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Psalm 33

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Praise to the Creator and
Preserver
No MT Intro.
The Superiority of the Lord in Creation and History Hymn to God as Creator and Lord of History A Song of Praise Hymn to Providence
33:1-5  33:1-3 33:1-3 33:1-3 33:1-3
  33:4-5 33:4-5 33:4-5 33:4-5
33:6-12 33:6-7 33:6-7 33:6-7 33:6-7
  33:8-9 33:8-9 33:8-9 33:8-9
  33:10-12 33:10-12 33:10-12 33:10-12
33:13-17 33:13-15 33:13-17 33:13-15 33:13-15
  33:16-17   33:16-17 33:16-17
3:18-22 33:18-19 33:18-19 33:18-19 33:18-19
  33:20-22 33:20-22 33:20-22 33:20-22

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. The NASB Study Bible (p. 770) suggests this Psalm is part of a liturgy.

1. Levitical choir

a. leader, Ps. 33:1-3

b. choir, Ps. 33:4-19

2. gathered worshipers respond, Ps. 33:22-23

 

B. It has no MT title (like Psalms 1, 2, 10), but the "new song," in verse 3, implies some major historical event. Because of Ps. 33:16-17, probably it refers to a military victory.

 

C. I am moved by the universal scope of YHWH's purposes that include all humans (i.e., see use of "all" in Ps. 33:8,13-15). Note the shocking affirmation of Ps. 33:5b! See the full list of texts that show the inclusion of Gentiles from the very beginning as YHWH's ultimate purpose in covenant, 33:10-12 in my notes.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 33:1-5
 1Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones;
 Praise is becoming to the upright.
 2Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre;
 Sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings.
 3Sing to Him a new song;
 Play skillfully with a shout of joy.
 4For the word of the Lord is upright,
 And all His work is done in faithfulness.
 5He loves righteousness and justice;
 The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the Lord.

33:1-5 The first three verses set the mood of the Psalm in praise to God (i.e., five parallel imperatives).

1. sing for joy in the Lord — BDB 943, KB 1247, Piel imperative (this same verb ends Psalm 32)

2. praise — BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil imperative

3. sing praises to Him — BDB 274, KB 273, Piel imperative

4. sing to Him — BDB 1010, KB 1479, Qal imperative

5. play skillfully (BDB 618, KB 668, Piel infinitive construct) with a shout of joy — BDB 405, KB 408, Hiphil imperative

Verses 4 and 5 give the reasons for praise.

1. YHWH's word (BDB 182) is upright (BDB 449)

2. all His work is done in faithfulness (BDB 53, see Special Topic at Ps. 12:1)

3. He loves righteousness (BDB 842, see Special Topic at Ps. 1:5) and justice (BDB 1048, see Special Topic at Ps. 9:5-6)

4. the earth is full of YHWH's lovingkindness (BDB 338, cf. Ps. 119:64; see Special Topic at Ps. 5:7)

The key to peace and security is the faithful follower's belief and trust in the unchanging, merciful, gracious character of the covenant-making God (cf. Ps. 102:27; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8)! The chief character of the Bible is God! It is His story! It is His project and purpose!

33:2 Two stringed instruments are mentioned.

1. lyre (BDB 490) — this had two to four strings. It was widely used in the ANE. This is what David played for King Saul to soothe him (cf. 1 Sam.16:16).

2. harp of ten strings (BDB 614 construct BDB 797). It was part of a group of instruments used in both secular and worship settings (cf. 1 Sam.10:5).

 

▣ "new song" The peoples of the ANE wrote songs to commemorate major events and persons (cf. Exodus 15; 1 Samuel 22). Here the person is YHWH, the Creator (cf. Ps. 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Isa. 42:10; Rev. 5:9; 14:3).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 33:6-12
 6By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
 And by the breath of His mouth all their host.
 7He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap;
 He lays up the deeps in storehouses.
 8Let all the earth fear the Lord;
 Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
 9For He spoke, and it was done;
 He commanded, and it stood fast.
 10The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations;
 He frustrates the plans of the peoples.
 11The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
 The plans of His heart from generation to generation.
 12Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
 The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.

33:6-12 This strophe has two major truths.

1. YHWH is creator, Ps. 33:6-9 (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM at Ps. 2:7)

2. YHWH has a purpose for the nations, Ps. 33:10-12 (see Special Topic at Psalm 2 Introduction)

 

33:6 "the word of the Lord" This surely reflects Genesis 1-2 (cf. Psalm 104). I hope you will take a moment and look online at my exegetical commentary on Genesis 1-2 at www.freebiblecommentary.org.

In Hebrew thought, creation was from nothing (ex nihilo) by the spoken word (fiat, cf. Ps. 33:9; Genesis 1; Ps. 148:5; 2 Cor. 4:6; Heb. 11:3). The word of God is an idiom for the mind or will of God. Modern believers fight over many issues connected to Genesis 1-2. A new book by John Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One, has been a blessing to me as I have struggled with these issues.

▣ "heavens" This refers to the atmosphere above the earth. The ancients saw it as a hard dome of stretched skin with windows for the rain. Remember the Bible is not "anti-scientific" but "pre-scientific." It describes things with the five human senses, as they appear (i.e., phenomenal language). Be careful of modern western literalism. The Bible is an ancient eastern book! The Bible must be God's word to its day before it can be God's word to our day.

If the issue of proper principles for Bible interpretation interests you, see my Bible Interpretation Seminar (video, audio, written text) at www.freebiblecommentary.org.

▣ "all their host" This refers to completed creation of this planet (cf. Gen. 2:1). The ancients saw the heavenly lights (sun, moon, stars, planets, comets) as moving across a dome. They were not gods but just part of YHWH's beautiful physical creation. I think Genesis 1 functions theologically to depreciate the Babylonian gods, just as the plagues of Exodus 7-11 function to depreciate the Egyptian gods.

33:7 The subject of "waters" has several aspects.

1. Genesis does not specifically mention God creating water.

2. In ANE mythology salt water and fresh water were gods. YHWH defeats them!

3. Water becomes the means of YHWH's judgment and starting again with Noah (cf. Genesis 6-9).

4. Water was crucial for ANE peoples. They developed fertility worship as a way to ensure the regular cycles of nature (i.e., rain in its season).

 

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV, REB"as a heap"
NASB margin"in a water skin"
NRSV"as in a bottle"
NJB"like a dam"
LXX"like a wineskin"
JPSOA"like a mound"

The MT has "heap" (BDB 622, דנ, cf. Exod. 15:8; Jos. 3:13,16; Ps. 78:13). It seems to refer to Gen. 1:9. The UBS Text Project gives it a "B" rating (i.e., some doubt).

The NASB margin, NRSV, LXX take it from a different root, BDB 609 (cf. Jos. 9:4,13; Jdgs. 4:19; Ps. 56:8; 119:83).

There is an Akkadian and Ugaritic root, כנד, which means "jar" or "bottle."

33:8 This verse starts out with two verbs used in a jussive sense (i.e., "let us. . .).

1. let all the earth fear/revere YHWH (BDB 431, KB 432, Qal imperfect, cf. Ps. 67:7)

2. let all the inhabitants of the world (see Special Topic at Ps. 1:2) stand in awe (BDB 158, KB 185, Qal imperfect) of Him

Notice the parallelism. YHWH, not nature, is to be feared. The enemy of biblical faith today in western societies is "naturalism," an agentless, purposeless universe.

33:9 See note at verse 6.

33:10-12 The theological assertions related to physical creation now focus the purpose of that creation, which is fellowship with the Creator (cf. Gen. 1:26,27; 3:8).

The "nations" (i.e., Gentiles) are not a second thought but YHWH's purpose from the beginning (cf. Gen. 3:15; 12:3; Exod. 19:5; Ps. 22:27; 66:1-4; 86:8-10; Isa. 2:2-4; 12:4-5; 25:6-9; 42:6-12; 45:22-23; 49:5-6; 51:4-5; 56:6-8; 60:1-3; 66:23; Micah 4:14; Mal. 1:11; John 3:16; 4:42; Acts 10:34-35; 1 Tim. 2:4; Titus 2:11; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 John 2:1; 4:14). See SPECIAL TOPIC: YHWH's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN at Intro. to Psalm 2.

33:10 "the counsel" The "counsel (BDB 420, i.e., purpose) of the Lord stands forever" (cf. Job 23:13; Pro. 19:21). Amen!

33:12 Does God choose some to salvation or all? This is the difficult question of God's sovereignty versus human free will. See SPECIAL TOPIC: ELECTION/PREDESTINATION AND THE NEED FOR A THEOLOGICAL BALANCE/Predestination and the Need for a Theological Balance at Ps. 25:12.

The love, plan, and purposes of YHWH include, but are larger than, the descendants of Abraham! He wants all to know Him (see lists of Scripture texts above)!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 33:13-17
 13The Lord looks from heaven;
 He sees all the sons of men;
 14From His dwelling place He looks out
 On all the inhabitants of the earth,
 15He who fashions the hearts of them all,
 He who understands all their works.
 16The king is not saved by a mighty army;
 A warrior is not delivered by great strength.
 17A horse is a false hope for victory;
 Nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength.

33:13-17 This strophe focuses on YHWH's immanence (cf. Ps. 14:2; 102:19). He knows what is happening on earth in individual lives (cf. Exod. 3:7-9; Matt. 6:25-34; 10:30; Luke 21:18; Acts 27:34; this same imagery is found in several OT texts, i.e., 1 Sam.14:45; 2 Sam. 14:11; 1 Kgs. 1:52). Faithful followers' lives are not controlled by luck, chance, fate, but are directed by faith, by God! Live boldly for Him!

Notice the number of times "all" (BDB 481) appears in this Psalm, 33:8a,b, 13b, 14b, 15a,b. YHWH created and takes note of all His human creation! Life is a gift with a purpose. All humans will give an account to God for their stewardship of that gift!

33:15 YHWH fashions (BDB 427, KB 428, Qal participle, cf. Gen. 2:7,8,19) all humans and knows their lives (cf. Psalm 139). He is a proper judge because He knows our will, motives, acts, and consequences (see full lists of texts on this subject at Psalm 28:4).

33:16-17 Human events, history, is not haphazard but purposeful. YHWH even uses evil for His purposes. Things do not just happen! Now to be fair, this is a fallen world and all that occurs is not the will of YHWH. He allows our choices to bear fruit (i.e., good or bad). The earth has been affected by mankind's sin (cf. Genesis 3; Isa. 53:6; Rom. 8:18-23). The mystery is how

1. YHWH's sovereignty

2. human choices

3. physical activity mesh

The eyes of faith search for God in all events (cf. Ps. 33:18-22). The wicked search for power, riches, evils, disasters and opportunities for self! Humans should not hope in military power (cf. Psalm 2).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 33:18-22
 18Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him,
 On those who hope for His lovingkindness,
 19To deliver their soul from death
 And to keep them alive in famine.
 20Our soul waits for the Lord;
 He is our help and our shield.
 21For our heart rejoices in Him,
 Because we trust in His holy name.
 22Let Your lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us,
 According as we have hoped in You.

33:18-22 Notice how the faithful follower is characterized.

1. those who fear YHWH, Ps. 33:18

2. those who hope for His lovingkindness, Ps. 33:18

3. those who wait for YHWH, Ps. 33:20

4. those who see Him as their help and shield, Ps. 33:20

5. those who rejoice in Him, Ps. 33:21

6. those who trust in His holy name, Ps. 33:21

7. those who hope (lit. ‘wait") in Him, Ps. 33:22

YHWH will

1. keep His eye on them, Ps. 33:13-15

2. deliver them (BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil infinitive construct)

3. keep them (BDB 310, KB 309, Piel infinitive construct)

4. help (BDB 740) and protect (BDB 171) them

Notice how at the conclusion of many of the Psalms, the plural is used to widen the prayer/praise from one to all faithful followers.

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 imperatives in verses 1-3 that relate to musical worship. Why is music such an important aspect of worship?

2. How do verses 6-9 reflect Genesis 1?

3. Explain verse 11 in your own words.

4. How does verse 15 reflect Gen. 1:26-28?

5. Does YHWH have an "eye"?