Psalms 35

1O Lord, fight
Or “contend.”
those who fight with me!
Attack those who attack me!
2 Grab your small shield and large shield,
Two different types of shields are mentioned here. See also Ezek 38:4. Many modern translations render the first term (translated here “small shield”) as “buckler” (cf. NASB “buckler and shield”; the order is often reversed in the translation, apparently for stylistic reasons: cf. NEB, NIV, NRSV “shield and buckler”). The English term “buckler,” referring to a small round shield held on the arm to protect the upper body, is unfamiliar to many modern readers, so the term “small shield” was used in the present translation for clarity.

and rise up to help me!
3 Use your spear and lance
Or “javelin.” On the meaning of this word, which occurs only here in the Hebrew Bible, see M. Dahood, Psalms (AB), 1:210–11.
Heb “draw out spear and lance to meet.”
those who chase me!
Assure me with these words:
Heb “say to me,” or “say to my soul.”
“I am your deliverer!”
4 May those who seek my life be embarrassed and humiliated!
May those who plan to harm me be turned back and ashamed!
The four prefixed verbal forms in this verse are understood as jussives. The psalmist is calling judgment down on his enemies. See also the distinct jussive form in v. 6.

5 May they be
The prefixed verbal form is taken as a jussive. See v. 4.
like wind-driven chaff,
as the Lord’s angel
See the mention of the Lord’s angel in Ps 34:7.
attacks them!
Heb “as the Lord’s angel pushes [them].”

6 May their path be
The prefixed verbal form is distinctly jussive, indicating this is a prayer.
dark and slippery,
as the Lord’s angel chases them!
7 I did not harm them, but they hid a net to catch me
and dug a pit to trap me.
Heb “for without cause they hid for me a pit of their net, without cause they dug for my life.” It appears that the words “pit” and “net” have been transposed. “Net” goes with the verb “hid” in the first line (see v. 8, as well as Pss 9:15; 31:4), while “pit” goes with the verb “dug” in the second line (see Ps 7:15).

8 Let destruction take them by surprise!
Heb “let destruction [which] he does not know come to him.” The singular is used of the enemy in v. 8, probably in a representative or collective sense. The psalmist has more than one enemy, as vv. 1–7 make clear.

Let the net they hid catch them!
Let them fall into destruction!
The psalmist’s prayer for his enemies’ demise continues. See vv. 4–6.

9 Then I will rejoice in the Lord
and be happy because of his deliverance.
Heb “then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and be happy in his deliverance.”

10 With all my strength I will say,
Heb “all my bones will say.”

“O Lord, who can compare to you?
You rescue
Heb “[the one who] rescues.” The substantival participle in the Hebrew text characterizes God as one who typically rescues the oppressed.
the oppressed from those who try to overpower them;
Heb “from [the one who is] too strong for him.” The singular forms are used in a representative sense. The typical oppressed individual and typical oppressor are in view.

the oppressed and needy from those who try to rob them.”
Heb “the oppressed [one] and needy [one] from [the one who] robs him.” As in the previous line, the singular forms are used in a representative sense.

11 Violent men perjure themselves,
Heb “witnesses of violence rise up.”

and falsely accuse me.
Heb “[that] which I do not know they ask me.”

12 They repay me evil for the good I have done;
Heb “they repay me evil instead of good.”

I am overwhelmed with sorrow.
Heb “[there is] bereavement to my soul.”

13 When they were sick, I wore sackcloth,
Heb “as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth.” Sackcloth was worn by mourners. When the psalmist’s enemies were sick, he was sorry for their misfortune and mourned for them.

and refrained from eating food.
Fasting was also a practice of mourners. By refraining from normal activities, such as eating food, the mourner demonstrated the sincerity of his sorrow.

(If I am lying, may my prayers go unanswered!)
Heb “and my prayer upon my chest will return.” One could translate, “but my prayer was returning upon my chest,” but the use of the imperfect verbal form sets this line apart from the preceding and following lines (vv. 13a, 14), which use the perfect to describe the psalmist’s past actions.

14 I mourned for them as I would for a friend or my brother.
Heb “like a friend, like a brother to me I walked about.”

I bowed down
I bowed down. Bowing down was a posture for mourning. See Ps 38:6.
in sorrow as if I were mourning for my mother.
Heb “like mourning for a mother [in] sorrow I bowed down.”

15 But when I stumbled, they rejoiced and gathered together;
they gathered together to ambush me.
Heb “they gathered together against me, stricken [ones], and I did not know.” The Hebrew form נֵכִים (nekhim, “stricken ones” ?) is problematic. Some suggest an emendation to נָכְרִים[כְ] (kenokherim, “foreigners”) or “like foreigners,” which would fit with what follows, “[like] foreigners that I do not recognize.” Perhaps the form should be read as a Qal active participle, נֹכִים (nokhim, “ones who strike”) from the verbal root נָכָה (nakhah, “to strike”). The Qal of this verb is unattested in biblical Hebrew, but the peal (basic) stem appears in Old Aramaic (J. Fitzmyer, The Aramaic Inscriptions of Sefire [BibOr], 114; DNWSI 1:730.) In this case one might translate, “attackers gathered together against me though I was not aware of it” (cf. NASB “smiters”; NEB, NRSV “ruffians”; NIV “attackers”).

They tore at me without stopping to rest.
Heb “they tore and did not keep quiet.” By using the verb “tear,” the psalmist likens his enemies to a wild animal (see Hos 13:8). In v. 17 he compares them to hungry young lions.

16 When I tripped, they taunted me relentlessly,
The MT reads “as profane [ones] of mockers of food,” which is nonsensical. The present translation assumes (1) an emendation of בְּחַנְפֵי (bekhanfey, “as profane men”) to בְּחַנְפִי (bekhanfiy, “when I tripped”; preposition + Qal infinitive construct from II חָנַף [“limp”] + first common singular pronominal suffix) and (2) an emendation of לַעֲגֵי מָעוֹג (laagey maog, “mockers of food”) to עָגוּ[ם]לַעְגָּ (lagam agu, “[with] taunting they taunted”; masculine plural noun with enclitic mem + Qal perfect third common plural from לַּעַג [laag, “taunt”]).

and tried to bite me.
Heb “gnashing at me with their teeth.” The infinitive absolute adds a complementary action – they gnashed with their teeth as they taunted.

17 O Lord, how long are you going to just stand there and watch this?
Heb “O Lord, how long will you see?”

Heb “bring back, restore.”
Or “my life.”
from their destructive attacks;
guard my life
Heb “my only one.” The psalmist may mean that his life is precious, or that he feels isolated and alone (see Ps 22:20). The verb “guard” is supplied in the translation, because the verb “rescue” is understood by ellipsis (see the previous line).
from the young lions!
18 Then I will give you thanks in the great assembly;
The great assembly is also mentioned in Ps 22:25.

I will praise you before a large crowd of people!
Heb “among numerous people.”

19 Do not let those who are my enemies for no reason
Heb “[with] a lie.” The Hebrew noun שֶׁקֶר (sheqer, “lie”) is used here as an adverb, “falsely, wrongfully” (see Ps 38:19).
Heb “rejoice.”
over me!
Do not let those who hate me without cause carry out their wicked schemes!
Heb “[do not let] those who hate me without cause pinch [i.e., wink] an eye.” The negative particle is understood in the second line by ellipsis (see the preceding line). In the Book of Proverbs “winking an eye” is associated with deceit and trickery (see 6:13; 10:10; 16:30).

20 For they do not try to make peace with others,
Heb “for they do not speak peace.”

but plan ways to deceive those who are unsuspecting.
Heb “but against the quiet ones of the land words of deceit they plan.” The imperfect verbal forms in v. 20 highlight their characteristic behavior.

21 They are ready to devour me;
Heb “and they cause their mouth to be wide against me.” The prefixed verbal form with vav (ו) consecutive here carries on the generalizing mood of the previous verse. For other examples of this use of the prefixed verbal form with vav consecutive, see GKC 329 #111.t.

they say, “Aha! Aha! We’ve got you!”
Heb “our eye sees.” Apparently this is an idiom meaning to “look in triumph” or “gloat over” (see Ps 54:7).

22 But you take notice,
Heb “you see, O Lord.” There is a deliberate play on words. In v. 21 the enemies say, “our eye sees,” but the psalmist is confident that the Lord “sees” as well, so he appeals to him for help (see also v. 17).
O Lord, do not remain far away from me!
23 Rouse yourself, wake up
Though he is confident that the Lord is aware of his situation (see v. 22a), the psalmist compares the Lord’s inactivity to sleep and urges him to wake up.
and vindicate me!
Heb “for my justice.”

My God and Lord, defend my just cause!
Heb “for my cause.”

24 Vindicate me by your justice, O Lord my God!
Do not let them gloat
Heb “rejoice.”
over me!
25 Do not let them say to themselves,
Heb “in their heart[s].”
“Aha! We have what we wanted!”
Heb “Aha! Our desire!” The “desire” of the psalmist’s enemies is to triumph over him.

Do not let them say, “We have devoured him!”
26 May those who want to harm me be totally embarrassed and ashamed!
Heb “may they be embarrassed and ashamed together, the ones who rejoice over my harm.”

May those who arrogantly taunt me be covered with shame and humiliation!
Heb “may they be clothed with shame and humiliation, the ones who magnify [themselves] against me.” The prefixed verbal forms in v. 26 are understood as jussives (see vv. 24b–25, where the negative particle אַל (’al) appears before the prefixed verbal forms, indicating they are jussives). The psalmist is calling down judgment on his enemies.

27 May those who desire my vindication shout for joy and rejoice!
May they continually say,
The prefixed verbal forms in v. 27a are understood as jussives (see vv. 24b–26).
“May the Lord be praised,
The prefixed verbal form is taken as a jussive, “may the Lord be magnified [in praise].” Another option is to take the verb as an imperfect, “the Lord is great.”
for he wants his servant to be secure.”
Heb “the one who desires the peace of his servant.”

Then I will tell others about your justice,
Heb “and my tongue will proclaim your justice.”

and praise you all day long.
Heb “all the day your praise.” The verb “proclaim” is understood by ellipsis in the second line (see the previous line).

Psalm 36

Psalm 36. Though evil men plan to harm others, the psalmist is confident that the Lord is the just ruler of the earth who gives and sustains all life. He prays for divine blessing and protection and anticipates God’s judgment of the wicked.

For the music director; written by the Lord’s servant, David; an oracle.

In the Hebrew text the word נאם (“oracle”) appears at the beginning of the next verse (v. 2 in the Hebrew text because the superscription is considered v. 1). The resulting reading, “an oracle of rebellion for the wicked [is] in the midst of my heart” (cf. NIV) apparently means that the psalm, which foresees the downfall of the wicked, is a prophetic oracle about the rebellion of the wicked which emerges from the soul of the psalmist. One could translate, “Here is a poem written as I reflected on the rebellious character of evil men.” Another option, followed in the translation above, is to attach נאם (neum, “oracle”) with the superscription. For another example of a Davidic poem being labeled an “oracle,” see 2 Sam 23:1.
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