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Psalm 32

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Blessedness of Forgiveness and of Trust in God The Joy of Forgiveness Thanksgiving For Healing Confession and Forgiveness Candid Admission of Sin
MT Intro
"A Psalm of David. A Maskil"
       
32:1-2  32:1-2 32:1-2 32:1-2 32:1-2
32:3-7 32:3-5 32:3-4 32:3-4 32:3-4
    32:5 32:5 32:5
  32:6-7 32:6-7 32:6-7 32:6-7
32:8-11 32:8-9 32:8-9 32:8-9 32:8
        32:9
  32:10-11 32:10-11 32:10-11 32:10
        32:11

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. Because of the MT introduction many scholars believe this Psalm, like Psalm 51, describes David's sin (i.e., sexual encounter with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, cf. 2 Samuel 11), cover up (cf. 2 Samuel 12), and forgiveness (i.e., although the consequences of his sin destroyed his family). In Romans 4:7-8 Paul quotes 32:1-2 (LXX) as referring to David.

 

B. This is surely possible but it may have a wider implication and purpose (cf. plurals of Ps. 32:11). Sin and its consequences are common to all humans (cf. Rom. 1:8-3:18), even covenant humans (cf. Romans 7; 1 John 1:5-10).

 

C. The psalmist's physical problems were the merciful acts of God that would not allow the sinful covenant person to remain in his/her rebellion (cf. Heb. 12:7-13). There are consequences to sin, thank God, the God of mercy pursues us in spite of them. As sin abounds, grace does much more abound (cf. Rom. 5:20).

 

D. One can tell which concepts, events, and issues are central to a culture by the number of words used to describe it. Obviously Israel was concerned with covenant rebellion (cf. 1 Kings 8), as well as its forgiveness. There are many words for sin and rebellion.

 

E. Psalm 31 and Psalm 32 may have been placed together by an editor or compiler, because they both discuss the physical result of sin (cf. Ps. 31:9-10; 32:3-4).

 

F. The NASB Study Bible (p. 769) gives an interesting theory about the speakers.

1. dialogue between David and YHWH in the tabernacle, Ps. 32:1-2

2. David speaks to YHWH in the hearing of the gathered worshipers, Ps. 32:3-7

3. a priest addresses David on YHWH's behalf, Ps. 32:8-10

4. David speaks to the gathered worshipers, v.11

 

G. This Psalm emphasizes

1. the sinfulness of humans

2. the merciful character of God

3. how a sinful human can become acceptable to a holy God (i.e., confession)

Paul's use of Ps. 32:1-2 in Romans 4, where he discusses OT examples of "justification by grace through faith" (cf. Rom. 3:21-31; Galatians 3; Eph. 2:8-9), reveals the context as an OT example of the theme developed and prioritized in the NT. This is the heart of how one is forgiven, although the mechanism for that forgiveness (i.e., the gospel of Christ) is not mentioned. It still clearly reveals the merciful, gracious availability of YHWH's forgiveness (i.e., "lifted and removed" and "covered").

If YHWH can forgive David, He can forgive you! Receive it through confession and repentance! Then stand forgiven in the promises!

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 32:1-2
 1How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
 Whose sin is covered!
 2How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
 And in whose spirit there is no deceit!

32:1 The term "blessed" (BDB 80, cf. Ps. 1:1, is used 26 out of 45 times in Psalms) is recurrent in Wisdom Literature and describes the faithful followers.

1. Job 5:17; Ps. 94:12 — disciplined by Shaddai

2. Psalm 1:1 — studies and walks in God's word

3. Psalm 2:12 — takes refuge in YHWH

4. Psalm 32:1-2 — sin is forgiven

5. Psalm 40:4; 84:12; Pro. 16:20 — trusts in YHWH

6. Psalm 41:1-3; Pro. 14:21 — considers the poor

7. Psalm 80:6 — strength is in YHWH

8. Psalm 89:12 — know joy and walk in the light of YHWH's countenance

9. Psalm 119:2 — seek Him with whole heart, observe His testimony

10. Psalm 112:1; 128:1 — fears YHWH, walks in His ways

11. Psalm 146:5 — YHWH is his help

12. Proverbs 3:13 — finds wisdom

13. Proverbs 8:32,34 — listens to YHWH, keeps His ways

14. Proverbs 28:14 — fears YHWH

15. Proverbs 29:18 — keeps YHWH's laws

The first two verses of this Psalm from the LXX are quoted by Paul in Romans 4:7-8 in his example of David as a blessed man because his sin was forgiven.

Notice the different words used to describe rebellion against YHWH (cf. Ps. 32:5).

1. transgression — BDB 833, KB 981; it denotes an intentional breaking of that which is God's will (i.e., covenant)

2. sin — BDB 308, KB 306; it denotes missing (BDB 306) a set target, again not by ignorance but willfully

3. iniquity — BDB 730, KB 799; misdeed, guilt (#1,2,3 appear together in Exod. 34:7; Lev. 16:21; Job 12:23; here; Isa. 59:12; Ezek. 21:24; Dan. 9:24)

4. deceit — BDB 941, KB 636; means treachery, trickery, fraud (cf. Ps. 52:2; 101:7; 120:2-3)

The UBS Handbook mentions that the psalmist purposely alternated masculine, feminine (twice) to show completeness (p. 303).

YHWH's (note the passive participles) forgiveness is described as righteousness given to sinners based on God's mercy and their repentance (this is the theological concept of imputed [cf. BDB 362, KB 359, Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6]).

1. forgiven (lit. "lifted and taken away") — BDB 669, KB 724, Qal passive participle, cf. Exod. 32:32; 34:7; Num. 14:18,19; Micah 7:18; same word negated in Exod. 23:21; Jos. 24:19; Job 7:21; Isa. 2:9

2. covered (i.e., puts out of sight, theological concept in Isa. 38:17; 43:25; Micah 7:19) — BDB 491, KB 487, Qal passive participle

The result is a person with no deceit/guile (cf. John 1:47). This does not mean sinless, but repentant.

32:2 "man" This is the Hebrew word Adam (BDB 9). In the early parts of Genesis (Genesis 1-3) it refers to Adam, the original human creation, but it took on the sense of humanity in general.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 32:3-7
 3When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
 Through my groaning all day long.
 4For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
 My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.  Selah.
 5I acknowledged my sin to You,
 And my iniquity I did not hide;
 I said, " I will confess my transgressions to the Lord";
 And You forgave the guilt of my sin.  Selah.
 6Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found;
 Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him.
 7You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble;
 You surround me with songs of deliverance.  Selah.

32:3-7 This strophe contrasts two ways to deal with sin.

1. be silent, hide it

a. bones wasted away, cf. Ps. 31:9-10

b. groaning all day long

c. vitality (lit. "juicy," BDB 545, cf. Num. 11:8; used here of body fluids) drained away (NET Bible suggests an emendation to "to my destruction," p. 888 #29)

2. acknowledge, confess

a. YHWH forgives the guilt of sin (cf. Exod. 34:7; Num. 14:18; Ps. 85:2)

b. sense of security returns

c. YHWH is a hiding place again

d. YHWH preserves him from trouble

e. he is surrounded with songs of deliverance

There is a play on YHWH's hand; in judgment it was heavy (Ps. 32:4; Ps. 38:2; 39:10; Job 23:2) but in confession it protected him (Ps. 32:6-7).

32:4,5,7 "Selah" See note at Ps. 3:2 and Introduction to Psalms, VII.

32:5 "I will confess" The parallelism of lines 1 and 2 demands a rare meaning of the verb (BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense). Usually the verb in Hiphil means "thanksgiving," but in a few contexts "confess" is the apparent meaning.

1. 1 Kgs. 8:33,35; 2 Chr. 6:24,26 it denotes "confess YHWH's name"

2. here and in Pro. 28:13 the context implies "confess sin"

 

32:6 "in a time when You may be found" This ambiguous phrase can be understood in several ways.

1. there is an appointed/appropriate time for repentance (LXX, Vulgate, NKJV)

2. pray in time of need or distress (cf. 2 Chr. 15:4; emendation cf. NRSV, TEV, NJB)

3. MT has "at a time of finding" (cf. Ps. 103:8-14; Isa. 55:6). JPSOA translates this as "upon discovering [his sin]."

 

▣ "in a flood of great waters" Water, raging water, is often used as an idiom of trouble/distress/attack (cf. Ps. 69:1; 124:5; 144:7 and most beautifully in Isa. 43:2).

32:7 This refers to the tabernacle/temple. The songs of praise are worship songs or liturgy.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 32:8-11
 8I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
 I will counsel you with My eye upon you.
 9Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding,
 Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,
 Otherwise they will not come near to you.
 10Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
 But he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him.
 11Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones;
 And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.

32:8-11 The psalmist speaks to himself (and others, Ps. 32:5) on YHWH's behalf. Here is the divine response, Ps. 32:8 (three cohortatives)!

1. verse 5,  I will confess my transgressions — BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense (see fuller note at Ps. 32:5)

2. verse 8,  I will instruct you — BDB 968, KB 1328, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense

I will teach you — BDB 434, KB 436, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense

I will counsel you — BDB 419, KB 421, Qal cohortative, cf. Ps. 16:7

32:8 "in the way" This is an idiom for a godly life (cf. Ps. 1:1; 25:8-9).

▣ "with My eye upon you" This is an idiom of personal care and presence (cf. Ps. 32:18; Ps. 34:15 [quoted in 1 Pet. 3:12]; Job 36:7).

For "eye" used of YHWH see SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN (ANTHROPOMORPHISM) (anthropomorphism) at Psalm 2:4-6.

32:9 The person (plural) who will not repent is described in terms of rebellious, domesticated animals (cf. Isa. 1:2-3). Fallen humanity lives on an animal level characterized by "more and more for me at any cost!"

Again a contrast.

1. the wicked — many sorrows

2. the faithful follower (i.e., "he who trusts YHWH"), covenant loyalty and love will surround him (cf. Ps. 32:7b)

 

▣ "lovingkindness" See Special Topic at Psalm 5:7.

▣ "shall surround" This verb (BDB 685, KB 738, Poel imperfect) is also used in Ps. 32:7 of songs of deliverance and here of YHWH's lovingkindness (also note Deut. 32:10; the adjective is used in Ps. 34:7; 125:2). What a wonderful idiom of YHWH's presence and protection!

32:11 A series of plural imperatives instructing the faithful follower.

1. be glad — BDB 970, KB 1333, Qal imperative

2. rejoice — BDB 162, KB 189, Qal imperative

3. shout for joy — BDB 943, KB 1247, Hiphil imperative

 

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. List the physical problems related to unconfessed sin. What does it mean to "confess"?

2. How are Psalm 32 and 51 related?

3. Explain what verse 6a means. Is there a time to confess which may pass (i.e., window of opportunity)?

4. Who is speaking in verses 8-9?