Reading Psalm 40 Messianically

Brandon D. Crowe
Associate Professor of New Testament
Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia

I. Introduction[1]

What makes a Psalm messianic? This is the question we have been tasked to answer. In this essay I will focus on the messianic interpretation of Psalm 40, specifically as it is used in Hebrews 10 in reference to the bodily sacrifice of Jesus Christ.[2] Given the explicit use of Psalm 40 in Hebrews 10, I will not need to argue that Psalm 40 is used messianically in Hebrews, but instead I will focus on how and why Psalm 40 is interpreted messianically by the author of Hebrews.

To state my argument briefly, the author of Hebrews reads the words of the Psalms to be prophetic,[3] and Jesus himself speaks the Psalms in Hebrews.[4] This is consistent with the Christology and eschatology of Hebrews,[5] but also reveals an eschatological[6] outlook in the Psalms in accord with their inspiration by the Holy Spirit.[7] If we interpret Scripture with Scripture,[8] then Hebrews provides crucial hermeneutical guidance for readers of the Psalms today. Yet I will also argue that Hebrews does not infuse alien meaning into Psalm 40, but unpacks what is already there in Psalm 40. This means that we also should read the Psalms eschatologically, especially as focused on the anointed one, David’s greater Son.

These preceding observations anticipate the argument that follows. First, I will look at Psalm 40 in context. Second, I will consider the use of Psalm 40 in Hebrews. Third, I will conclude by considering some implications of the way Hebrews uses Psalm 40.

II. Considering Psalm 40

Context of the Psalter

As we consider Psalm 40, it will be helpful to mention a few preliminary matters that bear on interpreting individual psalms. First, Psalms 1–2 should be viewed as the introduction to the entire Psalter.[9] Therefore, the themes of Psalms 1–2 provide an important framework for understanding both individual psalms and the scope of the whole Psalter. Whereas Psalm 1 emphasizes the blessing of the law of the Lord, Psalm 2 focuses on God’s messianic king. Indeed, the LORD’s kingship as exercised through his anointed, royal son is one of the major themes of the entire Psalter. We therefore should expect that the covenantal promises to David and his house will figure prominently in the Psalter.[10] The anointed son rules on behalf of the LORD, and his kingdom will ultimately prevail.[11]

Second, the kingship of the anointed of David’s house is also idealized in the Psalter in a way that draws upon, but seems to transcend, David’s historical experiences.[12] Thus, David provides the prototype for the anticipated messianic king, but David’s kingship/kingdom was not itself the consummate realization of the kingship/kingdom envisioned in the psalms; the ideal kingship/kingdom belongs to a future beyond David.

Third, we should give careful attention to the context of each psalm in the structure of the Psalter.[13] Psalm 40 is the penultimate psalm of Book 1 of the Psalter (Psalms 1–41), which is particularly focused on the conflict facing the Davidic king(dom) in light of the Lord’s covenantal promises given to David.[14] Those who oppose David are opposing God’s anointed representative, and are therefore opposing God himself. This gives further reason for us to view the conflict of Psalm 40 preeminently as the conflict faced by the Lord’s anointed one.

Exegesis of Psalm 40

In light of these preliminary matters, we turn to Psalm 40 itself. In Psalm 40 David[15] expresses thanks for the Lord’s provision and protection of him in the past (40:1–3, 5, 9–10), and expresses confidence that the LORD would deliver him again in the future (40:11, 17), despite the iniquities that threaten to overtake him (40:12). Since David is identified as the author of Psalm 40, the deliverance in view is first of all the deliverance of God’s anointed.[16] Readers are not told what specific event(s) in David’s life may be in view, but it seems likely that intense opposition, and quite possibly a brush with death, is in view (40:2). By delivering David the LORD was demonstrating faithfulness to his covenantal promises, and provided assurance that he would continue to be faithful in the future. And by delivering David, as the anointed one, the LORD was also providing deliverance for his people. Thus we could say as the king goes, so go the people.[17] Deliverance for the king is deliverance for God’s kingdom, and therefore deliverance for the people of God’s kingdom.

Thus in Psalm 40 David thanks God for past deliverance, even as he looks forward in hope to a future deliverance. This brings us to an important observation for Psalm 40, and indeed all the psalms: by looking to God for future deliverance, Psalm 40 necessarily has an eschatological focus. In fact, we can even see this in microcosmic form in Psalm 40: David’s past deliverance was not the final deliverance.[18] So long as opposition to David and David’s kingdom persisted, final deliverance had not come. Inasmuch as final deliverance had not come, David looks forward to God’s intervention for redemption in the future. In light of this, we seem to have a view in the Psalter that final deliverance would coincide with the inheritance of the land and dwelling in perfect peace, when David’s enemies (and therefore God’s enemies) would no longer pose a threat.[19] The Psalter is an eschatological book. Indeed, as Geerhardus Vos has memorably stated: “A redemptive religion without eschatological outlook would be a contradiction in terms.”[20]

In light of this eschatology, we turn to Psalm 40:6–8, which is the strophe cited explicitly in Hebrews 10. The Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT)[21] can be translated as follows, which is the translation of the ESV:

In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me: I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.

These words of David recall several passages in which God’s delight is not primarily in cultic ritual, but in those whose hearts are truly committed to the Lord.[22] A frequent problem among God’s people throughout Scripture is the dichotomy between obedience and sacrifice. Where true obedience is lacking, sacrifice is unpleasing to the LORD. In light of this, David positions himself as one who is truly obedient, truly righteous before the LORD, and is not only paying lip service to the LORD via hollow sacrifice.[23]

And yet we can say more. Just as the eschatology of Psalm 40 encourages us to look beyond God’s deliverance of David in the past to the full, final deliverance in the future, so can we see how the obedience of David in Psalm 40:6–8 also looks ahead to the fuller realization of the obedience of God’s anointed. Just as the deliverance God provided in the past was not the consummation of his deliverance, the obedience manifested by David (sincere though it was) was not the consummate realization of the obedience envisioned in Psalm 40. Thus, for example, the problems that persisted for David in 40:12 were due to his own iniquities, and he needed to be delivered from them. It is not difficult to see, then, how the need for future deliverance in Psalm 40 is also coupled with the problem of imperfect obedience.

Therefore, in light of this future-orientation to Psalm 40, we do well to read Psalm 40 in light of God’s dealings with David more broadly. The Davidic Covenant[24] is the assumed background for the Davidic, kingly focus of Book 1.[25] The messianic son of Psalm 2 is the royal son from the house of David, and the role of this figure a major thrust of the entire Psalter. The full redemption anticipated in the Psalms is portrayed in a variety of ways as coming through the rule of this anointed figure, which was anticipated by David but not realized in David himself.

But what specifically is intended in Psalm 40:6–8? The open ear[26] of 40:6 must refer to the sincere obedience of David in contrast to bare ritual.[27] Perhaps more intriguing in Psalm 40 is what David intends in 40:7: “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me.” The author of Hebrews applies this to Jesus, but in what sense has David come in accord with what was written in the scroll? The most likely option for this book is the laws for the king in Deuteronomy 17:14–20.[28]

David is thus speaking explicitly and specifically as the LORD’s anointed king, and he recognizes his own role as the one who must lead and protect the people of God against her enemies (cf. Deut. 17:20). David’s royal awareness also illuminates his “I have come” statement. David recognizes the role he plays as God’s anointed in the administration of God’s kingdom and God’s purposes.[29] Additionally, the king in Deuteronomy 17 must maintain trust in the LORD without pretension; for the people to prosper and the kingdom to persevere, the king must remain obedient to Torah. David’s actions as the anointed one are therefore not to be seen in light of his own interests, but as an anointed representative who leads the people of God. If David has in view Deuteronomy 17 in Psalm 40, then it further fits well with the opening two pillar-psalms of the Psalter (focusing on God’s law and God’s king). In this case, God’s king must know and meditate on God’s law. Likewise, in Deuteronomy 17 the king must know and assiduously adhere to the precepts for the king, and this as a part of God’s law more broadly. In other words, Deuteronomy 17 is not all that the king must know and do; but adherence to Deuteronomy 17 was to be one particular and significant way in which the king was to understand and meditate on God’s entire law.[30]

In Psalm 40 we see that, as God’s king, David knows the law and understands that as God’s anointed, he has a key role to play in the congregation of God’s people (cf. 40:9–10). Implicit in David’s recognition of the importance of the law for him is the recognition that his deliverance and the people’s deliverance does not come through the autonomous strength of the king, but through the king’s trust in the LORD who brings deliverance.[31]

III. Psalm 40 in Hebrews 10[32]

Eschatology in Hebrews

In light of the eschatological outlook of Psalm 40, we turn now to the use of Psalm 40 in Hebrews 10. One encounters a myriad of issues when looking at the use of the Old Testament in Hebrews, but the following discussion will be limited to the author’s hermeneutical rationale for reading Psalm 40 in relation to Jesus as messiah. One of the keys here is the eschatology of Hebrews. The author of Hebrews begins his letter by observing that we are living in the last days (1:2) which is evident because of the climactic work of the Son as royal priest (1:3–4).

In Hebrews 10 we come to the portion of the argument where the nature of the new covenant sacrifice of Christ, as Son and Great High Priest, is exposited. The one sacrifice of Christ inaugurates the new covenant, which is a better covenant (Heb. 8–9), having been perfected once and for all by the perfect priest who did not need to offer a sacrifice first for himself before making it for others (10:1–4, 10–14). This sacrifice was possible because of the Great High Priest’s full-fledged obedience, being wholly without sin. The portion of the argument that invokes Psalm 40 is therefore focused on the uniqueness of the sacrifice of Christ as the truly effectual sacrifice. Thus Hebrews has a strong eschatological emphasis since the greater day has come.

Textual Issues

In light of this eschatology, we come to Hebrews 10:5–7, which reads:

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’” (ESV)

Careful readers will observe several differences between the quotation of Hebrews and the Hebrew text noted earlier (along with the LXX). These are mostly minor, but one difference that has received most attention is Hebrews’s use of body (sōma) in place of ears (MT:ʾoznayim; LXX: ōtia). It is not entirely clear whether the author of Hebrews has modified the MT/LXX ʾoznayim/ōtia and inserted sōma, or if perhaps the Greek Vorlage utilized by the author of Hebrews already read sōma instead of ōtia.[33] Establishing the Vorlage, however, would not solve all the issues, since the question would remain whether sōma is a legitimate rendering of ʾoznayim. To this question—whether body is a legitimate rendering of ears—I would respond in the affirmative, based on synecdoche. As a figure of speech, synecdoche is commonly used to refer to a part that represents the whole or, in this case, the whole that represents a part. Put simply, body is a legitimate rendering of ears because ears are a part of the body. If one’s body is prepared and dedicated to God, this includes one’s ears.[34]

The Son’s Better Sacrifice

The emphasis on the body of Jesus in Hebrews 10 allows us to consider in more detail how the author of Hebrews relates Psalm 40 to Jesus as High Priest. Throughout Hebrews Jesus is seen to be superior, which is concomitant with the eschatology of Hebrews. And as the Great High Priest, Jesus’s sacrifice is better—indeed, more effectual—than the repeated sacrifices of Israel’s priesthood. Beyond this, Jesus’ “betterness” is preeminently seen in his divinity which is emphasized from the beginning of the letter. Thus the Son is better than the angels because the Son is the divine Son of God. He is the Son who is heir of all things and through whom the world was made (1:2). Moreover, he is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact imprint of his nature, even upholding the universe by his word (1:3). As divine Son he has taken his seat at God’s right hand, having made purification for sins. Thus already in the opening verses of Hebrews Jesus’ divine sonship is linked with his consummate sacrifice for final purification.

Jesus’ one sacrifice is therefore better than all previous sacrifices because Jesus is divine. But along with this, Jesus’ sacrifice is better because of the perfection of Jesus’ obedience. This is emphasized already in Hebrews 2:10 (cf. 2.9–14), where Jesus is said to have been made perfect through suffering. Indeed, in his earthly life Jesus learned obedience through what he suffered (5:8). This suffering also entails the true humanity of Jesus, which is the burden of much of Hebrews 2. Jesus is not only the divine Son of God, but is also our brother, the one who is made like us in every way, yet without sin. He is therefore uniquely qualified to be a great and merciful high priest.

Therefore, in light of the surpassing greatness of Jesus as divine Son of God, and in light of the surpassing greatness of his role as Great and Merciful High Priest, Jesus’ sacrifice is the ultimate, final sacrifice. This brings us back to Psalm 40 in Hebrews 10.[35] Jesus, the pre-existent Son (cf. 10:5), came according to what was written of him in the book.[36] That is, he came to be fully devoted to God’s will, which prominently included his role as serving himself (as the Great High Priest) as the final sacrifice, and by so doing, he eradicated the disparity between obedience and sacrifice that was so often a snare for God’s people.[37]

Key in Hebrews’s understanding of the work of Christ, then, is the body of Christ as Great High Priest. In his body Jesus was fully obedient to the will of God, and he offers himself fully—including his body—on behalf of his people. We see this summarily in 10:10: “And by [God’s] will we have been sanctified through the once-for-all offering of Jesus’ body” (my trans.). Note, then, the emphasis on the body of Jesus as in connection with this one, final, effectual sacrifice. By offering his body as the final sacrifice, Jesus “eradicated the disparity between sacrifice and obedience”[38] as the one who was always and fully committed to the obedience required in the Torah. In David we meet a man after God’s own heart, who delighted to keep the law of God. Yet in David we also encounter a man who was not able to bring final deliverance, nor was he immune from the problems that he brought on himself. David needed sacrifices for himself (cf. Ps. 51:15–16). Jesus is greater than David because he does not need a sacrifice for himself, nor did Jesus ever face a problem resulting from his own sinfulness.

This unity of the offerer and the sacrifice that is embodied in Jesus also points to a more extensive understanding of doing God’s will, deriving from Psalm 40. The ability of Jesus to offer the final, perfect sacrifice assumes the perfection of his humanity, which includes, but is not limited to, his once-for-all new covenant sacrifice on the cross. Instead, it includes all the ways he suffered throughout his life, and all the obedience he rendered.[39] This must be the case because God’s law not only demands absence of sin, but also demands the positive accomplishment of God’s will.[40] Whereas David delighted in God’s past deliverance, he also had to look ahead to future deliverance because to that point no perfect, final sacrifice had been offered. Though David came to do the will of God, especially in accord with Deuteronomy 17, he did not fully conform to all of God’s requirements, thus he required sacrifices for himself. In contrast, Jesus was fully committed to God’s law in every way, requiring no sacrifices for himself.[41] Thus the delight to do God’s will in Psalm 40, as it is used in Hebrews 10, points to the perfect sacrifice of Christ, but also his full conformity to Deuteronomy 17 and all the Torah by implication.[42]

By being at once the perfect offering and the perfect offerer, Jesus by his one act of shedding blood puts an end to the repetition of sacrifices. And by implementing this once for all sacrifice, Jesus institutes the ultimate redemption that David was looking forward to in Psalm 40. Redemption comes through the one who has come to do God’s will fully, which includes Torah conformity and also serving, in his own body, as the final, effectual sacrifice.[43]

IV. Conclusion: What Makes a Psalm Messianic?

As I conclude, I would like to summarize briefly some implications of my argument, and suggest a working explanation for what makes a psalm messianic. These should be considered provisional in the sense that much more needs to be said, but these are intended to serve as points on which to marinate, in order to get the exegetical juices flowing.

First, Psalm 40 is messianic as part of the Spirit-inspired eschatological outlook of the Psalms that anticipates a greater Son of David.[44] It is through this anointed figure that final salvation comes, though it is also through the mighty intervention of the LORD. These are united in the work of Christ, who was the faithful human, but also the divine Son of God. This also assumes the supernatural character of OT revelation.

Second, we should linger over the significance of the LORD’s anointed in the Psalter, established already in Psalm 2. It is therefore highly significant that Jesus is identified as the anointed Christ in Hebrews and throughout the New Testament. As anointed, one most naturally thinks of Christ as king. But anointed figures could be prophets, priests, or kings. Thus in Hebrews Christ is not only the royal Son, but also the anointed priest (after the order of Melchizedek), and the one through whom we encounter greater revelation. In Hebrews 10 Jesus is particularly portrayed in priestly terms, since he is both the offerer and the offering whose sacrifice inaugurates the new covenant. Thus in Hebrews Jesus fulfills the roles of prophet, priest, and king.[45] These are valuable categories to lean upon to consider ways in which Jesus relates to the Old Testament.[46]

Third, in addition to the Spirit-inspired eschatology of the Old Testament, we must consider the implications of preexistence Christology in Hebrews. It is quite striking that in Hebrews the Son is identified as the speaker of (at least some of) the Psalms.[47] This phenomenon may provide further support for the notion of an inherently forward-looking thrust to the Psalter.

To end with the question posed at the beginning of this essay, “what makes a psalm messianic?” I conclude with this (provisional) answer:

Given the Spirit-inspired eschatology of the OT, as part of God’s unified and unfolding work of redemption, all psalms are messianic because they anticipate, in various ways, God’s ultimate salvation that comes through his anointed one; we can also say, however, that some psalms have a heightened sense of messianic focus and anticipation.

To ask the question “what makes a psalm messianic,” then, is not simply to ask an ex post facto question, but one that was already intended from the beginning.[48]

  1. This essay arises out of the IRLBR Young Scholars Summit at Tyndale House, Cambridge (2015), subsequently presented at a special session at the annual SBL meeting (Atlanta, 2015). I am grateful to IRLBR for the opportunity to participate, and to Andrew Abernethy, Mariam Kovalishyn, and Michael McKelvey for their insights and warm collegiality.
  2. The verse numbering of the MT is different from English versions. Psalm 40:6–8 in English is Psalm 40:7–9 in Hebrew. Additionally, Psalm 40 is Psalm 39 in the LXX. Given the intended audience of this essay, I will use the English chapter and verse numbering.
  3. By which I also mean predictive.
  4. Hebrews has a Trinitarian view of God’s speech, including the psalms. See Jonathan I. Griffiths, “Hebrews and the Trinity” in The Essential Trinity: New Testament Foundations and Practical Relevance, ed. Brandon D. Crowe and Carl R. Trueman (London: IVP, 2016), 122–38. For the Father: see, e.g., Psalm 2; 45; 104; the Son: Psalm 22; 40; the Holy Spirit: Psalm 95. Also note that David is the one spoken through (Heb. 4:7).
  5. See the classic essay by C. K. Barrett, “The Eschatology of the Epistle to the Hebrews,” in The Background to the New Testament and its Eschatology: Studies in Honour of C. H. Dodd, ed. W. D. Davies and David Daube (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956), 363–393.
  6. By eschatological I mean a forward-looking posture that anticipates a greater day of redemption in accord with God’s promises regarding the blessings of the “latter days.”
  7. The author of Hebrews uses the Psalms extensively. See the classic study of Simon J. Kistemaker, The Psalm Citations in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Amsterdam: Wed. G. Van Soest, 1961). On the eschatology of the Psalter, see Geerhardus Vos, “The Eschatology of the Psalter,” PTR 18 (1920): 1–43; O. Palmer Robertson, The Flow of the Psalms: Discovering their Structure and Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2015), 48, 129.It is noteworthy that one frequently finds the superscription eis to telos in the LXX Psalter (including Psalm 39 LXX [=40 MT]), which seems to imply some sort of future orientation. See Richard B. Hays, “Christ Prays the Psalms: Israel’s Psalter as a Matrix of Early Christology,” in The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as an Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture (Grand Rapids: Baker Eerdmans, 2005), 107; Martin Karrer, “LXX Psalm 39:7–10 in Hebrews 10:5–7,” in Psalms and Hebrews: Studies in Reception, ed. Dirk J. Human and Gert Jacobus Steyn, LHB/LOTS 527 (London: T&T Clark, 2010), 134; see also Joachim Schaper, Eschatology in the Greek Psalter, WUNT 2/76 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1995).
  8. See WCF 1.9. This is a key tenet of the Reformation (“analogy of faith”).
  9. See Bruce K. Waltke with Charles Yu, An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 870–874; Robertson, Flow of the Psalms, 13–15, 54–61; Mark D. Futato, Interpreting the Psalms: An Exegetical Handbook (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007), 59–95. Note that Psalms 1–2 do not have superscriptions.
  10. As we will see, this is true of Psalm 40.
  11. Robertson (Flow, 59, 60–61, 168–70) argues that the Psalms often fuse together the kingship of the Lord and his anointed messiah.
  12. The language of “idealized” comes from Futato, Interpreting the Psalms, 76–77.
  13. See further Robertson, Flow of the Psalms.
  14. Robertson, Flow of the Psalms, 53–83.
  15. In the MT Psalm 40 is identified with David by means of a lamed, likely denoting authorship. I am not able to argue for the authenticity of the superscriptions in this essay, but I believe the burden of proof is on those that would deny their authenticity. No human author of Psalm 40 is identified in Hebrews, but David is explicitly identified as the author of Psalm 95 in Heb. 4:7 (even though no specific superscription is given in Psalm 95). Davidic authorship of the Psalms looms even larger in Acts (cf. Acts 2:30).
  16. This is not to undermine the legitimacy of the “every person” interpretation of Psalm 40, but it is to recognize that the focus on the LORD’s anointed permeates the Psalter, consistent with the guidance of Psalm 2 and other internal clues. However, David is also a sinner in need of redemption, as we all are. Further, we read in the NT that all of God’s people are kings in Christ (cf. 1 Pet. 2:9–10 [and also prophets and priests!]), which provides further basis for the “every person” interpretation. But this approach stands alongside the focus on the LORD’s anointed; it is not an either-or dichotomy. Thanks to Andrew Abernethy for his response to an earlier draft of this essay where he highlighted this question.
  17. This point is also made by Robertson, Flow of the Psalms, 63.
  18. Thus compare 40:1–3 with 40:13–15.
  19. See, e.g., Psalm 37:11; 122; 125.
  20. Vos, “Eschatology,” 3; cf. 9. See also John Calvin, Inst. 2.10.3, 16.
  21. It is well known that Hebrews generally cites something like what we know today as the LXX for OT quotations. It is nevertheless prudent to look at the Hebrew of the MT as part of the overall picture of how Psalm 40 is used in Hebrews, especially in light of the purpose of this paper, which is to trace out how and why psalms were read messianically among the early Christians.
  22. Cf. 1 Sam. 15:22; Ps. 51:15–16; Prov. 21.3; Hos. 6:6.
  23. On the unity of heart motive of the offerer and ritual sacrifice in Leviticus, see Nobuyoshi Kiuchi, “Spirituality in Offering a Peace Offering,” TynBul 50 (1999): 23–31.
  24. See 2 Sam. 7; 1 Chron. 17; Ps. 89; 132.
  25. See, for example, Robertson, Flow of the Psalms, 47–49, 53–83.
  26. The Hebrew is a bit unusual, speaking of ears that are hewn or hollowed out (ʾoznayim kārîtā lî).
  27. See also Isa. 6:9–10; 50:5; Jer. 5.21. One can also see the contrast with Saul’s disobedience (1 Sam. 15:22). Whereas Saul as God’s anointed performed sacrifice in disobedience to God, David as God’s anointed demonstrated true devotion to God, which was better than Saul’s sacrifice. See similarly Hosea 6:6.
  28. This view is also shared by many commentators.
  29. We also encounter an eschatological outlook in Deuteronomy 17—a text that anticipates a king who, to that point, had not yet come.
  30. Note the 176 verses of Psalm 119, where David considers all the ways and manners in which he meditates and acts in accord with God’s law. Clearly his concern with the law went well beyond Deuteronomy 17.
  31. Deliverance language is prominent in Psalm 40. See, e.g., 40:2, 5, 9–11, 13, 16–17. We see something similar earlier in Book 1 of the Psalter. In Psalm 20 David notes the distinction between those who trust in horses and chariots (cf. Deut 17:16) and those who trust in the name of the LORD their God (Ps. 20:7). King David recognizes that he plays a central role in leading God’s people, yet his prayers for God’s intervention reveal his conviction that deliverance ultimately comes from the LORD alone.
  32. Karrer (“LXX Psalm 39:7–10”, 136) argues that there are no known citations of Psalm 40 in early Jewish literature. For possible allusions, see George H. Guthrie, “Hebrews,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, ed. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 976–977. He argues that 2 Enoch 45.3 (J) is an allusion to Psalm 40 (though dating 2 Enoch cannot be done with certainty), and similar teachings are found in Judith 16:16; Sirach 34:18–35:12. Guthrie also notes allusions to Psalm 40 in the later Targum on the Psalms and in the Talmud (b. Giṭ. 60a; b. Yebam. 77a).
  33. LXX witnesses א, A, B read sōma. For the view that the Vorlage of Hebrews read sōma, see Gert J. Steyn, A Quest for the Assumed LXX Vorlage of the Explicit Quotations in Hebrews, FLANT 235 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011), 289–92, 295. Steyn’s detailed study shows how difficult the textual questions are. See also Karrer, “LXX Psalm 39:7–10,” 142–43. For the view that the author of Hebrews has modified the LXX, see Guthrie, “Hebrews,” 977; Karen H. Jobes, “Rhetorical Achievement in the Hebrews 10 ‘Misquote’ of Psalm 40,” Bib 72 (1991): 387–96. Jobes observed in 1991 that most commentators on Hebrews viewed the author’s Vorlage to read sōma (388).
  34. It was noted in our conversations in Cambridge that ears in Psalm 40 is already a synecdoche: the point is not just that David’s ears are committed to the Lord in obedience, but David himself was entirely committed to the Lord. Hebrews 10 is simply an expansion of what is already there in Psalm 40.
  35. Karrer (“LXX Psalm 39:7–10,” 128–129) argues for an inclusio focusing on Jesus’s obedience in Heb. 2:12–13 and Heb. 10. In both contexts, it is the Son who speaks the Psalms.
  36. Cf. Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics, trans. and ed. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., 5 vols. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012–16), 1:75; 2:85; Mark Jones, Knowing Christ (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2015), 26–27.
  37. See similarly William L. Lane, Hebrews 1–8, WBC 47A (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), cxxxiv; idem, Hebrews 9–13, WBC 47B (Dallas: Word, 1991), 266. Note also the messianic/priestly emphasis of Psalm 40 in Richard P. Belcher, Jr., The Messiah and the Psalms: Preaching Christ from all the Psalms (Fearn, Ross-shire: Mentor, 2014), 177.
  38. Lane, Hebrews 1–8, cxxxiv; idem, Hebrews 9–13, 266.
  39. Harold Attridge also focuses on the obedience/faithfulness of Jesus in Hebrews, in “The Psalms in Hebrews,” in The Psalms in the New Testament, ed. Steve Moyise and Maarten J. J. Menken, NT and the Scriptures of Israel (London: T&T Clark, 2004), 197–212, esp. 210–211. See also Kistemaker, Psalm Citations, 126–28.
  40. In rabbinic tradition the 613 commandments of the Torah included 248 positive commandments (b. Mak. 23b–24a).
  41. Kistemaker (Psalm Citations, 126–27) argues that Hebrews assumes the necessity of perfect obedience, which necessitated Christ’s final sacrifice.
  42. Notably in Hebrews Jesus is a royal priest (cf. Ps. 110:4; Heb. 5:6; 7:17, 21). Herman Bavinck synthesizes the obedience of Christ well: “Scripture regards the entire work of Christ as a fulfillment of God’s law and a satisfaction of his demand. As prophet, priest, and king, in his birth and in his death, in his words and in his deeds, he always did God’s will. He came into the world to do his will. The law of God is within his heart [Ps. 40:8]. His entire life was a life of complete obedience, a perfect sacrifice, a sweet odor to God.” Quoted from Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), 394.
  43. See also Belcher, Messiah, 176–77.
  44. Similar points have been made by many. See Edmund Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013), 16, 142, 162–68; F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 232; see also Irenaeus, Demonstration 73, which illustrates Hays, “Christ Prays the Psalms,” 110–11.
  45. Indeed, Jesus is presented as prophet, priest, and king already in Hebrews 1:1–4.
  46. This, of course, is not a new approach; it is a classic way to describe the offices of Jesus. See recently Richard P. Belcher, Jr., Prophet, Priest, and King: The Biblical Roles of Christ in the Bible and Our Roles Today (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2016).
  47. See Psalm 22:22 (Heb. 2:12); Psalm 40:6–7 (Heb. 10:5–9).
  48. Thanks to Carlton Wynne for providing informal feedback on this essay.