Psalm 32

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Psalm 32 is the 32nd psalm of the Book of Psalms.

Category and Content[edit]

This Psalm is one of seven penitential psalms. This psalm is a Maskil. We are not sure what this word meant, but its root has to do with teaching. The Psalm is filled with teachings and literary forms of Hebrew Wisdom. The variety of literary forms, such as blessing, lament, admonition, and hymn, indicates a date when the various literary forms had begun to mingle – no later than 500 BC. (Elmer A. Leslie, The Psalms 288-289. Abingdon Press, 1949. The Psalm is often classified as a thanksgiving psalm. Several scholars categorize it as a wisdom psalm because of the opening beatitudes and its clear instructional intent (v 8-9). Traditionally, the Christian Church has identified this as one of seven penitential psalms. Along with this one, the others are Psalms 6, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143. This penitential psalm begins with the use of three Hebrew words for ‘sin,’ each with a different aspect of meaning.

32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the one whose iniquity the LORD does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.

“Transgression” (in Hebrew: pesa) contains the concept of rebellion against God. “Sin” (hata’ah) is equal to the Greek amaptia, or “missing the mark” on a target, and thus not willful sin but a lacking in perfection. “Iniquity” (awon) literally means “turning off from the path” and captures the meaning of intentional and deliberate sin. [1] In a literary balance, there are also three words for forgiveness. “Forgive” (nasa) is to “lift up” or “carry away” thus God is removing the guilt from a person. “Cover” (kasha) expresses the idea of covering and hiding sin from sight. Not to “impute” (hasab) is the equivalent of imputing righteousness. [2] This Psalm is not a true prayer of confession, as there is no specific mention of what wrong has been done. It is, in many ways, a lesson about sin, guilt and forgiveness that sets a pattern for finding forgiveness. It teaches, specifically, that (1) confession belongs in prayer and within one’s relationship with God, (2) that in the contrast of “I kept silent” in verse 3 and “I said” in verse 5, when one wrongs another it is important to verbalize to the one who is hurt’ and (3) confession must be spoken to God and not remain a secret. [3]




  • Appears as a reading for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost in the Revised Common Lectionary.


  1. ^ W.O.E. Oesterley, The Psalms. SPCK, London, 1959. p 200.
  2. ^ W.O.E. Oesterley, The Psalms. SPCK, London, 1959. p 200.
  3. ^ James Luther Mays, Psalms - Interpretation Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. John Knox Press, 1994. p.146-147
  4. ^ The Artscroll Tehillim page 329
  5. ^ The Complete Artscroll Machzor for Rosh Hashanah page 7