The Agora
Bible Articles and Lessons: P-Q

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Peter's use of Psa 34

The context of the apostle's sustained quotation (Psa 34:12-16a = 1Pe 3:10-12) matches that of the psalm excellently. Instead of David and his outlaws, all of them the quarry of pursuers, there was, at the time when Peter wrote, a violent reproach of the name of Christ (1Pe 4:14), and of those who gave him loyalty. (1Pe, esp chs 4 and 5, is full of allusions to the Neronian persecution; see also Jam 2:7.) Thus, just as David exhorted his men to self-discipline and the expression of high ideals in their behavior to friend and foe alike, so also now Peter eloquently exhorts later believers to display in all circumstances a character worthy of the Leader to whom they have pledged loyalty.

Note the impressively abrupt cut-off of the quotation in the middle of a verse -- Peter's neat device for steering special attention to the words that follow: "to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth". This very thing, which Nero sought to achieve, they would bring upon their own selves if, to avoid the rigors of persecution, they turned away from Christ. It needed only a pinch of incense on a pagan altar, only a misleading word dissociating oneself from the persecuted Christ, and -- humanly speaking -- all would be well. But no! "Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile", for there was "no guile found in his (Christ's) mouth" (1Pe 2:22).

Was Psa 34:10b ("they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing") the Lord's warning to Peter, foreseeing his temptation in the court of the high priest's palace? Yet the apostle did not keep his tongue from evil and from speaking guile.

An earlier allusion also makes attractive use of Psa 34:8 (= 1Pe 2:3): "If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious"; the LXX, used by Peter, has "the Lord is chrestos (a pun on christos!)". And this follows immediately on another exhortation to avoid "all guile and hypocrisies" (1Pe 2:1).

And how is one to taste that the Lord is gracious? By "desiring the sincere milk of the word (of Scripture)" and of "the Word " (Jesus) -- a typical double meaning. Accordingly, the exhortation: "Come, ye children..." (Psa 34:11) is echoed in Peter's address to his "babes": "To whom coming..." (1Pe 2:2,4).

As David's outlaw band came to include many Gentiles along with Jews, so Peter (the Lord's outlaw) was instrumental in bringing Gentiles (Act 10) as well as Jews (Act 2 and 3) into the Lord's band. See the allusions to Psa 34 in this light (WAc 151).
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