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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Psalms 34

 

 

Verse 1

Psalms 34:1 « [A Psalm] of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed. » I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise [shall] continually [be] in my mouth.

Ver. 1. A Psalm of David] An alphabetical psalm, which David (newly delivered from the Philistines, who had taken him prisoner, and presented him to their king as a special prize) composed with singular art; as fit to be committed to memory by all godly people, who may here meet with many excellent lessons and cordial comforts. Semper in ecclesia hic psalmus piis fuit commendatissimus (Moller).

When he changed his behaviour] Heb. Gustum, hoc est gestum. This he did (being put to his shifts), but not without sin, for he was splendide mendax (as Horace, lib. iii. Od. 11, saith of Hypermnestra), at the best; neither can this dissimulation or officious lie of his be excused; as some have by distinctions endeavoured it, but in vain.

Before Abimelech] Or, Achish, king of Gath, 1 Samuel 21:10, for he was binominis, saith Aben Ezra; or else Abimelech, that is, father king, was his title of honour; as Augustus would be styled Pater Patriae, the father of his country. R. Solomon saith that Abimelech was a common name to all the Philistine kings, as Pharaoh to the Egyptian.

Who cast him out] For a mad man, 1 Samuel 21:15, wherein there was a sweet providence of God, who can order our disorders to his own glory and our good; like as a craftsman with a crooked tool can make straight work; or as an apothecary of a poisonous viper can make a wholesome treacle.

And he departed] Into some parts of Judea, where he might repent of his sin first (as Peter did when got into a corner), and then compile this psalm of thanksgiving to God, who had so graciously delivered him out of that hard and hazardous condition, not only above, but against his desert.

Ver. 1. I will bless the Lord at all times] As not satisfied with anything I can do herein at any time. The saints have large hearts, and could beteem the Lord a great deal more service than they are able to perform. A certain martyr said at the stake, I am sorry that I am going to a place where I shall be ever receiving wages and do no more work.

His praise shall continually be in my mouth] For this remarkable mercy especially, which I will still be telling of, and speaking good of God’s name to as many as I can possibly extend unto. This thankful man was worth his weight in the gold of Ophir.


Verse 2

Psalms 34:2 My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear [thereof], and be glad.

Ver. 2. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord] This holy gloriation is a Christian’s duty not to be neglected. The Church in the Canticles is much in it; and so is St Paul. It showeth a heart full of joys unspeakable and full of glory, 1 Peter 1:8. And, besides, God is thereby greatly glorified, Jeremiah 9:23-24.

The humble shall hear thereof, and be glad] Not for my sake only, but their own, as conceiving good hope of like deliverance. But, then, they must be as I am, not only humbled, but humble; low, but lowly.


Verse 3

Psalms 34:3 O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.

Ver. 3. O magnify the Lord with me] As not sufficient to do so great a work himself, he calleth in the help of others. We read of a monster rather than a man, who lying on his death bed, not only himself swore as fast and as furiously as he could, but desperately desired the bystanders to help him with oaths, and to swear for him. I knew the man, saith mine author (Bolton, Assize Serm.). And should not we much more call upon others to join their forces with ours in magnifying the Lord? Birds, when they come to a full heap of corn, will chirp and call in for their fellows. Charity is no churl; goodness is diffusive.

And let us exalt his name together] And so begin heaven beforehand. Aben Ezra glosseth thus, Quasi diceret, Nos omnes simul ad laudandum Deum sumus imbecilles, We are all too weak for this work, though we should all do our utmost at it.


Verse 4

Psalms 34:4 I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.

Ver. 4. I sought the Lord] Even when I was in the enemies’ hands, and playing my pranks as a mad man among them; I prayed secretly and inwardly, I sent up some ejaculations, as Nehemiah 2:4, and was heard, though unworthy.

And delivered me out of all my fears] Which were not a few, 1 Samuel 21:13, besides his inward terrors upon his unwarrantable practices to save his life. Sense fights sore against faith, when it is upon its own dunghill (in a sensible danger I mean), to the great disturbance of the conscience afterwards. George Marsh, afterwards a martyr in Queen Mary’s days, being examined before the Earl of Derby, kept himself close in the sacrament of the altar, as they called it. But afterward, thus he writeth to a friend; I departed much more troubled in my spirit than before; because I had not with more boldness confessed Christ, but in such sort as mine adversaries thereby thought they should prevail against me; whereat I was much grieved; for hitherto I went about, as much as in me lay, to rid myself out of their hands, if by any means, without openly denying Christ and his word, that could be done (Acts and Mon. fol. 1419). Thus he; but no rest he had in his mind till he had better declared himself, though to the loss of his life. A man had better offend all the world, than his own conscience. David, not without much ado, recovered his peace, for which he here heartily blesseth God.


Verse 5

Psalms 34:5 They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.

Ver. 5. They looked unto him, and were lightened] They, that is, my servants and fellow soldiers who accompanied me first to Nob, 1 Samuel 21:2; 1 Samuel 21:4, Matthew 12:3-4, and afterwards to Gath (as it is probable); these being in the same danger, looked likewise unto God by faith, hope, and prayer; and were lightened; that is, comforted, cheered, directed, yea, delivered together with David. Or, they flowed together, viz. to God, as rivers roll to the sea, or malefactors run to the sanctuary, Isaiah 2:2; Isaiah 60:5.

And their faces were not ashamed] i.e. They were not repulsed, disappointed, made to hide their heads, as Revelation 6:15-16.


Verse 6

Psalms 34:6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard [him], and saved him out of all his troubles.

Ver. 6. This poor man cried] Meaning himself, to whom it seemeth he pointed the finger, or laid his hand on his heart, when he said, This poor man, Hic vilis, et ovium pastor, saith Theodoret, this mean shepherd not long since; but rather, This miserable sinner, who whilome rashly ran such a hazard, and so unworthily deported himself in the presence of King Achish; this poor soul, I say, cried, but silently and secretly, as Moses did at the Red Sea, as Nehemiah did in the presence of the king of Persia.

And the Lord] Who might better be called the poor man’s king, than was James IV, king of Scotland.

Heard him, and delivered him out of all his troubles] And the like he will do for all that, in like ease, being poor in spirit, make their humble addresses unto him. It is good to communicate unto others our experiences. See the like done, Psalms 116:6, Romans 8:2, 1 Timothy 1:15.


Verse 7

Psalms 34:7 The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

Ver. 7. The angel of the Lord encampeth round about, &c.] Not one guardian angel only, as some have hence conceited, nor Michael the archangel only, that angel of the covenant, Jesus Christ, as Augustine expoundeth this text, but a host of created angels, those ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation, Hebrews 1:14. For although Christ, the Captain of our salvation, needeth not their help for the safeguard of his people; yet for our comfort he maketh use of the holy angels, who meet us still, as they did Jacob at Mahanaim (where they made a lane for him, as the guard doth for their prince, as the word importeth), Genesis 32:1; they minister many blessings to us, though invisibly; stand at our right hands, Luke 1:11, as ready to relieve us as the devils are to mischief us, Zechariah 3:1; yea, they pitch camp round about us, Sicut hostes sunt in circuitu, (Kimchi), (oh the dignity and safety of a saint in this respect!) fight in battle array against our enemies, Daniel 10:20 (the heathens speak much of their Castor and Pollux fighting for them and Hesiod telleth of thirty thousand demi-gods that were φυλακες μεροπων ανθρωπων, keepers of mankind), and convey them at death, as they did Lazarus, through the enemies’ country, the air, into Abraham’s bosom, Luke 16:22


Verse 8

Psalms 34:8 O taste and see that the LORD [is] good: blessed [is] the man [that] trusteth in him.

Ver. 8. O taste and see, &c.] viz. With the mouth of your mind, and with the eyes of your faith perceive, and experiment the goodness of God in choosing and using such instruments as the angels, and otherwise, in the manifold expressions of his love to us; wherein if we take not comfort the fault is merely in ourselves; we being like him who hath pleasant and nourishing meat, but will not make use of it. The saints taste how good the Lord is, and thence long after him. Optima demonstratio est a sensibus. As he that feels fire hot, or as he that tasteth honey sweet, ye need not use arguments to persuade him to believe it; so here, let a man but once taste that the Lord is good, and he will thenceforth, as a new born babe, desire the sincere milk of the word, 1 Peter 2:2-3, neither will he take any more content in the world’s tasteless fooleries than in the white of an egg or a dry chip. Gustato spiritu desipit omnis caro, saith Gerson, All flesh is savourless to him that hath tasted of the Spirit. Paul, after his rapture, looked with scorn and pity on all the world’s glittering poverty. His mouth doth not water after homely provisions, who hath lately tasted of delicate sustenance. Oh, let us get spiritual senses habitually exercised to discern good and evil, Hebrews 5:14. It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing, saith our Saviour to the Jews: q.d. Ye accept my words because ye have not the Spirit, ye have but flesh, that is, a common knowledge, no sound taste; and therefore it is that my words relish not with you.

Blessed is the man, &c.] See Psalms 2:12. {See Trapp on "Psalms 2:12"}


Verse 9

Psalms 34:9 O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for [there is] no want to them that fear him.

Ver. 9. O fear the Lord, ye his saints] Ye that, having tasted of God’s sweetness, are separated from the world with its lusts, and can live with a little αγιοι quasi αγειοι, fear the Lord, and then you shall not need to fear want of anything; for he is all-sufficient to those who are altogether his, and withdraw not from him by mistrust or misdoing.

For there is no want to them that fear him] Habent omnia, qui habent habentem omnia. David, when captive among the Philistines, wanted not. Paul had nothing, and yet possesed all things. Contrarily, the wicked, in the fulness of his sufficiency, is in straits, Job 20:22.


Verse 10

Psalms 34:10 The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good [thing].

Ver. 10. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger] And yet they will have it, if it is to be had. Haec est sceleratorum imago, saith Beza. Lionlike wicked oppressors, rich cormorants, as the Septuagint render it, who live on the spoil of poor people, and are never satisfied, do yet perish with famine, as Eliphaz saith of the old lion, Job 4:11; and come oft to great poverty, so that they pine away and miserably perish, Donec misere tabescant (Beza.)

But they that seek the Lord] That, content with his blessing alone, seek not their nourishment any other way but from his hand, and will rather lie in the dust than rise by evil principles; these have an autarky, a self-sufficiency, such as godliness is never without, 1 Timothy 6:6. Some Rabbis say (Aben Ezra in loc.) that the servants of Achish had almost famished David (under pretence haply of reducing him to his right mind), but God sustained him by miracle, as he did Elias, 1 Kings 17:6; 1 Kings 17:14

Shall not want any good thing] Want they may, this or that, which they may think would be good for them; but God knoweth it to be otherwise; or else they should be sure of it. Of good nothing followeth of itself but good, but if by accident any evil followeth, yet it is turned into good to such as seek the Lord in sincerity.


Verse 11

Psalms 34:11 Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

Ver. 11. Come, ye children, hearken unto me] Ye that are little and low in your own eyes, as seeing your want of holy learning.

I will teach you the fear of the Lord] That best trade, whereby you shall be sure to be kept from want; for by humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life, Proverbs 22:4. He, then, who shall teach this fear should be honoured, and respected as a father. The Jews at this day account a man’s teacher, or tutor, worthy of more respect than his father; for he hath given him only his being, the other his well being (Leo Modena).


Verse 12

Psalms 34:12 What man [is he that] desireth life, [and] loveth [many] days, that he may see good?

Ver. 12. What man is he that desireth life?] This is David’s doctrine; and to draw company about him, he proclaimeth and promiseth that which he well knew every man coveteth, happy life, many days, and a comfortable enjoyment of all. Now, who is it that would have these? saith he. Austin bringeth in all sorts, saying, Ego et ego, I would, and I would. But as all men desire health, but few take a right course to get it, and keep it; so all would be happy, but few hearken to this wholesome counsel, for the compassing of true happiness.


Verse 13

Psalms 34:13 Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.

Ver. 13. Keep thy tongue from evil, &c.] This is a hard saying, think the most; who will therefore rather venture it than yield to be so tied up. The tongue is an unruly member, and can hardly be hampered. But who would not temper his tongue, and bind it to the good abearance, for true blessedness? Who would not rather bite it off, and spit it out (as that ancient martyr did his, into the face of the tyrant, who solicited him to deny Christ), than miss heaven? Ficinus after his tract De sanitate tuenda, of keeping good health; and another, of recovering health; and a third, of prolonging life; because all will not do, wisely addeth a fourth, of laying hold on eternal life; which cannot be done but by mortifying this earthly member, a loose and lewd tongue. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned, saith the Judge himself, Matthew 12:37 : compare Genesis 49:21, with Deuteronomy 33:23, and it will appear that good words ingratiate with God and men.


Verse 14

Psalms 34:14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

Ver. 14. Depart from evil, and do good] For negative goodness helpeth not. A man must so abstain from evil as that he do good, or he doth nothing. It is said of Ithacius, that the hatred of the Priscillian heresy was the best that could be said of him; this was but a slender commendation.

Seek peace and pursue it] As hunters do the prey. If it fly from thee, make after it; it will pay thee for thy pains. It is said of Frederick III, emperor, that he putting up many injuries, he reigned quietly fifty and three years and five months. He had need be patient that would be at peace. Ut habeas quietum tempus, perde aliquid, was a proverb at Carthage; not unlike that of ours, Do anything for a quiet life. Concedamus de iure ut careamus lite (Val. Max. Christian. 304, Augustine). And if, in this pursuit of peace, thou meet with many rubs and remoras {obstructions}, yet be not discouraged, considering what follows in the two next verses.


Verse 15

Psalms 34:15 The eyes of the LORD [are] upon the righteous, and his ears [are open] unto their cry.

Ver. 15. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous] He seeth and weigheth the wrongs they sustain for peace sake, and they shall be no losers thereby; provided that their pursuit of peace proceed from the filial fear of God, which David here professeth to teach, Psalms 34:11. God’s eyes are intent, his ears attent, to these righteous ones. Palam, clam (as Aben Ezra here), openly, secretly, he wilt right them and recompense them. Should not God see, as well as hear, saith another, his children should want many things. We apprehend not all our own wants, and so cannot pray for relief of all. He (of his own accord without any monitor) is wont to aid us.

And his ears are open to their cry] Heb. are to their cry. Or, as St Peter hath it, His ears are into their prayers; to show, that though their prayers are so faint and feeble that they cannot enter into the ears of the Lord of hosts, yet that he will bow down and incline his ears unto, nay, into their prayers, their breathings, Lamentations 3:56.


Verse 16

Psalms 34:16 The face of the LORD [is] against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

Ver. 16. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil] Let not such dream of a long and happy life, as Psalms 34:12. This they are apt to do; but shall be carried from a fool’s paradise to a true prison. For that people may not imagine God to be μονοφθαλμαν, and so made up of mercy as to forget his judgments, the wicked are here assured, that the face of the Lord is against them, that he beholdeth them from heaven with a terrible countenance, that he is grievously angry with them, and will surely and severely punish them, and theirs after them.

To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth] And so to cross them in the thing that they most coveted, viz. to renown themselves among men. God writeth them in the earth in opposition to those whose names are written in heaven, Luke 10:20, because they forsook the Lord, the fountain of living waters, Jeremiah 17:13.


Verse 17

Psalms 34:17 [The righteous] cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.

Ver. 17. The righteous cry, &c.] This is often inculcated for our better assurance; because we are apt to doubt if delayed. See Psalms 34:6.


Verse 18

Psalms 34:18 The LORD [is] nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.

Ver. 18. The Lord is nigh unto them, &c.] More nigh than the bark is to the tree, for he is with them and in them continually; pouring the oil of his grace into these broken vessels, quorum corda peccata eorum non amplius retinent, sed, ut vas fracture, effundunt, saith Aben Ezra here, whose hearts retain not their sins any longer, but pour them out as water before the Lord.

And saveth such as be of a contrite spirit] Such as are ground to powder, as it were, with sense of sin and fear of wrath; yet not without good hope of mercy. These God delivereth out of their dangers; and in fine bringeth them to eternal blessedness.


Verse 19

Psalms 34:19 Many [are] the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.

Ver. 19. Many are the troubles, &c.] Dei sunt nuntii, these are God’s messengers, saith Kimchi, and they seldom come single. See James 1:2. {See Trapp on "James 1:2"} Sent they are also to the wicked, Psalms 32:10, but on another errand, and for another end. The righteous, per augusta ad augustum, per spinas ad rosas, per motum ad quietem, per procellas ad portum, per crucem ad caelum contendunt, through many tribulations they enter into God’s kingdom. Not so the wicked; their crosses are but a typical hell.

But the Lord delivereth him out of them all] No country hath more venomous creatures, none more antidotes, than Egypt; so godliness hath many troubles, and as many helps against trouble.


Verse 20

Psalms 34:20 He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.

Ver. 20. He keepeth all his bones] Which are very many. Perhaps, saith Aben Ezra here, David had been scourged by the Philistines, but his bones were not broken, nor were our Saviour’s, John 19:36.


Verse 21

Psalms 34:21 Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.

Ver. 21. Evil shall slay the wicked] For lack of such deliverance, as Psalms 34:19, malum iugular authorem mali Their malice shall prove their mischief. The Arabic hath it (but not right), mors impii pessima. Aben Ezra better senseth it thus, One affliction killeth the wicked; when out of many God delivereth the righteous.


Verse 22

Psalms 34:22 The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.

Ver. 22. The Lord redeemeth the souls of his servants] Though to themselves and others they may seem helpless and hopeless, yet they shall not perish in their sins and for their sins, as do the wicked.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 34:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/psalms-34.html. 1865-1868.

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