Psalms 33

1You godly ones, shout for joy because of the Lord!
It is appropriate for the morally upright to offer him praise.
2 Give thanks to the Lord with the harp!
Sing to him to the accompaniment of a ten-stringed instrument!
3 Sing to him a new song!
A new song is appropriate because the Lord is constantly intervening in the lives of his people in fresh and exciting ways.

Play skillfully as you shout out your praises to him!
Heb “play skillfully with a loud shout.”

4 For
For the Lord’s decrees are just… After the call to praise (vv. 1–3), the psalmist now gives a series of reasons why the Lord is worthy of praise.
the Lord’s decrees
Heb “word.” In this context, which depicts the Lord as the sovereign creator and ruler of the world, the Lord’s “word” refers to the decrees whereby he governs his dominion.
are just,
Or “upright.”

and everything he does is fair.
Heb “and all his work [is] in faithfulness.”

5 The Lord promotes
Heb “loves.” The verb “loves” is here metonymic; the Lord’s commitment to principles of equity and justice causes him to actively promote these principles as he governs the world.
equity and justice;
the Lord’s faithfulness extends throughout the earth.
Heb “fills the earth.”

6 By the Lord’s decree
Heb “word.”
the heavens were made;
by a mere word from his mouth all the stars in the sky were created.
Heb “and by the breath of his mouth all their host.” The words “were created” are added in the translation for stylistic reasons; they are understood by ellipsis (note “were made” in the preceding line). The description is consistent with Gen 1:16, which indicates that God spoke the heavenly luminaries into existence.

7 He piles up the water of the sea;
Heb “[he] gathers like a pile the waters of the sea.” Some prefer to emend נֵד (ged, “heap, pile”; cf. NASB) to נֹד (nod, “bottle”; cf. NRSV; NIV “into jars”), but “pile” is used elsewhere to describe water that the Lord confines to one place (Exod 15:8; Josh 3:13, 16; Ps 78:13). This verse appears to refer to Gen 1:9, where God decrees that the watery deep be gathered to one place so that dry land might appear. If so, the participles in this and the following line depict this action with special vividness, as if the reader were present on the occasion. Another option is that the participles picture the confinement of the sea to one place as an ongoing divine activity.

he puts the oceans
Or “watery depths.” The form תְּהוֹמוֹת (tehomot, “watery depths”) is the plural form of תְּהוֹם (tehom, “great deep”; see Gen 1:2).
in storehouses.
8 Let the whole earth fear
In this context “fear” probably means “to demonstrate respect for the Lord’s power and authority by worshiping him and obeying his commandments.”
the Lord!
Let all who live in the world stand in awe of him!
9 For he spoke, and it
That is, “all the earth” in the first line of v. 8. The apparent antecedent of the masculine subject of the verbs in v. 9 (note וַיֶּהִי [vayyehiy] and וַיַּעֲמֹד [vayyaamod]) is “earth” or “world,” both of which are feminine nouns. However, כָּל (kol, “all”) may be the antecedent, or the apparent lack of agreement may be explained by the collective nature of the nouns involved here (see GKC 463 #145.e).
came into existence,
he issued the decree,
Heb “he commanded.”
and it stood firm.
10 The Lord frustrates
Heb “breaks” or “destroys.” The Hebrew perfect verbal forms here and in the next line generalize about the Lord’s activity.
the decisions of the nations;
he nullifies the plans
Heb “thoughts.”
of the peoples.
11 The Lord’s decisions stand forever;
his plans abide throughout the ages.
Heb “the thoughts of his heart for generation to generation.” The verb “abides” is supplied in the translation. The Lord’s “decisions” and “plans” here refer to his decrees and purposes.

12 How blessed
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; 2:12; 34:9; 41:1; 65:4; 84:12; 89:15; 106:3; 112:1; 127:5; 128:1; 144:15).
is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people whom he has chosen to be his special possession.
Heb “inheritance.”

13 The Lord watches
The Hebrew perfect verbal forms in v. 13 state general facts.
from heaven;
he sees all people.
Heb “all the sons of men.”

14 From the place where he lives he looks carefully
at all the earth’s inhabitants.
15 He is the one who forms every human heart,
Heb “the one who forms together their heart[s].” “Heart” here refers to human nature, composed of intellect, emotions and will. The precise force of יָחַד (yakhad, “together”) is unclear here. The point seems to be that the Lord is the creator of every human being.

and takes note of all their actions.
16 No king is delivered by his vast army;
a warrior is not saved by his great might.
17 A horse disappoints those who trust in it for victory;
Heb “a lie [is] the horse for victory.”

despite its great strength, it cannot deliver.
18 Look, the Lord takes notice of his loyal followers,
Heb “look, the eye of the Lord [is] toward the ones who fear him.” The expression “the eye…[is] toward” here indicates recognition and the bestowing of favor. See Ps 34:15. The one who fears the Lord respects his sovereignty and obeys his commandments. See Ps 128:1; Prov 14:2.

those who wait for him to demonstrate his faithfulness
Heb “for the ones who wait for his faithfulness.”

19 by saving their lives from death
Heb “to save from death their live[s].”

and sustaining them during times of famine.
Heb “and to keep them alive in famine.”

20 We
Or “our lives.” The suffixed form of נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, “being, life”) is often equivalent to a pronoun in poetic texts.
wait for the Lord;
he is our deliverer
Or “[source of] help.”
and shield.
Or “protector.”

21 For our hearts rejoice in him,
for we trust in his holy name.
May we experience your faithfulness, O Lord
Heb “let your faithfulness, O Lord, be on us.”

Or “just as.”
we wait for you.

Psalm 34

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.

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

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.
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