Psalm 32 Study Notes


Ps 32 title Maskil may be derived from a root word meaning “insight.” For this reason, some have suggested that psalms with this title deal with wisdom or instruction. The problem is that many of the psalms bearing this title do not have teaching elements (even though this psalm does have them in vv. 8-9). It is also possible to connect the word with the idea of “skill,” which is closely tied to the OT concept of “wisdom.” In this sense, the title refers to a “skillful” or an “artistic” psalm.

32:1-2 On joyful, see note at 1:1. Four different Hebrew terms are used for sin in these verses, highlighting different aspects of sin: (1) pesha‘ (translated transgression) has the basic idea of rebellion, (2) hata’ah (translated sin) is a more general term referring to a deliberate offense, (3) ‘awon (translated iniquity) has the idea of going astray, and (4) remiyyah (translated deceit) emphasizes falsehood or even hypocrisy. There are also three different Hebrew verbs associated with the first three of these terms for sin, also showing different aspects of forgiveness: (1) the root ns’ (translated forgiven) is literally “lifted up” and emphasizes the burden of sin being lifted from the person, (2) the root kasah (translated covered) means to hide or cover something that is offensive, and (3) the root chashav (translated charge) can mean “reckon” or “regard,” but in legal contexts it means to reckon as liable for punishment (impute with guilt).


Hebrew pronunciation [mas KEEL]
CSB translation Maskil, song of instruction
Uses in Psalms 14
Uses in the OT 14
Focus passage Psalm 32 superscription

Maskiyl appears in the superscriptions of thirteen psalms as Maskil, and in Ps 47:7 as song of wisdom. The noun describes a specific type of psalm and in the superscriptions is always associated with an individual or group, who evidently were the songs’ composers or custodians. Maskiyl is formally identical with the causative participle of sakal (be wise, instruct). Often translated psalm, hymn, psalm of praise, or skillful psalm, maskiyl has been thought to imply a memory passage, didactic or contemplative poem, or artful or wisdom song. No single explanation of maskiyl may adequately explain all occurrences. The derivation of maskiyl from sakal favors the theory that maskiyl involved the act of instructing. But sakal could occasionally connote skill, and is used that way of Levitical musicians who performed skillfully (2Ch 30:22). So a Maskil may have been a psalm noted for its instructive value or musical difficulty.

32:3-4 The silence here is quite specific—not confessing sin (v. 5). The references to bones . . . brittle . . . groaning, and strength . . . drained represent physical manifestations of a person who is suffering (see note at 31:9-10). The hand of God being heavy represents God’s wrath and punishment (38:2; 39:10), but here it is specifically due to the conviction of sin.

32:5 In contrast to the suffering in vv. 3-4, the confession of sin brings relief because God forgave the guilt of sin, which is another way of describing forgiveness. Guilt is not a subjective feeling but liability for punishment in a legal sense. Mere removal of the feelings about sin is clearly not intended, since God brings the conviction. What is needed is forgiveness (vv. 1-2).

32:6-7 Floodwaters represent the overwhelming trouble or disaster that the psalmist was facing as a result of his sin (18:16; Is 28:2,17; 30:28). The hiding place is not used in the same sense as in other psalms where it means protection from enemies. Here it is deliverance from the overwhelming guilt that was brought about by God’s reaction to the psalmist’s own sin.

32:8-9 This is a wisdom section in the psalm as evidenced by the terms instruct and counsel. This might be related to its designation as a Maskil (see note at Ps 32 title). A horse and mule need to be controlled in order to be useful to people. Otherwise, they are too obstinate and will not obey their masters. In the human world, they are best compared to fools (Pr 26:3).

32:10 This proverb means that although the one who trusts the Lord may find troubles, the Lord’s faithful love will always be there.

32:11 After the psalmist confessed and experienced forgiveness, he became a conduit for God’s praise and called on others to do the same (see note at 30:11-12).