David praiseth God, and exhorteth others thereto by his experience. They are blessed that trust in God. He exhorteth to the fear of God. The privileges of the righteous.
A Psalm of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed.
Title. ויגרשׁהו vaigarshehu. Who drove him away— Who dismissed him, according to the Vulgate, LXX, Arabic, &c. It is very probable, that Abimelech was a name of dignity given to all the kings of Gath, as Pharaoh and Caesar were to the Egyptian and Roman kings. See the notes on 1 Samuel 21. Dr. Delaney is of opinion, that David wrote this psalm for the use and instruction of those men who resorted to him at Adullam, after his departure from Gath. The psalm (says he) contains the noblest encouragements to piety and virtue, from an assurance that all such as are so devoted are the immediate care of Almighty God; as all those of a contrary character are his abhorrence, and the sure marks of his vengeance. The psalm, considered in this light, is certainly one of the noblest, the best turned, best judged, and best adapted compositions, that ever was penned. David begins by encouraging them to piety and gratitude to God from his own example, Psalms 34:1-7. He then exhorts others to make trial of the same mercies; to learn the goodness of God from their own experience, Psalms 34:8-9. He then assures them, that strength and magnanimity are no securities from want and distress; whereas trust and confidence in God are a never-failing source of every thing that is good, Psalms 34:10. After which he sums up all in a most pathetic and beautiful exhortation to piety and virtue, and to confidence in God; in full assurance, that, as he was the guardian and true protector of virtue in distress, so was he the unerring observer and steady avenger of wickedness. See Life of David, b. i. c. 12.
Psalms 34:3. Magnify the Lord with me— These, and the like expressions, do not mean that we can add any thing to the glory of the name or nature of God; but that we should shew forth and publicly celebrate his majesty and greatness, when we experience the interpositions of his providence in our deliverance from any threatening evil. We should then, with the Psalmist, glory in God; i.e. ascribe our safety, not to our own contrivance, subtilty, or power, but to the assistance and care of God, who watches over us. Chandler.
Psalms 34:4. And delivered me from all my fears— This exactly answers to the history; which informs us, that when David heard what the servants of Achish said to their master concerning him, He laid up those words in his heart, and was greatly afraid, 1 Samuel 21:13. Undoubtedly, he thought himself in extreme danger; but, instead of removing their suspicions, and his own fears, by offering to join with the Philistines against his country, he rather chose to counterfeit madness, and trust Providence with the success of it, than secure his safety by base and dishonourable compliances. Chandler.
Psalms 34:5. And were lightened— The original verb נהר nahar signifies, properly, to flow down or flow around, and is used of the flow of rivers, and with equal propriety applied to the flow of light. Accordingly, in the Chaldee and Arabic languages, it has the signification of light and splendor, and unquestionably it had the same originally in the Hebrew. See Job 3:4. The meaning of the word in the passage before us is, that the humble looked unto God for the Psalmist's protection, and received that light; i.e. that comfort and joy from him upon David's return in safety, which diffused itself throughout their whole hearts; so that their faces were not ashamed, or, as the word חפר chapar signifies, "not put to the blush for shame," by being disappointed as to their hope on his account. Chandler. It may be proper just to observe, that this is another of the alphabetical psalms; but that this 5th verse includes two letters, and yet is no longer than the rest, which have only one of these initial letters. This verse is translated by many, Approach, or look unto the Lord, and be enlightened, and your faces shall not be ashamed. See the versions, and Houbigant. Fenwick renders it,
Who look to him, have always comfort found; None e'er do that, and go away asham'd.
Psalms 34:6-7. This poor man cried— This seems to be the triumph of David's afflicted friends for his safe return, says Chandler. "This distressed man cried and sought the help of God, when he was in the greatest straits at Gath, as being in danger of destruction if he stayed there, and yet not knowing how to escape: but God heard his cry, and delivered him out of them all." The angel of the Lord, in the next verse, does not mean a single angel; but a commanding angel, ordering his forces to encamp round about those whom God commissions him to preserve in safety. Dr. Delaney supposes these two verses to allude to Jacob, who was at Mahanaim protected by two armies of angels; or perhaps, more particularly, to the many distresses from which the Psalmist himself was delivered by the gracious interposition of God.
Psalms 34:10. The young lions do lack— All the ancient versions, except the Chaldee, read great, powerful men, instead of young lions; and Houbigant renders the place, rich men are become poor and hungry; but they who seek the Lord, &c. This sense is undoubtedly good: but I see nothing to object against our own reading; for the meaning is, that if God takes care of the beasts of the field, much more will he take care of them that fear him; and much sooner suffer those to die for want of their prey, than these to perish through the want of necessaries or the failure of his protection. The original word כפירים kphirim, signifies rather lions of prey, than young lions. See Chandler and Schultens on Proverbs 30:12.
Psalms 34:12. And loveth many days, that he may see good— And loveth days to see or enjoy good. Houbigant. The meaning of the verse is, "Who is the man that desires a long and happy life?"
Psalms 34:15. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous— i.e. He beholds them with approbation, and is constantly watchful over them to protect and supply them; and, on the other hand, the face of the Lord is against them that do evil, as he views them with displeasure, and marks them out for vengeance. Mr. Mudge reads the 16th verse in a parenthesis, as coming in only by the bye; for the general subject relates to good men, and the 17th verse is connected to the 15th. His eyes are open to their cry;—They cry, &c.
Psalms 34:18. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart— God is near to all men: for in him they all live: but he is near to the broken in heart in a peculiar sense, as he is ever ready and always able to help them; as men are much more capable of assisting those whom they value when present with, than when absent from them; from which the form of speech, as applied to God, is taken. Chandler.
Psalms 34:20. He keepeth all his bones, &c.— These words were peculiarly accomplished in Christ, whose bones were not broken on the cross, according to the usual custom of treating those who were crucified, to put them the sooner out of their pain. But the expression here may be figurative, and mean deliverance from all grievous, distressing, and deadly affliction. This is what good men may generally expect from God. The 21st verse seems fully to explain this.
Psalms 34:21. Evil shall slay the wicked— The consequences of men's crimes are often fatal to them; they shall destroy the wicked; but the righteous, though he has many sufferings, yet shall he be delivered out of them, Psalms 34:19 and not like the wicked come to utter destruction.
Psalms 34:22. The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants— This is a detached sentence, added, as in Psalms 25 beyond the alphabet; perhaps that the same may sound well, in ending with a promise rather than a threat: the latter Jews, for the same reason, repeat a verse at the end of some books in the Old Testament. Shall be desolate, may be rendered, shall be guilty; which is the proper meaning of the original word יאשׁמו ieeshemu. They are guilty, and liable to punishment. The word is frequently rendered thus in our version (see Leviticus 13:22.), and generally includes in it the idea of guilt, and the punishment incurred by it. Chandler; who observes, that this psalm is well adapted to the occasion on which it was penned. David was in a very dangerous situation at Gath, and seems to have been apprehensive that the Philistines would have treated him as an enemy and a spy. He was himself greatly afraid, Psalms 34:4. His friends were in pain for him when they heard of his situation, and earnestly looked to God, that, as he had promised him the crown, he would protect and restore him to his country in safety: Psalms 34:5. There is something very striking and pleasing in the sudden transitions, and the change of persons which is observable in these few verses. My soul shall boast—The humble shall hear—I sought the Lord—This poor man cried, &c. There is a force and elegance in the very unconnection of the expressions which, had they been more closely tied by the proper particles, would have been in a great measure lost. Things thus separated from each other, and yet accelerated, discover, as Longinus observes, the earnestness and vehemency of the inward working of the mind; and, though it may seem to interrupt or disturb the sentence, yet quickens and enforces it. De Sublim. cap. 19:
REFLECTIONS.—1. He professes his fixed purpose, at all times, and in all places, to be shewing forth God's praise; both as the grateful tribute which he owed, and that other humble men in distress might hear and be glad, encouraged by his mercies to hope for help and deliverance. In the Lord he will boast, ascribing all to him, and counting his interest in his favour the greatest and most invaluable acquisition.
2. He labours to excite others to join him in the work of praise, exalting and magnifying God's holy name. And good reason was there for so doing: great was his distress, an exile in an enemy's country; his life in danger; but he could be in no place where a throne of grace was not open: thither he flies, tells his compassionate Lord of all his fears, and is heard and holpen. Nor was his case singular; multitudes, like himself, had prayed, and were lightened, their darkness of soul dispelled, and their distressful circumstances cleared up: nor did ever God refuse the meanest, who thus were found waiting upon him. Angelic hosts disdain not the employment of ministering to the heirs of salvation; but, happy in obedience to their Lord's commands, encamp around them. Thus God delivers his believing people from every danger, and they are bound to bless and praise him.
3. He invites all to taste and see that the Lord is good, to come and partake of the riches of his mercy in Christ, so freely offered, and so richly bestowed on the sinful sons of men. Blessed is the man that trusteth in him, accepts the gracious invitation, and rests on his merciful goodness for pardon, grace, and glory.
4. He exhorts his saints to fear him for his goodness' sake, engaged thereby to more dutiful submission and service; and surely their interest is highly concerned in so doing, for there is no want to them that fear him. As much of this world's good as is advantageous for them shall be given them; but especially the spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus, in all their rich abundance, shall be their happy portion. Thus, though the lions hunger through the scarcity of prey; or the covetous and ravenous oppressor is reduced to want, God's faithful people shall be fed to the full, their soul and body both replenished, and nothing be wanting to make them truly and abidingly happy.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 34". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany