Psalm 34
Matthew Poole's Commentary
A Psalm of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed. I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
A Psalm made upon that occasion, though not at that time.

His behaviour; or, his habit or posture, or his reason, as this word is taken, 1 Samuel 25:33 Psalm 119:66 Proverbs 11:22. When he counterfeited madness. Wherein, whether he sinned or not, is matter of dispute; but this is undoubted, that God’s favour and his deliverance at that time was very remarkable, and deserved this solemn acknowledgment.

Abimelech, called Achish, 1 Samuel 21:10. But Abimelech seems to have been the common name of the kings of the Philistines, Genesis 20:2 26:1, as Pharaoh was of the Egyptians, and Caesar of the Romans.

David praiseth God, Psalm 34:1,2, and exhorteth others thereto from his own experience of God’s kindness, Psalm 34:3-7. He showeth that they are blessed who trust in God, Psalm 34:8-10. He exhorteth others to learn to fear him, Psalm 34:11, and showeth the way to happiness, Psalm 34:12-14. The privileges of the righteous, and the punishment of the wicked, Psalm 34:15-22.

I will never forget to bless God for this miraculous deliverance.

My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
My soul shall glory in this, that I have so powerful and so gracious a Lord and Master. The

humble; or, the meek, i.e. the godly, oft called in Scripture by that title; and particularly my friends and favourers in Israel, whom he thus calls in opposition to his proud and furious adversaries in Saul’s court and camp.

Be glad; both for their love to me and to the public good of Israel, which they know that I design and seek above all things; and for the comfort and benefit of my example to them in like straits and difficulties.

O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.
Join your praises with mine, O all ye humble ones.

Together; not in place, for David was now banished from the place of God’s public worship, but in affection and work: let our souls meet, and let our praises meet in the ears of the all-hearing God. Or, alike, i.e. with equal zeal and fervency; let none be willing to be outstripped by another.

I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
No text from Poole on this verse.

They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.
They looked; the humble, Psalm 34:2; or they that fear him, Psalm 34:7, when they were in distress. Or it is an indefinite expression.

Unto him; either,

1. Unto the Lord, expressed Psalm 34:4, i.e. they sought and expected help from him. Or rather,

2. Unto this poor man, as it follows, Psalm 34:6, or unto David. So he speaks of himself in the third person, which is usual. So the sense is, when I was delivered, Psalm 34:4, men looked upon me with wonder and astonishment, as one saved in a prodigious manner.

Lightened, i.e. comforted and encouraged by my example. But these and the foregoing words are by the ancient interpreters read imperatively, as an exhortation to others, to whom he oft addresseth his speech, as Psalm 34:3,8,9,11.

Look unto him, ( with an eye of faith and prayer,) and be ye enlightened, i.e. take comfort in the expectation of mercy from him. And then the last words they render thus, and your, Heb. their, (but the change of persons is very frequent in this book,) fear shall not be ashamed. Their faces were not ashamed; they were not disappointed of their hope, but found relief, as I did.

This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
i.e. David, of whom they that looked, &c., Psalm 34:5, spake these words.

The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.
The angel, i.e. the angels; the singular number being put for the plural, as it is Psalm 78:45 105:33,40; for it is both improper and unusual to ascribe

encamping, and that round about all good men, to one created angel. And we find many angels employed in this work, Genesis 32:1,2 2 Kings 6:17.

Encampeth round about them; guardeth them from dangers on every side; to which work they are appointed by God, Hebrews 1:14.

O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
Taste, i.e. consider it seriously, and thoroughly, and affectionately; make trial of it by your own and others’ experiences. This is opposed to those slight and vanishing thoughts which men have of it.

Good, i.e. merciful and gracious, to wit, to all his people.

O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.
i.e. Reverence and serve him, and trust in him; for fear is commonly put for all the parts of God’s worship.

The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.
The young lions; either,

1. Properly: see Job 4:11. Or,

2. Metaphorically so called, the great potentates of the earth, who are oft so called, as Jeremiah 2:15 Ezekiel 38:13 Nahum 2:13.

Shall not want any good thing, which is necessary and truly good for them, all circumstances considered; of which God alone is a competent judge. And therefore although God doth usually take a special care to supply the wants of good men, and hath oft done it by extraordinary ways, when ordinary have failed, yet sometimes he knows, and it is certainly true, that wants and crosses are more needful and useful to them than bread, and in such cases it is a greater mercy of God to deny them supplies than to grant them.

Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Ye children; whom I love as mine own children, and who own me as your civil father, your prince; see 2 Kings 5:13; and as your spiritual father, a prophet; for the disciples of the prophets were called their sons, 2 Kings 2:3. The fear of the Lord, i.e. the true and principal way of worshipping and serving God with his acceptation, and to your own salvation.

What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?
Desireth, to wit, seriously and in good earnest, so as to be willing to use any endeavours which shall be prescribed to him: for otherwise the question were needless; for there is no man but desires it, at least coldly and faintly.

Life; a long and happy life, begun in this world, and continued for ever in the next. And thus life is oft used, as Psalm 16:11 30:5.

Loveth many days, that he may see good, Heb. loveth days to see (i.e. in which he may see, i.e. enjoy) good, to wit, prosperity or happiness.

Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.
From evil; from all manner of evil-speaking, from all opprobrious, injurious, false, and deceitful speeches; which, though men commonly use to ease and gratify their own minds, or to compass their designs, do frequently fall upon their own heads, by provoking both God and men against them.

Guile; or guileful words, contrary to thy intentions, and with a purpose of deceiving men by them.

Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
Depart from evil, i.e. from all sin, and especially from all wicked and injurious acts and practices against try neighbour.

Do good; be ready to perform all good and friendly offices to all men, as thou hast opportunity.

Seek peace; study by all means possible to live peaceably and quietly with all men, avoiding grudges, debates, dissensions, strifes, and enmities.

Pursue it; do not only embrace it gladly when it is offered, but follow hard after it when it seems to flee away from thee, and use all possible endeavours, by fair words, by condescensions, and by the mediation or assistance of others, to recover it, and to compose all differences which may arise between thee and others. It is here observable, that whereas he said he would teach them the fear of the Lord, Psalm 34:11, the lessons he teacheth them, Psalm 34:13,14, are only such as concern men. Not that he meant to exclude duties of piety towards God, which he every where enjoineth and presseth as most necessary, but only to teach us what is oft inculcated both in the Old and New Testament, that sincere religion towards God is always accompanied with a conscientious discharge of our duties to men; and to convince the hypocritical Israelites, and particularly his adversaries, that so long as it was their daily course and practice to speak and act all manner of evil against him, and other good men, all their pretences to religion were but vain.

The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.
This is added to prove his last assertion, to wit, that the practice of these duties, Psalm 34:13,14, is the true and best, and indeed the only, way to see that good proposed and promised Psalm 34:12; both because such righteous persons, howsoever they may meet with affronts and injuries from men, are under the special care and favour of God, in this verse; and those who do the evils there forbidden shall find to their cost that God is their enemy, Psalm 34:16.

The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
The face of the Lord, i.e. his anger, oft called his face, as Leviticus 17:10 20:5 Jeremiah 44:11 Lamentations 4:16, because anger discovers itself in the face.

Them that do evil, i.e. whose common course, and study, arid business it is to do evil; for else there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not, Ecclesiastes 7:20. To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth; utterly to deprive both them and their children of that worldly happiness, which is the only thing that they desire, and seek by their wicked courses.

The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
Heb. They cry, to wit, the righteous, as is manifest both from the nature of the thing, and from Psalm 34:15, where they are so called, and with which this verse is to be continued, the 16th verse coming in by way of parenthesis, as is very usual in many places of Scripture.

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
Nigh; ready to hear and succour them; though by the severe course of his providence towards them he seems to themselves and others to stand afar off, as David complains, Psalm 10:1.

Such as be of a contrite spirit; by which he understands either,

1. Those whose spirits are oppressed, and even broken, with the greatness of their calamities. But this may be, and frequently is, the lot of wicked men. And therefore in this sense, and to such persons, this proposition and promise is not true. Or rather,

2. Those whose hearts or spirits are truly and deeply humbled under the hand of God, and the sense of their sins, and God’s displeasure for them, which was David’s case, Psalm 6:1, &c.: Psalm 32:3,4, whose proud and self-willed hearts are subdued and made obedient to God’s will, and submissive to his providence; for to all such, and to such only, this promise is verified.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.
No text from Poole on this verse.

He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.
All his bones, i.e. all the parts and members of their bodies, which are synecdochically expressed by the bones, which are the stay and strength of the rest. God will not suffer any mischief to befall him; though he may be oft afflicted, yet he shall not be destroyed. But these words, though they are here spoken of the righteous men in general, of whom they are true in a metaphorical sense; yet they had a further meaning in them, being designed by the Spirit of God (which dictated to David, not only the matter, but the very words and expressions) to signify a great mystery, that none of Christ’s bones should be broken; to which purpose they are alleged, John 19:36.

Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.
Evil; either,

1. The evil of sin. His own wickedness, though designed against others, shall destroy himself. Or,

2. The evil of misery. When the afflictions of good men shall have a happy issue, theirs shall end in their total and final destruction.

That hate the righteous; that persecute them, and plot their ruin; which is an evidence that they hate them, whatsoever they may pretend to the contrary.

The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.
i.e. Their lives or their persons, from the malicious designs of all their enemies, and from desolation or utter ruin, as it follows.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

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