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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Psalms Chapter 31


psa 31:0

Surrender of One Sorely Persecuted into the Hand of God

In Ps 31 the poet also, in ואני אמרתּי (Psa 31:23), looks back upon a previous state of mind, viz., that of conflict, just as in Psa 30:7 upon that of security. And here, also, he makes all the חסידים partakers with him of the healthful fruit of his deliverance (cf. Psa 31:24 with Psa 30:5). But in other respects the situation of the two Psalms is very different. They are both Davidic. Hitzig, however, regards them both as composed by Jeremiah. With reference to Ps 31, which Ewald also ascribes to "Jremj," this view is well worthy of notice. Not only do we find Psa 31:14 recurring in Jeremiah, Jer 20:10, but the whole Psalm, in its language (cf. e.g., Jer 20:10 with Lam 1:20; Psa 31:11 with Jer 20:18; Psa 31:18 with Jer 17:18; Psa 31:23 with Lam 3:54) and its plaintive tenderness, reminds one of Jeremiah. But this relationship does not decide the question. The passage Jer 20:10, like many other passages of this prophet, whose language is so strongly imbued with that of the Psalter, may be just as much a reminiscence as Jon 2:5, Jon 2:9; and as regards its plaintive tenderness there are no two characters more closely allied naturally and in spirit than David and Jeremiah; both are servants of Jahve, whose noble, tender spirits were capable of strong feeling, who cherished earnest longings, and abounded in tribulations. We abide, though not without some degree of hesitation, by the testimony of the inscription; and regard the Psalm as a song springing from the outward and inward conflict (lxx ἐκστάσεως, probably by a combination of Psa 31:23, ἐν ἐκστάσει, בחפזי, with Sa1 23:26) of the time of Saul. While Psa 31:12 is not suited to the mouth of the captive Jeremiah (Hitzig), the Psalm has much that is common not only to Ps 69 (more especially Psa 69:9, Psa 69:33), a Psalm that sounds much like Jeremiah's, but also to others, which we regard as Davidic; viz., the figures corresponding to the life of warfare which David then lived among the rocks and caves of the wilderness; the cheering call, Jer 31:25, cf. Psa 22:27; Psa 27:14; the rare use of the Hiph. הפליא Psa 31:22; Psa 17:7; the desire to be hidden by God, Psa 31:21, cf. Psa 17:8; Psa 64:3; etc. In common with Ps 22 this may be noted, that the crucified Christ takes His last word from this Psalm, just as He takes His last utterance but three from that Psalm. But in Psa 31:10-14, the prefigurement of the Passion is confined within the limits of the type and does not undergo the same prophetical enhancement as it does in that unique Ps 22, to which only Ps 69 is in any degree comparable. The opening, Psa 31:2, is repeated in the centonic Ps 71, the work of a later anonymous poet, just as Psa 31:23 is in part repeated in Psa 116:11. The arrangement of the strophes is not very clear.

Psalms 31:1

psa 31:1

(Heb.: 31:2-9) The poet begins with the prayer for deliverance, based upon the trust which Jahve, to whom he surrenders himself, cannot possibly disappoint; and rejoices beforehand in the protection which he assumes will, without any doubt, be granted. Out of his confident security in God (הסיתי) springs the prayer: may it never come to this with me, that I am put to confusion by the disappointment of my hope. This prayer in the form of intense desire is followed by prayers in the direct form of supplication. The supplicatory פלּטני is based upon God's righteousness, which cannot refrain from repaying conduct consistent with the order of redemption, though after prolonged trial, with the longed for tokens of deliverance. In the second paragraph, the prayer is moulded in accordance with the circumstances of him who is chased by Saul hither and thither among the mountains and in the desert, homeless and defenceless. In the expression צוּר מעוז, מעוז is genit. appositionis: a rock of defence (מעוז from עזז, as in Psa 27:1), or rather: of refuge (מעוז = Arab. m‛âd, from עוּז, עוז = Arab. 'âd, as in Psa 37:39; Psa 52:9, and probably also in Isa 30:2 and elsewhere);

(Note: It can hardly be doubted, that, in opposition to the pointing as we have it, which only recognises one מעוז (מעז) from עזז, to be strong, there are two different substantives having this principal form, viz., מעז a fortress, secure place, bulwark, which according to its derivation is inflected מעזּי, etc., and מעוז equivalent to the Arabic ma‛âdh, a hiding-place, defence, refuge, which ought to have been declined מעוזי or מעוּזי like the synonymous מנוּסי (Olshausen 201, 202). Moreover עוּז, Arab. 'âd, like חסה, of which it is the parallel word in Isa 30:2, means to hide one's self anywhere (Piel and Hiph., Hebrew העיז, according to the Kamus, Zamachshari and Neshwn: to hide any one, e.g., Koran 3:31); hence Arab. 'â‛d, a plant that grows among bushes (bên esh-shôk according to the Kamus) or in the crevices of the rocks (fi-l-hazn according to Neshwn) and is thus inaccessible to the herds; Arab. 'wwad, gazelles that are invisible, i.e., keep hidden, for seven days after giving birth, also used of pieces of flesh of which part is hidden among the bones; Arab. 'ûdat, an amulet with which a man covers himself (protegit), and so forth. - Wetzstein.

Consequently מעוז (formed like Arab. m‛âd, according to Neshwn equivalent to Arab. ma'wad) is prop. a place in which to hide one's self, synonymous with מחסה, מנוס, Arab. mlâd, malja‛, and the like. True, the two substantives from עזז and עוז meet in their meanings like praesidium and asylum, and according to passages like Jer 16:19 appear to be blended in the genius of the language, but they are radically distinct.)

a rock-castle, i.e., a castle upon a rock, would be called מעוז צוּר, reversing the order of the words. צוּר מעוז in Psa 71:3, a rock of habitation, i.e., of safe sojourn, fully warrants this interpretation. מצוּדה, prop. specula, signifies a mountain height or the summit of a mountain; a house on the mountain height is one that is situated on some high mountain top and affords a safe asylum (vid., on Psa 18:3). The thought "show me Thy salvation, for Thou art my Saviour," underlies the connection expressed by כּי in Psa 31:4 and Psa 31:5. Lster considers it to be illogical, but it is the logic of every believing prayer. The poet prays that God would become to him, actu reflexo, that which to the actus directus of his faith He is even now. The futures in Psa 31:4, Psa 31:5 express hopes which necessarily arise out of that which Jahve is to the poet. The interchangeable notions הנחה and נהל, with which we are familiar from Psa 23:1-6, stand side by side, in order to give urgency to the utterance of the longing for God's gentle and safe guidance. Instead of translating it "out of the net, which etc.," according to the accents (cf. Psa 10:2; Psa 12:8) it should be rendered "out of the net there," so that טמנוּ לּי is a relative clause without the relative.

Into the hand of this God, who is and will be all this to him, he commends his spirit; he gives it over into His hand as a trust or deposit (פּקּדון); for whatsoever is deposited there is safely kept, and freed from all danger and all distress. The word used is not נפשׁי, which Theodotion substitutes when he renders it τὴν ἐμαυτοῦ ψυχὴν τῇ σῇ παρατίθημι προμηθείᾳ but רוּחי; and this is used designedly. The language of the prayer lays hold of life at its root, as springing directly from God and as also living in the believer from God and in God; and this life it places under His protection, who is the true life of all spirit-life (Isa 38:16) and of all life. It is the language of prayer with which the dying Christ breathed forth His life, Luk 23:46. The period of David's persecution by Saul is the most prolific in types of the Passion; and this language of prayer, which proceeded from the furnace of affliction through which David at that time passed, denotes, in the mouth of Christ a crisis in the history of redemption in which the Old Testament receives its fulfilment. Like David, He commends His spirit to God; but not, that He may not die, but that dying He may not die, i.e., that He may receive back again His spirit-corporeal life, which is hidden in the hand of God, in imperishable power and glory. That which is so ardently desired and hoped for is regarded by him, who thus in faith commends himself to God, as having already taken place, "Thou hast redeemed me, Jahve, God of truth." The perfect פּדיתה is not used here, as in Psa 4:2, of that which is past, but of that which is already as good as past; it is not precative (Ew. 223, b), but, like the perfects in Psa 31:8, Psa 31:9, an expression of believing anticipation of redemption. It is the praet. confidentiae which is closely related to the praet. prophet.; for the spirit of faith, like the spirit of the prophets, speaks of the future with historic certainty. In the notion of אל אמת it is impossible to exclude the reference to false gods which is contained in אלהי אמת, Ch2 15:3, since, in Psa 31:7, "vain illusions" are used as an antithesis. הבלים, ever since Deu 32:21, has become a favourite name for idols, and more particularly in Jeremiah (e.g., Psa 8:1-9 :19). On the other hand, according to the context, it may also not differ very greatly from אל אמוּנה, Deu 32:4; since the idea of God as a depositary or trustee still influences the thought, and אמת and אמוּנה are used interchangeably in other passages as personal attributes. We may say that אמת is being that lasts and verifies itself, and אמונה is sentiment that lasts and verifies itself. Therefore אל אמת is the God, who as the true God, maintains the truth of His revelation, and more especially of His promises, by a living authority or rule.

In Psa 31:7, David appeals to his entire and simple surrender to this true and faithful God: hateful to him are those, who worship vain images, whilst he, on the other hand, cleaves to Jahve. It is the false gods, which are called הבלי־שׁוא, as beings without being, which are of no service to their worshippers and only disappoint their expectations. Probably (as in Psa 5:6) it is to be read שׂנאת with the lxx, Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic versions (Hitzig, Ewald, Olshausen, and others). In the text before us, which gives us no corrective Ker as in Sa2 14:21; Rut 4:5, ואני is not an antithesis to the preceding clause, but to the member of that clause which immediately precedes it. In Jonah's psalm, Psa 2:9, this is expressed by משׁמּרים הבלי־שׁוא; in the present instance the Kal is used in the signification observare, colere, as in Hos 4:10, and even in Pro 27:18. In the waiting of service is included, according to Psa 59:10, the waiting of trust. The word בּטח which denotes the fiducia fidei is usually construed with בּ of adhering to, or על of resting upon; but here it is combined with אל of hanging on. The cohortatives in Psa 31:8 express intentions. Olshausen and Hitzig translate them as optatives: may I be able to rejoice; but this, as a continuation of Psa 31:7, seems less appropriate. Certain that he will be heard, he determines to manifest thankful joy for Jahve's mercy, that (אשׁר as in Gen 34:27) He has regarded (ἐπέβλεψε, Luk 1:48) his affliction, that He has known and exerted Himself about his soul's distresses. The construction ידע בּ, in the presence of Gen 19:33, Gen 19:35; Job 12:9; Job 35:15, cannot be doubted (Hupfeld); it is more significant than the expression "to know of anything;" בּ is like ἐπὶ in ἐπιγιγνώσκειν used of the perception or comprehensive knowledge, which grasps an object and takes possession of it, or makes itself master of it. הסגּיר, Psa 31:9, συγκλείειν, as in Sa1 23:11 (in the mouth of David) is so to abandon, that the hand of another closes upon that which is abandoned to it, i.e., has it completely in its power. מרחב, as in Psa 18:20, cf. Psa 26:12. The language is David's, in which the language of the Tra, and more especially of Deuteronomy (Deu 32:30; Deu 23:16), is re-echoed.

Psalms 31:9

psa 31:9

(Heb.: 31:10-14) After the paean before victory, which he has sung in the fulness of his faith, in this second part of the Psalm (with groups, or strophes, of diminishing compass: 6. 5. 4) there again breaks forth the petition, based upon the greatness of the suffering which the psalmist, after having strengthened himself in his trust in God, now all the more vividly sets before Him. צר־לּי, angustum est mihi, as in Psa 69:18, cf. Psa 18:7. Psa 31:10 is word for word like Psa 6:8, except that in this passage to עיני, the eye which mirrors the state of suffering in which the sensuous perception and objective receptivity of the man are concentrated, are added נפשׁ, the soul forming the nexus of the spirit and the body, and בּטן, the inward parts of the body reflecting the energies and feelings of the spirit and the soul. חיּים, with which is combined the idea of the organic intermingling of the powers of soul and body, has the predicate in the plural, as in Psa 88:4. The fact that the poet makes mention of his iniquity as that by which his physical strength has become tottering (כּשׁל as in Neh 4:4), is nothing surprising even in a Psalm that belongs to the time of his persecution by Saul; for the longer this persecution continued, the more deeply must David have felt that he needed this furnace of affliction.

The text of Psa 31:12 upon which the lxx rendering is based, was just the same as ours: παρὰ πάντας τοὺς ἐχθρούς μου ἐγενήθην ὄνειδος καὶ τοῖς γείτοσί μου σφόδρα καὶ φόβος τοῖς γνωστοῖς μου. But this σφδόρα (Jerome nimis) would certainly only be tolerable, if it could be rendered, "I am become a reproach even to my neighbours exceedingly" - in favour of this position of מאד we might compare Jdg 12:2, - and this rendering is not really an impossible one; for not only has ו frequently the sense of "even" as in Sa2 1:23, but (independently of passages, in which it may even be explained as "and that," an expression which takes up what has been omitted, as in Amo 4:10) it sometimes has this meaning direct (like καὶ, et -etiam), Isa 32:7; Hos 8:6 (according to the accents), Ch2 27:5; Ecc 5:5 (cf. Ew. @a7352, b). Inasmuch, however, as this usage, in Hebrew, was not definitely developed, but was only as it were just developing, it may be asked whether it is not possible to find a suitable explanation without having recourse to this rendering of the ו as equivalent to גּם, a rendering which is always hazardous. Olshausen places ולשׁכני after למידעי, a change which certainly gets rid of all difficulty. Hitzig alters מאד into מנּד, frightened, scared. But one naturally looks for a parallel substantive to חרפּה, somewhat like "terror" (Syriac) or "burden." Still מגור (dread) and משּׂאת (a burden) do not look as though מאד could be a corruption of either of those words. Is it not perhaps possible for מאד itself to be equivalent in meaning to משׂאת? Since in the signification σφόδρα it is so unsuited to this passage, the expression would not be ambiguous, if it were here used in a special sense. J. D. Michaelis has even compared the Arabic awd (awdat) in the sense of onus. We can, without the hesitation felt by Maurer and Hupfeld, suppose that מאד has indeed this meaning in this passage, and without any necessity for its being pointed מאד; for even the adverb מאד is originally a substantive derived from אוּד, Arab. âd (after the form מצד from צוּד) gravitas, firmitas, which is then used in the sense of graviter, firmiter (cf. the French ferme). אוּד, Arab. âd, however, has the radical signification to be compressed, compact, firm, and solid, from which proceed the significations, which are divided between âda, jaı̂du, and âda, jaûdu, to be strong, powerful, and to press upon, to burden, both of which meanings Arab. 'dd unites within itself (cf. on Psa 20:9).

The number of opponents that David had, at length made him a reproach even in the eyes of the better disposed of his people, as being a revolter and usurper. Those among whom he found friendly shelter began to feel themselves burdened by his presence because they were thereby imperilled; and we see from the sad fate of Abimelech and the other priests of Nob what cause, humanly speaking, they, who were not merely slightly, but even intimately acquainted with him (מידּעים as inn Psa 55:14; Psa 88:9, 19), had for avoiding all intercourse with him. Thus, then, he is like one dead, whom as soon as he is borne out of his home to the grave, men are wont, in general, to put out of mind also (נשׁכּח מלּא, oblivione extingui ex corde; cf. מפּה, Deu 31:21). All intimate connection with him is as it were sundered, he is become כּכלי אבד, - a phrase, which, as we consider the confirmation which follows in Psa 31:14, has the sense of vas periens (not vas perditum), a vessel that is in the act of אבד, i.e., one that is set aside or thrown away, being abandoned to utter destruction and no more cared for (cf. Hos 8:8, together with Jer 48:38, and Jer 22:28). With כּי he gives the ground for his comparison of himself to a household vessel that has become worthless. The insinuations and slanders of many brand him as a transgressor, dread surrounds him on every side (this is word for word the same as in Jer 20:10, where the prophet, with whom in other passages also מגור מסּביב is a frequent and standing formula, under similar circumstances uses the language of the psalmist); when they come together to take counsel concerning him (according to the accents the second half of the verse begins with בּהוּסדם), they think only how they may get rid of him. If the construction of ב with its infinitive were intended to be continued in Psa 31:14, it would have been וזממוּ לקחת נפשׁי or לקחת נפשׁי יזמּוּ.

Psalms 31:14

psa 31:14

(Heb.: 31:15-19) But, although a curse of the world and an offscouring of all people, he is confident in God, his Deliverer and Avenger. By ואני prominence is given to the subject by way of contrast, as in Psa 31:7. It appears as though Jahve had given him up in His anger; but he confides in Him, and in spite of this appearance, he even confides in Him with the prayer of appropriating faith. עתּות or אתּים (Ch1 29:30) are the appointed events and circumstances, the vicissitudes of human life; like the Arabic 'idât (like עת from ועד), the appointed rewards and punishments. The times, with whatsoever they bring with them, are in the Lord's hand, every lot is of His appointment or sending. The Vulgate follows the lxx, in manibus tuis sortes meae. The petitions of Psa 31:16, Psa 31:17, spring from this consciousness that the almighty and faithful hand of God has mould his life. There are three petitions; the middle one is an echo of the Aaronitish blessing in Num 6:25. כּי קראתיך, which gives the ground of his hope that he shall not be put to shame (cf. Psa 31:2), is to be understood like אמרתּי in Psa 31:15, according to Ges. 126, 3. The expression of the ground for אל־אבושׁה, favours the explanation of it not so much as the language of petition (let me not be ashamed) of as hope. The futures which follow might be none the less regarded as optatives, but the order of the words does not require this. And we prefer to take them as expressing hope, so that the three petitions in Psa 31:16, Psa 31:17, correspond to the three hopes in Psa 31:18, Psa 31:19. He will not be ashamed, but the wicked shall be ashamed and silenced for ever. The form ידּמוּ, from דּמם, is, as in Jer 8:14, the plural of the fut. Kal ידּם, with the doubling of the first radical, which is customary in Aramaic (other examples of which we have in יקּד, ישּׁם, יתּם), not of the fut. Niph. ידּם, the plural of which would be ידּמּוּ, as in Sa1 2:9; conticescere in orcum is equivalent to: to be silent, i.e., being made powerless to fall a prey to hades. It is only in accordance with the connection, that in this instance נאלם, Psa 31:19, just like דּמם, denotes that which is forcibly laid upon them by the judicial intervention of God: all lying lips shall be dumb, i.e., made dumb. עתק prop. that which is unrestrained, free, insolent (cf. Arabic 'âtik, 'atı̂k, unrestrained, free

(Note: But these Arabic words do not pass over into the signification "insolent."))

is the accusative of the object, as in Psa 94:4, and as it is the nominative of the subject in Sa1 2:3.

Psalms 31:19

psa 31:19

(Heb.: 31:20-25) In this part well-grounded hope expands to triumphant certainty; and this breaks forth into grateful praise of the goodness of God to His own, and an exhortation to all to wait with steadfast faith on Jahve. The thought: how gracious hath Jahve been to me, takes a more universal form in Psa 31:20. It is an exclamation (מה, as in Psa 36:8) of adoring admiration. טוּב יהוה is the sum of the good which God has treasured up for the constant and ever increasing use and enjoyment of His saints. צפן is used in the same sense as in Psa 17:14; cf. τὸ μάννα τὸ κεκρυμμένον, Rev 2:17. Instead of פּעלתּ it ought strictly to be נתתּ; for we can say פּעל טּוב, but not פּעל טוּב. What is meant is, the doing or manifesting of טּוב springing from this טוּב, which is the treasure of grace. Jahve thus makes Himself known to His saints for the confounding of their enemies and in defiance of all the world besides, Psa 23:5. He takes those who are His under His protection from the רכסי אישׁ, confederations of men (from רכס, Arab. rks, magna copia), from the wrangling, i.e., the slanderous scourging, of tongues. Elsewhere it is said, that God hides one in סתר אהלו (Psa 27:5), or in סתר כּנפיו (Psa 61:5), or in His shadow (צל, Psa 91:1); in this passage it is: in the defence and protection of His countenance, i.e., in the region of the unapproachable light that emanates from His presence. The סכּה is the safe and comfortable protection of the Almighty which spans over the persecuted one like an arbour or rich foliage. With בּרוּך ה David again passes over to his own personal experience. The unity of the Psalm requires us to refer the praise to the fact of the deliverance which is anticipated by faith. Jahve has shown him wondrous favour, inasmuch as He has given him a עיר מצור as a place of abode. מצור, from צוּר to shut in (Arabic misr with the denominative verb maṣṣara, to found a fortified city), signifies both a siege, i.e., a shutting in by siege-works, and a fortifying (cf. Psa 60:11 with Psa 108:11), i.e., a shutting in by fortified works against the attack of the enemy, Ch2 8:5. The fenced city is mostly interpreted as God Himself and His powerful and gracious protection. We might then compare Isa 33:21 and other passages. But why may not an actual city be intended, viz., Ziklag? The fact, that after long and troublous days David there found a strong and sure resting-place, he here celebrates beforehand, and unconsciously prophetically, as a wondrous token of divine favour. To him Ziklag was indeed the turning-point between his degradation and exaltation. He had already said in his trepidation (חפז, trepidare), cf. Psa 116:11 : I am cut away from the range of Thine eyes. נגרזתּי is explained according to גּרזן, an axe; Lam 3:54, נגרזתּי, and Jon 2:5, נגרשׁתּי, favour this interpretation. He thought in his fear and despair, that God would never more care about him. אכן, verum enim vero, but Jahve heard the cry of his entreaty, when he cried unto Him (the same words as in Psa 28:2). On the ground of these experiences he calls upon all the godly to love the God who has done such gracious things, i.e., to love Love itself. On the one hand, He preserves the faithful (אמוּנים, from אמוּן = אמוּן, πιστοί, as in Psa 12:2), who keep faith with Him, by also proving to them His faithfulness by protection in every danger; on the other hand, not scantily, but plentifully (על as in Isa 60:7; Jer 6:14 : κατὰ περισσείαν) He rewardeth those that practise pride-in the sight of God, the Lord, the sin of sins. An animating appeal to the godly (metamorphosed out of the usual form of the expression חזק ואמץ, macte esto), resembling the animating call to his own heart in Psa 27:14, closes the Psalm. The godly and faithful are here called "those who wait upon Jahve." They are to wait patiently, for this waiting has a glorious end; the bright, spring sun at length breaks through the dark, angry aspect of the heavens, and the esto mihi is changed into halleluja. This eye of hope patiently directed towards Jahve is the characteristic of the Old Testament faith. The substantial unity, however, of the Old Testament order of grace, or mercy, with that of the New Testament, is set before us in Psa 32:1-11, which, in its New Testament and Pauline character, is the counterpart of Psa 19:1-14.

Next: Psalms Chapter 32