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Psalm 31



A Psalm of Complaint and of Praise The Lord, A Fortress in Adversity Prayer For Deliverance From Personal Enemies A Prayer of Trust in God Prayer In Time of Ordeal
MT Intro
"For the Choir Director. A Psalm of David."
31:1-5  31:1-2 31:1-2 31:1-2 31:1-2a
  31:3-5 31:3-5 31:3-5  
31:6-8 31:6-8 31:6-8 31:6-8  
31:9-13 31:9-13 31:9-10 31:9-10 31:9
    31:11-13 31:11-13 31:11
31:14-18 31:14-18 31:14-18 31:14-18 31:14-16
31:19-22 31:19-20 31:19-20 31:19-20 31:19
  31:21-22 31:21-22 31:21-22 31:21-22
31:23-24 31:23-24 31:23-24 31:23-24 31:23-24

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


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.



A. There are so many Psalms where the author is seeking help from God against enemies. One wonders

1. who are these enemies?

2. why does the psalmist feel detached so often?

3. were many of these written during the same period of the psalmist's life (probably David)?


B. The psalmist faces several issues.

1. personal sin and its mental and physical consequences (cf. Ps. 31:1-12)

2. personal attacks by

a. enemies

b. neighbors

c. acquaintances


C. The actions of the enemies are characterized as

1. trying to trap him in a net, Ps. 31:4

2. trying to get him to regard idols, Ps. 31:6

3. slandering him, Ps. 31:11,13,20

4. counseling together against him, Ps. 31:13,20

5. persecuting him, Ps. 31:15

6. having lying lips, Ps. 31:18

7. speaking arrogantly, Ps. 31:18


D. Many/most of the Psalms in Book One have similar themes and wording. This may reflect an unknown editing or compiling agenda. There was a purposeful structure to the different books of Psalms (see Introduction to the Psalter) but moderns are not sure what it was.



 1In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge;
 Let me never be ashamed;
 In Your righteousness deliver me.
 2Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly;
 Be to me a rock of strength,
 A stronghold to save me.
 3For You are my rock and my fortress;
 For Your name's sake You will lead me and guide me.
 4You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me,
 For You are my strength.
 5Into Your hand I commit my spirit;
 You have ransomed me, O Lord, God of truth.

31:1-5 Notice the very personal way the author addresses YHWH. Notice the number of personal pronouns. Biblical faith is a personal trust in a personal God. It is not initially about a creed or even a moral code but about a personal encounter! That encounter changes everything! All else is based on it.

This strophe has several prayer requests.

1. Let me never be ashamed — BDB 101, KB 116, Qal cohortative; this shame could be connected to David's sin (cf. Psalm 32; 51) or others' attack on his reputation or motives, cf. Ps. 25:2-3,20; 31:1,17; 35:26; 69:6; 119:6,46,78,80. Shame sometimes means abandonment by YHWH (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 621-627).

2. Deliver me — BDB 812, KB 930, Piel imperative

3. Incline Your ear to me — BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil imperative, cf. Ps. 17:6; 71:2; 86:1; 88:2; 102:2

4. Rescue me — BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil imperative

5. Be my rock — BDB 224, KB 243, Qal imperative

6. Lead me — BDB 634, KB 685, Qal imperative

7. Guide me — BDB 624, KB 675, Hiphil imperative

8. Pull me out of their net — BDB 422, KB 425, Hiphil imperfect

His prayer requests are based on

1. he has committed himself to YHWH, Ps. 31:5

2. YHWH has ransomed him, Ps. 31:5 (see Special Topic at Ps. 19:14)

3. YHWH is his strength, Ps. 31:4

4. YHWH is the God of truth/faithfulness, Ps. 31:5 (see Special Topic at Ps. 12:1)


31:1 "refuge" This alludes to a strong hiding place of safety and security. See note at Ps. 2:12.

▣ "righteousness" See Special Topic at Ps. 1:5.

31:2 "rock" See note at Ps. 18:2. There are two different Hebrew words translated "rock"; in Ps. 31:2 — BDB 700; in Ps. 31:3 — BDB 849. Both refer to a place of stability, protection, and security (cf. Deut. 32:4,15,18,30).

31:3 "fortress" See note at Ps. 18:2.

▣ "For Your name's sake" See notes at Psalm 23:3 and 25:11. It represents YHWH's character. See SPECIAL TOPIC: CHARACTERISTICS OF ISRAEL'S GOD at Ps. 9:10b.

31:3-4 Notice the series of imperfects that speak of continuous, ongoing actions.

1. lead — BDB 634, KB 685, Hiphil imperfect

2. guide — BDB 624, KB 675, Piel imperfect

3. pull out — BDB 422, KB 425, Hiphil imperfect


31:4 "net" This was an instrument of hunting (BDB 440). It came to be used figuratively of hurting or capturing humans (cf. Ps. 9:15; 10:9; 35:7-8; 57:6; 140:5).

31:5 "into Your hand I commit my spirit" This was quoted by Jesus on the cross just before His death (cf. Luke 23:46).

This verb (BDB 823, KB 955, Hiphil imperfect) has a wide semantic field. Here it denotes an ongoing trust. This trust is based on who God is (i.e., "God of truth," "faithful God"), not the merits of the psalmist.

▣ "hand" See Special Topic at Psalm 7:3-4.

▣ "spirit" This is the Hebrew word ruah (BDB 924). Here it is the unseen life force connected to YHWH breathing life into Adam in Gen. 2:7. When it leaves the body that body goes to the holding place of the dead (Sheol, see Special Topic at Ps. 1:6). See Special Topic below.


 6I hate those who regard vain idols,
 But I trust in the Lord.
 7I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness,
 Because You have seen my affliction;
 You have known the troubles of my soul,
 8And You have not given me over into the hand of the enemy;
 You have set my feet in a large place.

31:6-8 This strophe is dominated by perfects that denote a complete or settled condition.

1. I hate those who regard vain idols — BDB 971, KB 1338, Qal perfect. The intensity of the psalmist's requests for YHWH to judge is based on his worldview (i.e., viewing the world as YHWH's agent). He hates those who break or ignore YHWH's covenant. The LXX has "You hate."

2. I trust in YHWH — BDB 105, KB 120, Qal perfect; this is a recurrent theme, cf. Ps. 4:5; 13:5; 25:2; 26:1; 28:7; 31:6,14; 52:8; 56:3,4,11; 91:2. If "fear of YHWH is the beginning of knowledge" (cf. Pro. 1:7), then trust is the key to knowing Him personally.

3. YHWH sees his affliction — BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal perfect (cf. Exod. 3:7-8)

4. YHWH knows his trouble — BDB 393, KB 390, Qal perfect (see Special Topic at Ps. 1:6)

5. YHWH has not given him into the hands of his enemy — BDB 688, KB 742, Hiphil perfect

6. YHWH has set his feet in a large place — BDB 763, KB 840, Hiphil perfect, cf. Ps. 18:19; 118:5; a large place is the opposite of a narrow place/strait, which is an idiom of distress (cf. Ps. 4:1; 18:19; 118:5)


31:7 This verse has two Qal cohortatives.

1. I will rejoice — BDB 162, KB 189

2. I will be glad — BDB 970, KB 1333


NKJV, LXX"mercy"
NRSV"steadfast love"
TEV"constant love"
NJB"faithful love"
REB"unfailing love"

All of these English translations are trying to express the essence of the powerful covenant noun, hesed. It denotes YHWH's unbreakable commitment to the covenant. See Special Topic at Ps. 5:7.

 9Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
 My eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body also.
 10For my life is spent with sorrow
 And my years with sighing;
 My strength has failed because of my iniquity,
 And my body has wasted away.
 11Because of all my adversaries, I have become a reproach,
 Especially to my neighbors,
 And an object of dread to my acquaintances;
 Those who see me in the street flee from me.
 12I am forgotten as a dead man, out of mind;
 I am like a broken vessel.
 13For I have heard the slander of many,
 Terror is on every side;
 While they took counsel together against me,
 They schemed to take away my life.

31:9-13 This strophe uses parts of the human body to express the psalmist's distress (BDB 865 II).

1. eye (BDB 744), Ps. 31:9, cf. Ps. 6:7; 38:10

2. soul (BDB 659), Ps. 31:10 (i.e., nephesh, see note at Ps. 3:2)

3. body (BDB 105), Ps. 31:10

4. body (lit. "bones," BDB 782), Ps. 31:10

Stress (like sin, cf. Ps. 31:10c; Psalm 32, 51) causes physical manifestations.

1. sorrow

2. sighing

3. failure of strength

4. bones wasting away (verb, BDB 799, KB 898, Qal perfect, is used twice in this context, Ps. 31:9 and 10 and only one other time in the OT, cf. Ps. 6:7)

More and more modern medicine is understanding the link between the mind and the body. They are a unity (cf. Ps. 31:12).

31:11 The slander and distress, which have had such physical consequences, also bring social consequences.

1. I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors.

2. I have become an object of dread to my acquaintances.

3. People flee from me.

4. I am forgotten (out of mind) as a dead man.


31:13 This verse describes the actions of his adversaries.

1. they slander him (i.e., their false words are the next line, "terror on every side")

2. they counsel against him

3. they schemed (BDB 273, cf. Ps. 37:12) to take his life (parallel to #2)

In light of these actions, the imperative "be gracious to me, O Lord" of verse 9 is understandable!

 14But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord,
 I say, " You are my God."
 15My times are in Your hand;
 Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.
 16Make Your face to shine upon Your servant;
 Save me in Your lovingkindness.
 17Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, for I call upon You;
 Let the wicked be put to shame, let them be silent in Sheol.
 18Let the lying lips be mute,
 Which speak arrogantly against the righteous
 With pride and contempt.

31:14-18 This strophe has numerous emphatic prayer requests based on

1. the psalmist's trust in YHWH (Qal perfect, cf. Ps. 31:6), Ps. 31:14

2. YHWH is his God, Ps. 31:14

3. his life is in YHWH's hand, Ps. 31:15

Here are the requests.

1. deliver me — BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil imperative, cf. Ps. 7:2; 18:17; 22:20; 31:2; 39:8; 51:14; 59:1; 69:14; 109:21; 119:170; 120:2; 142:6; 143:9; 144:7,11; this is the cry of the faithful follower's heart, deliverance from the spiritual, mental, and physical aspects of life in a fallen world

2. make Your face shine on me — BDB 21, KB 24, Hiphil imperative, cf. Num. 6:25-26; Ps. 4:6; 67:1; 80:3,7,19; 119:135

3. save me in Your lovingkidness — BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil imperative, many times in the Psalms

4. let me not be put to shame — BDB 101, KB 116, Qal cohortative

5. let the wicked be put to shame — BDB 101, KB 116, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

6. let them be silent in Sheol — BDB 198, KB 226, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

7. let the lying lips be dumb — BDB 47, KB 57, Niphal imperfect used in a jussive sense


31:15 "My times are in Your hand" Faithful followers believe that time and eternity are in God's foreknowledge and control. Nothing surprises Him (cf. Job 14:5,16; 28:24; 31:4; 34:21; Ps. 139:1-16, esp. Ps. 31:16).

31:17 Notice the contrast.

1. the psalmist speaks to God

2-3. the wicked are silent (i.e., dead) or else they speak arrogantly with pride and contempt

You can know people by what they say (cf. Matt. 12:35-37). The tongue reveals the heart!

 19How great is Your goodness,
 Which You have stored up for those who fear You,
 Which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You,
 Before the sons of men!
 20You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man;
 You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.
 21Blessed be the Lord,
 For He has made marvelous His lovingkindness to me in a besieged city.
 22As for me, I said in my alarm,
 "I am cut off from before Your eyes";
 Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications
 When I cried to You.

31:19-22 This strophe describes YHWH's "goodness" (BDB 375, cf. Ps. 145:7). Probably this strophe is to be understood after YHWH has answered the psalmist's prayer requests found early in the psalm.

1. It is stored up for those who fear YHWH.

2. It is for those who take refuge in YHWH.

3. YHWH hides His people

a. in a secret place of His presence

b. in a shelter/pavilion

4. YHWH made His lovingkindness marvelous to the psalmist.

5. YHWH heard his supplications.


31:19 "before the sons of men" Not only does YHWH defend and protect, but He acknowledges our special relationship to Him before our enemies (cf. Ps. 23:5).

31:20 The secret place is the inner (or back) shrine of the temple/tabernacle (cf. Ps. 27:5). This was a special place where the personal presence of YHWH was manifested (i.e., ark of the covenant).

31:21 "in a besieged city" Although we do not know the historical setting of this Psalm, this phrase seems to be metaphorical. It describes a person who feels surrounded by wicked, evil, lying people.

Even though the psalmist feels isolated, he believes YHWH hears and will act on his behalf.

The UBS Text Project (p. 213) gives this reading an "A" rating versus "through distress," found in NEB.

The JPSOA translates this phrase as if it characterized why YHWH should be "blessed," 31:22a. He is strong and unchanging (i.e., "a veritable bastion"). The Jewish Study Bible margin links this to YHWH as "a rock of strength," "a stronghold," "a crag" (i.e., rock), and "a fortress" in Ps. 31:2-3 (p. 1316).

31:22 "I am cut off from before Your eyes" The Jewish Study Bible (p. 1316) interprets this phrase as meaning "absent from the temple" (i.e., 2 Chr. 26:21, where the same phrasing is used of Uzziah being unable, as a leper, to go into the temple). The Niphal form of this verb (BDB 173, KB 202) is found only here in the OT.

 23O love the Lord, all you His godly ones!
 The Lord preserves the faithful
 And fully recompenses the proud doer.
 24Be strong and let your heart take courage,
 All you who hope in the Lord.

31:23-24 As is true so often in the Psalms the last strophe is

1. a warning

2. an admonition

3. a corporate prayer

Here it is #2. The first verbs of both verses are plural imperatives.

1. love YHWH — BDB 12, KB 17, Qal imperative; usually this verb refers to YHWH's love or is singular of the psalmist's love

2. be strong — BDB 304, KB 302, Qal imperative; it is followed by a synonym, BDB 54, KB 5, Hiphil jussive (Hebrew parallelism)


31:23 "His godly ones" This refers to faithful followers (cf. Ps. 30:4; 37:28; 50:5), not angels (cf. Ps. 29:1).

The life experiences (and afterlife experiences) of

1. the faithful — BDB 52 I

2. the proud doer — BDB 793 I, KB 889, Qal participle construct BDB 144

are contrasted.

1. preserved — BDB 665, KB 718, Qal participle

2. recompensed — BDB 1022, KB 1521, Piel participle


31:24 What a wonderful admonition for all faithful followers (cf. Ps. 27:14; 37:34; 62:5; 130:5; Isa. 25:9)!


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. Why is the psalmist in such trouble?

2. List the physical and social consequences of sin.

3. Explain "shame" in an OT context.

4. Is verse 21 literal or metaphorical?

5. Why do so many Psalms written by an individual end in a corporate way?