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Psalm 94

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Lord Implored to Avenge His People
No MT Intro
God the Refuge of the Righteous A Prayer for Deliverance From Evil People God the Judge of All The God of Justice
94:1-7 94:1-3 94:1-3 94:1-4 94:1-2
        94:3-4
  94:4-7 94:4-7    
      94:5-7 94:5-6
        94:7-8
94:8-11 94:8-11 94:8-11 94:8-11  
        94:9-11
94:12-16 94:12-15 94:12-15 94:12-15 94:12-13
        94:14-15
  94:16-19 94:16-23 94:16-19 94:16-17
94:17-23        
        94:18-19
  94:20-23   94:20-23 94:20-21
        94:22-23

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. Notice the number of vocatives that NASB has.

1. O Lord (YHWH), Ps. 94:1,3,5,18

2. God (El) of vengeance (BDB 608), Ps. 94:1 (twice)

3. O Lord (Yah), Ps. 94:12 (cf. 94:7)

B. Notice the ways YHWH is characterized by name/titles/phrases.

1. God of vengeance, Ps. 94:1

2. Judge of the earth, Ps. 94:2

3. God of Jacob, Ps. 94:7

4. Lord, a stronghold, Ps. 94:22

5. God the rock, Ps. 94:22

6. Lord our Elohim, Ps. 94:23

C. This Psalm cries out for the justice of the covenant God to manifest itself in this world. Evil and wickedness currently prevail but in His own time, God will vindicate (i.e., hold court) the righteous. This Psalm reminds me of Jesus' parable in Matt. 13:24-30. In time, at the right time, God will act so as to bless and receive the righteous but judge and reject the false followers. In both the OT and NT not all apparent followers are faithful followers. There are fakes (cf. Matt. 7:15-27). See SPECIAL TOPIC: APOSTASY (APHISTĒMI).

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 94:1-7
 1O Lord, God of vengeance,
 God of vengeance, shine forth!
 2Rise up, O Judge of the earth,
 Render recompense to the proud.
 3How long shall the wicked, O Lord,
 How long shall the wicked exult?
 4They pour forth words, they speak arrogantly;
 All who do wickedness vaunt themselves.
 5They crush Your people, O Lord,
 And afflict Your heritage.
 6They slay the widow and the stranger
 And murder the orphans.
 7They have said, "The Lord does not see,
 Nor does the God of Jacob pay heed."

94:1-7 This strophe expresses the frustration of a faithful follower when he/she sees the godlessness of those who claim to know God (i.e., other covenant partners, apparently the rich and powerful). They live and act as if there were no God of justice (i.e., practical atheists).

Notice

1. they are proud, Ps. 94:2b

2. they exult, Ps. 94:3b

3. they speak (lit. "pour out," cf. Ps. 59:7; Pro. 15:2) arrogantly, Ps. 94:4a (cf. Ps. 31:18; 75:5)

4. they vaunt themselves, Ps. 94: 4b, cf. Ps. 10:3; 52:1

5. they crush God's faithful followers, Ps. 94:5a (i.e., used of corrupt courts in Job 5:4; 22:9; Ps. 10:18; 72:4; 74:21; Pro. 22:22; Isa. 3:15)

6. they afflict God's heritage, Ps. 94:5b, cf. 94:14

7. they kill (may be literal or figurative of loss of legal rights)

a. the widow

b. the alien/stranger

c. the orphan (cf. Exod. 22:21-24; Deut. 10:18; 14:29; 26:12-15)

8. they assert that God does not see or care about their actions, Ps. 94:7 (cf. Ps. 10:11; 59:7; 64:5; 73:11; Job 22:13; Isa. 29:15; 47:10; Ezek. 8:12; Mal. 2:17)

 

94:1-2 There are three prayer requests (imperatives) beseeching God to act.

1. shine forth - BDB 422, KB 424, Hiphil imperative, cf. Ps. 80:1,3,7; it is used in the "Blessing of Moses" in Deut. 33:2

2. rise up - BDB 669, KB 724, Niphal imperative; see notes at Ps. 3:7 and 7:6

3. render recompense (lit. "bring back") - BDB 996, KB 1427, Hiphil imperative, cf. Deut. 32:41,43; Isa. 66:15

 

94:1 "vengeance" This feminine term (BDB 668) is plural. The NASB margin translates it as "avenging acts." The masculine form appears in Deut. 32:35,41. Vengeance is what YHWH does when His covenant is violated. Sometimes it relates to His own people (cf. esp. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-32; Jer. 5:9,29; 9:9; Mic. 5:14), sometimes to pagan nations (cf. Ps. 79:10; 149:7; Isa. 59:18; 63:4; Nah. 1:3).

94:2 "the earth" The Hebrew term has a wide semantic field (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 518-526). Only context can determine its meaning (see Special Topic: Land, Country, Earth). Here it could refer to

1. all the planet (i.e., YHWH is the Judge of all the earth, cf. Gen. 18:25)

2. the Promised Land, YHWH is the Covenant God

Which option depends on who "the wicked" of Ps. 94:3 are.

1. non-Israelites

2. Israelites

I think option #2 fits this Psalm best because they are accused of violating Moses' commands (cf. Ps. 94:6) and then are called "senseless among the people" (cf. 94:8a). YHWH is the righteous Judge (cf. Gen. 18:25; Jdgs. 11:27; Ps 7:11; 50:6; 75:7; Isa. 33:22).

94:3 "How long. . ." This idiom is a way of asking

1. why has God not acted in justice - Ps. 6:3; 74:10; Hab. 1:2; Zech. 1:12

2. will God forgive His people - Ps. 13:1; 79:5; 80:4; 90:13; Isa. 6:11

3. why have the wicked continued their actions - Exod. 10:3; 1 Sam. 1:14; 1 Kgs. 18:21; Ps. 82:2; Jer. 4:14; 12:4; Hos. 8:5; Hab. 2:6

Humans do not understand God's thoughts, timing, purposes (cf. Isa. 55:9-11). This idiom expresses this lack of knowledge by a question format.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 94:8-11
 8Pay heed, you senseless among the people;
 And when will you understand, stupid ones?
 9He who planted the ear, does He not hear?
 He who formed the eye, does He not see?
 10He who chastens the nations, will He not rebuke,
 Even He who teaches man knowledge?
 11The Lord knows the thoughts of man,
 That they are a mere breath.

94:8-11 This strophe shows how senseless it is to think God does not know (Ps. 94:7).

1. Ps. 94:9 asserts God as the creator of the human body (i.e., ear, eyes)

2. Ps. 94:10 asserts God reveals truth to

a. the nations (Ps. 94:10a)

b. all humans (Ps. 94:10b)

The conclusion is that YHWH knows the thoughts, motives, and actions of frail mankind (cf. Ps. 94:11; 11:4; 33:13-14; 66:7; Job 11:11; 31:4; 34:21-23; Jer. 16:17; 32:19; Hos. 7:2; Heb. 4:13). We are an open book before our creator! The thoughts of those who are not faithful followers (Ps. 94:15) are vain (BDB 210 I, cf. Ps. 94:4-7,8).

94:8 "you senseless" This is a Qal active participle (BDB 129, KB 146), which comes from the root for cattle or beast (BDB 129). The noun is used in parallel to beast in Ps. 73:22. It denotes someone who acts like an animal, without moral restraints. It often denotes idol worshipers (i.e., Jer. 10:8).

▣ "rebuke" This verb (BDB 406, KB 410, Hiphil imperfect) is a court term. This entire Psalm is directed to judges who were meant to reflect YHWH but shockingly reflected the fallen world.

There is a sound play between "chasten" (BDB 415) and "rebuke" (BDB 406) that occurs often (cf. Ps. 6:1; 38:1; Pro. 9:7; Jer. 2:19) and holds humans responsible for His revelations.

94:11 Paul quotes this verse in 1 Cor. 3:20 from the LXX in his discussion of "the wise" in the church at Corinth. Human wisdom is a vain, empty vapor!

YHWH reveals Himself in two ways.

1. natural revelation - Ps. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:19-20

2. special revelation - Ps. 19:7-11; 119

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 94:12-16
 12Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O Lord,
 And whom You teach out of Your law;
 13That You may grant him relief from the days of adversity,
 Until a pit is dug for the wicked.
 14For the Lord will not abandon His people,
 Nor will He forsake His inheritance.
 15For judgment will again be righteous,
 And all the upright in heart will follow it.
 16Who will stand up for me against evildoers?
 Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness?

94:12-16 As Ps. 94:3-7 and 8-9 describe the words and deeds of the wicked, this strophe relates to the faithful followers.

1. they are blessed (characteristic term of Wisdom Literature, see notes at Ps. 1:1) even by YHWH's discipline (cf. Heb. 12:5-13), Ps. 94:12

2. they are blessed by being taught from YHWH's laws (i.e., Special Revelation, see SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR GOD'S REVELATION and SPECIAL TOPIC: BLESSING [OT]), Ps. 94:12

3. they are granted relief (i.e., inner peace, BDB 1052) from the days of adversity, until the wicked are caught in their own schemes, Ps. 94:12

4. they are not abandoned by YHWH, (cf. Ps. 37:28; 1 Sam. 12:22; Lam. 3:31), Ps. 94:14

5. they will receive justice and will walk in it, Ps. 94:15

 

94:16 This verse shows the individual nature of this Psalm but it is also a plea for the psalmist's friends to help and support him (possibly in court). It could easily apply to the king! But my problem with this royal possibility is that if it were the king, why not just replace the wicked officials?

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 94:17-23
 17If the Lord had not been my help,
 My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence.
 18If I should say, "My foot has slipped,"
 Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up.
 19When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
 Your consolations delight my soul.
 20Can a throne of destruction be allied with You,
 One which devises mischief by decree?
 21They band themselves together against the life of the righteous
 And condemn the innocent to death.
 22But the Lord has been my stronghold,
 And my God the rock of my refuge.
 23He has brought back their wickedness upon them
 And will destroy them in their evil;
 The Lord our God will destroy them.

94:17-23 This strophe is a series of statements and results.

1. YHWH has been my help, so I will not die, Ps. 94:17

2. when I thought I would fail, YHWH's steadfast covenant love sustained me, Ps. 94:18

3. when I fret, YHWH consoles my soul, Ps. 94:19

4. YHWH has been his stronghold and rock of refuge, Ps. 94:22 (cf. Deut. 32:15; Ps. 18:1-2; 62:6-7; see notes at Ps. 5:11)

5. YHWH has brought back (same verb in 94:2) upon the wicked their own evil, Ps. 94:20-21,23 (#4 and 5 go together)

 

94:17

NASB"in the abode of silence"
NKJV, JPSOA"in silence"
NRSV, TEV"in the land of silence"
NJB"in the silence"
LXX"in Hades"

This is imagery for death (cf. Ps. 115:17; i.e., Sheol, see Special Topic: Sheol). Death was seen as a place of consciousness but silence (cf. Ps. 6:5).

94:18 "My foot has slipped" In the Bible a person's life is characterized as a path/road/way. Positively the path was smooth, level, straight with no obstruction. Negatively the path was dark, crooked, slippery, with many obstructions.

94:20

NASB"a throne of destruction"
NKJV"the throne of iniquity"
NRSV"wicked rulers"
TEV"corrupt judges"
NJB"a destructive court"
JPSOA"the seat of injustice"
LXX"a throne of lawlessness"

The MT has BDB 490 construct BDB 217. BDB 490 means a seat or place of authority or honor for a king, High Priest, or governor. BDB 217, KB 241 means "power," "splendor," or "majesty." This Psalm is a court scene; YHWH is the judge of the earth (Ps. 94:1-2). Psalm 94:16 also reflects a court scene. Verse 20 refers to wicked leaders (i.e., judges). YHWH cannot be associated with wicked leaders (cf. Ps. 94:10-21). The throne, the temple, and the courts must reflect the character of YHWH. When they do not, which is so often the case, only YHWH Himself is a place of safety!

Psalm 94:20 is the affirmation that YHWH will have no part in corrupt legal proceedings. God is light and in Him is no darkness (cf. 1 John 1:50 and no changing, cf. Mal. 3:6; James 1:17).

▣ "One which devises mischief by decree" The participle here is BDB 427, KB 428, Qal. It is used in 94:9 of YHWH's creative activity in forming the human eye. What a contrast! Humans create mischief; YHWH creates humans!

94:21 "life" This is literally nephesh (BDB 659). See note online at Ps. 3:2.

94:23 The NASB has "silence" in both Ps. 94:17 and 23, but they are different words in the MT. In Ps. 94:23 (twice) it is "YHWH will annihilate out" (BDB 856, KB 1035, Hiphil imperfect). It occurs twice for emphasis.

Just a grammatical note. Notice that all three verbs in Ps. 94:22 are imperfects, but they are translated into English as a past and two future verbs (NRSV, TEV all three future). Only context can determine the time element of Hebrew verbs.

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. What is the theological problem between Ps. 94:1-2 and 94:3?

2. Who are "the wicked" of Ps. 94:3?

3. How is Ps. 94:6 like Deuteronomy?

4. Does Ps. 94:10 refer to all humans or Israel?

5. Is Ps. 94 16 a court scene?

6. How many strophes are there in Ps. 94:16-23?