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Psalm 34:9-14 - Turning aside evil and only seeking good

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9 Fear Yahweh, you that are his saints, *

for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger, *

but those who seek Yahweh lack nothing that is good.

11 Come, children, and listen to me; *

I will teach you the fear of Yahweh.

12 Who among you loves life *

and desires long life to enjoy prosperity?

13 Keep your tongue from evil-speaking *

and your lips from lying words.

14 Turn from evil and do good; *

seek peace and pursue it.


This is the companion Psalm to the Track 2 Old Testament option from Proverbs, which is a song of praise to the goddess wisdom. If chosen, this will be read aloud in unison or sung by a cantor on the twelfth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 15], Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. They will be partnered with the Ephesians reading that has Paul writing, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit.” All will accompany the Gospel reading from John, where Jesus said, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.”

Last Sunday the first eight verses of this song were read. Today the next six verses are sung. With these verses now being attached to Proverb 9, where Solomon had the audacity to praise the “woman of wisdom,” with the feminine stated repeatedly as “she” and “her,” it is most important to see how David expressly sang of Yahweh [not some generic Lord]. To make that point clear, I have reinstated the three uses of “Yahweh,” striping this song bare of “Lord.” Hopefully, one can see how Solomon’s lust for some goddess of wisdom [called by different specific names in different mythologies] would equate to such a generality, as generalities are all dead gods.

In verse nine is the Hebrew word “qə·ḏō·šāw,” from “qadosh,” which has been translated as “saints.” The word means “sacred, holy, or consecrated,” which is not a distinction of anyone who has not married their souls to Yahweh. Thus, David was saying that a “fear” of not having Yahweh in one’s life leads one’s soul to that marriage, thereby transforming one into a “saint,” or one who acts “holy.”

In the second half of verse nine, David sings that all souls who do marry Yahweh and become His saints will “lack nothing.” Here, the Hebrew word “maḥ·sō·wr” is written, rooted in “machzor,” where the translation of “lack nothing” is better stated as “need” or “poverty.” The intent says all needs will be met; and, one will never feel impoverished by the world temptations of things, which force human souls to fear death more than Yahweh. David meant the presence of Yahweh through marriage is a greater reward than all the unnecessary things the world offers, and Yahweh will provide a means for all needs.

When verse ten sings, “The young lions lack and suffer hunger,” this is metaphor for the drive to succeed that younger humans sell their souls for. The lusts for worldly goods has then overextending to the point of never having enough to suit their wants and desires. The use of “hunger” is metaphor for these lusts that lead to sin; and, this is not relative to physical needs for food. The deeper meaning of “hunger” is their souls “lack” spiritual food, because they are so involved in placing themselves above others, making self all-important.

The second half of verse ten then sings that those who “seek Yahweh” will find nothing lacking in their souls. When Yahweh is merges with one’s soul, within one’s flesh, then that presence brings joy and peace, which makes whatever one has be “good.”

Verse eleven then turns the focus on “children,” where the Hebrew written actually says “sons” [from “ḇā·nîm,” plural of “ben”]. For Israelites, education of one’s laws was home taught, with local rabbis or teachers assigned for basic intellectual development of children [sons more than daughters]. In that system of schooling, the Psalms of David were taught and learned. Thus, David is speaking to the “sons” of Israel, as their king, teaching them in son to fear Yahweh. To be taught to fear Yahweh was to be taught to sacrifice one’s soul for spiritual gains, so one does not act like a wild animal that preys on the weak.

Verse twelve then sings a question, asking “Who among you loves life and desires long life to enjoy prosperity?” In that, the first part makes a statement that focuses on “mankind” [“hā·’îš,” from “ish”] that asserts that being “alive” [“ḥay·yîm,” from “chay”] brings the flesh all the “pleasures” [“he·ḥā·p̄êṣ,” from “chaphets”] of the world. It is this “love of life” that makes one fear death. The question is then turned to the “days” [“yā·mîm,” the plural of “yom”], where the NRSV evades the question of life being most desirable in the light, when one feels more alive. The question then posed by David is: Why would one not desire the light of day to always surround one’s being, because the light of day makes all the good be easily seen?”

Verse thirteen then sings of the benefits of the light of truth, which is the eternal “day” that comes when one’s soul has married Yahweh and been promised eternal life after death. The translation that says, “Keep your tongue from evil-speaking and your lips from lying words,” those are the actions of darkness. Such words would rarely be spoken in the light of day, face-to-face with another. The light of day exposes the truth; so, the presence of Yahweh makes telling the truth a standard, based on a fear of losing the promise of eternal life in heaven, for one’s soul.

The last verse in this selection then sings, “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”

It is in this verse that the concepts of “good and evil” are presented. This is relative to what young Solomon asked the voice in his dream to receive: the ability to determine good from evil. This becomes the paradox of two trees in the center of the garden that Yahweh told His children they could only eat the fruit of one. The tree of life is then the source of “completeness, soundness, welfare, and peace” [“shalom”]; and, that fruit is what one must “seek.” To “turn aside evil” means to receive the Spirit of Yahweh within one’s soul [the truth of the tree of life], so one will always only do good, with there being no need to know what “evil” is. To seek to know evil is to become evil, and thereby be cast out of the promise for eternal life.

As a Psalm chosen to partner with the Proverb that sings praises to the goddess of wisdom, where simple folk are mocked for not desiring to be wise [on a human level of being], the lesson to learn here is David taught the sons of Israel not to fear death, which is rooted in the young lions always being starved of spiritual food. This lesson then aptly applies to the Gospel reading in John, where Jesus said he was the bread of life. To eat that spiritual food – and become Jesus resurrected – means to fear Yahweh and turn aside evil ways. When ministry is the work that must be done to gain eternal life, one needs no big brain to figure out the best way to reach that goal. The smarter one thinks one is, the further away from the light of truth one strays.

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