What does Psalm 32:9 mean?
ESV: Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.
NIV: Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.
NASB: Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you.
CSB: Do not be like a horse or mule, without understanding, that must be controlled with bit and bridle or else it will not come near you.
NLT: Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.'
KJV: Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
NKJV: Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you.
Verse Commentary:
There is debate among scholars as to the "voice" used here. One interpretation is that God directly speaks these words. The other is that the words are presented from the perspective of David. In either case, the advice is sound, and the application is the same. The promise given here extends to everyone who faithfully submits to godly wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 3:1–6). A major theme of this Psalm has been the misery which God inflicts (Revelation 3:19) on those who refuse to acknowledge their sin (Psalm 32:1–4). This corresponds to the coarse methods used to control unreasoning animals, such as bits and bridles.

When David desired Bathsheba and committed adultery with her, he acted as senseless and out of control as an unbroken horse or mule. His animal-like behavior in the murder of Bathsheba's husband also showed that he was disobedient and out of control. Isaiah 53:6 compares disobedient people to sheep that have gone astray. To restore David, the Lord chastened him and convicted him of his moral failure. Chastening is an indicator of the Lord's faithful love (Hebrews 12:6). Without chastening, an unruly believer would continue sinning and forfeit the Lord's blessings.
Verse Context:
Psalm 32:8–9 is interpreted differently by various scholars. These could be seen as the words of God, speaking to David and others willing to confess their sins. Or they could be David's own words as he applies his experience with confession (Psalm 32:1–2; Psalm 51:1) through the role of a teacher. In either case, these contain good advice and warn against reacting negatively to good counsel. The psalm has so far praised the Lord's forgiveness and protection (Psalm 32:5–7). Now these verses include a promise and a prohibition.
Chapter Summary:
This psalm follows a progression of David's own experience: from the pressure of resisting confession, to the relief of being forgiven, to a renewed appreciation of God's graciousness for His people. David notes that being forgiven of sin is a great blessing, and those who resist repentance are delaying that restoration. He reflects on his own experience with stubbornness and encourages all people to seek God in sincerity.
Chapter Context:
Psalm 32 follows David's confession of the sins of adultery and murder. Psalm 51 records his initial response when confronted by the prophet Nathan. The background of David's sin, Nathan's rebuke, and the aftermath are found in 2 Samuel 11—12. For some undisclosed time, David refused to acknowledge his sin, but when he finally confessed it, the Lord graciously forgave him.
Book Summary:
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context.
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