Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Psalms 31

Verse 1



This Psalm was composed either when David was in great distress, or afterwards, in remembrance thereof, and of God’s singular goodness in delivering him out of it, whence it is mixed of prayer and praises, of hopes and fears. But what those particular troubles were which David here speaks, is only matter of conjecture, and therefore I shall rather omit than confidently determine.

David prayeth for preservation, according to his confidence which he putteth in God, Psalms 31:1-6, that he might rejoice in his mercy, Psalms 31:7,8. He declareth what he suffered from his enemies and friends, Psalms 31:9-13; but magnifieth the care and tenderness of God, Psalms 31:14-18; and praiseth him for his goodness to himself and to the faithful, Psalms 31:19-24.

Let me never be ashamed, to wit, of my confidence in thy promises.

In thy righteousness, i.e. by or for; or, according to thy faithfulness and goodness; both which come oft under the name of righteousness.

Verse 2

Deliver me speedily, because of the greatness and urgency of my danger, which is even ready to swallow me up.

Verse 3

For thy name’s sake; for the glory of thy name, i.e. of thy power, and truth, and mercy to thy miserable servant.

Lead me, and guide me; two words expressing the same thing with more emphasis. Direct me clearly and continually in a right and safe path; for without thy conduct I can neither discern the right way, or continue in it.

Verse 5

Into thine hand, i.e. to thy care and custody,

I commit my spirit, i.e. my soul or life, called a man’s spirit, as Ecclesiastes 3:21 12:7, &c. Either,

1. To receive it; for my case is almost desperate, and I am ready to give up the ghost. Or,

2. To preserve it from the plots and malice of mine enemies.

Thou hast redeemed me; thou hast delivered me formerly in great dangers, and therefore I willingly and cheerfully commit myself to thee for the future.

O Lord God of truth; who hast showed thyself to be so to me, in making good thy promises.

Verse 6

I have hated them; their very persons, not simply, but for their wickedness. Compare Psalms 139:21,22.

That regard, Heb. that observe, to wit, with respect to them, dependence upon them, or expectation of any good from them.

Lying vanities; or, most vain vanities; such as are foolish, and deceitful, and fruitless. By which he understands, either,

1. All human or carnal helps, any arm of flesh; for he that trusteth therein is pronounced cursed, Jeremiah 17:5, and therefore is hateful. Or,

2. Idols, which are oft called vanities, as Deuteronomy 32:21 Jeremiah 2:5 8:19, &c. Or,

3. Curious arts, and all sorts of divinations by stars, or the notions or inwards of living creatures, or by the dead; which practices were common and prevalent among those Eastern people, and by their example were too rife among the Israelites also, Isaiah 2:6, of whom he here speaks; for the Gentiles that observed these vanities he rather pitied than hated; but the Israelites that did so were apostates from God, and professed enemies to him and his laws, and therefore were the proper objects of just hatred.

Verse 7

Thou hast known, i.e. loved me, and cared for me; for words of knowledge commonly imply affection.

Verse 8

Hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy; whereof I was in great and imminent danger, if thou hadst not delivered me. See 1 Samuel 23:7.

Thou hast made way for me to escape, when I was encompassed by them, and set me at liberty.

Verse 9

With grief; with continual weeping. See Poole "Psalms 6:7".

My soul; my sorrows are not counterfeit or slight, but inward and hearty; my mind is oppressed, my heart is ready to sink under my burden.

My belly, i.e. my bowels contained in my belly; which are the seat of the affections, and fountains of support and nourishment to the whole body. Thus the whole man, both soul and body, inside and outside, are consumed.

Verse 10

My life, i.e. the time of my life, as the next clause explains it.

Because of mine iniquity; either through my deep and just sense of my sins, which have provoked God to afflict me in this manner; or for the punishment of mine iniquity, as this word is frequently used.

My bones, in which my chief strength lies.

Are consumed; the juice and marrow of them being almost dried up with excessive grief.

Verse 11

A reproach, i.e. the matter of their reproaches and scorns. This, said they, is David, anointed to be king of Israel, a goodly monarch indeed, forsaken by God and men, and in a perishing and desperate condition; he pretends great piety to God, and loyalty to Saul, but in truth he is a great impostor, and a traitor and rebel to his king. Especially among my neighbours; which aggravates their sin, and his misery, partly because they were obliged by the laws of neighbourhood to perform all friendly offices to him; and partly because they were daily witnesses of his integrity, and therefore sinned against their own knowledge. A fear; or, a terror. They were afraid to give me any countenance or assistance, or to be seen in my company; being warned by Ahimelech’s punishment for it, 1Sa 22.

Fled from me; either loathing me as a monster of men, and an unlucky spectacle, and such a villain as mine enemies represented me, and they believed me to be; or to prevent their own danger and ruin, which might be occasioned by it.

Verse 12

Whatsoever good service I have done to the king, or kingdom, or to any particular persons, neighbours, friends, or others, which sometimes they have acknowledged and highly commended, is now quite forgotten by all of them; or, at least, they carry themselves to me as if it were so.

As a dead man; whose name and memory is quite lost within a few days. See Psalms 88:12 Ecclesiastes 9:5.

Like a broken vessel, made of earth; which is irreparable, and useless, and therefore despised by all.

Verse 13

I have heard, partly with my own ears, and partly by the information of others.

The slander of many, who reproach and defame me as a turbulent and seditious person, an enemy to the public peace, a conspirator against the king’s life or dignity.

Fear, i.e. just cause of fear, even of the loss of my life, as appears from the next clause.

They devised to take away, to wit, unjustly and violently; as this word is used, Genesis 34:2 24:11.

Verse 14

Mine by paternal relation, and care, and affection, and by thy promise or covenant made with me.

Verse 15

My times; either,

1. The time of my life, how long I shall live. Or,

2. My opportunities or fit seasons for working out my deliverance. Or rather,

3. All the affairs and events of my life; for time is oft put for things done or accidents happening in time, as 1 Chronicles 29:30 Job 11:17 Psalms 37:18 Ecclesiastes 9:11 Daniel 2:21 Acts 17:26.

Are in thy hand, i.e. are wholly in thy power, to dispose and order as thou seest fit, and not at all in mine enemies’ power, who can do nothing against me, unless it be given them from above.

Verse 16

Manifest thy love and favour to me, by answering my prayers, and saving me from all mine enemies.

Verse 17

I have called upon thee; and therefore thy honour will be eclipsed in my disappointment, as if thou didst not hear prayers, nor keep promise, nor make any difference between good and bad men.

Let the wicked be ashamed; frustrated in their wicked designs and carnal confidences. Seeing they are implacable in their malice and rage against innocent and good men, do thou cut them off by thy just judgment; and since either the righteous or the wicked must be cut off, let destruction fall upon them, who most deserve it.

Verse 18

Lying lips; slanderous tongues. Be put to silence, either by thy vindication and discovery of my integrity; or by some eminent judgment, which may either convince them, or cut them off.

Grievous things, Heb. hard words, or things, the singular number being put for the plural. Of this expression, see 1 Samuel 2:3 Psalms 60:3 94:4 Jude 15. He means such as were grievous, and hard to be borne, as bitter calumnies, cruel mockings, terrible threatenings, and the like.

Proudly and contemptuously; with great arrogancy, and confidence of success, and contempt of me and mine, whom they look upon as few in number, and impotent and fugitives, and such whom they can blow away with a breath.

Against the righteous; against us, whom thou knowest to be righteous, notwithstanding all their false accusations; and therefore for thy love to righteousness save us, and silence our unjust enemies.

Verse 19

How great is thy goodness! no words can express the greatness of thy love and blessings. Laid up, or hidden, to wit, with thyself, or in thy own breast. The word is very emphatical, and removes an objection of ungodly men, taken from the present calamities of good men. His favour, it is true, is not always manifested to or for them but it is laid up for them in his treasure, whence it shall be drawn forth when they need it, and he sees it fit.

Thou hast wrought; or, hast prepared, as Exodus 15:17. Or, wilt work; the past time being put for the future, to note the certainty of it, as is common in the prophetical writings.

Before the sons of men, i.e. publicly. and in the view of the world, their very enemies seeing, and admiring, and envying it, but not being able to hinder it.

Verse 20

In the secret of thy presence; or as in the secret of thy presence either,

1. As if they were in thy presence-chamber, where thine own eye and hand guardeth them from all the assaults of their enemies; called his secret, partly because the greatest part of the world are strangers to God and his presence; and partly because it is a safe and secure place, such as secret and unknown places are. Or,

2. As if they were

in the secret of God’s tabernacle, as it is called, Psalms 27:5, the place of God’s special presence, where none might enter save the high priest. Or,

3. With thy secret favour and providence, which works mightily, yet secretly, for them, and saves them by hidden and unknown methods. This is opposed to those caves, or other obscure and unsafe places, where David was forced to hide himself.

From the pride of man; from their vain-glorious boasts and threats, and from their bold and insolent attempts.

In a pavilion; or, as in thy pavilion, or tabernacle; and so this clause explains the former, and the pronoun thy is here easily and aptly understood out of the foregoing branch.

From the strife of tongues, i.e. from the mischief of contentious and slanderous tongues.

Verse 21

To wit, in Keilah; where God wonderfully preserved me; of which see 1 Samuel 23:7. Others, as

in a strong city. He hath kept me as safe in woods and caves, as if I had been in a fenced city.

Verse 22

In my haste, i.e. in my hasty flight from Saul, when he and his men had almost encompassed me, 1 Samuel 23:26, which happened presently after his deliverance in and from the strong city of Keilah. Or, in my fear, or trembling, when my passion took away my consideration, and weakened my faith.

Cut off from before thine eyes, i.e. cast out of thy sight, and out of the care of thy gracious providence; my case is desperate. Or, cut off whilst thou lookest on, and dost not pity nor help me.

Thou heardest the voice of my supplications; my fears were quickly confuted by thy gracious answer to my prayers.

Verse 23

The Lord preserveth the faithful; or, keepeth faithfulness, or faithfulnesses, i.e. is faithful in fulfilling his promises; or rather, the faithful, who is opposed to the proud doer in the next clause of the verse.

Plentifully, Heb. with (for so the Hebrew al sometimes signifies) abundance.

The proud doer; the enemies and persecutors of God’s faithful ones before mentioned, whom he calls here proud doers, because of their rebellion against God’s will, and their contempt of his threatenings and judgments, and their most insolent and contemptuous carriage towards his people; all which proceeds from the pride of their heart, Psalms 10:4.

Verse 24

Be of good courage; or, be strong in the Lord, and by confidence in his promises, which will not fail you; as I have found by experience.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 31". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.