Always Care, Never Kill

Always Care, Never Kill: How Physician-Assisted Suicide Endangers the Weak, Corrupts Medicine, Compromises the Family, and Violates Human Dignity and Equality by Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D.

Allowing physician-assisted suicide would be a grave mistake for four reasons. First, it would endanger the weak and vulnerable. Second, it would corrupt the practice of medicine and the doctor–patient relationship. Third, it would compromise the family and intergenerational commitments. And fourth, it would betray human dignity and equality before the law. Instead of helping people to kill themselves, we should offer them appropriate medical care and human presence. We should respond to suffering with true compassion and solidarity. Doctors should help their patients to die a dignified death of natural causes, not assist in killing. Physicians are always to care, never to kill.

With PAS, a doctor prescribes the deadly drug, but the patient self-administers it. While most activists in the United States publicly call only for PAS, they have historically advocated not only PAS, but also euthanasia: the intentional killing of the patient by a doctor.

Although the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled in two unanimous decisions that there is no constitutional right to PAS, three states permit it by statute: Oregon, Washington, and Vermont. Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are allowed in three European countries—the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg—and Switzerland allows assisted suicide.

The evidence from these jurisdictions, particularly the Netherlands, which has over 30 years of experience, suggests that safeguards to ensure effective control have proved inadequate. In the Netherlands, several official, government-sponsored surveys have disclosed both that in thousands of cases, doctors have intentionally administered lethal injections to patients without a request and that in thousands of cases, they have failed to report cases to the authorities.

In sum, a family member or friend who might benefit financially from the death of a patient may act as a witness that the patient is voluntarily requesting the lethal prescription, and doctors who support the ideology of death and have never before met the patient (or the patient’s family) can judge the patient to be “qualified” under the law. Finally, at the time of administering the deadly drug, there are no safeguards to ensure voluntariness or competence or to guard against coercion. Such a measure woefully fails to protect autonomy.

Keown confirms that “the undisputed empirical evidence from the Netherlands and Belgium shows widespread breach of the safeguards, not least the sizeable incidence of non-voluntary euthanasia and of non-reporting.” In October of 2013, three judges of the High Court of Ireland voiced the same concern: “[T]he incidence of legally assisted death without explicit request in the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland is strikingly high.” And the numbers of those assisted in committed suicide keep growing.

Part of the reason for these troubling statistics is that any purported legal safeguards can be and have been abused, and over time the logic of a “right to die” is extended to ever-wider groups of patients, including the incompetent.

The heart of medicine is healing. Doctors cannot heal by assisting patients to kill themselves or by killing them. They rightly seek to eliminate disease and alleviate pain and suffering. They may not, however, seek to eliminate the patient. Allowing doctors to assist in killing threatens to fundamentally corrupt the defining goal of the profession of medicine.

Disability groups note that “numerous studies have demonstrated that physicians underestimate the quality of life of people with disabilities compared to our own assessments.”

These stories are not isolated incidents. Dr. Hendin reports that a study of Dutch hospitals found that “doctors and nurses reported that more requests for euthanasia came from families than from patients themselves. The investigator concluded that the families, the doctors, and the nurses were involved in pressuring patients to request euthanasia.” The same pressure is evident in the limited places where physician-assisted suicide is legal in the United States. Oregon Health Authority research found that 40 percent of those who were assisted with suicide cited being a burden on family or friends and caregivers as their motivation to end their lives.

The D.C. assisted suicide bill, like most, attempts to define which lives are unworthy of legal protection and thus eligible for physician assistance in killing. That definition is unavoidably a statement of who is unworthy of legal protection. There is no way around it. While the evidence discussed in the first section of this paper indicates that its proposed safeguards would fail to ensure effective control, even the attempt to define which lives are eligible for suicide is a grave injustice: It violates human dignity and equality before the law. It declares that some lives matter less than others.

As the joint amicus brief notes, “Assisted suicide singles out some people with disabilities, those labeled ‘terminal’ or very severely impaired, for different treatment than other suicidal people receive.” Government policy should seek to respect the innate dignity of the disabled by eliminating every form of unjust discrimination against them, not by expressly approving the worst form of discrimination of all.

Doctors should help their patients die a dignified natural death, but doctors should not assist in killing or self-killing. Physicians are always to care, never to kill.

Physician-assisted suicide endangers the weak and marginalized in society. Where PAS has been allowed, safeguards that were put in place to minimize this risk have proved inadequate and over time have been weakened or eliminated altogether.

Introducing PAS changes the culture in which medicine is practiced. It corrupts the profession of medicine by permitting the tools of healing to be used as techniques for killing. It also distorts the doctor–patient relationship by reducing patients’ trust of doctors and doctors’ undivided commitment to the healing of their patients. Physician-assisted suicide also creates perverse incentives for insurance providers and the financing of health care.

Worse yet, PAS negatively affects our entire culture. The temptation to view elderly or disabled family members as burdens will increase, as will the temptation for elderly and disabled family members to view themselves as burdens. Instead of solidarity through civil society and true compassion, PAS creates quick-fix, discriminatory, and lethal solutions.

The most profound injustice of PAS is that it violates human dignity and denies equality before the law. Every human being has intrinsic dignity and is the subject of immeasurable worth. No natural right to PAS exists, and arguments for such a right are incoherent. A legal system that sought to vindicate a right to assisted suicide would jeopardize the real natural right to life for all of its citizens.

For all of these reasons, citizens and policymakers need to resist the push for physician-assisted suicide.

Re: Teaching Doubt

Some comments on the article “Teaching Doubt” by new atheist scientist Lawrence Krauss:

As a scientist who also spends a fair amount of time in the public arena, if I am asked if our understanding of the Big Bang conflicts with the idea of a six-thousand-year-old universe, I face a choice: I can betray my scientific values, or encourage that person to doubt his or her own beliefs. More often than you might think, teaching science is inseparable from teaching doubt.

Doubt about one’s most cherished beliefs is, of course, central to science: the physicist Richard Feynman stressed that the easiest person to fool is oneself. But doubt is also important to non-scientists.

I get the sense that for many new atheist types the terms “doubt” and “skepticism” are little more than signals to others that they are part of a group that denies the existence of God, the supernatural, and the paranormal. It is often also a signal that they see themselves as pro-science. But this same group is often intolerant of those who, from their perspective, doubt the wrong things.

Note the tension in how Krauss wants the public to doubt religious claims but is upset when it doubts scientific claims. He foolishly thinks that by promoting doubt the reader will end up doubting the “right” things but not the “wrong” things. This touches on a problem with many new atheists, namely, the tendency to tear things down but not to build things up. A positive epistemology of some kind needs to be promoted.

It’s good to be skeptical, especially about ideas you learn from perceived authority figures.

On the one hand, scientists are authority figures regarding science so you’d think we should be especially skeptical of them. On the other hand, Krauss is disappointed when the public is skeptical of claims made by scientists.

One conclusion we might draw [from studies suggesting ideology can hinder the evaluation of evidence] is that we ought to resist ideology in the first place. If we want to raise citizens who are better at making evidence-based judgments, we need to start early, making skepticism and doubt part of the experience that shapes their identities from a young age.

Skepticism and doubt are only good to the extant that they prevent one from holding false beliefs. They become a hindrance when they prevent one from holding true beliefs. Someone interested in the truth has to think about his epistemology carefully. There are no easy answers of the kind Krauss is peddling.

Meanwhile, earlier this year, an AP-GfK poll revealed that less than a third of Americans are willing to express confidence in the reality of human-induced climate change, evolution, the age of the Earth, and the existence of the Big Bang. Among those surveyed, there was a direct correlation between religious conviction and an unwillingness to accept the results of empirical scientific investigation. Religious beliefs vary widely, of course — not all faiths, or all faithful people, are the same. But it seems fair to say that, on average, religious faith appears to be an obstacle to understanding the world.

Surprise! The man who promotes skepticism and doubt is upset that Americans doubt certain scientific claims he believes to be true.1 And how scientific is it to reach such a broad conclusion about religious faith on the basis of a poll of Americans on four scientific claims? Is someone’s ideology hindering his evaluation of the evidence?

Consider Roy Moore, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, famous for refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from his courtroom wall: in a recent speech, he declared that the First Amendment only applies to Christians.

If you follow the link to MSNBC and watch the video you’ll see that Moore does not claim the First Amendment only applies to Christians. But how could anyone doubt a scientist?

A new generation is always more comfortable dispensing with old ideas than are its predecessors; in this sense, we are never more than a generation away from altering long-held beliefs. The battle for gay marriage, for instance, has already been won because it is simply a non-issue for young people. Is it naive to imagine that we can overcome centuries of religious intransigence in a single generation through education?

Earlier in the piece Krauss wrote: “A provocative novel that presents a completely foreign world view, or a history lesson exploring the vastly different mores of the past, can push you to skeptically reassess your inherited view of the universe.” I have to wonder what percentage of young people hold their view on gay marriage because it is a view they “inherited” from the culture around them.

We need to equip our children with tools to avoid the mistakes of the past while constructing a better, and more sustainable, world for themselves and future generations. We won’t do that by dodging inevitable and important questions about facts and faith. Instead of punting on those questions, we owe it to the next generation to plant the seeds of doubt.

The problem being that skepticism and doubt, by themselves, are tools of destruction. What we ought to do for future generations, what is good, and what is evil are moral questions. Doubt and skepticism alone are not up to the task of constructing a better future.


  1. For the record, I accept the view of mainstream scientists on evolution, the age of the earth, and the big bang. The “reality of human-induced climate change” is vague enough to drive a bus through, so, whether I accept that depends on what, exactly, is meant. 

Psalm 31

Notes (NET Translation)

For the music director; a psalm of David.

1 In you, O LORD, I have taken shelter! Never let me be humiliated! Vindicate me by rescuing me!

2 Listen to me! Quickly deliver me! Be my protector and refuge, a stronghold where I can be safe!

3 For you are my high ridge and my stronghold; for the sake of your own reputation you lead me and guide me.

4 You will free me from the net they hid for me, for you are my place of refuge.

5 Into your hand I entrust my life; you will rescue me, O LORD, the faithful God.

Jesus uses v 5a in Luke 23:46 before dying. This is not a resignation to fate but rather a statement of trust in God’s ability to deliver and protect.

The psalmist sought (v 18) and received deliverance from death and trusted in the coming of such deliverance; Jesus, on the other hand, gave expression to the same statement of trust as he died. He anticipated not deliverance from death, but trusted God even in dying and death (a trust that was later fulfilled in resurrection). It is in the light of the use of the psalm in the words of Jesus that its transformation for contemporary faith becomes clear. The psalmist prayed for life, for deliverance from death, and that is the psalm’s fundamental and legitimate sense. But in the context of resurrection faith, the psalm may also be used as a prayer in death, expressing trust and commitment to the life lying beyond the grave. It was a perspective denied to the psalmist, but follows naturally from the use of his words in the mouth of Jesus.1

6 I hate those who serve worthless idols, but I trust in the LORD.

7 I will be happy and rejoice in your faithfulness, because you notice my pain and you are aware of how distressed I am.

8 You do not deliver me over to the power of the enemy; you enable me to stand in a wide open place.

9 Have mercy on me, for I am in distress! My eyes grow dim from suffering. I have lost my strength.

10 For my life nears its end in pain; my years draw to a close as I groan. My strength fails me because of my sin, and my bones become brittle.

The LXX and Sym read “because of my weakness” instead of “because of my sin.”

If people are inclined to assume that trouble always links with sin or that no one can ever truly claim to be committed to God, LXX reminds them that the former is not so and that the latter can be. If people are inclined to exclude or forget the possibility that all our lives are affected by our wrongdoing and that our trouble can be increased by it, MT reminds them of that.2

11 Because of all my enemies, people disdain me; my neighbors are appalled by my suffering — those who know me are horrified by my condition; those who see me in the street run away from me.

12 I am forgotten, like a dead man no one thinks about; I am regarded as worthless, like a broken jar.

13 For I hear what so many are saying, the terrifying news that comes from every direction. When they plot together against me, they figure out how they can take my life.

14 But I trust in you, O LORD! I declare, “You are my God!”

15 You determine my destiny! Rescue me from the power of my enemies and those who chase me.

16 Smile on your servant! Deliver me because of your faithfulness!

17 O LORD, do not let me be humiliated, for I call out to you! May evil men be humiliated! May they go wailing to the grave!

The situation is one in which there has to be shame somewhere: either the suppliant or the enemies are faithless people. Thus the converse of a plea not to be shamed is a plea that the enemies may have that experience as their accusations are shown to be false.3

18 May lying lips be silenced — lips that speak defiantly against the innocent with arrogance and contempt!

19 How great is your favor, which you store up for your loyal followers! In plain sight of everyone you bestow it on those who take shelter in you.

20 You hide them with you, where they are safe from the attacks of men; you conceal them in a shelter, where they are safe from slanderous attacks.

21 The LORD deserves praise for he demonstrated his amazing faithfulness to me when I was besieged by enemies.

22 I jumped to conclusions and said, “I am cut off from your presence!” But you heard my plea for mercy when I cried out to you for help.

23 Love the LORD, all you faithful followers of his! The LORD protects those who have integrity, but he pays back in full the one who acts arrogantly.

24 Be strong and confident, all you who wait on the LORD!

Bibliography

Craigie, Peter C., and Marvin E. Tate. Psalms 1-50. Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004.

Goldingay, John. Psalms: Volume 1: Psalms 1-41. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 2006.

Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.

VanGemeren, Willem. Psalms. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008.


  1. Craigie 2004, p. 263 
  2. Goldingay 2006, loc. 8879-8881 
  3. Goldingay 2006, loc. 8944-8946 

Psalm 30

Notes (NET Translation)

A psalm – a song used at the dedication of the temple; by David.

The Hebrew translated “temple” literally means “house.” It could refer to God’s house or David’s house (palace, dynasty).

1 I will praise you, O LORD, for you lifted me up, and did not allow my enemies to gloat over me.

2 O LORD my God, I cried out to you and you healed me.

3 O LORD, you pulled me up from Sheol; you rescued me from among those descending into the grave.

4 Sing to the LORD, you faithful followers of his; give thanks to his holy name.

5 For his anger lasts only a brief moment, and his good favor restores one’s life. One may experience sorrow during the night, but joy arrives in the morning.

6 In my self-confidence I said, “I will never be upended.”

[T]he suppliant looks back to when things were fine, literally, “in my ease/prosperity” (bĕšalwî). I follow LXX and Jerome in taking this as an objective statement about how things actually were (cf. Rashi). Modern translators and commentators understand it to suggest complacency, but there is no basis for that in the usage of related words (this particular form is a hapax). There seemed no reason why that state of God-given well-being should not continue forever. “I could not imagine anything tripping me up.” While fall down (môṭ) can imply the false confidence of a faithless person (10:6), or the commitment of the faithful person (15:5), it most often refers to the security of the person who belongs to Yhwh (16:8; 21:7 [8]; 46:5 [6]; 62:2, 6 [3, 7]; 125:1). Again, there is thus no reason to take the verb to suggest that the suppliant had lapsed into false self-confidence.1

7 O LORD, in your good favor you made me secure. Then you rejected me and I was terrified.

That God put the psalmist in a secure position further indicates that he was not in a state of false self-confidence. The Hebrew translated “you rejected me” literally means “you hid your face”. God had withdrawn his blessing and protection.

8 To you, O LORD, I cried out; I begged the Lord for mercy:

9 “What profit is there in taking my life, in my descending into the Pit? Can the dust of the grave praise you? Can it declare your loyalty?

10 Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me! O LORD, deliver me!”

11 Then you turned my lament into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and covered me with joy.

12 So now my heart will sing to you and not be silent; O LORD my God, I will always give thanks to you.

Bibliography

Craigie, Peter C., and Marvin E. Tate. Psalms 1-50. Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004.

Goldingay, John. Psalms: Volume 1: Psalms 1-41. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 2006.

Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.

VanGemeren, Willem. Psalms. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008.


  1. Goldingay 2006, loc. 8591-8598 

Psalm 29

Notes (NET Translation)

A psalm of David.

The LXX adds an additional comment in the superscription associating the psalm with the Feast of Tabernacles. In rabbinic tradition, it belonged to the Feast of Weeks instead.1

1 Acknowledge the LORD, you heavenly beings, acknowledge the LORD’s majesty and power!

The Hebrew translated “heavenly beings” literally means “sons of gods”.

The use of the word corresponds to that in other Middle Eastern languages. There it can connote “not only major deities but also a wide variety of other phenomena: monstrous cosmic enemies; demons; some living kings; dead kings or the dead more generally; deities’ images and standards as well as standing stones; and other cultic items and places” — in fact, anything that is not regular humanity. We therefore need to distinguish between English use of the word “god” and Middle Eastern use of terms such as these. The OT does not tell us how these divine beings came into existence and in what sense they are “children of gods/children of God,” though Ps. 82:7 does assert that despite this status they can “die like human beings.” Hence, as well as being subordinate to Yhwh, they are metaphysically different from Yhwh, who is the sole God with no possible beginning and no possible end.

Although Ps. 29 formally addresses these divine beings, its real audience may rather be Israelites inclined to worship other deities, as most Israelites were for much of OT times. In urging the divine beings to give honor to Yhwh, it is placing this exhortation before such Israelites.2

2 Acknowledge the majesty of the LORD’s reputation! Worship the LORD in holy attire!

The Hebrew translated “reputation” literally means “name”. It may be that the heavenly beings are to dress in holy attire.

3 The LORD’s shout is heard over the water; the majestic God thunders, the LORD appears over the surging water.

Baal, the Canaanite weather god, was associated with the storm and his voice (shout) was identified with thunder. The psalmist adopts this language in his description of the true God. The forces of nature commonly attributed to Baal really belong to Yahweh.

4 The LORD’s shout is powerful, the LORD’s shout is majestic.

In stories told by Israel’s contemporaries, the divine beings often had trouble asserting authority over such primordial entities [such as the sea]. The psalm urges the divine beings to recognize Yhwh’s authority because Yhwh had no such difficulty. Like an authoritative teacher entering an unruly classroom, Yhwh spoke, and the forces that were so brave and outspoken hushed.3

5 The LORD’s shout breaks the cedars, the LORD shatters the cedars of Lebanon.

6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf and Sirion like a young ox.

Sirion is Mt. Hermon (Deut 3:9). Relative to the psalmist, Lebanon and Sirion are located to the north.

[The psalmist] has taken two symbols of power and strength — “cedars” (v 5) and the mountainous area of “Lebanon/Sirion” — and illustrated in his poetry the weakness of those great symbols of strength in relationship to the Lord’s strength (cf. עז, “strength,” v 1). The famous cedars of Lebanon are easily broken by the Lord’s voice; the immobile mountains of Lebanon skip like calves frightened at the sound of a voice. The language here is not drawn from Canaanite (Phoenician or Ugaritic) texts, but takes Canaanite symbols of stability and mocks them through a demonstration of their instability in the context of the Lord’s thundering voice.4

7 The LORD’s shout strikes with flaming fire.

This verse alludes to lightning.5

8 The LORD’s shout shakes the wilderness, the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

Relative to the psalmist, Kadesh in Sinai is located to the south. But this might be a reference to Kadesh on the Orontes to the north.

9 The LORD’s shout bends the large trees and strips the leaves from the forests. Everyone in his temple says, “Majestic!”

In this psalm the preceding images point to God’s majesty more than to his judgment. None of this activity is directed towards human sinners. The “everyone” of this verse would seem to be the heavenly beings of v 1.

10 The LORD sits enthroned over the engulfing waters, the LORD sits enthroned as the eternal king.

The only other biblical usage of the Hebrew term mabbuwl (“engulfing waters”) is in the story of Noah’s flood.

The allusion to the Genesis narrative is a part of the transformation of mythological language in Ps 29:10; the deified flood or sea of Canaanite tradition has become merely the inanimate tool of the Lord. Nevertheless, the enthronement of the Lord, expressed in the powerful imagery of v 10, conveys clearly the concept of the Lord as victorious, not only over chaotic forces in general, but over Baal, the conqueror of chaos, in particular; God’s power is greater than the greatest power known to the Canaanite foes.6

11 The LORD gives his people strength; the LORD grants his people security.

“There is quietness within the storm for those who belong to the people of God.”7

Bibliography

Craigie, Peter C., and Marvin E. Tate. Psalms 1-50. Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004.

Goldingay, John. Psalms: Volume 1: Psalms 1-41. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 2006.

Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.

VanGemeren, Willem. Psalms. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008.


  1. VanGemeren 2008, p. 292 
  2. Goldingay 2006, loc. 8321-8330 
  3. Goldingay 2006, loc. 8359-8361 
  4. Craigie 2004, p. 247 
  5. Kidner 2008, p. 143 
  6. Craigie 2004, p. 249 
  7. VanGemeren 2008, p. 296 

Psalm 28

Notes (NET Translation)

By David.

1 To you, O LORD, I cry out! My protector, do not ignore me! If you do not respond to me, I will join those who are descending into the grave.

2 Hear my plea for mercy when I cry out to you for help, when I lift my hands toward your holy temple!

The word for the innermost sanctuary is debir (mistranslated as ‘oracle’ in AV, RV), a name which first appears, apart from here, in accounts of Solomon’s Temple. This need not mean that the psalm is later than David; only that the word had become the standard term for the ark’s abode by Solomon’s time, which suggests that it was in use well before this.1

3 Do not drag me away with evil men, with those who behave wickedly, who talk so friendly to their neighbors, while they plan to harm them!

The suppliant never quite complains about being under attack, and it may be that this plea simply concerns the possibility of being somehow caught up undeservedly in the fate that comes to faithless people deservedly, or it may imply the experience of being accused of wrongdoing, which brings that danger.2

4 Pay them back for their evil deeds! Pay them back for what they do! Punish them!

5 For they do not understand the LORD’s actions, or the way he carries out justice. The LORD will permanently demolish them.

In principle, when there has been tearing down, there can be building up, as Yhwh affirms to Jeremiah, but these people deserve to be finally put down. A paronomasia brackets the verse: because they will not consider (lōʾ yābînû), Yhwh will not build up (lōʾ yibnēm). Another paronomasia recalls the opening plea and brackets vv. 1-5 as a whole: Yhwh’s tearing down (hāras) means Yhwh has not been deaf (ḥāraš, v. 1).3

6 The LORD deserves praise, for he has heard my plea for mercy!

7 The LORD strengthens and protects me; I trust in him with all my heart. I am rescued and my heart is full of joy; I will sing to him in gratitude.

8 The LORD strengthens his people; he protects and delivers his chosen king.

9 Deliver your people! Empower the nation that belongs to you! Care for them like a shepherd and carry them in your arms at all times!

In truly theocratic fashion, the psalmist prays not only for himself but also for the people. People and king, nation and individual, belong together. He closes his prayer of lament and thanksgiving with a prayer for deliverance from oppression, for the Lord’s blessing on his own people, and for God’s royal kingship over his own. The psalmist knows that kingship belongs to the Lord and that, ultimately, the Davidic king is representative of the kingship of God. Therefore he calls on the Great King to be true to his people. They are his chosen “inheritance” (Dt 4:20; 1Ki 8:51). He is the King-Shepherd of his people (Ps 23:1; Mic 5:4; 7:14). His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. He cares for his sheep in a tender way so as to “carry them” in his arms. This imagery is reminiscent of Isaiah’s language (40:11; 46:3-4; 63:9; cf. Ex 19:4) and, of course, of the words of Jesus (Jn 10:1-18).4

Bibliography

Craigie, Peter C., and Marvin E. Tate. Psalms 1-50. Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004.

Goldingay, John. Psalms: Volume 1: Psalms 1-41. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 2006.

Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.

VanGemeren, Willem. Psalms. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008.


  1. Kidner 2008, p. 140 
  2. Goldingay 2006, loc. 8138-8140 
  3. Goldingay 2006, loc. 8177-8182 
  4. VanGemeren, 2008, p. 291 

Psalm 27

Notes (NET Translation)

By David.

The title in the LXX says the psalm was composed by David before his anointing. “LXX may invite us to think especially of the pressures Saul put on him, and may be inferring from v. 5 a link with 1 Sam. 21:1-6 [2-7].”1

1 The LORD delivers and vindicates me! I fear no one! The LORD protects my life! I am afraid of no one!

2 When evil men attack me to devour my flesh, when my adversaries and enemies attack me, they stumble and fall.

3 Even when an army is deployed against me, I do not fear. Even when war is imminent, I remain confident.

4 I have asked the LORD for one thing – this is what I desire! I want to live in the LORD’s house all the days of my life, so I can gaze at the splendor of the LORD and contemplate in his temple.

Given the OT’s hesitation about the idea of looking at Yhwh at all, the idea of looking at Yhwh’s personal delightfulness (nōʿam, EVV “beauty”) would be surprising, but the notion of looking at Yhwh’s delightfulness is clarified by the phrase’s other occurrence (90:17). It denotes the delightfulness of what Yhwh does for people rather than Yhwh’s personal being. And this enhances the parallelism of the second colon, since the request to which it refers will denote seeking after Yhwh’s intentions or will for the suppliant and the people. The line then concerns the suppliant’s visiting Yhwh’s palace to seek to see what beautiful intentions Yhwh has.2

Temple (4) is the standard word for a divine or royal residence (cf. 45:15 [ Heb. 16], ‘palace’) and need not imply that Solomon’s Temple was already built. Either this word or tent, as the place of worship (6), is being used for its associations rather than its materials (see also on Ps. 5:7), for they cannot both be literal; note too the vivid terms of verse 5, where shelter should perhaps be ‘lair’ (the same word as the lion’s ‘covert’ in 10:9; cf. also 76:2a [Heb. 3] with Amos 1:2; 3:8).3

5 He will surely give me shelter in the day of danger; he will hide me in his home; he will place me on an inaccessible rocky summit.

6 Now I will triumph over my enemies who surround me! I will offer sacrifices in his dwelling place and shout for joy! I will sing praises to the LORD!

7 Hear me, O LORD, when I cry out! Have mercy on me and answer me!

8 My heart tells me to pray to you, and I do pray to you, O LORD.

9 Do not reject me! Do not push your servant away in anger! You are my deliverer! Do not forsake or abandon me, O God who vindicates me!

10 Even if my father and mother abandoned me, the LORD would take me in.

11 Teach me how you want me to live; lead me along a level path because of those who wait to ambush me!

The psalmist is asking for God to give him the way of deliverance and victory.

12 Do not turn me over to my enemies, for false witnesses who want to destroy me testify against me.

13 Where would I be if I did not believe I would experience the LORD’s favor in the land of the living?

14 Rely on the LORD! Be strong and confident! Rely on the LORD!

The words are an answer to the prayer, not merely an injunction to wait for an answer. The answer, in other words, is to wait constantly for the Lord, because he would respond in the future as each crisis and need appeared. The intervening words (“be strong . . . be bold”) are also a part of the answer and recall the words of Moses to Joshua at the time when the leadership in the covenant community was being transferred to Joshua (cf. Deut 31:7). Joshua was to be strong and bold because the Lord was definitely going to give him success in the conquest of the Promised Land. Likewise, the king was to be strong and bold, because he would receive the divine aid in ruling his country and conquering his enemies.4

Bibliography

Craigie, Peter C., and Marvin E. Tate. Psalms 1-50. Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004.

Goldingay, John. Psalms: Volume 1: Psalms 1-41. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 2006.

Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.

VanGemeren, Willem. Psalms. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008.


  1. Goldingay 2006, loc. 7871-7872 
  2. Goldingay 2006, loc. 7924-7930 
  3. Kidner 2008, p. 138 
  4. Craigie 2004, p. 234