Exegetical Paper on Psalm 101

Exegetical Paper on Psalm 101


  David seeks righteousness in his own life and in his kingdom.


I. David’s integrity in his heart (101: 1-4)

A. His praise to Yahweh’s love and justice (1)

  1. The content of his praise (1a)
  2. The focus of his praise (1b)

B. His integrity is intertwined with his yearning for Yahweh to come to him (2)

  1. His integrity (2a)
  2. His yearning (2b)
  3. His integrity (2c)

C. His unwavering commitment to Integrity (3-4)

  1. His determination to avoid visual temptation (3)
  2. His determination to put down a perverse heart (4)


II. David’s integrity in his regime (101: 5-8)

A. His determination to rid his kingdom of evildoers (5)

  1. Secret slanderers (5a)
  2. The arrogant (5b)

B. His purposeful nurturing of righteous people to serve in his administration (6)

  1. The faithful (6a)
  2. The blameless (6b)

C. His exclusion of deceitful from his regime (7)

  1. No residence (7a)
  2. No position (7b)

C. His destruction of the wicked in the land (8)

  1. The frequency to sweep out (8a)
  2. The purpose (8b)






  Merriam Webster dictionary in a general sense defines righteous as morally right or justifiable.[1] We live in a world where people tend to believe that their ways are always right and they struggle to accept the absolute standard of righteousness. Many people believe they have the authority to do whatever they think or feel is right. In a broader spiritual sense, righteousness is the quality of being right in God’s eyes, which includes a character (nature), conscience (attitude), conduct (action), and command (word).[2]

  Psalm 101 shows a king’s determination to rule righteously. It is a royal psalm expressing “a king’s vow of loyalty”[3] with a future orientation. [4] Specifically, the royal psalms deal with the spiritual role of kings in the worship of Yahweh. This psalm is written by a man after God’s own heart i.e David. David was anointed three times as a king. In David’s youth, Samuel anointed him, essentially as a prophetic of his calling and destiny (1 Samuel 16:13). At Hebron, after Saul’s death, he was anointed king over the tribe of Judah (2 Samuel 2:4). He was appointed king over all the tribes of Israel seven years later (2 Samuel 5:3). The content of this psalm indicates that it was written during a significant time in David’s life. The first is supposed to be when David succeeded to the governance of the kingdom shortly after Saul’s death, and the second is when the entire country was united under David’s reign.

  This psalm includes David’s integrity in his heart (vv. 1-4) and his regime (vv. 5-8). In the first part, David shows his praise to Yahweh and his integrity is intertwined with his yearning for Yahweh to come to him, and his unwavering commitment to integrity. The second shows David’s integrity towards his regime through his determination to rid his kingdom of evildoers and nurturing the righteous people to serve in his administration. Interpreters propose many different structures for Psalm 101.[5] Leslie C. Allen concludes that vv. 1-5 displays personal “praise, plea, and testimony”, and vv. 6-8 explain the king’s expanding “circles of influence.”[6] Allen Ross divides the psalm into virtues (v.1), perfect way (vv.2), and applying God’s standard into his reign (vv. 3-8).[7]

The chiastic structure of Psalm 101 can be seen as

A (v 1 – 2) Praise

  B (v 3 – 5) Hate Evil

    C (v 6) Seek the Godly

  B’ (v 7) Remove Ungodly People

A’ (v 8) Do what is right

  Psalm 101 has a strong resemblance to the combined effect of Psalms 1–2. It acts as a proclamation of separation from worthless and deceptive things, dishonesty, wickedness and slandering, arrogance, deception, and lies – in short, from the wicked of the nation and their actions.

I. David’s integrity in his heart (101: 1-4)

A. His praise to Yahweh’s love and justice (1)

  David began the psalm by exalting the “Mercy” and “Justice” of the Lord. The phrase “mercy” and “justice” implies merism. They are two distinct concepts that are seen frequently in the same sentence. Though they are seen together they have very different sentiments. Before David could exercise mercy and justice in His kingdom, he had to understand the mercy and justice of God.

  This verse indeed gives the impression that it is a first-person speaker and reflects a positive connotation. Here the content of David’s praise is “mercy” and “justice” and the focus of his praise is “Lord.” The divine name “Lord” occurs only in verses 1 and 8.

B. His integrity is intertwined with his yearning for Yahweh to come to him (2)

  Lord’s act of mercy and justice is the motivating factor for his commitment to lead a “blameless life”. He will think and act in a way that is pleasing to God. “When will You come to me?” is not an eschatological expectation rather his personal expression and yearning for God. It could simply be a prayer for God to reveal Himself to the people at the altar during worship[8], or to the psalmist privately in a vision.[9] The temporal interrogative adverb “when” appears 12 other times in the Psalter in which three times it is directed to God as a lament in Psalm 42:2; 119: 82, 84. The question’s clear tone is clouded by its ambiguous meaning[10] but for Hossfeld and Zenger it implies “spatial distance”[11] between David and Lord which dissatisfies David.

  When reading Psalm 101, one is also reminded of the king’s intimate relationship with Yahweh in Psalm 2. David is focused on his way of life in a wise way as the world’s kings are advised to do as in Psalm 2:10.

C. His unwavering commitment to Integrity (3-4)

  David is determinant to avoid visual temptations in v.3. His words remind us of 1 John 2:16 which tells that the lust of the eyes is not from the Father, but from the world, and Isaiah 33:15 suggest to shut the eyes from looking at evil. He rejects worthless things and moral wanderers and will not permit them to cling to him. Verse 2 and 3 makes two promises about personal conduct. The parallel lines of v.3 can be analyzed in terms of the order of their constituents (subject, verb, object, modifiers).

S                                       V                                                                    M

 I     will                           set        no worthless thing before       my eyes

S                                       V                                                         M

I           hate the            work                of those           who fall away

S                                       V                                  M

It          shall not          cling                           to me

  In v.4 the focus is on “perverse heart” and he devotes himself to good by distancing himself from evil. He determines not to “know” such a wicked person. It follows chiastic parallelism.

a                                                                  b

A perverse heart shall                         leave me;

b’                                                              a’

I will know no                                       evil.


II. David’s integrity in his regime (101: 5-8)

A. His determination to rid his kingdom of evildoers (5)

 The personal convictions showed in vv. 1–4 become judicial actions in vv. 5–8.[12] His private integrity of “heart” (101:2) and his personal rejection of a perverse “heart” ( 101:4) produce his commitment to punish the arrogant “heart” ( 101:5).

 An element from the previous line is repeated and built upon in v.5 which is known as continued synonymous parallelism.

a                                                                                          b

Whoever secretly slanders his neighbour,        him I will destroy;

b’                                                                                           c

I will not endure                                  one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart.

  The promise to the anointed king in Psalm 2:9 that he will “break” and “shatter” the nations and the “ends of the earth” is comparable to the aim to “destroy” the wicked or the one who secretly slanders his neighbour in Psalm 101:5, 8. The expression of “haughty look” is similar to Proverbs 21:4 and Psalm 18:27 which implies someone who looks down on other people whereas “an arrogant heart” consists of pride. Indeed, one could argue that pride and arrogance are the fundamental sins according to Scripture. The scripture tells us He not only hates the sin of pride but also detests those who exhibit pride (Proverb 16:5).

B. His purposeful nurturing of righteous people to serve in his administration (6)

  David does not only ponder about him walking in “the blameless way” but also promotes and positions the one who walks “in the blameless way” as his companion and minister. It gives hope to those who “walk blamelessly,” to those who are “loyal in the nation.” The “blameless way” likely refers to God’s law.[13]

  In v.6 there is the repetition of the same thought in two different phrases using two different, yet closely related sets of words ie. Identical synonymous parallelism.

a                                              b                                                          c

My eyes shall be          upon the faithful of the land,            that they may dwell with me;

a’                                              b’                                                         c’

One who walks           in a blameless way is one       who will serve me.

C. His exclusion of deceitful from his regime (7)

  According to v.7, the king will not abide by liars. He will exclude them not only from the residence but from the position as well. No liar should ever be put in a position of authority or honour. Psalm 101:7, which declares that those who deceive others will not dwell in the psalmist’s house recalls Psalm 1:1, which says that the righteous will not “sit” or “dwell” with the scoffers. The phrase of v.7 “maintain his position before me” is symmetric with  v.6 “who will serve me.”

  Like v.6, v.7 also follows a pattern of identical synonymous parallelism.

a                                                       b                                  c

One who practices deceit        shall not          dwell within my house;

a’                                                      b’                                 c’

One who speaks lies               shall not          maintain his position before me.

D. His destruction of the wicked in the land (8)

  The frequency to sweep out the wicked can be seen in v.8 which is “every morning”. He wants to eliminate those who do injustice as they possibly represent an external threat to the purity of the land and Jerusalem. So he announces the intention to destroy them and cut them off. This phrase “early morning” is best explained as an instance of hyperbole that aims at maintaining the honour of uprightly people and shaming the group of evildoers.

  The “city of Yahweh,” which the king plans to cleanse of evildoers in v.8, revolves around Zion, Yahweh’s holy mountain mentioned in Psalm 2:6. When one reads of the wicked’s devastation in Psalm 101:8, one is reminded of the wicked’s judgment, which uses the image of “chaff” which the wind blows away in Psalm 1:4.



  Psalm 101’s primary theological concern is David’s assertion of what he intended his administration to look like. He talks about what type of behaviour will get a man thrown out of his court, and what kind of loyal and upright behaviour will result in preferment. It gives hope to those who “walk blamelessly,” to those who are “loyal in the nation.” It inspires them to believe in Yahweh’s righteousness and to cling to his kingship. It motivates them to imitate the royal speaker of the psalm in working to establish Yahweh’s kingdom on earth, to resist all forms of corruption, deception, and evil, to conduct their lives in accordance with Yahweh’s precepts, and to associate with those who are also faithful to him.



  Almost every phrase in this psalm applies to our life. We’ve all failed to live up to David’s specific commitments. Without God’s help, we won’t be able to maintain these promises, and we’ll have to rely on faith to keep them. As those who have been saved by grace through the work of Jesus, we have a call from God: we are called to the pursuit of holiness. As we strive for holiness, we must keep in mind how God has called us to live. We must reflect on God’s Word and the instructions He has given us. If we are truly dedicated to the pursuit of holiness, we must be cautious about who we allow to have influence in our lives. We will struggle to honour God if the people who have the most influence are those who do not value God or the things of God. All of us should be wise in the associations we choose to cultivate.



[1] “Righteous”, Merriam-Webster.com. 2011. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/righteous (accessed Aug. 16, 2021).

[2] “Wijaya.” Christianity.com. 2019. https://www.christianity.com/wiki/christian-terms/what-is-righteousness.html (accessed Aug. 16, 2021).

[3]Kraus, Hans-Joachim. Psalms 60-150: Continental Commentaries, Fortress Press, 1993.

[4] Many interpreters construe Psalm 101 as future-oriented. Interpreters: McCann, Psalms, 1081–82; Keil and Delitzsch, Psalms, 3:108–10; Kraus, Psalms 60–150, 277)

[5]Allen, Leslie C. Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 101-150, Vol. 21. W Pub Group, 1983.

[6] Ibid, 10.

[7]Ross, Allen P. A Commentary on the Psalms: 90-150, Vol. 3, Kregel Publication, 2014.

[8]Broyals, Craig. Psalms (New International Biblical Commentary), Baker Books, 1999.

[9]Booij, T. ‘Psalm CI 2 – “When wilt thou come to me?”’, Vetus Testamentum 38, 1988.

[10] Most interpreters note the ambiguity of the question in v. 2 (e.g., Hossfeld and Zenger, Psalms 3, 14–15; Barré, “Shifting Focus of Psalm 101,” 207–8; Booij, “Psalm 101:2,” 458–62; Botha, “Psalm 101,” 734–35.)

[11]Hossfeld, F.-L. & Zenger, E. Psalms 3: A commentary on Psalms 101–150, K. Baltzer (ed.), transl. L.M. Maloney, Fortress, Minneapolis, MN. (Hermeneia), 2011.

[12] Ibid, 13-14.

[13] DeClaissé-Walford, Jacobson, Tanner, Psalms, 743–44; cf. J. H. Eaton, Kingship and the Psalms, SBT 32 (Naperville, IL: Allenson, 1976), 141–42.


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