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Psalms: Chapter 21

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For the leader. A psalm of David.

1 2O LORD, the king rejoices in Your strength; how greatly he exults in Your victory! 3You have granted him the desire of his heart, have not denied the request of his lips. Selah. 4You have proffered him blessings of good things, have set upon his head a crown of fine gold. 5He asked You for life; You granted it; a long life, everlasting. 6Great is his glory through Your victory; You have endowed him with splendor and majesty. 7You have made him blessed forever, gladdened him with the joy of Your presence. 8For the king trusts in the LORD; Through the faithfulness of the Most High he will not be shaken. 9Your hand is equal to all Your enemies; Your right hand overpowers Your foes. 10You set them ablaze like a furnace a‐ Or “at the time of Your anger.” when You show Your presence. ‐a Or “at the time of Your anger.” The LORD in anger destroys them; fire consumes them. 11You wipe their offspring from the earth, their issue from among men. 12For they schemed against You; they laid plans, but could not succeed. 13 b‐ Meaning of Heb. uncertain. For You make them turn back ‐b Meaning of Heb. uncertain. by Your bows aimed at their face. 14Be exalted, O LORD, through Your strength; we will sing and chant the praises of Your mighty deeds.

Notes:

a‐a Or “at the time of Your anger.”

b‐b Meaning of Heb. uncertain.

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

8.1–36 :

Interlude D: Wisdom's selfpraise. Whereas the strange woman of ch 7 is to be shunned, (personified) wisdom is to be pursued and embraced. The structure of this welldesigned chapter is as follows: I. Introduction: the setting and call ( 1–3 ); II. Call to Attention ( 4–11 ); III. Wisdom's present state ( 12–21 ); IV. Wisdom's past ( 22–31 ); V. Call to Attention renewed ( 32–36 ). Wisdom is personified as a woman of nearly divine stature; see 1.20–33 n. There may be subtle erotic connotations (e.g., vv. 17, 35 ) that suggest the power of Wisdom's attractiveness. Wisdom calls to human beings, praises herself, promises rewards to her devotees, and tells mankind to listen to her, that is to say, to the wisdom in this book and wherever it may be found.

1–5 :

Wisdom calls for attention. In naturalistic terms, this is the voice of reason, heard in wisdom teachings and in the individual mind. Wisdom calls to people in the most prominent public places, including the city gates, where many of the city's commercial and legal transactions take place. Wisdom is international, offering her teachings to all mankind. She is even available to the simple and dullards, if they would just listen to her.

6–9 :

Just as the father in the Lectures extols the wisdom he is teaching, so does Lady Wisdom praise her own teachings.

10–11 :

Cf. 3.14–15 and 16.16 .

12–14 :

Prudence…knowledge and foresight, better, “cunning…knowledge of shrewdness.” The virtues in question are practical savvy and good sense. These useful faculties come with wisdom, as do resourcefulness and courage.

15–16 :

Insofar as rulers govern justly, they do so through wisdom.

17 :

To gain wisdom, one must love it, eagerly desiring to grasp its message. Without this love, even superficial learning is unlikely, and knowledge cannot be translated into action. Later, this was interpreted as love of Torah study, a principle inculcated in the postexilic Ps 119 .

18–21 :

Wisdom promises material rewards, but she also emphasizes that she is superior to gold and silver (as in 3.14–15 ) and that she bestows wealth only in honest ways.

22–26 :

Wisdom recounts her creation and her presence during the creation of the world. She was the very first of God's creations. An important Jewish interpretation, starting with Gen. Rab. 1.2, 5 and found in the Rashi to Gen 1.1 , uses Prov. ch 8 to argue that the Torah (identified with wisdom) was created before the world and was used by God in creating it.

22 :

Created me: Since ancient times, interpreters have disputed whether the verb “kanah” means “created” or “acquired.” The latter allows for the possibility that wisdom existed from eternity and was coeval with God. Some Christian groups preferred this, since they identified wisdom with the Logos, which was in turn identified with the Christ. It is, however, clear from v. 23 that wisdom is a created being. In fact, “kanah” refers to acquisition by any means, including creation, as here.

24 :

According to Gen. 1.2 , the deep (the primordial sea) existed before creation began. Wisdom insists that she preceded in existence even this most primordial of entities. I was brought forth: This word is usually used of birth. The background metaphor of divine parenthood is reinforced by v. 30 .

25 :

The mountains were thought to rest on foundations or on pillars set (miraculously, see Job 38.6 ) in the abyss or the underworld.

27–31 :

Wisdom declares that she was present when God produced the inhabited world.

27 :

The horizon is pictured as a circle engraved at the join of heaven and earth, as appears to be the case when one is at sea.

28 :

Heavens, actually, “clouds.” The paradox of God “firming up” the clouds (so that they stay in the sky) heightens the miraculousness of His deed.

29 :

In several creation traditions found outside of Genesis, the sea is ever trying to break forth and flood the earth, but God set its boundary (Ps 104.9 ), namely the beach (Jer. 5.22 ), which may also be imagined as a barred door (Job 38.8, 10 ). These mythological conceptions have Canaanite antecedents.

30 :

This is one of the most disputed verses in the Bible and has weighty theological implications. The word translated confidant is “’amon.” There are three basic ways of interpreting this word: (1) “Artisan” (which is elsewhere “’oman”). This translation implies that wisdom aided God in creation. In a similar vein, a midrash likens wisdom (equated with Torah) to a tool God used in creation, as an architect looks at a blueprint when constructing a palace (Gen. Rab. 1.2 ). (2) “Constant(ly), faithful(ly)”; “confidant.” (3) “Ward” or “nursling” (or as a verb, “growing up”). Wisdom was with God as His ward, like a child He was caring for. This fits the context best. Nowhere does the chapter imply that Lady Wisdom helped God create the earth. On the contrary, vv. 30–31 emphasize that she played while God worked. Wisdom's playing before God represents the “play” of the wise, which is study. Cf. Ps. 119.92 .

31 :

Just as God gets pleasure from wisdom, so does she delight in humankind.

32–36 :

Having established her unparalleled credentials, Lady Wisdom speaks as a mature lady and addresses her “sons.” Fortunate is he who obeys wisdom and eagerly goes to her house, which is any place where wisdom is taught.

35–36 :

The vital importance of loving wisdom. The finding of wisdom recalls the finding of a beloved woman; cf. 18.22. V. 36 states the principle that the evildoer is harmed by the evil he creates; cf. 1.19 . Those who hate wisdom are not just stupid, they are depraved. Their values are twisted. They may not realize it, but the things they love are really deadly.

Ps. 21 :

A blessing for the king, who will lead his nation to victory. A companion hymn to Ps. 20 sharing vocabulary and theme (cf. 20.5 and 21.3; 20.7c and 21.9b ). Vv. 1–7 rejoice in God's beneficence to the king; vv. 8–13 express trust that God will grant victory.

3 :

Selah, see 3.3 n.

5 :

A past request for the long life of the king was granted (1 Kings 3.14; Ps. 61.6 ).

6 :

Glory…splendor and majesty, the nimbus of light surrounding gods and kings (Ps. 8.6 ). Through the victory that God grants, the king is enhanced.

8 :

This abundant royal blessing is here predicated on royal obedience.

10 :

For the fiery wrath of God, see Isa. 29.6; 66.15–16 . The image of God's blazing fury burning up the enemy is common, and may reflect the reality of war in which cities were set ablaze.

11 :

See Ps. 37.38 .

12 :

The plots against Israel are plots against God; cf. Ps. 83.5–6 .

14 :

God's strength frames the psalm (see v. 2 ) and is the source of the king's strength.

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