Psalm 34:1-6

1. I will bless Jehovah at all times: his praise shall always be in my mouth. 2. My soul shall make her boast in Jehovah: the humble shall hear of it, and be glad. 3. Magnify Jehovah with me, and let us exalt his name together. 4. I sought Jehovah, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5. They shall look to him, and shall flow to him; and their faces shall not be ashamed. 6. This poor man cried, and Jehovah heard him, and delivered him from all his troubles.


1. I will bless Jehovah at all times.1 David here extols the greatness of God, promising to keep in remembrance during his whole life the goodness which he had bestowed upon him. God assists his people daily, that they may continually employ themselves in praising him; yet it is certain that the blessing which is said to be worthy of everlasting remembrance is distinguished by this mark from other benefits which are ordinary and common. This, therefore, is a rule which should be observed by the saints -- they should often call into remembrance whatever good has been bestowed upon them by God; but if at any time he should display his power more illustriously in preserving them from some danger, so much the more does it become them earnestly to testify their gratitude. Now if by one benefit alone God lays us under obligation to himself all our life, so that we may never lawfully cease from setting forth his praises, how much more when he heaps upon us innumerable benefits?2 In order to distinguish the praise which he had before said would be continually in his mouth from the empty sound of the tongue, in which many hypocrites boast, he adds, in the beginning of the second verse, that it would proceed from the heart.

2. My soul shall make her boast in Jehovah. The term soul in this place signifies not the vital spirit, but the seat of the affections; as if David had said, I shall always have ground of boasting with my whole heart in God alone, so that I shall never suffer myself to fall into forgetfulness of so great a deliverance. In the second clause he specifies this as the fruit of his thanksgiving, that the afflicted and miserable shall derive from it ground of hope. The Hebrew word Mywne, anavim, which we have rendered humble, signifies not all the afflicted3 in general, but those who, being humbled and subdued by afflictions, instead of breathing the spirit of pride, are cast down, and ready to abase themselves to the very dust. These, he says, shall be partakers of his joy; but not, as some have coldly explained it, simply from a feeling of sympathy, but because, being persuaded that in the example of David, God had given them a general testimony of his grace, their hearts would recover from sorrow, and would be lifted up on high. Accordingly, he says that this joy shall spring from hope, because, having received a pledge of their deliverance, they shall cheerfully have recourse to God.

3. Magnify Jehovah with me. The Psalmist shows still another fruit which would be the result of his giving thanks to God, namely, that he shall induce others by his example to the same exercise of devotion; nay more, he calls upon all the godly to unite with him in this exercise, inviting and exhorting them heartily and with one consent to extol the Lord. Let us therefore learn, from the many instances in which God may have given helps to any of his people, to abound in hope; and when each recites the personal benefits which he has received, let all be animated unitedly and in a public manner to give praise to God. We give thanks publicly to God, not only that men may be witnesses of our gratitude, but also that they may follow our example.

4. I sought Jehovah, and he answered me. The Psalmist here explains more plainly and more fully what he had said concerning joy. In the first place, he tells us that his prayers had been heard. This he applies to all the godly, that, encouraged by a testimony so precious, they might stir themselves up to prayer. What is implied in seeking God is evident from the following clause. In some places it is to be understood in a different sense, namely, to bend the mind in earnest application to the service of God, and to have all its thoughts directed to him. Here it simply means to have recourse to him for help; for it immediately follows that God answered him; and he is properly said to answer prayer and supplication. By his fears the Psalmist means, taking the effect for the cause, the dangers which sorely disquieted his mind; yet doubtless he confesses that he had been terrified and agitated by fears. He did not look upon his dangers with a calm and untroubled mind, as if he viewed them at a distance and from some elevated position, but being grievously tormented with innumerable cares, he might justly speak of his fears and terrors. Nay more, by the use of the plural number, he shows that he had been greatly terrified not only in one way, but that he had been distracted by a variety of troubles. On the one hand, he saw a cruel death awaiting him; while on the other, his mind may have been filled with fear, lest Achish should send him to Saul for his gratification, as the ungodly are wont to make sport to themselves of the children of God. And since he had already been detected and betrayed once, he might well conclude, even if he should escape, that the hired assassins of Saul would lay wait for him on all sides. The hatred too which Achish had conceived against him, both for the death of Goliath and the destruction of his own army, might give rise to many fears; especially considering that his enemy might instantly wreak his vengeance upon him, and that he had good reason to think that his cruelty was such as would not be appeased by subjecting him to some mild form of death.4 We ought to mark this particularly, in order that, if at any time we are terrified because of the dangers which surround us, we may not be prevented by our effeminacy from calling upon God. Even David, who is known to have surpassed others in heroism and bravery, had not such a heart of iron as to repel all fears and alarms, but was sometimes greatly disquieted and smitten with fear.

5. They shall look to him, and shall flow to him. I have already intimated, that this verse and the following should be read in connection with the preceding verse. In relating his own experience David has furnished an example to others, that they should freely and without fear approach God in order to present their prayers before him. Now, he says that they shall come, and this too with a happy issue. The first two verbs are expressed in the past time in the Hebrew; but I have, notwithstanding, no doubt that the sentence ought to be explained thus:When they shall have looked to him, and flowed to him, their faces shall not be ashamed. I have therefore translated them in the future tense. David is not relating things which had happened, but is commending the fruit of the favor which had been manifested to himself. Some interpreters, I know, refer the words to him to David,5 because immediately after he speaks of himself in the third person. Others with greater propriety explain it; of God himself. A difference of opinion also exists as to the Hebrew verb wrhn, naharu, which some, supposing it to be derived from the root rwa, or, render to be enlightened.6 But, in my opinion, the natural signification of the word appears very appropriate to this place; as if he had said, There shall now be a mirror set forth, in which men may behold the face of God serene and merciful; and therefore the poor and afflicted shall henceforth dare to lift up their eyes to God, and to resort to him with the utmost freedom, because no uncertainty shall any longer retard them or render them slothful. If, however, any one should prefer the word enlighten, the meaning will be, They who formerly languished in darkness shall lift up their eyes to God, as if a light had suddenly appeared unto them, and they who were cast down and overwhelmed with shame, shall again clothe their countenances with cheerfulness. But as the meaning in either case is substantially the same, I am not much disposed to contend which of the two interpretations ought to be preferred.

6. This poor man cried, and Jehovah heard him. David here introduces all the godly speaking of himself, the more emphatically to express how much weight there is in his example to encourage them. This poor man, say they, cried; therefore God invites all the poor to cry to him. They contemplate in David what belongs to the common benefit of all the godly; for God is as willing and ready at this day to hear all the afflicted who direct their sighs, wishes, and cries, to him with the same faith, as he was at that time to hear David.

1 "That is, in all circumstances; in every posture of my affairs." -- Horsley.

2 "Quand il ne cesse de nous bien-faire?" -- Fr. "When he never ceases from doing us good ?"

3 The word Mywne, anavim, may also be rendered the afflicted. Our author in his exposition combines both the ideas of humble and afflicted.

4 "Et qu'il avoit bien occasion de penser que la cruaute d'iceluy ne se pourroit pas appaiser a le faire mourir de quelque legere mort." -- Fr.

5 Those who take this view explain the words as meaning that the humble or afflicted, upon looking to David, saw how graciously God had dealt with him, and were enlightened, revived, and encouraged. They also consider, as Calvin himself does, the humble or afflicted as the persons who speak in the sixth verse, where, pointing as it were with the finger to David, they say, "This poor man cried," etc.

6 This is the rendering adopted by Horsley, who understands by the expression the illumination of the soul by the light of Divine truth. He reads the verb in the imperative mood, and his translation of the entire verse is as follows:"Look towards him, and thou shalt be enlightened; And your faces shall never be ashamed." This reading is sanctioned by the Septuagint. It supposes two alterations on the text. First, that instead of wjybh, they looked, we should read wjybh, habitu, look ye; and this last reading is supported by several of Dr Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS. The other alteration is, that instead of shynpw, upeneyhem, their faces, we should read skynpw, upeneykem, your faces. Poole, in defense of reading your instead of their, observes, "that the change of persons is very frequent in this book."


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