Psalms 59

Psalm 59

Psalm 59. The psalmist calls down judgment on his foreign enemies, whom he compares to ravenous wild dogs.

For the music director; according to the al-tashcheth style;
Heb “do not destroy.” Perhaps this refers to a particular style of music, a tune title, or a musical instrument. These words also appear in the superscription to Pss 57–58, 75.
a prayer
The precise meaning of the Hebrew word מִכְתָּם (miktam), which also appears in the heading to Pss 16, 56–58, 60 is uncertain. HALOT 582-83 s.v. defines it as “inscription.”
of David, written when Saul sent men to surround his house and murder him.
Heb “when Saul sent and they watched his house in order to kill him.”
According to the superscription, David wrote this psalm on the occasion when Saul sent assassins to surround David’s house and kill him in the morning (see 1 Sam 19:11). However, the psalm itself mentions foreign enemies (vv. 5, 8). Perhaps these references reflect a later adaptation of an original Davidic psalm.

1 Deliver me from my enemies, my God!
Protect me
Or “make me secure”; Heb “set me on high.”
from those who attack me!
Heb “from those who raise themselves up [against] me.”

2 Deliver me from evildoers!
Heb “from the workers of wickedness.”

Rescue me from violent men!
Heb “from men of bloodshed.”

3 For look, they wait to ambush me;
Heb “my life.”

powerful men stalk
The Hebrew verb is from the root גּוּר (gur), which means “to challenge, attack” in Isa 54:15 and “to stalk” (with hostile intent) in Ps 56:8.
but not because I have rebelled or sinned, O Lord.
The point is that the psalmist’s enemies have no justifiable reason for attacking him. He has neither rebelled or sinned against the Lord.

4 Though I have done nothing wrong,
Heb “without sin.”
they are anxious to attack.
Heb “they run and they are determined.”

Spring into action and help me! Take notice of me!
Heb “arise to meet me and see.” The Hebrew verb קָרָא (qara’, “to meet; to encounter”) here carries the nuance of “to help.”

5 You, O Lord God, the invincible warrior,
HebLord, God, Hosts.” One expects the construct form אֱלֹהֵי (’elohey) before צְבָאוֹת (tsevaot, “hosts”). See Ps 89:9, but יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים (yehvah elohim) precedes צְבָאוֹת (tsevaot) in Pss 80:4, 19; 84:8 as well.
the God of Israel,
rouse yourself and punish
Heb “wake up to punish” (see Pss 35:23; 44:23).
all the nations!
Have no mercy on any treacherous evildoers! (Selah)
6 They return in the evening;
they growl
Or “howl”; or “bark.”
like a dog
and prowl around outside
Heb “go around.”
the city.
7 Look, they hurl insults at me
and openly threaten to kill me,
Heb “look, they gush forth with their mouth, swords [are] in their lips.”

for they say,
The words “for they say” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The following question (“Who hears?”) is spoken by the psalmist’s enemies, who are confident that no one else can hear their threats against the psalmist. They are aggressive because they feel the psalmist is vulnerable and has no one to help him.

“Who hears?”
8 But you, O Lord, laugh in disgust at them;
Laugh in disgust. See Pss 2:4; 37:13.

you taunt
Or “scoff at”; or “deride”; or “mock” (see Ps 2:4).
all the nations.
9 You are my source of strength! I will wait for you!
Heb “his strength, for you I will watch.” “His strength” should be emended to “my strength” (see v. 17). Some also emend אֶשְׁמֹרָה (’eshmorah, “I will watch”) to אֱזַמֵּרָה (’ezammerah, “I will sing praises [to you]”) See v. 17.

For God is my refuge.
Or “my elevated place” (see Ps 18:2).

10 The God who loves me will help me;
Heb “the God of my [Qere (marginal reading); the Kethib (consonantal text) has “his”] loyal love will meet me.”

God will enable me to triumph over
Heb “will cause me to look upon.”
my enemies.
Heb “those who watch me [with evil intent].” See also Pss 5:8; 27:11; 54:5; 56:2.

11 Do not strike them dead suddenly,
because then my people might forget the lesson.
Heb “do not kill them, lest my people forget.”
My people might forget the lesson. Swift, sudden destruction might be quickly forgotten. The psalmist wants God’s judgment to be prolonged so that it might be a continual reminder of divine justice.

Use your power to make them homeless vagabonds and then bring them down,
O Lord who shields us!
Heb “make them roam around by your strength and bring them down, O our shield, the Lord.”

12 They speak sinful words.
Heb “the sin of their mouth [is] the word of their lips.”

So let them be trapped by their own pride
and by the curses and lies they speak!
13 Angrily wipe them out! Wipe them out so they vanish!
Let them know that God rules
in Jacob and to the ends of the earth! (Selah)
14 They return in the evening;
they growl
Or “howl”; or “bark.”
like a dog
and prowl around outside
Heb “go around.”
the city.
15 They wander around looking for something to eat;
they refuse to sleep until they are full.
Heb “if they are not full, they stay through the night.”

16 As for me, I will sing about your strength;
I will praise your loyal love in the morning.
For you are my refuge
Or “my elevated place” (see Ps 18:2).

and my place of shelter when I face trouble.
Heb “and my shelter in the day of my distress.”

17 You are my source of strength! I will sing praises to you!
Heb “my strength, to you I will sing praises.”

For God is my refuge,
Or “my elevated place” (see Ps 18:2).
the God who loves me.
Heb “the God of my loyal love.”

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