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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the Bible

Psalms 101

Psalms 101:0

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Psalmist's Profession of Uprightness MT IntroA Psalm of David Promised Faithfulness to the LordA King Pledges to Rule JustlyA King's PromiseThe Ideal Ruler
Psalms 101:1-5Psalms 101:1Psalms 101:1-2bPsalms 101:1-2bPsalms 101:1-2b
Psalms 101:2Psalms 101:2-3bPsalms 101:2-5Psalms 101:2-3b
Psalms 101:3-4Psalms 101:3-4 Psalms 101:3-4
Psalms 101:5Psalms 101:5 Psalms 101:5
Psalms 101:6-8Psalms 101:6-8Psalms 101:6Psalms 101:6Psalms 101:6
Psalms 101:7Psalms 101:7-8Psalms 101:7
Psalms 101:8 Psalms 101:8

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. The first strophe starts out with three cohortatives (Psalms 101:1-2, i.e., OT Parsing Guide, p. 451).

1. I will sing - BDB 1010, KB 1479, Qal

2. I will sing praises - BDB 274, KB 372, Piel

3. I will give heed - BDB 968, KB 1328, Hiphil

The NASB continues the strophe through Psalms 101:5. There are several more “I will. . .” statements that function as cohortatives.

1. I will walk. . ., Psalms 101:2 - BDB 229, BK 246

2. I will set. . ., Psalms 101:3 - BDB 1011, KB 1483, Qal imperfect

3. I hate. . ., Psalms 101:3 - BDB 971, KB 1338, Qal perfect (but in a series of imperfects)

4. I will know. . ., Psalms 101:4 - BDB 393, KB 390, Qal imperfect

5. I will destroy. . ., Psalms 101:5 - BDB 856, KB 1035, Hiphil imperfect

6. . . .will I endure, Psalms 101:5 - BDB 407, KB 410, Qal imperfect

Just a disclaimer, other scholars see these verbs as referring to past action (AB, vol. 17A, p. 4). I think the first verbs are what the psalmist will do when YHWH comes (Psalms 100:2b) because of his godly covenant obedience.

B. This strophe (Psalms 101:1-5) functions as an affirmation of the psalmist's faith and faithfulness to YHWH and His revelation.

1. he sings of YHWH's lovingkindness (i.e., hesed, see Special Topic: Lovingkindness [hesed]; because of Psalms 101:2-5, these first two may be a claim of the psalmist's faithfulness and fairness. These two nouns often describe YHWH. The King should reflect YHWH's character).

2. he sings of YHWH's justice (see Special Topic: Judge, Judgment, Justice)

3. he lives the blameless way

a. for “blameless,” see Special Topic: Blameless, Innocent, Without Reproach

b. for “way,” see online notes at Deuteronomy 8:6 and 10:20; Psalms 1:1; Psalms 1:1; for the related term “path” (BDB 73) see online note at Isaiah 2:3

4. he walks in integrity (BDB 1070) of heart

5. he puts no worthless thing (BDB 116) before his eyes

6. he hates those who swerve from the right (rare noun, used only twice in the OT, BDB 962, cf. Hosea 5:2)

7. he does not allow their evil (i.e., #6) to cling to him

8. he knows no evil

9. he will destroy/silence those who secretly slander

10. he will not endure those who have

a. a haughty look

b. an arrogant heart

C. The second strophe continues the emphasis of Psalms 101:1-5. It describes the psalmist's godly lifestyle and rejection of evil.

1. positive (Psalms 101:6)

a. he knows the faithful of the land

b. he desires that they dwell together

c. he allows those who live blameless lives (Psalms 101:6b) to minister/serve with him

2. negative (Psalms 101:7-8)

a. he will not allow those who practice deceit to dwell with him

b. he will not allow those who speak falsehood to minister/serve him

c. he will continually destroy/silence the wicked of the land

d. he will cut off those who imply the psalmist is the “king”

D. Notice how the opposite of faithful followers are characterized.

1. idolaters, Psalms 101:3a

2. apostates, Psalms 101:3b

3. perverse heart, Psalms 101:4; Psalms 101:4a

4. secret slanders, Psalms 101:5a

5. haughty look, Psalms 101:5b

6. arrogant heart, Psalms 101:5; Psalms 101:5b

7. practice deceit, Psalms 101:7a

8. speaks falsehood, Psalms 101:7b

9. the wicked, Psalms 101:8a

10. those who do iniquity, Psalms 101:8b

Verses 1-5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 101:1-5 1I will sing of lovingkindness and justice, To You, O Lord, I will sing praises. 2I will give heed to the blameless way. When will You come to me? I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart. 3I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me. 4A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil. 5Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.

Psalms 101:1 “lovingkindness and justice” For “lovingkindness” see SPECIAL TOPIC: LOVINGKINDNESS (HESED).

For “justice” see Special Topic: Judge, Judgment, Justice.

“O Lord” This is the covenant name for Israel's Deity (YHWH). See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

Psalms 101:2 “blameless” See Special Topic: Blameless, Innocent, Without Reproach.

“When will You come to me?” This phrase is translated “when shall I attain it?” by JPSOA. The UBS Text Project (p. 373) supports the MT with a “B” rating (some doubt).

It reflects the OT, Mosaic, performance-based covenant. It is often called “the two ways” (cf. Psalms 1:0; Deuteronomy 30:1, Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Jeremiah 17:5-8). It is a “Wisdom Literature” category designated by the terms

1. blessed (cf. Psalms 1:1; Matthew 7:0)

2. cursed (cf. Deuteronomy 27-28)

3. plant life, either fruitful or dying

Prosperity was viewed as a direct gift from God for obedience to the covenant, but problems were a direct result of sin (cf. Job; Psalms 73:0). This OT theological view must be modified by the NT's revelation. God is with us and for us, based on who He is! Jesus comes for all, not just some. The OT focuses on the poor, alienated, and socially powerless as a theological way of asserting His love for all, not just the outwardly blessed! He has come in Christ! His love must be received by repentance, faith, obedience, service, and perseverance.

“within my house” This phrase is ambiguous. It could refer to

1. the nations (cf. Psalms 101:7, i.e., psalmist as king)

2. a domestic area

3. a society

The psalmist is asserting either his current or past obedience to YHWH's covenant through Moses. Those described in Psalms 101:3 are those who knowingly violate the covenant repeatedly (imperfect).

The word “house,” BDB 108, is used of the king's palace in 1 Kings 4:6; 1 Kings 16:9; Isaiah 22:15. This could support the view that the author was the king.

Psalms 101:3 This verse describes an apostasy from the faith. The term translated “fall away” (BDB 962, KB 750) occurs only here and in Hosea 5:2. KB suggests “deviation” or “transgression” (LXX). This is a difficult concept but a repeated one in Scripture. See SPECIAL TOPIC: APOSTASY (APHISTÇMI). For most of Israel's history only a fraction of her people were faithful followers.

“worthless thing” This noun (BDB 116) is the root from which the later title for Satan, Belial, is derived. Its basic meaning is “worthless,” “good for nothing,” “base.” In this context it may refer to idolatry (AB, vol. 17A, p. 61).

See note from Deuteronomy 13:13.

Deuteronomy 13:13 “worthless men” Literally this means “sons of Belial” (BDB 116). The Hebrew word meant “worthless one” or “good for nothing” (cf. Judges 19:22; Judges 20:13; 1 Samuel 10:27; 1 Samuel 30:22; 1 Kings 21:10, 1 Kings 21:13; Proverbs 6:12). By the NT time, Belial had become synonymous with Satan (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:15). There is a theological development in Scripture where evil becomes personified.

SPECIAL TOPIC: PERSONAL EVIL

Psalms 101:4 “evil” Evil (BDB 948 II), in this context, is conscious violation of YHWH's revealed will. Because evil people are addressed in Psalms 101:3b, Psalms 101:5a, Psalms 101:6, I think this also refers to an evil person (cf. NAB, New Berkeley version). See my notes from Deuteronomy 30:15-20 online, www.freebiblecommentary.org.

Psalms 101:5 “I will destroy” The verb (BDB 856, KB 1035, Hiphil imperfect [I believe, used in a cohortative sense]) means “exterminate,” or “annihilate” in Hebrew, but in Arabic, it means “to silence” (cf. NJB). This connotation of the root fits this context best. It shows that secret lies/slander will be silenced (REB).

Justice will come one day! It has come in Christ (cf. Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17) and will be consummated one day over all the earth (cf. Matthew 6:10; John 14:1-3; Revelation 11:15).

“will I endure” The MT (BDB 407, KB 410, Qal imperfect) consonants, יכל, are interpreted by the LXX as אכל (BDB 37). This emendation is not supported by any major English translation, except the NEB, but it is not followed by the REB. “Endure” or “tolerate” parallels “destroy” or “silence.”

Verses 6-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 101:6-8 6My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me; He who walks in a blameless way is the one who will minister to me. 7He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house; He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me. 8Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land, So as to cut off from the city of the Lord all those who do iniquity.

Psalms 101:6 Several English translations make both Psalms 101:5 and 6 separate strophes (NRSV, NJB). This is possibly because Psalms 101:3-4, Psalms 101:5 (and 7) describe who the king will not accept, while Psalms 101:6 describes those he will accept. These are the kinds of faithful followers who are like the king himself (cf. Psalms 101:1-2).

Psalms 101:7 “before me” This construct of BDB 617 and BDB 744 is repeated from Psalms 101:3a. This phrase is parallel to “within my house,” which is another reason to see this Psalm as authored by the king.

Psalms 101:8 This verse seems to have an eschatological orientation.

1. every morning (i.e., coming of light; or simply the time the king held court, cf. 2 Samuel 15:2)

2. the land (i.e., has several possible connotations, see Special Topic: Land, Country, Earth)

3. the city of the Lord (see Revelation 21-22, where it becomes imagery of all the people of God, i.e., “the holy city, new Jerusalem”)

4. cut off. . .all those who do iniquity (cf. Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:11-15; Revelation 21:8, Revelation 21:27)

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Is this a royal Psalm? Why or why not?

2. Does Psalms 101:1 describe YHWH or the king?

3. Why is Psalms 101:2b so difficult to interpret?

4. Does Psalms 101:3 refer to idolatry?

5. Is Psalms 101:8 eschatological or ideal?

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Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 101". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-101.html. 2021.