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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 71

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Introduction

Psalms 71:0

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Prayer of an Old Man for Deliverance No MT Intro God the Rock of Salvation An Aged Worshiper's Prayer for Deliverance from Personal Enemies The Prayer of An Elderly Person A Prayer of Old Age
Psalms 71:1-6 Psalms 71:1-3 Psalms 71:1-3 Psalms 71:1-3 Psalms 71:1-2
Psalms 71:3-4
Psalms 71:4-6 Psalms 71:4-6 Psalms 71:4-6
Psalms 71:5-6
Psalms 71:7-11 Psalms 71:7-8 Psalms 71:7-11 Psalms 71:7-11 Psalms 71:7-8
Psalms 71:9-11 Psalms 71:9-10
Psalms 71:11-12
Psalms 71:12-16 Psalms 71:12-13 Psalms 71:12-16 Psalms 71:12-16
Psalms 71:13
Psalms 71:14-16 Psalms 71:14-15
Psalms 71:16-17
Psalms 71:17-21 Psalms 71:17-18 Psalms 71:17-18a Psalms 71:17-21
Psalms 71:18a
Psalms 71:18-21 Psalms 71:18-21
Psalms 71:19-21
Psalms 71:22-24 Psalms 71:22-24 Psalms 71:22-24 Psalms 71:22-24 Psalms 71:22-24

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.

Verses 1-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 71:1-6 1In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge; Let me never be ashamed. 2In Your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; Incline Your ear to me and save me. 3Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come; You have given commandment to save me, For You are my rock and my fortress. 4Rescue me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, Out of the grasp of the wrongdoer and ruthless man, 5For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth. 6By You I have been sustained from my birth; You are He who took me from my mother's womb; My praise is continually of You.

Psalms 71:1-6 This opening strophe clearly reveals the mindset of the author. Notice there is no MT introduction. Most commentators assume this is a prayer of an old man (cf. Psalms 71:9, Psalms 71:18) who is being persecuted (cf. Psalms 71:4, Psalms 71:10, Psalms 71:13, Psalms 71:24).

Psalms 71:1 “I have taken refuge” For this verb (BDB 340, KB 337, Qal perfect), see notes at Psalms 71:2 and 5:11-12.

SPECIAL TOPIC: REFUGE

“Let me never be ashamed” This verb (BDB 101, KB 116) is a Qal cohortative.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SHAME (BDB 101, KB 116) IN ITS THEOLOGICAL SENSE

Psalms 71:2 The first two verbs “deliver” (BDB 664, KB 717, cf. Psalms 70:1) and “rescue” (BDB 812, KB 93) are both imperfects that denote ongoing action. A third synonym “save” (BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil imperative) is in Psalms 70:2b.

Notice the basis of the prayer (i.e., two Hiphil imperatives, Psalms 71:2b) is not the psalmist's merits but YHWH's righteousness (cf. Psalms 71:16; see SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS).

“incline Your ear” This verb (BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil imperative) is an anthropomorphic way (see SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS A HUMAN (anthropomorphic language) to entreat God to hear the psalmist's prayer (cf. Psalms 17:6; Psalms 31:2; Psalms 86:1; Psalms 88:2; Psalms 102:2). The first three verses of this Psalm are similar to Psalms 31:1-3.

Psalms 71:3 “Be to me a rock of habitation” The concept of God as a “high impenetrable crag” (BDB 700, i.e., fortress, cf. Psalms 71:3c) is seen in Psalms 18:2; Psalms 31:2-3; Psalms 40:2, which probably alludes to Deuteronomy 32:31, Deuteronomy 32:37.

The concept of “habitation” (BDB 732) denotes a place of dwelling with God (i.e., the temple, cf. Psalms 76:2), similar to Psalms 23:6; Psalms 27:4-6; Psalms 90:1; Psalms 91:9. The prayer for deliverance is much more than just the absence of problems or enemies but the very presence of God (cf. Deuteronomy 33:27).

It is possible that “rock of habitation/dwelling,” מעון could be “rock of refuge,” מעוז (BDB 731, cf. Psalms 31:2). The UBS Text Project (p. 305) gives “dwelling” a “C” rating (considerable doubt).

“You have given commandment to save me” The verb (BDB 845, KB 1010, Piel perfect) is translated as

1. a past command NASB, NKJV, NJB, REB

2. a future or present request JPSOA

The UBS Text Project gives “to come always you have commanded” a “C” rating (i.e., considerable doubt). The NET Bible advocates the UBS's alternate option, “for a fortified house” (RSV, NRSV), following Psalms 31:2. See Special Topic: Salvation (OT).

Psalms 71:4 “Rescue me” In these first four verses several synonyms are used.

1. deliver BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil imperfect, cf. Psalms 7:1; Psalms 39:8; Psalms 51:14; Psalms 71:11

2. rescue BDB 812, KB 930, Piel imperfect, Psalms 71:2; Psalms 71:2; Piel imperative, Psalms 71:4, cf. Psalms 18:48; Psalms 22:4, Psalms 22:8; Psalms 31:1; Psalms 37:40; Psalms 43:1; Psalms 82:4; Psalms 91:14

3. save BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil imperative, Psalms 71:2; Hiphil infinitive construct, Psalms 71:3; Psalms 71:3; used 57 times in the Psalms.

“hand” See SPECIAL TOPIC: HAND

“the wicked” See notes at Psalms 1:5; Psalms 5:10. Notice the three words used here.

1. the wicked BDB 957

2. the wrongdoer BDB 732

3. ruthless man BDB 330 III, KB 329

Psalms 71:5-6 Notice the descriptive terms used to characterize “Adonai YHWH” (“my Lord Lord,” cf. Psalms 71:16).

1. my hope BDB 876, cf. Psalms 39:7; Psalms 62:5; Jeremiah 14:8; Jeremiah 17:13

2. my confidence BDB 105 (see note at Isaiah 30:10 online)

3. my sustainer (lit. I have been supported) BDB 701, KB 759, Niphal perfect, cf. Isaiah 48:2

“from my youth. . .from my birth. . .from my mother's womb” These parallel phrases are an idiomatic way of asserting the psalmist's confidence that God has always been with him and for him (cf. Psalms 22:9-10)! These are used of Israel in Isaiah 46:3.

Psalms 71:6

NASB, NRSV“took me from” NKJV“took me out” JPSOA“support” LXX“shelter”

The MT has “cut” (BDB 159, KB 186, Qal participle), which may be figurative of God cutting the umbilical cord (i.e., intimate association with unborn child, like Psalms 22:9-10; Psalms 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:5).

The other option of “from,” “pull,” or “strength/support” (LXX) involves an emendation.

Verses 7-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 71:7-11 7I have become a marvel to many, For You are my strong refuge. 8My mouth is filled with Your praise And with Your glory all day long. 9Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails. 10For my enemies have spoken against me; And those who watch for my life have consulted together, 11Saying, “God has forsaken him; Pursue and seize him, for there is no one to deliver.”

Psalms 71:7-11 This strophe describes the fears of an aged saint. Apparently his aged condition caused some to question God's presence and care. In Psalms the word “deliver” (BDB 664, KB 717) is used predominately of God's deliverance.

Psalms 71:7

NASB“marvel” NKJV“wonder” NRSV, REB, LXX“potent” TEV, JPSOA“example” NJB“bewildered”

The Hebrew word (BDB 68) means “a wonder,” “a sign,” or “a portent.” BDB sees its use here as unique, referring to “one protected by YHWH,” which would refer to Psalms 71:6.

Psalms 71:8 This verse parallels the closing line of Psalms 71:6. This person's life was characterized by “praise” (BDB 239, cf. Psalms 71:14; Psalms 34:1).

Psalms 71:9 Even though this is a person of faith and praise, old age and the words of his adversaries had caused him to fear and fret (cf. Psalms 71:18).

This fear is expressed in two imperfects used as jussives.

1. do not cast me off BDB 1020, KB 1527, Hiphil imperfect, cf. Psalms 51:11

2. do not forsake me BDB 736, KB 806, Qal imperfect

Psalms 71:10-11 These verses express what the psalmist's enemies are saying (or at least his perception of their thoughts).

1. God has forsaken him BDB 736, KB 806, Qal perfect (permanent situation of rejection)

2. pursue him BDB 922, KB 1191, Qal imperative

3. seize him BDB 1074, KB 1779, Qal imperative

4. for there is no one to deliver him BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil participle

Psalms 3:2 also describes the evil sayings of those who attack God's faithful followers with doubt.

Verses 12-16

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 71:12-16 12O God, do not be far from me; O my God, hasten to my help! 13Let those who are adversaries of my soul be ashamed and consumed; Let them be covered with reproach and dishonor, who seek to injure me. 14But as for me, I will hope continually, And will praise You yet more and more. 15My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness And of Your salvation all day long; For I do not know the sum of them. 16I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone.

Psalms 71:12-16 This strophe has three aspects.

1. the psalmist's prayer for, Psalms 71:12

a. God's presence (lit. “be not far from me”) BDB 934, KB 1221, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, cf. Psalms 22:11, Psalms 22:19

b. God's quick help BDB 301, KB 300, Qal imperative

2. the psalmist's prayers for his enemies' demise, Psalms 71:13

a. be ashamed BDB 101, KB 116, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

b. be consumed BDB 477, KB 476, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

c. be covered with reproach BDB 741, KB 813, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

d. be covered with dishonor same verb assumed from c.

3. the psalmist's steadfast faith, Psalms 71:14-16

a. I will hope continually

b. I will praise. . .more and more

c. I will tell (i.e., in the temple)

(1) of Your righteousness

(2) of Your salvation

(3) of Your mighty deeds

(4) of Your righteousness, Yours alone (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM)

Psalms 71:13 “adversaries” This is a participle (“the ones accusing,” BDB 966, KB 1316) of the term often used of Satan, the arch accuser. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SATAN.

Psalms 71:15 “my mouth will tell” This verb (BDB 707, KB 765, Piel imperfect) is often used in Psalms of proclaiming YHWH's character and deeds in a worship setting (i.e., temple).

1. His wonders Psalms 9:1; Psalms 26:7; Psalms 40:5; Psalms 75:1; Psalms 78:4

2. His praise Psalms 9:14; Psalms 79:13; Psalms 107:21

3. His acts Psalms 66:16; Psalms 118:17; Psalms 145:6, Psalms 145:12

4. His righteousness Psalms 71:15 (cf. Psalms 35:28; Psalms 40:10)

5. His covenant love and faithfulness Psalms 88:11 (cf. Psalms 40:10)

6. His glory Psalms 19:1; Psalms 96:3 (cf. Psalms 145:12)

7. His greatness Psalms 145:6

8. His Messiah Psalms 2:7

9. His name Psalms 22:22; Psalms 102:21

Here in this verse His righteousness and His salvation.

“For I do not know the sum of them This phrase may reflect

1. the same truth as Psalms 40:5; Psalms 139:18, that God's marvelous acts are too numerous to be comprehended

2. the same truth as Job 42:3; Psalms 139:6, that they are beyond human understanding

3. that it means “write” as opposed to “tell” (NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 1288)

Verses 17-21

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 71:17-21 17O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds. 18And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, Until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come. 19For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You? 20You who have shown me many troubles and distresses Will revive me again, And will bring me up again from the depths of the earth. 21May You increase my greatness And turn to comfort me.

Psalms 71:17-21 This strophe continues the central themes of the psalm. It expresses the psalmist's declaration of God's character and the certainty of His mercy. Because of this he will continually tell of God's greatness (i.e., in a temple setting).

Psalms 71:17a The Israelites were instructed by Moses to teach their children about God (cf. Exodus 10:12; Exodus 12:26; Exodus 13:8, Exodus 13:14; Deuteronomy 4:9; Deuteronomy 6:7, Deuteronomy 6:20-25; Deuteronomy 11:19; Deuteronomy 31:13; Deuteronomy 32:46). Effective faith makes the faith of the next generation a priority!

Psalms 71:17b “wondrous deeds” See SPECIAL TOPIC: WONDERFUL THINGS (פלא).

Psalms 71:18 Line 1 is a repeat of Psalms 71:9. Notice that the psalmist senses his message about God will help his generation and generations to come. This is what Scripture is designed to do!

Psalms 71:19reaches to the heavens” This is an idiom denoting the creative and redemptive acts of God which are so great and significant they reach the clouds (cf. Psalms 57:10).

“who is like You?” This is a reference to YHWH's uniqueness in a world of polytheism, henotheism, and animism (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM). This is the essence of Israel's exclusivism!

Psalms 71:20 This is an admission (in OT terms) of the problems all humans face in this fallen world. The theology of the “two ways” (cf. Psalms 1:0; Deuteronomy 30:15, Deuteronomy 30:19) does not explain life (cf. Psalms 37:0; Psalms 73:0; and Job).

“revive. . .bring up” These seem to be idioms of restoration to a vigorous life, not of resurrection. The OT does assert an afterlife (cf. Job 14:14-15; Job 19:25-27; Daniel 12:2), but the context here does not hint of this concept.

“me” It is possible that the plural “us” should be in the text. If so, this is another example of a corporate conclusion to an individual Psalm. It would then parallel Ezekiel 37:0 (i.e., national revitalization).

Verses 22-24

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 71:22-24 22I will also praise You with a harp, Even Your truth, O my God; To You I will sing praises with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. 23My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You; And my soul, which You have redeemed. 24My tongue also will utter Your righteousness all day long; For they are ashamed, for they are humiliated who seek my hurt.

Psalms 71:22-24 The psalmist may have been a Levitical singer (cf. Psalms 71:22). He praises God for His faithfulness/truth (BDB 54, see SPECIAL TOPIC: Believe, Trust, Faith, and Faithfulness in the Old Testament ), but also for the shame and humiliation He brought on his enemies (Psalms 71:24).

“Holy One of Israel” This is a covenant title for YHWH (cf. Psalms 78:41; Psalms 89:18; so often in Isaiah, i.e., Psalms 1:4; 5:24). See SPECIAL TOPIC: HOLY.

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. Why is this Psalm believed to be written by an older person?

2. How is Psalms 71:3 related to Psalms 23:6?

3. How is Psalms 71:5-6 related to Jeremiah 1:5?

4. Define the word “marvel” in Psalms 71:7.

5. Define “ashamed” in Psalms 71:13.

6. Does Psalms 71:19c teach monotheism?

7. Is Psalms 71:20 referring to healing, restoration of vitality, or resurrection?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 71". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-71.html. 2021.
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