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Psalm 30

Psalm 30 comes full circle.

It begins as it ends: with a thankful declaration of God’s faithfulness.

“I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me. O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.

Viewed one way, Psalm 30 is a straightforward hymn of gratitude for divine favor and protection. But there is much more to explore along the way! Traditionally ascribed to King David, Psalm 30 is a todah, or thanksgiving song. In it the author praises God for deliverance (it’s not clear from whom or what—perhaps an enemy or illness). In any case, the circumstances but have been dire; here the psalmist compares his distress to the depths of Sheol, the place of darkness and silence that ancient Jews believed awaited them in the afterlife. O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit. Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

Moreover, this psalm has from ancient times been associated with the dedication of important buildings (first David’s own royal palace and later the First and Second Temples). All three monumental buildings shared a place of honor atop Mount Moriah on the modern-day Temple Mount.

“As for me, I said in my prosperity, ‘I shall never be moved.’ By your favor, O LORD, you had established me as a strong mountain…”

It is on the strength of these associations that many Jews recognize Psalm 30 as the psalm for the day on the first day of Hannukah, an 8-day celebration of God’s miraculous and faith provision amidst a Jewish revolt against foreign oppressors in the second century BCE.

“To you, O LORD, I cried, and to the LORD I made supplication: ‘What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the Pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be my helper!" According to Jewish tradition, even as Judah Maccabee and his followers finished defeating the Seleucids, they immediately commenced ritual purification of the Temple. In doing so, they discovered that only one days’ worth of sacred olive oil remained undefiled, yet it burned for an additional seven days (the length of time required to press, process, and consecrate more oil).