Psalm 34

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This psalm is ascribed to David. According to the superscription, it relates to the time he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, the Philistine king of Gath, who then drove him away. This made it possible for David to escape. In 1 Samuel 21:10-22:1, the ruler is called Achish. Possibly “Abimelech,” meaning “my father [is] king,” was a royal title, whereas “Achish” was the actual name.

David determined to bless or laud YHWH at all times. Expressions of praise would not be missing from his mouth. Regardless of the circumstances in which he found himself, whether favorable or unfavorable, he would not cease praising his God.

David’s “soul” or he himself would “boast” or glory in YHWH, evidently taking pride in his God by reason of who he is and what he had done for him. Apparently the psalmist wanted the “meek” to hear how he felt, prompting them to rejoice as they imitated his example. The “meek,” “lowly,” or “humble” were the godly ones. Although among the needy and afflicted, they continued to look to YHWH for help.

The psalmist invites others to join him, evidently the “meek,” in magnifying YHWH and unitedly exalting his name. For them to exalt the name would have meant according YHWH the highest honor possible, regarding him as being the ultimate in greatness.

When David sought YHWH, earnestly desiring his aid and guidance, he received a favorable response. The Most High delivered him from all his “fears” (“sojournings,” LXX; see the Notes section on verse 4[5]) or situations that posed grave danger.

The ones looking to YHWH are evidently the “meek” who put their trust in him. Their being “radiant” may be understood to mean their having a cheerful countenance. Apparently because of coming to be recipients of God’s help in times of distress or adversity, their faces would not reflect shame or disappointment. According to the Septuagint, the words serve to encourage others to approach the Most High in their time of need. “Draw near to him and be enlightened, and your faces will not be ashamed.”

“This poor man” may be the psalmist. On the run from King Saul and forced to live as an outlaw, David was indeed “poor,” “lowly,” or “afflicted.” YHWH heard his cry for aid and delivered him from all his distresses.

The protection enjoyed by those fearing YHWH or being in reverential awe before him is likened to having his angel encamped around them. YHWH’s angel is therefore in a position to provide deliverance from the difficult circumstances in which godly persons may find themselves.

The expression “taste and see” may be understood to mean “try and experience.” “Tasting” would involve committing all one’s cares to YHWH, looking to him for aid and strength. The result would be “seeing” or experiencing that he is “good,” for trust in him is never misplaced and does not come to disappointment. Happy, fortunate, or in an enviable state is “the man who takes refuge in him” or trustingly looks to him for help in times of need or adversity.

All the “holy” or godly ones are admonished to “fear” YHWH or to manifest reverential awe. These God-fearing ones would then suffer no lack, evidently because the Most High would grant them what they needed to sustain them in perilous times.

Young lions, though powerful predators, suffer want and hunger. This may be because prey is limited or repeatedly alludes them. Those seeking YHWH, however, looking to him to sustain them, would not be found lacking any good thing. (For other possible meanings, see the Notes section [verse 10(11)].)

The directive to “come” applies either to “sons” (“children,” LXX) or to learners or pupils. They are to come in order to listen or pay attention to the psalmist’s teaching them the “fear of YHWH,” the reverential regard that would lead to their experiencing divine guidance and blessing.

To “desire” life apparently includes having an appreciation for life, really wanting a meaningful life that is more than mere existence and is focused on the Most High. To “love days” in order to see or experience “good” could relate to highly valuing each day of life and daily enjoying God’s abundant blessing. The question about the man who desires life and loves days to see good is answered in the next two verses. According to the Septuagint, this question is slightly different. “Who is [the] man desiring life, loving to see good days?”

The individual should keep his tongue from “evil” use and his lips from speaking “deceit.” “Evil” would include cursing, slander, and abusive or degrading speech. Examples of deceit or treachery would be using flattery designed to entrap others, speaking half truths or lies, deliberately withholding vital information for the purpose of causing others to draw wrong conclusions, or in any other way misrepresenting matters.

Besides keeping his tongue in check, the person should turn away from “evil,” or everything that is morally corrupt and harmful to himself and others. He should “do good” or all that is kind, loving, and compassionate, maintaining exemplary conduct. To seek peace would mean to follow a course of life that contributes to maintaining a good relationship with God and fellow humans. Peace would be the goal that is earnestly pursued, shunning quarrels, strife, haughtiness, and anything else that can destroy a state of tranquility.

YHWH’s eyes are “toward the righteous,” and his ears are attentive to their “cry” (“prayer,” LXX) for aid. This indicates that the Most High watches over the upright and is fully aware of their situation. They can be confident that he will aid them in their time of need, and their cries in time of distress or adversity will not be in vain.

YHWH’s face or he himself is against evildoers. From the “earth” or the land, he will cut off or destroy any remembrance of them. This indicates that the ungodly ones would be destroyed and all memory of them would be obliterated among the people in the land where these evildoers once lived.

In the case of the upright, however, YHWH responds to their cry for aid and delivers them from all their distresses. He does not distance himself from them but is near to those whom he approves, ever ready to come to their aid. They are called the “brokenhearted” or those who are deeply pained within themselves on account of distress or adversity. From a human standpoint, theirs would be a helpless state of despair in a seemingly abandoned state. The ones whom YHWH delivers from distress or adversity are also designated as “crushed in spirit” (“lowly [humble or afflicted] in spirit,” LXX). Based on external factors and their lack of any means to extricate themselves from adversity, they would be dispirited and in a seemingly hopeless state.

Upright persons are not shielded from difficulties and hardships. The psalmist acknowledged that the righteous experience many “evils,” calamities, afflictions, or troubles. YHWH, however, does not abandon them, leaving them without any hope of relief. He “delivers” the upright one from all evils.

The Most High “keeps” or “guards” all the bones of the righteous one. “Not one of them is broken.” In the context of this psalm, this would indicate that YHWH would not permit the righteous one to be crushed, pulverized, or reduced to complete ruin. In the ultimate sense, Jesus Christ would be the “righteous one,” and his bones were not broken. (John 19:36)

“Evil will kill the wicked.” This may mean that the wicked bring death upon themselves on account of their lawlessness. “Wicked people are killed by their own evil deeds.” (CEV) Another possibility is that the wicked experience a calamitous end. “One misfortune is the deathblow of the wicked.” (Tanakh) Those hating the righteous, seeking their ruin, would not escape divine condemnation or punishment. According to the Septuagint, they “shall offend” and thus merit condemnation.

As for his servants, YHWH “redeems” or saves their “soul” or life. All who take refuge in him, trusting him fully to help and safeguard them, will not share in the judgment of the wicked. They will be approved and not condemned.


This is an acrostic psalm. Each verse (except the superscription and the concluding verse) starts with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet in consecutive order, beginning with aleph (A) and ending with taw (T). This arrangement may have served as a memory aid.

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

In verse 4(5), the form of the Hebrew word meguráh is understood to mean “fears.” Apparently the Septuagint rendering “sojournings” (the plural of paroikía) is based on the translator’s understanding the Hebrew term to be a form of magúr, meaning “sojourning.”

The words of 1 Peter 2:3 (“you have tasted that the Lord is kind”) parallel the language of the Septuagint in Psalm 34:8(33:9).

In verse 10(11), the reference to “young lions” may be understood to refer to the powerful enemies of God’s people. This is the meaning conveyed in The New American Bible. “The powerful grow poor and hungry.” A number of other translations follow the Septuagint, which refers to the “rich,” not lions.

Verse 10(11) of the Septuagint concludes with the designation diápsalma, meaning “pause” or “musical interlude.” This is the usual rendering for the Hebrew expression “selah,” which is not here included in the Masoretic Text.

The quotation of verse 12(13) in 1 Peter 3:10 (“For the one desiring to love life and to see good days”) is not a question and differs slightly from the Septuagint rendering. While the words in the rest of verse 10 and all of verse 11 in 1 Peter 3 are basically the same as in the Septuagint (33:14, 15[34:13, 14]), the verbs are third person singular, whereas they are second person singular in the Septuagint (which also includes the corresponding pronoun “your”). With the exception of the introductory hóti (“because”), the words of 1 Peter 3:12 are the same as verse 16(15) and the first part of verse 17(16) in the Septuagint.

In verse 17(18), the Masoretic Text does not identify the ones who cry to YHWH, but the Septuagint calls them the “righteous” or “upright.”

The quotation in John 19:36 agrees with the wording of the Masoretic Text. In the Septuagint verse 20(21) of Psalm 34(33) reads, “[The] Lord guards all their bones,” not “his bones.”

In the concluding verse, the Septuagint says, “And all who hope in him shall not offend.”