The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 31

Psa 31:1


HISTORICAL SETTING: Prob Absalom's rebellion.

DELIVER ME: Lit, "provide me an escape". David's flight from Jerusalem.

Psa 31:2

TURN YOUR EAR TO ME: As one might do to hear the feeble words of the sick or dying. Cp Hezekiah, when in an equally hopeless situation (2Ki 19:16).

BE MY ROCK OF REFUGE, A STRONG FORTRESS TO SAVE ME: See also v 3. The first phrase expressed David's (and Christ's) faith that God will help. The second phrase expresses his experience, that God has been his help in times past. The second provides the reason for the continuing request of the first.

Psa 31:3

LEAD AND GUIDE ME: David's concern about his flight from Jerusalem, since he did not know where he would find refuge.

Psa 31:5

David relaxes, confident that as God has rescued him on former occasions, so He will do yet again.

INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT: Last words on the cross: Luk 23:46. Act 7:59 and 1Pe 4:19 make clear that those in Christ have a right also to use these words of their own experience. (Note that Jesus said "hands" -- plural! -- thus using and authenticating the LXX reading here, instead of the Heb text.)

REDEEM ME, O LORD, THE GOD OF TRUTH: Or "thou HAST redeemed me..." (AV). In the light of v 5a, these words (and also Psa 30:1-3) may be read as the first thing said by our Lord when he came to life again in the tomb. (So the first half and the last half of the v were quoted by Christ in order, yet almost three days apart, and on either side of the great gulf of death!)

REDEEM ME: Not only others, in prospect; but me, in actual fact! It is a fundamental of Bible teaching, and no less so because ignored by so many, that Christ was himself redeemed from sin and death by his own sacrifice. See Heb 9:12, and note there the italics (in the KJV) and the implication thereof.

THE GOD OF TRUTH: Like the word "mercy", "truth" here is almost a technical term for the covenants of promise; see Gen 24:27; 32:10; Exo 34:6; 2Sa 2:6; 15:20; Psa 40:10,11; 69:13; 89:14; 91:4; 132:11; Mic 7:20 (just a few of the poss refs).

Psa 31:6

WORTHLESS IDOLS: "Lying vanities" (AV). False oracles resorted to by the rebels: Jer 8:19; Jon 2:8? Cp Saul and the witch of Endor (1Sa 28).

Psa 31:7

AND KNEW THE ANGUISH OF MY SOUL: God knows; that is enough! "Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need..." (Mat 6:8,32).

Psa 31:8

YOU HAVE NOT HANDED ME OVER TO THE ENEMY: David was not trapped in Jerusalem. Note the mention of enemies in vv 8,11,13, 15,17,18,20.

A SPACIOUS PLACE: The spacious open country east of Jordan.

Psa 31:9

Vv 9-12: LGS calls vv 9-12 "the description of a leper". It was only the fact of David's desperate sickness which enabled the rebellion to succeed: note 2Sa 15:1-6, and see on Psa 38; 41.

MY EYES GROW WEAK WITH SORROW..: Not only sweat but also tears in Gethsemane. Grief over a sense of failure in his ministry, or because of the insensitivity of the twelve?

Psa 31:10

Since his sin with Bathsheba, David had experienced nothing but trouble, and all of it traceable to that cause. See USC (2.10 and 2.11).

MY STRENGTH FAILS BECAUSE OF MY AFFLICTION (OR GUILT): All his calamities were a punishment for his sin. True also of Israel: Rom 11:11. Yet ct Psa 105:37.

(NT) "Anguish and groaning": Luk 19:41 (and Mat 23:37-39) -- Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem.

MY STRENGTH FAILS: LXX has sw Heb 1:12 and Luk 22:32. The modern Engl "eclipse" comes from the Greek word used here.

BECAUSE OF MY AFFLICTION: "Because of mine iniquity" (AV): LXX and Syriac have "my humiliation". If reading as the AV, then this is an example of the imputed guilt of Christ because of his necessarily close identification, through his human nature, with the race of sinners whom he came to save (cp. Psa 51:5; 69:5; etc.).

MY BONES GROW WEAK: Ref the saints, members of the body of Christ: "We are members of his body... and of his bones" (Eph 5:30; cp 1Co 12:12-27).

Psa 31:11

I AM THE UTTER CONTEMPT: NT: As in Nazareth (Luk 4), Capernaum, and even among his disciples (Joh 6:60,66). (Is it only a coincidence that, in view of Rev 13:18, Joh 6:66 reads: "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him'?)

ENEMIES... NEIGHBORS... FRIENDS: The rebels, his close friends!

THOSE WHO SEE ME ON THE STREET FLEE FROM ME: "Then all the disciples forsook him and fled": Mat 26:56.

FLEE: Lit, "flutter away", like frightened birds.

Psa 31:12

I AM FORGOTTEN BY THEM AS THOUGH I WERE DEAD: Because of his sickness the nation's affairs proceeded without him: 2Sa 15:1-6.

I HAVE BECOME LIKE BROKEN POTTERY: An earthen vessel which had become unclean was not to be scoured, but smashed: Lev 15:12. Cp 2Sa 15:26: David felt himself to be a vessel fit only for destruction.

(NT) A favorite expression of Jeremiah (Jer 19:11; 22:28; 25:34; 48:38), in experiences where he surely typ Jesus. Also see 2Ti 2:20; Rom 9:21 for Paul's exhortation.

Psa 31:13

FOR I HEAR THE SLANDER OF MANY: A campaign of character assassination, leaving David with little popular support.

TERROR ON EVERY SIDE: Even his close friends feared to warn him or take any action on his behalf.

(NT) Jeremiah (seeing himself as a type of Messiah?) quotes these words: Jer 20:10. The second of these phrases positively haunted him: Jer 6:25; 20:3; 46:5; 49:29; Lam 2:22. Cp also 2Co 4:7,8.


(NT) Mat 27:1, etc and // accounts in the other gospels.

AND PLOT TO TAKE MY LIFE: Assuming that if they left David alive, his personality would have the power to swing the nation to his support once again.

Psa 31:14

"All our happiness and pleasure and satisfaction must be centered in God. Any seeming 'happiness' or 'pleasure' or 'satisfaction' that is not centered in God is a sham and a delusion that will turn to sorrow at last. God is the only reality. All things and all beings exist only as He will they exist. Whatever is built on God is real, and will last. Whatever is not built on God is not real, and will not last. Only a few learn this. Only a few find eternal happiness and peace" (GVG).

Psa 31:15

MY TIMES ARE IN YOUR HANDS: 1Ch 29:30. Looking back, he could see how his whose life, his destiny, and his destination, had been shaped and guided by an Almighty hand. Cp Mat 6:27.

(NT) Re Christ, esp true of 2nd Com: Act 1:7; Mar 13:32.

Psa 31:16

LET YOUR FACE SHINE ON YOUR SERVANT: The High Priest blessing: Num 6:24-26; cp Psa 80:1; 4:6. This impl: (a) restoration to Jerusalem's temple and its worship; (b) his sins forgiven. In Psalms, always ref God's presence in ark/tabernacle/temple: see VL, Psalms, God's face.

(NT) In Gethsemane, "an angel from heaven strengthened him" (Luk 22:43; cp Psa 17:3-6; 34:6,7).

IN YOUR UNFAILING LOVE: "Mercy" (AV) very commonly refers to God's covenants of promise. Therefore here David implies: How can God's great promise to me (2Sa 7) be fulfilled if I am cast aside and have only rebellious sons?

Psa 31:17

LET THE WICKED BE PUT TO SHAME: The balance of this verse requires: 'for they have not called upon thee... (therefore, since they were silent in life toward thee, let them also be put to silence in the grave)'.

AND LIE SILENT IN THE GRAVE: Grave = Heb sheol. David prob did not fully realize it, but he was praying for the death of Absalom. Does this explain why he was so shattered when that happened? Yet need he have been conscience-stricken?

Psa 31:19

HOW GREAT IS YOUR GOODNESS: Thankfulness for his arrival in a haven of safety? -- "a strong city" (v 21), "keep secure" (v 20).

STORED UP: This Heb word (deliberately?) resembles the word for "north", and may be pointing to Mahanaim (2Sa 17:27), north of where he crossed the Jordan (2Sa 17:21,22).

(NT) Like the hidden manna: Exo 16:33; Heb 9:4; Rev 2:17; Col 3:3; and note v 20 (hide) here. Cp also Paul's last words about his hope: 2Ti 4:8.

Psa 31:20

IN THE SHELTER OF YOUR PRESENCE: This would normally mean the Sanctuary (cp Psa 27:5: "the hiding place of his tabernacle"; Psa 61:4: "of his wings" -- the cherubim; Psa 91:1: "of his shadow" -- the Shekinah cloud). Was there such a holy place at Mahanaim, commemorating Jacob's experiences there (Gen 32)?

IN THE SHELTER OF YOUR PRESENCE YOU HIDE THEM: NT: The one man, Christ, was hidden in God's secret place, and then lifted up (Psa 27:5,6). Now, many (those in Christ: "them" here, "saints" in v 23) are hidden in God's secret place, and then lifted up. Cp Col 3:3,4: "Our life is hid with Christ."


Psa 31:22

IN MY ALARM I SAID: "I said in my haste" (AV). A related word describes the manner of eating the Passover (Exo 12:11; Deu 16:3). RV also has "alarm". Cp Psa 22:1; 94:17-19; 71:7,9-12; 73:12-22; 42:5; 143:4,7; 10:11,17; 109:22; 77:7-10; 116:11. In all of these (where either the word or the idea is the same) there is emphasis on Christ's fully sharing human weakness, which was shown very plainly in Gethsemane.


Psa 31:23

LOVE THE LORD, ALL HIS SAINTS!: "Contemplate your blessings: principally the eternal, spiritual, unchanging ones. Contemplate your unworthiness. Contemplate God's greatness and holiness and marvelous condescending love. Get a constant sense of gratitude and desire to reciprocate that love which is almost painful in its pressing, overwhelming urgency. This is the power and the motive that creates a perpetual and irresistible yearning and striving for worthiness and holiness. It is the only power and motive that can resist and overcome and triumph over the fatal, unremitting, downward pull of the flesh. Love God enough -- through study, meditation and realization -- and you can do anything. There is no other way to life: no other power to overcome" (GVG).

THE PROUD HE PAYS BACK IN FULL: Absalom. But did David look for such an application of his own words?

Psa 31:24

BE STRONG AND TAKE HEART: There is no end to trouble, but there is no limit to the strength given to meet it. "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong": 1Co 16:13.

ALL YOU WHO HOPE IN THE LORD: Psa 33:18,22; Rom 8:25.

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