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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 61

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Introduction

Psalms 61:0

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Confidence in God's Protection MT Intro For the choir director; on a stringed instrument. A Psalm of David. Assurance of God's Eternal Protection Prayer For Protection A Prayer for Protection Prayer of An Exile
Psalms 61:1-4 Psalms 61:1-2 Psalms 61:1-2 Psalms 61:1-2 Psalms 61:1-2
Psalms 61:3-7 Psalms 61:3-5 Psalms 61:3 Psalms 61:3-5
Psalms 61:4-5
Psalms 61:5-8
Psalms 61:6-7 Psalms 61:6-7 Psalms 61:6-7
Psalms 61:8 Psalms 61:8 Psalms 61:8 Psalms 61:8

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. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This is obviously a royal Psalm (cf. Psalms 61:6). How God deals with the King represents how He deals with the nation (cf. Psalms 61:5).

B. At first, Psalms 61:2 seems to imply exile but the rest of the Psalm does not support this. Therefore, Psalms 61:2a must be metaphorical of the King's sense of spiritual alienation.

C. This Psalm has several memorable images of God.

1. the rock that is higher than I

2. You have been a refuge for me

3. You have been a tower of strength

4. let me dwell in Your tent forever

5. let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 61:1-4 1Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer. 2From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 3For You have been a refuge for me, A tower of strength against the enemy. 4Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah.

Psalms 61:1 Two parallel imperatives of request start this Psalm (cf. Psalms 86:6; Isaiah 28:23; Isaiah 49:1; Isaiah 51:4; Jeremiah 18:19; Daniel 9:19; Hosea 5:1).

1. hear my cry BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperative

2. give heed to my prayer BDB 904, KB 1151, Hiphil imperative

In Psalms 61:2 the psalmist says, “From the end of the earth I call to You.” This sounds like a prayer of an exiled person but the rest of the Psalm does not support this. Therefore, it must be imagery of a sense of alienation n his behalf.

The word “earth” can, in this context, be understood as “land” (i.e., Promised Land), see SPECIAL TOPIC: LAND, COUNTRY, EARTH. Words have meaning only in context!

The AB understands the phrase to refer to Sheol (p. 84). This is based on Ugaritic parallels. If so, the psalmist faced death, not just discouragement.

“cry” “Cry” (BDB 943) can refer to shouts of joy or, as here, a cry for help and protection (cf. Psalms 17:1; Psalms 88:2; Psalms 106:44; Psalms 119:169; Psalms 142:6).

Psalms 61:2 “the rock that is higher than I” The title, “rock” reflects two Hebrew roots (BDB 849 and 700 I). The title first (BDB 849) appears in Deuteronomy 32:4, Deuteronomy 32:15, Deuteronomy 32:18, Deuteronomy 32:30, Deuteronomy 32:31. Notice how it is expressed.

1. the Rock Deuteronomy 32:4, Deuteronomy 32:15, Deuteronomy 32:18, Deuteronomy 32:30, Deuteronomy 32:31

2. the Rock of his salvation Deuteronomy 32:15; 2 Samuel 22:47; Psalms 89:26; Psalms 95:1

3. the Rock who begot you Deuteronomy 32:18

4. their Rock sold them Deuteronomy 32:30

5. their rock is not like our Rock Deuteronomy 32:31

6. there is no rock like our God 1 Samuel 2:2

7. YHWH is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer Psalms 18:2; Psalms 31:3; Psalms 71:3; Psalms 94:22

8. My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge Psalms 18:2; Psalms 28:1; Isaiah 17:10

9. who is a rock, except our God Psalms 18:31

10. YHWH lives, and blessed be my rock Psalms 18:46

11. my rock and my redeemer Psalms 19:14

12. my rock (BDB 700 I) Psalms 42:9

13. my rock and there is no unrighteousness in Him Psalms 92:15

14. blessed by YHWH, my rock Psalms 144:1

15. YHWH an everlasting Rock Isaiah 26:4

16. to the mountain of YHWH, to the Rock of Israel Isaiah 30:29

17. is there any other Rock? Isaiah 44:8

BDB 700 I occurs only in Psalms 18:2; Psalms 42:9. It literally means “rocky crag,” but is a synonym of BDB 849 (both used in Psalms 18:2).

This imagery has several possible origins.

1. the mountain roots or pillars connected to creation

2. the site of YHWH's giving of the law to Israel

3. the temple on Mt. Moriah

4. the strength and permanency of physical mountains

5. mountains are the highest point, closest to heaven where God dwells

“higher than I” This could mean several things.

1. the rock that provides salvation and refuge that the psalmist cannot provide himself

2. the rock he is unable to climb or possibly understand (i.e., God's permanency)

3. the contrast between God's exalted place and the psalmist's place of discouragement (i.e., when my heart is faint)

The LXX and Peshitta have, “You left me upon a rock.”

Psalms 61:3 Much of the imagery used to describe God has military connotations.

1. a refuge linked to a shield in 2 Samuel 22:31; Psalms 18:30; Proverbs 30:5

2. a refuge linked to a stronghold in Psalms 59:16

3. here a refuge linked to a “tower of strength” (cf. Proverbs 18:10) in Psalms 62:7, “the rock of my strength”

Psalms 61:4 Psalms 61:4 has two cohortative verbs.

1. let me dwell in Your tent BDB 157, KB 184, Qal cohortative, cf. Psalms 27:5; Psalms 31:20; Psalms 32:7

2. let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings BDB 340, KB 337, Qal imperfect used in a cohortative sense (see SPECIAL TOPIC: SHADOW AS METAPHOR FOR PROTECTION AND CARE)

As Psalms 61:3 has military imagery, Psalms 61:4 has imagery related to the temple or possibly “rock” in Psalms 61:2. The imagery of Psalms 61:4a is also found in Psalms 23:6; Psalms 27:4.

The term “forever” is plural, which accentuates the concept (see SPECIAL TOPIC: FOREVER (‘OLAM). I think in this OT, Wisdom Literature context it denotes a happy, long life in temple fellowship (i.e., tent) with YHWH (cf. Psalms 23:6).

“in the shelter of Your wings” This is female imagery of God as a protective mother bird (cf. Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34). See notes at Psalms 17:8 and Special Topic: Shadow as Metaphor for Protection and Care.

“Selah” See notes at Psalms 3:2 and Intro. to Psalms, VII.

Verses 5-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 61:5-8 5For You have heard my vows, O God; You have given me the inheritance of those who fear Your name. 6You will prolong the king's life; His years will be as many generations. 7He will abide before God forever; Appoint lovingkindness and truth that they may preserve him. 8So I will sing praise to Your name forever, That I may pay my vows day by day.

Psalms 61:5-8 This strophe relates to the King as a representative of YHWH's covenant people.

1. The King has made vows (i.e., faith promises) to YHWH.

2. YHWH has given him/Israel the land (i.e., inheritance, cf. Genesis 15:12-21) of Canaan to those who fear Him.

3. YHWH will prolong the King's life (note royal hyperboles).

4. The King will sit enthroned before God forever (obviously “forever” is not eternal but prolonged days). Be careful of reading NT developed theology back into Hebrew terms (royal hyperbole).

5. YHWH appoints (BDB 584, KB 599, Piel imperative, prayer request) lovingkindness and truth (personified agents, cf. Psalms 40:11; Psalms 57:3; Psalms 89:14, “goodness and mercy” in Psalms 23:6, “light” and “truth” in Psalms 43:3). This same concept is stated in Proverbs 20:28. To uphold the King is to uphold Israel.

Psalms 61:5 The NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 531, has a good comment about “those who fear Your name.” They represent the faithful followers (cf. Psalms 15:4; Psalms 25:12, Psalms 25:14; Psalms 103:11, Psalms 103:13; Psalms 118:4). NIDOTTE adds a list of slightly different forms.

1. those who fear You Psalms 31:19

2. those who fear Him Psalms 34:7

3. those who fear Your name Psalms 61:5

4. those who fear God Psalms 66:16

SPECIAL TOPICV: FEAR (OT)

Psalms 61:8 Because of God's goodness to the King and Israel, the King will sing praises (BDB 274, KB 273, Piel cohortative) to Him.

Again the use of “forever” must be seen as metaphorical of a long, successful reign. The King's faith promises (“vows”) are honored, performed, and fulfilled in the temple. This close is similar to Ps. 30:13, thereby denoting a set ritual (i.e., thank offering) or liturgy (connected to offering, cf. Psalms 7:17).

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 Psalm an individual lament or a royal lament?

2. Explain the phrase “from the end of the earth.” Was the writer in exile?

3. Does Psalms 61:4 imply eternal life? (cf. Psalms 61:7) Is this a Messianic Psalm?

4. Define “vow” as it is used in this Psalm. (cf. Psalms 61:5, Psalms 61:8)

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 61". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-61.html. 2021.
 
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