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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Scott: Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms
Psalms 31



Verses 1-24

Psalm 31:1-24.

V:1. It may be supposed that David wrote this Psalm , to encourage himself and his friends,, during his extreme danger of being seized on by Saul,, when he fled from Keilah : (Notes, 1 Samuel 23:22-28 :}, or that lie recollected his prayers, and meditations, and confidence, after his extraordinary deliverance, and thus recorded them, for the honour of God and the encourage ment of his people : and we should realize these circumstances, which precluded all hope of escape by ordinary means, if we would enter into the spirit of the Psamist,. and perceive the strength of his faith and confidence in God. But David, in his greatest dangers and trials, expecting deliverance from God, was only a feeble type of the Saviour, in his extreme sufferings, his deep humiliation, and his prospect of the joy set before him. The clause, rendered " Let me never be ashamed," may signify " I shall by no means be ashamed for ever." (Note Isaiah 45:15-17.)

V:2- 4. David and his men had taken shelter in some natural strong-hold formed by a rock; but he was fully aware, that this hiding place " or house of defence," now it was surrounded by Saul"s army, must rather prevent than aid his escape. As, however, he had been used to make " the name of the LORD his strong Tower; " and as he considered the honour of the divine power, righteousness, and truth engaged on his side; he felt a confidence, that he should be rescued by some extraordinary interposition of God.

(Notes, Psalm 91:1; Psalm 2:9-10. Psalm 144:1-2. Deuteronomy 32:3; Deuteronomy 4:30-31. 2 Samuel 22:2-3.) Yet the case was urgent; and therefore he earnestly prayed to be answered speedily: and to be guided out of the intricacy, in which he was inclosed by his persecutors. For they had, as it were, caught him in a net by stratagem; and he had neither sagacity nor power sufficient to rescue himself out of their hands. (Mars. Ref.)

V:5. Our blessed Saviour adopted the first clause of this verse, when expiring on the cross; and many things in the psalm may be applied to him. David evidently perceived himself to be in such constant danger, that he could have no security either to his life or soul, but by thus, day by day, entrusting them to the powerful and faithful hands of God. Christ omitted the latter clause of the verse, which more properly relates to the type, than to the antitype. ( Luke 23:46. Note, Acts 7:54-60.) All the deliverances of the church, and of believers, of old, were earnests of the redemption made by the death of Christ, and wrought with reference to it : and the merciful deliverances which the Psalmist had received, encouraged him still to confide in " the LORD God of truth."

V:6. " Lying vanities," or, tlie vainest, or emptiest, of vanities, may denote the idols in which the gentiles coniided, and to which Israel was extremely propense : (Notes, Jeremiah 10:2-5; Jeremiah 12:1 to Jeremiah 15:21 :) but the expression seems likewise to mean, all attempts to obtain information or assistance from those who had familiar spirits, or in any way practised sorcery and witchcraft, which in fact was one of the worst sorts of idolatry. Perhaps David observed a disposition among his adherents, in times of extreme danger, to have recourse to expedients of this kind; and he thus expressed his abhorrence of the practice, and his determination to stand aloof from all who were guilty of it, and to admit no trust but in God alone. Saul hastened and aggravated his own awful doom, by regarding these " lying "vanities." (Note, 1 Chronicles 10:13-14.)

V:7 - 8. " I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy; " speaking of the future. To conceive of the Psalmist in the crisis. of his danger, thus anticipating his deliverance, and his joy in the mercy of God in it, gives the passage a peculiar animation. His gracious God had often before this regarded him under his deepest depressions; and so noticed, or owned, him in trouble and danger, as to permit no assailant to take away his life. He had repeatedly been in the power of the enemy, as to all human probability: yet God had not shut Itiin lip in it, but had constantly delivered him from straits, placing him as in an open and large place, where he could not be surrounded or entangled: (Note. 2 Samuel 22:20 :) and he trusted he would still do the same. Or this may be the language, which David anticipated that he should soon use, concerning his present alarming situation, when confined in a cave, and surrounded by his fierce persecutors. Thus Christ seemed to be left in the power of his enemies; but, in the extremity of his sufferings, he anticipated his resurrection and " the " joy set before him."

V:9. The Psalmist"s present feelings seem to have interrupted the full exercise of his faith and hope. Such a succession of dangers, hardships, and provocations, tended to depress his spirits, make his eyes languid, injure his health, and prey upon his vitals. Some suppose, that entire want of provisions was added to the rest of his difficulties; so that he and his men were ready to die with hunger.

V:10- 13. The life of David, while persecuted by Saul, was one continued series of afflictions and sorrows, except as he rose above them by faith and communion with God. It must be supposed that he felt his sufferings with great sensibility : and while dejected and weakened under them, in body and mind, his former sins were brought to remembrance, and he considered himself as visited for them. Not only did his enemies reproach him, but his neighbours, his friends, and his relations, eagerly joined the senseless clamour! Every one was afraid of seeing him, and shunned him, in the streets or roads, for fear of being involved in his ruin. (Notes, Psalm 88:5-9. 1 Samuel 21:1-6. Job 6:15-23; Job 19:5-22; Job 30:1-14.) His case was thought hopeless; and he was no more regarded than a dead corpse, or a broken earthen vessel, which never can be repaired. (Notes, Psalm 119:81-83.) Many persons, the greater part of whom were men of rank, sought favour by slandering him; all from fear declined speaking in his behalf; while his powerful enemies plotted together concerning the best method of killing him. The marginal references will shew how each of these circumstances was, still more emphatically, observable in the history of the divine Saviour, when he became " a man cf sorrows," and " despised and rejected of men." One circumstance indeed must be excepted : "he was wounded for our transgressions," but had no iniquity of his own. This passage seems to mark out the crisis before mentioned as the date of the Psalm : but as events not wholly dissimilar occurred during Absalom"s rebellion, after David had brought great juilt on his conscience, in the matter of Uriah; some expositors apply the several expressions, to Shimei"s reproaches, Ahithophel"s counsel, and the other particulars of that eventful period. (Notes, 2 Samuel 15:1 to2Sa17:29 :)

V:14. " I have said, Thou art my God; " that Isaiah , " I have determined to seek all my salvation, my present security and comfort, and my eternal happiness, entirely from thy omnipotence and all-sufficiency, and in thy mercy, truth, and unchangeable love, as revealed in thy word." (Notes, Psalm 16:2-3. Psalm 22:1; Psalm 63:1-4.)

V:15. The Psalmist well knew, that the time of his troubles and deliverance, and the continuance and period of his life, were entirely at God"s disposal : and, as he would not attempt to anticipate his appointed time by killing Saul, he was persuaded that Saul could not succeed in his attempts to slay him; and that infinite wisdom and love would bring about his deliverance, and advancement to the throne, when the proper season was arrived. Thus the counsels and decrees of the Jewish rulers against our Lord were continually disappointed for several years, because " his time was not yet come." (Marg. Ref. Notes, Psalm 116:15. 1 Samuel 26:8-12.)

V:16 Till my time of deliverance, let thy manifested presence and favour cheer my heart and protect me, for the honour of thine abundant mercy." (Note, Numbers 6:24-26.]

V:17 , 18. (Note, 1.) The language implies both prayer and prediction: it is that of triumphant confidence in God; and of assurance, that however closely dangers, or powerful enemies, or temptations may press, the event shall be happy and glorious : and, thus considered, it is perfectly justified from the charge of malevolent imprecation; unless foreseeing and predicting the destruction of the wicked be malevolence. (Notes, Psalm 5:10-11. Psalm 35:25-28; Psalm 67:1-3.]

The word righteous is singular : it especially marks David"s strict integrity while grievously slandered with insolent contempt; as typical of the Just and Holy One of God, who was reviled far more haughtily and despitefully.

(Note, James 5:1-6, end. 1 Peter 2:18-25.) In the grave. (17) Note, Psalm 16:8-11.

V:19 , 20. David, in the midst of his troubles and imminent perils, found encouragement in admiring the goodness of God to those whom he had taught to fear and trust in him. Many effects of this goodness are openly shewn " before the sons of men," in the deliverances wrought for his servants on earth : immensely more are " laid up " for them in heaven for their eternal happiness; but which will be at last conferred on them before the assembled world. (Notes, Is. ixiv4. Colossians 1:3-8; Colossians 3:1-4. 1 Peter 1:3-5.) Here the Lord preserves them by his powerful presence from their proud and envious foes, as in a " secret " hiding place; " and he will " keep them, as in a royal pavilion, (Note, Psalm 27:4-6,) from all the effects of those slanderous reproaches which are cast on them, by those who contend with them and persecute them. (Notes, Psalm 17:1-8 Isaiah 54: 15-17.)

V:21. Probably, David here referred to his deliverance, when Saul intended to besiege him in Keilah. (Notes, 1 Samuel 23:7-13. Isaiah 26: 1.)

V:22. In my haste.] This seems especially suited to the hurry and agitation of the Psalmist"s mind, and the imperfection of his faith, when he found himself environed by his powerful foes in the cave, to which he had fled for shelter. (Notes, Psalm 116:10-11. 1 Samuel 23:22-28.) Before he had time for reflection and prayer, he hastily gave up all for lost. But meditation on the promises, which God had made to him, with earnest supplication, calmed his soul; and eventually his prayers were fully answered.

V:23 , 24. The deliverance of David, so far exceeding all human probability, might well encourage the saints of the Lord to cleave to him in thankful, admiring love : for it was evident that the Lord preserved believers in every danger, and decidedly and awfully punished all their proud and ungodly persecutors. No circumstances of danger or temptation, therefore, should deject them or drive them from the path of duty : and in adhering to God, and relying on him, they would find their hearts supported and comforted with inward strength. (Notes, Psalm 27:14. Luke 22:31-34. - 2 Corinthians 1:17.) Saints. (23) Notes, Psalm 4:3-5. Psalm 30:4.



The consciousness of trusting in God for every thing, on the warrant of his word, inspires confidence in danger, and suggests pleas in prayer : for it would not be honourable for the Lord, to leave those who thus rely on him to be ashamed of their hope. His justice induces him to deliver them from their unrighteous persecutors; his mercy, through the Redeemer"s righteousness, will rescue them from final condemnation; and their earnest prayers will draw down promised blessings from their reconciled Father, as they stand in need of them. The Lord will protect and support all, who flee to him as their " Fortress," and build upon him as their " Rock of salvation : " for the honour of his own name he will guide such as desire to be led in his holy ways : and he will extricate from perplexities, and deliver out of temptations, those that call upon him, to pluck their feet out of every net and snare, which Satan and wicked men have privily laid in their path. Every true Christian, having learned the worth of his soul, and the dangers to which it is exposed, has been led to entrust it as a sacred deposit to the care of the Almighty : but, considering the holiness and justice of God, and his own guilt and pollution, he would not dare to do so; did he not behold him as in Christ, his Redeemer, ready to forgive, and true to his covenant and promises. Thus encouraged, he continually commits his spirit into his hands, and, by daily experience, obtains a more firm persuasion of his power and willingness to save : and therefore, when death either seems to be at hand, or actually comes, he has confidence, in renewing this often-repeated transaction; and he desires to die resigning his spirit into the hands of his redeeming God. (Note, 1 Timothy 1:11-12.) But those who desire this comfortable assurance, must abhor the fellowship of all such as regard lying vanities; and renounce all idolatrous, superstitious, and carnal confidences, on which such immense numbers depend. They must rejoice in the mercy of God alone; and in every affliction remember, that he considers their trouble. They should treasure up, for future use, their experiences of his having noticed, supported, and comforted their souls in adversity; and having delivered them, when they thought they had been " shut up in the hands of their enemy : " for every deliverance is an earnest of the complete salvation and felicity of the heavenly world. (Note, 2 Corinthians 1:8-11.)


In this present world, we may expect heavy trials one succeeding to another : yet it is our infirmity, " if our life ( be spent with grief, and our years with sighing." Should Jain, sickness, poverty, reproach, contempt, and persecution, come upon us, with combined force; should our "oes prevail, and our friends prove unfaithful, or afraid of owning or regarding us; should any be so degraded from lonourable or useful stations, as to be " forgotten like a " dead Prayer of Manasseh ," or " thrown aside as a broken vessel; " should enmity unite with contempt, and slanderous accusation give countenance to conspiracy against our lives; still we ought to remember that we have deserved more than all this, and to be thankful for deliverance from the wrath to come. We should also consider the man after God"s own heart, and the treatment which he experienced : and especially we should " look unto Jesus," who was divinely wise, holy, and merciful; yet was more hated, despised, slandered, and afflicted, than we can be. Let us then follow the example of his resignation; remembering " that bur times are in his hand; " and that support, comfort and deliverance will be vouchsafed whenever he pleases : nor can any suffering befall us otherwise, than our heavenly Father has appointed. Whilst we therefore give ourselves to meditation and prayer, we may profitably observe how the lying lips of Saul, Doeg, Ahithophel, and Judas, were put to silence in the grave : and thus will al! be confounded, who menace, slander, or speak grievous things, with arrogance and contempt, against the righteous. Instead of yielding to impatience or despondency under our troubles; we should turn our thoughts to the surprising goodness of the Lord, towards those who fear and trust in him. For while their treasure is laid up for them out of the reach of all their enemies, their bodies, souls, reputations, and comforts, are under the protection of the Almighty; and they are " kept as in a strong city " ( 1 Peter 1:5), through faith unto salvation." We should not therefore yield to unbelief, or hastily conclude, under discouraging circumstances, that we are cut off from before the eyes of the Lord; but we should ask, in humble confidence that he will hear and deliver. He will preserve his faithful people through life; and when they meet the stroke of death, and yield their bodies to the grave, Jesus will receive their souls, and at length raise their bodies, and bring them to be forever with him in glory. Let all his saints therefore pray to be enabled patiently to suffer, and courageously to venture, for his sake; for he will comfort and strengthen the hearts of all, who hope in him : whilst the proud despiser of his gospel, and persecutor of his people, shall meet with an abundant recompense of his evil deeds; and be for ever shut up, without possibility of release, in the hand of his cruel enemy, and in the unquenchable fire. Lord, pardon our complaints and fears; increase our faith, patience, love, and gratitude; and teach us to rejoice in tribulation, and in hope of thine eternal glory.


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Bibliography Information
Scott, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 31:4". Thomas Scott: Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms. 1804.

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Tuesday, March 31st, 2020
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