The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 33

Psa 33:1

AUTHORSHIP: Apart from the introductory Psalms 1 and 2, all the psalms in Book One except this are declared to be David's (and Psa 2 is certainly his: Act 4:25). This would suggest that Psa 33 is also his. But if so, why should his name be omitted? Also, the psalm is lacking in specific hints that it belongs to him. A number of details in the phrasing make it easier to see here a Hezekiah (or Isaiah) authorship, esp since several vv are relevant to the great Day of Atonement with which Hezekiah's Year of Jubilee was introduced (Lev 25:9). Even so, such features are not decisive, for there are indications of a Year of Jubilee and its special Day of Atonement in David's reign when he united the twelve tribes and led them in worship at his new sanctuary (Psa 133).


V 8 sounds like a description of the widespread astonishment and fear, and even reverence, in surrounding nations after the miraculous devastation of Sennacherib's army: cp 2Ch 32:23.

V 10 is an apt description of the wreck of Assyrian plans and ambitions.

V 16: Hezekiah had no host to depend on, but was instead saved by his faith. Sennacherib had the world's most powerful host, yet he and they were alike helpless against the Lord of hosts (Isa 37:36).

V 17: "A horse is a vain thing for safety": And, for that matter, so are 185,000 horses -- give or take a few thousand! This is surely a direct allusion to Isa 36:8 and 2Ki 18:23.

V 19 speaks of Hezekiah's deliverance from death (2Ki 18:30,32), and the nation's deliverance from famine: the astounding plenty of the Year of Jubilee saved a redeemed people who repossessed a stricken and war-devastated land (cp Lev 25:21; Isa 55:13; 2Ch 32:27-29; WHez 84,85).

DAY OF ATONEMENT: A new song (v 3), "loving righteousness" (v 5), the LORD looking from heaven (vv 13,14), those hoping for mercy (vv 18,20), outside the Most Holy.

Psa 33:3

A NEW SONG: Closely connected with the New Creation (Psa 40:3; 96:1; 98:1; 144:9; 149:1; Isa 42:10; and esp Rev 5:9). This psalm also is a psalm of the New Creation, just as the sons of God shouted for joy when their creative work was blessed (Job 38:4-7). Why is the song called "new"? Certainly because it concerns the New Creation. But also because, although the words of the song are revealed in Scripture, they will be sung with greater force and meaning only when the truths they proclaim have been realized in the earth, in the person of glorified spirit-beings!

PLAY SKILLFULLY: The same phrase was used by Saul in reference to David: "Provide me now a man that can play well" (1Sa 16:17).

Psa 33:4

THE WORD OF THE LORD IS RIGHT: Only a fool questions the wisdom of God's purposes. 'If there is a God, why?... why?...' Such questions are idiocy. Instead, 'Of course there is a God, and therefore, of course, His decisions are right, even though I do not necessarily understand them.'

HE IS FAITHFUL IN ALL HE DOES: "All his works are done in truth" (AV), ie (by the very common OT idiom) "according to His promises". God keeps His word. In all the history of the universe, nothing is more certain than the fulfillment (in His time) of His promises (see v 1). His word and works are also goodness (v 5) -- in every respect.

Vv 4,6: "The grand assumption of Scripture is that behind all that you can know there is an eternal Mind whose Spirit fills the universe, and when the Mind of the Eternal is expressed, the power is without limit, and the result instant and infallible... Between the word and the work of God, therefore, the connection is so close that David can treat them as parallel" (LGS).

Psa 33:6

An undeniable allusion to Gen 1: Day 4. As on a cold morning a man exhales a cloud of visible vapor, so also just as effortlessly did God make the Milky Way, a countless stretch of vast worlds. Man's breath is gone almost immediately, dissipated into the air; but the "breath" of God abides through endless ages.

BY THE WORD OF THE LORD: Or, "by the breath of his mouth"; this finds further fulfillment in Joh 20:22, about the New Creation again. And in this New Creation Gentiles ("heathen", goy, v 10, and "nation", am, v 12) are mentioned before Israel (people) as God's inheritance (1Pe 1:4).

The "breath of his mouth", when applied to Christ, has a destructive aspect as well, in connection with the New Creation (Isa 11:4, 40:7; 2Th 2:8; Rev 19:15). Sometimes it is true that the clearing away of the "old" is necessary before the "new" can take its place!

The "breath of his mouth", when applied to Christ, has a destructive aspect as well, in connection with the New Creation (Isa 11:4, 40:7; 2Th 2:8; Rev 19:15). Sometimes it is true that the clearing away of the "old" is necessary before the "new" can take its place!

Psa 33:7

Echo of Gen 1:9; yet "as a heap" (AV) is a mysterious phrase. Is the emphasis on accumulation, and not on piling up? Or -- as in Exo 15:8; Psa 78:13; Jos 3:13,16 (sw) -- is there the suggestion of God's creation of a new nation? Or, as LXX, "as in a bottle" (RSV) or wineskin (the difference is only a vowel point). Cp generally Psa 104:25-28, Job 38:11.

Yahweh's control of the waters at creation -- a commentary on the Canaanite "sea chaos" myth: see Lesson, Leviathan -- esp the "Creation".

Psa 33:8

The only possible human reaction to these majestic trivialities of Divine power.

Psa 33:9

FOR HE SPOKE, AND IT CAME TO BE: That conjunction underlines again why a man must -- must! -- stand aghast, and adoring, at the marvel of it all. But to whom was the creative word of God spoken? To the angels, surely. This is the meaning of Gen 1:26 and Deu 8:3.

" 'For He spake, and it was done.' The word 'done', introduced here by the translators, enfeebles the message of this psalm. It would be made more expressive and sublime as it is in the original: 'He spake, and it was.' That is, its existence depended on His word; the universe sprang into being at His command; He had only to speak, and it arose in all its grandeur where before there was nothing. There is here an undoubted allusion to the account in Genesis of the work of creation -- where the statement is that all depended on the command or the word of God: Gen 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,24,26. Nothing more sublime can be conceived than the language employed in the Scriptures in describing that work. No more elevated conception can enter the human mind than that which is implied when it is said that God 'spoke', and all this vast and wonderful universe rose into being. In other words, it was absolutely no effort to Him at all. 'He commanded' -- He gave order; He required the universe to appear. 'And it stood fast' -- or rather, 'it stood.' That is, it stood forth; it appeared; it rose into being. The idea of its 'standing fast' is not in the original, and also seriously erodes the expression" (CY).

Psa 33:10

Another example of the power and authority of the word of the Lord, and one which, when it happens (as in Isa 37:36), impresses men more than God's (already mentioned) mighty works in Nature. It was the breathtaking deliverance from the Assyrian which inspired this awe-struck contemplation of the power of the word of God (vv 16, 17). Vv 4-7 emphasize both the power and the righteousness with which God controls the nations.

Psa 33:11

God has commanded His "everlasting covenant" to "a thousand generations" (Psa 105:8-10; Deu 7:9; 1Ch 16:15).

Psa 33:12

INHERITANCE: A term used of Israel (Exo 34:9), but also of believers out of all nations (Eph 1:18).

Psa 33:13

Vv 13,14: "Perhaps no figure of speech represents God in a more gracious light than when He is spoken of as stooping from His throne, and coming down from heaven to attend to the wants and to behold the woes of mankind. We love Him, who, when Sodom and Gomorrah were full of iniquity, would not destroy those cities until He had made a personal visitation of them... How can we but love Him when we know that He numbers the very hairs of our heads, marks our path, and orders our ways? Specially is this great truth brought near to our heart, when we recollect how attentive He is, not merely to the temporal interests of His creatures, but to their spiritual concerns. Though leagues of distance lie between the finite creature and the infinite Creator, yet there are links uniting both. When a tear is wept by thee, think not that God doth not behold; for, 'Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him' [Psa 103:13]. Thy sigh is able to move the heart of Jehovah; thy whisper can incline His ear unto thee; thy prayer can stay His hand; thy faith can move His arm. Think not that God sits on high taking no account of thee. Remember that however poor and needy thou art, yet the Lord thinketh upon thee. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth [Zec 4:10], to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards Him" (CHS).

Psa 33:15

"He fashioneth their hearts alike" (AV): In the Bible, heart does not mean emotions or sentiments; it means mind. Here the word "alike" means that the thinking of all men, of whatever kind, is under the molding of God, the Master Potter. This is a great mystery, but not to be disbelieved because not fully understood. "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord" (Pro 21:1), even though the king is not aware of the fact.

"He considereth all their works": And this is true not just of some men but of all. The theory that God takes notice of only a few and of only some of the myriad circumstances of life must be thrown out. It makes God nearly as small-minded as those who think thus (see WBS 353-356).

Psa 33:16

Vv 16,17: God is not dependent upon numbers or military might to achieve His desired results. Cp the exhortation to Gideon (Jdg 7:2,12), Elisha at Dothan (2Ki 6:11-17), and Jehoshaphat (2Ch 20:13-18). Thus war horses and chariots were forbidden to the kings of Israel (Deu 17:16).

Psa 33:17

DESPITE ALL ITS GREAT STRENGTH IT CANNOT SAVE: There is a world of difference between strength TO save, and willingness TO save!

Psa 33:18

God's eye is upon His servants (cp Psa 32:8). And His servants' eyes are upon Him (Psa 25:15; 69:3; 123:2). The eye: a sign of favor (Psa 34:15; 80:1; Num 6:23-27). Ct God's closing of His eyes to Israel (Isa 1:15; 8:17).

Psa 33:22

EVEN AS WE PUT OUR HOPE IN YOU: The degree to which we hope in God may be the degree to which His unfailing love rests upon us (or others?).

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