Psalm 34:1-22

A Psalm of David when he pretended madness before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed.

1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

My soul shall make its boast in the Lord;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.

Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.

I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.

They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.

This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him,
And delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!

Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints!
There is no want to those who fear Him.

10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger;
But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.

11 Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

12 Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?

13 Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.

14 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.

16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,
And delivers them out of all their troubles.

18 The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.

20 He guards all his bones;
Not one of them is broken.

21 Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous shall be condemned.

22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.

This psalm is an acrostic poem. It closely parallels Psalm 25 in its theme, phraseology and structure.

Abimelech (introduction) = “father of the king” (perhaps a title, like Pharaoh) — the king of Gath named Achish in 1 Samuel 21:10-15.

David sought refuge from persecution by Saul by fleeing to the Philistine king of Gath, Achish. This psalm should thus be understood not only as an expression of David’s thanksgiving and praise for God’s providence and faithful solicitude, but also as an implicit confession of Guilt for fearing Achish more than he “feared” the Lord (“fear” of the Lord being a prominent motif in this psalm; see verses 7, 9, 11). — Wechsler, pages 101-102.

bless (v.1) = lit. “kneel”

His praise shall continually be in my mouth (v.1) = in his everyday speech, a conscious effort to acknowledge God’s role in every aspect of life

my soul shall make its boast in the Lord (v.2) — Jeremiah 9:24; 1 Corinthians 1:31

they (v.5) — the humble from v.2

looked (v.5) — submitted in faith

were not ashamed (v.5) = lit. “will never be ashamed” — in contrast with the eternal state of those who do not believe (Daniel 12:2).

poor (v.6) = humble

the angel of the Lord (v.7) — This particular angel, as distinguished in Scripture from all others, is often referred to in the Old Testament (Genesis 16:9; 22:11; 48:16; Exodus 3:2; 14:19; Numbers 22:22; Judges 2:4; 6:11; 13:3; 2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 63:9; Zechariah 1:12; 12:8). He is named “the angel of the Lord [Jehovah]” (Genesis 16:7), “the angel of God” (Genesis 21:17), “the angel of His [God’s] presence” (Isaiah 63:9), and probably, the messenger [angel] of the covenant” (Malachi 3:1). He is clearly identified with the Lord Himself in His self-manifestation to men[“theophany”] . In Genesis 31:11-13 the angel said to Jacob, “I am the God of Bethel.” In Exodus 3:2-6 the same angel said to Moses, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham.” — Scofield, page 289.

taste (v.8) = acquire/derive discernment — which will result in seeing (perceiving or assessing) “that the Lord is good — 1 Peter 2:3

Verses 12-16 are quoted in 1 Peter 3:10-12.

desires life, and loves many days (v.12) — the quality and quantity of eternal life (see Psalm 21:4). In 1 Peter 3:10-12, the phrase refers to the blessing that the believer will inherit.

Seek peace and pursue it (v.14) — This instruction is repeated in Romans 14:19, making it a universal truth across all dispensations.

David employs various descriptions for believers, notable among which is the parallel pair in verse 18: the brokenhearted and the crushed (or “contrite”) in spirit. Though at first reading these expressions may seem to refer generally to people who are emotionally downtrodden and depressed,a careful comparison to the use of the same expressions elsewhere bears out a more specific meaning — for example, Psalm 51:17, where David affirms that “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart … Thou wilt not despise.” In its context, this citation is clearly intended to describe the believer’s attitude of repentance, and not general depression or emotional malaise. This understanding in turn not only clarifies that David is speaking of believers when he uses these same expressions in Psalm 34, but also that it is to believers specifically that Jesus Himself refers when He employs the semantically parallel Greek expression (usually translated “the poor in spirit”) in Matthew 5:3 — a semantic parallel that is further strengthened by the observation that in both instances the “brokenness” group is counterbalanced by a present (not future) circumstance that is also specifically tied to faith and “admission” to  God’s presence (i.e., in Psalm 34:18: “the Lord is near” to them; Matthew 5:3: “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” — Wechsler, pages 104-105.

That the Holy Spirit should give this prophecy to David immediately after his degrading conduct in Gath is incomprehensible to strangers to the spiritual life. Verse 18 removes the difficulty. When the believer is mortified, ashamed, broken and contrite in spirit, and amazed that such a wretch should find pardon and deliverance, then is the soul restored and fresh revelation given respecting [the Lord] who found deliverance not by deceiving man but in trusting God. — Williams, pages 322-323.

He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken (v.20) — A prophecy fulfilled when Christ was on the cross (John 19:31-36). In Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12, Israel is instructed not to break the bones of the Passover lamb.

evil (v.21) — can be translated “evil,” “misery,” “distress,” or “injury”

And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned (v.22) — Romans 8:1

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