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Psalm 10



A Prayer for the Overthrow of the Wicked
No MT Intro
A Song of Confidence in God's Triumph Over Evil Prayer for Deliverance From Personal Enemies
(Psalm 9-10, A Lament)
A Prayer for Justice God Strikes the Wicked and Saves the Humble
(Psalm 9-10)
Acrostic Continues
10:1-2 10:1-2 10:1-2 10:1-2 10:1-2 (Lamed)
10:3-4 10:3-4 10:3-4 10:3-4 10:3 (Mem)
        10:4 (Nun)
10:5-11 10:5-7 10:5-6 10:5-7 10:5
    10:7-8a   10:7b-8b (Pe)
  10:8-11 10:8b-9 10:8-9 10:8c-9 (Ain)
    10:10-11 10:10-11 10:10-11
10:12-15 10:12-13 10:12-13 10:12-13 10:12-13 (Qoph)
  10:14-15 10:14 10:14 10:14 (Resh)
    10:15-16 10:15 10:15-16 (Shim)
10:16-18 10:16-18   10:16  
    10:17-18 10:17-18 10:17-18 (Taw)

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



 1Why do You stand afar off, O Lord?
 Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?
 2In pride the wicked hotly pursue the afflicted;
 Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.

10:1 This is a common question for faithful believers in a fallen world. Evil and suffering are often surprises and unexpected events. Why would our loving, merciful God allow this?

There is no biblical answer except that we live in a fallen world. This is not the world God intended it to be, nor is it the world it will be in the future. As a theologian I must assert that God has allowed us to reap the consequences of both Adam/Eve's sin and our personal choices. Yet He has aggressively acted on our behalf in redemption! The best book on the subject of evil and suffering in this life/world, which truly takes it seriously, is John W. Wenham, The Goodness of God.

The psalmist asks two specific questions ("why") about God's apparent absence.

1. stand far off — BDB 763, KB 840, Qal imperfect

2. hide Yourself — BDB 761, KB 834, Qal imperfect, cf. Ps. 27:9; 55:1; 69:17

YHWH promised to be present and involved with His covenant people but He seems to be absent and purposefully inactive (cf. Ps. 10:5a,11)!

Notice the sound play and parallelism so characteristic of ANE poetry (see Appendix: Hebrew Poetry).

These charges are not reality but the emotions of confused and hurting believers.

10:2 Notice the characteristics of the wicked.

1. pride/arrogance — BDB 144, cf. Ps. 31:18,23; 36:11; 73:6

2. hotly pursue — BDB 196, KB 223, Qal imperfect, cf. Gen. 31:36; 1 Sam. 17:53; Lam. 4:19

3. devise plots — BDB 362, KB 359, Qal perfect

This is developed further in the next strophes (Ps. 10:3-4 and 5-11).

▣ "Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised" This is translated by NASB as a jussive (BDB 1074, KB 1779, Niphal imperfect used in a jussive sense), as should Ps. 10:15b.

This expresses a typical OT motif of "role reversal." What is expected does not occur because of God's presence.

 3For the wicked boasts of his heart's desire,
 And the greedy man curses and spurns the Lord.
 4The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him.
 All his thoughts are, "There is no God."

10:3-4 This strophe further describes (1) pagans, (2) atheists, or at least (3) the "practical atheism" of the psalmist's enemies (i.e., other Israelites).

1. curses the Lord — but a few times in the sense of "curse," (lit. "bless," BDB 138, KB 159, Piel perfect, cf. 1 Kgs. 21:10,13; Job 1:5; 2:9)

2. spurns the Lord — BDB 610, KB 658, Piel perfect

3. does not seek the Lord — BDB 205, KB 233, Qal imperfect

4. assumes there is no God — "no," BDB 34 II, "God," BDB 43 (phrase has no verb), cf. Ps. 10:5a,11; 14:1; 53:1; this is not a philosophical issue but a practical issue. Everyone in the ANE believed in a spiritual realm. JPSOA translates the phrase as "God does not care."


10:3a The fall of Genesis 3 has turned the heart of the creature away from the Creator and onto himself/herself. Our lives are spent seeking selfish things, positions, and power. Augustine put it well when he wrote about every human being created with a God-shaped hole. Nothing but God can fill that need but fallen humanity tries to fill it with temporal/earthly things.

 5His ways prosper at all times;
 Your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
 As for all his adversaries, he snorts at them.
 6He says to himself, "I will not be moved;
 Throughout all generations I will not be in adversity."
 7His mouth is full of curses and deceit and oppression;
 Under his tongue is mischief and wickedness.
 8He sits in the lurking places of the villages;
 In the hiding places he kills the innocent;
 His eyes stealthily watch for the unfortunate.
 9He lurks in a hiding place as a lion in his lair;
 He lurks to catch the afflicted;
 He catches the afflicted when he draws him into his net.
 10He crouches, he bows down,
 And the unfortunate fall by his mighty ones.
 11He says to himself, "God has forgotten;
 He has hidden His face; He will never see it."

10:5-11 This strophe describes the seeming unfairness of life. The wicked prosper and the righteous suffer! The same issue is addressed in the book of Job, Psalm 73, and Habakkuk. The wicked are characterized as:

1. prospers at all times — the verb (BDB 298 II, KB 311, Qal imperfect) is lit. "be firm," but is used in the sense of wealth, cf. Gen. 34:29; Num. 31:9; Deut. 8:17,18; Job 5:5; 15:29; 20:15,18; 31:25; Ps. 49:6,10; 62:10; 73:12; Isa. 8:4; 10:14; 30:6; 60:5; 61:6; Micah 4:13

2. snorts at his adversaries — BDB 806, KB 916, Hiphil imperfect, this sense is found only here but the word is often used of liars in Proverbs (cf. Pro. 6:19; 14:5,25; 19:5,9)

3. I shall not be moved — BDB 556, KB 555, Niphal imperfect meaning my situation of prosperity and safety will never be changed

4. his mouth is full of (i.e., the mouth reveals the heart; Paul quotes this verse in his litany of OT texts that reveal the universality of human sin, cf. Rom. 3:14)

a. curses

b. deceit

c. oppression

d. mischief

e. wickedness

5. he ambushes the innocent like a wild animal (cf. Ps. 10:8-10; Lam. 3:10-11)

6. he believes and asserts the very words of the psalmist from Ps. 10:1. God is absent and irrelevant! The psalmist's words were a cry of faith, but these are the assertions of an unbeliever (cf. Ps. 39:1-2).


10:5b This line of poetry refers to God as far away and irrelevant (cf. Ps. 10:4b,11).

10:8 "villages" This does not seem to fit the context. NJB changes the vowels to "of the rushes" (UBS Text Project, p. 174, gives "village" a "B" rating, meaning "some doubt"). The NET Bible translates it as "near the villages" (MT, "in the villages").

NASB, REB"unfortunate"
NASB margin"poor"
NKJV, NRSV"helpless"

This adjective (BDB 319, KB 319) occurs only in this chapter in the Psalms, and only three times in all the OT. I think all three uses refer to a person being attacked.

 12Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up Your hand.
 Do not forget the afflicted.
 13Why has the wicked spurned God?
 He has said to himself, "You will not require it."
 14You have seen it, for You have beheld mischief and vexation to take it into Your hand.
 The unfortunate commits himself to You;
 You have been the helper of the orphan.
 15Break the arm of the wicked and the evildoer,
 Seek out his wickedness until You find none.

10:12 This verse describes the stealth (Qere) of a wild animal seeking prey.

10:12-15 This is a prayer for God to act.

1. arise — (BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal imperative) from Your throne or as the Divine Warrior

2. lift up Your hand — BDB 669, KB 724, Qal imperative

3. do not forget the afflicted — BDB 1013, KB 1489, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, cf. Ps. 9:12 and19 contrast Ps. 10:11!

4. break the arm of the wicked — BDB 990, KB 1402, Qal imperative (i.e., break the power of this/these evil person/people)

5. seek out — BDB 205, KB 233, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

The psalmist wants God to act on behalf of the faithful believer to show the unbeliever his/her folly!

 16The Lord is King forever and ever;
 Nations have perished from His land.
 17O Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble;
 You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear
 18To vindicate the orphan and the oppressed,
 So that man who is of the earth will no longer cause terror.

10:16-18 This strophe affirms the character of the God of Israel, the Creator, Redeemer God.

1. YHWH is King forever and ever (cf. Exod. 15:18; Ps. 9:7; 29:10; 146:10; Jer. 10:10; Lam. 5:19). For "forever" see Special Topic at Ps. 9:5.

2. YHWH gave the Israelites the land of Canaan (cf. Gen. 15:12-21). The focus on "the nations" resumes the thought from Ps. 9:17-20.

3. YHWH hears and acts on behalf of the humble/afflicted believer (note the perfect, YHWH will and does hear).

4. YHWH acts on behalf of the socially powerless and vulnerable (i.e., reflects Deuteronomy).

5. YHWH will remove the arrogant unbeliever and his/her deeds from the earth.



This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Is verse 4 describing an atheist?

2. What is the person of verse 6 asserting?

3. What is the person of verses 11 and 13b asserting?

4. How is verse 18 related to Deuteronomy?