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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 32

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-2

1. The blessing of forgiveness 32:1-2

This psalm begins like Psalms 1. "Blessed" (happy) means having received blessings from the Lord, one of which is joy. David described divine forgiveness in several ways in these verses. Under the Mosaic economy an innocent animal that suffered death, the punishment for sin, took the guilt of the sinner in his or her place. This provision was only temporary, however, until God would provide a perfect human being whose substitute death would atone for sin fully (Hebrews 9:11-14; cf. Romans 4:7-8).

Verses 1-11

Psalms 32

In this psalm of wisdom and thanksgiving, David urged those who sin against the Lord to seek His pardon, with the encouragement that He is gracious with the penitent. He will, however, chasten the unrepentant.

Different scholars have identified different psalms as wisdom psalms. Bullock regarded 32, 34, 37, 47, 73, 112, 127-28, and 133 as wisdom psalms. Some literary distinctives of wisdom psalms are proverbs, admonitions (often taken from nature), similes, "blessed," "son" or "children," and "better." [Note: Bullock, p. 202.] They are not prayers as such but reflections on life and life’s problems. The wisdom psalms are a subset of the didactic psalm genre, other subsets being Torah psalms and historical psalms. Wisdom psalms can be subdivided into psalms of proverbial wisdom and psalms of reflective wisdom.

"The proverb represents a concentrated expression of the truth. It teaches the obvious because it is a slice out of real life. . . . This proverbial type of wisdom teaching is sometimes called lower wisdom.

"The second type of wisdom, the type represented by Job and Ecclesiastes, is basically reflective. This reflective wisdom puts forth problems that arise out of real life, but it does not have the pat answers that proverbial wisdom offers. . . . This type of wisdom teaching is sometimes called higher wisdom. The Psalms actually contain both types." [Note: Ibid., p. 200.]

Students of this penitential psalm have often linked it with David’s adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband Uriah (2 Samuel 11). While that identification seems probable in view of the content of the psalm, the connection is not indisputable. Psalms 51 was David’s prayer for pardon for having committed those acts. If Psalms 32 looks back on these very sins, David probably composed it later than Psalms 51. Psalms 32 stresses God’s forgiveness and the lesson David learned from not confessing his sin quickly. Other penitential psalms are 6, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143.

"While they are not all strictly ’penitential,’ Psalms 51, 130 are definitely prayers of penitence, and Psalms 32, 102 are laments related to an illness, perhaps stemming from the psalmist’s sin (Psalms 32:3). The tone of all seven penitential psalms, however, is one of submission to the almighty God, a necessary disposition for anyone who would seek God’s forgiveness" [Note: Ibid., p. 207.]

Thirteen psalms contain the word "Maskil" in their titles (Psalms 32, 42, 44-45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88-89, , 142; cf. Psalms 47:7). The meaning of this term is still uncertain.

"The word is derived from a verb meaning ’to be prudent; to be wise’ (see BDB 968). Various options are: ’a contemplative song,’ ’a song imparting moral wisdom,’ or ’a skillful [i.e., well-written] song.’" [Note: The NET Bible note on the title of Psalms 32. "BDB" is Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon.]

Verses 3-4

David’s failure to confess his sin immediately resulted in internal grief and external weakness for him. God oppressed him severely with discipline (cf. Hebrews 12:6). Consequently David felt drained of energy. Evidently this is a description of how he felt in every aspect of his being-physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Verses 3-5

2. The chastening of the unrepentant 32:3-5

Verse 5

David finally confessed his sin to God rather than refusing to admit it. Confessing involves acknowledging that what one has done violates the will of God (cf. 1 John 1:9). The Old Testament saint had the same responsibility to confess his sins to God that we do, and he also enjoyed the same promise of forgiveness we do (cf. Leviticus 5:5; Leviticus 5:10; Leviticus 16:21-22; Leviticus 26:40-42). However, God punished more sins with execution under the Old Covenant than He does under the New. If the background of this psalm is David’s sins against Bathsheba and Uriah, he evidently refused to acknowledge these sins for about a year after he had committed them (2 Samuel 12:13-15).

Verse 6

David initially advised the godly to confess their sins quickly, so God would not remove Himself from them because of their sin, and seem harder to find later on. If one keeps short accounts with God, calamities that God sometimes uses to bring people to repentance will not overwhelm him.

"Guilt is to the conscience what pain is to the body: it tells us that something is wrong and must be made right, or things will get worse." [Note: Wiersbe, The . . . Wisdom . . ., p. 154.]

Verses 6-11

3. The counsel of the forgiven 32:6-11

Verse 7

David paused to praise God for being a refuge for him when such a flood of trouble had overwhelmed him. The Lord not only sustained him but also gave him occasion to praise His name. Charles Wesley’s hymn "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" drew on Psalms 32:6-7: "While the nearer waters roll, While the tempest still is high; Hide me, O my Saviour, hide . . ."

"In Psalms 32:3-4 David was hiding from God, but in Psalms 32:7 he is hiding in God." [Note: Ironside, p. 191.]

Verses 8-9

The psalmist instructed the godly further, as a teacher who carefully watched over their welfare. His counsel was to yield to the Lord quickly rather than resisting Him. It is better for the godly to walk in the moral will of God willingly than for God to put pressure on them to do so.

Verses 10-11

The wicked can count on having much sorrow in life normally. On the other hand, those who trust in the Lord will experience His loyal love and will be able to praise Him.

Believers who sin are wise to confess their sins to God as soon after we commit them as possible. This will minimize the discipline God sends to bring us to repentance. [Note: See Swindoll, pp. 106-17.]

"The case can be made that great men and women throughout the Bible and church history have been men and women of repentance. The more we see of God and his glory, the more we become aware of indwelling sin, and therefore the more we find repentance to be a way of Life. As George Whitefield said, ’The indwelling of sin in the heart is the burden of a converted person; it is the burden of a true Christian.’ [Note: George Whitefield, Select Sermons of George Whitefield, p. 81.] Therefore it follows that the so-called penitential psalms were often on the lips of great people of God. Psalms 32 was Augustine’s favorite, even setting it above his bed that he might immediately see it upon waking. [Note: Rowland E. Prothero, The Psalms in Human Life, p. 38.] Of this psalm he said, ’The beginning of understanding is to know thyself a sinner.’ [Note: John Ker, The Psalms in History and Biography, p. 58.] Even on his deathbed he asked that the penitential psalms be written out and placed where he could see them. [Note: Prothero, p. 18.] According to Martin Luther, the greatest of psalms were the ’Psalmi Paulini’ (Pauline Psalms). He considered these to be Psalms 32, 51, 130, , 143, which were all penitential psalms. [Note: Ker, p. 58.] Of course, Scripture does not attach these psalms to the apostle Paul, yet its propriety cannot be doubted for the man who considered himself the chief of sinners." [Note: Bullock, p. 207.]

"The psalm could lead us to think through the ways in which our culture denies and suppresses and covers up all in the name of competence, prosperity, and success. For what the psalm finally commends is yielding. Against that, our social values are oriented to unyielding control." [Note: Brueggemann, p. 98.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 32". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/psalms-32.html. 2012.
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