Ps 30.3-4

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Ps 30.3–4 3          O Yahweh, my God! I cried out to you for help

and you healed[1] me.

4          O Yahweh, you brought my life[2] up from Sheol.

You rescued me[3] from among those going down[4] to the pit.[5]


[1]    In a pit context, רפא is commonly used to express the idea of healing, as going down to the pit was synonymous with our conception of going down to the grave—namely death via sickness—which was commonly thought to be the result of some (un)known sin in their life.

Interesting to this verse is the fact that a stage has been skipped in the process of cry out–hear–heal. In this verse, the fact that God has heard is not mentioned. The psalmist goes straight away to the reality of the healing he experiences.

[2]          Usually mistranslated as soul, the Hebrew word נפשׁ expresses the conception of the totality of one's self (among other things, as well). But the Hebrew people did not separate the world into two spheres (physical and spiritual) as we tend to, due to our gnostic and dualistic heritage (cf. De Vaux, Ancient Israel, 56).

[3]          Literally caused me to live in Hebrew, but in English this is too clunky.

[4]          This idea of up is life and down is death is a prevalent metaphor that runs throughout this psalm and Hebrew mentality (as well as in our own culture). It is likely based on the assumption that Sheol resides below the earth (or rather, in the earth’s belly), while a trip up from Sheol is one leading towards the earth’s surface where live is lived under the sun.

[5]          Cf. Footnote 2 in the previous post for insight on the terms "Sheol" and "Pit".