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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Psalms 34

Verses 1-3

Call to Continually Praise God

For “[A Psalm] of David” (Psalms 34:1) see at Psalm 3:1.

This psalm is one of the fifteen psalms that mentions the occasion of its writing (Psalms 3; 7; 9; 18; 30; 34; 51; 52; 54; 56; 57; 59; 60; 63; 142). The back-ground of this psalm is a short stay of David with Achis, who is here called Abimelech (Psalms 34:1; 1 Samuel 21:10-Ezra :). Abimelech is the title of Philistine kings (Genesis 20:2; Genesis 26:1). David feels compelled to leave his land, the land over which he will rule according to God’s promises, and seeks refuge with Achis, the king of Gath, one of the five Philistine cities.

When David notices that he has been recognized, he becomes afraid. Fear is always a bad counselor and an enemy of faith and love. Indeed, perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18). A person grows and achieves victories according to how much he overcomes fear in faith. David, however, is not guided by his faith during this period. He knows that the Philistines see in him a powerful enemy whom they got hold of by his arrival just like that (Psalms 56:1). He knows no other solution to this problem than to act like a madman. He presents himself as someone who has lost his mind.

David here sinks far below the level of a believer. This is not a stratagem, but an act of desperation. A believer who deliberately acts like an idiot sets a totally wrong example. He casts a libel on the Name of the Lord. Let’s not judge David too hardly about it. How many times have we deliberately behaved differently for fear of reactions of hostility from the world and, to put it mildly, not been witnesses to the Lord Jesus?

David’s downfall is great. His behavior works that Achis drives him away as we read here. Certainly, he has escaped from a dangerous situation, but how libelous is his salvation. There is much to be ashamed of. What remains is the grace of God. That God’s grace also plays a role in this whole event is evident from the two psalms that arose in his heart during his stay with Achis in Gath (Psalms 34; 56). In the description of the events we see his outward behavior. In both psalms we see what went on in his heart during those events.

Psalm 34 shows what is in his heart when he is afraid of Abimelech. His heart cries out to God and He saves him, for he is brokenhearted and crushed in spirit (Psalms 34:18).

The psalm is written in the form of what is known as an acrostic. That is, each verse of this psalm begins with a consecutive letter of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This form is an aid in memorizing a section. The use of this form also indicates that God’s Spirit uses the entire richness of language to describe the experience.

However, one letter is missing from this psalm. Between Psalms 34:5 and Psalms 34:6 the letter waw is missing. Psalms 34:2-Deuteronomy : are a testimony of faith, but Psalms 34:6 makes it clear that David has fallen very deeply because of his behavior. This hints at the irregularity that can occur in the path a believer should walk. This is expressed by a bump, a missing letter in the acrostic. This is deliberately brought in. In Psalm 25 we see the same phenomenon (Psalms 25:17; Psalms 25:18).

David says that He will bless, or praise, the LORD “at all times”, that is, always (Psalms 34:1). This is how a thanksgiving psalm usually begins. After his rescue from such a difficult and degrading situation, he is full of gratitude to the LORD. He resolves that praise for Him will be “continually” in his mouth. “At all times” and “continually” means that the LORD is worthy of our praising Him not only when we are living in prosperity, but also when things are going against us, i.e. regardless of circumstance (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:16; Philippians 4:4).

He does not owe his deliverance from Abimelech’s grip into which he put himself to himself. Although he has acted like a madman, the LORD has worked in the heart of Abimelech not to kill him, but to drive him away. Therefore, he is still alive and free. It is the occasion for his soul to make its boast in the LORD (Psalms 34:2). There is nothing of his own, only embarrassment.

His experience has made him humble. The humble or lowly are people who, like him, have learned to be humble and submissive and to expect nothing more from themselves. A humble or humbled person is one whose spirit has been broken, because the Word has touched him in his distress (Isaiah 66:2), one who has humbled himself under the strong hand of God (1 Peter 5:6).

When David was in distress, he cried out to God from the depths of his soul. His experience that the LORD takes notice of such people (Isaiah 66:2) is an encouragement to others in similar situations. They will hear of what God has done for David. They will recognize that and rejoice that David was thus saved by the LORD.

David therefore calls them to join him in magnifying the LORD (Psalms 34:3). They have come to know the LORD in a similar way. Therefore, they can with David exalt His Name, that is, make known the glory of His Name. His Name is His Being, it is all that He is and in which His own have come to know Him. His goodness is expressed here in the fact that He lets Himself be entreated. The moment you ask for salvation in your distress, He hears and answers that prayer (Psalms 34:4; Psalms 34:6). That is the reason to praise His Name.

Verses 4-8

Seeking, Looking to and Fearing the LORD

In these verses follows the justification for praising the LORD that David called for in the previous verses It is clearly shown that the LORD is a Helper in need. In Psalms 34:4 and Psalms 34:6 David expresses a personal experience. In the subsequent verses Psalms 34:5 and Psalms 34:7, he expresses a general testimony on that basis as an encouragement to others. In the subsequent verses Psalms 34:6 and Psalms 34:8, he expresses a general testimony on that basis as an encouragement to others. Psalms 34:8 is an exhortation based on his experience and testimony.

In Psalms 34:4, David testifies to what is often found in Psalms: his seeking of God in his distress and God’s response in deliverance. The deliverance here is total, it is “from all my fears”. God delivered him from everything that made him fear (1 Samuel 21:12).

In Psalms 34:5, David expands this to a plural “they”. He does not say who these ‘they’ are, but we may assume that this is the little group of men who are with him. They also look forward to the LORD and “were radiant” (cf. Isaiah 60:5). The LORD helped them, so that their faces did not become red with shame (cf. Psalms 35:4).

In them we recognize the faithful remnant. In the end times, when there are so many enemies who make them fearful, they will be looking forward to Him, yes, their faces will be shining. When you see the Lord, you will be glad (John 20:20; cf. 1 Samuel 6:13). They will not be ashamed in their trust in Him, for they will be delivered ‘from all that they fear’.

David speaks of himself as “this poor man” (Psalms 34:6). This means that David in great distress humbled himself under the powerful hand of God (1 Peter 5:6). From what David experienced, others can learn how the LORD acts again and again. Therefore, he speaks of himself in the third person. He sets himself as an example of how the LORD saves an afflicted person who cries out to Him “out of all his troubles”.

In Psalms 34:7 he expands that again and speaks of “those who fear” the LORD. Around them the angel of the LORD encamps and rescues them (cf. Zechariah 9:8; 2 Kings 6:15-Esther :). The Angel of the LORD is the appearance of the LORD or Lord Jesus in the Old Testament (cf. Genesis 16:7-1 Chronicles :).

David concludes sharing his experiences with the call to “taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalms 34:8). Psalms 34:8 is the explanation of Psalms 34:8. We can taste that God is good when we take refuge in Him in great distress. Those who do so are happy, blessed, because God shows His goodness at such a time. David testified of it, so everyone can taste it and see it. We can taste and see God’s goodness in what He has done in the lives of others.

Yet the real tasting and seeing of God’s goodness will not really happen to us until we ourselves have experienced God in this way in our personal circumstances. It is therefore a call to go our way in fellowship with Him, in order that this may become our experience too. This means that we take refuge in Him in everything. Then we are blessed, full of happiness.

Peter quotes this verse in connection with our spiritual growth (1 Peter 2:3-Numbers :). For this we are not primarily dependent on a good mind, but on our spiritual taste. The things Peter speaks of are not addressed to the mind, but to the heart that has “tasted the kindness of the Lord”.

Peter speaks of experiencing goodness – Hebrew tov (Psalms 34:8) – when we come to Him, that is, in our distress, we resort to Him. He himself has tasted and seen that the Lord is good. After having denied the Lord Jesus, he is restored by Him. He is again used by the Lord in His service and may serve his brethren with the experience he has gained.

Verses 9-16

Learning the Fear of the LORD

Psalms 34:9-2 Samuel : are the explanation of Psalms 34:7-Ruth :. The “saints” (Psalms 34:9) are those who are devoted to and set apart for the LORD because they have taken refuge in Him (Psalms 34:8). They have experienced that the LORD is a mighty Redeemer (Psalms 34:7). Those who fear Him in Psalms 34:7 and Psalms 34:9 are the same persons as in Psalms 34:8: they have taken refuge in the LORD and have experienced that He is good. And if you have the LORD, you have no want, for you have everything (Genesis 33:11).

David calls God’s “saints” to fear the LORD (Psalms 34:9). He adds the motive: “For to those who fear Him there is no want.” This does not mean that they will always have plenty to eat and will always be healthy. What is meant is that they will never lack the presence of God. They say with David “the LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalms 23:1), because like him they can say “for You are with me” (Psalms 23:4).

David illustrates his words of Psalms 34:9 by drawing a comparison with predatory young lions who can always count on their speed and strength to seize prey (Psalms 34:10). Yet they “do lack and suffer hunger”. It is different for those “who seek the LORD”. They “shall not be in want of any good thing”. Even though they do lack and suffer hunger, they possess all the good the LORD has promised them because He is with them. They will not lack any of it. They may not get any of it on earth yet, but they will certainly get it in the resurrection.

David speaks as the wisdom teacher, as Solomon does in Proverbs (Psalms 34:11). He calls his followers – whom, as is customary for a wisdom teacher, he calls “children” here – to listen to him, for he wants to teach them something (cf. Proverbs 4:1). He wants to pass on to them what he himself has learned. He wants to “teach” them “the fear of the LORD” (cf. Proverbs 1:7). The fear of the LORD is so important because it is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10; Psalms 111:10). This is the best thing that we too can teach our children, better than any ability for this life.

In the following verses he teaches what the fear of the LORD is, what it consists of, and in what it is to be manifested. He also points out the blessed consequences this has. The teaching concerns learning to involve Him in all things of life, in deep awe of Him Who governs all things and with confidence that He does so perfectly.

Psalms 34:12-Nehemiah : are quoted by Peter (1 Peter 3:10-2 Kings :). Peter quotes up to and including Psalms 34:16. Psalms 34:16 he does not quote because that is not the issue at this time. For he speaks of the indirect government of God, that is, of a type of government of God in which evil is not immediately punished and good is not immediately rewarded. Only when the Lord Jesus reigns on earth will what Psalms 34:16 says take place. Peter quotes these verses from Psalm 34 because what it says applies not only in the realm of peace, but also right now.

David begins by asking: “Who is the man who desires life, and loves [length of] days that he may see good?” (Psalms 34:12; 1 Peter 3:10). The answer is contained in the question. Every person wants this, right? It is possible to find joy in life and see good days even during this life.

What David is saying here should be considered first and foremost in relation to earthly, temporary blessings, including the enjoyment of God’s favor. For the Israelite, blessing means having a good life, enjoying all the good gifts and dying in good age, surrounded by children and grandchildren, satisfied with life (cf. Genesis 25:8). The good life associated here with doing good is contrasted with the sudden, premature death of the wicked.

At the same time, we must remember that not every God-fearing Israelite grows old and dies satisfied with life, and not every wicked person dies young. Often we see the opposite. Therefore, is it not true what is written here in God’s Word? Yes, it is perfectly true. For we must remember that the blessing of long life is ultimately given in the realm of peace, after the resurrection.

As to receiving blessing or judgment, we must learn to look beyond death. In the resurrection, God fulfills all that He has promised. Therefore, what David says here comes down to faith in God’s Word, even when it looks like things are different than we read here at first glance.

There are some conditions attached to a life with days where the good is seen. David lists them. Without “the fear of the LORD (Psalms 34:11), God’s goodness (Psalms 34:8) cannot be experienced. In the following verses, the fear of the LORD is worked out in words (Psalms 34:13) and in works (Psalms 34:14).

These conditions preclude a person who does not have new life to ever enjoy true life and see good days. Only by those who have new life, that is life from God, these conditions can be met. By this we see that it is about the joy of life now and forever, that is life in the realm of peace under the blessed government of Messiah.

The conditions consist of something negative and something positive. First of all, David says, it is necessary to “keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit” (Psalms 34:13). One of the first evidences of new life can be observed in a change of speech. It remains a danger for those with new life to fall back into an old pattern in their speaking. That is why David warns against this danger, because it has a bad influence on the quality of your life (Proverbs 13:3). The joy in life disappears and the good of days is no longer enjoyed.

Then David tells his children, and us, to depart from evil and do good (Psalms 34:14; 1 Peter 3:11). The negative is succeeded by the positive. Life is not to be characterized by all the things that they don’t do, but by doing what is good. Those who only avoid the negative can be compared to a house that is empty, swept and decorated, which makes it a dwelling place of demons (Matthew 12:44). Doing good involves seeking peace and doing so intensely. We must pursue it, as one hunts a partridge in the mountains (1 Samuel 26:20). It is done with policy, with full commitment and together.

Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is the inner peace resulting from fellowship with God in going His way, trusting that He will provide what is needed and protect against danger. This peace is under constant pressure, because circumstances try to take it away. Therefore, it must be pursued. The pursuit of peace can be done by striving for a good mutual relationship with all those with whom we interact and seeking what is good for them (cf. Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14).

The wisdom teacher has spoken (Psalms 34:11 ), he has given advice. Beginning in Psalms 34:15, an explanation is given as to why. This explanation is given by contrasting the righteous with the wicked (Psalms 34:16; Psalms 34:21). To encourage us, David continues by directing our eye on the LORD (Psalms 34:15; 1 Peter 3:12).

His children or his disciples or followers, whom he here calls “the righteous”, may know that God’s eyes are constantly on them. Again we read of the eyes of the LORD (Psalms 32:8; Psalms 33:18). His eyes “are toward” them, which indicates His joyful involvement in all that concerns and befalls them.

He also knows that there are forces and powers that beset them that are much stronger than they are. Therefore, they may also know that in addition to His eyes, His ears are open to them (Psalms 17:6). “His ears are [open] to their cry”, when they are attacked by hostile powers. He hears them and stands up for them against those who plot evil against them.

He turns His ears to His own when they cry out to Him, but He turns His face in anger against those who do evil against His own (Psalms 34:16). He will deal with them at His coming to earth as King and “cut off the memory of them from the earth”. Not only will there be no more remembrance of these evildoers, but it also means that these evildoers will have no descendants. There is nothing left that reminds of them (Psalms 9:6; Psalms 109:13Psalms 109:15).

Verses 17-22

God Hears and Redeems

These verses are a further elaboration of Psalms 34:15. We see in these verses that the righteous can also be hit by severe disasters, but the LORD preserves and delivers them. At the same time, the righteous experiences that the LORD is good (Psalms 34:8). What David knows from his own experience also applies to all the righteous: They “cry, and the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles” (Psalms 34:17).

Through the afflictions, through severe blows in life, the righteous become “broken-hearted” and “crushed in spirit” (Psalms 34:18). Their heart, the core of their existence, is broken. Their spirit, their life force, is crushed. This is the situation where you no longer have a prospect except the refuge of the LORD (Isaiah 66:2). If you then take refuge in Him, He will always give protection. These features are sacrifices for God in which He is pleased and which He does not despise (Psalms 51:19). With those who have these features, He dwells (Isaiah 57:15). He is so “near” to them that He is ready and helps and delivers as soon as they cry out.

That “the afflictions of the righteous” are “many” (Psalms 34:19) seems contrary to the desire to see good days. The righteous is not afflicted by a little affliction, but by “many … afflictions”. The life of the righteous is not limited to the life here and now, but continues in the realm of peace and is lived to the fullest there. The LORD delivers the righteous “out of them all”, out of all that afflictions, by allowing him to partake of the blessings of the realm of peace.

What David says in Psalms 34:20 connects to this. The LORD keeps all the bones of the righteous, “not one of them is broken”. The righteous one will not suffer substantial, irreparable damage from all the afflictions that befalls him. This special protection by God of the righteous who suffers is literally experienced in a special way by Christ when He hangs on the cross (John 19:36; Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12). The protection of God from Christ, as well as from the martyrs of the great tribulation, transcends death.

Christ, as the only Man, has perfectly answered all that David said in Psalms 34:12-2 Chronicles :. Yet there is no man who has seen and experienced more affliction than He (Lamentations 3:1-Joshua :). This makes it clear that all the blessing that accompanies a Godly life is experienced inwardly on earth, and after the resurrection, outwardly as well. The Lord Jesus is delivered “out of” all His afflictions, not by being saved from suffering and death, but by God raising Him from the dead.

So it will be with all the righteous who have “many afflictions”. They share in the good in the resurrection because the Righteous has undergone a suffering that they could not have undergone and that is the suffering for their sins. As a result, they have been brought to God and become righteous (1 Peter 3:18). Christ did not become righteous, but was always the Righteous. Therefore, He was able to do this necessary and unique work of redemption from the power of sin.

In Psalms 34:21, David returns to what he said in Psalms 34:16 about those who do evil. He speaks here of “the wicked” and of “those who hate the righteous”. By “the wicked” we can think of one who is not guided by the fear of or respect for the LORD, unlike the righteous (Psalms 34:15), the disciples of the wisdom teacher. The way of the wicked will perish (Psalms 1:6). We can also think of the antichrist by the wicked. The evil he does will kill him. He is digging his own grave. The others are followers of him.

These followers are guilty of hating “the righteous”. At this point we can think of David, who is here a picture of the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:30; Acts 2:31). Christ is the Righteous par excellence (Isaiah 53:11). In addition, David is also an example for believers, both in this age and prophetically for the believing remnant in the end times.

Opposite to the death that comes upon the wicked and his followers is what the LORD does to those who fear Him (Psalms 34:22). He redeems their souls. The Hebrew word means change of ownership by paying a price. The antichrist will kill many of the believing remnant, but at the same time these martyrs have gained victory over the antichrist (Revelation 15:2).

David calls them “servants” of God. Ultimately, this then refers to the remnant when they have arrived in the blessing of the realm of peace. They are all Israel that will be saved (Romans 11:26). Then God’s words to His people after their deliverance from Egypt will be fulfilled: “You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6).

It's not that far yet. Circumstances make it necessary for those who are truly His people to “take refuge” in Him. There they are safe from the enmity of those who hate them. “None” of them “will be condemned”. This is in contrast to those who hate them, for they will be condemned, as stated in the previous verse. They owe this “not condemned declaration” to Him Who was condemned for them and bore the judgment for their sins on the cross.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 34". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-34.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.