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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 32

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2962. B.C. 1042.

This Psalm is properly entitled Maschil, which signifies, giving instruction. For it gives us clear and satisfactory information concerning the most important of all subjects, the nature of true blessedness, and the way that leads to it. Some other Psalms have this title, and most or all of them are of a moral nature, and are designed to convey some salutary advice, and to dispose the mind of the reader to attention and reflection. But this is peculiarly instructive and interesting. The LXX. entitle it, συνεσεως τω Δαυιδ , of the understanding of David, or his return to a right understanding of himself. And it is thought that being awakened to a fresh sense of his sin, in the affair of Uriah, by his son Absalom’s rebellion, he in this Psalm expresses his deep repentance for having so heinously offended God. The Arabic title asserts, that David spoke this prophetically of the redemption of mankind; and the Syriac informs us, that it treats of the sin and fall of Adam, and contains a prophecy of Christ, by whom we are delivered from hell. And St. Paul gives great support to this assertion by his quotation, Romans 4:8 . Though composed on a particular occasion, the Psalm was afterward adapted to public use by the Jewish Church, and was solemnly repeated on the great day of expiation, when the whole nation made a general confession of their sins. Dodd. We have here,

(1,) The happiness of them whose sins are forgiven, Psalms 32:1 , Psalms 32:2 .

(2,) The necessity of confessing our sins, and of prayer, Psalms 32:3-6 .

(3,) God’s promise to them that trust in him, Psalms 32:7-10 .

(4,) An exhortation to rejoice in God, Psalms 32:11 .

Verse 1

Psalms 32:1. Blessed is the man, &c. We are here taught wherein true happiness consists, and what is the cause and foundation of it. It consists not in the possession of the wealth or honours of the world, or in the enjoyment of its pleasures, but in those spiritual blessings which flow from the favour and grace of God; whose transgression is forgiven He does not say, Blessed is the man who never transgressed. For he knew no such man could be found; all having sinned and come short of the glory of God, and consequently of that happiness conferred on man at his first creation. But he lays the foundation of fallen and sinful man’s happiness on the only foundation on which it can be laid, and that is on the pardon of sin. For as all our misery came in by sin, so it is not likely, nay, it is not possible, it should be removed, or even alleviated, without the forgiveness of sin. It is true that, in the first Psalm, David pronounces the man blessed who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, &c., but delights in, and meditates on, God’s law: and that, Psalms 119:1, he terms the undefiled in the way blessed who walk in the law of the Lord. But it must be observed that in these and such like passages he is describing the character of the truly blessed man, and it is certain he that has not that character cannot be happy. But here he is showing the ground of the righteous man’s blessedness, the fundamental privilege from which all the other ingredients of this blessedness flow. Sin is here termed transgression, for it is the transgression of the law, 1 John 3:4; and when it is forgiven, the obligation to punishment which we lay under, by virtue of the sentence of the law: is vacated and cancelled. It is lifted off, as נשׂוי , nasui, may be rendered; so that the pardoned sinner is eased of a burden, a heavy burden which lay on his conscience, and of the weight of which he began to be sensible when he began to be awakened out of his spiritual lethargy, and to be truly convinced of his sinfulness and guilt, and of the sentence of condemnation gone out against him. The remission of his sins gives rest and relief to his weary and heavy-laden soul, Matthew 11:28. Whose sin is covered Namely, by God, and not by man; who ought to confess, and not to hide it, Psalms 32:5. Sin makes us loathsome, filthy, and abominable in the sight of God, and utterly unfit for communion with him; and when our consciences are truly enlightened and awakened, it makes us loathsome and abominable in our own sight. But when it is pardoned, it is covered, as it were, by the mantle of the divine mercy, in and through the sacrifice and intercession of Him who is made of God to believers righteousness; who is the true propitiatory, or mercy-seat, where mercy may be found in a way consistent with justice, Romans 3:24. Our sins, when forgiven, are covered, not from ourselves, no: my sin, says David, is ever before me: not from God’s omniscience, but from his vindictive justice; when he pardons sin he remembers it no more; he casts it behind his back, it shall be sought for, and not found. And the sinner, being reconciled to God, begins to be reconciled to himself. The metaphor, Dr. Dodd thinks, is taken from writers who obliterate what is faulty in their writing.

Verse 2

Psalms 32:2. Unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity Whom God doth not charge with the guilt of his sins, as he justly might, but pardons and accepts him in Christ. And in whose spirit there is no guile Who freely confesses all his sins, without dissembling, is truly sorry for, and sincerely hates them, and turns from sin to God with all his heart.

Verses 3-5

Psalms 32:3-5 . When I kept silence Namely, from a full and open confession of my sins, and from pouring out my soul to God in serious and fervent prayers for pardon and peace. My bones waxed old My spirits failed, and the strength of my body decayed; through my roaring all the day long Because of the continual horrors of my conscience, and sense of God’s wrath, wherewith I was, as yet, rather oppressed and overwhelmed than brought to a thorough repentance. For thy hand was heavy upon me Thy afflicting hand, bringing my sins to remembrance, and filling me with thy terrors for them. My moisture is turned, &c. My very radical moisture is, in a manner, dried up and wasted through excessive fears and sorrows. I said, I will confess my transgressions, &c. At last I took up a full resolution that I would no longer vainly seek to hide my sins from the all-seeing eye of God, but that I would openly and candidly confess and bewail all my sins, with all their aggravations, and humbly implore the pardon of them. Observe, reader, this is the true and only way to find peace of conscience. Those that would have the comfort of the pardon of their sins must, like David, take shame to themselves by a penitent confession of them. And we must be particular in our confessions, Thus and thus have I done; and, in so doing, I have done very wickedly. And we must confess the justice of the punishment, or correction, we have been under for sin, saying, The Lord is just in all that he hath brought upon us, and we deserve much severer chastisement. I am no more worthy to be called thy son. We must confess our sins with shame and holy blushing, with fear and holy trembling. And if we bring forth fruit worthy of this repentance, we shall surely, like David, obtain forgiveness. And thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin That is, the guilt of my sin, or my exceeding sinful sin; two words, signifying the same thing, ( iniquity and sin,) being here put together by way of aggravation, according to the manner of the Hebrews. Observe again, reader: David speaks with confidence that the Lord had forgiven him. He received a sense of pardon, the knowledge of salvation, by the forgiveness of his sins, and so mayest thou: see Luke 1:77. O seek this blessing with all thy heart!

Verse 6

Psalms 32:6. For this That is, upon the encouragement of my example, and of thy great mercy vouchsafed to me, in answer to my humble confession and supplication; shall every one that is godly That is, truly penitent, and dreads thy wrath on account of his past sins, resolving to serve thee for the future; pray unto thee Namely, for the forgiveness of his sins, and for a testimony by thy Spirit in his heart, that thou hast forgiven him, Romans 8:16. In a time when thou mayest be found Hebrew, לעת מצא , legneth metzo, in the time of finding, namely, of finding thee; while there is room for repentance and reconciliation with thee. The Chaldee renders it, In an acceptable time, the Arabic, In a time of hearing. Thus Isaiah, Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near. The meaning is, in a seasonable time, while God continues to offer grace and mercy to sinners. By this clause the psalmist seems to intimate the difference between the truly penitent or godly, who pray and cry earnestly to God for mercy in its season; and the wicked and impenitent, who will not do so till it be too late, and the season be lost. Mark this well, O reader, and see that thou lose no time, but seek the Lord speedily, Zechariah 8:21, lest death cut thee off, and then it will be too late to seek him. Remember, Now is the accepted time, behold, now is the day of salvation. Surely in the floods of great waters That is, in the time of great calamities, which are frequently compared to great waters; they shall not come nigh unto him So as to overwhelm or hurt him. Or, God will set him on a high and safe place, out of the reach of them; as he provided an ark for Noah when the deluge came, to which perhaps he here alludes. Those that have God nigh unto them, which all upright, penitent, praying people have, are so guarded, so advanced, that no waters, no, not great waters, no, not floods of them, can come nigh them to hurt them. As the temptations of the wicked one touch them not, 1 John 5:18, so neither do the troubles of this evil world; these fiery darts of both kinds drop short of them.

Verse 7

Psalms 32:7. Thou art my hiding-place When by faith I have recourse to thee, I see all the reason in the world to be easy, and to think myself out of the reach of any real evil. Thou shalt preserve me from trouble From the sting of it, and from the strokes of it, as far as is good for me. Thou shalt preserve me from such trouble as I was in while I kept silence, and did not confess my sins, and pray for forgiveness, Psalms 32:3. If, when God has pardoned our sins. he were to leave us to ourselves, we should soon relapse into sin, and contract fresh guilt, and thereby plunge ourselves again into the same gulf of distress and misery; therefore, when we have received the comfort of our remission, we must have recourse to the grace of God to be preserved from returning to folly again, and having our hearts again hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. God keeps his people from trouble, by keeping them from sin. Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance With such great deliverances on all sides as will give just occasion to sing thy praise. And my friends, also, shall compass me about in the great congregation, to join with me in songs of praise: they shall join their songs of deliverance with mine.

Verse 8

Psalms 32:8. I will instruct thee Whoever thou art that desirest instruction; and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go That is, in which thou oughtest to walk. Thus, in another of his penitential Psalms, he resolves that when God should restore to him the joy of his salvation, he would teach transgressors his ways, and do what he could to convert sinners to God, as well as comfort those that were converted, Psalms 51:12. Those are best able to teach others the grace of God who have themselves had the experience of it. And those who are themselves taught of God ought to tell others what he hath done for their souls, and so to teach them. I will guide thee with mine eye This may be understood of God’s conduct toward, and direction of, his people. He guides them with his eye, by his clear sight and discernment of the way in which they ought to go, giving them information in his word, and secret intimations of his will and their duty, by his Spirit and the turns of his providence, which he enables his people to understand and take directions from, as a master makes a servant know his mind by the look or motion of his eye. But the words are rather, to be considered as David’s declaration or promise to those who were willing to be directed by him. Poole paraphrases them, “I will lend thee the eyes of my mind: or I will be to thee instead of eyes, (see Numbers 10:31,) to advise, direct, and caution thee. I will guide thee, as the rider doth his horse, (to which the person guided is compared Psalms 32:9,) or as a master doth his scholar, or as a guide doth him who knows not the right way.” Or the words may be rendered, I will give thee counsel, mine eye shall be upon thee: see Genesis 44:21; Jeremiah 24:6; Jeremiah 40:4. I will instruct, admonish, and watch over thee. I will give thee the best counsel I can, and then observe whether thou takest it or not. “Those that are taught in the word,” says Henry, “should be under the constant inspection of those that teach them; spiritual guides must be overseers.”

Verse 9

Psalms 32:9. Be not as the horse, or as the mule God hath endowed you with reason, both to inform you what you ought to do. and to check you when you do amiss, and hath made you capable also of receiving good admonitions from others; do not therefore follow your own unbridled lusts and appetites; much less be refractory and untractable, when God would reduce you from the error of your ways; as if you were not men, but headstrong horses and mules, which can by no means be curbed or governed, without bit and bridle. Houbigant renders the last clause, very properly, Or they will not come near thee; for, as horses and mules are not dangerous beasts, whose common practice it is to kick or bite, the word lest is extremely improper. Nor is it the proper use of a bit, or bridle, to keep them from so doing, but rather to bring them nearer to the rider, for his use, and to keep them under his power and management.

Verse 10

Psalms 32:10. Many sorrows shall be to the wicked This is an argument to enforce the preceding admonition; as if he had said, If any will be refractory or unruly, God hath many ways to curb and chastise them, and bring them to be subject to his will. “They,” says Dr. Horne, “who are not to be reformed by gentler methods, must learn righteousness under the rod of affliction, in the school of the cross; and happy are they if their sorrows may so turn to their advantage. But happier are those who, led by the goodness of God to repentance and faith, enjoy the light and protection of mercy.” For, He that trusteth in the Lord, &c. Who relies upon his providence and promise, for his preservation and deliverance, and commits himself to God’s care and conduct, waiting upon him in his way, and not turning aside to crooked or sinful paths for safety or comfort; mercy shall compass him about Namely, on every side, and preserve him from departing from God on the one hand, and shall prevent any real evil from assaulting him on the other.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 32". Benson's Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/psalms-32.html. 1857.
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