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Psalm 84

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Longing For the Temple Worship
MT Intro
For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of the sons of Korah
The Blessedness of Dwelling in the House of God Sons Praising Zion as the Longed-for Goal of the Pilgrim Longing for God's House Pilgrimage Sons
84:1-4 84:1-2 84:1-2 84:1-4 84:1-2
  84:3-4 84:3-4   84:3
        84:4-5
84:5-7 84:5-7 84:5-7 84:5-7  
        84:6-7
84:8-12 84:8-9 84:8-9 84:8-9 84:8-9
  84:10-11 84:10-12 84:10-12 84:10
        84:11
  84:12     84:12

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. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Many have assumed that this Psalm was written by a Levite, who, for some reason, is estranged from the temple.

1. because of sickness

2. because of banishment

3. because the King has fled (cf. Ps. 84:9) and he has gone with him

B. In this Psalm, fellowship with Israel's God is connected to the temple.

1. Your dwelling places, Ps. 84:1a - BDB 1015, cf. Ps. 43:3; 132:5

2. the courts of YHWH, Ps. 84:2a - BDB 346, cf. Ps. 65:4; 84:10; 96:8 100:4; 116:19; 135:2

3. Your altars, Ps. 84:3c - BDB 258

4. Your house, Ps. 84:4a

5. the highways to Zion, Ps. 84:5b, cf. Ps. 86:11; 122:1

6. appears before God in Zion, Ps. 84:7b, cf Ps. 42:2; Exod. 34:23; Deut. 16:16

7. Your courts, Ps. 84:10a, cf. #2

8. stand at the threshold of the house of my God (Eloah), Ps. 84:10b - BDB 706, KB 765, Hithpoel infinitive construct (used of "gatekeeper" in 1 Chr. 23:5)

C. Notice the different names/titles for Deity.

1. Lord of hosts (YHWH Sabaoth), Ps. 84:1,3,12a

2. Lord (YHWH), Ps. 84:2a,8a,11b

3. the loving God (El), Ps. 84:2b, cf. Deut. 5:26; Ps. 42:2

4. My King, Ps. 84:3d

5. My God (Elohim), Ps. 84:3d

6. God (El - Elohim, lit. "God of gods" or with a change of vowels, "before God"), Ps. 84:7b

7. God (Elohim) of hosts, Ps. 84:8a

8. God (Eloah) of Jacob, Ps. 84:8b, cf. Ps. 46:7

9. God (Elohim), Ps. 84:9a

10. My God (Eloah), Ps. 84:10b

11. Lord God (YHWH Elohim), Ps. 84:11a

Many of the Psalms of Asaph have multiple names/titles of God. See Special Topic: Names For Deity. Each of these, and their combinations, had connotations for Israelites.

D. This Psalm is similar in many ways to Psalm 42. The sons of Korah, apparently a family of Levitical singers, also wrote it. The father was Kohath, the choirmaster under David. They wrote Psalms 42-49; 84-85; 87-88.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 84:1-4
 1How lovely are Your dwelling places,
 O Lord of hosts!
 2My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord;
 My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
 3The bird also has found a house,
 And the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young,
 Even Your altars, O Lord of hosts,
 My King and my God.
 4How blessed are those who dwell in Your house!
 They are ever praising You.  Selah.

84:1 "lovely" This adjective is literally "beloved" (BDB 391). Jerusalem, the city of the Great God, is beautiful, but even more, it is "beloved," was is Israel (cf. Ps. 127:2).

▣ "Your dwelling places" This is a parallel poetic relationship with Ps. 84:2. Therefore, it must refer to the courts of the temple in Jerusalem (cf. Ps. 43:3; 46:4), where God Himself chose to dwell (cf. Deut. 12:5,11,14,18,21,26; 14:23-25; 15:20; 16:2,6,11,15; 17:8,10; 18:6; 26:2; 31:11).

84:2 This verse has three verbs that describe how the psalmist feels about YHWH. It is very similar to another Psalm of Korah—Psalm 42 (also note Psalm 63).

1. My soul longed - BDB 493, KB 490, Niphal perfect

2. my soul even yearned - BDB 477, KB 476, Qal perfect, cf. Ps. 119:81

3. my heart and my flesh sing for joy - BDB 943, KB 1247, Piel imperfect, cf. Ps. 51:14

This emotive language is very powerful. It reminds faithful followers of the wonderful personal side of fellowship with God. The goal is to be with Him! For Israelites that was linked to the temple. For NT believers it is linked to Jesus, the new temple (cf. John 2:18-22)!

▣ "the living God" This is a word play on the meaning of YHWH ("I Am Who I Am," cf. Exod. 3:14). The God of Israel is the ever-living, only-living God! (cf. Ps. 42:2).

See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

84:3 "bird" This can refer to two things, one literal and one symbolic. The symbolic would mean that the psalmist longs to be close to God in the temple—to dwell with God. The small helpless bird symbolizes a person. The literal would mean that the birds have free access even to the holiest places in the temple.

▣ "My King" YHWH was the true "king" of the covenant people (cf. 1 Sam. 8:7). Biblical faith is not a democracy but a theocracy! Jesus put it well in Luke 6:46, "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

84:4 "How blessed are those who dell in Your house" This Psalm is structured around the three uses of the term "blessed" (BDB 80, Ps. 84:4,5,12). It basically means "happy" (cf. Ps. 9:1). It could refer, in this context, to priests or to guests (cf. Ps. 23:6; 27:4-6; 65:4).

▣ "They are ever praising You" Praise characterizes YHWH's true followers (cf. Ps. 42:5,11).

"Ever" (BDB 728) is used often in this section of the Psalms (cf. Ps. 77P:7; 78:17,30,32; 83:4). There is an eternal aspect to fellowship with YHWH!

▣ "Selah" See notes at Ps. 3:2

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 84:5-7
 5How blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
 In whose heart are the highways to Zion!
 6Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring;
 The early rain also covers it with blessings.
 7They go from strength to strength,
 Every one of them appears before God in Zion.

▣ "How blessed is the man whose. . ." This is terminology of Wisdom Literature. "Blessed" (BDB 80) is used 26 times in Psalms and 8 times in Proverbs. See note at Ps. 1:1.

▣ "In whose heart are the highways to Zion" Many commentators (and BDB) interpret this as a reference to pilgrims approaching the temple. Male Jews over the age of 21, who lived close enough and were able, were commanded to attend three annual feasts at the temple (i.e., Leviticus 23 and Exodus 23).

▣ "highways" This term (BDB 700) has wonderful connotations of restoration, both physically (i.e., from exile) and spiritually (i.e., coming of YHWH's special deliverer, Messiah).

The following is my note from Isaiah 19:23.

Isaiah 19:23 There will be a free-flowing movement between nations for the purpose of worshiping YHWH. The nations have come!

It is interesting how many times Isaiah uses the imagery of a highway.

1.a highway for the exiled Jews to return, Isa. 11:16; 57:14

2.a highway for Gentile worshipers to come, Isa. 19:23

3.a highway of holiness, Isa. 26:7; 35:8; 43:19; 49:11; 51:10

4. a Messianic highway, Isa. 40:3; 42:16

 

84:6 "Baca" The term (BDB 113) means "weeping." Some take this literally and apply it to a valley close to Jerusalem (i.e., 2 Sam. 5:22-24). Others take it symbolically as the problems encountered on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem or a return from exile.

▣ "spring" This term (BDB 745), like "Baca," is taken by some as a literal site of water and by others as a metaphor of God's care on the journey.

▣ "early rain" The LXX and the Vulgate translate this (BDB 435) as "lawgiver" (cf. NASB margin note at Joel 2:23), which would be an allusion to YHWH's Sinaitic covenant (cf. Exodus 19-20). In this context it refers to the temple in Jerusalem.

▣ "blessings" The MT has "blessings" (BDB 139), but the KJV has "pools" (BDB 140), parallel to the term "spring." This involves only a vowel change.

84:7 "from strength to strength" The NASB interprets these terms as provisions for the journey. It is possible to translate these consonants as "height to height," meaning ridge to ridge as one approaches Jerusalem. One of my favorite commentators, Derek Kidner, Tyndale OT Commentaries, vol. 116, p. 336, says he thinks it refers to the excitement that pilgrims have as they come to the final phase of the journey to the temple.

▣ "Every one of them appears before God in Zion" Again, the NASB and NKJV are interpreting this as a pilgrim's journey. It is possible to translate these consonants as "The God of gods (lit. El Elohim, NRSV) will be seen in Zion" (LXX, Peshitta).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 84:8-12
 8O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
 Give ear, O God of Jacob!  Selah.
 9Behold our shield, O God,
 And look upon the face of Your anointed.
 10For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside.
 I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
 Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
 11For the Lord God is a sun and shield; 
 The Lord gives grace and glory;
 No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
 12O Lord of hosts,
 How blessed is the man who trusts in You!

84:8-9 There are four imperatives used in two parallel lines.

1. hear - BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal

2. give ear - BDB 24, KB 27, Hiphil

3. behold - BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal

4. look - BDB 613, KB 661, Hiphil

These are prayer requests for YHWH to restore access to temple worship. Notice how the plurals of Ps. 84:4-7 return to the singulars of Ps. 84:2-3!

Psalm 84:8-9 is a prayer for a person's restoration to temple worship and for this to come about by God strengthening and empowering Israel's king (Ps. 84:9b)!

84:8 "God of hosts" "Sabaoth" (BDB 838) usually has a military connotation (i.e., Joshua), "God, the commander of the heavenly army." In a Babylonian astral idolatry context it refers to the "stars." YHWH is the creator and controller of all heavenly lights.

84:9 "our shield" This is a title for God (cf. Gen. 15:1; Deut. 33:29; Ps. 18:2; 115:9-11) or Israel's king.

▣ "Your anointed" This could refer to the High Priest (cf. Lev. 4:3; Zechariah 3-4), but probably the King (cf. Ps. 2:2; 132:17; 1 Sam. 2:35; 16:6; 2 Sam. 19:21). In Ps. 89:18 both "shield" and "king" are used of the King of Israel.

For "anointed" see Special Topic: OT Titles of the Special Coming One.

84:10 "For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside" This is the use of the term "thousand" in a symbolic way (see Special Topic: Thousand [eleph]). The comparison is not fully stated, "One day with YHWH in His temple is better than a thousand days anywhere else!" (i.e., Ps. 27:4).

▣ "the threshold" It is true that in the ancient world, the threshold (BDB 706) was viewed as potentially demon filled, especially in Roman culture. However, in this context it seems obvious that this is a comparative statement. The psalmist would rather be at the outskirts of the temple than in the plush comfort and hospitality of the wicked.

Some commentators try to make "threshold" (BDB 706) a title for the Levite gatekeepers (cf. 1 Chr. 9:19,22; 2 Chr. 23:4). I think "threshold" (cf. Jdgs. 19:27; 1 Kgs. 14:17; 2 Chr. 3:7) fits this context best.

▣ "tents of wickedness" This is an anachronism from the nomadic days of Israel. The opposite is expressed in Ps. 27:5-6.

84:11 "a sun" The Aramaic Targums interpret "sun" (BDB 1039) as "bulwark" ("sun," שׁמשׁ, BDB 1039; "battlements," שׁמשׁתיך, BDB 1039, cf. Isa. 54:12). Battlement fits the parallelism with shield better. The OT was reluctant to use "sun" in connection with YHWH because of the widespread worship of the sun in the ANE. If "sun" is original, then it is a metaphor that focuses on light, truth, health, revelation, blessing, etc. Deity is described in this way in Isa. 60:19-20; Mal. 4:2; Rev. 21:23. He is the true, eternal light.

84:11-12 This is a summary of the believer's worldview. God is with us and for us, even when we are physically separated from the designated place of worship. To faithful followers YHWH

1. is sun and shield

2. gives grace and glory

3. withholds no good thing (cf. Ps. 34:10b)

4. blesses those who (conditional element)

a. walk uprightly

b. trust Him

 

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 was the psalmist away from the temple?

2. How is this Psalm related to Psalm 42?

3. Is the reference to "highways" (Ps. 84:5) literal or symbolic?

4. Why is Ps. 84:6 so hard to translate?

5. To whom does the term "anointed" (Ps. 84:9b) refer?

6. In what way(s) is YHWH like the "sun"? Why is this analogy rare in the OT?

7. List the two conditions mentioned in Ps. 84:11-12. Is the covenant conditional or unconditional?