Presence of God, Protector of the Righteous
1 Of David. When he pretended to be mad before Abimelech, who forced him to depart.[b]
2 [c]I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise will be continually on my lips.
3 My soul[d] will glory in the Lord;
let the lowly hear and be glad.
4 Magnify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together.
5 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he set me free from all my fears.
6 Look to him and you will be radiant;
your faces will never be covered with shame.
7 In my anguish[e] I cried out;
the Lord heard my plea,
and I was saved from all my troubles.
8 The angel of the Lord[f] encamps around those who fear God,
and he delivers them.
9 Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed[g] is the man who takes refuge in him.
10 Fear the Lord,[h] you his saints;
nothing is lacking for those who fear him.
11 The powerful[i] suffer want and go hungry,
but those who seek the Lord want for no good thing.
12 [j]Come, my children,[k] and listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
13 Who among you delights in life
and desires many years to enjoy prosperity?[l]
14 Then keep your tongue[m] from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
15 Shun evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
16 [n]The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their cry.
17 The face of the Lord is turned against those who do evil,
to erase all memory of them from the earth.
18 [o]The righteous call out, and the Lord hears them;
he rescues them from all their troubles.
19 The Lord remains close to the brokenhearted,
and he saves those whose spirit is crushed.
20 [p]The misfortunes of the righteous man are many,
but the Lord delivers him,[q] from all of them.
21 He watches with care over all his bones;
not a single one will be broken.
22 [r]Evil will bring death to the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
23 The Lord redeems the lives of those who serve him;
no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him.
- Psalm 34:1 This alphabetical psalm has two parts. The first voices thanksgiving for the solicitude with which God surrounds the righteous and the poor to deliver them from their anguish. Doubtless the psalmist has experienced this in life and gives his disciples the fruit of his experience. The second part takes the tone of an instruction (vv. 13-23): a sage invites the listeners to discover the path to happiness in the fear of the Lord.
The poorest of the poor and the wisest of the sages is Christ, and it is upon his lips that we can place this psalm after the example of John (Jn 19:36), numbering ourselves—in accord with the express indication of Peter (see 1 Pet 3:10-12)—among the children to whom he teaches the way of life and happiness. From the early days of Christianity this psalm served to teach those who were preparing for the Christian life and for Baptism (1 Pet 2:3).
- Psalm 34:1 The superscription refers to 1 Sam 21:11-15, but (probably as the result of a scribal error) erroneously substitutes Abimelech for Achish, King of Gath.
- Psalm 34:2 The praise of the Lord is continual, God-centered, and the response of a grateful heart—an offering that the Lord will never reject (see Ps 50:14-23; Hos 14:2; Heb 13:15). Its purpose is to acknowledge the Lord’s greatness (see Pss 30:2; 69:31; 99:5; 107:32; 145:1). Name: see note on Ps 5:12.
- Psalm 34:3 Soul: see note on Ps 6:4.
- Psalm 34:7 In my anguish: literally, “this poor man.” The word “poor” is usually applied to one who depends completely on God for his deliverance and his very life. See also note on Ps 22:27.
- Psalm 34:8 Angel of the Lord: i.e., the Lord’s protection or the presence of God. However, such protection, although promised by the Lord (see Ps 91:11; Gen 32:2; 2 Ki 6:17; Mt 4:5f), is not automatic; it depends on one’s allegiance to the covenant—the “fear of the Lord”—entailing the practices mentioned in verses 12-15.
- Psalm 34:9 This verse is applied to the Holy Eucharist by the Fathers of the Church and the Liturgy (see 1 Pet 2:3). Blessed: see note on Ps 1:1.
- Psalm 34:10 Fear the Lord: see note on Ps 15:2-5. Saints: that is, those consecrated to God and sharing in his holiness (see Ex 19:6; Lev 19:2; Num 16:3; Isa 4:3; Dan 8:24). See also notes on Pss 4:4; 16:3.
- Psalm 34:11 Powerful: literally, “lions”—fierce animals were symbols of people with power.
- Psalm 34:12 To gain wisdom entails two things: fearing the Lord and doing his will. The latter calls for integrity of language rather than deception (v. 14; see Jer 4:2), practicing good rather than evil (v. 15; see Ps 37:3, 27), and working for rather than against peace (vv. 15-16; see Ps 37:37; Mt 5:9; Rom 12:18; 14:19; Heb 12:14).
- Psalm 34:12 Children: a term (also translated as “simple” or “sons”) for students in Wisdom literature (see Prov 1:22; 4:1; 8:32; Sir 3:1; 23:7).
- Psalm 34:13 This verse is found word for word in an Egyptian text of the 18th dynasty (tomb of Ai) (see 1 Pet 3:10f).
- Psalm 34:14 Tongue: see note on Ps 5:10.
- Psalm 34:16 The eyes and ears of the Lord are attuned to the righteous (see Ps 33:18), but the face of the Lord (see note on Ps 13:2) is against evildoers (see Lev 17:10; Jer 23:30; 1 Pet 3:10-12).
- Psalm 34:18 Compunction and humility are requirements for benefiting from the grace of salvation (see Ps 51:19; Mt 11:29f). The Lord hears the cry of the righteous (see Ps 145:19) and the brokenhearted (see Ps 147:3) and saves them from their afflictions.
- Psalm 34:20 No matter how many are the troubles of the righteous man, the Lord will deliver him (see Job 5:19; 2 Tim 3:11), protecting all his bones, a phrase representative of his whole being. Not a single one will be broken: John applies this text to Jesus on the cross as the righteous man par excellence. Hence, this text is regarded as a prophecy about Christ when he was crucified. Although it was the custom of the Romans to break the legs of a person they had crucified so that death would come more quickly, it was not carried out in this case and not one of Christ’s bones was broken.
- Psalm 34:20 Delivers him: God promises to be our source of power, courage, and wisdom to help us through our troubles; at times he even chooses to take them away from us.
- Psalm 34:22 The wicked will perish in their own evil and be condemned (see Ps 9:16), but the righteous will be saved by the Lord (see Ex 6:6; Lk 1:68; Rev 14:3).