Sorry if I am lingering on the use of the word "poor" in the bible too many times.

Psalm 113:4-9 New American Standard Bible 1995

4 The Lord is high above all nations; His glory is above the heavens. 5 Who is like the Lord our God, Who is enthroned on high, 6 Who humbles Himself to behold The things that are in heaven and in the earth? 7 He raises the poor from the dust And lifts the needy from the ash heap, 8 To make them sit with princes, With the princes of His people. 9 He makes the barren woman abide in the house As a joyful mother of children. Praise the Lord!

But I'm just betting that in the Psalm 113:7, "poor" does mean:

-Spiritually poor as opposed to financially poor

-or maybe could include both financially poor and Spiritually poor(like Job after all the tragedies that he went through)

The aforementioned view about Psalm 113:7 verse stems from the fact that a lot of the Psalms were written by David who did suffer spiritual poverty when his enemies like King Saul, and later his son, Absalom, and Philistines, and other enemies surrounding Israel led military campaigns to kill David and his followers. Therefore, David had fear, anxiety and stress which are all some kind of spiritual poverty. However, on top of that, he probably was also financially poor because he was originally a young shepherd boy before becoming King of Israel.

Would the aforementioned evaluation be correct?

Just Side Note reference to other scripture verses that uses the word "poor" : In the context of Galatians 2:1-14, what does Paul suggest by using the word "poor"?


When Proverbs 14:31 uses the word "poor", what does the word "poor" suggest?

3 Answers 3


See the answer to the related question in When Proverbs 14:31 uses the word "poor", what does the word "poor" suggest?

The meaning of "poor" in Ps 113:7 to mean "financial circumstances" is essentially confirmed by the parallel word, אֶבְיוֹן (ebyon) meaning, "in want, needy, poor"

As Christian followers of our Great Example, Jesus, we should not restrict these Bible references to their purely literal sense because Jesus also taught that we need to be equally sensitive to the needs of the spiritually needy as well. See Matt 5:3 and the appendix.

APPENDIX - Poor in Spirit

I like to interpret "poor in spirit" to mean (among many other things), those suffering mental health problems, especially those whose crushed spirits reduce them to the verge of suicide. A number of well-known Bible characters appear to have suffered from depression so severely that they were suicidal.

  • Saul: 1 Sam 16:14-16
  • David: Ps 38:4, 42:5, 6, 11 (see also Acts 13:22)
  • Elijah: 1 Kings 19:4
  • Jonah: Jonah 4:3, 9
  • Job: Job 3:11, 26, 10:1, 30:15-17
  • Moses: Ex 32:32
  • Jeremiah: Jer 20:14, 18
  • Jesus: Mark 14:34-36, Luke 22:44. See also Isa 53:3.
  • Paul: 2 Cor 1:8-10

We should pause to note that while a variety of things lead up to each of these depressive and suicidal episodes, the final ideas about suicide are always triggered by a loss of hope. People feel overwhelmed, crushed and at a complete loss; but in the end, each results in a loss of hope.

There are a number of very important things to note about these honest records about Bible heroes including Jesus Himself! Even Godly people suffer from bad thoughts and, at times, become suicidal! Some were even angry with God and were not rebuked for this.

The cure for depression always involves getting help to restore hope by dealing with whatever has caused the loss of hope. Such causes are numerous and diverse such as overwork, delusions of grandeur, exhaustion, chronic sickness and/or pain, abuse (whether sexual, pharmacological, emotional or financial, etc), acute disappointment, biochemical imbalance, poor diet, lack of exercise, etc, etc. For some this will require professional (medical) help to treat the underlying cause. For Christians this will also involve the three great virtues of Faith, Hope and Love (1 Cor 13:13). The order is important. It is our faith that enables a trust in Christ our Great Hope (1 Tim 1:1) who always encourages us to love others .

In all the cases listed above, each person found comfort in the Lord and His promises, but the cure involved several other things as well.

  • David often needed to confess (Ps 38, 51) to relieve guilt.
  • Elijah needed rest and food and the comfort of an angel of heaven (1 Kings 19:5, 7) followed by a job to get his mind off himself (1 Kings 19:15-18)
  • Jonah needed to be re-acquainted with grace (Jonah 4:9-11)
  • Job needed a sense of proportion (Job 38-42)
  • Moses needed to understand that he could not take responsibility for others’ problems (he was overly compassionate??) (Ex 32:33-35)
  • Jeremiah needed a listening ear and the Lord was the only one left to provide this. That is Jeremiah turned to the Lord and complained! (Jer 20:7-17)
  • Jesus also found comfort in prayer (Ps 34:18) but in His extreme case, He was also comforted by an angel from heaven (Luke 22:43)
  • Paul took comfort in the resurrection and the support from the prayers of his friends (2 Cor 1:9-11)

Thus, each person’s need was met in a different way; but all involved receiving help from outside the person in order to restore hope.


A better translation is "weak" or "helpless". The LEB uses helpless. The reason for this is because of the overall context of the verse. If the verse said something like God will give dal bread, then one can interpret dal to be someone poor in bread. But if the verse is God will exalt/lift dal, then the better interpretation is someone who considers themselves to be lowly or weak. And then if you add in the context that they are being lifted up from dust or raised from the ash heap, then one sees a connotation of resurrection or deliverence that is traditionally applied to those who humble themselves.

Looking at the psalm overall, here is the LEB:

Yahweh is high (r-w-m) above all nations;

his glory is above the heavens.

Who is like Yahweh our God, who is enthroned on high,

who condescends (make low) to look at what is in the heavens and in the earth?

God is high, and he lowers Himself even when looking on what is in the heavens and earth (e.g. his creation). So this is again a high/low Psalm.

He *raises (q-w-m) the dal from the dust (afar);

Man is called dust (afar) and will return to dust. So this is an allusion to Genesis 3 in which God is the one who is declaring that man is dust. Yet Here God is talking about raising from the dust. This is a reversal, referring to resurrection or deliverance. Note that the word for raises is also used to establish a covenant, so an alternate translation might be "He establishes the helpless from the dust (afar)". Thus "poor" here could be translated as "lacking life", "lacking hope". LEB decides to use "helpless" or "lacking power/ability".

he lifts (r-w-m) the needy (evyon) from the ash heap, to seat them with princes, with the princes of his people.

So r-w-m is the parallel of q-w-m, both referring to lifting up, but one with the connotation of establishing and the other with a connotation of exalting. The establishing is with the helpless who are in the dust, and the exalting is with the needy who are in the ash-heap. The reference to needy is a better candidate for those who are financially poor, but again, the reference to ash heap and establishment requires an interpretation that is a bit deeper than God paying someone's electric bill. I think the english word "worthless" would be a better translation than needy as it would cover "having no financial assets" but it would more generally cover having nothing anyone thought was of value. Thus, having no physical beauty, etc.

Here, "ash heap" is a reference to something of no value, as after the sacrificial animals were burned (and the smoke ascended to God) some of the meat (for some offerings) was eaten by men, but the ash was removed and thrown into the ash heap outside the camp. It is what has been rejected as useless to everyone. When people repent, they put dust and ashes on their head signifying that they are but dust and they are in the ash heap -- they reckon themselves dead and worthless. Yet here, from this very rejected pile, God is lifting up/exalting/making and they therefore sit down with Princes.

He causes the barren woman of the house to dwell as the happy mother of children.

In the Old Testament (and even rabbinical Judaism) barrenness was caused by God because God was responsible for each act of birth. That is, conception is always a miracle. So someone who is barren is suffering from divine judgement. But then again a reversal happens where God turns that unhappy situation into one of happiness, by bringing new life into the woman.

So all three of these verses show a reversal and are thus symbols of resurrection/deliverance, but who is resurrected? Those who are "low", "meek", "helpless", "needy". Those who mourn. Those who consider themselves worthless.

This is a common theme in the scriptures

Psalm 147.6 "The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground."

James 4.10 "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."

Psalm 75:4-7

I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast!’ and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn! Do not lift up high your horn. Do not speak with arrogant pride.’ ” For it is not from the east or the west and not from the south that lifting up comes, rather God is the judge; one he brings low, and another he lifts up.

Psalm 138.6

Though Yahweh is high, yet he sees the lowly, but the proud he perceives at a distance.


The Hebrew word used is דָּ֭ל This word speaks of poor in the sense of weakness, thin, one who is low. The same Hebrew word is used in Proverbs 14:31. Unlike Galatians 2:10, there the Greek term πτωχός, refers to low-income people.

enter image description here

The image highlights occurrences of the Hebrew term in the Old Testament, where a large percentage, its meaning in the KJV is poor. In other minor occurrences, the KJV translates according to context as needy, lean, waxed weaker and weaker, and "the poor hath".

The image is taken from the Logos software, which has a keyword research section called "Biblical Word Study."

  • Thank you for the attached diagram. Could you please also post details about where you reference it from? Commented Jun 24, 2021 at 11:35
  • Excuse me!, I will edit my answer. Commented Jun 24, 2021 at 14:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.