Psalm 34#sn 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.#tn Heb “By David, when he changed his sense before Abimelech and he drove him away and he went.”sn 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.
1 I will praise#tn Heb “bless.” the Lord at all times;
my mouth will continually praise him.#tn Heb “continually [will] his praise [be] in my mouth.”
2 I will boast#tn Heb “my soul will boast”; or better, “let my soul boast.” Following the cohortative form in v. 1, it is likely that the prefixed verbal form here is jussive. in the Lord;
let the oppressed hear and rejoice!#tn The two prefixed verbal forms in this verse are best taken as jussives, for the psalmist is calling his audience to worship (see v. 3).
3 Magnify the Lord with me!
Let’s praise#tn Or “exalt.” his name together!
4 I sought the Lord’s help#tn Heb “I sought the Lord.” and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him for help are happy;
their faces are not ashamed.#tc Heb “they look to him and are radiant and their faces are not ashamed.” The third person plural subject (“they”) is unidentified; there is no antecedent in the Hebrew text. For this reason some prefer to take the perfect verbal forms in the first line as imperatives, “look to him and be radiant” (cf. NEB, NRSV). Some medieval Hebrew mss and other ancient witnesses (Aquila, the Syriac, and Jerome) support an imperatival reading for the first verb. In the second line some (with support from the LXX and Syriac) change “their faces” to “your faces,” which allows one to retain more easily the jussive force of the verb (suggested by the preceding אַל [’al]): “do not let your faces be ashamed.” It is probable that the verbal construction in the second line is rhetorical, expressing the conviction that the action in view cannot or should not happen. See GKC 322 §109.e.
6 This oppressed man cried out and the Lord heard;
he saved him#tn The pronoun refers back to “this oppressed man,” namely, the psalmist. from all his troubles.
7 The Lord’s angel camps around
the Lord’s#tn Heb “his”; the referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity. loyal followers#tn Heb “those who fear him.” and delivers them.#tn The prefixed verb with vav (ו) consecutive here carries the same generalizing force as the active participle in the first line. See GKC 329 §111.u.
8 Taste#tn This verb is normally used of tasting or savoring food. The metaphor here appears to compare the Lord to a tasty meal. and see that the Lord is good!
How blessed#tn 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, 3; 2:12; 41:1; 65:4; 84:12; 89:15; 106:3; 112:1; 127:5; 128:1; 144:15). is the one#tn Heb “man.” The principle of the psalm is certainly applicable to all people, regardless of their gender or age. To facilitate modern application, we translate the gender and age specific “man” with the more neutral “one.”who takes shelter in him!#tn “Taking shelter” in the Lord is an idiom for seeking his protection. Seeking his protection presupposes and even demonstrates the subject’s loyalty to the Lord. In the psalms those who “take shelter” in the Lord are contrasted with the wicked and equated with those who love, fear, and serve the Lord (Pss 2:12; 5:11-12; 31:17-20; 34:21-22).
9 Remain loyal to#tn Heb “fear.” the Lord, you chosen people of his,#tn Heb “O holy ones of his.”
for his loyal followers#tn Heb “those who fear him.” lack nothing!
10 Even young lions sometimes lack food and are hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come children! Listen to me!
I will teach you what it means to fear the Lord.#tn Heb “the fear of the Lord I will teach you.” In vv. 13-14 the psalmist explains to his audience what it means to “fear” the Lord.
12 Do you want to really live?#tn Heb “Who is the man who desires life?” The rhetorical question is used to grab the audience’s attention. “Life” probably refers here to quality of life, not just physical existence or even duration of life. See the following line.
Would you love to live a long, happy life?#tn Heb “[Who] loves days to see good?”
13 Then make sure you don’t speak evil words#tn Heb “guard your tongue from evil.”
or use deceptive speech!#tn Heb “and your lips from speaking deception.”
14 Turn away from evil and do what is right!#tn Or “do good.”
Strive for peace and promote it!#tn Heb “seek peace and pursue it.”
15 The Lord pays attention to the godly
and hears their cry for help.#tn Heb “the eyes of the Lord [are] toward the godly, and his ears [are] toward their cry for help.”
16 But the Lord opposes evildoers
and wipes out all memory of them from the earth.#tn Heb “the face of the Lord [is] against the doers of evil to cut off from the earth memory of them.”
17 The godly#tn Heb “they” (i.e., the godly mentioned in v. 15). cry out and the Lord hears;
he saves them from all their troubles.#tn The three perfect verbal forms are taken in a generalizing sense in v. 17 and translated with the present tense (note the generalizing mood of vv. 18-22).
18 The Lord is near the brokenhearted;
he delivers#tn The Hebrew imperfect verbal form highlights the generalizing statement and draws attention to the fact that the Lord typically delivers the oppressed and needy. those who are discouraged.#tn Heb “the crushed in spirit.”
19 The godly#tn The Hebrew text uses the singular form; the representative or typical godly person is envisioned. face many dangers,#tn Or “trials.”
but the Lord saves#tn The Hebrew imperfect verbal form highlights the generalizing statement and draws attention to the fact that the Lord typically delivers the godly. them#tn Heb “him,” agreeing with the singular form in the preceding line. from each one of them.
20 He protects#tn The Hebrew participial form suggests such protection is characteristic. all his bones;#tn That is, he protects the godly from physical harm.
not one of them is broken.#sn Not one of them is broken. The author of the Gospel of John saw a fulfillment of these words in Jesus’ experience on the cross (see John 19:31-37), for the Roman soldiers, when they saw that Jesus was already dead, did not break his legs as was customarily done to speed the death of crucified individuals. John’s use of the psalm seems strange, for the statement in its original context suggests that the Lord protects the godly from physical harm. Jesus’ legs may have remained unbroken, but he was brutally and unjustly executed by his enemies. John seems to give the statement a literal sense that is foreign to its original literary context by applying a promise of divine protection to a man who was seemingly not saved by God. However, John saw in this incident a foreshadowing of Jesus’ ultimate deliverance and vindication. His unbroken bones were a reminder of God’s commitment to the godly and a sign of things to come. Jesus’ death on the cross was not the end of the story; God vindicated him, as John goes on to explain in the following context (John 19:38-20:18).
21 Evil people self-destruct;#tn Heb “evil kills the wicked [one].” The singular form is representative; the typical evil person is envisioned. The Hebrew imperfect verbal form draws attention to the typical nature of the action.
those who hate the godly are punished.#tn Heb “are guilty,” but the verb is sometimes used metonymically with the meaning “to suffer the consequences of guilt,” the effect being substituted for the cause.
22 The Lord rescues his servants;#tn Heb “redeems the life of his servants.” The Hebrew participial form suggests such deliverance is characteristic.
all who take shelter in him escape punishment.#tn “Taking shelter” in the Lord is an idiom for seeking his protection. Seeking his protection presupposes and even demonstrates the subject’s loyalty to the Lord. In the psalms those who “take shelter” in the Lord are contrasted with the wicked and equated with those who love, fear, and serve the Lord (Pss 2:12; 5:11-12; 31:19).