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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 31

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.

This psalm presents varied and quite opposite states of mind. It was written under a sense of great desertion, though recognising a marked and recent deliverance. The author is beset on every side with enemies who hunt him, like wily trappers, with every artifice of falsehood and deceit. He has no friend or refuge but God, to whom he speaks in the most delightful spirit of confidence and praise. The production obviously belongs to the period of the Sauline persecutions, and, from a comparison of Psalms 31:21 with 1 Samuel 23:7, we may refer it to the occasion of his escape from Keilah. The occurrence of בהפזי , ( behaphzee,) in my haste, Psalms 31:22, same as in 1 Samuel 23:26, would seem to identify it with his escape from Maon, but internal evidence would decide rather for Keilah. See the notes.

The psalm falls into three principal divisions: Psalms 31:1-8, the prayer; Psalms 31:9-18, the complaint, with prayer against his enemies; Psalms 31:19-24, thanksgiving and praise, with recognition of his recent deliverance.


Chief Musician See on title of Psalms 4:0.

A Psalm of David To which the Septuagint adds εκστασεως , concerning his terror, or, more probably, flight, as in Psalms 31:22, where the same word occurs, which see.

Verse 1

1. In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust A favourite form, with David, of beginning his most earnest supplications or his most sorrowful complaints.

Let me never be ashamed Rather, Let me not be ashamed for ever. Matters had come to the last extremity with him. “He shows that he must either be immediately delivered or put to shame for ever.” Venema.

In thy righteousness The appeal is not so much to the judicial justice of God as to his faithfulness in upholding both his laws and his gracious covenant of promise. See Psalms 143:1; 1 John 1:9

Verse 2

2. Bow down thine ear Literally, Stretch forward thine ear, as if to obtain a more accurate hearing. The phrase is anthropomorphic for giving close attention. The anthropomorphisms of belief are idolatrous, forbidden, (Exodus 20:4;) but those of the feelings are a necessity arising from the poverty of language.

Deliver me speedily No time is to be lost. Delay is ruin. See on Psalms 31:1.

My strong rock An impregnable defence. A military term, same as “house of defence;” literally, house of fortresses. 1 Samuel 24:22

Verse 3

3. For thy name’s sake See on Psalms 23:3

Verse 5

5. Into thine hand I commit my spirit Both the Hebrew רוח , ( rooahh,) and the Septuagint πνευμα , ( pneuma,) are the strongest words in either language for the intellective and immortal nature of man. The utterance has derived an awful sanctity from being repeated by Christ as his last words upon the cross. Luke 23:46. He uses verbatim the language of the Septuagint. It is no objection to its Messianic application that the clause stands alone. The whole psalm has a Christologic expression, and it is according to all analogy that a sudden foregleam of Christ’s sufferings should break upon the vision of the prophet with a distinctness not given to any other portion of the psalm. The committal itself is made with a conscious proximity to death, as the last words of a dying man. Compare Acts 7:59. John Huss, when going to the stake, often repeated, “Into thine hands I commend my spirit. Thou hast redeemed me, my Lord Jesus, God of truth.”

Thou hast redeemed me The preterite for the future, as the language of faith, calling things that are to be as though they were.

Verse 6

6. Lying vanities Two words expressive of total emptiness and worthlessness, commonly applied to idols and the lying divinations of the heathen. Jonah 2:8; Jeremiah 2:5; Jeremiah 8:9

Verse 7

7. For thou hast considered my trouble The psalmist comforts himself with the thought that God has thoroughly known both his affliction and deportment under trials, and, by implication, would do what was befitting the case.

Verse 8

8. And hast not The fact that he was still going at large, and was not in the hands of his enemy, was proof that his cause was still hopeful and in the hands of God.

Shut me up Probably an allusion to the words of Saul, (1 Samuel 23:7,) where the same verb is used: “And Saul said, God hath delivered him into mine hand; for he is shut in, by entering into a town that hath gates and bars.” So, also, David inquires, (1 Samuel 23:11-12,) “Will the men of Keilah deliver me up?” (Hebrew, shut me up.)

Thou hast set my feet in a large room As opposed to the attempted confinement, by closing upon him the city gates.

Verse 9

9. I am in trouble He had escaped, and his “feet” were “in a large room,” (Psalms 31:8,) but he was not out of danger or suffering.

Eye… soul… belly The “eye” as representing the head, the seat of the senses and of external perception; the “soul” ( נפשׁ ) as representing the seat of life; and the “belly” ( בשׂן ) as representing the innermost sensibilities, the seat of feeling and sympathy, cover the entire phenomenal being of man. Nothing is left but the רוח , ( πνευμα , spirit,) the immortal nature. All his being, so far as respected his power of manifestation of thought or feeling, was consumed with grief. It is difficult to convey the intensity of these expressions of the psalmist. See Psalms 31:10

Verse 10

10. Grief… sighing See on Psalms 31:9.

Because of mine iniquity This last word should here take its radical sense of to bend, to writhe, as in pain, ( עוה ,) and be rendered trouble, calamity: “My strength has stumbled with my calamity.” See Isaiah 21:3: “I was bowed down.”

My bones are consumed The “bones” are mentioned as the seat of strength, the foundation of the physical system. Psalms 38:3; Psalms 102:3

Verse 11

11. Among all mine enemies Literally, Because of all my oppressors, I have been a reproach. Psalms 6:7. They had originated all his trouble and disgrace.

Especially among my neighbours, and… acquaintance These who dwelt nearest to the places where, from time to time, he resorted. From the example of Nob, (1 Samuel 22:6-19,) it was death to them to harbour David, or give comfort and aid to his cause, or even to fail to give information to Saul if they knew of him. Thus he was a terror to them.

Verse 12

12. Out of mind Hebrew, Out of heart. Perished from the affections of the living. Compare, “No man cared for my soul,” (Psalms 142:4,) and the phrase, “out of the mouths,” (cease to be repeated,) Deuteronomy 31:21

Verse 13

13. For He gives the reason of his sufferings, as in Psalms 31:11.

Fear was on every side The Hebrew is simply Magor-missabib, and the force of the description is given in Jeremiah 20:3: “The Lord hath not called thy name Pashur, (that is, Prosperity round about,) but Magor missabib, (that is, Fear round about,) for I will make thee a terror to thyself and to all thy friends.” So, also, Jeremiah 20:10.

They took counsel together Compare Psalms 2:2; Matthew 27:1.

To take away my life The words have a Messianic application. John 11:47-53

Verse 14

14. This, and the four following verses, are a confession of trust. Without a plan for the future, or means to cope with his enemies, he is satisfied to say, Thou art my God.

Verse 15

15. My times are in thy hand Not only the duration of my life, but my fortunes and vicissitudes, are at thy sovereign disposal. The doctrine of special providence, covering all the events of our individual lives, was deeply rooted in the Hebrew faith. See Daniel 5:23

Verse 16

16. Make thy face to shine A part of the Levitical benediction.

Numbers 6:25. See note on Psalms 4:7

Verse 17

17. Ashamed This marks the different results of a wicked and a holy life. The verb, in either case, is simply declarative. Shame is often, as here, used to represent the punishment of the wicked, in the recoil of their evil designs upon themselves.

Silent in the grave Hebrew, silent to sheol. Either silent in sheol, or silent as sheol. On sheol, see notes on Psalms 6:5; Psalms 9:17; Psalms 16:10

Verse 18

18. Lying lips be put to silence “Silence,” here, is a different word from that so rendered in Psalms 31:17, and means tongue-tied, dumb, bound.

Proudly and contemptuously Contemptuous of all restraint by the laws of God or man.

Verse 19

19. From a review of the corruptions of persecuting men the psalmist turns, in these verses, lovingly and confidingly, to a survey of the tender beneficence of God. Of its vastness he says, How great! Of its preciousness he declares, It is laid up for them that fear thee. Of its certainty he asserts, Thou hast wrought it. Of its manifestation he avows it to be before the sons of men.

Verse 20

20. From the pride of man The substantive here rendered “pride” occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament. The verb means to bind, and hence the idea of a confederacy, which is the sense here, and refers us back to the “counsel” of Psalms 31:13.

Pavilion See on Psalms 27:5

Verses 21-22

21, 22. Strong city Fenced city, namely, Keilah. See 1 Samuel 23:7.

I said in my haste Literally, in my flight. The word properly signifies this, though figuratively it means also trepidation, astonishment, fear, because in such cases the mind is suddenly removed from its normal or proper place. So the Septuagint εκστασει , where, also, the root idea is removal, turning from, and this, probably, suggested the Greek title. See note on title, also on Psalms 116:11, and compare 1 Samuel 23:13, and the use of the word 1 Samuel 23:26; also 2 Samuel 4:4; 2 Kings 7:15; Psalms 48:5. Nevertheless thou heardest, etc. Though his sudden flight and trepidation had extorted the despairing lament, I am cut off from before thine eyes, yet he found God to be not the less a prayer answering God, which he here gratefully confesses.

Verses 23-24

23, 24. Love the Lord, all ye his saints “After the psalmist had ended matters with God, he turns round to his brethren in the faith to set before them the lesson of the great drama which had been acted before his eyes.” Hengstenberg.

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart Literally, Be strong, and he shall strengthen, etc. Two kinds of strength are noted: first, the strength of firmness, resolution, which we must exercise; secondly, the strength of grace, which is the direct gift of God. The text is parallel to Psalms 27:14.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 31". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.