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Wednesday, November 29th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 34

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


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

Dr. Delaney has given it as his opinion that David wrote this Psalm for the instruction of those men who resorted to him at Adullam, after his departure from Gath. It contains, says he, the noblest encouragements to piety and virtue, from an assurance that all such as are so devoted are the immediate care of Almighty God; as all those of a contrary character are his abhorrence, and the sure marks of his vengeance. And, surely, this Psalm, considered in this light, is one of the noblest, the best turned, and best judged, and best adapted compositions that ever was penned. He begins by encouraging them to piety, and gratitude to God from his own example, Psalms 34:1-7 . He then exhorts others to make trial of the same mercies; to learn the goodness of God from their own experiences, Psalms 34:8 , Psalms 34:9 . He then assures them, that strength and magnanimity are no securities from want and distress; whereas trust and confidence in God are a never-failing source of every thing that is good, Psalms 34:10 . After which he sums up all in a most pathetic and beautiful exhortation to piety, to virtue, and to confidence in God; in full assurance that, as he was the guardian and true protector of virtue in distress; so was he the unerring observer and steady avenger of wickedness, Psalms 34:11-22 .

Title. When he changed his behaviour, &c. A Psalm made upon that occasion, though not at that time, when he counterfeited madness. Wherein whether he sinned or not, is matter of dispute; but this is undoubted, that his deliverance deserved this solemn acknowledgment. Abimelech Called Achish, 1 Samuel 21:10. But Abimelech seems to have been the common name of the kings of the Philistines, (Genesis 20:2; Genesis 26:1,) as Pharaoh was of the Egyptians.

Verses 1-2

Psalms 34:1-2. I will bless the Lord at all times I will never forget to bless God for this miraculous deliverance. My soul shall make her boast, &c. Shall glory in this, that I have so powerful and gracious a Lord and Master. The humble shall hear Or the meek, that is, the righteous; and be glad Both from their love to me, and the public good, which they know that I design and seek above all things; and for the comfort and benefit of my example to them, in similar straits and difficulties.

Verse 3

Psalms 34:3. O magnify the Lord with me Join your praises with mine, O ye humble ones. And let us exalt his name together If not in one place, yet in affection and work: let our souls meet, and let our praises meet in the ears of the all-hearing God. Or the word יחדו , jachdav, may be rendered, alike; that is, with equal zeal and fervency; let none be willing to be outstripped by another. To magnify, or exalt, and the like expressions, “do not mean that we can add any thing to the glory of the name or nature of God; but that we should show forth, and publicly celebrate his majesty and greatness, when we experience the interpositions of his providence in our deliverance from any threatening evil. We should then, with the psalmist, ascribe our safety, not to our own contrivance, subtlety, or power, but to the care of God, who watches over us.”

Verses 4-6

Psalms 34:4-6. I sought the Lord, and he heard me David now proceeds to give reasons why God should be praised and glorified; he himself and others had found by experience, that he was a God hearing and answering prayer. He first mentions his own case. God had heard and answered him, and delivered him from all his fears Not only from the death he feared, but from the disquietude he was put into by the fear of it. “This,” says Chandler, “exactly answers to the history, which informs us, that when David heard what the servants of Achish said concerning him, he laid up these words in his heart, and was greatly afraid, 1 Samuel 21:13. Undoubtedly he thought himself in extreme danger, but instead of removing their suspicions, and his own fears, by offering to join with the Philistines against his country, he rather chose to counterfeit madness, and trust Providence with the success of it, than secure his safety by base and dishonourable compliances.” But it may be said, David was a great and eminent man; and we cannot expect to be favoured as he was: Have any others ever experienced the like benefit by prayer? Yes, many besides him. For, They looked unto him Namely, the humble, or they that feared him; they sought and expected help from the Lord, and were lightened Comforted and encouraged. The meaning of the passage, Chandler thinks, is, that the humble looked to God for the psalmist’s protection and received that light, that is, that comfort and joy, from him upon David’s return to safety, which diffused itself through their whole hearts; so that their faces were not ashamed, or, as יחפרו , jechparu, signifies, “were not put to the blush for shame,” by being disappointed as to their hope on his account. But we may, with the ancient interpreters, read these and the foregoing words imperatively, as an exhortation to others; thus, Look unto him That is, with an eye of faith and prayer, and be ye enlightened Take comfort in the expectation of mercy from him. If it be said, “Perhaps these also were persons of great eminence, like David himself, and upon that account were highly favoured, or their numbers made them considerable;” the psalmist replies, This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him A single person, mean and inconsiderable, whom no man looked upon with any respect, or looked after with any concern; yet he was as welcome to the throne of grace as David, or any of his worthies: the Lord heard him, took cognizance of his case, and of his prayers, and saved him out of all his troubles, for God will regard the prayer of the destitute, Psalms 102:17; Isaiah 57:15.

Verse 7

Psalms 34:7. The angel of the Lord, &c. This is another reason why men should praise and glorify God. The singular number is here put for the plural; for the psalmist does not speak of one single angel, but of a guard of angels, as unanimous, however, in their service as if they were but one; Encampeth round about them that fear him As a lifeguard about a prince; and delivereth them Guardeth them from dangers on every side, or rescueth them from them, and from trials and troubles when they are suffered to fall into them: to which work they are appointed by God, Hebrews 1:14. God makes use of the attendance of good spirits, for the protection of his people from the malice and power of evil spirits, and more good offices the holy angels do us daily than we are aware of. Though in dignity and endowments of nature they are very superior to us; though they retain their primitive rectitude, which we have lost; though they have constant employment in the upper world to praise God, and are entitled to constant rest and bliss there; yet, in obedience to their Maker, and in love to those that bear his image, they condescend to minister to the saints, and stand up for them against the powers of darkness. They not only visit them, but encamp round about them, acting for their good as really, though not as sensibly, as for Jacob’s, Genesis 32:1, and Elisha’s, 2 Kings 6:17. All the glory be to the God of the angels!

Verse 8

Psalms 34:8. O taste and see that the Lord is good That is, kind, merciful, and gracious, namely, to all his people. The goodness of God, here spoken of, includes both the amiableness and benevolence of his nature, and the bounty and beneficence of his providence and grace; and, in calling us to taste and see this, the psalmist means that we should seriously, thoroughly, and affectionately consider it, and make trial of it by our own experience; which is opposed to those slight and vanishing thoughts that men usually have of the divine goodness. It is not sufficient that we find him to be a bountiful benefactor to us, but we must relish and take delight in his goodness manifested in and by his gifts, and in the contemplation of his infinite perfections and boundless love; and must be so convinced and persuaded of his goodness, as thereby to be encouraged, in the worst of times, to trust in him, and cast our care upon him.

Verses 9-10

Psalms 34:9-10. O fear the Lord, ye his saints Reverence, serve, and trust in him: for fear is commonly put for all the parts of God’s worship and service. For there is no want to them that fear him They shall so far have all good things, as to have no reason to complain of the want of any. As to the things of the other world, they shall have grace sufficient for the support of the spiritual life. and as to this life they shall have what is necessary for the support of it. For godliness hath the promise of the life that now is, and they that seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, shall have other things, that are needful, added to them, Mat 6:33 ; 1 Timothy 4:8. The young lions do lack, &c. “All the ancient versions,” says Dr. Dodd, “except the Chaldee, read, great, powerful men, instead of young lions: and Houbigant renders the place, rich men are become poor and hungry; but they who seek the Lord, &c. This sense is undoubtedly good: but I see nothing to object against our own reading: for the meaning is, that if God takes care of the beasts of the field, much more will he take care of them who fear him, and much sooner suffer those to die for want of their prey, than these to perish through want of necessaries, or the failure of his protection.” Shall not want any good thing Any thing necessary and truly good for them, all circumstances considered; of which God alone is a competent judge. And, therefore, although he doth usually take special care to supply the wants of good men, and hath often done it by extraordinary ways, when ordinary have failed; yet he knows that wants and crosses are sometimes more necessary for, and will be more useful to them, than those things which they may think needful, and in such cases he manifests greater mercy to them in denying them supplies than in granting them.

Verse 11

Psalms 34:11. Come, ye children, &c. Come hither, then, all ye, who, by considering the advantages described above, which attend true religion, are become desirous of obtaining it, and, therefore, are willing to be instructed; hearken unto me In simplicity and humility of mind, seriously resolved to comply with the divine will as far as it is made known to you; and I will teach you the fear of the Lord The true and acceptable way of worshipping and serving him, so that you may please and glorify him here, and be admitted into his kingdom hereafter.

Verse 12

Psalms 34:12 . What man is he that desireth life A long and happy life, begun in this world and continued for ever in the next: namely, who is he that seriously and in good earnest desires it, so as to be willing to use any endeavours which shall be prescribed to him? for otherwise the question would be needless, there being no man but desires it, at least, coldly and faintly. And loveth many days Hebrew, loveth days to see, that is, in which he may see, or enjoy, good, namely, prosperity and happiness.

Verses 13-14

Psalms 34:13-14. Keep thy tongue from evil From all manner of evil speaking, from all injurious, false, and deceitful speeches; and thy lips from speaking guile Or, guileful words, contrary to truth and sincerity, and the real thoughts and intentions of thy heart, and used with a purpose of deceiving others by them. Depart from evil From all sin, and especially from all wicked, and injurious acts and practices against thy neighbour. And do good Be ready to perform all good and friendly offices to all men, as thou hast opportunity. Seek peace Study, by all possible means, to live peaceably and quietly with all men, avoiding grudges, debates, dissensions, strifes, and enmities; and pursue it Do not only embrace it gladly, when it is offered, but follow hard after it, when it seems to flee away from thee, and use all possible endeavours by fair and kind words, by condescensions, and by the mediation or assistance of others to recover it, and to compose all differences, which may arise between thee and others.

Verses 15-16

Psalms 34:15-16. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous This is added to show that the practice of these duties ( Psa 34:13-14 ) is the true and best, and, indeed, the only way to see that good proposed and promised; both because such righteous persons, howsoever they may meet with affronts and injuries from men, are under the special care of God, signified in this verse, and those who do the evils there forbidden shall find, to their cost, that God is their enemy, Psalms 34:16. The face of the Lord That is, his anger, often called his face, because anger discovers itself in a person’s face; is against them that do evil That commit known sin in any instances, especially in those above mentioned. To cut off the remembrance of them, &c. Utterly to root them out and destroy them, and so to deprive both them and their children of that worldly happiness, which is the only thing that they desire, and seek by their wicked courses.

Verse 18

Psalms 34:18. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart Ready to hear and succour them; though, by the course of his providence toward them, he may sometimes seem to themselves and others to stand afar off. “God is near to all men; for in him they live: but he is near to the broken in heart, in a peculiar sense, as he is ever ready and able to help them; as men are much more capable of assisting those they value, when present with them than when absent from them; from which this form of speech, as applied to God, is taken.” Chandler. And saveth such as be of a contrite spirit Those whose spirits are truly humbled under the hand of God, and the sense of their sins, whose hearts are subdued, and made obedient to God’s will, and submissive to his providence.

Verses 19-20

Psalms 34:19-20. Many are the afflictions of the righteous In the world they may have tribulation, and their afflictions and troubles may be many, (for they must not promise themselves such prosperity as will exempt them from the trial of their faith and patience;) but the Lord delivereth him out of them all That is, in due time, when it will be best for them to be so delivered. And in this they ought to think themselves happy, that God will both support them under their trials, and will also put an end to them when he hath sufficiently proved them thereby. He keepeth all his bones Not only his soul, but his body, and all the parts and members thereof; not one of them is broken God will not suffer any real mischief to befall him; though he may be often afflicted, yet he shall not be destroyed. But these words, though they may be understood of righteous men in general, of whom they are true in a metaphorical sense; yet have a further meaning in them, being designed by the Spirit of God to signify a great mystery, namely, that none of Christ’s bones should be broken when he was put to death, contrary to the usual custom of treating those who were crucified, whose legs were wont to be broken, in order to put them sooner out of their pain. See John 19:32; John 19:36. Dr. Kennicott’s translation of this and the preceding verse renders the application of them to Christ perfectly natural and easy, and is well worth the reader’s attention. It is thus, Many are the afflictions of the Just One; but from them all Jehovah delivereth him: Jehovah keepeth all his bones; not one of them shall be broken. This translation the Hebrew will well bear.

Verse 21

Psalms 34:21. Evil shall slay the wicked Either, 1st, The evil of sin: his own wickedness, though designed against others, shall destroy himself. Or, 2d, The evil of misery. While the afflictions of good men shall have a happy issue, theirs shall end in their total and final destruction. They that hate the righteous shall be desolate That persecute them and plot their ruin, which is an evidence they hate them, whatsoever they may pretend to the contrary. Dr. Kennicott translates this latter clause, The haters of the Just One, Jehovah shall make desolate; a prediction awfully fulfilled in the punishment of the persecutors of the Messiah, one of whose proper titles this was, Acts 3:14.

Verse 22

Psalms 34:22. The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants That is, their lives, or their persons, from the malicious designs of all their enemies, from the power of the grave, and from the sting of every affliction. He keeps them from sinning in their troubles, which is the only thing that could do them a real injury, and keeps them from despair, and from being put out of possession of their own souls. None that trust in him shall be desolate Or, comfortless; for they shall not be cut off from communion with God. And no man is desolate, but he whom God has forsaken, nor is any man undone till he is in hell. Instead of, shall be desolate, in this and the preceding verse, the margin reads, shall be guilty; as the word יאשׁמו , jeshemu, here used, is frequently and properly rendered. Indeed, it includes in it both the idea of guilt and the punishment incurred thereby. Now, they that in the way of true repentance, living faith, and new obedience, trust in the Lord, are both rescued from guilt and the punishment to which it had exposed them. It may not be improper to observe here that, as this is another of the alphabetical Psalms, every verse beginning with a distinct letter of the Hebrew alphabet, except the fifth, which includes two letters; so this verse is a kind of detached sentence, added, as in Psalms 25:0., beyond the alphabet, perhaps in order that the Psalm might end with a promise rather than a threatening. For a similar reason the Jews repeat a verse at the end of some books of the Old Testament.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 34". Benson's Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/psalms-34.html. 1857.
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