Historical Setting of Tehillim 30


This topic has not yet undergone editorial review

Dedication of the House

Though many psalms appear ever relevant, not confined to a specific time, several contain headings which connect them to a defined historical event. Tehillim 30 is a case in point.  It is entitled: "A Song for the Dedication of the House; of David", implying that it is connected to both David and the inauguration of some building. The verse, though, does not share which "house" is referred to. Does the psalmist speak of the Temple (and if so, which one?), David's palace, or perhaps his dynasty?   Might the title be metaphoric and refer to something else entirely?  Second, is the heading suggesting that the psalm was written about this occasion or simply to be sung at this occasion? A final, and perhaps the most troubling question relates to the connection between the heading and the psalm's content. No where in the psalm does the author explicitly refer to any house or dedication, alluding instead to sickness, enemies, and perhaps sin. What, then, is the import of the heading and how does it relate to the rest of the psalm?

Additional Questions

  • Mixture of themes – The language and images of the hymn relate to multiple sources of distress. Some appear to refer to life threatening illness (חִיִּיתַנִי מִיׇּרְדִי בוֹר, וַתִּרְפָּאֵנִי), and others to personal or national foes (וְלֹא שִׂמַּחְתָּ אֹיְבַי לִי).  What is the relationship between these various themes? Is the psalm's main focus salvation from war or from disease?
  • "כִּי רֶגַע בְּאַפּוֹ" – In verses 6 and 8, the psalmist speaks of God's anger and hiding of His face, implying that the author did something to incur that wrath, yet no sin is mentioned. If the author is indeed alluding to a sin, what was his crime?
  • Overconfidence – In verse 7, the psalmist alludes to his having been overconfident in thinking that "he could never be shaken",1 now realizing that his success and fate is really in Hashem's hand. The author, though, does not elaborate as to what led to that initial feeling.  Is the psalmist referring to a specific event in which he had been overly arrogant, or speaking in general of how people often take good for granted?
  • Changes of tense – The psalm, like many others, switches back and forth between past and future tenses.  In the opening verses the author speaks as if his salvation has already been granted, yet in verses 9-11 he appears to cry out to God to help him as if he is still in dire straits.  Is the psalm one of thanksgiving or request?