Psalm 61

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Confidence in God's Protection
MT Intro
For the choir director; on a stringed instrument. A Psalm of David.
Assurance of God's Eternal Protection Prayer For Protection A Prayer for Protection Prayer of An Exile
61:1-4 61:1-2 61:1-2 61:1-2 61:1-2
  61:3-7 61:3-5 61:3 61:3-5
      61:4-5  
61:5-8        
    61:6-7 61:6-7 61:6-7
  61:8 61:8 61:8 61:8

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This is obviously a royal Psalm (cf. Ps. 61:6). How God deals with the King represents how He deals with the nation (cf. Ps. 61:5).

 

B. At first, verse 2 seems to imply exile but the rest of the Psalm does not support this. Therefore, verse 2a must be metaphorical of the King's sense of spiritual alienation.

 

C. This Psalm has several memorable images of God.

1. the rock that is higher than I

2. You have been a refuge for me

3. You have been a tower of strength

4. let me dwell in Your tent forever

5. let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 61:1-4
 1Hear my cry, O God;
 Give heed to my prayer.
 2From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint;
 Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
 3For You have been a refuge for me,
 A tower of strength against the enemy.
 4Let me dwell in Your tent forever;
 Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.  Selah.

61:1 Two parallel imperatives of request start this Psalm (cf. Ps. 86:6; Isa. 28:23; 49:1; 51:4; Jer. 18:19; Dan. 9:19; Hos. 5:1).

1. hear my cry — BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal imperative

2. give heed to my prayer — BDB 904, KB 1151, Hiphil imperative

In verse 2 the psalmist says, "From the end of the earth I call to You." This sounds like a prayer of an exiled person but the rest of the Psalm does not support this. Therefore, it must be imagery of a sense of alienation n his behalf.

The word "earth" can, in this context, be understood as "land" (i.e., Promised Land), see Special Topic at Psalm 1:2. Words have meaning only in context!

The AB understands the phrase to refer to Sheol (p. 84). This is based on Ugaritic parallels. If so, the psalmist faced death, not just discouragement.

▣ "cry" "Cry" (BDB 943) can refer to shouts of joy or, as here, a cry for help and protection (cf. Ps. 17:1; 88:2; 106:44; 119:169; 142:6).

61:2 "the rock that is higher than I" The title, "rock" reflects two Hebrew roots (BDB 849 and 700 I). The title first (BDB 849) appears in Deut. 32:4,15,18,30,31. Notice how it is expressed.

1. the Rock — Deut. 32:4,15,18,30,31

2. the Rock of his salvation — Deut. 32:15; 2 Sam. 22:47; Ps. 89:26; 95:1

3. the Rock who begot you — Deut. 32:18

4. their Rock sold them — Deut. 32:30

5. their rock is not like our Rock — Deut. 32:31

6. there is no rock like our God — 1 Sam.2:2

7. YHWH is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer — Ps. 18:2; 31:3; 71:3; 94:22

8. My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge — Ps. 18:2; 28:1; Isa. 17:10

9. who is a rock, except our God — Ps. 18:31

10. YHWH lives, and blessed be my rock — Ps. 18:46

11. my rock and my redeemer — Ps. 19:14

12. my rock (BDB 700 I) — Ps. 42:9

13. my rock and there is no unrighteousness in Him — Ps. 92:15

14. blessed by YHWH, my rock — Ps. 144:1

15. YHWH an everlasting Rock — Isa. 26:4

16. to the mountain of YHWH, to the Rock of Israel — Isa. 30:29

17. is there any other Rock? — Isa. 44:8

BDB 700 I occurs only in Ps. 18:2; 42:9. It literally means "rocky crag," but is a synonym of BDB 849 (both used in Ps. 18:2).

This imagery has several possible origins.

1. the mountain roots or pillars connected to creation

2. the site of YHWH's giving of the law to Israel

3. the temple on Mt. Moriah

4. the strength and permanency of physical mountains

5. mountains are the highest point, closest to heaven where God dwells

 

▣ "higher than I" This could mean several things.

1. the rock that provides salvation and refuge that the psalmist cannot provide himself

2. the rock he is unable to climb or possibly understand (i.e., God's permanency)

3. the contrast between God's exalted place and the psalmist's place of discouragement (i.e., when my heart is faint)

The LXX and Peshitta have, "You left me upon a rock."

61:3 Much of the imagery used to describe God has military connotations.

1. a refuge linked to a shield in 2 Sam. 22:31; Ps. 18:31; Pro. 30:5

2. a refuge linked to a stronghold in Ps. 59:16

3. here a refuge linked to a "tower of strength" (cf. Pro. 18:10) in Ps. 62:7, "the rock of my strength"

 

61:4 Verse 4 has two cohortative verbs.

1. let me dwell in Your tent — BDB 157, KB 184, Qal cohortative, cf. Ps. 27:5; 31:20; 32:7

2. let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings — BDB 340, KB 337, Qal imperfect used in a cohortative sense (see Special Topic at Ps. 5:11-12)

As verse 3 has military imagery, verse 4 has imagery related to the temple or possibly "rock" in Ps. 61:2. The imagery of Ps. 61:4a is also found in Ps. 23:6; 27:4.

The term "forever" is plural, which accentuates the concept (see Special Topic at Ps. 9:5). I think in this OT, Wisdom Literature context it denotes a happy, long life in temple fellowship (i.e., tent) with YHWH (cf. Ps. 23:6).

▣ "in the shelter of Your wings" This is female imagery of God as a protective mother bird (cf. Matt. 23:37; Luke 13:34). See notes at Ps. 17:8 and Special Topic at Ps. 5:11-12.

▣ "Selah" See notes at Ps. 3:2 and Intro. to Psalms, VII.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 61:5-8
 5For You have heard my vows, O God;
 You have given me the inheritance of those who fear Your name.
 6You will prolong the king's life;
 His years will be as many generations.
 7He will abide before God forever;
 Appoint lovingkindness and truth that they may preserve him.
 8So I will sing praise to Your name forever,
 That I may pay my vows day by day.

61:5-8 This strophe relates to the King as a representative of YHWH's covenant people.

1. The King has made vows (i.e., faith promises) to YHWH.

2. YHWH has given him/Israel the land (i.e., inheritance, cf. Gen. 15:12-21) of Canaan to those who fear Him.

3. YHWH will prolong the King's life (note royal hyperboles).

4. The King will sit enthroned before God forever (obviously "forever" is not eternal but prolonged days). Be careful of reading NT developed theology back into Hebrew terms (royal hyperbole).

5. YHWH appoints (BDB 584, KB 599, Piel imperative, prayer request) lovingkindness and truth (personified agents, cf. Ps. 40:11; 57:3; 89:14, "goodness and mercy" in Ps. 23:6, "light" and "truth" in Ps. 43:3). This same concept is stated in Pro. 20:28. To uphold the King is to uphold Israel.

 

61:5 The NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 531, has a good comment about "those who fear Your name." They represent the faithful followers (cf. Ps. 15:4; 25:12,14; 103:11,13; 118:4). NIDOTTE adds a list of slightly different forms.

1. those who fear You — Ps. 31:19

2. those who fear Him — Ps. 34:7

3. those who fear Your name — Ps. 61:5

4. those who fear God — Ps. 66:16

 

61:8 Because of God's goodness to the King and Israel, the King will sing praises (BDB 274, KB 273, Piel cohortative) to Him.

Again the use of "forever" must be seen as metaphorical of a long, successful reign. The King's faith promises ("vows") are honored, performed, and fulfilled in the temple. This close is similar to Ps. 30:13, thereby denoting a set ritual (i.e., thank offering) or liturgy (connected to offering, cf. Ps. 7:17).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Is this Psalm an individual lament or a royal lament?

2. Explain the phrase "from the end of the earth." Was the writer in exile?

3. Does verse 4 imply eternal life? (cf. Ps. 61:7) Is this a Messianic Psalm?

4. Define "vow" as it is used in this Psalm. (cf. Ps. 61:5,8)

 

Passage: