Restoration Quarterly 17.2 (1974) 85-98.
Copyright © 1974 by Restoration Quarterly, cited with permission.
Exegesis of Psalm 62
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 (
Co., 1966) Vol. 1, p. 68; E. A. Leslie, The
p. 548; R. E. Murphy, "Psalms," The
Jerome Biblical Commentary (
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
1965), pp. 118-123.
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
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
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.
See H. C. Leupold, Expositions of the
1959), p. 458; cf. A. F. Kirkpartrick,
The Book of Psalms (
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
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.’ "
Sigmund Mowinckel, The Psalms in
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
God is good to
that seems obvious to the majority of people, God alone is able to give
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
the Lord (vss. 1 & 2). In turn, he exhorts the people of
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,
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
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 (
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
of his deliverance of
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
In a sense all
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
Publishing Co.), Vol. 7, p. 973.
20 BDB, p. 447, and Alan Richardson, "Salvation," Interpreter's Dictionary of the
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
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.
24 ‘ish, 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.
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
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
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."
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
90 Restoration Quarterly
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
artificial protection afforded by the rocky landscape of
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 (
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
Verses 9-13 contain some wisdom material.
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-
Alfred Jepsen, "batach, " TDOT
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
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
(O. R. Sellers "Weights and Measures," IDB (
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
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
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,
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
47 Norman Snaith, Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament (
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
are in the Psalms. Walter Zimmerli "chesedh,"
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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