Psalms 34

PSALM XXXIV

David praises God, and exhorts others to do the same, 1-3;

shows how he sought the Lord, and how he was found of him, 4-6.

All are exhorted to taste and see the goodness of God; with

the assurance of support and comfort, 7-10.

He shows the way to attain happiness and long life, 11-16;

the privileges of the righteous, and of all who sincerely seek

God, 17-22.

NOTES ON PSALM XXXIV

The title states that this is "A Psalm of David, when he changed

his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he

departed." The history of this transaction may be found in

1Sa 21:10-15, on which chapter see the notes. But

Abimelech is not the person there mentioned; it was Achish, king

of Gath, called here Abimelech, because that was a common name of

the Philistine kings. Neither MS. nor version reads Achish in this

place; and all the versions agree in the title as it stands in our

version, except the Syriac, which states it to be "A Psalm of

David, when he went to the house of the Lord, that he might give

the first-fruits to the priests."

Of the occasion of this Psalm, as stated here, I have given my

opinion in the notes on 1Sa 21:10-15, to which I have nothing to

add. On the whole I prefer the view taken of it by the Septuagint,

which intimates that "David fell into an epileptic fit; that he

frothed at the mouth, fell against the doorposts, and gave such

unequivocal evidences of being subject to epileptic fits, and

during the time his intellect became so much impaired, that Achish

Abimelech dismissed him from his court." This saves the character

of David; and if it cannot be vindicated in this way, then let it

fall under reproach as to this thing; for hypocrisy, deceit, and

falsehood, can never be right in the sight of God, whatever men

may ingeniously say to excuse them.

This is the second of the acrostic or alphabetical Psalms,

each verse beginning with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew

alphabet. But in this Psalm some derangement has taken place. The

verse which begins with vau, and which should come in between

the fifth and sixth, is totally wanting; and the twenty-second

verse is entirely out of the series; it is, however, my opinion

that this verse (the twenty-second) which now begins with phe,

podeh, redeemeth, was originally written vepodeh

or with padah, as more than a hundred of Dr. Kennicott's

MSS. read it, thus making vepodah, "and will redeem" and this

reads admirably in the above connection. I shall here place the

verses at one view, and the reader shall judge for himself:

Ver. 5. "They looked unto him, and were enlightened: and their

faces were not ashamed."

Ver. 22. "AND the Lord will redeem the soul of his servants, and

none of them that trust in him shall be desolate."

Ver. 6. "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved

him out of all his troubles."

Ver. 7. "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that

fear him, and delivereth them."

Thus we find the connection complete, with the above emendation.

Verse 1. I will bless the Lord at all times] He has laid me

under endless obligation to him, and I will praise him while I

have a being.

Verse 2. My soul shall make her boast] Shall set itself to

praise the Lord-shall consider this its chief work.

The humble] anavim, the afflicted, such as David had

been.

Verse 3. Magnify the Lord with me] gaddelu lavhovah,

"make greatness to Jehovah;" show his greatness; and let "us exalt

his name," let us show how high and glorious it is.

Verse 4. I sought the Lord] This is the reason and cause of

his gratitude. I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered

me out of all my fears. This answers to the history; for when

David heard what the servants of Achish said concerning him, "he

laid up the words in his heart, and was greatly afraid,"

1Sa 21:13. To save him, God caused the epileptic fit to seize

him; and, in consequence, he was dismissed by Achish, as one whose

defection from his master, and union with the Philistines, could

be of no use, and thus David's life and honour were preserved. The

reader will see that I proceed on the ground laid down by the

Septuagint. See before, Ps 34:1.

Verse 5. They looked unto him] Instead of hibbitu, they

looked, several of Dr. Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS. have

habbitu, with the point pathach, "Look ye."

And their faces were not ashamed.] Some MSS., and the

Complutensian Polyglot, make this clause the beginning of a new

verse and as it begins with a vau, upheneyhem, "and

their faces," they make it supply the place of the verse which

appears to be lost; but see what is said in the introduction

before the first verse.

Verse 6. This poor man cried] zeh ani, "This afflicted

man," David.

Verse 7. The angel of the Lord encampeth round] I should rather

consider this angel in the light of a watchman going round his

circuit, and having for the objects of his especial care such as

fear the Lord.

Verse 8. O taste and see that the Lord is good] Apply to him by

faith and prayer; plead his promises, he will fulfil them; and you

shall know in consequence, that the Lord is good. God has put it

in the power of every man to know whether the religion of the

Bible be true or false. The promises relative to enjoyments in

this life are the grand tests of Divine revelation. These must be

fulfilled to all them who with deep repentance and true faith turn

unto the Lord, if the revelation which contains them be of God.

Let any man in this spirit approach his Maker, and plead the

promises that are suited to his case, and he will soon know

whether the doctrine be of God. He shall taste, and then see, that

the Lord is good, and that the man is blessed who trusts in him.

This is what is called experimental religion; the living,

operative knowledge that a true believer has that he is passed

from death unto life; that his sins are forgiven him for Christ's

sake, the Spirit himself bearing witness with his spirit that he

is a child of God. And, as long as he is faithful, he carries

about with him the testimony of the Holy Ghost; and he knows that

he is of God, by the Spirit which God has given him.

Verse 9. There is no want to them that fear him.] He who truly

fears God loves him; and he who loves God obeys him, and to

him who fears, loves, and obeys God, there can be no want of

things essential to his happiness, whether spiritual or temporal,

for this life or for that which is to come. This verse is wanting

in the Syriac.

Verse 10. The young lions do lack] Instead of kephirim,

the young lions, one of Kennicott's MSS. has cabbirim,

"powerful men." The Vulgate, Septuagint, AEthiopic, Syriac,

Arabic, and Anglo-Saxon have the same reading. Houbigant

approves of this; and indeed the sense and connection seem to

require it. My old Psalter reads:-The Ryche had nede; and thai

hungerd: but sekand Lard sal noght be lessed of alle gode. That

es, says the paraphrase, with outen lessyng thai sal have God;

that es alle gode; for in God is al gode.

Verse 11. Come, ye children] All ye that are of an humble,

teachable spirit.

I will teach you the fear of the Lord.] I shall introduce the

translation and paraphrase from my old Psalter; and the rather

because I believe there is a reference to that very improper and

unholy method of teaching youth the system of heathen mythology

before they are taught one sound lesson of true divinity, till at

last their minds are imbued with heathenism, and the vicious

conduct of gods, goddesses, and heroes, here very properly called

tyrants, becomes the model of their own; and they are as

heathenish without as they are heathenish within.

Trans. Cummes sones heres me: bred of Lard I sal gou lere.

Par. Cummes with trauth and luf: sones, qwam I gette in haly

lere: heres me. With eres of hert. I sal lere you, noght the

fabyls of poetes; na the storys of tyrauntz; bot the dred of oure

Larde, that wyl bryng thou til the felaghschippe of aungels; and

thar in is lyfe." I need not paraphrase this paraphrase, as it is

plain enough.

Verse 12. What man is he that desireth life] He who wishes to

live long and to live happily, let him act according to the

following directions. For a comment upon this and the four ensuing

verses, see the notes on 1Pe 3:10-12.

Verse 17. The righteous cry] There is no word in the present

Hebrew text for righteous; but all the versions preserve it. I

suppose it was lost through its similitude to the word

tsaaku, they cry tsaaku tsaddikim, the righteous

cry.

Verse 18. A broken heart] nishberey leb, the heart

broken to shivers.

A contrite spirit.] dakkeey ruach, "the beaten-out

spirit." In both words the hammer is necessarily implied; in

breaking to pieces the ore first, and then plating out the metal

when it has been separated from the ore. This will call to the

reader's remembrance Jer 23:29: "Is not my word like as a fire,

saith the Lord? And like a hammer that breaketh the rock in

pieces?" The breaking to shivers, and beating out, are

metaphorical expressions: so are the hammer and the rock. What the

large hammer struck on a rock by a powerful hand would do, so does

the word of the Lord when struck on the sinner's heart by the

power of the Holy Spirit. The broken heart, and the contrite

spirit, are two essential characteristics of true repentance.

Verse 19. Many are the afflictions of the righteous] No

commander would do justice to a brave and skilful soldier, by

refusing him opportunities to put his skill and bravery to proof

by combating with the adversary; or by preventing him from taking

the post of danger when necessity required it. The righteous are

God's soldiers. He suffers them to be tried, and sometimes to

enter into the hottest of the battle and in their victory the

power and influence of the grace of God is shown, as well as their

faithfulness.

Delivereth him out of them all.] He may well combat heartily,

who knows that if he fight in the Lord, he shall necessarily be

the conqueror.

Verse 20. He keepeth all his bones] He takes care of his life;

and if he have scars, they are honourable ones.

Verse 21. Evil shall slay the wicked] The very thing in which

they delight shall become their bane and their ruin.

They that hate the righteous] All persecutors of God's people

shall be followed by the chilling blast of God's displeasure in

this world; and if they repent not, shall perish everlastingly.

Verse 22. The Lord redeemeth] Both the life and soul of God's

followers are ever in danger but God is continually redeeming

both.

Shall be desolate.] Literally, shall be guilty. They shall be

preserved from sin, and neither forfeit life nor soul. This verse

probably should come in after the fifth. See the introduction to

this Psalm.

ANALYSIS OF THE THIRTY-FOURTH PSALM

This Psalm is composed with great art, and this must be attended

to by those who would analyze it. The scope of it is to praise

God, and to instruct in his fear. Its parts are, in general, the

following:-

I. He praises God himself, and calls upon others to follow his

example, Ps 34:1-8.

II. He assumes the office of a teacher, and instructs both young

and old in the fear of the Lord, Ps 34:9-22.

1. He praises God, and expresses himself thus:-1. I will bless

the Lord. 2. His praise shall be in my mouth. 3. It shall be in my

mouth continually. 4. It shall be expressed by a tongue affected

by the heart: "My soul shall make her boast in the Lord." 5. And

so long would he continue it till others should be moved to do the

like: "The humble shall hear thereof, and be glad."

2. Upon which he calls upon others to join with him: "O magnify

the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together." And to

encourage them he proposes his own example: "I sought the Lord,"

&c. Should it be said this was a singular mercy shown to David

which others are not to expect, he in effect replies, No, a mercy

it is, but it belongs to all that seek God: "They looked unto

him," &c. But should not this satisfy, and should they rejoin,

This poor man (David) cried, and the Lord heard him, but David was

in the Divine favour; he may be supposed to reply by this general

maxim: "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear

him;" and be they who they may, if they fear God, this is their

privilege.

II. Now he assumes the chair of the teacher; and the lessons are

two:-

1. That they make a trial of God's goodness: "O taste and see

that the Lord is good."

2. That they become his servants: "O fear ye the Lord, for there

is no want," &c.

And this he illustrates by a comparison: "The young lions (or,

the rich and the powerful) may lack and suffer hunger," but they

that seek the Lord shall not.

These promises and blessings belong only to them that fear the

Lord and lest some should imagine they had this fear, and were

entitled to the promise, he shows them what this fear is.

Ale calls an assembly, and thus addresses them: "Come, ye

children, and hearken unto me and I will teach you the fear of the

Lord." That fear of the Lord which, if a man be desirous of life,

and to see many days, shall satisfy him; and if he be ambitious to

see good, the peace of a quiet soul and a good conscience shall

lodge with him.

1. Let him be sure to take care of his tongue: "keep thy tongue

from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile."

2. Let him act according to justice: "Depart from evil."

3. Let him be charitable, ready to do good works: "Do good."

4. Let him be peaceable; "Seek peace, and pursue it."

These are the characteristics of those who fear the Lord, and

seek him; and they shall want no manner of thing that is good.

It may be objected: The righteous are exposed to afflictions,

&c., and ungodly men have power and prosperity; to which it may be

answered: Afflictions do not make the godly miserable, nor does

prosperity make the wicked happy. 1. As to the righteous, they are

always objects of God's merciful regards: "For the eyes of the

Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their

prayers." But, 2. "The face of the Lord is against those who do

evil," &c.

These points he illustrates:-

1. The righteous cries, and the Lord heareth him, and delivereth

him out of all his troubles; either, 1. By taking them from him

or, 2. By taking him from them.

2. "The Lord is nigh to them that are of a broken heart," &c.

Thus he comforts, confirms and strengthens.

3. Although the afflictions of the righteous are many, yet the

Lord delivers him out of them all; makes him patient, constant,

cheerful in all, superior to all.

4. "He keeps all his bones." He permits him to suffer no

essential hurt.

But as to the ungodly, it is not so with them; the very root of

their perdition is their malice which they show, 1. To God; 2. To

good men.

1. "Evil shall slay the wicked."

2. "And they that hate the righteous shall be desolate."

And then David concludes the Psalm with this excellent

sentiment; Though God may suffer his servants to come into

trouble, yet he delivers them from it. For it belongs to

redemption to free one from misery; for no man can be redeemed who

is under no hardship. This shall be done, says David. The "Lord

redeemeth the souls of his servants, and none of them that trust

in him shall be desolate." The Lord redeems from trouble and

affliction, as well as from sin. He knows how to deliver the

godly from temptation; and he knows how to preserve them in it.

But it is his servants that he redeems, not his enemies. The

servant may confidently look to his master for support.

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