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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Psalms 32




Verse 1-2

(1, 2) Transgression—sin—iniquity.—The same terms used here to express the compass and heinousness of sin are found, though in different order, in Exodus 34:7. For St. Paul’s reading of this passage, see Romans 4:6-7.

Verse 3

(3) When I kept.—He describes his state of mind before he could bring himself to confess his sin (the rendering of the particle ki by when, comp. Hosea 11:1, is quite correct). Like that knight of story, in whom

“His mood was often like a fiend, and rose

And drove him into wastes and solitudes

For agony, who was yet a living soul,”

this man could not live sleek and smiling in his sin, but was so tortured by “remorseful pain” that his body bore the marks of his mental anguish, which, no doubt, “had marr’d his face, and marked it ere his time.”

My bones waxed old.—For this expression comp. Psalms 6:2.

Verse 4

(4) Thy hand was heavy.—The verb, as in “kept silence” in Psalms 32:3, is properly present—the agony is still vividly present.

My moisture.—The Hebrew word is found only once besides (Numbers 11:8), where the Authorised Version has “fresh oil;” the LXX. and Vulg., “an oily cake.” Aquila has “of the breast of oil,” reading the word erroneously. Here both LXX. and Vulg. seem to have had a different reading, “I was turned to sorrow while the thorn was fixed in.” Symmachus translates somewhat similarly, but by “to destruction” instead of “to sorrow.” Aquila, “to my spoiling in summer desolation.” These readings, however, mistake the lamed, which is part of the word, for a preposition. Gesenius connects with an Arabic root, to suck, and so gets the meaning juice or moisture.

Into the drought of summer.—This is the best rendering of the Hebrew, though it might be either “as in summer dryness” or “with summer heat.” Some understand literally a fever, but it is better to take it figuratively of the soul-fever which the whole passage describes.

Verse 5

(5) I acknowledged.—The fact that this verb is future, as also “I will confess” in the next clause, as well as the requirements of the passage, uphold Hupfeld’s suggestion that “I said” has changed its place, and should be replaced at the beginning of the verse. (Comp. Psalms 73:15, and Note.) The sense is,

“I said, ‘I will acknowledge my sin unto thee,

And I did not hide mine iniquity.

(I said) ‘I will confess my transgression unto Jehovah,

And thou forgavest the guilt of my sin.”

Verse 6

(6) For this—i.e., for this cause.

Shall every one.—Better, let every one.

In a time . . .—See margin. The expression, “time of finding,”’ is, of course, elliptical. The Authorised Version explains by Isa. Iv. 6; but Isaiah 45:8 would suggest that “forgiveness” or “acceptance” is the word to be supplied. More probably still some general word, as “goal” or “object,” is required, the phrase being rendered by the LXX., “in the appointed time;” by the Vulg., “opportune.”

Surely.—This adds emphasis to the statement, whether we render after Proverbs 13:10, “only unto him,” or as in Authorised Version. “He—the godly—is the man whom, when the floods rise, they shall not harm.” The floods may either be an image of Divine judgment, as in Nahum 1:8, or of temptation and trial, as in Matthew 7:24-27.

Verse 8

(8) I will guide thee with mine eye.—The Hebrew may be rendered either “I will advise—with mine eye upon thee,” or “I will fix mine eye upon thee,” which is the translation by the LXX., and to be preferred. This verse changes so abruptly to the first person that it is better, with most of the old interpreters and, among moderns, with Ewald, Hitzig, and Reuss, to suppose them the words of deliverance that sound so sweet in the psalmist’s ears.

Verse 9

(9) Whose mouth.—Here the text has evidently suffered, and the exact meaning is lost. There are also verbal difficulties. The word translated “mouth” elsewhere (except Psalms 103:5, where see Note) means “ornament,” and the literal rendering of the text as it stands is, with bit and bridle his ornament to hold, not approaching to thee. This may mean that the animal is harnessed, either “that it may not approach,” or “because without harness it will not approach.” In either case the general application is the same. Horses and mules can only be rendered obedient by restraints that are unworthy of a rational creature. The LXX. and Vulg. have “jaws” instead of “mouth,” and Ewald follows them, and renders the last clause, “of those who approach thee unfriendly.”


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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 32:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 27th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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