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Psalm 36

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Wickedness of Men and Lovingkindness of God Man's Wickedness and God's Perfection A Psalm of Mixed Type Human Wickedness The Perversity of Sinners and the Benevolence of God
MT Intro
"For the Choir Director. APsalm of David the Servant of the Lord"
       
36:1-4  36:1-4 36:1-4 36:1-4 36:1
        36:2-3a
      The Goodness of God 36:3b-6a
36:5-9 36:5-9 36:5-6 36:5-6  
    36:7-9 36:7-9  
        36:6c-7
        36:8-9
36:10-12 36:10-12 36:10-12 36:10-12 36:10-11
        36:12

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 Psalm describes the ungodly person in Ps. 36:1-4 and then the faithful follower in Ps. 36:7-9.

 

B. YHWH is described in Ps. 36:5-6 by four powerful descriptive nouns.

1. lovingkindness

2. faithfulness

3. righteousness

4. judgments/justice

They describe YHWH and His covenant. These are how He wants His world to function!

 

C. Verses 10-12 offer concluding prayers for YHWH to help shield the godly from the influences of the godless. The downward pull of a

1. fallen world (cf. Eph. 2:1)

2. fallen culture

3. fallen acquaintances (cf. 1 Cor. 15:33)

4. fallen self (cf. Eph. 2:3)

5. Eph. 4:2 would also add Satan (i.e., the prince of the power of the air) who is often so strong, consistent, and pervasive. YHWH's character, word, and intervention are our only hope.

 

D. Two unique word usages are found in this Psalm.

1. evil personified (i.e., "transgression speaks"), Ps. 36:1

2. "house" refers to all creation or eschatological setting. See note at Ps. 36:8-9.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 36:1-4
 1Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart;
 There is no fear of God before his eyes.
 2For it flatters him in his own eyes
 Concerning the discovery of his iniquity and the hatred of it.
 3The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit;
 He has ceased to be wise and to do good.
 4He plans wickedness upon his bed;
 He sets himself on a path that is not good;
 He does not despise evil.

36:1-4 These verses describe the ungodly (BDB 957).

1. Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his (LXX, MT, "my") heart (BDB 833 calls this "personified as evil spirit"). The verb of transgression/rebellion is used in Ps. 37:38; 51:13; Isa. 43:27; 59:13; 66:24; Jer. 2:8,29; 3:13; 33:8, where it refers to transgression/rebellion among the covenant people. The psalmist lives among a people of unclean lips (cf. Isa. 6:5,9-10).

2. There is no fear (i.e., terror, BDB 808) of God before their eyes. Fear of YHWH is admonished in Ps. 34:9; 55:19d. This verse is the concluding text quoted in the list of OT texts which assert the universal sinfulness of all mankind in Rom. 3:18.

3. Either "personified transgression" or the godless person himself lies ("smooth talk," BDB 325, KB 322, Hiphil perfect) to himself about his own iniquity.

4. The words of his mouth (which reflects who he is) are

a. wickedness (BDB 19)

b. deceit (BDB 941)

5. He has ceased to

a. be wise (BDB 968, KB 1328, Hiphil infinitive construct)

b. do good (BDB 405, KB 408, Hiphil infinitive construct)

6. He plans wickedness upon his bed (all the verbs of Ps. 36:4 are imperfects, denoting ongoing action), cf. Pro. 4:16; Micah 2:1.

7. He set himself on a path that is not good. Remember life is characterized as a path, road, way. Each of us must choose which path, cf. Deut. 30:15,19; Matt. 7:13-14.

8. He does not despise evil.

Even covenant people are tested/tempted (i.e., personified rebellion) but they are still responsible for their choices and the consequences of those choices!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 36:5-9
 5Your lovingkindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
 Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
 6Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
 Your judgments are like a great deep.
 O Lord, You preserve man and beast.
 7How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
 And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
 8They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house;
 And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights.
 9For with You is the fountain of life;
 In Your light we see light.

36:5-9 This strophe describes YHWH's character and actions toward His people. As the rebel chose and lived in light of his/her choices, so too, the faithful followers must continue to respond to YHWH's love.

1. YHWH is described as, Ps. 36:5-6

a. lovingkindness (BDB 338, i.e., covenant loyalty, see Special Topic at Ps. 5:7)

b. faithfulness (BDB 53, see Special Topic at Ps. 12:1)

c. righteousness (BDB 842, see Special Topic at Ps. 1:5)

d. judgments (BDB 1048, see Special Topic at Ps. 9:5-6)

These are four powerful, recurrent attributes of YHWH. They characterize His dealings with humans. In light of these attributes humans and all life on this planet is preserved (BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil imperfects). Elohim created and sustains this planet, its people, its animals, and its plant life (see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at Ps. 1:1).

2. Faithful followers

a. take refuge in the shadow of Your wings (see Special Topic at Ps. 5:11-12)

b. drink their fill of the abundance of Your house (see Contextual Insights, D or note at Ps. 36:8)

c. have Your house as

(1) the fountain of life, cf. Jer. 2:13; 17:13

(2) light (i.e., truth, health, joy, cf. Ps. 18:28; 27;1)

 

36:7 "O God! And the children of men" It is possible that "God" (Elohim) here should/could refer to "leaders," because it seems to parallel "man and beasts" (i.e., a category of two) in Ps. 36:6c. If so, then the two categories of humans referred to must be

1. leaders (i.e., judges in Exod. 21:6; Ps. 82:6 or leaders in Ps. 29:1; 58:1)

2. those led

NEB, REB, TEV, and AB footnote have "Gods and men."

36:8 "Your house" In this context it does not refer to the temple but a recreated Eden (i.e., "delight," BDB 726, Ps. 36:8b) or eschatological setting (i.e., new age, cf. Ps. 46:4; Ezek. 47:1-12; Joel 3:18; Rev. 22:1-2).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 36:10-12
 10O continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You,
 And Your righteousness to the upright in heart.
 11Let not the foot of pride come upon me,
 And let not the hand of the wicked drive me away.
 12There the doers of iniquity have fallen;
 They have been thrust down and cannot rise.

36:10-12 This concluding strophe is a prayer by the psalmist to YHWH on behalf of the faithful followers (i.e., "to those who know You," see Special Topic at Ps. 1:6).

1. Continue — BDB 604, KB 645, Qal imperative

a. in Your lovingkindness

b. in Your righteousness

2. Do not let

a. the foot of pride come upon me — BDB 97, KB 112, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

b. the hand of the wicked drive me away — BDB 626, KB 678, Hiphil imperfect used in a jussive sense

3. Let the wicked be

a. fallen — BDB 656, KB 709, Qal perfect

b. thrust down — BDB 190, KB 218, Qal perfect

c. unable to rise — BDB 407, KB 410, Qal perfect (all three verbs may refer to death and descent into Sheol)

Note the consequences of faith (36:7-8) and evil (36:11-12). Choices have consequences!

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. Compare all the translations that you have and note the different ways they translate verse 1.

2. Express in your own words the essence of verses 1-4 in one declarative sentence.

3. What do the four significant terms in Ps. 36:5,6 have to say about the concept of conditional and unconditional covenants in the OT?

4. Can the term Elohim in verse 7 refer to the judges or leaders of Israel as well as the God of Israel? Why?

5. Why does the term "in the shadow of Your wings" refer to God as a female? What is the implication of these types of statements?

6. Does it seem unspiritual to you that David prays for the destruction of his enemies?