Psalm of Solomon is another example of two-ways theology. There is a sharp contrast between the righteous (δίκαιος) and the sinner (ἁμαρτωλός). In this psalm, the difference between these two types of people is that the Lord has mercy on the righteous, devout person who fear him (13:12). The title of this psalm is a comfort or encouragement (παράκλησις) for the righteous. By properly understanding suffering the righteous person acknowledges they have been protected by the mercy of the Lord.

Two roads, two ways to liveThe first four verses of this psalm reflect the experience of the righteous. Although they suffer calamity, “the right hand of the Lord” covered them and they were spared. The right hand is βραχίων, literally the arm of the Lord. This is the regular expression for the Lord’s power in the Hebrew Bible. In Exodus 15:16, for example, the mighty arm of the Lord protected Israel as they came up out of Egypt. LXX Psalm 76:16 [ET 15] uses the word to describe the redemption of Israel: “You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph.”

The writer says the Lord protected the righteous from sword, hunger, death and “wicked beasts.” This list sounds like the typical description of the dangers for the Jewish people in exile (Ezek 14:13-23, for example), but these also resonate with Paul’s famous line in Romans 8:35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” or the suffering listed in 2 Corinthians 11:19-32. In 1 Corinthians 15:32 Paul says he “fought wild beasts” in Ephesus. Commentators usually take this as a metaphor for some sort of persecution. Both the psalmist and Paul agree suffering is not something to fear since the Lord protects the righteous. The difference is the psalmist says the Lord protected him from even meeting these things (v. 4) while Paul saw suffering as his participation in the suffering of Christ.

In fact, the righteous may suffer, but that suffering is discipline rather than judgment (13:7-10). The psalmist understands suffering as punishment for sin done in ignorance (v. 7). God is admonishing the righteous like a beloved child (v. 9). Verse 7 calls this suffering the “discipline of the righteous” (ἡ παιδεία τῶν δικαίων). In Psalm of Solomon 8:29 Israel’s suffering is described as discipline, calling to mind the common metaphor of Israel as an unruly child who needs to be disciplined (Hosea 11, for example).

The psalmist may be thinking of a text like Proverbs 3:11-12, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline (παιδεία) or be weary of his reproof, the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Hebrews 12 also cites this verse from Proverbs to encourage Jewish readers to endure suffering as discipline from the Lord. But again there is a difference, the writer of Hebrews does not suggest his readers are being punished for sin when they face hostility on account of their faith in Jesus as Messiah.

The psalm concludes by repeating the contrast between the righteous person and the sinner. The righteous will go on forever but the sinner will be taken away for destruction (ἀπώλεια, 13:11-12). This is common to two-ways texts like Psalm 1, but it is a regular feature of Jesus’s parables as well. At the harvest (the final judgement), the righteous are like wheat gathered up and stored in the barn, the unrighteous are like weeds thrown into a fire and destroyed (Matt 13:24-30). When the messiah comes he will separate the nations like sheep from goats. The sheep are welcomed into the kingdom of God and eternal life (Matt 25:34, 46) but the goats are cursed and sent “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” to eternal punishment (Matt 25:41, 46).

According to this psalm, although the righteous may suffer discipline in this life, the Lord’s mercy is on the devout person who fears the Lord (13:12).