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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the Bible

Psalms 94

Psalms 94:0

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASBNKJVNRSVTEVNJB
The Lord Implored to Avenge His PeopleNo MT IntroGod the Refuge of the RighteousA Prayer for Deliverance From Evil PeopleGod the Judge of AllThe God of Justice
Psalms 94:1-7Psalms 94:1-3Psalms 94:1-3Psalms 94:1-4Psalms 94:1-2
Psalms 94:3-4
Psalms 94:4-7Psalms 94:4-7
Psalms 94:5-7Psalms 94:5-6
Psalms 94:7-8
Psalms 94:8-11Psalms 94:8-11Psalms 94:8-11Psalms 94:8-11
Psalms 94:9-11
Psalms 94:12-16Psalms 94:12-15Psalms 94:12-15Psalms 94:12-15Psalms 94:12-13
Psalms 94:14-15
Psalms 94:16-19Psalms 94:16-23Psalms 94:16-19Psalms 94:16-17
Psalms 94:17-23
Psalms 94:18-19
Psalms 94:20-23 Psalms 94:20-23Psalms 94:20-21
Psalms 94:22-23

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. Notice the number of vocatives that NASB has.

1. O Lord (YHWH), Psalms 94:1, Psalms 94:3, Psalms 94:5, Psalms 94:18

2. God (El) of vengeance (BDB 608), Psalms 94:1 (twice)

3. O Lord (Yah), Psalms 94:12 (cf. Psalms 94:7)

B. Notice the ways YHWH is characterized by name/titles/phrases.

1. God of vengeance, Psalms 94:1

2. Judge of the earth, Psalms 94:2

3. God of Jacob, Psalms 94:7

4. Lord, a stronghold, Psalms 94:22

5. God the rock, Psalms 94:22

6. Lord our Elohim, Psalms 94:23

C. This Psalm cries out for the justice of the covenant God to manifest itself in this world. Evil and wickedness currently prevail but in His own time, God will vindicate (i.e., hold court) the righteous. This Psalm reminds me of Jesus' parable in Matthew 13:24-30. In time, at the right time, God will act so as to bless and receive the righteous but judge and reject the false followers. In both the OT and NT not all apparent followers are faithful followers. There are fakes (cf. Matthew 7:15-27). See SPECIAL TOPIC: APOSTASY (APHISTÇMI).

Verses 1-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 94:1-7 1O Lord, God of vengeance, God of vengeance, shine forth! 2Rise up, O Judge of the earth, Render recompense to the proud. 3How long shall the wicked, O Lord, How long shall the wicked exult? 4They pour forth words, they speak arrogantly; All who do wickedness vaunt themselves. 5They crush Your people, O Lord, And afflict Your heritage. 6They slay the widow and the stranger And murder the orphans. 7They have said, “The Lord does not see, Nor does the God of Jacob pay heed.”

Psalms 94:1-7 This strophe expresses the frustration of a faithful follower when he/she sees the godlessness of those who claim to know God (i.e., other covenant partners, apparently the rich and powerful). They live and act as if there were no God of justice (i.e., practical atheists).

Notice

1. they are proud, Psalms 94:2b

2. they exult, Psalms 94:3b

3. they speak (lit. “pour out,” cf. Psalms 59:7; Proverbs 15:2) arrogantly, Psalms 94:4a (cf. Psalms 31:18; Psalms 75:5)

4. they vaunt themselves, Psalms 94:4b, cf. Psalms 10:3; Psalms 52:1

5. they crush God's faithful followers, Psalms 94:5; Psalms 94:5a (i.e., used of corrupt courts in Job 5:4; Job 22:9; Psalms 10:18; Psalms 72:4; Psalms 74:21; Proverbs 22:22; Isaiah 3:15)

6. they afflict God's heritage, Psalms 94:5b, cf. Psalms 94:14

7. they kill (may be literal or figurative of loss of legal rights)

a. the widow

b. the alien/stranger

c. the orphan (cf. Exodus 22:21-24; Deuteronomy 10:18; Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 26:12-15)

8. they assert that God does not see or care about their actions, Psalms 94:7 (cf. Psalms 10:11; Psalms 59:7; Psalms 64:5; Psalms 73:11; Job 22:13; Isaiah 29:15; Isaiah 47:10; Ezekiel 8:12; Malachi 2:17)

Psalms 94:1-2 There are three prayer requests (imperatives) beseeching God to act.

1. shine forth - BDB 422, KB 424, Hiphil imperative, cf. Psalms 80:1, Psalms 80:3, Psalms 80:7; it is used in the “Blessing of Moses” in Deuteronomy 33:2

2. rise up - BDB 669, KB 724, Niphal imperative; see notes at Psalms 3:7 and Psalms 7:6

3. render recompense (lit. “bring back”) - BDB 996, KB 1427, Hiphil imperative, cf. Deuteronomy 32:41, Deuteronomy 32:43; Isaiah 66:15

Psalms 94:1 “vengeance” This feminine term (BDB 668) is plural. The NASB margin translates it as “avenging acts.” The masculine form appears in Deuteronomy 32:35, Deuteronomy 32:41. Vengeance is what YHWH does when His covenant is violated. Sometimes it relates to His own people (cf. esp. Leviticus 26:0; Deuteronomy 27-32; Jeremiah 5:9, Jeremiah 5:29; Jeremiah 9:9; Micah 5:14), sometimes to pagan nations (cf. Psalms 79:10; Psalms 149:7; Isaiah 59:18; Isaiah 63:4; Nahum 1:3).

Psalms 94:2 “the earth” The Hebrew term has a wide semantic field (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 518-526). Only context can determine its meaning (see Special Topic: Land, Country, Earth). Here it could refer to

1. all the planet (i.e., YHWH is the Judge of all the earth, cf. Genesis 18:25)

2. the Promised Land, YHWH is the Covenant God

Which option depends on who “the wicked” of Psalms 94:3 are.

1. non-Israelites

2. Israelites

I think option #2 fits this Psalm best because they are accused of violating Moses' commands (cf. Psalms 94:6) and then are called “senseless among the people” (cf. Psalms 94:8a). YHWH is the righteous Judge (cf. Genesis 18:25; Judges 11:27; Psalms 7:11; Psalms 50:6; Psalms 75:7; Isaiah 33:22).

Psalms 94:3 “How long. . .” This idiom is a way of asking

1. why has God not acted in justice - Psalms 6:3; Psalms 74:10; Habakkuk 1:2; Zechariah 1:12

2. will God forgive His people - Psalms 13:1; Psalms 79:5; Psalms 80:4; Psalms 90:13; Isaiah 6:11

3. why have the wicked continued their actions - Exodus 10:3; 1 Samuel 1:14; 1 Kings 18:21; Psalms 82:2; Jeremiah 4:14; Jeremiah 12:4; Hosea 8:5; Habakkuk 2:6

Humans do not understand God's thoughts, timing, purposes (cf. Isaiah 55:9-11). This idiom expresses this lack of knowledge by a question format.

Verses 8-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 94:8-11 8Pay heed, you senseless among the people; And when will you understand, stupid ones? 9He who planted the ear, does He not hear? He who formed the eye, does He not see? 10He who chastens the nations, will He not rebuke, Even He who teaches man knowledge? 11The Lord knows the thoughts of man, That they are a mere breath.

Psalms 94:8-11 This strophe shows how senseless it is to think God does not know (Psalms 94:7).

1. Psalms 94:9 asserts God as the creator of the human body (i.e., ear, eyes)

2. Psalms 94:10 asserts God reveals truth to

a. the nations (Psalms 94:10a)

b. all humans (Psalms 94:10b)

The conclusion is that YHWH knows the thoughts, motives, and actions of frail mankind (cf. Psalms 94:11; Psalms 11:4; Psalms 33:13-14; Psalms 66:7; Job 11:11; Job 31:4; Job 34:21-23; Jeremiah 16:17; Jeremiah 32:19; Hosea 7:2; Hebrews 4:13). We are an open book before our creator! The thoughts of those who are not faithful followers (Psalms 94:15) are vain (BDB 210 I, cf. Psalms 94:4-7, Psalms 94:8).

Psalms 94:8 “you senseless” This is a Qal active participle (BDB 129, KB 146), which comes from the root for cattle or beast (BDB 129). The noun is used in parallel to beast in Psalms 73:22. It denotes someone who acts like an animal, without moral restraints. It often denotes idol worshipers (i.e., Jeremiah 10:8).

“rebuke” This verb (BDB 406, KB 410, Hiphil imperfect) is a court term. This entire Psalm is directed to judges who were meant to reflect YHWH but shockingly reflected the fallen world.

There is a sound play between “chasten” (BDB 415) and “rebuke” (BDB 406) that occurs often (cf. Psalms 6:1; Psalms 38:1; Proverbs 9:7; Jeremiah 2:19) and holds humans responsible for His revelations.

Psalms 94:11 Paul quotes this verse in 1 Corinthians 3:20 from the LXX in his discussion of “the wise” in the church at Corinth. Human wisdom is a vain, empty vapor!

YHWH reveals Himself in two ways.

1. natural revelation - Psalms 19:1-6; Romans 1:19-20

2. special revelation - Psalms 19:7-11; Psalms 119:0

Verses 12-16

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 94:12-16 12Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O Lord, And whom You teach out of Your law; 13That You may grant him relief from the days of adversity, Until a pit is dug for the wicked. 14For the Lord will not abandon His people, Nor will He forsake His inheritance. 15For judgment will again be righteous, And all the upright in heart will follow it. 16Who will stand up for me against evildoers? Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness?

Psalms 94:12-16 As Psalms 94:3-7 and 8-9 describe the words and deeds of the wicked, this strophe relates to the faithful followers.

1. they are blessed (characteristic term of Wisdom Literature, see notes at Psalms 1:1) even by YHWH's discipline (cf. Hebrews 12:5-13), Psalms 94:12

2. they are blessed by being taught from YHWH's laws (i.e., Special Revelation, see SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR GOD'S REVELATION and SPECIAL TOPIC: BLESSING [OT]), Psalms 94:12

3. they are granted relief (i.e., inner peace, BDB 1052) from the days of adversity, until the wicked are caught in their own schemes, Psalms 94:12

4. they are not abandoned by YHWH, (cf. Psalms 37:28; 1 Samuel 12:22; Lamentations 3:31), Psalms 94:14

5. they will receive justice and will walk in it, Psalms 94:15

Psalms 94:16 This verse shows the individual nature of this Psalm but it is also a plea for the psalmist's friends to help and support him (possibly in court). It could easily apply to the king! But my problem with this royal possibility is that if it were the king, why not just replace the wicked officialspar

Verses 17-23

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 94:17-23 17If the Lord had not been my help, My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence. 18If I should say, “My foot has slipped,” Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up. 19When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul. 20Can a throne of destruction be allied with You, One which devises mischief by decree? 21They band themselves together against the life of the righteous And condemn the innocent to death. 22But the Lord has been my stronghold, And my God the rock of my refuge. 23He has brought back their wickedness upon them And will destroy them in their evil; The Lord our God will destroy them.

Psalms 94:17-23 This strophe is a series of statements and results.

1. YHWH has been my help, so I will not die, Psalms 94:17

2. when I thought I would fail, YHWH's steadfast covenant love sustained me, Psalms 94:18

3. when I fret, YHWH consoles my soul, Psalms 94:19

4. YHWH has been his stronghold and rock of refuge, Psalms 94:22 (cf. Deuteronomy 32:15; Psalms 18:1-2; Psalms 62:6-7; see notes at Psalms 5:11)

5. YHWH has brought back (same verb in Psalms 94:2) upon the wicked their own evil, Psalms 94:20-21, Psalms 94:23 (#4 and 5 go together)

Psalms 94:17

NASB“in the abode of silence” NKJV, JPSOA“in silence” NRSV, TEV“in the land of silence” NJB“in the silence” LXX“in Hades”

This is imagery for death (cf. Psalms 115:17; i.e., Sheol, see Special Topic: Sheol). Death was seen as a place of consciousness but silence (cf. Psalms 6:5).

Psalms 94:18 “My foot has slipped” In the Bible a person's life is characterized as a path/road/way. Positively the path was smooth, level, straight with no obstruction. Negatively the path was dark, crooked, slippery, with many obstructions.

Psalms 94:20

NASB“a throne of destruction” NKJV“the throne of iniquity” NRSV“wicked rulers” TEV“corrupt judges” NJB“a destructive court” JPSOA“the seat of injustice” LXX“a throne of lawlessness”

The MT has BDB 490 construct BDB 217. BDB 490 means a seat or place of authority or honor for a king, High Priest, or governor. BDB 217, KB 241 means “power,” “splendor,” or “majesty.” This Psalm is a court scene; YHWH is the judge of the earth (Psalms 94:1-2). Psalms 94:16 also reflects a court scene. Verse Psalms 94:20 refers to wicked leaders (i.e., judges). YHWH cannot be associated with wicked leaders (cf. Psalms 94:10-21). The throne, the temple, and the courts must reflect the character of YHWH. When they do not, which is so often the case, only YHWH Himself is a place of safety!

Psalms 94:20 is the affirmation that YHWH will have no part in corrupt legal proceedings. God is light and in Him is no darkness (cf. 1 John 1:5 and no changing, cf. Malachi 3:6; James 1:17).

“One which devises mischief by decree” The participle here is BDB 427, KB 428, Qal. It is used in Psalms 94:9 of YHWH's creative activity in forming the human eye. What a contrast! Humans create mischief; YHWH creates humans!

Psalms 94:21 “life” This is literally nephesh (BDB 659). See note online at Psalms 3:2.

Psalms 94:23 The NASB has “silence” in both Psalms 94:17 and 23, but they are different words in the MT. In Psalms 94:23 (twice) it is “YHWH will annihilate out” (BDB 856, KB 1035, Hiphil imperfect). It occurs twice for emphasis.

Just a grammatical note. Notice that all three verbs in Psalms 94:22 are imperfects, but they are translated into English as a past and two future verbs (NRSV, TEV all three future). Only context can determine the time element of Hebrew verbs.

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. What is the theological problem between Psalms 94:2 and 94:3?

2. Who are “the wicked” of Psalms 94:3?

3. How is Psalms 94:6 like Deuteronomy?

4. Does Psalms 94:10 refer to all humans or Israel?

5. Is Psalms 94:16 a court scene?

6. How many strophes are there in Psalms 94:16-23?

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Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 94". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-94.html. 2021.