.”
“Psalm 30,” Commentary on the Bible 14
It was Israelite tradition to dedicate a house to YHWH although there is no command from God to do so. This tradition is first mentioned in Deuteronomy. When military commanders were required to muster men into the army to fight against Israel’s enemies, there were also provisions to exclude men from military service because of certain unique circumstances. 15 One circumstance for a temporary exemption from military service was that of a man who recently built and dedicated a house:
“And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, ‘What man is there that has built a new house, and has not dedicated it? let him go and return.’”
Other scholars are unclear as to what was the occasion that prompted David to write Psalm 30, even though that occasion is clearly stated in the title. This is for two reasons. First, the title seems to have little relationship to the rest of the psalm. Second, no one seems to know what the title itself refers to:
“The superscription [meaning the title in verse 1] indicates that the psalm was composed for [a] the ‘dedication of the temple,’ [b] a reference to either David’s palace (2 Samuel 5:11) or perhaps [c] the house of Obed-Edom, where the ark of the covenant remained for three months before being brought up to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:10–11). Some scholars suggest that [d] this refers to the dedication of the temple site after the outbreak of pestilence (2 Samuel 24:15–25). God delivered David from near death, for the pit was the grave, the place of the dead (Psalm 30:31). Some scholars hold that 30:6–7 refers to David’s pride, which led him to number the people (2 Samuel 24:1–14).”
Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary 16
What confusion. Scholars have no idea what Psalm 30 is all about. Yet the meaning is plain. This Psalm was written for the dedication of the house of David, the tomb of David, and not for a dedication of the Temple, David’s palace, the tent for the Ark of the Covenant, or for the future site of the temple (which was the house of God, not the house of David). In fact, the title exactly describes the subject matter of Psalm 30 if we correctly understand the meaning of the phrase “house of David.”
Was the occasion of Psalm 30 to celebrate the Ark of the Covenant being placed within the tabernacle David had made for it? This cannot be the case. That structure was not a house, but a tabernacle, a tent. The distinction between a house and a tent is emphasized by God Himself in 2 Samuel 7:2–7. 17 Furthermore, the event of the placement of the Tabernacle has its own celebration, the thanksgiving psalm in 1 Chronicles 16:4–37. 18
Was David’s palace the subject of Psalm 30’s title? Even though the palace was indeed a “house,” and David’s house to be sure (and houses were traditionally dedicated according to Deuteronomy 20:5), the entire subject matter of Psalm 30 itself is not about happiness, rejoicing, and celebration. It is about David being given a postponement of a death sentence and why death at that time would have reduced God’s glory. It is indeed a thanksgiving psalm, but escape from death is what David is giving thanks about. In other words the psalm is not an expression of celebration, but an expression of relief.
Professor Franz Delitzsch even wondered:
“There is nothing in the Psalm to point to the consecration of any holy place, whether the mount of Moriah or the tent-temple (2 Samuel 6:17). We might rather refer it to the re-consecration of the palace on David’s return after it had been polluted by Absalom; but the Psalm speaks of an imminent peril from which he had been graciously delivered, not by the removal of bloodthirsty enemies, but by recovery from a deadly sickness.”
Delitzsch, Commentary on Psalms 19
Was the subject of Psalm 30 the re-dedication of David’s house, his palace, after the rebellion of Absalom? Matthew Henry’s Commentary remarks:
“Some conjecture that this psalm was sung at the re-dedication of David's house, after he had been driven out of it by Absalom, who had defiled it with his incest, and that it is a thanksgiving for the crushing of that dangerous rebellion.”
“Psalm 30,” Commentary on the Bible
This idea also has problems. First, nothing in the psalm links Absalom’s incest with David’s concubines (2 Samuel 15:16, 16:20–22). Second, there is no reference in the psalm to Absalom’s rebellion, or any other rebellion. Finally, this act by Absalom did not defile the house, but it defiled David’s concubines who were put away from him (2 Samuel 20:3) to the day he died.
Scholars refute (with strength) each others’ arguments about subject of Psalm 30:
“… that the Psalm was originally composed by David either (1) at the dedication, not of the Temple, but at the site of the Temple at the threshing-floor of Ornan, after the pestilence described in 1 Chronicles 21:28, or (2) at the dedication of his own palace in Zion, see 2 Samuel 5:11. There is serious objection to both these explanations.
The first was not properly speaking, the dedication of a house, though in 1 Chronicles 11:1, David is reported to have said, ‘This is the house and the altar’; and in the second case, David’s palace was not properly speaking ‘dedicated,’ a word being employed which is not suitable either for a private house or a royal palace. …
What ‘house,’ then, is intended?”
Davison, The Psalms, p. 151 20
What house indeed? The Temple, the house of God, the house of the name, 21 was built by David’s son, Solomon. David was not allowed to construct it although he made all possible preparations (1 Chronicles 22:1–5). Some think that the illness of King David (“you have healed me,” Psalm 30:2) related to God’s judgment over David’s census of Israel. But Delitzsch notes that David did not suffer from the pestilence which was a punishment against the nation for David’s numbering of the people (2 Samuel 24:17). 22
There are interesting repetitions of words in this psalm which reveal its parallel internal structure. One such outline structure is as follows. Refer to Psalm 30 above as you look at this structure proposed by David Dorsey 23:
a promise to praise: because you “have not let my foes to rejoice
[samach] over me” (30:1)
b report of appeal to God and rescue from the pit (30:2–3)
• “I cried to you … you brought up my soul from Sheol … from
among those gone down [yarad] to the pit”
c statement of YHWH’s favor [b-ratson]; “Sing unto YHWH” (30:4–5)
d CENTER: expression of confidence (30:6)
c′ statement of YHWH’s favor [b-ratson] (30:7)
b′ report of appeal to God and plea to rescue from the pit (30:8–10)
• “I cried to you … ‘what profit is there … if I go down [yarad]
to the pit?’”
a′ promise to praise: because YHWH has “clothed me with joy
[samach]”; “sing praise to [YHWH]” (30:11–12).
Not all psalms have titles, Psalm 30 has one, and as we noted, it is most significant: “A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the house of David.” In Hebrew the title of Psalm 30 is (along with Psalms 65, 67, 68, 75, 76, 87, and 92) “a psalm, a song,” mizmor shir, which indicates a class of psalm according to the Hebrew system. Mismor means a meditation and it is the ordinary word for psalm. Mizmor shir means that this psalm was designed to be sung by an individual or a chorus. It was composed as a musical composition with a beginning, middle, and an end.
Most psalms are categorized into different classes by scholars. The title of Psalm 30 is one of 13 Psalms that have an historical heading giving a time and place setting. All the historical psalms are by David. These are not biblical classifications, but they are often useful. As mentioned earlier, Psalm 30 is also considered a thanksgiving psalm, and on that all scholars agree. Psalm 30 celebrates God’s deliverance of David from an illness and approaching death. Other thanksgiving psalms are Psalms 21, 32, 34, 40, and 66.
The one understanding not thought of by commentaries and scholars is that Psalm 30 is a psalm and song of thanksgiving celebrating the very occasion its title states: “the dedication of the house of David.”
The importance of the title in Psalm 30 is that the body of the psalm relates directly to the title. In other words, the title identifies what the psalm is about. Scholars are unwilling to accept the Psalm 30 title as it stands because they see no connection between the title and the text. This is because they do not understand the meaning of the phrase “the house of David.”
The word “dedication” in the title of verse 1 is the singular construct of the Hebrew noun “chanukkah.” This is the same word for the non-biblical but honored Jewish holiday called today Hanukkah. This Jewish holiday was called the Feast of Dedication (or the “feast of chanukkah”) in John 10:22. 24
The primary English definition of “dedicate” and “dedication” is, according to my handy American Heritage computer dictionary: “To set apart for a deity or for religious purposes; consecrate.” This is the meaning in Hebrew also, so the King James translation is quite correct. King David is setting apart and consecrating “the house of David” in Psalm 30 so that God’s name can be magnified in the world, just as it says in 2 Samuel 7:26 for “the house of your servant David.” He is consecrating it in Psalm 30 to please and magnify God. “The house of David” in Psalm 30:1 is that same house that God built for David:
“Also YHWH tells you that he [YHWH] will make you an house. And when your days be fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers [after your death], I will set up your seed after you, which shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom [the kingdom of David’s seed].”
2 Samuel 7:11–12
The word “dedicate” or “dedication” occurs in the Hebrew in several instances besides Psalm 30:1. The Aramaic form of the same noun occurs two times in Ezra 6:16–17 and two times in Daniel 3:2–3. In each case it refers to a physical thing dedicated to God. In the Bible dedications were usually of a physical place or structure:
The exceptions are Genesis 14:14 when the people in Abraham’s household were dedicated to God and in Daniel 3:2–3 when a pagan idolatrous image of King Nebuchadnezzar was dedicated. The place of the image does not seem to be important to the dedication.
The title of Psalm 30:1 tells about the dedication of a physical place, a house, just as in Deuteronomy 20:5. The common Hebrew term for house, beyt, is used: “A Psalm and Song at the dedication of the house of David.” All the terms in the title are clear, unambiguous, and not disputed. Yet the title remains a problem for scholars. That problem will remain until the tomb of David is discovered or revealed.
Let us examine Psalm 30 in greater detail.
David often exalted and praised God as we see throughout 2 Samuel chapter 7 and 1 Chronicles chapter 17, acknowledging God’s protection throughout his life:
“I will extol you, O YHWH; for you have lifted me up, and have not made [let] my foes to rejoice over me.”
David’s foes were prepared to rejoice over him if he failed and died from a deadly disease. David often praised God for protecting him.
“Be you exalted, YHWH, in your own strength: so will we sing and praise your power.”
“O magnify YHWH with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought YHWH, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”
“David's Psalm of praise. I will extol [exalt] you, my Elohim, O king; and I will bless your name for ever and ever [olam va ad, for the eon and beyond].
King Nebuchednezzar of Babylon exalted and honored God as the king of heaven with phrasing similar to that of David. This occurred when God brought Nebuchednezzar, king of Babylon, the head of gold (Daniel 2:38), and ruler of the world system at that time, back to sanity (Daniel 4:34–37). Nebuchednezzar publicly acknowledged his subjection, his subservience to God, and announced to the world God’s sovereignty over his person. King David’s exalting God in verse 1 corresponds with and parallels David’s later praise of God in verse 12.
David cried out to God. He was near death, so close to death that David felt that his soul was at the edge of the grave, close to going down into the pit of dead bodies. God kept David alive, rescued, and healed him:
“O YHWH my Elohim, I cried unto you, and you have healed me. O YHWH, you have brought up my soul from the grave [sheol]: you have kept me alive, that I should not go down [descend] to the pit [bowr, crypt].”
The Hebrew word “healed” means from a illness, not from some malady of the soul or a lapse of morals, but healed from a physical problem or illness that threatened death. While David suffered many afflictions in his lifetime (Psalm 132:1), these were not illnesses but rather they were humiliations and physical dangers such as combat or “close calls” that threatened David’s life. In Psalm 30:1, however, the word “healed” does mean healing from an illness that brought David close to death. There are other instances where David had close calls and been rescued by God:
“A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for YHWH; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit [bowr, crypt], out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.”
Psalm 41 is also a Davidic psalm, without an historical title. This psalm seems to deal with similar circumstances reminiscent of Psalm 30:1–2 both, with foes that want David’s illness to lead to death:
“YHWH will protect him and keep him alive, And he shall be called blessed upon the earth; And do not give him over to the desire of his enemies. YHWH will sustain him upon his sickbed; In his illness, You restore him to health. As for me, I said, ‘O YHWH, be gracious to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.’ My enemies speak evil against me, "When will he die, and his name perish?’”
Psalm 41:2–5, New American Standard
Some have thought that David’s illness and healing were related to the episode of David’s numbering of Israel (2 Samuel 24:1–17; 1 Chronicles 21:24–22:1). However, there is no record of David ever being sick or near death because of that situation, only the people of David’s kingdom suffered and died. Therefore there is no reason to believe that Psalm 30 has reference to the numbering of Israel incident. Furthermore, David’s numbering of Israel occurred very late in David’s reign, shortly before his death.
King David accepted life as it came from God, good and bad. He lived what Job talks about, just as David describes in Psalm 30:3:
“Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: For he makes sore, and binds up: he wounds, and his hands make whole [he heals].”
“Sing unto YHWH, O you saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endures but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”
Anger and weeping are contrasted with life and joy by David. At present many of us endure silent weeping because of our physical, everyday life, but it will be, comparatively, “for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Joy in the morning is frequently referred to in the Psalms, particularly in Psalm 90:14 and 143:8. 25 That morning for us will be our resurrection from the dead. It will come for King David also, who is presently in his tomb.
In the meantime we should recognize that in God’s favor is life (verse 5) when He so chooses, and we must accept His decision is when He chooses otherwise. When it is given, God’s favor is like a shield covering us (Psalm 5:12). God’s favor provides mercy (Isaiah 60:10), preservation (Psalm 86:2, Hebrew), and security (Psalm 41:11), and assures that our prayers are answered if they are in God’s will Psalm106:4. 26 Such popular concepts that “hope springs eternal” and that things will be better with “the dawn of a new day come” all come from Psalm 30:5.
David’s unbroken successes due to his being lifted up and rescued by God made him somewhat haughty. He was on top of the world and would stay that way because God was with him. David took that for granted, as did Moses (Numbers 20:10–12). Both of them missed out on what they greatly desired.
“And in my prosperity I said, I shall never [not olam, not for the eon] be moved. YHWH, by your favor you have made my mountain to stand strong: you did hide your face, and I was troubled
God’s death sentence woke David up. Certainly he expected to die some day, but God surprised him with the pronouncement of a death much sooner than he expected. God Himself told David he would die, and at the moment of the peak of his success. He expected that once God put him in power and gave him rest from all his enemies (2 Samuel 7:1), that he would have a long reign. David knew that God made him great, but he forgot that God can diminish him and keep him humble.
“I cried to you, O YHWH; and unto YHWH I made supplication. What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit [shachath, grave]? Shall the dust praise you? shall it declare your truth? Hear, O YHWH, and have mercy upon me: YHWH, be you my helper.”
Knowing he was wrong David appeals to God on the basis that nothing that God wants done can come from those who are dead. The dead know nothing. They cannot praise. They cannot speak truth.
“He made a pit [bowr, crypt], and dug it, and is fallen into the ditch [shachath, grave] which he made.”
David was rescued by God from death and his internment in the “house of David” was delayed. At the end of his life David once again is joyful for his gifts from God, gifts that were undeserved, yet welcomed.
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing: you have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness. To the end that my glory may sing praise to you, and not be silent. O YHWH my Elohim, I will give thanks unto you for ever [olam, for the eon].”
Putting on sackcloth is not only associated with mourning (Genesis 37:34; 2 Samuel 3:31), but also with repentance in crisis (see Nehemiah 9:1; Jeremiah 6:26; Jonah 3:5–9; and particularly Matthew 11:21). The reason for putting on sackcloth for repentance was to mourn and lament one’s own anticipated death. 27 Death was exactly what David anticipated in 2 Samuel 7:11–12 (paralleled in 1 Chronicles 17:10–11). God performs the action of putting off the sackcloth and putting on the girdle of gladness.
Compare the lament of King David in Psalm 30 with the lament and supplication to God by King Hezekiah some 250 years later. Hezekiah making his request to God seems almost to paraphrase David’s lament of Psalm 30. Note the terms sheol, soul, grave, crypt, praise, truth, corruption, life/live and their cognates used by both:
Psalm 30:2–3, 9–10 (King David)
Isaiah 38:16–19 (King Hezekiah)
“O YHWH my Elohim, I cried unto you, and you have healed me. O YHWH, you have brought up my soul from the grave [sheol]: you have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit [crypt].
… What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit [grave]? Shall the dust praise you? shall it declare your truth? Hear, O YHWH, and have mercy upon me: YHWH, be you my helper. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing: you have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to you, and not be silent.”
“O YHWH, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so will you recover me, and make me to live. Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but you have in love to my soul delivered it from the pit [grave] of corruption: for you have cast all my sins behind your back. For the grave [sheol] cannot praise you, death can not celebrate you: they that go down into the pit [crypt] cannot hope for your truth. The living, the living, he shall praise you, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known your truth.”
The title and subject of Psalm 30 may seem strange to set to music, but that is what David did. Singing and rejoicing about God’s rescue from illness, death, while dedicating a tomb seems contradictory. Putting together 2 Samuel chapter 7 with Psalm 30, we can know David’s thoughts about this crisis, and we can understand how David accepts what God has proposed for him, both the good and bad.
He accepts, of course, God’s blessings (as we all do), but he also accepts God’s pronouncement of death and His preparation of his tomb, “the house of David,” which was a constant shadow over David. That house, that tomb, was to be — and is today — established for the eon. It shall accomplish its purpose to magnify God’s name for the eon (2 Samuel 7:26), so that God will be praised and His truth proclaimed (Psalm 30:9). Without realizing the implications of his request, David prays for God to bless “the house of David” so that the house would indeed be blessed and established for the eon (2 Samuel 7:29).
“So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
It seems arrogant for David to “accept” what God has already decreed. However, this is the way of kings. David knew that God is approachable if one’s attitude and heart is correct. With lapses, David was such a man after God’s own heart (1 Kings 15:3, 5; Acts 7:46, 13:22). As children of God, we can do the same, coming boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).
Psalm 30 celebrates the dedication of “the house of David,” his tomb, which YHWH made for David “before” God Himself (2 Samuel 7:11). This means that the house of David has a close proximity to God’s presence, the Temple. God established that “house” (2 Samuel 7:25–26) and David decorated, and furnished the interior. Psalm 30 celebrates its dedication after the house was completed, some time before David died.
At the end of Psalm 30 (like the 2 Samuel 7:18–29 and 1 Chronicles 17:16–27 passages), David resolves within himself to accept totally what God brings to his life — good or bad. God heals him (Psalm 30:2) and David continues being God’s servant, making other mistakes to be sure, but he is still God’s anointed king.
In our personal lives today, for us as Christians, just like for David “our weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” That morning joy will come when the daystar arrives. That morning star is Christ. Read 2 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Peter 1:19; and Revelation 22:16 and the full context around those verses.
God removes the “sackcloth” (Psalm 30:11) of our physical body and will “girdle” or put around us gladness. This is exactly what will happen in the resurrection. Our resurrected physical body will be removed and we will be girdled with a glorious resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15:52–54). For us, tears and weeping will go away, and joy will come with Christ (Psalm 126:5; 2 Timothy 1:4; John 16:19–22).
David Sielaff, February 2008
1 The House of David” at http://www.askelm.com/temple/t040801.htm and “The Location and Future Discovery of the Tomb of David” at http://www.askelm.com/temple/t061001.htm. The unopened tomb is just south of the correct Temple site.
2 See the discussion in the articles in note 1 above and also the evidence in Lyle Eslinger book on one chapter of the Bible, House of David or House of God: Rhetoric of 2 Samuel 7, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Supplement Series 164 (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994). Jesus was legally of David’s seed (Acts 13:22–23):
“And when he had removed him [King Saul], he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will.’ Of this man's seed has God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Savior, Jesus.”
3 The promises of the house of David, the seed of David (future kings from the Davidic line), and the kingdom from David are three distinct promises of God. The house of David refers to David’s tomb, his sepulcher. The seed refers to David’s descendants. The kingdom refers to the physical Davidic kingdom continuing for a long time in the future, derived from the one who will inherit David’s kingdom. We learn later this was Solomon.
4 Four sons were born to David and Bathsheba in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:14 and 1 Chronicles 3:5). It is unknown if the listing of the children in 1 Chronicles 3:5 represents their order of birth. If so, then the time between 2 Samuel chapter 7 and Psalm 30 is considerably longer. Nathan is listed as Jesus’ ancestor in Luke 3:31. Solomon is Jesus’ ancestor in Matthew 1:6–7.
5 Solomon was young when he took the throne: 1 Chronicles 29:1 and 22:1; 1 Kings 3:7. Solomon died about age 60 seeming to be an old man (1 Kings 11:4), having reigned for 40 years (1 Kings 11:42). Solomon’s son Reheboam was 41 years old when he succeeded to the throne (1 Kings 14:41). Therefore Reheboam was born 1 year before Solomon succeeded David.
6 This prayer of 2 Samuel 7:18–29 in the first person. The parallel account in 1 Chronicles 17:16–27 is presented in the 3rd person, meaning that someone else is relating the story from an objective vantage point. The Chronicles account has a few additions, no subtractions, and only minor word changes from the Samuel account. This indicates that a scribe is writing in Chronicles describing what David wrote, while the Samuel account is from David’s personal perspective.
7 David’s house, his tomb, was prophesied by God to last for the eon (2 Samuel 7:16, 1 Chronicles 17:14).
8 David is still dead at this moment (Acts 2:29). He has not been resurrected (Acts 2:34). We cannot be sure how many years of life David was given after God’s anger subsided and God healed him.
9 This is an instance of a textual emendation by the Sopherim changing YHWH to Adoni in reverence for the divine name. See Appendix 32 of Bullinger’s Companion Bible at http://www.levendwater.org/companion/append32.html.
10 This subscript “To the chief Musician” clearly goes with the preceding Psalm 30, rather than the beginning of Psalm 31. This is shown from the single psalm in Habakkuk chapter 3 which ends the chapter and book with the subscript at the end (Habakkuk 3:19: “To the chief singer on my stringed instruments”). James Thirtle, The Titles of the Psalms: Their Nature and Meaning Explained (London: Morgan & Scott, 1916), pp. 173–174. See also the psalm of Hezekiah in Isaiah chapter 38, ending in verse 20. Thirtle’s excellent small book is available online at http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/OTeSources/19-Psalms/Text/Books/Thirtle-PsTitles/Thirtle-PsTitles.htm.
11 H.L. Willmington, Willmington's Bible Handbook (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1997), S. 311.
12 H.L. Willmington, The Outline Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), S. Ps 30.
13 E.W. Bullinger, Companion Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, reprint 1974), pp. 721, 746–747.
15 Other exemptions from military service were those men who had a newly planted vineyard and those who were newly married (Deuteronomy 20:6–7). After the exempting situation was ended, then military service was mandatory for all men.
16 I inserted the [a], [b], [c], [d]. Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), S. 212.
17 Note also the reference to the “tabernacle of David” in Amos 9:11 and Acts 15:15.
18 Psalm 87 celebrates the arrival of the Ark to Zion (2 Samuel 6:4, 14–15). See Thirtle, Titles of the Psalms, p. 171. The psalm of 1 Chronicles 16:4–37 was broken up and portions were used in various Psalms (in order): Psalm 105:1–15, 96:1–13, and 106:1, 47–48. This is clearly shown in James Newsome, ed., A Synoptic Harmony of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, with related passages from Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezra (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1986), pp. 33–36.
19 Franz Delitzsch, A Commentary on the Book of Psalms (New York: Funk & Wagnalls Co., 1883), p. 455.
20 W.T. Davison, The Psalms, I–LXXII (New York: H. Frowde, n.d.), p. 151
22 Delitzsch, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, p. 455.
23 This structure of Psalm 30 is from David Dorsey, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis–Malachi (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), pp. 183–184. Dorsey’s translation is from the RSV. Dorsey notes:
“A parallel arrangement may be employed to establish or underscore an important pattern in the psalmist’s line of reasoning. The repetitions generated by this pattern may also serve to emphasize certain points.”
24 The entire passage of John 10:22–39 took place during that day of the Feast of the Dedication in the Temple in Solomon’s Porch (verse 23). It was during this confrontation with the Jews that Jesus quoted Psalm 82:6 (and by implication all 8 verses of Psalm 82). Jesus used that opportunity to make clear to the Jews that He was both the Messiah and the Son of God, a declaration of His divinity. The Jews clearly understood this to be so because they took up stones to stone Him for blasphemy, as the Jews said, “making Himself equal with God” (John 10:31–34).
25 Davison, Psalms, p. 153.
26 E.W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (New York: E. & J. B. Young & Co., 1898), S. 728.
27 “Sackcloth” in Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988): “The physical characteristics of the material made it suitable attire for times of danger, grief, personal and national crisis, and distress.”
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