George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 1

Psalm 31

1. Structure

A. 1-5a.
Appeal for help
B. 5b-8.
Help provided
A. 9-18.
Appeal for help
B. 19-24.
Help provided

This psalm “makes the journey twice over from anguish to assurance” (Kidner).

2. Links with Psalm 32

Psalm 31

Psalm 32
I said
Hiding place

And compare 31:24 with 32:11. All this suggests a historical setting later in David’s life, after the great sin with Bathsheba and Uriah.

3. Historical setting

The assumption, then, is the time of Absalom’s rebellion. Compare Psalm 71, where verses 1-3 are nearly the same.

Put my trust means flee for refuge: 2 Sam. 17:27-29. See on v. 19, and cp. v. 2: a house of defence.

Let me never be ashamed. That is, ashamed of my confidence in Thee.
Lead and guide me. David’s concerns about his flight from Jerusalem, since he did not know where he would find refuge.
Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. Meaning: David relaxes, confident that as God has rescued him on former occasions, so He will do yet again.
Lying vanities. False oracles resorted to by the rebels: Jer. 8:19; Jonah 2:8? Compare Saul and the witch of Endor (1 Sam. 28).
Thou hast known my soul in adversities. God knows; that is enough! “Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need....” (Matt. 6:8,32).
And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy. David was not trapped in Jerusalem. Note the mention of enemies in vv. 8,11,13, 15,17,18,20.

Thou hast set my feet in a large room. The spacious open country east of Jordan.
My soul and my belly. His physical infirmity: cp. eye (and in 6:7); also bones (v. 10). L.G. Sargent calls vv. 9-12 “the description of a leper”. It was only the fact of David’s desperate sickness which enabled the rebellion to succeed: note 2 Sam. 15:1-6, and see on Psalms 38 and 41.
My life....grief, my years....sighing. Since his sin with Bathsheba, David had experienced nothing but trouble, and all of it traceable to that cause. Blunt has two chapters (2.10 and 2.11) in his Undesigned Coincidences developing the almost-hidden details of this fascinating period of Israel’s history.

My strength faileth because of mine iniquity. All his calamities were a punishment for his sin. But see notes, Par. 4, v. 10.
Mine enemies....neighbours....acquaintances. The rebels — his close friends!
I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind. Because of his sickness the nation’s affairs proceeded without him: 2 Sam. 15:1-6.

I am like a broken vessel. An earthen vessel which had become unclean was not to be scoured, but smashed: Lev. 15:12. Compare 2 Sam. 15:26: David felt himself to be a vessel fit only for destruction. Also see 2 Tim. 2:20; Rom. 9:21 for Paul’s exhortations on the same theme.
For I have heard the slander of many. A campaign of character assassination, leaving David with little popular support.

Fear on every side. Even his close friends feared to warn him or take any action on his behalf.

They took counsel together against me. 2 Sam. 17:1-14.

They devised to take away my life. Assuming that if they left David alive, his personality would have the power to swing the nation to his support once again.
My times are in thy hands: 1 Chron. 29:30. Looking back, he could see how his life, his destiny, had been shaped and guided by an Almighty hand.

Persecute. Hebrew pursue; s.w. 2 Sam. 17:1.
Make thy face to shine upon thy servant. Allusion to the high-priestly blessing: Num. 6:24-26; cp. Psa. 80:1; 4:6. This implies: (a) restoration to Jerusalem’s temple and its worship; (b) his sins forgiven.

For thy mercies’ sake. “Mercy” very commonly refers to God’s covenants of promise. Therefore here David implies: How can God’s great promise to me (2 Sam. 7) be fulfilled if I am cast aside and have only rebellious sons?
Let the wicked be ashamed. The balance of this verse requires: ‘for they have not called upon thee....(therefore, since they were silent in life toward thee, let them also be put to silence in the grave)’.

Let them be silent in the grave. David probably did not fully realize it, but he was praying for the death of Absalom. Does this explain why he was so shattered when that happened? Yet need he have been conscience-stricken?
Lying lips....speak grievous things....against the righteous. The campaign of denigration: vv. 11,13.
How great is thy goodness. Thankfulness for his arrival in a haven of safety? — “a strong city” (v. 21), “keep secure” (v. 20).

Laid up. This Hebrew word (deliberately?) resembles the word for “north”, and may be pointing to Mahanaim (2 Sam. 17:27), north of where he crossed the Jordan (2 Sam. 17:21,22).
In the secret of thy presence would normally mean the Sanctuary (cp. 27:5: “the hiding place of his tabernacle”; 61:4: “of his wings” — the cherubim; 91:1: “of his shadow” — the Shekinah cloud). Was there such a holy place at Mahanaim, commemorating Jacob’s experiences there (Gen. 32)?

The strife of tongues: vv. 11,13,18.
For the Lord....plentifully rewardeth the proud doer. It is impossible to omit Absalom here. But did David look for such an application of his own words?

4. Messianic fulfillment

Into thine hands I commit my spirit. These were our Lord’s last words on the cross: Luke 23:46. This fact by itself should encourage a Messianic reading of this psalm. Acts 7:59 and 1 Pet. 4:19 make clear that those in Christ have a right also to use these words of their own experience. (Note that Jesus said “hands” — plural! — thus using and authenticating the LXX reading here, as against the Hebrew text.)

Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. In the light of v. 5a one is surely justified in reading these words (and also 30:1-3) as the first thing said by our Lord when he came to life again in the tomb. (So the first half and the last half of the verse were quoted by Christ in order, yet almost three days apart, and on either side of the great gulf of death!) Like the word “mercy”, truth here is almost a technical term for the covenants of promise; in this connection see Gen. 24:27; 32:10; Exod. 34:6; 2 Sam. 2:6; 15:20; Psa. 40:10,11; 69:13; 89:14; 91:4; 132:11; Mic. 7:20 (these are just a few of the possible references).

Redeemed me. Not only others, in prospect; but me, in actual fact! It is a fundamental of Bible teaching, and no less so because ignored by so many, that Christ was himself redeemed from sin and death by his own sacrifice. See Heb. 9:12, and note there the italics and the implication thereof.
Mine eyes....consumed with grief. Not only sweat but also tears in Gethsemane. Grief over a sense of failure in his ministry, or because of the insensitivity of the twelve?
My life is spent with grief, e.g. Luke 19:41 (and Matt. 23:37-39) — Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem.

My strength faileth. The same word (LXX) appears in Heb. 1:12 and Luke 22:32. The modern English “eclipse” comes from the Greek word used here.

Because of mine iniquity. LXX and Syriac have my humiliation. If reading as the AV, then this is an example of the imputed guilt of Christ because of his necessarily close identification, through his human nature, with the race of sinners whom he came to save (cp. Psa. 51:5; 69:5; etc.).

My bones are consumed. Reference to the saints, members of the body of Christ: “We are members of his body....and of his bones” (Eph. 5:30; cp. 1 Cor. 12:12-27).
A reproach....enemies, neighbours, acquaintances, as in Nazareth (Luke 4), Capernaum, and even among his disciples (John 6:60,66). (One wonders: is it only a coincidence that, in view of Rev. 13:18, John 6:66 reads: “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him”?)

Them that did see me without fled from me. “Then all the disciples forsook him and fled”: Matt. 26:56.
I am like a broken vessel. A favorite expression of Jeremiah (19:11; 22:28; 25:34; 48:38), in experiences where he surely typified Jesus.
For I have heard the slander of many; fear on every side. Jeremiah (seeing himself as a type of Messiah?) quotes these words: 20:10. The second of these phrases positively haunted him: Jer. 6:25; 20:3; 46:5; 49:29; Lam. 2:22. Compare also 2 Cor. 4:7,8.

They took counsel together against me. Matt. 27:1, etc. and parallel accounts in the other gospels.
My times are in thy hand, not their hand (same verse). Regarding Christ, especially true of the Second Coming: Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7.
Make thy face to shine upon thy servant. In Gethsemane, “an angel from heaven strengthened him”: Luke 22:43; cp. Psa. 17:3-6; 34:6,7.
Let the lying lips be put to silence. They were, by the Lord’s resurrection!
How great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up, like the hidden manna: Exod. 16:33; Heb. 9:4; Rev. 2:17; Col. 3:3; and note v. 20 (hide) here. Compare also Paul’s last words about his hope: 2 Tim. 4:8: “There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.”
The one man, Christ, was hidden in God’s secret place, and then lifted up (27:5,6). Now, many (those in Christ: them here, “saints” in v. 23) are hidden in God’s secret place, and then lifted up. Compare Col. 3:3,4: “Our life is hid with Christ.”

Pavilion. 27:5, note.
I said in my haste. RV has alarm (cp. 22:1; 94:17-19; 71:7,9-12; 73:12-22; 42:5; 143:4,7; 10:11,17; 109:22; 77:7-10; 116:11). In all of these (where either the word or the idea is the same) there is emphasis on Christ’s fully sharing human weakness, which fact showed very plainly in Gethsemane.

I am cut off from before thine eyes. Compare 22:1, and comments there.

5. Other details

Deliver me. Literally, provide me an escape. Appropriate to David’s flight from Jerusalem.
Bow down thine ear. As one might do to hear the feeble words of the sick or dying. Compare Hezekiah, when in an equally hopeless situation (2 Kings 19:16).
Be thou my strong rock....for thou art my rock. No real inconsistency here. The first phrase expressed David’s (and Christ’s) faith that God will help. The second phrase expresses his experience, that God has been his help in times past. The second provides the reason for the continuing request of the first.
Fortress = metsudah (see notes, 18:2).

Lead me for thy name’s sake. Compare 23:2,3.
The net. See Psa. 9:15 and 10:9.
I have hated. Another reading, very slightly different, is: Thou hast hated.
A large room. 18:19, note.
In trouble: Deut. 4:30.
My strength faileth. Literally, ‘stumbles’. True also of Israel: Rom. 11:11. Yet contrast Psa. 105:37.
Fled from me. Literally, fluttered away — like frightened birds.
I....Thee. Both pronouns are emphatic in the Hebrew here.
My times are in thy hand. This expresses a faith not easily acquired. Always men seek to add a cubit to their span of life (Matt. 6:27).
Them that trust in thee before the sons of men. “Before” = rather than....
I said, talking to God or to himself?
Haste. A related word describes the manner of eating the Passover (Exod. 12:11; Deut. 16:3).
make up Anthem 25.
Be of good courage. There is no end to trouble, but there is no limit to the strength given to meet it. “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong”: 1 Cor. 16:13.

Hope in the Lord. Psa. 33:18,22; Rom. 8:25.

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