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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 34

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-22

Psalms 34:0

A Psalm of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed

1          I will bless the Lord at all times:

His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

2     My soul shall make her boast in the Lord:

The humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.

3     O magnify the Lord with me,

And let us exalt his name together.

4     I sought the Lord and he heard me,

And delivered me from all my fears.

5     They looked unto him, and were lightened:

And their faces were not ashamed.

6     This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him,

And saved him out of all his troubles.

7     The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him,

And delivereth them.

8     O taste and see that the Lord is good:

Blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

9     O fear the Lord, ye his saints:

For there is no want to them that fear him.

10     The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger:

But they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.

11     Come, ye children, hearken unto me:

I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

12     What man is he that desireth life,

And loveth many days, that he may see good?

13     Keep thy tongue from evil,

And thy lips from speaking guile.

14     Depart from evil, and do good;

Seek peace, and pursue it.

15     The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous,

And his ears are open unto their cry.

16     The face of the Lord is against them that do evil,

To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

17     The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth,

And delivereth them out of all their troubles.

18     The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart;

And saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

19     Many are the afflictions of the righteous:

But the Lord delivereth him out of them all.

20     He keepeth all his bones:

Not one of them is broken.

21     Evil shall slay the wicked:

And they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.

22     The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants:

And none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.


Its Title.—In the title there is a reference to the madness which David feigned, when he entered the land of the Philistines in his flight from Saul; was recognized there and brought before the king, who dismissed him as a madman, upon which he concealed himself in the cave of Adullam in the wilderness of Judah. Hitzig recognizes the fact that Abimelech, on account of Genesis 20:2, compared with Psalms 26:8, was probably not a proper name, but a name of rank of the Philistine kings. Comp. Hengst., Beiträge, 3:306 sq. With this vanishes the objection that the king of the narrative bore the name of Achish. If now the author of the title had this passage of Scripture before him as his authority, the change of name is not only remarkable, but the question remains unanswered, how he could have gained this authority for the Psalm. For the subject of this song, which is very general, and treats of deliverance by Jehovah from many and great dangers, more in a tone of reflection and instruction, than in that of a prayer of thanksgiving, contains no allusions or references to this particular event in David’s life. And the supposition, that the rare word טַעֲמוּ (= taste), Psalms 34:8, reminded the compiler (De Wette, Hupf., Hitzig) of that טַעֲמוֹ, 1 Samuel 21:14 (= his understanding, Luther, after the Sept. and Vulg., incorrectly, his gesture), and that he besides this brought the תִּתְהַלֵלgloriaris, Psalms 34:2, into connection with the יִתְהֹלֵלinsanivit in Samuel (Olsh.), not to say anything of the artificiality and trifling which is ascribed to the author, refutes itself; for the words compared are entirely different from one another in sound as well as in meaning. The idea of comparing them could only be entertained by comparing the consonants alone, entirely apart from the sense and context of the words; accordingly with only the written text in view. The question how our author came upon that text, is not in the least answered by this subtle hypothesis. Or are we to take refuge in chance and speak of blind conjecture (Hupf.)? Since it is yet more advisable to think of tradition and to explain the similarity of expressions by supposing a common source, namely, the annals of David, Psalms 18:1, compare with 2 Samuel 20:1, (Delitzsch).

Its Contents and Form.—The last mentioned supposition enables us to set aside the objections made to the Davidic authorship from the didactic, in part reflective tone, the parabolic character of the individual verses, and their alphabetical order, which latter is exactly like Psalms 25:0 in that a strophe with ו is missing, and an extra verse with בּ is added at the end. All this however is only against a lyrical effusion occurring in the time of that event, yet not against a later use of it in order to general purposes of devotion by him who had experienced it, when he was seized with a very vivid remembrance of his remarkable preservation (Hengst.). The course of thought is in favor of this. The opening strophes (Psalms 34:1-3) express the resolution and vow of continued praise of God in connection with an appeal to pious sufferers to do likewise. The reasons (Psalms 34:4-10) strongly emphasize his personal experience and its application to the religious life of his companions in the congregation. Finally a paternal position is assumed (Psalms 34:11), with the view of teaching to fear God, as the only, but reliable condition of Divine assistance, protection, and salvation (Psalms 34:12-22). In all this there are such genuine Davidic features, that on the basis of tradition we have good reason to refer this Psalm as well as Psalms 56:0 to the same event,6 whilst we find its position in the collection determined by thoughts and expressions similar to the preceding Psalms. Comp. Psalms 34:15 with Psalms 33:18; furthermore the blessedness Psalms 34:8 b with Psalms 33:12; Psalms 32:1-2; finally Psalms 34:11 with Psalms 32:8.—For the use of this Psalm at the Communion in the ancient Church, on account of Psalms 34:8 a, comp. Const. apost. VIII. 13; Cyrill. cat. myst. V. 17.

Psalms 34:2. The sufferer.—The ánavim are the pious (Hitzig) who have learned the disposition of the sufferer in the school of sorrow (Delitzsch), and therefore may likewise be designated as the meek (Hengst.). This reference disappears in the translation: miserable (Luther), or distressed (Hupf.), which can be applied better to ăniyyim, and used in Psalms 34:6.

Psalms 34:4. Cod. Alex, of the Sept., which is followed by all Latin Psalteries, has θλίψεών μου, the Cod. Vat. however παροικιῶν μου = those who dwell around me, by which some have understood, enemies, dangers, troubles. Symmach. has similarly συστάσεών μου.

Psalms 34:5. They looked unto Him and became bright, and their faces needed not to blush.—The subject is not to be taken directly from Psalms 34:2, but to be derived from the context as in Psalms 34:17. This parallel example is against (Hupf.) gaining the subject by a relative or a hypothetical construction: those who looked, etc., or, if one look, etc. (Rabbins, Luther, Calvin, De Wette, Delitzsch).—נָהַר usually means, flow together, flow, in Aramaic, however; beam, shine; hence נְהָרָה (Job 3:4) light, day. The latter meaning, as an expression of cheerfulness and joy (Psalms 4:7), applies here (Sept., Chald., Isaki, Aben Ezra, and recent interpreters), as Isaiah 60:5. Luther’s “anlaufen” originates from the first meaning, which is maintained by Kimchi and Geier. The contrast is the face covered with shame. The subjective negation אל is stronger than לֹא.

Psalms 34:6. This distressed one.—Delitzsch translates this, the sorrowful. In this passage Venema, Köster, Hupf., take the singular as used for the plural. Most interpreters, however, refer it to the person of the Psalmist.

Psalms 34:7. The angel of Jehovah.—It is questionable whether this expression is to be taken as collective, and referred to the host of angels, which surrounds the pious, protecting them, Psalms 91:11; 2 Kings 6:17 (Calv., Hupf., Camph.), or whether we are to think of the “angel of the presence,” Isaiah 63:9, the especial mediator of the revelation of Jehovah (most interpreters in all times). In favor of the former view is the predicate “encamped about,” which demands plurality (Aben Ezra), in favor of the latter, the fact that Maleach Jehovah has gained the meaning of a term. techn., and is stamped with a meaning in the Pentateuch itself, which is so often re-echoed in the Psalms. Hence it is, that apparently there is a reference in חנה to Mahanaim, the double camp of the angels, which Jacob beheld with the eye of faith as a fortress of chariots protecting his camp (Genesis 32:2 sq.), and at the head of it we have to think of the angel of Jehovah, according to Genesis 28:13; Genesis 32:25 sq., the prince of the host of Jehovah (Joshua 5:14; comp. 1 Kings 22:19). Since now חנה is not only used of hosts, but likewise of captains, 2 Samuel 12:28 (Hengst.), so the captain might be mentioned here likewise, the host being supplied in thought. We may likewise suppose that this angel, so significant with reference to the history of redemption, is named, in so far as he can afford a protection on all sides, as a spiritual being above the limits of space. In favor of this is particularly Zechariah 9:8.—The Vulgate has not taken the παρεμβαλε͂ι of the Sept. as intransitive, but has translated it by immittet. Since this was obscure, the variation arose which was already rejected by Augustine: immittit anqelum (angelos) dominus.

[Psalms 34:8-9. Taste and see.—Delitzsch: “Tasting, etc. (γεύσασθαι, Hebrews 6:4 sq.; 1 Peter 2:3) stands before seeing; for spiritual experience leads to spiritual knowledge and not conversely. Nisi gustaveris, said Bernard, non videbis. David desires, that others likewise may experience what he has experienced, in order to know what he has known; the goodness of God. Therefore the appeal to the saints to fear Jehovah (יְראוּ for יִרְאוּ in order to distinguish veremini and videbunt, as Joshua 24:14; 1 Samuel 12:24), for he who fears Him, has all things in Him.”—C. A. B.]

Psalms 34:10. Young lions.—Luther after the Sept. has “rich.” Most ancient interpreters, finally, Hengstenberg and Hitzig, think of such rich (Sir 13:19) and mighty enemies (Psalms 35:17). But the usual usage of this figure, which in Jeremiah 2:15 is likewise applied to the heathen, cannot decide anything here, where the clear and comforting thought appears much more significant, if the proper meaning is retained (Kimchi, Calv., Ruding., Maurer,7 Hupf., Delitzsch). Comp. Job 4:10 sq.

[Psalms 34:11. Come children.—Delitzsch: “These are not children in years or understanding, but it is an affectionate address of the Master who is experienced in the ways of God, to all and every one, as Proverbs 1:8, et al.” Similar is the use of τέκνα in the Epistles of John.—C. A. B.]

[Psalms 34:12-14. Hupfeld: “The question, with the following imperatives, is only a lively expression of an antecedent and consequent instead of, He who loves—let him take care, etc. (vid.Psalms 25:12). So 1 Peter 3:10 sq.; James 3:13.—Life is not used in the common external sense, but in the higher sense, of a happy life, prosperity =parallel Good, and ‘way of life,’ ‘tree of life,’ frequent in the Proverbs (vid.Psalms 16:11).—Days = parallel life, or more particularly long life, which in itself was a good in the Old Testament, as a promise of the Law.” Sins of the tongue, in the avoidance of which righteousness of speech consists, which manifests itself in accordance with its nature chiefly negatively. They are here as Psalms 15:2, immediately against their neighbors, yet in general direct themselves likewise against God, comp. Psalms 39:2-4. The Proverbs of all nations are full of this taming and training of the tongue, so likewise the Old Testament. Comp. Psalms 39:2-4; Psalms 141:3; Proverbs 4:24; Proverbs 13:3; Proverbs 21:23; Sir 28:25; James 3:2 sq. Righteousness of act; negatively, in being far from evil, positively in doing good. Both connected likewise, Psalms 37:27 (comp. Isaiah 1:16 sq.; Amos 5:14), and indeed the usual formula; especially the first, as Proverbs 3:7; Job 28:28; Job 1:1; Job 1:8; Job 2:3.—Pursue = aspire after, Psalms 38:21; Proverbs 21:21; Deuteronomy 16:20; Isaiah 51:1.—C. A. B.]

[Psalms 34:15-16. Hupfeld: “The eyes of Jehovah are used as the organ of His gracious care, with אֶל and without a verb entirely like Psalms 33:18. Parallel with this His ears as the organ of hearing their cry for help, their prayer, as Psalms 18:6; Psalms 145:19; comp. the parallel Isaiah 1:15.—In contrast with this is the face of Jehovah, in a bad sense with בְ (as all verbs of hostility): (‘directed) against evil doers,’ = the angry look, the judicial eye of God. (vid.Psalms 21:9.”—C. A. B.]

[Psalms 34:17. They (namely, the righteous) cry.Vid. remarks upon Psalms 34:5. Delitzsch supposes, with Hitzig, that this verse with פ originally stood before the previous one with ע in accordance with the order of Lamentations 2-4. Thus the subject would be in the previous verse. Delitzsch: “With the present order of thought, Psalms 34:19 is formed in the same way as Psalms 34:5 : Clamant et Dominus audit=si qui (quicunque) clamant. It is a crying out of the depths of a soul despairing of itself. Such crying finds a hearing with God, and a hearing which proves itself in the granting.”—C. A. B.]

[Psalms 34:18. Delitzsch: “Broken in heart are those whose selfish, self-seeking life, which revolved about its own personality, has been broken at the root.—Contrite in spirit are those who have been brought down by severe experiences from the false height of proud self-consciousness, and have been led to repentance and thoroughly humbled. To such Jehovah is near, He preserves them from despair, He is ready to erect a new life in them in the ruins of the old, and to cover their infinite deficiency. He makes them as those who are susceptible of it and crave it, participants in His salvation.”—C. A. B.]

Psalms 34:19. Many afflictions.—These are not punishments for their own sins, many of which the righteous man still has, so that he is here reminded of the imperfection of human righteousness and then is referred to the greatness of the Divine mercy (Hengst.). The context demands that we should think of the mortifications, afflictions, snares and persecutions which the righteous have to experience from other men. These are many, but Jehovah delivers out of them all.

Psalms 34:20. Keeping all his bones,—expresses the most particular oversight and care by a figure differing from Matthew 10:30, but with similar import and force. A Christian reader is reminded of its literal fulfilment in the care over the crucified. Yet this is not to be regarded as prophetical, because not a syllable of this Psalm hints at the righteous one in the perfect sense (Isaiah 53:11; Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 9:9; Acts 3:14; Acts 22:14), but rather the absence of the Hebrew article in the context, shows that the singular represents the category, as then the Vulg. after the Sept. has used the plural. For the sake of clearness we therefore translate a righteous man and not the righteous man. Since now John 19:36. expressly states that the facts narrated from Psalm 34:33, took place in fulfilment of Scripture, and besides the title of the righteous one is not used of Christ in connection with this event, the conjecture, that John may have had in view not only, Exodus 12:46, but likewise the present passage (Delitzsch, Hitzig), cannot be supported, although the remark is correct in itself, that not only the paschal lamb but likewise to a certain extent the sufferings of the righteous are typical (Delitzsch).8

Psalms 34:21-22. The emphasis lies upon the word which begins each verse, so that the thought is, evil slayeth the ungodly, whilst Jehovah redeemeth the soul of the righteous=his life, out of all these troubles. In favor of this is likewise the context with Psalms 34:19 sq. and the word רעה=misfortune, evil. If the thought was to be expressed here that wickedness slayeth the wicked (Delitzsch), we would have reason to expect רע which is usual in the Psalms.—אשׁם means not only to become guilty, but likewise to pay the penalty of guilt. Both sides of the idea of guilt flow into one another, and hence arises at times the double sense.


1. Profound piety cannot be satisfied with once thanking God for His benefits, protection, answers to prayer and tokens of grace; it preserves, awakens, and strengthens, the remembrance of them in the soul, so that the desire arises for uninterrupted praise of God, and the thankful man invites his fellow-believers, particularly his fellow-sufferers, to similar experience, and encourages to similar action, whilst he calls them to share his joy and to commune with him in prayer. Thus the example of David in this Psalm of thanksgiving serves “as a general example for all the righteous, that they may learn how God does not despise the cries of His saints.”—(Luther).

2. The proclamation of the sure hearing of prayer, by the mouth of a believer who has experienced it, is as comforting to the afflicted sufferer, as the experience of the quickening enjoyment of the goodness of God is beneficial to the spiritual life, and the promise of the happiness of those who fear God is attractive to those who desire it. The true knowledge of the goodness of God and the seeing, is preceded by personal appropriation or tasting; but this presupposes readiness to bestow, on the part of God, and is conditioned on believing approach and laying hold of, on the part of the needy. The reference to the angel of Jehovah, the Mediator of the history of redemption, before all else encourages to this.

3. No creature, however strong he may be, is able to provide for himself and protect himself; but he who fears God and trusts in Him has no lack of anything. His righteousness does not protect him against afflictions; but the gracious nearness of God comforts him in affliction, and delivers him from all his afflictions; for God makes him free from guilt and punishment. The ungodly, however, perish; for in their misfortune, the punishment of their guilt overtakes them, and death as the wages of sin (Romans 6:23) is their sure and miserable end.

4. The true, that is the only and safe way of life and happiness, is accordingly the trusting exercise of the fear of God for the righteousness, which we are to have shown to us by those who have known it in their own experience, in order that we may fulfil it ourselves. The entire instruction may be comprehended in the clause, depart from evil and do good. But the extent of this prescription is so great, that the first includes bridling of the tongue and the latter seeking and pursuing, that is, the diligent and careful striving after peace, as the good understanding between God and man which is conditioned on good behaviour.


The praise of God 1) as an expression of personal thankfulness, 2) as a means of general edification, 3) as a recognition of the honor due to God.—The fear of God and trust in God do not exclude one another, but are the common foundation of human happiness.—God is near to all men according to His Omnipotence, but only to the pious according to His grace—He who would lack no good thing, must not depend upon any other than God, but upon Him earnestly and constantly.—God allows us to seek Him, and likewise to find Him, and then there is great salvation and joy.—The knowledge of the goodness of God grows with experience, but only personal appropriation by faith helps us.—God’s goodness makes the man happy who finds refuge in Him.—All the help that there is on earth comes from the Lord, whether God sends His angels or uses other means.—The afflictions of the righteous have a different cause and issue from those of the ungodly.—It makes an essential difference, how a man expiates his guilt whether by penitence or punishment.Human wisdom does not help out of real trouble, nor any strength of the creature, but only the grace of the Lord.—The care of God over the righteous, how it encourages us a) to praise God, b) to trust in God, c) to fear God.—We should learn, teach and do the will of God.—God will keep every bone of the pious, they should likewise serve Him with every member.—He who would live free from guilt and from punishment, must take refuge in God as His Redeemer.Life, happiness and peace are good things, desired by all men, properly valued by few, and only found and retained by those who seek God.All men have afflictions, but only the pious have a broken heart and thereby the way to true consolation and constant blessing.

Starke: How many beautiful plans would have failed, if the saints of God had undergone no danger.—To be miserable and yet rejoice and praise God with joyous mouth is foolish to the reason and hard for a troubled heart; nevertheless such a heart cannot and should not withdraw itself from this.—As one light kindles another so a believing heart seeks to awaken others and excite them to the righteous praise of God.—God will be no greater by our praise, we cannot exalt Him in Himself, but we exalt His name in ourselves when we praise Him in all His works and give Him alone the glory.—We must not only look to God, but must likewise run to Him.—Take care and do not wilfully deprive yourselves of the service of the holy angels.—If the ungodly knew how good the Lord is, understood how He alone is the highest good, in whom all blessedness meets—Why! they would make haste and turn to Him.—He who seeks God and finds Him, gains more, than the entire world besides, what should he lack?—Blessed business when we not only come to Christ ourselves, but likewise seek to persuade others, to give ear to the inviting voice of eternal Wisdom.—Children should early be accustomed to godliness, in order that they may not offer to the devil the best blood of their youth and only the residue of age to God. Ah! how many men destroy their peace by their own mouth.—When no one will hear and see the miserable, God sees and hears them; and when no one can overcome the ungodly persecutors, God can subdue and destroy them with an unfavorable look.—Although the pious have many troubles, yet they do not redound to their ruin as to the ungodly, but to their benefit.—The ungodly and those who hate the pious, are accustomed to be white hot and to throw all the blame on the righteous, but it is very different according to the Divine judgment.

Selnekker: The example of the saints when properly considered, works great good in the hearts of the pious and strengthens their faith, hope, prayer and patience.—Schnepf: We have angels to protect us, one of which is mightier than a whole army.—Menzel: It belongs to the doctrine of the cross, that we properly know; 1) upon what persons our Lord lays the cross first and chiefly; 2) why it is, notwithstanding, that He lays the dear cross upon such people in preference to others; 3) how the righteous are accustomed to feel and their experience under their cross; 4) how they act under it, what they should do and what not; 5) what God does to them in return.—Arndt: Our whole life should be nothing but one constant praise and confession of God—to God’s honor and the comfort and improvement of our neighbors.—Roos: Mighty men, who like lions live by prey, must at last suffer hunger and want: but those who seek the Lord will not lack, any good thing.—Guenther: The greatest calamity of our times is, that there are so few broken hearts and contrite spirits.—Taube: We must seek not so much the gift, as the Lord, the Giver.—What a God He is of whom His people can say, With Him we have no fear, no lack, no guilt!—Thym: The cross, the source of inexpressible comfort, 1) where the cross is great there is great comfort from the Lord; 2) where there is great comfort there is great joy in the Lord; 3) where there is great joy there is sure glory with the Lord.

[Matt. Henry: God’s praises sound best in concert, for so we praise Him as the angels do in heaven.—Would we pass comfortably through the world and out of the world, our constant care must be to keep a good conscience.—They that truly repent of what they have done amiss, will warn others to take heed of doing otherwise. Sad is the case of that man who by sin has made his Maker his enemy, and his destroyer.—Parents that are very fond of a child, will not let it be out of their sight; none of God’s children are ever from under His eye, but on them He looks with a singular complacency, as well as with a watchful and tender concern.—There is no rhetoric, nothing charming, in a cry, yet God’s ears are open to it, as the tender mother’s to the cry of her sucking child, which another would take no notice of.—No man is desolate but he whom God has forsaken, nor is any man undone till he is in hell.—Barnes: The most lonely, the most humble, the most obscure, and the poorest child of God, may have near him and around him a retinue and a defence which kings never have when their armies pitch their tents around their palaces, and when a thousand swords would at once be drawn to defend them.—Spurgeon: He who praises God for mercies shall never want a mercy for which to praise.—What a blessing one look at the Lord may be! There is life, liberty, love, everything in fact, in a look at the crucified One. Never did a sore heart look in vain to the good Physician; never a dying soul turned its darkening eye to the brazen serpent to find its virtue gone.—We little know how many providential deliverances we owe to those unseen hands which are charged to bear us up lest we dash our foot against a stone.—Positive virtue promotes negative virtue; he who does good is sure to avoid evil. Salvation is linked with contrition.—Believer, thou shalt never be deserted, forsaken, given up to ruin. God, even thy God, is thy guardian and friend, and bliss is thine.—C. A. B.]


[6][Delitzsch: “Psalms 34:0 is one of the 8 Psalms, which are referred by their titles to the time of the persecution by Saul, and arose in that long way of suffering from Gibeah of Saul to Ziklag, (in about this chronological order; 7, 59, 56, 34, 52, 57, 142, 54.)”—C. A. B.]

[7][Hupfeld: “The hungry lions indicate the need of the creature when left to itself, even of the strongest beast of prey in contrast with the higher protection of the pious.”—C A. B.]

[8][For the meaning of bones, vid. Psalms 6:2.—C. A. B.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 34". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/psalms-34.html. 1857-84.
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