Psalm 15 – “Pedagogic Lesson: Characteristics of the Righteous Individual”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist describes the characteristics of the righteous individual.

II. Photo
The righteous individual is described: “He has never lent money at interest, or accepted a bribe against the innocent.” (v. 5a)

III. Select Verses    
(Due to its brevity, Psalm 15 will be presented in its entirety.)
vv. 1-5: A psalm of David. LORD, who may sojourn in Your tent, who may dwell on Your holy mountain? He who lives without blame, who does what is right, and in his heart acknowledges the truth; whose tongue is not given to evil; who has never done harm to his fellow, or borne reproach for [his acts toward] his neighbor; for whom a contemptible man is abhorrent, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who stands by his oath even to his hurt; who has never lent money at interest, or accepted a bribe against the innocent. The man who acts thus shall never be shaken.

IV. Outline
1a. Superscription
1b. Invocation
1c-5a. Description of the righteous individual
5b. Blessing

V. Comment
Psalm 15 is comprised of a question addressed to God (v. 1) and an answer provided by the Psalmist (vv. 2-5). The question and answer format seeks to define the characteristics of the righteous individual. As Craigie notes, “Gunkel, and many interpreters since his time, defined Ps 15 as an entrance liturgy. As such, it is characterized by a typical form: (i) the worshipers inquire of the priest as to the qualifications for admission to the holy place (15:1); (ii) the priest responds by specifying the requirements (15:2–5b), and (iii) concludes with a blessing (15:5c). The analysis is suggestive and may well be correct, in which case the psalm would be interpreted in the context of Israel’s formal worship; possibly, such a liturgy might have been utilized upon the arrival of pilgrims at the gates of the sanctuary for participation in one of Israel’s great festivals.” (150) Yet, it must be pointed out that there is no unequivocal evidence that necessitates this conclusion. Indeed, there are no texts in the Hebrew Bible that imply such an entrance procedure existed, and there is nothing in the Psalm that specifically relates to temple entrance. Therefore, the Psalm should be classified for what we know it to be, i.e., a lesson about the righteous individual. As for now, it appears that we will never know exactly how Psalm 15 was used in ancient Israel.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Craigie, Peter C. “Psalms 1-50” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 19 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1983).
Gerstenberger, Erhard S. “Psalms Part 1 with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” Forms of Old Testament Literature (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1988).
Photo taken from