Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 34
Posted by Dim Bulb on August 16, 2012
Please note that the spelling of names follows the old Grecianized form.
PEACE AND JOY IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD
THIS is the fourth of the alphabetical psalms. As in Psalm 25, the last verse is supernumerary, and a liturgical addition; as in Psalm 25, also, the sixth or vau-verse is wanting. The poem consists of two parts. The first (Ps 34:2-1 1) thanks the Lord for gracious help and rescue given to a loyal and lowly worshipper; the second (Ps 34:12-21) is didactic, reminding one of the Book of Proverbs. The poem teaches generally that happiness in life is to be attained only through God-fearingness of conduct. The good may, indeed, fall into misfortune, and be overtaken by grief, but in the end, the Lord brings them help, and makes their faces radiant with gladness.
The general structure and tone of the psalm are regarded by most modern critics as indicating a late date. The title in verse 1 ascribes the origin of the poem to the period of David’s life when he fled to the court of the Philistine king, Achish of Gath (see footnote 1). This first verse is, undoubtedly, a very ancient testimony to the Davidic origin of the psalm, and the gnomic style of the second part of the poem is no genuine indication of a postexilic date. It is true, however, that the references in the poem are strangely general if they are really due to David’s experiences in the Court of Achish. The psalm is intended to serve as an encouragement and as a consolation to the pious (Sancti), the God-fearing Israelites. The “rich”‘ and “evildoers” and “sinners” may be either foreigners (and, therefore, foes of the Israelite people), or godless Israelites.
Footnote 1~Cf. 1 Sam 21:10-22 where the king is called Achish, not, as here,
Aehimelek. The Septuagint, Massora, and old Latin read more correctly, Abimelech. Possibly Abimelech was a general Hebrew designation for kings. Two different kings of Gerar are called Abimelech in Gen 20:2 and Gen 26. Cf. the parallel cases of Pharaoh and Minos. Abimelech, which means “My father is king,” or “father of the king” would be a suitable designation of foreign kings whose precise names were of comparative unimportance.