The Fathers on Psalm 27

This post is part of an ongoing series offering translations of various early Church father’s commentaries on the Psalms.

Psalm 27

The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom should I fear?

The LORD is my life’s refuge;

of whom should I be afraid?

When evildoers come at me

to devour my flesh,

These my enemies and foes

themselves stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,

my heart does not fear;

Though war be waged against me,

even then do I trust.

One thing I ask of the LORD;

this I seek:

To dwell in the LORD’s house

all the days of my life,

To gaze on the LORD’s beauty,

to visit his temple.

For God will hide me in his shelter

in time of trouble,

He will conceal me in the cover of his tent;

and set me high upon a rock.

Athanasius: “If your enemies violently attack you and become a crowd like soldiers camped against you, looking down on you as through you were not anointed—and for this reason they want to fight—do not cower in fear, but sing Psalm 27.”[1]

Diodore of Tarsus: The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? A cry befitting triumphant warriors, mentioning also the one responsible for the victory. Light and salvation was well put: tribulation caused the Israelites to live in darkness, as it were, whereas the Lord’s support proved a light and help to them. The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  The phrase of whom shall I be afraid? is said by way of admiration: What will be found so powerful in intrigue, he is saying, as God is powerful in helping? When evildoers assail me, uttering slanders against me, my adversaries and foes, they shall stumble and fall. Having referred to the victory in the introduction, he states these two clauses by way of narrative. Lest he seem to be given thanks needlessly, he introduces as well the reason for thanksgiving in the words, When some enemies assembled against me who were so fierce and unrelenting as even to take a piece of me, as it were, then in particular I clearly sensed God’s help, with their fall and conquest. So what is the result now? If a fortress were constructed against me, my heart would not fear; if war broke out against me, I would still hope in it, by in it meaning in help, of which I already had experience, and on account of which I dread no other battle array. So I dread nothing with such help affording me shelter. One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after. One thing meaning grace and beneficence. What was it? That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. A pious soul, that of blessed Hezekiah, showed that he thanks God most of all for not severing connections with the temple and with piety. Now, this was his principle request; the one concerning his salvation was second. To behold the beauty of the Lord, and inquire in his temple. You granted me this further request, Lord: having saved me and made me superior to the enemy, you granted me also the place in which I might utter sentiments of thanksgiving. Because he hid me in his tabernacle on the day of my troubles: from his temple (the meaning of in his tabernacle) I had shelter and help. He kept me in hiding in his tabernacle. By in hiding he means as if in hiding: Though conducting many searches for me, he is saying, the enemy did not find me, thanks to Gods sheltering me. He set me high on a rock. Again he omits the phrase as if, his meaning being, You set me high as if on a rock. You see, since the multitude of the Assyrians advanced on him like waves, and a rock in particular naturally resists the waves, he used the example of the rock to imply, He made me superior to a huge multitude, his purpose being for the waves to suggest the uprisings of the enemy.[2]

Pseudo-Athanasius: This psalm contains a boast in the Lord against enemies and a request for blessings with confession. Before being anointed, he indicates that when by the Spirit of God he foresaw that he would be anointed as king and fall into temptation, he bound his loins with fortitude and stood powerfully firm against them despite the opposing powers, being encouraged by the enlightenment of God. When evildoers assail me, uttering slanders against me, my adversaries and foes, they shall stumble and fall. When they drew near to destroy, they received what they supposed they would inflict. One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. But I, he says, made one request from the Lord: that I might see his splendor and visit his holy temple and ever dwell therein. By it I was made worthy of salvation and—For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent, he will set me high upon a rock—was exalted on the rock, Christ.[3]

[1] Benjamin Wayman. Make the Words Your Own: An Early Christian Guide to the Psalms (Brewster, M.A.: Paraclete Press: 2014), 37.

[2] TLG 6. Κύριος φωτισμός μου καὶ σωτήρ μου· τίνα φοβηθήσομαι; Ἐπινικίοις πρέπουσα φωνή, μηνύουσα καὶ τὸν αἴτιον τῆς νίκης. Καλῶς δὲ εἶπε καὶ «φωτισμὸς» καὶ «σωτήρ»· ἡ γὰρ θλίψις ὡς ἐν σκοτίᾳ διάγειν ἐποίει τοὺς Ἰσραηλίτας, ἡ δὲ ἀντίληψις τοῦ κυρίου φῶς αὐτοῖς ἐγένετο καὶ βοήθεια. Κύριος ὑπερασπιστὴς τῆς ζωῆς μου· ἀπὸ τίνος δειλιάσω; Θαυμαστῶς τὸ «ἀπὸ τίνος δειλιάσω;». Τί γάρ, φησίν, εὑρεθήσεται οὕτω δυνατὸν εἰς ἐπιβουλὴν ὡς ἔστι δυνατὸς εἰς βοήθειαν ὁ θεός; Ἐν τῷ ἐγγίζειν ἐπ’ ἐμὲ κακοῦντας τοῦ φαγεῖν τὰς σάρκας μου, οἱ θλίβοντές με καὶ οἱ ἐχθροί μου αὐτοὶ ἠσθένησαν καὶ ἔπεσον. Τὰ προοίμια εἰπὼν ἐπὶ τῇ νίκῃ, τούτους τοὺς δύο στίχους ὡς ἐν διηγήματι λέγει. Ἵνα γὰρ μὴ δόξῃ μάτην εὐχαριστεῖν, καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν παρατίθεται τῆς εὐχαριστίας καί φησιν· ὁπηνίκα συνῆλθον γὰρ ἐπ’ ἐμέ τινες ἐχθροὶ οὕτως ὠμοὶ καὶ ἀνήμεροι ὥστε μου, εἰ οἷόν τε, καὶ τῶν σαρκῶν ἀπογεύσασθαι, τότε μάλιστα τὴν τοῦ θεοῦ βοήθειαν εἶδον ἐναργῶς, ἐκείνων μὲν ἐκπεσόντων, ἡμῶν δὲ νενικηκότων. Τί οὖν ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν; Ἐὰν παρατάξηται ἐπἐμὲ παρεμβολή, οὐ φοβηθήσεται  καρδία μου· ἐὰν ἐπαναστῇ ἐπἐμὲ πόλεμος, ἐν ταύτῃ ἐγὼ ἐλπίζω.  «Ἐν ταύτῃ» ἵνα εἴπῃ· τῇ βοηθείᾳ, ἧς ἤδη πεῖραν ἔλαβον, δι’ ἣν οὐδὲ ἄλλην παράταξιν πλείονα δέδοικα. Σκεπαζούσης οὖν με τῆς τοιαύτης βοηθείας οὐδὲν δειλιάσω. Μίαν ᾐτησάμην παρὰ κυρίου, ταύτην ζητήσω.  «Μίαν ᾐτησάμην» ἀντὶ τοῦ χάριν καὶ εὐεργεσίαν. Ποίαν ταύτην; Τὸ κατοικεῖν με ἐν οἴκῳ κυρίου πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας τῆς ζωῆς μου. Εὐσεβὴς ψυχή, ἡ τοῦ μακαρίου Ἐζεκίου, ἔδειξεν ὅτι πλέον διὰ τοῦτο εὐχαριστεῖ τῷ θεῷ ὅτι τοῦ ναοῦ καὶ τῆς εὐσεβείας οὐκ ἐξέπεσεν. Οὗτος δὲ ἦν αὐτῷ ὁ πλέων λόγος, ὁ δὲ τῆς αὐτοῦ σωτηρίας δεύτερος. Τὸ θεωρεῖν με τὴν τερπνότητα κυρίου καὶ ἐπισκέπτεσθαι τὸν ναὸν τὸν ἅγιον αὐτοῦ. Τοῦτό μοι, φησί, πλέον ἐδωρήσω, δέσποτα, ὅτι σώσας καὶ τῶν πολεμίων ἀνώτερον ποιήσας ἐχαρίσω μοι καὶ τὸν τόπον ἐν ᾧ τὰς εὐχαριστηρίους ἀφήσω φωνάς. Ὅτι ἔκρυψέ με ἐν σκηνῇ αὐτοῦ ἐν ἡμέρᾳ κακῶν μου. Καὶ γὰρ ἐκ τοῦ ναοῦ αὐτοῦ, φησί—τοῦτο γὰρ λέγει «ἐν σκηνῇ αὐτοῦ»—, ἔσχον τὴν σκέπην καὶ τὴν βοήθειαν. Ἐσκέπασέ με ἐν ἀποκρύφῳ τῆς σκηνῆς αὐτοῦ. «Ἐν ἀποκρύφῳ» ἵνα εἴπῃ· ὡς ἐν ἀποκρύφῳ· οὕτω, φησί, πολλὰ ζητήσαντες περὶ ἐμοῦ οἱ πολέμιοι οὐχ εὗρόν με, τοῦ θεοῦ σκεπάζοντος. Ἐν πέτρᾳ ὕψωσέ με. Πάλιν λείπει τὸ ὡς· βούλεται γὰρ εἰπεῖν· ὡς ἐν πέτρᾳ ὕψωσάς με. Ἐπειδὴ γὰρ δίκην κυμάτων ἐπῆλθεν αὐτῷ τὸ πλῆθος τῶν Ἀσσυρίων, πέτρα δὲ μάλιστα πέφυκεν ἀντέχειν τοῖς κύμασιν, ἵνα εἴπῃ ὅτι πολλοῦ πλήθους ἀνώτερόν με πεποίηκεν, τὸ ὑπόδειγμα τῆς πέτρας εἶπεν, ἵνα καὶ τὰ κύματα ἤγουν τὰς ἐπαναστάσεις τῶν πολεμίων μηνύσῃ.

[3] Syriac, CSCO 387, SYRI 168 V, pg 17. Cx PG 27:147-150 for Latin and Greek.


Published by Jacob J. Prahlow

Husband of Hayley. Dad of Bree and Judah. Lead pastor at Arise Church. MATS from Saint Louis University, MA from Wake Forest University, BA from Valparaiso University. Theologian and writer here and at Conciliar Post. Find me on social at @pastorjakestl

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