Psalm 33 Study Notes


33:1-3 This is a typical beginning for a descriptive praise psalm, which has the two main elements: a call to praise (vv. 1-3) and a cause for praise (vv. 4-22). The relationship between the beginning of this psalm and the end of Ps 32 is evident in the use of righteous ones and upright. Since there is no title to this psalm, the connection is even more pronounced. Even though only the lyre and harp are mentioned, they probably represent all the musical instruments used for worship. A new song might be one newly composed for a special occasion, or it might mean a new experience of God’s acts through the singing of this psalm. Worship in Israel often involved “entering into history” in order to experience events as if they were happening at that moment.

33:4 God’s word (or revelation) is worthy of exaltation and praise because it is trustworthy (see note at 19:7-9).

33:5 Loving righteousness and justice means doing acts of righteousness and justice (99:4; Jr 9:24). They are not just abstract attributes but they involve actions, whether directed toward God or his people.

33:6 This verse and what follows specify this psalm as a creation hymn (along with Pss 8 and 104). Even though they refer to different things, the word of the Lord here and in v. 4 are related in that they both originate with God. The Lord of creation is the God of revelation. This is distinctive from other ancient world religions that had myths of creation involving a “creative word” but did not tie that act to any subsequent history. In the biblical text, the God of history who interacts with his people is the same God who spoke the world into existence (see note at v. 9). This brings together the general revelation of creation and the special revelation that God gave to his people (see note at 19:7-9).

33:7 The depths uses the same word (Hb tehom) as “watery depths” (Gn 1:2), only here it is plural. The gathering of the water in that context is the initial act of God’s forming and filling the earth with the separation of quantities of water above and below the expanse. Though some interpreters argue that this could describe the exodus event, the immediate context argues for creation.

33:8 By right of creation, the Lord is the God of all mankind; therefore, everyone should fear him. This is in fact the ultimate goal of the kingdom of God (see notes at 8:5-8; 22:27-31).

33:9 The phrase it came into being is similar to the recurring phrase “and it was so” in Gn 1.

33:10-11 These verses set up a contrast between what the nations plan and what God plans. This is similar to 2:1-3 where the nations intend to thwart God’s purposes, but it is instead God who frustrates their plans (Is 8:10). The Lord is sovereign and will see to it that his plans come to pass. The verb stands implies certainty (Pr 19:21; Is 14:24).

33:12 The nation . . . he has chosen—Israel—is in contrast to “the nations” in v. 10. On happy, see note at 1:1. The terms chosen and possession refer to divine election of the nation and its unique relationship to the Lord (Ex 19:5; Dt 7:6).

33:13-15 The omniscience of God is described as his looking down, observing, and gazing on the inhabitants of the earth. Even though his dwelling place is heaven, this does not mean that he is unconcerned with what is happening on earth, even if the nations and the enemies of Israel think this is the case (see note at 10:3-6). Moreover, he not only knows what is happening but he is actively involved in it. The word forms (Hb yzr) is the same word used in the creation account of God’s shaping man from the dust of the earth (Gn 2:7-8). This also connects the creative acts of God with his involvement in history.

33:16-17 Human weaponry is of no use if God does not support it (see note at 20:7-8).

33:18-19 Eye is in an emphatic position in v. 18. Literally it is “behold the eye,” emphasizing God’s close watch on his people. This is even more intense than the descriptions in vv. 13-15 since the Lord has a concern for his own people that is unique in comparison to the other nations. Here, as in the previous verses, it is not only his knowledge but also his activity that is in view to rescue his people and to keep them alive (protect them).

33:20 Shield represents protection and is often identified with the Lord himself (3:3; 18:30; 115:9; 144:2).