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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 32

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


A Psalm of David, Maschil.

This psalm is the second of the seven Penitential Psalms, (see introduction to Psalms 6:0,) and is, in some sense, the companion of Psalms 51:0, belonging to the same occasion, with this marked difference the latter was composed in the depths of remorseful agony before pardon; this, after the full consciousness of forgiveness had returned, and peace was again enthroned. Like Psalms 51:0, it is thoroughly evangelical, making no mention of ceremonial forms, (see Psalms 51:16,) but casting the soul directly upon the mercy of God, yet not without the idea and felt need of expiation. It is thus a model for penitents in all ages.

The divisions may be given thus: Psalms 32:1-2, the blessedness of being forgiven. This is grounded in the psalmist’s twofold experience, first, negatively, (Psalms 32:3-4,) while he repressed confession; secondly, positively, (Psalms 32:5-7,) in the personal answer of his prayer when he had fully confessed to God, (Psalms 32:5,) in the encouraging effect it would have on the righteous, (Psalms 32:6,) and in the assurance of hope to himself of future covenant grace, (Psalms 32:7.) Psalms 32:8-9 are an instruction and caution to the wayward, as Psalms 32:10-11 are of encouragement and triumph to the righteous.


Maschil The usage of the verb requires the sense of wisdom, understanding; and the Hiphil participle as here, the sense of causing to understand. It occurs in the titles of thirteen psalms, namely: 32, 42, 44, 45, 52, 53, 54, 55, 74, 78, 88, 89, 142

Verse 1

1. Covered This is the literal signification of the Hebrew word, and is here used synonymously with forgiven, as if, when sin is pardoned, it is hidden, put out of sight; that is, it was without further judicial recognition. In this sense it is equal to כפר , ( kaphar,) to cover, which is the standing word for to atone, to expiate, as Nehemiah 4:5; (compare Hebrews 3:37;) Psalms 85:2. The Hebrews knew of no pardon without atonement. Expiation annihilated guilt, and was the basis of all communion with God. In this case, as David offered no animal sacrifice of expiation, a higher and more prototypical view of the subject must have sustained his faith. See on Psalms 51:16

Verse 2

2. Imputeth not iniquity Quoted by Paul as identical with “imputeth righteousness.” Romans 4:6; Romans 4:8.

Guile Deceit, falsehood. “Iniquity,” in previous line, is used in the sense of guiltiness, liability to punishment. Thus, the spirit the seat of all moral good or evil is expiated of guilt and purged from all deceit. No more evangelical view of atonement, pardon and regeneration are found in Holy Scripture.

Verse 3

3. When I kept silence When I repressed confession of my sin. This David had done for about one whole year, while his grievous backsliding was hid from all but God, the partner of his guilt, and his own soul. Psalms 32:3-4 describe David’s mental sufferings during all this time, while both the guilt and guile just mentioned held their dark dominion. See Proverbs 28:13. The particle “when” might be rendered because Because “I kept silence,” etc., as in Psalms 32:4, “ For, because, day and night,” etc.; but the common version is preferable.

Roaring The word is used for the roaring of lions, or any loud thundering or threatening sound; but here, as in Job 3:24; Psalms 22:1; Psalms 38:8, it means loud moaning, or groaning.

Verse 4

4. For day and night Here is the reason of what is stated in Psalms 32:3. “Day and night” indicates a long continuance of these sufferings, as also that they were unintermitted.

Drought of summer In summer the grass upon the hills and fields of Palestine, except in well watered places, becomes sear and dry by the heat, giving an aspect of barrenness, wholly different from the freshness and verdure of March and April.

Verse 5

5. I acknowledged my sin This evidently dates from the faithful reproof of the prophet Nathan. 2 Samuel 12:13. As the first verb of the verse is in the Hebrew future, ( I will acknowledge, etc.,) and all the others in the past tense, some suppose it to be expressive of a promise made in the past which he now fulfils; and this accords with the second part of the verse, I said, I will confess. But no intimation is elsewhere given of such a promise, and the text indicates that the resolve to “confess” was immediately followed by the confession, and this soon after, and in regular sequence, by pardon. It is better, therefore, to follow the common version, and most interpreters, and explain the verb in the past tense.

Iniquity of my sin Sin has a perverse and polluting effect upon the soul, as well as a penal relation to God’s law. To forgive the “iniquity of sin” is not only to remit its penalty, but to obliterate from mind and character its existence and evil effect.

Verse 6

6. For this Because of this signal answer to prayer, shall every one that is godly be encouraged to pray.

In a time when thou mayest be found Literally, During a time of finding; that is, as long as the time of grace lasts. See Psalms 69:13; Isaiah 49:8; Isaiah 55:6; 2 Corinthians 6:2

Verse 7

7. My hiding place My place of safety. In the previous verse the psalmist mentions the general effect of his great restoration; here he speaks of the enlargement of his personal faith and joy.

Verse 8

8. I will instruct thee The current of modern criticism supposes David to be here speaking. The psalm is a “maschil,” (see on title.) He rebukes those of “no understanding,” (Psalms 32:9,) and this instructive discourse is what he promised after restoration. Psalms 51:13. It is the dictate as well as duty of a renewed heart to teach others the way. See Psalms 34:11; Luke 22:32.

Guide thee with mine eye The marginal reading is better: “I will counsel thee, mine eye shall be upon thee,” meaning, while I undertake the office of tutor and guide, I will exercise toward you the most watchful, accurate, and personal care. But it is often understood of God as speaking, and certainly this gives a very comforting sense.

Verse 9

9. Bit and bridle That is, by harsh and forcible means. A different class is here addressed, and the language and figures are correspondent. They cannot be trusted upon the ground of reasonableness or moral obligation, but must be governed by force or powerful constraints. Proverbs 26:3.

Mouth The Hebrew word almost always means ornament, but it is absurd to force this sense upon it here, as some do. In Psalms 103:5 it means “mouth,” and the whole connexion and imagery of the present text require the same signification here.

Lest they come near unto thee “[Otherwise] they come not near to thee.” The coming “near” is not to be understood as for injury, but for submission and service. “Irrational and obstinate animals do not approach men unless tamed by compulsory means.” Moll. The point of the exhortation is, that we should submit to God, and obey freely from rational conviction, not requiring, as in the case of brute animals, that compulsory force or physical chastisements should be applied. James 3:3

Verses 10-11

10, 11. These verses are a summing up of the whole in the contrast of the conditions and treatment of the righteous and the wicked, and an exhortation to joy and praise by all the upright.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 32". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/psalms-32.html. 1874-1909.
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