Psalm 33

Submitted by admin on Tue, 2006-06-20 08:12.

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Evidently because of what YHWH has done for them, the righteous are invited to cry out joyfully. This would be an expression of praise. For the upright, the rendering of praise is fitting or becoming.

When singing praise to YHWH, the righteous are directed to accompany themselves on the harp or to play music to him with an instrument of ten strings.

A “new song” would be based on new manifestations of YHWH’s activities. This would include help in time of distress or deliverance from danger. In appreciation for divine intervention, the godly are urged to sing a new song, evidently a composition that would recount his recent deeds. Music that praises the Most High should be the very best possible. The instrumentalists, therefore, are admonished to play well or skillfully when accompanying the song of praise that would resound in a powerful way like a joyous shout.

YHWH’s “word” or every revelation of his will and purpose is “upright.” Being “upright,” his word is dependable and will always benefit those who follow it. “Faithfulness” characterizes “all his work.” YHWH fulfills his promises in every detail, with every aspect of his “work” reflecting the ultimate standard of fidelity.

“Righteousness” (eleemosýne, “benevolent giving” or “mercy,” LXX) and “justice” are essential for a stable society. YHWH loves these qualities, finding delight in those who display and abide by his righteousness and justice. As God’s creation, the earth is full of the evidence of his abiding care, steadfast love, compassionate concern, or “mercy” (LXX) for humans and animals. (Compare Psalm 104:10-30; 145:16; Matthew 6:25-32.)

As also indicated in Genesis chapter 1, the “heavens” came to be by the “word of YHWH” or the expression of his will. For the psalmist, the “heavens” were the celestial dome with the sun, moon, and stars. The expression “all their host” evidently refers to the “stars.” When humans speak, the words coming from the mouth are accompanied by breath. This is evidently the basis for the expression “spirit [breath] of [God’s] mouth,” which parallels “word of YHWH.”

The “gathering” of the “waters of the sea” as in a “heap” (“bag” or “wineskin,” LXX) or by a dam evidently is to be understood as meaning that the large body of water is contained so as not to flood the land. For the psalmist, the “sea” probably meant the Mediterranean Sea. Evidently because the “sea” is a large body of water, the plural “deeps” is used as the parallel expression. These “deeps” have been put as if in “storehouses,” available for YHWH’s use.

“All the earth” or the people inhabiting the land are urged to fear YHWH, showing reverential regard for him. This apparently would be on account of his works. The thought is repeated in the parallel expression. All inhabitants of the cultivated land are to be in “dread” (“be shaken,” tremble in fear, LXX).

There was good reason for their being in awe. YHWH is portrayed as simply having spoken, and the expression of his mouth brought about a tangible reality. He commanded, and it “stood” or came to exist. According to the Septuagint, “He spoke, and they were brought forth; he commanded, and they were created.”

“YHWH foils the counsel of the nations,” shattering any resolve that stands in opposition to his purpose. The parallel expression repeats the point. “He frustrates” the “thoughts,” “devices,” or “deliberations” of the “peoples.” The Septuagint adds, “he invalidates the counsels of rulers.” (See the Notes section on verse 10.)

Unlike that of the nations, YHWH’s counsel or his purpose “stands” for all time to come. It will be accomplished, with no one being able to frustrate it. The “thoughts of his heart,” everything that he has determined to do, abides from generation to generation. These “thoughts” are unchangeable and certain of accomplishment.

“Blessed,” “happy,” “fortunate,” or in an enviable state is the nation whose God is YHWH. In the time of the psalmist, the only nation with this distinction was Israel, the people he had chosen as his “inheritance” or special possession.

From the heavens, his dwelling place, YHWH is portrayed as looking down and seeing the “sons of men” or all humans. This apparently signifies that he is fully aware of their actions.

YHWH is depicted as seated like a sovereign in his fixed place of dwelling, gazing at, surveying, or viewing closely the inhabitants of the earth or land. Nothing escapes his notice.

With reference to YHWH, his “forming” the heart of earth’s inhabitants “altogether” (“alone,” possibly “individually”) may serve to indicate that, as the Creator, he knows every heart or the inmost thoughts and sentiments. In this case, the “heart” may be understood to mean the “mind.” God’s observing all the “works” of earth’s inhabitants seems to include how they are using their divinely given faculties.

Apparently the “deeds” or “works” of humankind are next viewed in relation to the Most High. A king, though in possession of the ultimate power in his realm, is not saved by his great military force. Likewise, a warrior’s great strength or mightiness does not mean that he will be delivered or not fall in battle.

A war horse can be a disappointment, an empty hope for victory. Despite its great strength, it cannot save. Even the possession of many horses could not guarantee that an army would triumph.

What truly counted was having YHWH’s backing. His “eye” is on those fearing him, those seeking to conduct themselves in a manner that he approves. They are also persons who “wait” for or trust God’s abiding loyalty, compassionate care, steadfast love, or “mercy” (LXX). Because they look to him and are confident of his loving concern for them, they enjoy security and can expect his aid.

It is YHWH who can unfailingly deliver from death the “soul” or life of those fearing him. In time of famine, he can keep them alive. (Israel’s history in the time of Joseph provides an outstanding example. [Genesis 45:5-11])

Speaking for God’s people, the psalmist has them saying, “Our soul [we ourselves] waits for YHWH.” They look to him for assistance in time of need or adversity. He is their dependable “help” and a protective “shield,” assuring well-being and security.

In YHWH, the “heart” or inner self of God’s people can rejoice, evidently because of all that he does for them. The reason for the joy is their trust in his “holy name” (the Most High who is represented by the name that identifies him as a God of love and compassion). (Exodus 34:5-7)

The psalm concludes with the petition that God’s compassionate care, steadfast love, or “mercy” (LXX) be upon his people as they wait for or put their trust in him. Thus the psalmist’s words reveal that unqualified trust in God’s aid is essential for being recipients of his loving care.


The Septuagint and a Dead Sea Scroll attribute this psalm to David, but the Masoretic Text does not include this superscription.

Regarding the divine name (YHWH), see Psalm 1.

In verse 10, the Septuagint twice has a form of the verb athetéo, meaning “invalidate,” “annul,” or “reject.” The context indicates that the thoughts and counsels would be frustrated or brought to nothing.