Where the world comes to study the Bible

Psalm 109

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Vengeance Invoked Upon Adversaries
MT Intro
For the choir director. A Psalm of David
Plea for Judgment of False Accusers Prayer for Deliverance From Personal Enemies
(A Lament)
The Complaint of Someone in Trouble An Imprecation
109:1-5 109:1-5 109:1-5 109:1-5 109:1-3
        109:4-5
109:6-13 109:6-13 109:6-19 109:6-15 109:6-7
        109:8-9
        109:10-11
        109:12-13
109:14-20 109:14-20     109:14-15
      109:16-19 109:16-17
        109:18-19
    109:20-25 109:20-25 109:20-21
109:21-25 109:21-25      
        109:22-23
        109:24-25
109:26-29 109:26-29 109:26-31 109:26-29 109:26-27
        109:28-29
109:30-31 109:30-31   109:30-31 109:30-31

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

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

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. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. The psalmist feels that he has been unfairly treated by those he loved (first strophe, Ps. 109:1-5).

1. their words

a. wicked, Ps. 109:1

b. deceitful, Ps. 109:1

c. lying, Ps. 109:2

d. words of hatred, Ps. 109:3

e. accuse, Ps. 109:4

2. their acts

a. fought against me without cause, Ps. 109:3

b. repaid evil for good, Ps. 109:5

c. repaid hatred for love, Ps. 109:5

3. this may reflect a court scene where the psalmist is falsely accused (cf. Ps. 109:6-7)

B. He prays a series of judgments (jussives) on his adversaries (second and third strophe, Ps. 109:6-13, 14-20).

1. let an accuser stand at his right hand, Ps. 109:6 - BDB 763, KB 840, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. let him come forth guilty, Ps. 109:7 - BDB 422, KB 425, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

3. let his prayer become sin, Ps. 109:7 - BDB 224, KB 243, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

4. let his days be few, Ps. 109:8 - same form as #3

5. let another take his office, Ps. 109:8 - BDB 542, KB 534, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

6. let his children be fatherless, Ps. 109:9 - same as #3

7. let his wife be a widow, Ps. 109:9 - same as #3

8. let his children wander about, Ps. 109:10 - this is an infinitive absolute and an imperfect verb from the same root (BDB 631, KB 681), which was a grammatical way to show intensity

a. beg - BDB 981, KB 1371, Piel perfect

b. seek sustenance - BDB 205, KB 233, Qal perfect

The NASB translates the perfects of Ps. 109:10 as jussives (i.e., "let. . .").

9. let the creditor seize all he has, Ps. 109:11 - BDB 669, KB 723, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense

10. let strangers plunder the product of his labor, Ps. 109:11 - BDB 102, KB 117, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

11. let there be none to extend lovingkindness to him, Ps. 109:12 - BDB 224, KB 243, Qal jussive

12. let there not be any to be gracious to his fatherless children, Ps. 109:12 - same as #11

13. let his posterity be cut off, Ps. 109:13 - same as #11

14. let their name be blotted out, Ps. 109:13 - BDB 562, KB 567, Niphal jussive

15. let the iniquity of his father be remembered, Ps. 109:14 - BDB 269, KB 269, Niphal imperfect used in a jussive sense

16. do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out, Ps. 109:14 - BDB 562, KB 567, Niphal jussive

17. let them be before the Lord continually, Ps. 109:15 - same as #3

18. let the Lord cut off their memory, Ps. 109:15 - BDB 503, KB 500, Hiphil jussive

19. let it be to him as a garment (i.e., cursing), Ps. 109:19 - same as #11

20. NASB, NKJV, NJB translate Ps. 109:20a as another jussive but it is a Qal participle

C. Psalm 109:16-18 lists the reasons why YHWH should judge him.

1. he did not remember to show lovingkindness, Ps. 109:16

2. he persecuted the afflicted and needy man, Ps. 109:16

3. he loved cursing, Ps. 109:17

4. he clothed himself in cursing as a garment, Ps. 109:18

D. In Psalm 109:21-25 the psalmist describes his need and asks for help (note the contrasting conjunction, "but for You, O God").

1. deal kindly with me - BDB 793, KB 889, Qal imperative

2. deliver me - BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil imperative

He bases his prayers on

1. YHWH's name sake, Ps. 109:21

2. YHWH's lovingkindness, Ps. 6:4; 44:26; 109:21,26; 119:149

3. his need

a. I am afflicted and needy

b. my heart is wounded

c. I am passing like a shadow

d. I am shaken off like the locust

e. my knees are weak from fasting

f. my flesh has grown lean

g. I have become a reproach

E. In Ps. 109:26-29 the psalmist continues his prayer and expresses his desire for YHWH's judgment on his adversaries.

1. help me - BDB 740, KB 810, Qal imperative

2. save me according to Your lovingkindness - BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil imperative, cf. Ps. 109:21

3.  he prays for YHWH to

a. let them know their judgment is from Him - BDB 393, KB 390, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

b. let them curse, but do not bless - BDB 886, KB 1103, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense, which draws a reaction from YHWH (i.e., not to bless)

c. let them be ashamed - BDB 101, KB 116, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense (NKJV, NRSV), as there was a contrasting statement in Ps. 109:28a, so too, in 109:28c

d. let my accusers be clothed with dishonor - BDB 527, KB 519, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense (NASB, NKJV, NRSV)

e. let them cover themselves with their own shame - BDB 741, KB 813, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense (NASB, NKJV, NRSV)

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 109:1-5
 1O God of my praise,
 Do not be silent!
 2For they have opened the wicked and deceitful mouth against me;
 They have spoken against me with a lying tongue.
 3They have also surrounded me with words of hatred,
 And fought against me without cause.
 4In return for my love they act as my accusers;
 But I am in prayer.
 5Thus they have repaid me evil for good
 And hatred for my love.

109:1 "O God of my praise" This phrase is found only here and in Deut. 10:21, but the concept is recurrent (i.e., Psalm 146-148). The LXX translates this phrase as "O God do not pass over my praise in silence."

▣ "Do not be silent" This is a Hebrew plea for YHWH to hear and respond to prayer (cf. Ps. 28:1; 35:22; 38:12; 83:1).

109:2-3 There is power in words both for blessing and for hurting. Our words reveal our hearts! See Special Topic: Human Speech.

The AB (p. 100) sees these verses as allusions to animal attacks.

1. mouth of attacking animals (cf. Ps. 22:14; Lam. 3:46-47)

2. "speaking" (BDB 180) in sense of "pursuing"

3. "surrounding" like a pack of animals

 

109:4-5 Being attacked is painful but being attacked by those you trusted and befriended is doubly painful (cf. Ps. 35:12; 38:20).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 109:6-13
 6Appoint a wicked man over him,
 And let an accuser stand at his right hand.
 7When he is judged, let him come forth guilty,
 And let his prayer become sin.
 8Let his days be few;
 Let another take his office.
 9Let his children be fatherless
 And his wife a widow.
 10Let his children wander about and beg;
 And let them seek sustenance far from their ruined homes.
 11Let the creditor seize all that he has,
 And let strangers plunder the product of his labor.
 12Let there be none to extend lovingkindness to him,
 Nor any to be gracious to his fatherless children.
 13Let his posterity be cut off;
 In a following generation let their name be blotted out.

109:6-20 These two strophes sound so harsh to modern people. The psalmist is simply asking for the covenant curses (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30) on faithless Israelites to become a reality to his enemies. He feels he is on YHWH's side; to attack him is to attack YHWH.

The Jewish Study Bible (p. 1407) says this is the longest cursing section in the Psalter. It is so vivid and graphic that some commentators think it reflects what the enemies were saying against the psalmist (i.e., Jerome Bible commentary, NJB, and NIV footnote). However, this cannot be proven from the MT. The only evidence would be the singular form used in Ps. 109:6-19, which is probably a collective singular.

109:6 "an accuser" This is the Hebrew term (BDB 966, cf. Ps. 109:20,29) that came to be a title for personified evil, Satan. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SATAN.

109:8 "office" It is uncertain from the context what this word (BDB 824) means. It can refer to "stored provisions," cf. Isa. 15:7. The attacker had a place of prominence and power. This phrase (along with Ps. 69:25 from the LXX) is used in Acts 1:20 as referring to Judas Iscariot. Acts used the word "office" as relating to an election for Judas' replacement as an Apostle.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 109:14-20
 14Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord,
 And do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out.
 15Let them be before the Lord continually,
 That He may cut off their memory from the earth;
 16Because he did not remember to show lovingkindness,
 But persecuted the afflicted and needy man,
 And the despondent in heart, to put them to death.
 17He also loved cursing, so it came to him;
 And he did not delight in blessing, so it was far from him.
 18But he clothed himself with cursing as with his garment,
 And it entered into his body like water
 And like oil into his bones.
 19Let it be to him as a garment with which he covers himself,
 And for a belt with which he constantly girds himself.
 20Let this be the reward of my accusers from the Lord,
 And of those who speak evil against my soul.

109:14-15 This may be an allusion to the two books (i.e., the book of deeds and the book of life) which symbolize God's memory. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TWO BOOKS OF GOD.

109:17-19 The curses referred to prayers for God to punish. The psalmist is asking for his persecutor's prayer for vengeance to be turned back on themselves. In the OT if one is found to be a false witness in court, he bears the punishment of the one falsely accused.

109:20 This is a summary conclusion to Ps. 109:6-19. It could go with 109:6-19 (i.e., NASB, NKJV) or with the next strophe (cf. NRSV, TEV, NJB).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 109:21-25
 21But You, O God, the Lord, deal kindly with me for Your name's sake;
 Because Your lovingkindness is good, deliver me;
 22For I am afflicted and needy,
 And my heart is wounded within me.
 23I am passing like a shadow when it lengthens;
 I am shaken off like the locust.
 24My knees are weak from fasting,
 And my flesh has grown lean, without fatness.
 25I also have become a reproach to them;
 When they see me, they wag their head.

109:21 "for Your name's sake" This is a recurrent theme (cf. Ps. 23:3; 25:11; 31:3; 79:9; 106:8). The name represents the person. See Special Topic: "The Name" of YHWH.

109:24 This verse can be interpreted in two ways (see UBS Handbook, p. 944).

1. the psalmist has been voluntarily fasting

2. the psalmist has had no

a. good food

b. olive oil for anointing

 

109:25 "they wag their head" This was a gesture of contempt (cf. 2 Kgs. 19:21; Job 16:4; Ps. 22:7; Isa. 37:22; Jer. 18:16; 48:27; Lam. 2:15; Matt. 27:39; Mark 15:29).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 109:26-29
 26Help me, O Lord my God;
 Save me according to Your lovingkindness.
 27And let them know that this is Your hand;
 You, Lord, have done it.
 28Let them curse, but You bless;
 When they arise, they shall be ashamed,
 But Your servant shall be glad.
 29Let my accusers be clothed with dishonor,
 And let them cover themselves with their own shame as with a robe.

109:27 This is a typical OT role reversal motif. The psalmist wants to be vindicated by YHWH in the presence of his enemies (cf. Ps. 23:5).

109:28 "Your servant" The noun "servant" (BDB 713) can be used of

1. a slave

2. subjects of a king

3. worshipers (cf. Deut. 32:36,43)

4. Levite singers (cf. Ps. 113:1; 134:1; 135:1)

5. Israel (cf. Isa. 41:8-9)

6. BDB 714, #6, suggests the usage here is simply a polite address to God (cf. Ps. 19:11,13; 27:9; 31:16; 35:27; 69:17; 143:2)

7. NASB Study Bible (p. 856) sees it as a reference to the Davidic Messiah (cf. Ps. 78:20; Isa. 42:1)

8. special title for leaders

a. Abraham - Gen. 26:24

b. Isaac - 24:14

c. Jacob - Ezek. 28:25; 37:25

d. Moses - Num. 12:7; Deut. 34:5

e. Joshua - Jos. 24:29 (after his death)

f. David - 2 Sam. 3:18; 7:5,8,26

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 109:30-31
 30With my mouth I will give thanks abundantly to the Lord;
 And in the midst of many I will praise Him.
 31For He stands at the right hand of the needy,
 To save him from those who judge his soul.

109:30-31 The psalmist praises YHWH for His faithfulness and justice.

1. I will give thanks abundantly to the Lord - BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense

2. I will praise Him - BDB 237, KB 248, Piel imperfect used in a cohortative sense

 

109:31 "For He stands at the right hand of the needy" This is in direct contrast to the wicked accuser of Ps. 109:6. This same phrase is used of Satan in Zech. 3:1.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

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. What does God's silence imply?

2. List the actions of the wicked.

3. Why do many commentators think the enemies were close friends?

4. How does one explain the desire for violence against another person?

5. How is Ps. 109:14 related to the concept of the book of life?