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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the Bible

Psalms 27

Psalms 27:0

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
A Psalm of Fearless Trust in God An Exuberant Declaration of Faith An Act of Devotion and a Prayer for Deliverance (Song of Trust) A Prayer Of Praise In God's Company There Is No Fear
MT Intro A Psalm of David.
Psalms 27:1-3 Psalms 27:1-3 Psalms 27:1 Psalms 27:1 Psalms 27:1
Psalms 27:2 Psalms 27:2-3 Psalms 27:2
Psalms 27:3 Psalms 27:3
Psalms 27:4-6 Psalms 27:4-5 Psalms 27:4 Psalms 27:4-6 Psalms 27:4
Psalms 27:5 Psalms 27:5
Psalms 27:6 Psalms 27:6 Psalms 27:6
Psalms 27:6c
Psalms 27:7-10 Psalms 27:7-10 Psalms 27:7-9a Psalms 27:7-9a Psalms 27:7-9a
Psalms 27:9-10 Psalms 27:9-10 Psalms 27:9-10
Psalms 27:11-14 Psalms 27:11-13 Psalms 27:11-12 Psalms 27:11-12 Psalms 27:11-12
Psalms 27:13-14 Psalms 27:13-14 Psalms 27:13-14
Psalms 27:14

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. The theme from Psalms 26:8, Psalms 26:12; Psalms 27:4; and Psalms 28:2 on being in God's house (i.e., tabernacle or temple) may be why these Psalms are placed together. In a sense Psalms 27:0 continues and fulfills the “trust in the Lord without wavering” theme of Psalms 26:1.

B. This psalm has such beautiful parallelism.

C. No one knows for sure the procedural criteria nor the person(s) involved in structuring the Psalter as we know it (and for that matter, the whole OT). It is a faith presupposition that the Spirit guided the editorial and collection process, as He did the writing of Scripture.

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 27:1-3 1The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? 2When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. 3Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall be confident.

Psalms 27:1-3 This psalm characterizes what YHWH is to the psalmist.

1. light BDB 21, i.e., this could refer to:

a. instruction Proverbs 6:23

b. guide Psalms 43:3

c. YHWH's presence Psalms 4:6; Psalms 44:3; Psalms 89:15

d. life and vitality Job 33:28; Psalms 36:10; Micah 7:8, see UBS Handbook p. 261

The concept of “light” was a powerful image in the ancient world. Darkness was to be feared but light was a blessing. The imagery of God as light had several connotations (cf. Isaiah 60:1, Isaiah 60:19-20; Micah 7:8; and John 8:12).

2. salvation BDB 447, this could refer to

a. safety Psalms 12:6; Job 5:4, Job 5:11

b. rescue Psalms 50:23; Psalms 69:14; Psalms 85:7, Psalms 85:9

c. rock of. . . Psalms 95:1

d. horn of. . . Psalms 18:2

3. refuge BDB 731 (i.e., place of safety, cf. Psalms 28:8; Psalms 31:2-3; Psalms 37:39-40; 2 Samuel 22:31-32)

There is no “to be” verb in Psalms 27:1, lines 1 and 3. The other verbs are imperfects (like Psalms 27:3) which speak of ongoing action. Note the contrast with the state of the evildoers/adversaries/enemies in Psalms 27:2. Their status (perfects) is set. They have stumbled and are fallen. The imperfect verbs continue in Psalms 27:3. Life has its trials, problems, incidents, but God is always with us and for us!

What are faithful followers to do in light of the experiences of life in a fallen world?

1. fear not, Psalms 27:1, Psalms 27:3 (BDB 431, KB 432, Qal imperfects)

2. dread not, Psalms 27:1 (BDB 808, KB 922, Qal imperfect, cf. Psalms 118:6; Romans 8:31)

3. be confident, Psalms 27:3; Psalms 27:3 (BDB 105, KB 120, Qal active participle)

True faith is a personal relationship with God, a new worldview, a new lifestyle (cf. Romans 8:31-39)! All of this is possible because of the character and revelation of God. He is with and for us and wants to have a daily personal relationship with us, even in a fallen world with sinful people!!

Psalms 27:2 Notice the different words used to describe the opponents.

1. evildoers, Psalms 27:2; Psalms 27:2 BDB 949, KB 1269, Hiphil participle

2. adversaries, Psalms 27:2, Psalms 27:12 BDB 865 III

3. enemies, Psalms 27:2, Psalms 27:6 BDB 33, KB 38, Qal participle

They are said to have “stumbled” and “fell” (cf. Jeremiah 50:32). Both are Qal perfects. Their fate and judgment are viewed as already having occurred! Their doom is sure!

“to devour my flesh” The TEV has “kill me” and this is the thrust of the idiom (cf. Psalms 14:4). It may imply the evildoers act like wild carnivores!

The RSV thinks it means “to slander” (i.e., “backbiting,” based on Daniel 3:8), but the NRSV uses a more literal translation.

Psalms 27:3 This verse strongly implies that the psalmist is a king. The context of Psalm 1-41 suggests it is David.

Note the word play between “host” (הנחמ, BDB 334) and “encamp” (הנחת, BDB 333). These kinds of sound plays occur often in Hebrew poetry.

Verses 4-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 27:4-6 4One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord And to meditate in His temple. 5For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock. 6And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

Psalms 27:4-6 The psalmist lists a series of prayer requests. Notice the parallel of perfect and imperfect verbs.

1. “I have asked” BDB 981, K 1371, Qal perfect denotes a completed act

2. “I shall seek” BDB 134, KB 152, Piel imperfect denotes an intense continuing prayer life

In interpreting the psalms we must remember that these requests serve two functions.

1. they reflect the heart and mind (i.e., new worldview, cf. Ezekiel 36:22-38) of a faithful follower

2. they contrast and clearly reveal the heart and mind of false followers

Those who oppose God's leaders oppose God! It is not vengeance that is sought, but justice and the revelation of YHWH's character!

Psalms 27:4 Note the fervent requests.

1. I may dwell (Qal infinitive construct) in the house of the Lord all the days of my life (cf. Psalms 23:6)

2. I may behold (Qal infinitive construct, often used of prophet's visions, BDB 302) the beauty (see note below) of the Lord

3. I may meditate (Piel infinitive construct) in His temple

NASB, NKJV, NRSV, JPSOA, NRSV, REB“beauty” NASB Margin“delightfulness” LXX“pleasantness” TEV“goodness” NJB“sweetness”

The Hebrew word (BDB 653) basically means “pleasant,” “delightful.” The noun is used mostly in Proverbs and describes several different things. In the context of the temple it may denote a vision of God or the afterlife. It may be parallel to “goodness” (BDB 375) in verse Psalms 27:13, which also denotes a perfect setting with God.

Here is a sample of the use of this term in Proverbs.

1. noun Proverbs 3:17; Proverbs 15:26; Proverbs 16:21

2. adjective Proverbs 22:18; Proverbs 23:8; Proverbs 24:4

3. verb Proverbs 2:10; Proverbs 9:17; Proverbs 24:25

Psalms 27:5 The results of his prayers are:

1. YHWH will conceal (BDB 860, KB 1049, Qal imperfect) him in His tabernacle (cf. Psalms 76:2) in his day of trouble.

2. YHWH will hide (BDB 711, KB 771, Hiphil imperfect) him in the secret place of His tent.

3. YHWH will lift him up (BDB 926, KB 1202, Polel imperfect) upon a rock (i.e., YHWH Himself).

I wonder if the Jews of old quoted this verse just before

1. the temple fell to Babylon, Egypt, Neo-Babylon

2. Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.) violated the temple

3. the Romans invaded the temple under Titus (a.d. 70)

We must remember that biblical promises have effect only

1. to faithful followers

2. in light of God's larger purposes in history

Psalms 27:6 Because YHWH has responded in such wonderful ways to the psalmist's prayers (i.e., “my head will be lifted up above my enemies”)

1. he will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy (lit. “sacrifices of shouts of joy”; verses such as this imply a verbal sacrifice was used by Jews following the destruction of their temple to simulate the annual sacrifices no longer possible)

2. he will sing praises to YHWH

There are three cohortative verbs in this verse. The psalmist believes he will be in YHWH's presence (i.e., the temple).

1. I will offer a sacrifice BDB 256, KB 261, Qal

2. I will sing BDB 1010, KB 1479, Qal

3. I will sing praises BDB 274, KB 273, Piel

Verses 7-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 27:7-10 7Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, And be gracious to me and answer me. 8When You said, “ Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.” 9Do not hide Your face from me, Do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not abandon me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation! 10For my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the Lord will take me up.

Psalms 27:7-10 Often in the Psalms separate strophes repeat the emphasis or theme of previous strophes. This could be explained as

1. another level of purposeful parallelism

2. the editorial process whereby

a. words

b. themes

c. moods

d. actions

which are similar in sound, meaning, or theology are grouped together by later editors/compilers.

Psalms 27:7 “Hear. . .cry” The first is a Qal imperative (BDB 1033, KB 1570), so common in the Psalms as a way of beseeching God. The second verb, “cry” (BDB 894, KB 1128, Qal imperfect), also denotes prayer. This verse repeats the focus of Psalms 27:4.

The context of the prayer request is

1. be gracious to me BDB 335, KB 334, Qal imperative

2. answer me BDB 772, KB 851, Qal imperative

Psalms 27:8 Notice that NASB and NKJV have an introductory phrase in italics (i.e., “When You said”), which denotes that it is not part of the Hebrew text. The NRSV and NJB translations assume the speaker is the psalmist.

The verb “seek” (BDB 134, KB 152) is repeated

1. first an opening Qal imperative (plural)

2. second a Piel imperfect (singular, the opening verb of Psalms 27:8 is also singular)

These seem to represent a dialogue between YHWH and the psalmist. One calls and the other appropriately responds. The verb “seek” denotes a call to a personal relationship (cf. Psalms 24:6; Deuteronomy 4:29), which denotes worship and obedience. In this Psalm, because of the emphasis on prayer, it may parallel Psalms 27:4 and 7.

“face” This is a Hebrew idiom for close personal contact (cf. Psalms 24:6), where both “seek” and “face” occur together.

Psalms 27:9 There is a series of jussive verbs which denote the things the psalmist asks YHWH not to do.

1. do not hide Your face from me BDB 711, KB 771, Hiphil jussive, cf. Psalms 69:17; Psalms 102:2; Psalms 143:7

2. do not turn away Your servant in anger BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil jussive

3. do not abandon me BDB 643, KB 693, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, cf. Psalms 94:14, unless they cease to be faithful followers (cf. Jeremiah 12:7)

4. do not forsake me BDB 736, KB 806, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

Notice the personal element involved in all these requests!

Psalms 27:10

NASB“for” NKJV“when” NRSV“if” TEV“may” NJB, JPSOA, NRSV, REB“though” NET Bible“even if”

The introductory conjunction (BDB 471-475) has a wide semantical field. Only context can determine meaning. Obviously this context does not allow a clear translation.

“my father and my mother forsake me” This is the same verb which was used in Psalms 27:9. Even though the translation of this phrase is uncertain, the meaning is obvious. One's closest human companions or family may leave but the covenant God will never leave (cf. Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:5; Isaiah 49:15; Hebrews 13:5)!

The UBS Handbook (p. 266) mentions that TEV, NEB, JB take the verse as expressing a theoretical possibility to make a strong literary point, not a real abandonment.

One wonders if this may reflect YHWH's promise to David and his descendants in 2 Samuel 7:0. Possibly Psalms 27:13 relates to 2 Samuel 7:28.

Verses 11-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 27:11-14 11Teach me Your way, O Lord, And lead me in a level path Because of my foes. 12Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries, For false witnesses have risen against me, And such as breathe out violence. 13I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. 14Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.

Psalms 27:11-14 This strophe starts out with more prayer requests (Psalms 27:11-12), moves to a testimony of faith (Psalms 27:13), and concludes with good advice (Psalms 27:14).

Psalms 27:11-12 The prayer requests are

1. teach me Your way BDB 434, KB 436, Hiphil imperative, cf. Psalms 25:4-5; Psalms 86:11

2. lead me in a level path BDB 634, KB 685, Qal imperative, cf. Deuteronomy 5:32-33; Deuteronomy 31:29; Psalms 5:8; Psalms 26:12; Psalms 139:24; this is the OT background for the church being called “The Way,” cf. Acts 9:2; Acts 18:25; Acts 19:9, Acts 19:23; Acts 22:4; Acts 24:14, Acts 24:22; John 14:6

3. do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries BDB 678, KB 733, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

The psalmist gives two reasons for his prayers in this strophe.

1. because of my foes (lit. “those who lie in wait for me”), Psalms 27:11

2. for false witnesses have risen against me, Psalms 27:12

Psalms 27:13 This verse expresses the psalmist's faith (“believed” BDB 52, KB 63, Hiphil perfect) and worldview. He believed there was

1. justice in this life because of the character of YHWH

2. a future life with YHWH in the land of the living (cf. Job 14:7-12, Job 14:13-14; Job 19:25-27; Psalms 16:10; Psalms 49:15; Psalms 73:24; Psalms 116:8-9; Psalms 142:5; Isaiah 25:8; Isaiah 26:19; Isaiah 38:11)

Psalms 27:14 In light of the psalmist's faith and worldview he admonishes others to

1. wait for the Lord BDB 875, KB 1082, Piel imperative, cf. Psalms 25:3; Psalms 37:34; Psalms 40:1; Psalms 62:1, Psalms 62:5; Psalms 130:5; Proverbs 20:22; Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 25:9; Isaiah 33:2

2. be strong BDB 304, KB 302, Qal imperative, cf. Psalms 31:24

3. let your heart take courage BDB 54, KB 65, Hiphil jussive

4. wait for the Lord BDB same as #1

Some scholars (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 439) see Psalms 27:14 as

1. self-admonition (the psalmist)

2. a priestly oracle given at the temple

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. How is “fear” the key word in the first strophe?

2. Psalms 27:2 and Psalms 23:6 sound similar, what does this imagery imply?

3. Is Psalms 27:4-6 about the tabernacle or the temple?

4. Why is Psalms 27:9 so troubling? Does the covenant God abandon His followers?

5. What does Psalms 27:10 mean? Is it literal or figurative?

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Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 27". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-27.html. 2021.