Restoration Quarterly 17.2 (1974) 85-98.

       Copyright © 1974 by Restoration Quarterly, cited with permission.




                         Exegesis of Psalm 62


                                              DAVE BLAND

                                               Abilene, Texas


            The most basic and fundamental element of the psalms is their:

expression of continual total and exclusive trust in God. This element

is most fully expressed in Psalm 62. This psalm, as well as Psalms 4,

16, 27 and 131, is a psalm of trust. Each expresses the same firm hope

in God's ability to help his faithful ones become "more than con-


            Several scholars argue that the psalms of trust originated from the

genre of the lament.1 One of the reasons for this is that the structures

are basically the same though details differ. Drijvers identifies four

common elements: the call to Yahweh, the lament, the petition, and

the motivation.2 At the same time the psalms of trust transcend the

bitterness of the immediate experience to express complete confidence

in God. They also speak of the Lord in the third person instead of

to him in the second person.3

            It is difficult to be precise concerning the original Sitz im Leben of

Psalm 62. Its original setting appears to come from the private devotion

of an individual to the Lord (cf. 2-8).4  The individual seems to be a

man of authority, a king,, because of the way he addresses the enemy

(vs. 5) and exhorts his people (vs. 9). It evidently was composed while

the pressure was still intense (vs. 4: "How long will ye rush upon a

man, will ye slay, all of you . . .?") It was set, then, in the devotional


            1 See Mitchell Dahood, Psalms. The Anchor Bible (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday

and Co., 1966) Vol. 1, p. 68; E. A. Leslie, The Psalms (Nashville; Abingdon Press,

1949), p. 548; R. E. Murphy, "Psalms," The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood

Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1968), p. 572; William Taylor, "Psalms, Exegesis," The

Interpreter's Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1955), p. 322.

            2 Pius Drijvers, The Psalms: Their Meaning and Structure (London: Burns and Pats,

1965), pp. 118-123.

            3 Taylor, p. 322.

            4 All verse numbers in this paper follow the Hebrew text.



                  Exegesis of Psalm 62                                   83


life of a king who in the midst of great adversity put all his trust on

the Lord.

            It probably had no original connection with the temple worship.

But it shows some evidence of adaptation to community usage

(vss. 9-13). The occasion is a day of public prayer (vs. 9: "Pour ye out

your heart before him . . ."), when the king and the people have a

common need. In its final form, then, this psalm comes out of the

cultic worship of the community.

            Scholars have divided the Psalm in different ways.5  Basically it

consists of two pericopes. Verses 2-8 are the psalmist's expression of

trust in God; verses 9-13 embody his exhortation to the people to put

their trust in the Lord. The psalm, however, is one unit, tied together

by the particle 'ak and by the theme of trust, which is expressed

throughout. Therefore both pericopes can be understood only when

studied together.

            The meanings of the superscriptions of many of the psalms are

uncertain and most are probably later additions. The heading of this

psalm is one such superscription: "To the choirmaster unto Jeduthan,

a melody for (to) David." "To the choirmaster" may refer to a

collection of hymns compiled by a music director for use in temple

worship. Jeduthan6 may have been one of the persons who was skilled

in composing hymns that David had chosen to be responsible for

performing them in the temple.7 The LXX translates mizemor (melody)

as Psalmos. The word has usually been understood to refer to a song

sung to stringed accompaniment. The prefix le can be translated either

"to" or "for" David, but either way its meaning is ambiguous. One

explanation is that it means "belonging to the collection of David."

With any of the conclusions one reaches concerning the heading he


            5 Leupold divides it by the "selahs," making it consist of three sections of four vss.

each. See H. C. Leupold, Expositions of the Psalms (Columbus, Ohio: The Wartburg

Press, 1959), p. 458; cf. A. F. Kirkpartrick, The Book of Psalms (Cambridge: The

University Press, 1951), p. 348. Drijvers (p. 250) divides it into four sections: vss. 1-2

(English) expression of trust; 3-4, lament; 5-7, expression of trust; 8-12, exhortation of

the bystanders.

            6 Mowinckel says this is not a personal name because it is incompatible with ‘al. He

maintains that Jeduthan is a cultic term indicating either the action "over" which the

psalm is sung or the purpose "to" which it is intended. "The word is derived from yadhu

and must mean something like ‘confession’; it is sung at confession ‘for confession.’ "

See Sigmund Mowinckel, The Psalms in Israel's Worship (New York: Abingdon

Press, 1962), Vol. 2, p. 213.

            7 Cf. 1 Chron. 16:41; 25:1. Also Dahood, 1:90; Leupold, p. 458; W. O. E. Oesterley,

The Psalms (London: SPCK, 1955), p. 15.

84                                Restoration Quarterly


still cannot be certain as to its meaning and must remain open to

insights that may shed light on it and make the purpose and occasion

of this psalm clearer.

            The first thing that one notices in reading the psalm is the repeated

use of 'ak at the beginning of the verses.8  Hence the psalmist begins

with this particle. It is interesting also to note that all the verses of the

first pericope begin with ‘ak, ‘adh or ‘al, the words being very similar

to one another in sound. It seems that ‘ak becomes an essential element

in discovering the meaning the psalmist is trying to express.

            Brown, Driver, and Briggs9 say that ‘ak carries with it a restrictive

force emphasizing that what follows is in contrast with other ideas in

general.10  Snaith argues that ‘ak always involves a restriction and an

element of "on the contrary.”11  Psalm 73 is an example. It begins

"Only God is good to Israel."  In other words, in spite of everything

that seems obvious to the majority of people, God alone is able to give

Israel what is truly good for her. In this psalm 'ak is used restrictively

but also for emphasis, as is clear from its position in each of the verses.

It emphasizes something that is contrary to popular opinion and is

best translated "only." The psalmist is going against the general

beliefs of the time and is wanting his ideas to stand as strongly opposed

to others. "Only unto God is my soul silence." The whole phrase

‘ak ‘el ‘elohim12 is emphatic and expresses the writer's emphatic idea.

Contrary to the popular view it is only in God that he is silent. The

state of mind indicated by the particle ‘ak is that of one who through

his many experiences has been seriously contemplating a subject,

estimated all his resources and means of reliance, and examined his

own state of mind and is now able to say "only unto God is my soul



            8 It occurs at the beginning of vss. 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10.

            9 From now on abbreviated BDB.

            10 BDB, p. 36; cf. also Gen. 7:23; Job 14:22; Ps. 37:8; Prov. 11:24; Isa. 45:14. All of

these use ‘ak in a restrictive sense and are best translated "only," "exclusively," or


            11 Norman H. Snaith, "The Meaning of the Hebrew 'ak," Vetus Testamentum, 14(1964);

221. Ex. 12:15; 31:13; Lev. 23:27, 39 use 'ak and are all concerned with an item that is

different, unique, or contrary to that which is generally done. Dahood says 'ak is restrictive

in 5 occurrences in this psalm, 2:90.

            12 Dahood wants to emend the text to "the God of gods" changing 'el to 'el, 2:90.

                           Exegesis of Psalm 62                                   85


            The meaning of dumiyah (silence) from this verse alone is uncertain.13

Tsevat says this form occurs nowhere else but in the psalms.14 Of the

four occurrences of dumiyah, Psalm 39:3 affords the clearest parallelism.

Here it seems to be synonymous with 'alam, which BDB defines as

"to bind" or when in the niphal (as it is here) "to be dumb." The

parallelism in Psalm 22:3 may not be antithetical, but four words are

contrasted. 'eqera' is opposite of dumiyah li and yomm is antithetical

to layelah. For our purpose the former contrast is the important

one. The opposite of "call," or "cry out," is "silence." We can infer

then from these passages that damiyah means silence. Both BDB and

Gesenius have it coming from the unused root dhum. They have,

however, no definite proof that this is the original root. Dhum is very

closely connected with the root dhamam (according to both BDB and

Gesenius), which also means "to be silent."

            Since there is no evidence for dhum, it may be possible to get an

even better grasp of dumiyah by looking at the meaning of dhamam

in the context of the other psalms and, if possible, in the context of a

psalm of trust. Psalm 131 affords this possibility. Its basic structure

is very similar to Psalm 62. The psalmist expresses his childlike trust

in the Lord (vss. 1 & 2). In turn, he exhorts the people of Israel to do

the same (vs. 3). The first stich in verse 2 can be translated "surely I

have smoothed and stilled my soul . . ." Dhamam is synonymous

with shavah, which BDB defines as "to be smooth" or "composed."

So dhamam takes on the idea of being calm, composed, satisfied,

confident. This meaning can be substantiated even further from the

context of the psalm.

            The psalmist compares himself to a weaned child. As a weaned

child once craved the milk of his mother, he now is content with-


            13 Dahood translates it "mighty castle." He argues that it is the masculine form of the

Ugaritic damath and similar to the Accadian dimthu, which means castle or fortress;

cf. Ezek. 27:32. He also wants to shift the athnach so napheshu is in the second stich.

His translation reads "The God of gods alone is my mighty castle." For further

reference, see Mitchell Dahood, "Accadian-Ugaritic dmt in Ezekiel 27:32" Biblica,

45(1964), 83-84.

            Jastrow believes that the yah-ending represents an emphatic afformative. This would

give the stich an added idea of "Only unto God is my soul indeed silent." Morris

Jastrow, "The Origin of the form yah of the Divine name," ZAW, 16 (1896), 1-16.

            14 Matitiahu Tsevat, A Study of the Language of the Biblical Psalms (Philadelphia:

Society of Biblical Literature, 1955), p. 14. There are only three other occurrences:

22:3; 39:3; 65:2. Perowne understands the phrase in 65:2 "to thee silence is praise" to

mean that praise is given to thee in silence, i.e., "the deep stillness of the heart's

devotion as opposed to the loud noisy service of heathen worshipers," p. 503.

86                                Restoration Quarterly


out (vs. 2). Likewise, the psalmist who was once restless and

proud and attempted to walk in ways for which he was not fit is now

like a weaned child, composed and silent (vss. 1 & 2). His victory

over frivolous ambition results from trusting in the Lord. The meaning

of dhamam is found in its comparison with gamul (weaned child, BDB).

As a child is calm, content, submissive "upon" his mother, so the

psalmist is dhamam (silent, calm, content, submissive) in the Lord. It

is believed that the meaning of "silent" in this psalm of trust can also

be applied to dumiyah in Psalm 62.

            The LXX enables us to further probe the meaning of dumiyah. It

translates dumiyah with the word hupotagee, which means "to subject

oneself" or "to acknowledge someone's dominion or power.”15  Even

if some were to question this translation of the word, it gives a possible

nuance of its meaning. With this understanding its essential content

can be pinpointed even further and an element of surrendering or

humbling oneself before God be recovered.

            After much thought and meditation and after an evaluation of all

his wealth and means of reliance, the psalmist emphatically declares,

"Only in God can I be silent, confident, content, submissive." His

conclusion did not come suddenly in one burst of meditative thinking.

It had come through a long painful growth, a growth which is at any

age painful but unlimited in rewards.

            The word nephesh (soul) in this psalm, as elsewhere in the OT, is

simply another way the psalmist refers to himself. It does not refer to a

spiritual and immortal principle that enters the body at birth and

leaves it at death. Nephesh has no existence apart from the body.16

After death the nephesh ceases to exist (Job 14:22). Any weakening

of the bodily. functions such as through hunger or thirst is also

described as the pouring of the nephesh (Lam. 2:12). It is the usual

term for a man's total nature, the Hebrew man being regarded as a

unity and not composed of a physical and a spiritual separate from

one another. When nephesh is not referring to the whole person, it

means nothing more than a distinction between that which is living

and that which is dead.17 "It is the unimportance of nephesh that is


            15 Delling, "hupotasso in the Septuagint," TDNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing

Co.), Vol. 8, p. 40.

            16 Edmond Jacob, "The Anthology of the nephesh," TDNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans

Publishing Co.), Vol. 9, pp. 617-631.

            17 Cf. Gen. 1:20, 24, 30; 9:12, 15, 16; Lev. 11:10, 46; Num. 19:13. These are some of

many examples. The root nphsh means "to breath," "respire."

                       Exegesis of Psalm 62                                   87


really significant for Christian belief."18

            The psalmist assuredly concludes the verse by proclaiming "from

him is my salvation." The restrictive idea of 'ak in the first stich can

be implied in this phrase as well. For him God alone is his salvation.

Yasha’ (to save) meant originally "to be roomy," "to make spacious,"

as opposed to "to be narrow" (tsarar--bind, tie, restrict BDB).19 As

oppression is a kind of hemming in, so salvation is a moving out into

the open. More room, or space, or freedom is gained through the

saving intervention of a third party. So yasha’ takes on the meaning of

"to come to the rescue." It does not carry the thought of self help or

of cooperation but is used in the psalms, and specifically Psalm 62,

for the experienced help of the Lord against public or personal

enemies. The help is such that the oppressed is lost without it. Generally

speaking, the OT idea is usually salvation from external evils such as

oppression, death, captivity and public and private enemies.20 Only

in a few instances is the concept of salvation from sin found in the

psalms (e.g,, 130:8, where the word is Padhah--ransom, BDB p. 804).

            The tradition of God as Savior comes from the actual historical

experiences of his deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Some would

probably be inclined to say that this is the beginning of the tradition.

But the idea of God as Savior goes back even to the book of Genesis.21

God has always been throughout history a God of salvation.

            Though the salvation of the Lord generally refers to external factors

(as it does in this psalm), the term does pass over into a religious or

spiritual sense.22 In many cases one cannot distinguish between instances

of ordinary, everyday empirical deliverances and deliverances from sin,

in the same way as there is no dichotomy between nephesh and

baslar. In a sense all Israel's history is Heilsgechichte. There is no

distinction between secular and religious history in the Bible.

In this psalm the psalmist has learned a great lesson from his own


            18 David Stacey, "Man as Soul," Expository Times, 72(1961), 349, 350.

            19 George Fohrer, "sozo and soteeria in the OT," TDNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans

Publishing Co.), Vol. 7, p. 973.

            20 BDB, p. 447, and Alan Richardson, "Salvation," Interpreter's Dictionary of the

Bible (Nashville: Abingdon Press), both affirm this.

            21 When God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden, he may have intended a type

of deliverance or escape from their present condition by giving to Eve a son (Gen. 4:1).

His salvation is vividly portrayed in the story of Noah. Gen. 49:18 specifically refers

to a salvation which belongs to the Lord.

            22 Cf. BDB, p. 447, 2nd Para., #3, and Richardson,Vol. 4, p. 170.

88                                Restoration Quarterly


experiences and from the tradition of his people. To him God's

salvation is not some abstract idea as we many times make it to be.

Rather it is an assertion of what God has done for him and for his

people throughout all of history. It is a proclamation not a philosophy

(cf. Ex. 12:26; 13:14; Deut. 6:21-23). The emphasis of the phrase in

verse 2 seems to be this: There is no salvation apart from God. He

alone is my deliverance—secular as well as religious, individual as well

as national.

            A large portion of space has been devoted to this verse because it

forms the heart and core of the psalm. It contains three principal

words that embrace its substance: 'ak (only) is repeated , six times,

'elohim (God) seven, and yeshu'ati (my salvation) four.23 Only God

is my salvation. Because of this, man acquires that which he desires

most: silence, security. It is significant that the next most frequently

used words are "man" and "vapor."24 When one sees that God

alone is his salvation, then man becomes only a vapor. This is the


            In verse 3 the psalmist resounds the message: "Only he is my rock

and my salvation, my secure height, I will not totter greatly." Tsur

(rock), yesha’ah (salvation), and miseghabh (secure height) are

synonyms. Tsur25 and miseghabh are used repeatedly through Psalms

as figures of God's strength and faithfulness. The Hebrew people did

not speak in abstract or unrelated terms. Their thoughts and ideas

were built on practical, concrete observable events. God's strength and

steadfastness were not some emotion or idea conceived only in

thought. They were everyday observable occurrences. He was their

rock of ages.

            God is spoken of in a very personal way. He is not someone who is

concerned only with a nation as a whole. He is also deeply involved

in the life of the individual (cf. Ezek. 18:1-20). So this writer is able

to proclaim assuredly "he is my rock and my salvation, my secure



            23 'ak, vss. 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 10; 'elohim, vss. 2, 6, 8 (twice), 9, 12 (twice); yeshu'ati,

vss. 2, 3, 7, 8.   

            24ish, vss. 4, 10, 13 and 'adham, vs. 10; hebhel, vss. 10 (twice), 11.

            25 Tsur is used nine times in Deut. 32 as a metaphor for God. Anderson says that

tsur seems to be a figure of speech drawn from Palestinian scenery to portray strength

and permanence. B. W. Anderson, "God Names of," Interpreter's Dictionary of the

Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962), Vol. 2, p. 415. Men homeless in an alien

universe crave the permanent, something or someone to tie to. This idea of God as a rock

brings out more vividly the words of a popular hymn: "Change and decay in all

around I see; 0, thou who changest not abide with me."

                   Exegesis of Psalm 62                                   89


The result of God being his rock and salvation is that he will not

be greatly shaken.26 Shaking is linked to confusion, anxiety, and

unrest of the human heart. Man is always in danger of wavering and

it is sinful arrogance for him to think that he can stand fast alone.

The righteous of this psalm knows that he has the divinely given

unshakableness which keeps him stable in all the shattering experiences

of life.

            The mood changes with verses 4 and 5 and an element of lament

is brought forth. "How long will ye rush27 upon a man will ye slay, all

of you, as a bent wall a tottering wall?"28 The vague meaning of

this verse is made somewhat clearer in the context with verse 5. Possibly

the psalmist is saying, "How long will you assail me before I am

destroyed?" It is interesting to note that even though the Lord is his

mighty fortress the physical and verbal attacks are still agonizing.

Because a person is God's servant does not immune him from suffering.

The Lord never promised freedom from pain.

            In verse 5 we obtain a little clearer picture of the situation at hand.

"They only counsel to thrust him (him understood) down from his

exaltation, they are pleased with falsehood, with their mouth (lit., his

mouth) they bless but within them29 they curse (Selah30)." The first


            26 The root meaning oft is a sudden unexpected and disastrous shaking, any

uncertain or aimless kind of movement. See George Bertram "salvo, salos," TDNT

(Grand Rapids: Eerdman's Publishing Co.), Vol. 7, p. 66. In the niphal BDB says that

it is a figure of steadfast obedience. Cf. also Pss. 15:5; 16:8; 21:8; 30:7; 112:6.

            27 Hathath, according to Dahood (2:91) and Gesenius, is a hapax legomenon. Gesenius

believes that it does not contain the idea of crying out but simply means "to break in

upon," "to rush upon."

            28 Taylor argues for the omission of 2 and 3 on extremely poor grounds. One reason is

that the particle 'ak is not a normal way to begin. Another is that vss. 2 & 3 weaken

the effect of vss. 6 & 7. See William Taylor, "Psalms, Exegesis," The Interpreter's

Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1955), Vol. 4, p. 322.

            Kittle wants to solve some of the problems of interpretation by deleting KhuleKhem

(all of you). With the athnach in its present position the translation of the text would

be "How long will ye rush upon a man, all of you are like a bent wall a tottering wall."

Barnes supports this translation. He says it is not natural to speak of enemies coming

on a man making him like a falling wall. Albert Barnes, Notes on the Old Testament:

Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1931), Vol. 2, p. 168. The KJV translates

it this way. It however seems more natural that, since the enemies are the ones who are

rushing upon the man, the result is that the man becomes like a tottering wall rather

than the enemies. Therefore, I place the athnach after KhuleKhem.

            29 The LXX translates qerebh with kardia and in this context simply refers to one's

thoughts, feelings, or motives.

            30 Selah is possibly an instrumental interlude. It may refer to the raising of voices in

Praise or their cessation. In any case, it involves some kind of break in the rendering of

the psalm.

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stich gives us a hint to the setting of the whole psalm (see introductory

remarks). Most likely the individual of this psalm is in a position of

authority, probably a king. His enemies are using deceptive means to

overthrow him from office. They respect and bless31 him in the presence

of the people, but their true feelings are contempt. These people

delight in dealing falsely with the king.32

            One of the main problems in verses 4 and 5 is who are the ones

opposing the king; who are the enemies? The solution must be within

the context of this psalm and in no way a generalization from other

psalms. Even though the enemies of the king in this psalm are probably

also the enemies of the people, in these two verses they appear to be

specifically occupied with him. They could be enemies within his own

court, those who are envious of his position, or possibly political

opponents. In any case, they are real humans and not some mythical


            The situation involves more than just a personal quarrel. Since the

writer is a man of righteousness, those who oppose him must

automatically oppose what he stands for—righteousness. In this

psalm, then, they are primarily enemies of the Lord and because the

king is a godly man he automatically becomes their enemy. This

point needs to be seriously considered and reflected upon by those

who are set apart by the Lord. If a person is truly God's man, he will

automatically be in battle with those of the world and rejected by

those who are indifferent. How many Christians today are visibly

despised and rejected by the world?

            We cannot be dogmatic in saying who the enemies of the king

are. They are, however, primarily the enemies of the Lord and

secondarily political adversaries of the psalmist.

            In verses 6 and 7 the message of the psalm is again joyously echoed.

"Only for God be thou silent my soul, for from him is my hope.

Only he is my rock and my salvation my secure height I will not be


            31 Ledogar observes that when a man receives a blessing his honor is thereby increased.

This is made even more evident when it is contrasted with qalal "to despise," "treat

as of little value." R. J. Ledogar, "Verbs of Praise in the LXX Translation of the

Hebrew Canon," Biblica, 48(1967), 52-55.

            32 The noun Khazabh means "deception," "lie." See Hans Cozelmann "Psudos, "

TDNT Vol. 9, pp. 594-603. The same word is used in vs. 10. There it is directly parallel

with hebhel, "vanity." Legally the worst offense against truth is perjury. Cf. Ex. 20:16;

Deut. 5:20. Prov. 6:16-19 lists seven things that the Lord hates. One is "a false witness

who scatters lies." Cf. also Pss. 4:3; 40:5.

                             Exegesis of Psalm 62                                   91


moved.” There are a few differences between verses 2 and 6 but

their thought is the same.33

            One interesting parallel is noted between trigeVati (my hope)34 and

yeshu’ati (my salvation). In this context both take on similar meaning.

Hope is also closely linked with trust.35 It is general confidence in

God's protection and help. His strength to endure does not come from

his own manly courage or by his own perseverance or by just thinking

positively. It comes rather from his silent hope in God behind which

stands a concrete expectation of deliverance.

            Verse 7 duplicates the words of verse 3 except for the omission of

rabhah. In my opinion, its omission does not show the progressive

growth of the writer's faith, it once being qualified but now expressed

as an unqualified assurance. In both verses he is saying the same

thing: Because the Lord is my salvation, I can maintain steadfast

obedience; nothing will move me. The figure of "secure height" (i.e.,

miseghabh) in the OT may be traced back to the language of warfare.

The "secure height" and the "strong rock" describe both natural

and artificial protection afforded by the rocky landscape of Canaan's

mountain regions. It means both a place to hide and a place to make

a final stand. It is the strongest of all strong points.

            The psalmist continues to multiply the metaphors to show his

invincible defenses in God. "Upon God is my salvation and my

honor, rock of my strength my shelter is in God." Not only is man's

safety dependent on God but his honor is clearly a gift (cf. Ps. 8:6).

The idea of honor is not so much concerned with an ideal quality

but understood in' accordance with its root meaning "as something

‘weighty’ in man which gives him ‘importance.’"36  It is all those gifts

or blessings which extend and enhance the personality, which gives

an individual "weight"—wealth, property, wisdom, status. Man's

importance and impressiveness are found only in God. The writer uses

still another synonym when he compares God with a shelter.37 The


            33 ‘el 'elohim is changed to le'lohim; dhum is in the imperative; ki is added; tigeVati is

substituted for yeshu’ati

            34 The LXX translates it with hupomonee, "to hope," "to have confidence." See

F. Hauchk, "hupomonee," TDNT, Vol. 4, pp. 581-588.

            35 Rudolf Bultmann, "The OT View of Hope," TDNT; Vol. 2, p. 523.

            36 Won Rad, "Kabhodh in the OT," TDNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdman's Publishing Co.),

Vol. 2, p. 238. Its root meaning is "to be heavy," "weighty" BDB.

            37 Macheseh is a common figure used throughout Psalms for God as the shelter of his

people: 14:6; 46:21; 61:4; 71:7; 73:28; 91:2, 9; 94:22. It is also figuratively used for

seeking shelter under the wings of the Lord: Ruth 2:12; Pss. 36:8; 57:l; 61:4; 91:4.

92                                Restoration Quarterly


shelter does not involve a reciprocal relation between the one who

seeks and the one who offers, but it emphasizes the place or the

giver of shelter.

            Throughout these verses the psalmist has emphasized the fact learned

through his own painful experiences: that God only is his salvation.

He had tried to find safety in other things but all failed him. It was

only upon God that he found contentment and peace of mind.

            With the beginning of verse 9 the situation in the psalm changes.

In the previous lines the author was uttering a conviction in private

devotion to the Lord. He now turns his attention to the community of

believers. Verses 9-13 contain some wisdom material. Israel understood

wisdom as a practical knowledge of the laws of life based on the

accumulation of personal experience. Man's welfare is the goal of

wisdom.38 The purpose of the wise man was to reflect upon the

practical affairs of everyday life and to offer the hearer(s) good

judgments and counsel. This is what the psalmist does here. "Trust

ye in him in all times oh people,39 pour ye out your heart before

him, God is a refuge for us (Selah)."

            The psalmist cannot keep the great discovery in his personal life to

himself. His experience must be shared. He found in his own

personal struggles that God alone was his salvation, and now he

must turn to help others in distress. What he found in his crisis he

knows will avail "in all situations." The heart of his teaching to the

people in these verses is "Trust40 ye in him in all times." The feeling of

being secure in God is the only certain support for human life.

            He continues to exhort them to "pour ye out your heart before

him"; that is, let your innermost thoughts and desires be made known

to him. This is one of the main concerns of the psalms of lament, not

with distress in and of itself, but taking human guilt and misery

before God. This is one of the qualities of genuine prayer. It is the

tendency of human nature to keep griefs to oneself. But until our

hearts become tender so that our feelings and desires flow forth

freely, we can never put our trust in the Lord.

            "God is a refuge for us." Just as he had been the personal refuge


            38 Von Rad, Old Testament Theology (London: Oliver and Boyd, 1967), Vol. 2, p. 421.

            39 The LXX reads "Trust ye upon him oh whole assembly of people."

            40 Jepsen says derivatives of the root have the meaning of "to feel secure," "be uncon-

cerned." Alfred Jepsen, "batach, " TDOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdman's Publishing Co.),

Vol. 2, p. 88.

                    Exegesis of Psalm 62                                   93


and stronghold of the king, so he is a refuge for all who trust in him.

            Trust in God is now contrasted with the futility of trusting in man.

"Only a vapor are the sons of men, the sons of men are a lie, in the

balances they go up they are all together made of breath."41 Man is

only a vapor and a lie. These are figures of what is evanescent,

worthless, and vain. When man is put on the balances with an empty

pan, he flies up.42 Man has no substance or weight; he is simply "made

of breath." It is only God who gives man "honor," "weight,"

"importance" (see vs. 8 above). The point is not so much that we have

nothing to fear from man as that we have nothing to hope from him.

There is no substance to man's power, or possessions, or achievements.

No man is worthy of our trust.

            The writer is still directing his thoughts to the community of believers

when he says, "Do not trust in oppression and in robbery do not

become vain, when wealth bears fruit do not set heart (upon them)."43

There is a definite parallel between "do not trust," "do not become

vain," and "do not set heart." The people are not to rely on oppressing

and robbing others to accomplish their object. They are not to depend

on wealth amassed by violence and wrong instead of trusting in the

Lord. It is a warning against the old temptation to follow might rather

than right. But not only that, when wealth increases through honesty

and good hard labor, they are not to place their trust in it.44

            In the two concluding verses the writer summarizes the essential

character of God. "One thing God has spoken two of these I have

heard that power belongs to God. And to thee oh Lord is steadfast

love, for thou will reward a man according to his deed." The phrase


            41 There is no evidence in other parallel passages (cf. Ps. 49:3) for a distinction between

ish and adham. The LXX translates both with anthropan. The NEB captures the

true meaning by translating it "all men."

            42 "Balances consisted of a beam either suspended on a cord held by the hand or

mounted on an upright support. A pan was suspended by cords from each end of the

beam" (O. R. Sellers "Weights and Measures," IDB (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962),

Vol. 4, p. 829. "A plummet was in front of the upright support so that when the

articles in the two pans were equal the exact vertical position of the plummet would

be evident. . . . The Egyptians envisioned the use of balances by gods passing judgment

on the deceased in the after life. There are scenes in which the heart of one being judged

before the gods is in balance against the ma'at feather, the emblem of truth," O. R.

Sellers, "Balances," IDB (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962), Vol. 1, pp. 342, 343.

            43 The verbs ba’ach, habhal, and shith are all Qal impf. 2nd ms. pl., but because of

context translating them in the imperative seems to make more sense. The structure

of this verse is an A-B-B-A-C-A pattern.

            44 Chayil means legitimate wealth as opposed to criminal extortion, Dahood 2:93.

94                                Restoration Quarterly


"One thing . . . two of these . . ." is a Hebrew idiom which means

"repeatedly" or "many times."45  It is designed to emphasize what is

said. Repeatedly he has learned this through his experiences from the

Lord: "that power belongs to God and to thee oh Lord is steadfast

love." As opposed to the pretended power of man, real power belongs

to God.46 To him also belongs steadfast love. The predominant meaning

of chesedh, when used of God, is faithfulness, firmness, his "sure

love.”47 "The most important of all the distinctive ideas of the OT is

God's steady and extraordinary persistence in continuing to love the

wayward Israel."48 This is what the psalmist proclaims to the people.

To him it is a fact of life that the steadfast love of the Lord never


            The result of God's power and steadfast love is that "thou wilt

reward a man according to his deed." The writer is not so much

preoccupied with the final judgment as with how God treats men in

general (cf. Rom. 2:6). Because God deals impartially with man, they

should confide in him. There is ground for confidence only in one who

is impartial and just.

            Man throughout time has relied on such things as financial security,

social prestige, military power, intellectual achievement, and personal


            45 Wolfgang M. W. Roth, "The Numerical Sequence x/x+ 1 in the Old Testament,"

Vetus Testamentum 12(1962), 300-311. He says the sequence is not equivalent to the

English "about," p. 300. It is a parallelism, either synonymous, synthetic, or

antithetic, p. 306. He says Ps. 62:12 refers to a rather indefinite numerical value,

p. 304.

            46 "’oz denotes the presence and significance of force or strength rather than its

exercise." In the majority of instances it refers to the power of God. In some cases it

denotes natural strength (cf. Deut. 8:17; Job 21:23) Wilhelm Michaelis. "Kratos," TDNT

(Grand Rapids: Eerdman's Publishing Co.),Vol. 3, p. 906.

            47 Norman Snaith, Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament (London: The Epworth Press,

1950), p. 95. Snaith surveys the use of the word chesedh by the kind and frequency

of other words that are paralleled with it (pp. 100-102). Out of a total of 60 passages 48

times it is paralleled with the idea of being firm, keeping faith and covenant. Nine times

it is paralleled with the idea of kindness. These are some of his results. Of the 43 cases

where the noun chesedh is linked by the copula with another noun 23 are with some form

of 'amen or 'emeth, 7 are berith. Of 18 cases of chesedh in parallelism 9 are with 'etneth

and 'emunah (Is. 16:5; Hosea 4:1; Micah 7:20; Pss. 26:3; 88:11; 89:2; 92:2; 117:2); 4 are

with the two righteous words tsadha and mishpat (Is. 57:1; Hosea 10:12; Micah 6:8;

Ps. 36:10). In contrast to this in Ps. 109:12 it is parallel to "have pity" and Ps. 77:9,

"compassion." "This definitely shows a preponderance in favor of the meaning 'firm'

'steadfast.' " At the same time it does not deny the element of "lovingkindness" (p. 101).

According to Zimmerli chesedh is especially developed in the Pss. Of its 237 instances

127 are in the Psalms. Walter Zimmerli "chesedh," TDNT (Grand Rapids: E.erdman's

Publishing Co.), Vol. 9, pp. 381-387.

            48 Snaith, p. 102.

                   Exegesis of Psalm 62                                   95


skill. But they all fall short. Only out of a confidence which comes

from experience with God can a man acquire composure and learn to

take difficulties in stride. Because of God's power and steadfast love

he only is our salvation.





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