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Psalms 34:1-22

Context
Psalm 34 1 

Written by David, when he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, causing the king to send him away. 2 

34:1 I will praise 3  the Lord at all times;

my mouth will continually praise him. 4 

34:2 I will boast 5  in the Lord;

let the oppressed hear and rejoice! 6 

34:3 Magnify the Lord with me!

Let’s praise 7  his name together!

34:4 I sought the Lord’s help 8  and he answered me;

he delivered me from all my fears.

34:5 Those who look to him for help are happy;

their faces are not ashamed. 9 

34:6 This oppressed man cried out and the Lord heard;

he saved him 10  from all his troubles.

34:7 The Lord’s angel camps around

the Lord’s 11  loyal followers 12  and delivers them. 13 

34:8 Taste 14  and see that the Lord is good!

How blessed 15  is the one 16  who takes shelter in him! 17 

34:9 Remain loyal to 18  the Lord, you chosen people of his, 19 

for his loyal followers 20  lack nothing!

34:10 Even young lions sometimes lack food and are hungry,

but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

34:11 Come children! Listen to me!

I will teach you what it means to fear the Lord. 21 

34:12 Do you want to really live? 22 

Would you love to live a long, happy life? 23 

34:13 Then make sure you don’t speak evil words 24 

or use deceptive speech! 25 

34:14 Turn away from evil and do what is right! 26 

Strive for peace and promote it! 27 

34:15 The Lord pays attention to the godly

and hears their cry for help. 28 

34:16 But the Lord opposes evildoers

and wipes out all memory of them from the earth. 29 

34:17 The godly 30  cry out and the Lord hears;

he saves them from all their troubles. 31 

34:18 The Lord is near the brokenhearted;

he delivers 32  those who are discouraged. 33 

34:19 The godly 34  face many dangers, 35 

but the Lord saves 36  them 37  from each one of them.

34:20 He protects 38  all his bones; 39 

not one of them is broken. 40 

34:21 Evil people self-destruct; 41 

those who hate the godly are punished. 42 

34:22 The Lord rescues his servants; 43 

all who take shelter in him escape punishment. 44 

Psalms 56:1-13

Context
Psalm 56 45 

For the music director; according to the yonath-elem-rechovim style; 46  a prayer 47  of David, written when the Philistines captured him in Gath. 48 

56:1 Have mercy on me, O God, for men are attacking me! 49 

All day long hostile enemies 50  are tormenting me. 51 

56:2 Those who anticipate my defeat 52  attack me all day long.

Indeed, 53  many are fighting against me, O Exalted One. 54 

56:3 When 55  I am afraid,

I trust in you.

56:4 In God – I boast in his promise 56 

in God I trust, I am not afraid.

What can mere men 57  do to me? 58 

56:5 All day long they cause me trouble; 59 

they make a habit of plotting my demise. 60 

56:6 They stalk 61  and lurk; 62 

they watch my every step, 63 

as 64  they prepare to take my life. 65 

56:7 Because they are bent on violence, do not let them escape! 66 

In your anger 67  bring down the nations, 68  O God!

56:8 You keep track of my misery. 69 

Put my tears in your leather container! 70 

Are they not recorded in your scroll? 71 

56:9 My enemies will turn back when I cry out to you for help; 72 

I know that God is on my side. 73 

56:10 In God – I boast in his promise 74 

in the Lord – I boast in his promise 75 

56:11 in God I trust, I am not afraid.

What can mere men 76  do to me? 77 

56:12 I am obligated to fulfill the vows I made to you, O God; 78 

I will give you the thank-offerings you deserve, 79 

56:13 when you deliver 80  my life from death.

You keep my feet from stumbling, 81 

so that I might serve 82  God as I enjoy life. 83 

1 sn Psalm 34. In this song of thanksgiving the psalmist praises God for delivering him from distress. He encourages others to be loyal to the Lord, tells them how to please God, and assures them that the Lord protects his servants. The psalm is an acrostic; vv. 1-21 begin with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. (Verse 6 begins with the letter he (ה) and v. 7 with the letter zayin (ז). The letter vav (ו), which comes between ה and ז, seems to be omitted, although it does appear at the beginning of v. 6b. The final verse of the psalm, which begins with the letter pe (פ), is outside the acrostic scheme.

2 tn Heb “By David, when he changed his sense before Abimelech and he drove him away and he went.”

sn Pretended to be insane. The psalm heading appears to refer to the account in 1 Sam 21:10-15 which tells how David, fearful that King Achish of Gath might kill him, pretended to be insane in hopes that the king would simply send him away. The psalm heading names the king Abimelech, not Achish, suggesting that the tradition is confused on this point. However, perhaps “Abimelech” was a royal title, rather than a proper name. See P. C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50 (WBC), 278.

3 tn Heb “bless.”

4 tn Heb “continually [will] his praise [be] in my mouth.”

5 tn Heb “my soul will boast”; or better, “let my soul boast.” Following the cohortative form in v. 1, it is likely that the prefixed verbal form here is jussive.

6 tn The two prefixed verbal forms in this verse are best taken as jussives, for the psalmist is calling his audience to worship (see v. 3).

7 tn Or “exalt.”

8 tn Heb “I sought the Lord.”

9 tc Heb “they look to him and are radiant and their faces are not ashamed.” The third person plural subject (“they”) is unidentified; there is no antecedent in the Hebrew text. For this reason some prefer to take the perfect verbal forms in the first line as imperatives, “look to him and be radiant” (cf. NEB, NRSV). Some medieval Hebrew mss and other ancient witnesses (Aquila, the Syriac, and Jerome) support an imperatival reading for the first verb. In the second line some (with support from the LXX and Syriac) change “their faces” to “your faces,” which allows one to retain more easily the jussive force of the verb (suggested by the preceding אַל [’al]): “do not let your faces be ashamed.” It is probable that the verbal construction in the second line is rhetorical, expressing the conviction that the action in view cannot or should not happen. See GKC 322 §109.e.

10 tn The pronoun refers back to “this oppressed man,” namely, the psalmist.

11 tn Heb “his”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

12 tn Heb “those who fear him.”

13 tn The prefixed verb with vav (ו) consecutive here carries the same generalizing force as the active participle in the first line. See GKC 329 §111.u.

14 tn This verb is normally used of tasting or savoring food. The metaphor here appears to compare the Lord to a tasty meal.

15 tn The Hebrew noun is an abstract plural. The word often refers metonymically to the happiness that God-given security and prosperity produce (see Pss 1:1, 3; 2:12; 41:1; 65:4; 84:12; 89:15; 106:3; 112:1; 127:5; 128:1; 144:15).

16 tn Heb “man.” The principle of the psalm is certainly applicable to all people, regardless of their gender or age. To facilitate modern application, we translate the gender and age specific “man” with the more neutral “one.”

17 tn “Taking shelter” in the Lord is an idiom for seeking his protection. Seeking his protection presupposes and even demonstrates the subject’s loyalty to the Lord. In the psalms those who “take shelter” in the Lord are contrasted with the wicked and equated with those who love, fear, and serve the Lord (Pss 2:12; 5:11-12; 31:17-20; 34:21-22).

18 tn Heb “fear.”

19 tn Heb “O holy ones of his.”

20 tn Heb “those who fear him.”

21 tn Heb “the fear of the Lord I will teach you.” In vv. 13-14 the psalmist explains to his audience what it means to “fear” the Lord.

22 tn Heb “Who is the man who desires life?” The rhetorical question is used to grab the audience’s attention. “Life” probably refers here to quality of life, not just physical existence or even duration of life. See the following line.

23 tn Heb “[Who] loves days to see good?”

24 tn Heb “guard your tongue from evil.”

25 tn Heb “and your lips from speaking deception.”

26 tn Or “do good.”

27 tn Heb “seek peace and pursue it.”

28 tn Heb “the eyes of the Lord [are] toward the godly, and his ears [are] toward their cry for help.”

29 tn Heb “the face of the Lord [is] against the doers of evil to cut off from the earth memory of them.”

30 tn Heb “they” (i.e., the godly mentioned in v. 15).

31 tn The three perfect verbal forms are taken in a generalizing sense in v. 17 and translated with the present tense (note the generalizing mood of vv. 18-22).

32 tn The Hebrew imperfect verbal form highlights the generalizing statement and draws attention to the fact that the Lord typically delivers the oppressed and needy.

33 tn Heb “the crushed in spirit.”

34 tn The Hebrew text uses the singular form; the representative or typical godly person is envisioned.

35 tn Or “trials.”

36 tn The Hebrew imperfect verbal form highlights the generalizing statement and draws attention to the fact that the Lord typically delivers the godly.

37 tn Heb “him,” agreeing with the singular form in the preceding line.

38 tn The Hebrew participial form suggests such protection is characteristic.

39 tn That is, he protects the godly from physical harm.

40 sn Not one of them is broken. The author of the Gospel of John saw a fulfillment of these words in Jesus’ experience on the cross (see John 19:31-37), for the Roman soldiers, when they saw that Jesus was already dead, did not break his legs as was customarily done to speed the death of crucified individuals. John’s use of the psalm seems strange, for the statement in its original context suggests that the Lord protects the godly from physical harm. Jesus’ legs may have remained unbroken, but he was brutally and unjustly executed by his enemies. John seems to give the statement a literal sense that is foreign to its original literary context by applying a promise of divine protection to a man who was seemingly not saved by God. However, John saw in this incident a foreshadowing of Jesus’ ultimate deliverance and vindication. His unbroken bones were a reminder of God’s commitment to the godly and a sign of things to come. Jesus’ death on the cross was not the end of the story; God vindicated him, as John goes on to explain in the following context (John 19:38-20:18).

41 tn Heb “evil kills the wicked [one].” The singular form is representative; the typical evil person is envisioned. The Hebrew imperfect verbal form draws attention to the typical nature of the action.

42 tn Heb “are guilty,” but the verb is sometimes used metonymically with the meaning “to suffer the consequences of guilt,” the effect being substituted for the cause.

43 tn Heb “redeems the life of his servants.” The Hebrew participial form suggests such deliverance is characteristic.

44 tn “Taking shelter” in the Lord is an idiom for seeking his protection. Seeking his protection presupposes and even demonstrates the subject’s loyalty to the Lord. In the psalms those who “take shelter” in the Lord are contrasted with the wicked and equated with those who love, fear, and serve the Lord (Pss 2:12; 5:11-12; 31:19).

45 sn Psalm 56. Despite the threats of his enemies, the psalmist is confident the Lord will keep his promise to protect and deliver him.

46 tn The literal meaning of this phrase is “silent dove, distant ones.” Perhaps it refers to a particular style of music, a tune title, or a type of musical instrument.

47 tn The precise meaning of the Hebrew word מִכְתָּם (miktam), which also appears in the heading to Pss 16 and 57-60 is uncertain. HALOT 582-83 s.v. defines it as “inscription.”

48 sn According to the superscription, David wrote this psalm when the Philistines seized him and took him to King Achish of Gath (see 1 Sam 21:11-15).

49 tn According to BDB 983 s.v. II שָׁאַף, the verb is derived from שָׁאַף (shaaf, “to trample, crush”) rather than the homonymic verb “pant after.”

50 tn Heb “a fighter.” The singular is collective for his enemies (see vv. 5-6). The Qal of לָחַם (lakham, “fight”) also occurs in Ps 35:1.

51 tn The imperfect verbal form draws attention to the continuing nature of the enemies’ attacks.

52 tn Heb “to those who watch me [with evil intent].” See also Pss 5:8; 27:11; 54:5; 59:10.

53 tn Or “for.”

54 tn Some take the Hebrew term מָרוֹם (marom, “on high; above”) as an adverb modifying the preceding participle and translate, “proudly” (cf. NASB; NIV “in their pride”). The present translation assumes the term is a divine title here. The Lord is pictured as enthroned “on high” in Ps 92:8. (Note the substantival use of the term in Isa 24:4 and see C. A. Briggs and E. G. Briggs (Psalms [ICC], 2:34), who prefer to place the term at the beginning of the next verse.)

55 tn Heb “[in] a day.”

56 tn Heb “in God I boast, his word.” The syntax in the Hebrew text is difficult. (1) The line could be translated, “in God I boast, [in] his word.” Such a translation assumes that the prepositional phrase “in God” goes with the following verb “I boast” (see Ps 44:8) and that “his word” is appositional to “in God” and more specifically identifies the basis for the psalmist’s confidence. God’s “word” is here understood as an assuring promise of protection. Another option (2) is to translate, “in God I will boast [with] a word.” In this case, the “word” is a song of praise. (In this view the pronominal suffix “his” must be omitted as in v. 10.) The present translation reflects yet another option (3): In this case “I praise his word” is a parenthetical statement, with “his word” being the object of the verb. The sentence begun with the prepositional phrase “in God” is then completed in the next line, with the prepositional phrase being repeated after the parenthesis.

57 tn Heb “flesh,” which refers by metonymy to human beings (see v. 11, where “man” is used in this same question), envisioned here as mortal and powerless before God.

58 tn The rhetorical question assumes the answer, “Nothing!” The imperfect is used in a modal sense here, indicating capability or potential.

59 tn Heb “my affairs they disturb.” For other instances of דָּבָר (davar) meaning “affairs, business,” see BDB 183 s.v.. The Piel of עָצַב (’atsav, “to hurt”) occurs only here and in Isa 63:10, where it is used of “grieving” (or “offending”) the Lord’s holy Spirit. Here in Ps 56:5, the verb seems to carry the nuance “disturb, upset,” in the sense of “cause trouble.”

60 tn Heb “against me [are] all their thoughts for harm.”

61 tn The verb is from the root גּוּר (gur), which means “to challenge, attack” in Isa 54:15 and “to stalk” (with hostile intent) in Ps 59:3.

62 tn Or “hide.”

63 tn Heb “my heels.”

64 tn Heb “according to,” in the sense of “inasmuch as; since,” or “when; while.”

65 tn Heb “they wait [for] my life.”

66 tc Heb “because of wickedness, deliverance to them.” As it stands, the MT makes no sense. The negative particle אַיִן (’ayin, “there is not,” which is due to dittography of the immediately preceding אָוֶן, ’aven, “wickedness”), should probably be added before “deliverance” (see BHS, note a). The presence of an imperative in the next line (note “bring down”) suggests that this line should be translated as a prayer as well, “may there not be deliverance to them.”

67 tn Heb “in anger.” The pronoun “your” is supplied in the translation for clarification.

68 tn Or perhaps “people” in a general sense.

69 tn Heb “my wandering you count, you.” The Hebrew term נֹד (nod, “wandering,” derived from the verbal root נוֹד, nod, “to wander”; cf. NASB) here refers to the psalmist’s “changeable circumstances of life” and may be translated “misery.” The verb סָפַר (safar, “count”) probably carries the nuance “assess” here. Cf. NIV “my lament”; NRSV “my tossings.”

70 tn Traditionally “your bottle.” Elsewhere the Hebrew word נֹאד (nod, “leather container”) refers to a container made from animal skin which is used to hold wine or milk (see Josh 9:4, 13; Judg 4:19; 1 Sam 16:20). If such a container is metaphorically in view here, then the psalmist seems to be asking God to store up his tears as a reminder of his suffering.

71 tn The word “recorded” is supplied in the translation for clarification. The rhetorical question assumes a positive response (see the first line of the verse).

72 tn Heb “then my enemies will turn back in the day I cry out.” The Hebrew particle אָז (’az, “then”) is probably used here to draw attention to the following statement.

73 tn Heb “this I know, that God is for me.”

74 tn Heb “in God I praise a word.” The syntax of the Hebrew text is difficult. The statement is similar to that of v. 4, except that the third person pronominal suffix is omitted here, where the text has simply “a word” instead of “his word.” (1) One could translate, “in God I will boast [with] a word.” In this case, the “word” refers to a song of praise. (2) If one assumes that God’s word is in view, as in v. 4, then one option is to translate, “in God I boast, [in] his word.” In this case the prepositional phrase “in God” goes with the following verb “I boast” (see Ps 44:8) and “[his] word” is appositional to “in God” and more specifically identifies the basis for the psalmist’s confidence. God’s “word” is here understood as an assuring promise of protection. (3) The present translation reflects another option: In this case “I praise [his] word” is a parenthetical statement, with “[his] word” being the object of the verb. The sentence begun with the prepositional phrase “in God” is then completed in v. 11, with the prepositional phrase being repeated after the parenthesis.

75 tn The phrase “in the Lord” parallels “in God” in the first line. Once again the psalmist parenthetically remarks “I boast in [his] word” before completing the sentence in v. 11.

76 tn The statement is similar to that of v. 4, except “flesh” is used there instead of “man.”

77 tn The rhetorical question assumes the answer, “Nothing!” The imperfect is used in a modal sense here, indicating capability or potential.

78 tn Heb “upon me, O God, [are] your vows.”

79 tn Heb “I will repay thank-offerings to you.”

80 tn The perfect verbal form is probably future perfect; the psalmist promises to make good on his vows once God has delivered him (see Pss 13:5; 52:9). (2) Another option is to understand the final two verses as being added later, after the Lord intervened on the psalmist’s behalf. In this case one may translate, “for you have delivered.” Other options include taking the perfect as (3) generalizing (“for you deliver”) or (4) rhetorical (“for you will”).

81 tn Heb “are not my feet [kept] from stumbling?” The rhetorical question expects the answer, “Of course they are!” The question has been translated as an affirmation for the sake of clarification of meaning.

82 tn Heb “walk before.” For a helpful discussion of the background and meaning of this Hebrew idiom, see M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, II Kings (AB), 254; cf. the same idiom in 2 Kgs 20:3; Isa 38:3.

83 tn Heb “in the light of life.” The phrase is used here and in Job 33:30.



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