Psalm 94

1 O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongs—
O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth!

2 Rise up, O Judge of the earth;
Render punishment to the proud.

3 Lord, how long will the wicked,
How long will the wicked triumph?

They utter speech, and speak insolent things;
All the workers of iniquity boast in themselves.

5 They break in pieces Your people, O Lord,
And afflict Your heritage.

6 They slay the widow and the stranger,
And murder the fatherless.

7 Yet they say, “The Lord does not see,
Nor does the God of Jacob understand.”

Understand, you senseless among the people;
And you fools, when will you be wise?

9 He who planted the ear, shall He not hear?
He who formed the eye, shall He not see?

10 He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct,
He who teaches man knowledge?

11 The Lord knows the thoughts of man,
That they are futile.

12 Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord,
And teach out of Your law,

13 That You may give him rest from the days of adversity,
Until the pit is dug for the wicked.

14 For the Lord will not cast off His people,
Nor will He forsake His inheritance.

15 But judgment will return to righteousness,
And all the upright in heart will follow it.

16 Who will rise up for me against the evildoers?
Who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?

17 Unless the Lord had been my help,
My soul would soon have settled in silence.

18 If I say, “My foot slips,”
Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up.

19 In the multitude of my anxieties within me,
Your comforts delight my soul.

20 Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law,
Have fellowship with You?

21 They gather together against the life of the righteous,
And condemn innocent blood.

22 But the Lord has been my defense,
And my God the rock of my refuge.

23 He has brought on them their own iniquity,
And shall cut them off in their own wickedness;
The Lord our God shall cut them off.

Though this psalm has no heading in the Hebrew text, early Jewish tradition (i.e., the Septuagint) attributes it to David and also identifies it as the psalm that was recited by the Levites in the Second Temple on the forth day of the week (i.e., Wednesday)—because on it “He created the sun and the moon, and He will one day take vengeance on those who worship them” — Wechsler, page 227.

As has been the case all through the psalms, some commentators see them through a prophetic lens while others stick strictly to a historical perspective. While I think there is often a historical setting and relevance, I think there is almost always a deeper, further-reaching prophetic relevance.

Here’s the historic view:

The mention made of the throne of iniquity seems to indicate that the Chaldean empire had already arisen, and taken up a threatening attitude against the people of God. Still there is no mention made as yet of the destruction of the temple, or of the leading into captivity; and therefore, perhaps, the land had not been overrun by the invader.— Meyer, page 114.

And the prophetic:

Psalm 94 is the preface to a cluster of six psalms concerning the Millennium and the reign of the Messiah. Again and again, we have seen that the Kingdom Age, which we know as the Millennium, is preceded by the Tribulation period, during which time Jehovah makes war on the unbelieving inhabitants of the earth to wipe them out completely before beginning His reign….

Psalm 94 is the last cry of the believers, with especial emphasis upon the Remnant of Jewish believers. — Phillips, page 205.


The time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7) will conclude Israel’s wilderness journey. It is here pictured; and the two Messiahs and their thrones confronted (vs. 2, 20) The false Messiah … is seated on his throne of iniquity (v.20) where, by statute, he legalizes “mischief” (v.21), which his followers “the lawless” (v.3) execute against the followers of the true Messiah (vs. 5-6). They cry for deliverance (v.2), and the mighty God of “vengeance” (v.1) reveals Himself in flaming fire, ascends His throne as Judge of all the earth, recompenses “tribulation” to the oppressors (v.2) and “rest” to the oppressed (v.13).— Williams, pages 372-373.

More than one commentary points out that this psalm is the reaction of the faithful to evil which challenges the trust expressed in Psalm 93.

The psalm has three main movements. First, an appeal to Jehovah the Mighty, in the presence of the triumph of the wicket (vs. 1-7). This is followed by an address to such as are doubting because of apparent inactivity of God. They are reminded that God hears, sees, and must act (vs. 8-11). Finally, the song again becomes a prayer in which faith makes its great affirmations. — Morgan, page 179.


Insofar as the English term “vengeance” (v.1) is attended in modern usage by associations with cruelty, insensitivity, and unreasonable or excessive retribution for some perceived injustice, it is not the best translation of the Hebrew word. More appropriate would be the term “vindication” derived from the same Latin root, which refers more strictly to justifying or upholding what has been said or done—in this case upholding God’s threat of punishment for the commission of sin. Because, moreover, it is ultimately God’s distinction between sin and righteousness (reflecting His divine character) that is being disparaged by those who do wickedness (v.4), the psalmist leaves the act of vindication (i.e., its “how” and “when”) up to God. — Wechsler, page 227.

Verse 11 is quoted in 1 Corinthians 3:20.

[In vs. 8-11] Three principles are declared.

First, the Creator must be greater than His creatures; i.e., He who made doors of access to the human mind must have the power and right of entry.

Secondly, the moral ruler of great historic movements must exercise His holy authority over every man, i.e., if the ordinary nations are trained and instructed in right and wrong (cf. Romans 1:18ff.) and are held responsible for their misdeeds (Romans 1:32), how much more shall He Himself, teacher of the knowledge of righteousness, be righteous in His rebukes?

Thirdly, the Lord knows fully the nature of human thoughts (cf. Psalm 139:1-4; John 2:24-25) and recognizes that they, both the thinkers and their thoughts are as unsubstantial as breath (cf. Psalm 39:5-6; 62:9). — Guthrie, pages 510-511.


The foolishness of those Israelites who deny God’s justice is also borne out by their inability to perceive the nation’s present affliction as an expression of God’s chastening (v.12) rather than His inability to protect them against the wickedness of their enemies. Chastening, however, is not judgment, and, whereas the latter typically ends in complete destruction, the LORD will not abandon His people, nor … forsake His inheritance (v.14; on the undiminished continuance of which promise cf. Romans 11:2, 29). — Wechsler, page 228.

settled in silence (v.17) = died

What is God’s relationship to the wicked (v.20)? Is there any divine approval behind the fact that the wicked are in the places of authority and use legal statutes to make wrong appear right?

The psalmist offers no solution to this point but simply reiterates the three major aspects of the matter. He first declares the existence or fact of injustice, as in vs. 4-7. Secondly, he testifies to the Lord’s care and protection in his own case, replacing the abstract principles of vs.8-11 by personal experience. Thirdly, he affirms his belief in the power and righteousness of God and in the ultimate retribution upon the wicked, as in vs. 12-15. His answer is practical, not theoretical. In the time of trouble the godly man has God and hope, and that is sufficient. — Guthrie, page 511.

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