Psalm 40:6

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 6. Here we enter upon one of the most wonderful passages in the whole of the Old Testament, a passage in which the incarnate Son of God is seen not through a glass darkly, but as it were face to face. Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire. In themselves considered, and for their own sakes, the Lord saw nothing satisfactory in the various offerings of the ceremonial law. Neither the victim pouring forth its blood, nor the fine flour rising in smoke from the altar, could yield content to Jehovah's mind; he cared not for the flesh of bulls or of goats, neither had he pleasure in corn and wine, and oil. Typically these offerings had their worth, but when Jesus, the Antitype, came into the world, they ceased to be of value, as candles are of no estimation when the sun has arisen. Mine ears hast thou opened. Our Lord was quick to hear and perform his Father's will; his ears were as if excavated down to his soul; they were not closed up like Isaac's wells, which the Philistines filled up, but clear passages down to the fountains of his soul. The prompt obedience of our Lord is here the first idea. There is, however, no reason whatever to reject the notion that the digging of the ear here intended may refer to the boring of the ear of the servant, who refused out of love to his master to take his liberty, at the year of jubilee; his perforated ear, the token of perpetual service, is a true picture of our blessed Lord's fidelity to his Father's business, and his love to his Father's children. Jesus irrevocably gave himself up to be the servant of servants for our sake and God's glory. The Septuagint, from which Paul quoted, has translated this passage, "A body hast thou prepared me:" how this reading arose it is not easy to imagine, but since apostolical authority has sanctioned the variation, we accept it as no mistake, but as an instance of various readings equally inspired. In any case, the passage represents the Only Begotten as coming into the world equipped for service; and in a real and material body, by actual life and death, putting aside all the shadows of the Mosaic law. Burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Two other forms of offerings are here mentioned; tokens of gratitude and sacrifices for sin as typically presented are set aside; neither the general nor the private offerings are any longer demanded. What need of mere emblems when the substance itself is present? We learn from this verse that Jehovah values far more the obedience of the heart than all the imposing performances of ritualistic worship; and that our expiation from sin comes not to us as the result of an elaborate ceremonial, but as the effect of our great Substitute's obedience to the will of Jehovah.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 6. Sacrifice and offering ... burnt offering and sin offering. Four kinds are here specified, both by the psalmist and apostle: namely, sacrifice (xbz) zebhach, yusia; offering, (hxnm) minchah, prosfora; burnt offering, (hlw[) olah, olokautwma; sin offering, (hajx) chataah, peri amartias. Of all these we may say with the apostle, it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats, etc., should take away sin. Adam Clarke.

Verse 6. Mine ears hast thou opened. The literal translation is, mine ears hast thou digged (or pierced) through; which may well be interpreted as meaning, "Thou hast accepted me as thy slave," in allusion to the custom Exodus 21:6 of masters boring the ear of a slave, who had refused his offered freedom, in token of retaining him. Daniel Cresswell.

Verse 6. John Calvin, in treating upon the interpretation, "mine ears hast thou bored," says, "this mode of interpretation appears to be too forced and refined."

Verse 6. Mine ears hast thou opened. If it is to be said that the apostle to the Hebrews read this differently, I answer, this does not appear to me. It is true, he found a different, but corrupted translation (wtia, ears, as the learned have observed, having been changed into swma, body) in the LXX, which was the version then in use; and he was obliged to quote it as he found it, under the penalty, if he altered it, of being deemed a false quoter. He therefore took the translation as he found it, especially as it served to illustrate his argument equally well. Upon this quotation from the LXX the apostle argues, Psalms 40:9 , "He, (Christ) taketh away the first (namely, legal sacrifices), that he may establish the second" (namely, obedience to God's will), in offering himself a sacrifice for the sins of mankind; and thus he must have argued upon a quotation for the Hebrew text as it stands at present. Green, quoted in S. Burder's "Scripture Expositor."

Verse 6. The apostle's reading Hebrews 10:5 , though it be far distant from the letter of the Hebrew, and in part from the LXX (as I suppose it to have been originally), yet is the most perspicuous interpretation of the meaning of it: Christ's body comprehended the ears, and that assumed on purpose to perform in it the utmost degree of obedience to the will of God, to be obedient even to death, and thereby to be as the priest. Henry Hammond.

Verse 6.

Nor sacrifice thy love can win,
Nor offerings from the stain of sin
Obnoxious man shall clear:
Thy hand my mortal frame prepares,
(Thy hand, whose signature it bears,)
And opens my willing ear. James Merrick, M.A., 1720-1769.

Verse 6-7. In these words an allusion is made to a custom of the Jews to bore the ears of such as were to be their perpetual servants, and to enrol their names in a book, or make some instrument of the covenant. "Sacrifices and burnt offerings thou wouldst not have;" but because I am thy vowed servant, bored with an awl, and enrolled in thy book, I said, Lo, I come; I delight to do thy will, O my God. These words of the Psalm are alleged by S. Paul, Hebrews 10. But the first of them with a most strange difference. For whereas the psalmist hath, according to the Hebrew verity, Sacrifice and burnt offering thou wouldst not: mine ears thou hast bored or digged, (tyrn); S. Paul reads with the LXX, swma kathrtisw moi, "A body thou hast prepared or fitted me." What equipollency can be in sense between these two? This difficulty is so much the more augmented because most interpreters make the life of the quotation to lie in those very words where the difference is, namely, That the words, "A body thou hast prepared me," are brought by the apostle to prove our Saviour's incarnation; whereunto the words in the Psalm itself (Mine ears hast thou bored, or digged, or opened), take them how you will in no wise suit. I answer, therefore, That the life of the quotation lies not in the words of difference, nor can do, because this epistle was written to the Hebrews, and so first in the Hebrew tongue, where this translation of the LXX could have no place. And if the life of the quotation lay here, I cannot see how it can possibly be reconciled. It lies therefore in the words where there is no difference, namely, That Christ was such a High Priest as came to sanctify us, not with the legal offerings and sacrifices, but by his obedience in doing like a devoted servant the will of his Father. Thus, the allegation will not depend at all upon the words of difference, and so they give us liberty to reconcile them: Mine ears hast thou bored, saith the psalmist, i.e., Thou hast accepted me for a perpetual servant, as masters are wont, according to the law, to bore such servants' ears as refuse to part from them. Now the LXX, according to whom the apostle's epistle readeth, thinking perhaps the meaning of this speech would be obscure to such as knew not that custom, chose rather to translate it generally swma de katertisw moi, "Thou hast fitted my body," namely, to be thy servant, in such a manner as servants' bodies are wont to be. And so the sense is all one, though not specified to the Jewish custom of boring the ear with an awl, but left indifferently applicable to the custom of any nation in marking and stigmatising their servants' bodies. Joseph Mede, B.D., 1586-1638.

Verse 6-10. Here we have in Christ for our instruction, and in David also (his type) for our example;

  1. A firm purpose of obedience, in a bored ear, and a yielding heart.
  2. A ready performance thereof: Lo, I come.
  3. A careful observance of the word written: In the volume of the Book it is written of me, Psalms 40:7 .
  4. A hearty delight in that observance, Psalms 40:8 .
  5. A public profession and communication of God's goodness to others, Psalms 40:9-10 . Now, we should labour to express Christ to the world, to walk as he walked 1 John 2:6 : our lives should be in some sense parallel with his life, as the transcript with the original: he left us a copy to write by, saith St. Peter, 1 Peter 2:21 . John Trapp.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 6. Here David goes beyond himself, and speaks the language of David's Son. This was naturally suggested by God's wonderful works, and innumerable thoughts of love to man.

  1. The sacrifices that were not required. These were the sacrifices and burnt offerings under the law.
  2. When required? From Adam to the coming of Christ. 2. When not required? 3. Why required before? As types of the one method of redemption. 4. Why not now required? Because the great Antitype had come.
  3. The sacrifice that was required. This was the sacrifice offered on Calvary.
  4. It was required by God by his justice, his wisdom, his faithfulness, his love, his honour, his glory. 2. It was required by man to give him salvation and confidence in that salvation. 3. It was required for the honour of the moral government of God throughout the universe.
  5. The person by whom this sacrifice was offered. Mine ears hast thou opened. This is the language of Christ, prospectively denoting --
  6. Knowledge of the sacrifice required. 2. Consecration of himself as a servant for that end.

George Rogers.

Verse 6. Mine ears hast thou opened. Readiness to hear, fixity of purpose, perfection of obedience, entireness of consecration.

Verse 6-8. The Lord gives an ear to hear his word, a mouth to confess it, a heart to love it, and power to keep it.

James Merrick, M.A., 1720-1769.