Psalms 101 Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you pay no attention during times of trouble? ▼
▼ Heb “you hide for times in trouble.” The interrogative “why” is understood by ellipsis; note the preceding line. The Hiphil verbal form “hide” has no expressed object. Some supply “your eyes” by ellipsis (see BDB 761 s.v. I עָלַם Hiph and HALOT 835 s.v. I עלם hif) or emend the form to a Niphal (“you hide yourself,” see BHS, note c; cf. NEB, NIV, NRSV).
2 The wicked arrogantly chase the oppressed; ▼
▼ Heb “because of the pride of [the] wicked he burns [i.e. hotly pursues] [the] oppressed.” The singular forms רָשָׁע (rasha’, “wicked”) and עָנִי (’aniy, “oppressed”) are collective and representative, as indicated in the next line, which uses plural verb forms to describe the actions of both.
the oppressed are trapped ▼ by the schemes the wicked have dreamed up. ▼
▼ Heb “they are trapped in the schemes which they have thought up.” The referents of the two pronominal suffixes on the verbs have been specified in the translation for clarity. The referent of the first suffix (“they”) is taken as the oppressed, while the referent of the second (“they”) is taken to be the wicked (cf. NIV, which renders “wicked” in the previous line as a collective singular). Others take the referent of both occurrences of “they” in the line to be the wicked (cf. NRSV, “let them be caught in the schemes they have devised”).
3 Yes, ▼ the wicked man ▼ boasts because he gets what he wants; ▼
▼ Heb “the wicked [one] boasts on account of the desire of his appetite.” The translation assumes that the preposition עַל (’al) introduces the reason why the wicked boasts (cf. this use of עַל with הָלַל (halal) in Ps 119:164 and Ezra 3:11). In this case, the “desire of his appetite” refers by metonymy to the object desired and acquired.
the one who robs others ▼
▼ The translation assumes the active participle is substantival, referring to the wicked man mentioned in the preceding line. The substantival participle is then understood as the subject of the following verbs. For other examples of the participle of בָּצַע (batsar) used of those who desire and/or acquire wealth through dishonest and/or violent means, see Prov 1:19; 15:27; Jer 6:13; 8:10; Hab 2:9.curses ▼
▼ The verb בָּרַךְ (barakh) normally means “to bless,” but in a few cases it exhibits the polarized meaning “to curse” (1 Kgs 21:10, 13; Job 1:5–11; 2:5–9). (Some regard this use of בָּרַךְ as a mere euphemism.) The verb refers to the act of pronouncing or calling down a formal curse upon the object of one’s anger.and ▼
▼ The conjunction “and” is supplied in the translation; it does not appear in the Hebrew text.rejects the Lord. ▼
▼ Another option is to translate, “he blesses one who robs others, [but] he curses the Lord.” In this case the subject of the verbs is “the wicked man” mentioned in the previous line, and “the one who robs others” is the object of the verb בָּרַךְ (barakh), which is understood in its usual sense of “bless.”
4 The wicked man is so arrogant he always thinks,
“God won’t hold me accountable; he doesn’t care.” ▼
▼ Heb “the wicked [one], according to the height of his nose, he does not seek, there is no God, all his thoughts.” The phrase “height of his nose” probably refers to an arrogant or snooty attitude; it likely pictures one with his nose turned upward toward the sky in pride. One could take the “wicked” as the subject of the negated verb “seek,” in which case the point is that the wicked do not “seek” God. The translation assumes that this statement, along with “there is no God,” is what the wicked man thinks to himself. In this case God is the subject of the verb “seek,” and the point is that God will not hold the wicked man accountable for his actions. Verse 13 strongly favors this interpretation. The statement “there is no God” is not a philosophical assertion that God does not exist, but rather a confident affirmation that he is unconcerned about how men live morally and ethically (see v. 11).
5 He is secure at all times. ▼
He has no regard for your commands; ▼
▼ Heb “[on a] height, your judgments from before him.” If the MT is retained, then the idea may be that God’s “judgments” are high above (i.e., not recognized) by the wicked man. However, the syntax is awkward. The translation assumes an emendation of מָרוֹם (marom, “height”) to סָרוּ (saru, “[your judgments] are turned aside”), the final mem (ם) being dittographic (note the initial mem on the immediately following word [מִשְׁפָּטֶיךָ, mishefatekha, “your judgments”). “Judgments” probably refers here to God’s laws or commands, rather than his judicial decisions or acts of judgment.
he disdains all his enemies. ▼
▼ Heb “all his enemies, he snorts against them.” This may picture the wicked man defiantly challenging his enemies because he is confident of success. Another option is to take יָפִיחַ (yafiakh) from the root יָפַח (yafakh, “to testify”) and translate “he testifies against all his enemies,” implying that he gets the upper hand over them in legal battles. The noun יָפֵחַ (yafeakh, “witness”) is attested in biblical Hebrew (see Prov 6:19; 12:17; 14:5, 25; 19:5, 9, and Hab 2:3). The verb, however, is not clearly attested.
6 He says to himself, ▼
▼ Heb “he says in his heart/mind.”
“I will never ▼
▼ Heb “for a generation and a generation.” The traditional accentuation of the MT understands these words with the following line.be upended,
because I experience no calamity.” ▼
▼ Heb “who, not in calamity.” If אֲשֶׁר (’asher) is taken as a relative pronoun here, then one could translate, “[I] who [am] not in calamity.” Some emend אֲשֶׁר to אֹשֶׁר (’osher, “happiness”; see HALOT 99 s.v. אֹשֶׁר); one might then translate, “[I live in] happiness, not in calamity.” The present translation assumes that אֲשֶׁר functions here as a causal conjunction, “because, for.” For this use of אֲשֶׁר, see BDB 83 s.v. אֲשֶׁר 8.c (where the present text is not cited).
7 His mouth is full of curses and deceptive, harmful words; ▼
▼ Heb “[with] a curse his mouth is full, and lies and injury.”
his tongue injures and destroys. ▼
8 He waits in ambush near the villages; ▼
▼ Heb “he sits in the ambush of the villages.”
in hidden places he kills the innocent.
His eyes look for some unfortunate victim. ▼
9 He lies in ambush in a hidden place, like a lion in a thicket; ▼
▼ Or “in its den.”
he lies in ambush, waiting to catch ▼ the oppressed;
he catches the oppressed ▼ by pulling in his net. ▼
▼ Or “when he [i.e., the wicked man] pulls in his net.”▼
▼ The background of the imagery is hunting, where the hunter uses a net to entrap an unsuspecting bird or wild animal.
10 His victims are crushed and beaten down;
they are trapped in his sturdy nets. ▼
▼ Heb “he crushes, he is bowed down, and he falls into his strong [ones], [the] unfortunate [ones].” This verse presents several lexical and syntactical difficulties. The first word (יִדְכֶּה, yidekeh) is an otherwise unattested Qal form of the verb דָּכָה (dakhah, “crush”). (The Qere [marginal] form is imperfect; the consonantal text [Kethib] has the perfect with a prefixed conjunction vav [ו].) If the wicked man’s victim is the subject, which seems to be the case (note the two verbs which follow), then the form should be emended to a Niphal (יִדָּכֶה, yiddakheh). The phrase בַּעֲצוּמָיו (ba’atsumayv, “into his strong [ones]”), poses interpretive problems. The preposition -בְּ (bet) follows the verb נָפַל (nafal, “fall”), so it may very well carry the nuance “into” here, with “his strong [ones]” then referring to something into which the oppressed individual falls. Since a net is mentioned in the preceding verse as the instrument used to entrap the victim, it is possible that “strong [ones]” here refers metonymically to the wicked man’s nets or traps. Ps 35:8 refers to a man falling into a net (רֶשֶׁת, reshet), as does Ps 141:10 (where the plural of מִכְמָר [mikhmar, “net”] is used). A hunter’s net (רֶשֶׁת), is associated with snares (פַּח [pakh], מֹקְשִׁים, [moqeshim]) and ropes (חֲבָלִים, khavalim) in Ps 140:5. The final word in the verse (חֶלְכָּאִים (khelka’im, “unfortunate [ones]”) may be an alternate form of חֵלְכָח (khelkhakh, “unfortunate [one]”; see vv. 8, 14). The Qere (marginal reading) divides the form into two words, חֵיל כָּאִים (khel ka’im, “army/host of disheartened [ones]”). The three verb forms in v. 10 are singular because the representative “oppressed” individual is the grammatical subject (see the singular עָנִי [’aniy] in v. 9).
11 He says to himself, ▼
“God overlooks it;
he does not pay attention;
he never notices.” ▼
▼ Heb “God forgets, he hides his face, he never sees.”
12 Rise up, Lord! ▼
▼ Rise up, O Lord! The psalmist’s mood changes from lament to petition and confidence.
O God, strike him down! ▼
▼ Heb “lift up your hand.” Usually the expression “lifting the hand” refers to praying (Pss 28:2; 134:2) or making an oath (Ps 106:26), but here it probably refers to “striking a blow” (see 2 Sam 18:28; 20:21). Note v. 15, where the psalmist asks the Lord to “break the arm of the wicked.” A less likely option is that the psalmist is requesting that the Lord declare by oath his intention to intervene.
Do not forget the oppressed!
13 Why does the wicked man reject God? ▼
▼ The rhetorical question expresses the psalmist’s outrage that the wicked would have the audacity to disdain God.
He says to himself, ▼ “You ▼
▼ Here the wicked man addresses God directly.will not hold me accountable.” ▼
▼ Heb “you will not seek.” The verb דָרַשׁ (darash, “seek”) is used here in the sense of “seek an accounting.” One could understand the imperfect as generalizing about what is typical and translate, “you do not hold [people] accountable.”
14 You have taken notice, ▼
▼ Heb “you see.” One could translate the perfect as generalizing, “you do take notice.”
▼ If the preceding perfect is taken as generalizing, then one might understand כִּי (ki) as asseverative: “indeed, certainly.”you always see ▼
▼ Here the imperfect emphasizes God’s typical behavior.one who inflicts pain and suffering. ▼
▼ Heb “destruction and suffering,” which here refers metonymically to the wicked, who dish out pain and suffering to their victims.
The unfortunate victim entrusts his cause to you; ▼
▼ Heb “to give into your hand, upon you, he abandons, [the] unfortunate [one].” The syntax is awkward and the meaning unclear. It is uncertain who or what is being given into God’s hand. Elsewhere the idiom “give into the hand” means to deliver into one’s possession. If “to give” goes with what precedes (as the accentuation of the Hebrew text suggests), then this may refer to the wicked man being delivered over to God for judgment. The present translation assumes that “to give” goes with what follows (cf. NEB, NIV, NRSV). The verb יַעֲזֹב (ya’azov) here has the nuance “entrust” (see Gen 39:6; Job 39:11); the direct object (“[his] cause”) is implied.
you deliver ▼
▼ Or “help.”the fatherless. ▼ ▼
15 Break the arm ▼
▼ The arm symbolizes the strength of the wicked, which they use to oppress and exploit the weak.of the wicked and evil man!
Hold him accountable for his wicked deeds, ▼
▼ Heb “you seek his wickedness.” As in v. 13, the verb דָרַשׁ (darash, “seek”) is used here in the sense of “seek an accounting.” One could understand the imperfect as describing a fact, “you hold him accountable,” or as anticipating divine judgment, “you will hold him accountable.” However, since the verb is in apparent parallelism with the preceding imperative (“break”), it is better to understand the imperfect as expressing the psalmist’s desire or request.
which he thought you would not discover. ▼
▼ Heb “you will not find.” It is uncertain how this statement relates to what precedes. Some take בַל (bal), which is used as a negative particle in vv. 4, 6, 11, 18, as asseverative here, “Indeed find (i.e., judge his wickedness).” The translation assumes that the final words are an asyndetic relative clause which refers back to what the wicked man boasted in God’s face (“you will not find [i.e., my wickedness]”). See v. 13.
16 The Lord rules forever! ▼
▼ Heb “the Lord is king forever and ever.”
The nations are driven out of his land. ▼
▼ Or “the nations perish from his land.” The perfect verb form may express what is typical or it may express rhetorically the psalmist’s certitude that God’s deliverance is “as good as done.”▼
17 Lord, you have heard ▼
▼ You have heard. The psalmist is confident that God has responded positively to his earlier petitions for divine intervention. The psalmist apparently prayed the words of vv. 16–18 after the reception of an oracle of deliverance (given in response to the confident petition of vv. 12–15) or after the Lord actually delivered him from his enemies.the request ▼
▼ Heb “desire.”of the oppressed;
you make them feel secure because you listen to their prayer. ▼
▼ Heb “you make firm their heart, you cause your ear to listen.”
You defend ▼
▼ Heb “to judge (on behalf of),” or “by judging (on behalf of).”the fatherless and oppressed, ▼
so that mere mortals may no longer terrorize them. ▼
▼ Psalm 11. The psalmist rejects the advice to flee from his dangerous enemies. Instead he affirms his confidence in God’s just character and calls down judgment on evildoers.
For the music director; by David.18
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