About: this paper was delivered to Dr. Tony Petrotta at Fuller Theological Seminary during my second year for a class on the Exegesis of the Psalms.
Psalms is a wonderful prayer book. It is a collection of about 150 psalms in five sub-collections. Psalm 63 belongs to the second book within Psalms. It has been argued by some that Psalms was randomly assembled and created, but it seems that when considered as a whole there is a “rhyme and reason” to its order. The Psalms as a whole touch on a wide range of emotions. Indeed, there are several different kinds of psalms, such as praise, lament, imprecatory, royal, and ascent psalms. Praise psalms are those psalms that praise the Lord. Lament psalms express sorrow and pain. Imprecatory psalms seek divine retribution for wrong done. Royal psalms express the relationship between God and his chosen king. Songs of ascent psalms are those songs that were sung on the way up to Jerusalem. It seems that Psalm 63 follows in the footsteps of Psalms 1 and 2, and, although it is in general a praise psalm, it also has lament and royal elements.
Psalms 1 and 2 seem to be the thesis for the book of Psalms. Psalm 1 contains a strong wisdom motif in its worldview. It bears the idea that the righteous are those who delight in God and meditate on His law all throughout the day and on a daily basis. The wicked are contrasted with the righteous; they they do not last. Why? Because the Lord watches over the way of the righteous. Psalm 63 reflects this idea. The Lord is the help of the psalmist. In Psalm 1, the wicked perish. Psalm 63 bears this idea as well. Those who seek the life of the psalmist have death and misfortune.
Psalm 2 is a royal psalm. It bears the idea that the king is God’s chosen one, but he is conspired against by the other kings of the world. Psalm 63 has this idea of a king who is conspired against. But in Psalm 2, the Lord watches over His king and causes him to prosper. The same idea is in Psalm 63. The king is protected from lies and therefore he gives praise along with the people to whom it is due–God.
Psalms 1 and 2 set the tone for the whole book of Psalms, which is why Psalm 63 shares many similarities with them. Although not every psalm might have such a strong connection, the concepts are shared all throughout the book. It is as though the various psalms were assembled in a meaningful way, but they each interact and interpret each other. And what are the shared concepts? Psalms 1 and 2 instruct the readers to live under the rule and reign of God as they take refuge in him. The book of Psalms instruct the readers how to pray to, worship, and profess faith in God. Psalms teach the readers what it means to trust and live under God’s rule. Psalm 63 accomplishes just that. But even psalms like Psalm 137 accomplish the same goal. Psalm 137 instructs the reader how to grieve and seek revenge in trust of and submission to God’s rule. All of the psalms are theologically pertinent, and together they teach the reader how to approach God appropriately in prayer, worship, and life.
Since the Psalms are God’s instructions to those who follow him in submission to his reign and in trust and hope of his protection, we would do well to learn to pray them. The Psalms teach us how to pray in a variety of circumstances. Whether good or bad, God wants us to approach Him. But how? Sometimes we do not know how to come to God. The Psalms instruct us in all facets of life how to approach Him. The Psalms are able to teach us how to put trust in God and how to allow Him to be in control over our lives. When we approach the Psalms, we should be asking ourselves, “How does this psalm teach me to trust God? And how does this psalm teach me to submit to God’s rule?”
Exegesis of Psalm 63
d¡Iw∂dVl rwñøm◊zIm – “a psalm of David.” This phrase could mean “a psalm to David.” This translation could mean two things. First, it could mean that the psalm is attributed to David as the author. Second, it could mean that the psalm is dedicated to David. But if the phrase should be rendered “a psalm of David,” then it would mean that David was the author. According to Amos Hakham, this psalm is likely reflecting on one of the times David was in the wilderness, which may or may not make David as the author. Jean Calvin took the psalm as David’s circumstantial vows. So which is it? Did David write it as Calvin thought or did someone else, which is a possibility as Hakham points out? The rest of the psalm will need to be considered in order to determine if David wrote it.
:há∂d…wh◊y r¶A;b√dImV;b w#øtwøyVhI;bŒ – “when he was in the wilderness of Judea.” These words have caused many scholars to see the psalm as a reflection upon David’s trips to the wilderness, thus connecting with 2 Samuel 16:14 or 1 Samuel 22-25. John Goldingay takes it as a connection with 2 Samuel 16:14 over and against 1 Samuel 22-25. But do these words have to be a geographical reference necessarily?
Robert Davidson suggests that the reference to the wilderness is a spiritual reference and not geographical. Since this psalm has been used in many different ways throughout the centuries, Davidson thinks that it must be a spiritual metaphor. If it were geographical, it would have been tied to a specific use. But the psalm has been diversely applied; a spiritual metaphor accounts for this diversity according to Davidson.
Was David the author? Was this psalm written by David concerning one of the times he was in the wilderness? Again, we will need to examine the rest of the psalm before we can determine if Davidic authorship is genuine, and if it was his own reflection on his time in the wilderness.
yóîrDcVb ∞ÔKVl ;h∞AmD;k y#IvVpÅn —°ÔKVl hWDaVmDx D;Kñ®rQSjAvà≈a h#D;tAa y¶IlEa —My§IhølTa – “God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you, my flesh yearns for you.” D;Kñ®rQSjAvà≈a occurs only twice in this form throughout the entire Hebrew Bible. It is the piel imperfect first common singular form of the root rjv. What is the dot for? The dot in the end of the verb, located in the K, is a daghesh forte that strengthens the consonant. hWDaVmDx occurs only twice in this form throughout the entire Hebrew Bible. It is the qal perfect third feminine singular form of amx. h∞AmD;k is a hapax legomena (meaning, it only occurs once in this form in the entire Hebrew Bible). It is the qal perfect third masculine singular form from the root ;hmk. The dot in the beginning of the verb is a daghesh lene. It hardens the k.
The phrase “you are my God” is not consistently rendered in all of the commentators’ translations. Dahood, for example, has “my God, for you I long,” whereas Davidson has “you are my God.” The cantillation marks indicate that h#D;tAa belongs with y¶IlEa and not D;Kñ®rQSjAvà≈a. Dahood’s translation is interesting, but all things considered, it is also incorrect.
D;Kñ®rQSjAvà≈a is an important verb as it sets the tone for the rest of the phrase. It bears the idea of seeking with eagerness, as related to waiting for the dawn. Calvin translated it accordingly: “Early will I seek [you].” The word is regularly used for looking for the dawn, but in this context it is translated as “seek” with the idea of longing. The psalmist is saying that he longs for God. But this longing is in the imperfect form. The force of this form is incomplete action. In this case, the longing is continual and should be translated as a present form (“I seek”).
The phrase “my soul thirsts for you, my flesh yearns for you” is an additional expression of longing. According to Goldingay, “soul” refers to the being as a whole, specifically a being who longs and desires, while “flesh” refers to the physical being. Sometimes “soul” can be understood in connection with thirst as a reference to the seat of thirst. The psalmist is desiring God as a person desires water when thirsty. The psalmist is saying, “I am thirsty for you, God.” Furthermore, “yearn” is to be faint with longing. The physical psalmist is faint with desire for God.
This seeking motif is the psalmist’s way of expressing a holistic approach to adoration. The psalmist is basically saying, “I yearn for you with all my emotions and all my limbs.” This longing is quite expressive, and it seems to be an important theme for the psalm.
:Mˆy`Dm_yIlV;b P∞EyDo◊w h™D¥yIx_X®r`RaV;b – “in dry and weary land without water.” Syriac manuscripts have “as” instead of “in.” Symmachus’ Greek translation has “as.” This Greek text may be relying on the Syriac, or perhaps it was perceiving the V;b in the same way as the Syriac manuscripts. V;b can be translated as “as.” Therefore, the variants are explained by the V;b. The V;b is the more likely reading as it is more difficult than V;k, and it accounts for the “as” reading in Symmachus’ Greek translation as well.
This phrase is the reference that connects vv. 1 and 2. The question remains: is this a reference to a geographical location or is this a reference to a spiritual setting? Before we answer this question, we should consider the rest of this psalm.
ÔKy¡ItyˆzSj v®dêO;qA;b NE;kœ – “So I saw you in the holy place.” The verb “I saw” is in the perfect form. The force of the perfect is completed action. Calvin took it as a completed action: “Thus in the sanctuary have I beheld [you].” But the perfect is not always completed action. Dahood took this phrase as a request: “So in your sanctuary may I gaze on you.” Which is it? A request or a reflection? Since the psalm later speaks of blessing God as a result of what had happened, the context suggests that this perfect form is completed action, not a request, and should be understood as a reflection. The psalmist is reflecting on his experience from when he saw God in the holy place or sanctuary.
:ÔKá®dwøbVk…w #ÔK◊ΩzUoŒ twñøa√rIl – “to see your might and your glory.” The psalmist was defining what he saw in the sanctuary when he said this phrase. twñøa√rIl is an infinitive construct stating attendant circumstance and should be translated as “beholding.” This phrase is a reference to the Temple where God’s power and glory are manifested. According to Davidson, this psalm was written in the context of corporate worship. This phrase does support his position. It should be noted that this position does imply that David was not the author of the psalm. David would not have written a psalm that reflected on a visit to the Temple, which was constructed after his life.
:ÔK◊n…wájV;bAv◊y y¶AtDpVc MyGˆ¥yAj`Em ÔK√;dVsAjœ bwâøf_yI;k – “For your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips praise you.” ÔK◊n…wájV;bAv◊y is a hapax legomena. It is the piel imperfect third masculine plural form of jbv.
Here the psalmist continues his thoughts on the adoration of God. He reflects on the glory of God and how His lovingkindness is better than life. A couple of things should be stated about this phrase. First, “lovingkindness” does not entirely grasp the concept of the Hebrew word. dsj is a very important word in Hebrew. It bears the idea of lovingkindness, but it also bears the idea of community, faithfulness, loyalty, kindness, grace, and favor. In this case, the Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB) lexicon translates dsj as “good.” This translation is insufficient. It lacks the distinct flavor of a very rich word. In order to help preserve the word’s meaning, we will leave it untranslated as we emphasize the rich depth of dsj.
Second, this phrase is difficult to understand. What does it mean that the Lord’s dsj is better than life? The word for life is a participle; the context requires that the verb stand as a noun. We have translated it as “life” and not “living.” The psalmist is comparing life with the Lord’s dsj. Since dsj is a rich term, it recalls back to mind the Lord’s faithfulness and tender-care for His chosen people, Israel. The psalmist is saying that the Lord’s faithfulness to His people is better than sustained life.
The phrase “my lips praise you” has an imperfect form for the verb. The force of the verb is incomplete action. Incomplete action does not necessarily mean that it bears the idea of future action; it could be present tense. In this case, the context suggests that the phrase is in response to the comparison already made. The lips praise as a result of the Lord’s incomparable dsj.
y¡D¥yAjVb ∞ÔKVk®rDbSa N∞E;k – “So I bless you in my life.” Goldingay takes ∞ÔKVk®rDbSa as “I will worship you.” However, BDB supports “bless” instead of “worship.” Goldingay uses the future to translate the imperfect form here. But this is the only instance he seems to use the future. Everywhere else in his translation he uses the present. Why change here? The context suggests a present translation. The psalmist blesses the Lord because of His dsj.
:y`DÚpAk a¶DÚcRa ÔKVmIvV;bŒ – “in your name I lift up my hands.” The psalmist talks of lifting up his hands. The lifting of hands was an ancient custom, in which praying was done with hands pointed towards heaven. As Calvin noted, this is not a reference to praising the Lord, but rather, it is a reference to praying and vowing.
y¡IvVpÅn o∞A;bVcI;t NRv®dÎw∑ bRl∞Ej wôømV;k – “As with fat and fatness my soul is satisfied.” Here we have figurative language, and it is difficult to translate. bRl∞Ej does mean “fat.” In this case, it is the “fat of beasts for food.” Its counterpart NRv®dÎw∑ also means “fat.” It may be a reference to “fatness” or “fertility.” These two words need to be understood together. Calvin translated them as “morrow and fatness.” His translation does not quite convey the meaning of these two words together. Goldingay translates them together in this way: “As with a rich feast.” Hakham takes these words together as a contrast with “thirst” from the beginning of the psalm, for the language calls to mind pleasant, rich, nutritious fluids. The language notes that the psalmist has found satisfaction. We can conclude that Goldingay’s translation is satisfactory, since the language gives the idea of being rich in nutrition.
:y`IÚp_lR;lAh◊y twGønÎn√rŒ y¶EtVpIc◊w – “and with joyful lips my mouth praises.” twGønÎn√rŒ is a hapax legomena. It is the feminine plural form of hÎnÎn√r.
The psalmist declares that he will praise God with his mouth. His lips are joyful. This phrase implies physical satisfaction that inspired songs of praise as at a sacrificial meal when songs are sung. This indicates that in the psalmist’s viewpoint closeness comes through the sacrificial system.
y¡Do…wx◊y_lAo ÔKy¶I;t√rAk◊z_MIa – “When I remembered you upon my bed.” While MIa would normally be translated “if,” in this case it has the sense of “when” or “as often.” We could render y¡Do…wx◊y_lAo as “upon my couch,” but, given the context, “upon my bed” is a much more suitable translation.
:JK`D;b_h‰…gVhRa tw#ørUmVvAaV;bŒ – “in the night watch I meditate on you.” tw#ørUmVvAaV;bŒ is a hapax legomena. It has the preposition ;Vb prefix and it is the feminine plural form of h∂r…wmVvAa.
tw#ørUmVvAaV;bŒ is plural. Hakham suggests that it is a plural of emphasis, implying that the psalmist meditates on God for the entire night. h‰…gVhRa is the imperfect form, which has the force of incomplete action. It could be future, but it could be present. The verb itself has the idea of making noises. Whether it means to mutter, coo, plan, or ponder, it is clear that some sort of noise is indicated. Goldingay translates it in this way: “in the night watches I talk about you.” But Goldingay concedes that the talking “is the kind of quiet talking within oneself that one does in the night on one’s bed.” This audible sound is one that can only be heard by the one who is “talking.” It is not future action. It is current action that is not yet completed. It is ongoing.
y¡I;l hDtâ∂r◊zRo Dty∞IyDh_y`I;k – “For you were a help to me.” hDtâ∂r◊zRo occurs only three times in this form throughout the entire Hebrew Bible. It has the directional h suffix and it is the feminine singular form of h∂r◊zRo.
The psalmist is meditating in the middle of the night on what the Lord was to him. The Lord was his help.
:N`E…nårSa ÔKy∞RpÎnV;k l™ExVb…w – “and in the shadow of your wings I will shout for joy.” l™ExVb…w occurs only three times in this form throughout the entire Hebrew Bible. It has two prefix additions. First, it has the conjunctive w. This letter is pronounced as a shureq (…w) in order to make the pronunciation easier between the w and the b. Second, it has the preposition ;Vb. It is the masculine singular construct form of lEx.
Commentators do not seem to agree on the meaning of “shadow of your wings.” Davidson suggests that it is a reference to the Temple cherubim in the Ark of the Covenant that symbolizes God’s presence with his people and his protection over them. Calvin took it as a reference to the Lord’s protection without any connection to the cherubim. What is particularly interesting is that Hakham, already noting that the Temple is in view earlier on in the psalm, does not see this phrase as a reference to the cherubim, the Ark of the Covenant, or the Temple, but instead, he sees it as a metaphor that compares trust in God to a fledgling bird who hides beneath its mother’s wings. Since the psalmist has said that God was a help to him, the idea of trust seems favorable. Then again, so does protection. But the metaphor of the mother bird has in view both trust in God and God’s protection, as do the cherubim, which themselves are a metaphor. The decision is difficult, but given that the context concerns the Temple, it is likely that Temple imagery is being alluded to here.
ÔKyó®rSjAa y∞IvVpÅn hâ∂qVb∂;d – “My soul clung after you.” hâ∂qVb∂;d is an important word here. It reflects Deuteronomy 13:5, in which the people are to cleave to the Lord. This is the same word used of Ruth when she refused to be separated from Naomi (Ruth 1:4), and it is also used of a man clinging to his wife (Genesis 2:24). It is the perfect form, and as such the force of the verb is completed action. It should be translated “clung” or “has clung.” The word itself is figurative of loyalty and affection while keeping in close physical proximity. According to Davidson, the psalmist is essentially saying that God has a firm grip on him and will not let go. Davidson’s interpretation is good when the next phrase of the verse is considered. But this phrase itself seems to note loyalty to God and not the other way around. The psalmist is declaring that his soul has clung to God and will not let go. It is not until the next phrase that we find out that God also has a firm grip on the psalmist.
:ÔK`RnyIm◊y h¶DkVmD;t y#I;bŒ – “your right hand firmly grasped onto me.” In the former phrase, there was the idea of sticking or clinging. Did that idea come through in this new phrase? Goldingay does not have “firmly grasped,” but instead has “upheld.” Hakham also translates h¶DkVmD;t as “support.” Calvin translated it as “sustain,” which has the idea of supporting, and it also fits well with the sustenance motif from the beginning of the psalm. Dahood translated it as “grasp.” However, the majority of the commentators do not translate it in the way that Dahood did.
Yet, Dahood’s translation seems to be more desirable for a couple of reasons. First, Hebrew poetry likes balance. By translating h¶DkVmD;t as “grasp,” the two phrases become parallel with each other and attain balance. The psalmist would be reflecting on a reciprocal relationship with the Lord. As the psalmist clings to God, God firmly holds onto the psalmist. Second, by using “sustain,” or something like it, the construction of the phrase has to be ignored. y#I;bŒ is overlooked in order to use “sustain.” But y#I;bŒ seems to be rather significant, since it is in the beginning of the phrase when it would normally be found at the end of the clause. There seems to be a major problem with leaving y#I;bŒ out of the translation in order to use “support.” Dahood’s translation seems preferable.
y¡IvVpÅn …wâvVqAb◊y hDawøvVlœ hD;m#Eh◊w – “But they seek to ruin my soul.” The conjunction ◊w marks off a stark contrast. The psalmist seeks the Lord. These men do not seek the Lord, but rather, they seek the psalmist’s life. “Seek” is not the same word here as in the beginning of the psalm. …wâvVqAb◊y is the piel imerfect form of vqb. In this context, vqb means “to seek to take one’s life.” As stated before, yIvVpÅn represents the person as a whole. The psalmist is saying that there are people who seek to destroy him, which stands in stark contrast to his own seeking.
:X®r`DaDh twñø¥yI;tVjAt`V;b …wa#øbÎyŒ – “they come to the lowest parts of the earth.” X®r`DaDh twñø¥yI;tVjAt`V;b is a hapax legomena. This construct chain occurs nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible. The first noun has the preposition ;Vb prefix and it is the feminine plural construct form of yI;tVjA;t. The second noun has the definite article Dh. The article has a qamets instead of a pathach due to compensatory lengthening, since the a cannot take a daghesh forte. The noun is the feminine singular absolute form of X®rRa.
Is the psalmist saying that the people who seek to destroy him will stop at nothing and will search for him even unto ends of the earth? Or is he stating something else? According to Dahood, the psalmist is making a reference to the netherworld. Goldingay suggests that it is a reference to Sheol. Tate sees this phrase as an indication that the enemies will die a premature death and enter the netherworld as the outcome of their efforts. However, the text does not indicate that they would die prematurely; it affirms only that their end result will be death. “The lowest parts of the earth” is figurative, but in what sense? Is it figurative simply for death or for the afterlife in Sheol? Evidence is inconclusive, so we will not consider it further. What we should consider is the translation of …wa#øbÎyŒ.
Is the imperfect verb …wa#øbÎyŒ stating a future event, or is it a request? The former would be translated “they will go,” and the latter would be translated “may they go.” Robert Alter translates it as a request. Martin Rozenberg and Bernard Zlotowitz translate it as a request, although they have “let them go” instead of “may they go.” Goldingay translates it neither as a future nor as a request, but rather, as a present: “But they . . . go.” In keeping with the balance of the verse, it seems that Goldingay has the more suitable translation. The first verb of the verse is also an imperfect, and it is translated as a present continuous action: “they seek” or “they are seeking.” Balance indicates that …wa#øbÎyŒ should be translated in a similar fashion.
b®r¡Dj_yéd◊y_lAo …whñüryˆ…gÅy – “they poured him upon the power of a sword.” …whñüryˆ…gÅy is a hapax legomena. It has the third person masculine singular pronominal suffix …wh and it is the hifil perfect third masculine plural form of the root rgn. The n assimilates into the g as a daghesh forte, which is why it does not appear in this form.
This phrase is difficult to interpret for three reasons. First, what is a good translation of yéd◊y? Although “hand of” would be a literal translation of this dual construct noun, “power of” is preferable. The language is figurative, for a sword does not have hands. This word can be translated as “power” when it is used figuratively.
Second, who or what is being poured upon the sword? Tate suggests that it is the psalmist. The people seeking his life want to kill him, and so they want to pour him upon a sword. Rozenberg and Zlotowitz suggest that …whñüryˆ…gÅy is passive, translating it “May they be split apart by the sword.” In this case, the “who” are the ones seeking the psalmist’s life. But can the singular third person masculine pronominal suffix be collective? Goldingay suggests that the language is strictly metaphorical and is a reference to pouring water or blood onto the ground.
Third, in what sense is the imperfect being used? Is it future, is it a request, or is it a present verb? Goldingay takes it as present as a balance between vv. 10 and 11. Tate takes it as a future of possibility, translating it in this way: “Those who would hand over.”
Although it is difficult, we can at least come up with a working hypothesis and offer a good translation of the phrase. We have already noted that “power of” is a good translation of the figurative use of yéd◊y. It seems that the singular form of the suffix rules out water or blood being poured onto the ground, for both water and blood are plural forms in Hebrew. The suffix must be a reference to the psalmist. And what of the imperfect? It seems as though it is a present continuous form. The people seeking his life are handing him over to the sword, which is another way of saying that they are trying to kill him. The phrase stands parallel to the previous verse, and therefore the imperfects from v. 10 indicate that the imperfect here in v. 11 should be translated as a present.
:…wáyVhˆy My∞IlDoUv t™DnVm – “they are a portion for foxes.” The psalmist declares that the people seeking to destroy him are a portion for foxes. Foxes are those animals that eat the decaying flesh of dead animals. He is saying that their end is death, but their bodies are left for the animals to feed upon, which was considered an awful tragedy.
The imperfect form …wáyVhˆy here can be future, present, or a request. Goldingay translates it as a present. Tate translates it as a future. Alter translates it as a request. But, in keeping with the use of the balance of vv. 10 and 11, we should translate …wáyVhˆy as a present tense, “they are,” as Goldingay does.
wóø;b o∞D;bVvˆ…nAh_lD;k lE;lAhVtˆy∑ My¶IhQølaE;b jºAmVcˆy JKRlR;mAh◊w – “but the king rejoices in God, all who swear to him praise.” My¶IhQølaE;b jºAmVcˆy is a hapax legomena. The first word is the qal imperfect, third masculine singular form of jmc. The second word has the preposition ;Vb prefix and it is the masculine plural form of MyIhølTa. o∞D;bVvˆ…nAh_lD;k is a hapax legomena. The first word in the chain is the preposition lD;k. The preposition is attached to the second word by a maqqef. The second word is a participle with the definite article prefix. The participle is the nifal masculine singular form of obv.
The psalmist is contrasting the king with the people who sought to ruin him. The imperfect, just as before, can be future, present, or a request. We will keep the balance of the previous verses, as does Goldingay, by translating the verb jºAmVcˆy as “he rejoices.” However, the imperfect is not the main problem at this point. The focus for the interpreter is on “swear.” Who is doing the swearing and to whom are they swearing?
The psalmist has shifted in this phrase to the third person. He refers to himself as “the king.” The first clause of this phrase stops before the hithpael verb lE;lAhVtˆy. Is “the king” still in view when the psalmist writes, “All who swear to him praise” (italics mine)? Are the people swearing to the king, or are they swearing to God? Goldingay suggests that it is the king who is sworn to. Hakham suggests that it is God who is sworn to. Since the king is the subject in the first clause of this phrase, it seems most suitable that the king is also the object of the second clause. It is as though the people are joining the king in praising and rejoicing. Goldingay suggests that the “in God” of the first first clause of this phrase is implicit in the second clause as the object of the praise, while “the king” carries over as the object of the swearing.
:r®q`Dv_yérVbwíød y∞IÚp r#EkD;sˆyŒ y¶I;k – “for the lips of the ones who speak falsely are shut up.” r#EkD;sˆyŒ is a hapax legomena. It is the nifal imperfect third masculine singular of rks.
The imperfect here is treated as a present in order to keep the balance of the verse. Goldingay uses the present to translate this imperfect, as does Alter. The people praise God because the lips of those who speak lies are shut closed. False speakers are stopped from speaking, and therefore the people have reason to rejoice. God is seen as the one who stops their lips from speaking lies, which is why he is praised by the king and his people.
Theological Implications of Psalm 63
How does Psalm 63 teach us to trust God, and how does it teach us to submit to his rule? Psalm 63 is in keeping with the theological tone of Psalms 1 and 2: God reigns and we should trust him. Before we answer these questions, however, we should consider whether or not David was the author of Psalm 63.
The language of Psalm 63 alludes to the sacrificial system of the Temple. As such, David is not likely the actual author. The words of verse 1 like are an attribution to David as a possible scenario of how this psalm could have been used or applied. The psalms have been used in a diverse way throughout the centuries, and Psalm 63 is no exception. It was used by the early Greek church for their introductory psalm for Sunday morning worship and by other church traditions for the Eucharist due to the “feast” motif. Scholars today question whether it was used for the great Jerusalem festival at the Temple before the exile, for a night vigil at the Temple, or for the king in some fashion or another. Time has demonstrated the flexibility of the psalm. It does not need to be tied down to a specific event to be understood or useful. The “wilderness” language itself is spiritually and theologically significant. It is under spiritually dry times that one finds renewal, much like the Hebrews did when they were in the wilderness after leaving Egypt. Those who find themselves in a similar situation can look to Psalm 63 without referencing David or his time in the wilderness. By understanding this psalm without attaching it to David, the wilderness language becomes much more meaningful. It is best to keep them separate.
Psalm 63 teaches us to trust in God’s support. The Lord’s support is clearly highlighted in the word dsj. The Lord is seen as faithful, gracious, and loving in this one word. His dsj is better than life itself. It represents His support by his mighty hand. It represents his protection. Trust in God comes when we reflect on His dsj–his support, protection, and help. The one who trusts in Him sincerely desires for Him. He or she longs to be satisfied by God, so much so that there is a physical passion and a spiritual thirst for Him. This search for satisfaction is highlighted through meditation throughout the night. John Chrysostom said of this psalm that we should at the very least remember God while on our beds and in the morning meditate on Him. It also involves intense and intentional sticking to God, which results in glorifying and worshipping God through songs of praise and rejoicing.
Psalm 63 teaches us also to submit to God’s rule by letting him be our protection. But if the Lord is our protection, then he is also the one who takes divine retribution on our behalf. As he keeps us safe, he also brings our enemies down and brings dread upon them. It involves relying on God as our help. He will help us by taking care of us and by dealing rightly with those who seek to do us harm.
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Dahood, Mitchell. Psalms II: 51-100. The Anchor Bible. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1968.
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Tate, Marvin. Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 51-100. 59 volumes. John Watts et al, eds. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990.
Robert Davidson, The Vitality of Worship: A commentary on the book of Psalms (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Cambridge, U.K., and Edinburgh: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company and the Handsel Press Ltd, 1998), 198.
Francis Brown, S. Driver, and Charles Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: With an appendix containing the biblical Aramaic (BDB), based on the lexicon of William Gesenius, as translated by Edward Robinson, and edited with constant reference to the thesaurus of Gesenius as completed by E. Rödiger, and with authorizes use of the German editions of Gesenius’ Handwörterbuch über das Alte Testament, reprint (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1906), 1007.
Marvin Tate, Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 51-100, vol. 20, John Watts et al, eds. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990), 124, referencing Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar (GKC), edited and enlarged by E. Kautzsch, revised by A. E. Cowley, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), 119i.
William Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, based upon the lexical work of Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971), 128.
John Chrysostom, On the Epistle to the Hebrews, NPNF 1 14:437 (Buffalo: Christian Literature, 1887-1894), reprint (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952-1956), reprint (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1994), Querstin F. Wesselschmidt et al, eds. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament, vol. 8 (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 55.