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Psalm 71

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Prayer of an Old Man for Deliverance
No MT Intro
God the Rock of Salvation An Aged Worshiper's Prayer for Deliverance from Personal Enemies The Prayer of An Elderly Person A Prayer of Old Age
71:1-6 71:1-3 71:1-3 71:1-3 71:1-2
        71:3-4
  71:4-6 71:4-6 71:4-6  
        71:5-6
71:7-11 71:7-8 71:7-11 71:7-11 71:7-8
  71:9-11     71:9-10
        71:11-12
71:12-16 71:12-13 71:12-16 71:12-16  
        71:13
  71:14-16     71:14-15
        71:16-17
71:17-21 71:17-18 71:17-18e 71:17-21  
        71:18d
    71:18f-21   71:18e-21
  71:19-21      
71:22-24 71:22-24 71:22-24 71:22-24 71:22-24

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.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 71:1-6
 1In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge;
 Let me never be ashamed.
 2In Your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
 Incline Your ear to me and save me.
 3Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come;
 You have given commandment to save me,
 For You are my rock and my fortress.
 4Rescue me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked,
 Out of the grasp of the wrongdoer and ruthless man,
 5For You are my hope;
 O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth.
 6By You I have been sustained from my birth;
 You are He who took me from my mother's womb;
 My praise is continually of You.

71:1-6 This opening strophe clearly reveals the mindset of the author. Notice there is no MT introduction. Most commentators assume this is a prayer of an old man (cf. Ps. 71:9,18) who is being persecuted (cf. Ps. 71:4,10,13,24).

71:1 "I have taken refuge" For this verb (BDB 340, KB 337, Qal perfect), see note at Psalm 5:11.

SPECIAL TOPIC: REFUGE

▣ "Let me never be ashamed" This verb (BDB 101, KB 116) is a Qal cohortative. See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SHAME (BDB 101, KB 116) IN ITS THEOLOGICAL SENSE

71:2 The first two verbs "deliver" (BDB 664, KB 717, cf. Ps. 70:1) and "rescue" (BDB 812, KB 93) are both imperfects that denote ongoing action. A third synonym "save" (BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil imperative) is in verse 2b.

Notice the basis of the prayer (i.e., two Hiphil imperatives, Ps. 71:2b) is not the psalmist's merits but YHWH's righteousness (cf. Ps. 71:16; see Special Topic at Ps. 1:5).

▣ "incline Your ear" This verb (BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil imperative) is an anthropomorphic way (see Special Topic at Ps. 2:4-6) to entreat God to hear the psalmist's prayer (cf. Ps. 17:6; 31:2; 86:1; 88:2; 102:2). The first three verses of this Psalm are similar to Psalm 31:1-3.

71:3 "Be to me a rock of habitation" The concept of God as a "high impenetrable crag" (BDB 700, i.e., fortress, cf. Ps. 71:3c) is seen in Ps. 18:2; 31:2-3; 40:2, which probably alludes to Deut. 32:31,37.

The concept of "habitation" (BDB 732) denotes a place of dwelling with God (i.e., the temple, cf. Ps. 76:2), similar to Ps. 23:6; 27:4-6; 90:1; 91:9. The prayer for deliverance is much more than just the absence of problems or enemies but the very presence of God (cf. Deut. 33:27).

It is possible that "rock of habitation/dwelling," מעון could be "rock of refuge," מעוז (BDB 731, cf. Ps. 31:2). The UBS Text Project (p. 305) gives "dwelling" a "C" rating (considerable doubt).

▣ "You have given commandment to save me" The verb (BDB 845, KB 1010, Piel perfect) is translated as

1. a past command — NASB, NKJV, NJB, REB

2. a future or present request — JPSOA

The UBS Text Project gives "to come always you have commanded" a "C" rating (i.e., considerable doubt). The NET Bible advocates the UBS's alternate option, "for a fortified house" (RSV, NRSV), following Psalm 31:2.

71:4 "Rescue me" In these first four verses several synonyms are used.

1. deliver — BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil imperfect, cf. Ps. 7:1; 39:9; 51:14; 71:11

2. rescue — BDB 812, KB 930, Piel imperfect, Ps. 71:2; Piel imperative, Ps. 71:4, cf. Ps. 18:48; 22:4,8; 31:1; 37:40; 43:1; 82:4; 91:14

3. save — BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil imperative, Ps. 71:2; Hiphil infinitive construct, Ps. 71:3; used 57 times in the Psalms.

 

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

▣ "the wicked" See notes at Ps. 1:5; 5:10; 15:2-5. Notice the three words used here.

1. the wicked — BDB 957

2. the wrongdoer — BDB 732

3. ruthless man — BDB 330 III, KB 329

 

71:5-6 Notice the descriptive terms used to characterize "Adonai YHWH" ("my Lord Lord," cf. Ps. 71:16).

1. my hope — BDB 876, cf. Ps. 39:7; 62:5; Jer. 14:8; 17:13

2. my confidence — BDB 105 (see Special Topic at Ps. 4:5)

3. my sustainer (lit. I have been supported) — BDB 701, KB 759, Niphal perfect, cf. Isa. 48:2

 

▣ "from my youth. . .from my birth. . .from my mother's womb" These parallel phrases are an idiomatic way of asserting the psalmist's confidence that God has always been with him and for him (cf. Ps. 22:9-10)! These are used of Israel in Isa. 46:3.

71:6

NASB, NRSV"took me from"
NKJV"took me out"
JPSOA"support"
LXX"shelter"

The MT has "cut" (BDB 159, KB 186, Qal participle), which may be figurative of God cutting the umbilical cord (i.e., intimate association with unborn child, like Ps. 22:9-10; 139:13-16; Jer. 1:5).

The other option of "from," "pull," or "strength/support" (LXX) involves an emendation.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 71:7-11
 7I have become a marvel to many,
 For You are my strong refuge.
 8My mouth is filled with Your praise
 And with Your glory all day long.
 9Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
 Do not forsake me when my strength fails.
 10For my enemies have spoken against me;
 And those who watch for my life have consulted together,
 11Saying, "God has forsaken him;
 Pursue and seize him, for there is no one to deliver."

71:7-11 This strophe describes the fears of an aged saint. Apparently his aged condition caused some to question God's presence and care. In Psalms the word "deliver" (BDB 664, KB 717) is used predominately of God's deliverance.

71:7

NASB"marvel"
NKJV"wonder"
NRSV, REB,
LXX"potent"
TEV, JPSOA"example"
NJB"bewildered"

The Hebrew word (BDB 68) means "a wonder," "a sign," or "a portent." BDB sees its use here as unique, referring to "one protected by YHWH," which would refer to verse 6.

71:8 This verse parallels the closing line of verse 6. This person's life was characterized by "praise" (BDB 239, cf. Ps. 71:14; Ps. 34:1).

71:9 Even though this is a person of faith and praise, old age and the words of his adversaries had caused him to fear and fret (cf. Ps. 71:18).

This fear is expressed in two imperfects used as jussives.

1. do not cast me off — BDB 1020, KB 1527, Hiphil imperfect, cf. Ps. 51:11

2. do not forsake me — BDB 736, KB 806, Qal imperfect

 

71:10-11 These verses express what the psalmist's enemies are saying (or at least his perception of their thoughts).

1. God has forsaken him — BDB 736, KB 806, Qal perfect (permanent situation of rejection)

2. pursue him — BDB 922, KB 1191, Qal imperative

3. seize him — BDB 1074, KB 1779, Qal imperative

4. for there is no one to deliver him — BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil participle

Psalm 3:2 also describes the evil sayings of those who attack God's faithful followers with doubt.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 71:12-16
 12O God, do not be far from me;
 O my God, hasten to my help!
 13Let those who are adversaries of my soul be ashamed and consumed;
 Let them be covered with reproach and dishonor, who seek to injure me.
 14But as for me, I will hope continually,
 And will praise You yet more and more.
 15My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness
 And of Your salvation all day long;
 For I do not know the sum of them.
 16I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God;
 I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone.

71:12-16 This strophe has three aspects.

1. the psalmist's prayer for, Ps. 71:12

a. God's presence (lit. "be not far from me") — BDB 934, KB 1221, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, cf. Ps. 22:11,19

b. God's quick help — BDB 301, KB 300, Qal imperative

2. the psalmist's prayers for his enemies' demise, Ps. 71:13

a. be ashamed — BDB 101, KB 116, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

b. be consumed — BDB 477, KB 476, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

c. be covered with reproach — BDB 741, KB 813, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

d. be covered with dishonor — same verb assumed from c.

3. the psalmist's steadfast faith, Ps. 71:14-16

a. I will hope continually 

b. I will praise. . .more and more

c. I will tell (i.e., in the temple)

(1) of Your righteousness

(2) of Your salvation

(3) of Your mighty deeds

(4) of Your righteousness, Yours alone (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM at Ps. 2:7)

 

71:13 "adversaries" This is a participle ("the ones accusing," BDB 966, KB 1316) of the term often used of Satan, the arch accuser. See Special Topic at ps. 38:20.

71:15 "my mouth will tell" This verb (BDB 707, KB 765, Piel imperfect) is often used in Psalms of proclaiming YHWH's character and deeds in a worship setting (i.e., temple).

1. His wonders — Ps. 9:1; 26:7; 40:5; 75:1; 78:4

2. His praise — Ps. 9:14; 79:13; 107:21

3. His acts — Ps. 66:16; 118:17; 145:6,12

4. His righteousness — Ps. 71:5 (cf. Ps. 35:28; 40:10)

5. His covenant love and faithfulness — Ps. 88:11 (cf. Ps. 40:10)

6. His glory — Ps. 19:1; 96:3 (cf. Ps. 145:12)

7. His greatness — Ps. 145:6

8. His Messiah — Ps. 2:7

9. His name — Ps. 22:22; 102:21

Here in this verse — His righteousness and His salvation.

▣ "For I do not know the sum of them" This phrase may reflect

1. the same truth as Ps. 40:5; 139:18, that God's marvelous acts are too numerous to be comprehended

2. the same truth as Job 42:3; Ps. 139:6, that they are beyond human understanding

3. that it means "write" as opposed to "tell" (NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 1288)

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 71:17-21
 17O God, You have taught me from my youth,
 And I still declare Your wondrous deeds.
 18And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me,
 Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
 Your power to all who are to come.
 19For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens,
 You who have done great things;
 O God, who is like You?
 20You who have shown me many troubles and distresses
 Will revive me again,
 And will bring me up again from the depths of the earth.
 21May You increase my greatness
 And turn to comfort me.

71:17-21 This strophe continues the central themes of the psalm. It expresses the psalmist's declaration of God's character and the certainty of His mercy. Because of this he will continually tell of God's greatness (i.e., in a temple setting).

71:17a The Israelites were instructed by Moses to teach their children about God (cf. Exod. 10:12; 12:26; 13:8,14; Deut. 4:9; 6:7,20-25; 11:19; 31:13; 32:46). Effective faith makes the faith of the next generation a priority!

71:17b "wondrous deeds" See Special Topic at Ps. 9:1.

71:18 Line 1 is a repeat of verse 9. Notice that the psalmist senses his message about God will help his generation and generations to come. This is what Scripture is designed to do!

71:19 "reaches to the heavens" This is an idiom denoting the creative and redemptive acts of God which are so great and significant they reach the clouds (cf. Ps. 57:10).

▣ "who is like You?" This is a reference to YHWH's uniqueness in a world of polytheism, henotheism, and animism (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM at Ps. 2:7). This is the essence of Israel's exclusivism!

71:20 This is an admission (in OT terms) of the problems all humans face in this fallen world. The theology of the "two ways" (cf. Psalm 1; Deut. 30:15,19) does not explain life (cf. Psalm 37; 73; and Job).

▣ "revive. . .bring up" These seem to be idioms of restoration to a vigorous life, not of resurrection. The OT does assert an afterlife (cf. Job 14:14-15; 19:25-27; Dan. 12:2), but the context here does not hint of this concept.

▣ "me" It is possible that the plural "us" should be in the text. If so, this is another example of a corporate conclusion to an individual Psalm. It would then parallel Ezekiel 37 (i.e., national revitalization).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 71:22-24
 22I will also praise You with a harp,
 Even Your truth, O my God;
 To You I will sing praises with the lyre,
 O Holy One of Israel.
 23My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You;
 And my soul, which You have redeemed.
 24My tongue also will utter Your righteousness all day long;
 For they are ashamed, for they are humiliated who seek my hurt.

71:22-24 The psalmist may have been a Levitical singer (cf. Ps. 71:22). He praises God for His faithfulness/truth (BDB 54, see Special Topic at Ps. 12:1), but also for the shame and humiliation He brought on his enemies (Ps. 71:24).

▣ "Holy One of Israel" This is a covenant title for YHWH (cf. Ps. 78:41; 89:18; so often in Isaiah, i.e., 1:4; 5:24). See SPECIAL TOPIC: HOLY at Ps. 16:3.

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. Why is this Psalm believed to be written by an older person?

2. How is verse 3 related to Psalm 23:6?

3. How are verses 5-6 related to Jeremiah 1:5?

4. Define the word "marvel" in verse 7.

5. Define "ashamed" in verse 13.

6. Does verse 19c teach monotheism?

7. Is verse 20 referring to healing, restoration of vitality, or resurrection?