Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 7th, 2023
the First Week of Advent
Attention!
StudyLight.org has pledged to help build churches in Uganda. Help us with that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
Psalms 34

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Introduction

Psalms 34:0

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Lord A Provider and Deliverer The Happiness of Those Who Trust in God Thanksgiving For Deliverance From Trouble (An Acrostic) In Praise of God's Goodness In Praise of God's Justice (An Acrostic)
MT Intro A Psalm of David when he feigned madness before Abimelich, who drove him away and he departed.
Psalms 34:1-3 Psalms 34:1-3 Psalms 34:1-3 Psalms 34:1-3 Psalms 34:1 (Aleph)
Psalms 34:2 (Bet)
Psalms 34:3 (Gimel)
Psalms 34:4-7 Psalms 34:4-7 Psalms 34:4-10 Psalms 34:4-7 Psalms 34:4 (Dalet)
Psalms 34:5 (He)
Psalms 34:6 (Zain)
Psalms 34:7 (Het)
Psalms 34:8-14 Psalms 34:8-10 Psalms 34:8-10 Psalms 34:8 (Tet)
Psalms 34:9 (Yod)
Psalms 34:10 (Kaph)
Psalms 34:11-14 Psalms 34:11-14 Psalms 34:11-14 Psalms 34:11 (Lamed)
Psalms 34:12 (Mem)
Psalms 34:13 (Nun)
Psalms 34:14 (Samek)
Psalms 34:15-18 Psalms 34:15-16 Psalms 34:15-18 Psalms 34:15-18 Psalms 34:15 (Ain)
Psalms 34:16 (Pe)
Psalms 34:17-18 Psalms 34:17 (Zade)
Psalms 34:18 (Qoph)
Psalms 34:19-22 Psalms 34:19-22 Psalms 34:19-22 Psalms 34:19-21 Psalms 34:19 (Resh)
Psalms 34:20 (Shin)
Psalms 34:21-22 (Taw)
Psalms 34:22

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. This is an acrostic psalm. Each verse (except Psalms 34:5, which has two Hebrew letters) starts with a sequential letter of the Hebrew alphabet, 22 letters.

It is interesting that if an acrostic poem goes beyond 22 letters the next letter is regularly Pe.

B. There are several examples of the acrostic form.

1. Psalm 9-10 (but not complete, five consonants missing and two reversed)

2. Psalms 25:0 (one consonant missing)

3. Psalms 34:0 (one consonant for each double line [waw missing])

4. Psalms 37:0 (every two verses starts with sequential letters)

5. Psalms 111:0 (one consonant for each line, “Alleluia” is introduction, not first line)

6. Psalms 112:0 (two consonants for each verse)

7. Psalms 119:0 (eight verses for each sequential consonant)

8. Psalms 145:0 (not complete)

C. Notice that YHWH (i.e., Lord) occurs in almost every verse. The Psalm is about YHWH. Humans know Him by

1. His acts (cf. Nehemiah 9:0)

2. His promises (esp. Genesis 12:0; Leviticus 26:0; Deuteronomy 27-30)

3. His covenant (Genesis Deuteronomy)

4. His Son (John 1:1-14; Colossians 1:13-16; Hebrews 1:2-3)

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 34:1-3 1I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2My soul will make its boast in the Lord; The humble will hear it and rejoice. 3O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.

Psalms 34:1-3 This is a strophe of witness. It starts with a singular cohortative and ends with a plural. YHWH is too great and wonderful in character and deed not to be praised!

1. I will bless YHWH BDB 943, KB 1247, Piel cohortative, singular

2. Let us exalt His name BDB 926, KB 1202, Polel cohortative, plural

Notice how the praise is characterized.

1. At all times this is an important reminder that YHWH is to be praised in good or difficult times; He does not change. His mercy is always present! Only our perspective changes. Faith must continue to affirm His presence and praise, cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

2. Continually (BDB 556, cf. Psalms 35:27; Psalms 40:16; Psalms 70:4; Psalms 71:6) in my mouth praise should not depend on personal circumstances but should be a normal activity of the recipients of grace.

3. Praise should rise from all people (i.e., humble, lit. “afflicted,” “poor,” or “weak,” BDB 776). All humans have much to praise God for!

4. Together praise is both individual and corporate (i.e., together, BDB 403), as worship should be. We bring our individual needs to Him as well as our “gathered needs.” Unity and fellowship among faithful followers exhibit praise to God and witness to others!

Psalms 34:2 “boast” The Hebrew verb (BDB 237 II, KB 248, Hithpael imperfect), in the Hithpael means “to boast,” “to exult,” or “to be praised” (cf. 1 Kings 20:11; 1 Chronicles 16:10; Psalms 64:10; Psalms 105:3; Psalms 106:5; Proverbs 20:14; Proverbs 25:14; Proverbs 27:1; Isaiah 41:16; Isaiah 45:25; Jeremiah 9:23).

For the theological concept of “boasting” see SPECIAL TOPIC: BOASTING.

Psalms 34:3 “O magnify the Lord” This verb (BDB 152, KB 178, Piel imperative) is a command to express to God our heart's gratefulness with our praise. Before we succumb to the frailties of life or the difficulties of current situations, we should remind ourselves of

1. who God is

2. what He has done

3. what He is doing

Verses 4-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 34:4-7 4I sought the Lord, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears. 5They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces will never be ashamed. 6This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him And saved him out of all his troubles. 7The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them.

Psalms 34:4-7 This strophe develops the thoughts of the first. Notice how it moves from the singular (i.e., I sought YHWH) to the plural (i.e., they looked to Him), just like the first strophe.

1. For the psalmist, YHWH

a. answered him BDB 772, KB 851, Qal perfect

b. delivered him from all his fears BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil perfect

2. For the group

a. YHWH heard, Psalms 34:6

b. YHWH saved the afflicted

c. YHWH's angel encamped around those who fear Him (cf. Zechariah 9:8; YHWH Himself in Psalms 125:2)

d. YHWH rescued them

3. The LXX, Syrian, Vulgate versions have “look” and “be radiant” as imperatives. The MT has perfects in Psalms 34:5.

Faithful followers are never alone or isolated. Their faithful God is always present and at the ready!

Psalms 34:7 “The angel of the Lord” Angels are servants of the redeemed (cf. Numbers 20:16; Psalms 91:11; Isaiah 63:9; Daniel 3:28; Daniel 6:22; Matthew 18:10; Acts 12:11; Hebrews 1:14).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE ANGEL OF THE LORD

“those who fear Him” This is a Qal active participle (BDB 431, KB 432) which describes faithful followers (cf. Psalms 15:4; Psalms 25:12, Psalms 25:14; Psalms 31:19; Psalms 61:5; Psalms 66:16; Psalms 103:11; Psalms 118:4; Deuteronomy 28:58; Nehemiah 1:11).

SPECIAL TOPIC: FEAR

Verses 8-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 34:8-14 8O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! 9O fear the Lord, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want. 10The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing. 11Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. 12Who is the man who desires life And loves length of days that he may see good? 13Keep your tongue from evil And your lips from speaking deceit. 14Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.

Psalms 34:8-14 Because YHWH is “good” (BDB 373 II), His faithful followers (i.e., saints, BDB 872) are admonished to

1. taste BDB 380, KB 377, Qal imperative, cf. Hebrews 6:5

2. see BDB 406, KB 1157, Qal imperative (quoted by Peter in 1 Peter 2:3 from LXX)

3. take refuge BDB 340, KB 337, Qal imperative

4. fear BDB 431, KB 432, Qal imperative

5,6. come (BDB 229, KB 246, Qal imperative ), listen (BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperative ) to the psalmist teach the fear of YHWH, Psalms 34:11

The results of their actions are

1. there is no want, Psalms 34:9b; Psalms 23:1

2. they will not be in want of any good thing, Psalms 34:10b; Psalms 84:11

3. long life, Psalms 34:12

Here are the psalmist's teachings for a long, happy life.

1. keep your tongue from evil and lips from speaking deceit BDB 665, KB 718, Qal imperative, cf. Psalms 12:3-4; Psalms 15:2-3; Psalms 73:8-9; James 3:5-12

2. depart from evil BDB 693, KB 747, Qal imperative, cf. Psalms 37:27; Isaiah 1:16

3. do good BDB 793, KB 889, Qal imperative, cf. Psalms 37:27; Isaiah 1:17

4. seek peace BDB 134, KB 152, Piel imperative, cf. Mark 9:50; Romans 14:19; 1 Corinthians 7:15; 2 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:13; Hebrews 12:14; James 3:17-18

5. pursue peace BDB 922, KB 1191, Qal imperative, cf. same as #4

Notice the balance between what YHWH does for the faithful follower and what they must do for themselves. There are choices and consequences, both positive and negative (the next strophe is a partial list)!

Peter quotes from this Psalm in 1 Peter 3:0.

1. 1 Peter 3:10 Psalms 34:12, Psalms 34:13

2. 1 Peter 3:11 Psalms 34:14

3. 1 Peter 3:12 Psalms 34:15-16

He sees it fitting into his emphasis of a united fellowship (i.e., “let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit, not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead,” 1 Peter 3:8-9).

Psalms 34:8 “the Lord is good” “Good” (BDB 373 II) is a key word in this strophe (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:15).

1. YHWH is good (adjective), Psalms 34:8, cf. Psalms 25:8; Psalms 86:5; Psalms 100:5; Psalms 106:1; Psalms 107:1; Psalms 118:1, Psalms 118:29; Psalms 145:9; 1 Chronicles 16:34; Ezra 3:11; Jeremiah 33:11; Nahum 1:7

2. those who seek Him will not be in want of any good thing (BDB 481 construct BDB 375), Psalms 34:10, cf. Psalms 84:11

3. fear of YHWH brings a long, good (BDB 373) life, Psalms 34:12

4. depart from evil and do good (BDB 373), Psalms 34:14

5. notice the use of “good” in Romans 8:28

Psalms 34:9

NASB, NKJV“saints” NRSV, NJB“holy ones” TEV“people” JPSOA“consecrated ones” REB“holy people”

The adjective (BDB 872) can denote

1. the Messiah, Psalms 16:3 (as David's ultimate seed)

2. the angels or heavenly counsel, Job 5:1; Job 15:15; Psalms 89:5-6, Psalms 89:7; Daniel 8:13; Zechariah 14:5

3. faithful followers

a. priests Numbers 16:5, Numbers 16:7; Psalms 106:16 (Aaron)

b. Levites 2 Chronicles 35:3

c. prophets 2 Kings 4:9

d. Nazirites Numbers 6:5, Numbers 6:8

e. Israel Exodus 19:6; Leviticus 11:44, Leviticus 11:45; Leviticus 20:7, Leviticus 20:26; Leviticus 21:6; Numbers 15:40; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2, Deuteronomy 14:21; Deuteronomy 26:19; Deuteronomy 28:9

Here it refers to faithful followers.

Psalms 34:10

NASB, NKJV, NRSV, NJB“lions” LXX, PESHITTA“rock” REB“princes” NEB“unbelievers” (from an Arabic root)

The MT has “lions.” The question is “to whom does the imagery refer?” It seems best to contrast them with “the humbled,” “the afflicted,” or “the poor” (BDB 776) of Psalms 34:2 and 6.

Psalms 34:11 “children” This is literally “sons” (BDB 119). In Wisdom Literature the teacher is called “father” and the students “sons” (i.e., Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 4:1, Proverbs 4:10, Proverbs 4:20; Proverbs 6:1, Proverbs 6:20; Proverbs 24:13, Proverbs 24:21).

Verses 15-18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 34:15-18 15The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous And His ears are open to their cry. 16The face of the Lord is against evildoers, To cut off the memory of them from the earth. 17The righteous cry, and the Lord hears And delivers them out of all their troubles. 18The Lord is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalms 34:15-18 This strophe shows the results of godly or godless living.

1. godly

a. YHWH's eyes (presence and care) are toward the righteous, Psalms 34:15a

b. YHWH's ears hear their cry, Psalms 34:15b, Psalms 34:17

c. YHWH delivers them out of all their trouble, Psalms 34:17b

d. YHWH is near to the brokenhearted, Psalms 34:18a

e. YHWH saves those who are crushed in spirit, Psalms 34:18b; Isaiah 57:15

2. godless

a. YHWH's face is against evildoers, Psalms 34:16a

b. their memory is cut off (BDB 503, KB 500, Hiphil infinitive construct), Psalms 34:16b; this imagery refers to death

There are several anthropomorphisms in this strophe using the human body to describe YHWH (see SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS A HUMAN).

1. eyes

2. ears

3. face

Psalms 34:18 “The Lord is near” What a wonderful promise (cf. Deuteronomy 4:7; Psalms 119:151; Psalms 145:18). It is shocking that a holy God wants to fellowship with sinful humans. He seeks us out and pursues us. We were created by Him for fellowship with Him (cf. Genesis 1:26, Genesis 1:27; Genesis 3:8). No matter how bad things get (i.e., “the brokenhearted,” cf. Psalms 147:3; Isaiah 61:1 and “those who are crushed in spirit,” cf. Psalms 51:17; Isaiah 57:15), the Lord is near to faithful followers!

Verses 19-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 34:19-22 19Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all. 20He keeps all his bones, Not one of them is broken. 21Evil shall slay the wicked, And those who hate the righteous will be condemned. 22The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.

Psalms 34:19-22 This strophe continues the emphasis of the previous one, but emphasizing the different outcomes between the godly and godless. The last two strophes are parallelism at a second level.

1. YHWH's actions toward His faithful followers

a. He delivers them from all their many afflictions, Psalms 34:19

b. He keeps all their bones unbroken (i.e., imagery for health), Psalms 34:20

c. He redeems (see SPECIAL TOPIC: RANSOM/REDEEM) His servants, Psalms 34:22a

d. none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned, Psalms 34:22; Psalms 34:22b

2. YHWH's actions toward the unfaithful

a. He shall slay the wicked, Psalms 34:21a (cf. Psalms 34:16)

b. those who hate the righteous will be condemned, Psalms 34:21; Psalms 34:21b

Psalms 34:19 There need to be two points made about this verse.

1. The righteous did/do/will suffer in this fallen world (cf. Psalms 37:39; Psalms 50:15; Daniel 12:1; Matthew 5:10-12; John 15:18-21; John 16:1-3; John 17:14; Acts 14:22; Romans 5:3-4; Romans 8:17, Romans 8:18-23; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 2 Corinthians 6:3-10; 2 Corinthians 11:23-30; Philippians 1:29; 1 Thessalonians 3:3; 2 Timothy 3:12; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 4:12-16).

2. God is with them in and through these afflictions. Sometimes He chooses to miraculously deliver but often He does not (see SPECIAL TOPIC: IS HEALING GOD'S PLAN FOR EVERY AGE?). His presence is our greatest need and promise. He knows what we are going through (cf. Exodus 3:7).

Psalms 34:20 The breaking of a person's bones was an idiom for the judgment of God (cf. Psalms 51:8; Isaiah 38:13; Lamentations 3:4). Therefore, no bones broken was an idiom of no judgment necessary (i.e., a righteous person).

This verse is quoted in John's Gospel (cf. John 19:36, along with Zechariah 12:10 in John 19:37) as a prophetic prediction. I think it is better understood as a typological understanding. Psalms 34:20 is not a prediction about the Messiah's death but about a promise of health and well being to a faithful follower.

Here is the problem, hermeneutical theory asserts that the original intent of the inspired author is the place to begin how to understand a text, in a literary and historical context. This is surely true. But we must allow NT inspired authors the right to use typology. We cannot reproduce their method because we are not inspired, but they were. So, in these cases the NT usage must be valid, but often would have been a surprise to the OT author.

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. Who is “the angel of the Lord”? Where else is he mentioned in the Psalms?

2. How and why is Psalms 34:8 quoted twice in the NT (Hebrews 6:5; 1 Peter 2:3)?

3. Why does the author call his hearers “children”?

4. List the parts of the human body used to describe YHWH in Psalms 34:15-17.

5. What does the Hebrew idiom “keeps all his bones” mean?

6. What are the implications of Psalms 34:19 in a fallen world?

7. What does the word “soul” mean in the OT?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 34". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-34.html. 2021.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile