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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 32

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Introduction

Psalms 32:0

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Blessedness of Forgiveness and of Trust in God The Joy of Forgiveness Thanksgiving For Healing Confession and Forgiveness Candid Admission of Sin
MT Intro “A Psalm of David. A Maskil”
Psalms 32:1-2 Psalms 32:1-2 Psalms 32:1-2 Psalms 32:1-2 Psalms 32:1-2
Psalms 32:3-7 Psalms 32:3-5 Psalms 32:3-4 Psalms 32:3-4 Psalms 32:3-4
Psalms 32:5 Psalms 32:5 Psalms 32:5
Psalms 32:6-7 Psalms 32:6-7 Psalms 32:6-7 Psalms 32:6-7
Psalms 32:8-11 Psalms 32:8-9 Psalms 32:8-9 Psalms 32:8-9 Psalms 32:8
Psalms 32:9
Psalms 32:10-11 Psalms 32:10-11 Psalms 32:10-11 Psalms 32:10
Psalms 32:11

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. Because of the MT introduction many scholars believe this Psalm, like Psalms 51:0, describes David's sin (i.e., sexual encounter with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, cf. 2 Samuel 11:0), cover up (cf. 2 Samuel 12:0), and forgiveness (i.e., although the consequences of his sin destroyed his family). In Romans 4:7-8 Paul quotes Psalms 32:1-2 (LXX) as referring to David.

B. This is surely possible but it may have a wider implication and purpose (cf. plurals of Psalms 32:11). Sin and its consequences are common to all humans (cf. Romans 1:8-18), even covenant humans (cf. Romans 7:0; 1 John 1:5-10).

C. The psalmist's physical problems were the merciful acts of God that would not allow the sinful covenant person to remain in his/her rebellion (cf. Hebrews 12:7-13). There are consequences to sin, thank God, the God of mercy pursues us in spite of them. As sin abounds, grace does much more abound (cf. Romans 5:20).

D. One can tell which concepts, events, and issues are central to a culture by the number of words used to describe it. Obviously Israel was concerned with covenant rebellion (cf. 1 Kings 8:0), as well as its forgiveness. There are many words for sin and rebellion.

E. Psalms 31:0 and Psalms 32:0 may have been placed together by an editor or compiler, because they both discuss the physical result of sin (cf. Psalms 31:9-10; Psalms 32:3-4).

F. The NASB Study Bible (p. 769) gives an interesting theory about the speakers.

1. dialogue between David and YHWH in the tabernacle, Psalms 32:1-2

2. David speaks to YHWH in the hearing of the gathered worshipers, Psalms 32:3-7; Psalms 32:3-7

3. a priest addresses David on YHWH's behalf, Psalms 32:8-10

4. David speaks to the gathered worshipers, Psalms 32:11; Psalms 32:11

G. This Psalm emphasizes

1. the sinfulness of humans

2. the merciful character of God

3. how a sinful human can become acceptable to a holy God (i.e., confession)

Paul's use of Psalms 32:1-2 in Romans 4:0, where he discusses OT examples of “justification by grace through faith” (cf. Romans 3:21-31; Galatians 3:0; Ephesians 2:8-9), reveals the context as an OT example of the theme developed and prioritized in the NT. This is the heart of how one is forgiven, although the mechanism for that forgiveness (i.e., the gospel of Christ) is not mentioned. It still clearly reveals the merciful, gracious availability of YHWH's forgiveness (i.e., “lifted and removed” and “covered”).

If YHWH can forgive David, He can forgive you! Receive it through confession and repentance! Then stand forgiven in the promises!

Verses 1-2

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 32:1-2 1How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! 2How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!

Psalms 32:1 The term “blessed” (BDB 80, cf. Psalms 1:1, is used 26 out of 45 times in Psalms, see Special Topic: Blessed [OT]) is recurrent in Wisdom Literature and describes the faithful followers.

Psalms 32:1. Job 5:17; Psalms 94:12 disciplined by Shaddai

Psalms 32:2. Psalms 1:1 studies and walks in God's word

Psalms 32:3. Psalms 2:12 takes refuge in YHWH

Psalms 32:4. Psalms 32:1-2 sin is forgiven

Psalms 32:5. Psalms 40:4; Psalms 84:12; Proverbs 16:20 trusts in YHWH

6. Psalms 41:1-3; Proverbs 14:21 considers the poor

7. Psalms 84:5 strength is in YHWH

8. Psalms 89:15 know joy and walk in the light of YHWH's countenance

9. Psalms 119:2 seek Him with whole heart, observe His testimony

10. Psalms 112:1; Psalms 128:1 fears YHWH, walks in His ways

1Psalms 32:1. Psalms 146:5 YHWH is his help

1Psalms 32:2. Proverbs 3:13 finds wisdom

1Psalms 32:3. Proverbs 8:32, Proverbs 8:34 listens to YHWH, keeps His ways

1Psalms 32:4. Proverbs 28:14 fears YHWH

1Psalms 32:5. Proverbs 29:18 keeps YHWH's laws

The first two verses of this Psalm from the LXX are quoted by Paul in Romans 4:7-8 in his example of David as a blessed man because his sin was forgiven.

Notice the different words used to describe rebellion against YHWH (cf. Psalms 32:5).

1. transgression BDB 833, KB 981; it denotes an intentional breaking of that which is God's will (i.e., covenant)

2. sin BDB 308, KB 306; it denotes missing (BDB 306) a set target, again not by ignorance but willfully

3. iniquity BDB 730, KB 799; misdeed, guilt (#1,2,3 appear together in Exodus 34:7; Leviticus 16:21; Job 12:23; here; Isaiah 59:12; Ezekiel 21:24; Daniel 9:24)

4. deceit BDB 941, KB 636; means treachery, trickery, fraud (cf. Psalms 52:2; Psalms 101:7; Psalms 120:2-3)

The UBS Handbook mentions that the psalmist purposely alternated masculine, feminine (twice) to show completeness (p. 303).

YHWH's (note the passive participles) forgiveness is described as righteousness given to sinners based on God's mercy and their repentance (this is the theological concept of imputed [cf. BDB 362, KB 359, Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6]).

1. forgiven (lit. “lifted and taken away”) BDB 669, KB 724, Qal passive participle, cf. Exodus 32:32; Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18, Numbers 14:19; Micah 7:18; same word negated in Exodus 23:21; Joshua 24:19; Job 7:21; Isaiah 2:9

2. covered (i.e., puts out of sight, theological concept in Isaiah 38:17; Isaiah 43:25; Micah 7:19) BDB 491, KB 487, Qal passive participle

The result is a person with no deceit/guile (cf. John 1:47). This does not mean sinless, but repentant.

Psalms 32:2 “man” This is the Hebrew word Adam (BDB 9). In the early parts of Genesis (Genesis 1-3) it refers to Adam, the original human creation, but it took on the sense of humanity in general.

Verses 3-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 32:3-7 3When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. 4For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. 5I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “ I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. 6Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him. 7You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.

Psalms 32:3-7 This strophe contrasts two ways to deal with sin.

1. be silent, hide it

a. bones wasted away, cf. Psalms 31:9-10

b. groaning all day long

c. vitality (lit. “juicy,” BDB 545, cf. Numbers 11:8; used here of body fluids) drained away (NET Bible suggests an emendation to “to my destruction,” p. 888 #29)

2. acknowledge, confess

a. YHWH forgives the guilt of sin (cf. Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Psalms 85:2)

b. sense of security returns

c. YHWH is a hiding place again

d. YHWH preserves him from trouble

e. he is surrounded with songs of deliverance

There is a play on YHWH's hand; in judgment it was heavy (Psalms 32:4; Psalms 38:2; Psalms 39:10; Job 23:2) but in confession it protected him (Psalms 32:6-7).

Psalms 32:4, Psalms 32:5, Psalms 32:7 “Selah” See note at Psalms 3:2 and Introduction to Psalms, VII.

Psalms 32:5 “I will confess” The parallelism of lines 1 and 2 demands a rare meaning of the verb (BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense). Usually the verb in Hiphil means “thanksgiving,” but in a few contexts “confess” is the apparent meaning.

1. 1 Kings 8:33, 1 Kings 8:35; 2 Chronicles 6:24, 2 Chronicles 6:26 it denotes “confess YHWH's name”

2. here and in Proverbs 28:13 the context implies “confess sin”

Psalms 32:6 “in a time when You may be found” This ambiguous phrase can be understood in several ways.

1. there is an appointed/appropriate time for repentance (LXX, Vulgate, NKJV)

2. pray in time of need or distress (cf. 2 Chronicles 15:4; emendation cf. NRSV, TEV, NJB)

3. MT has “at a time of finding” (cf. Psalms 103:8-14; Isaiah 55:6). JPSOA translates this as “upon discovering [his sin].”

“in a flood of great waters” Water, raging water, is often used as an idiom of trouble/distress/attack (cf. Psalms 69:1; Psalms 124:5; Psalms 144:7 and most beautifully in Isaiah 43:2).

Psalms 32:7 This refers to the tabernacle/temple. The songs of praise are worship songs or liturgy.

Verses 8-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 32:8-11 8I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. 9Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you. 10Many are the sorrows of the wicked, But he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him. 11Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.

Psalms 32:8-11 The psalmist speaks to himself (and others, Psalms 32:5) on YHWH's behalf. Here is the divine response, Psalms 32:8 (three cohortatives)!

Psalms 32:1. Psalms 32:5, I will confess my transgressions BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense (see fuller note at Psalms 32:5)

Psalms 32:2. Psalms 32:8, I will instruct you BDB 968, KB 1328, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense

I will teach you BDB 434, KB 436, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense

I will counsel you BDB 419, KB 421, Qal cohortative, cf. Psalms 16:7

Psalms 32:8 “in the way” This is an idiom for a godly life (cf. Psalms 1:1; Psalms 25:8-9).

“with My eye upon you” This is an idiom of personal care and presence (cf. Ps. 32:18; Psalms 34:15 [quoted in 1 Peter 3:12]; Job 36:7).

For “eye” used of YHWH see SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN (ANTHROPOMORPHISM).

Psalms 32:9 The person (plural) who will not repent is described in terms of rebellious, domesticated animals (cf. Isaiah 1:2-3). Fallen humanity lives on an animal level characterized by “more and more for me at any cost!”

Again a contrast.

1. the wicked many sorrows

2. the faithful follower (i.e., “he who trusts YHWH”), covenant loyalty and love will surround him (cf. Psalms 32:7b)

“lovingkindness” See SPECIAL TOPIC: LOVINGKINDNESS (HESED).

“shall surround” This verb (BDB 685, KB 738, Poel imperfect) is also used in Psalms 32:7 of songs of deliverance and here of YHWH's lovingkindness (also note Deuteronomy 32:10; the adjective is used in Psalms 34:7; Psalms 125:2). What a wonderful idiom of YHWH's presence and protection!

Psalms 32:11 A series of plural imperatives instructing the faithful follower.

1. be glad BDB 970, KB 1333, Qal imperative

2. rejoice BDB 162, KB 189, Qal imperative

3. shout for joy BDB 943, KB 1247, Hiphil imperative

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. List the physical problems related to unconfessed sin. What does it mean to “confess”?

2. How are Psalms 32:0 and 51 related?

3. Explain what Psalms 32:6a means. Is there a time to confess which may pass (i.e., window of opportunity)?

4. Who is speaking in Psalms 32:8-9?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 32". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-32.html. 2021.
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