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Psalm 141

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Prayer for Protection Against the Wicked
MT Intro
For the choir director.
A Psalm of David.
Prayer for Deliverance from Evil Men Prayer for Deliverance from Personal Enemies
(A Lament)
A Prayer for Protection Against the Wicked
140:1-3 140:1-3 140:1-3 140:1-3 140:1-3
140:4-5 140:4-5 140:4-5 140:4-5 140:4-5
140:6-8 140:6-8 140:6-8 140:6-8 140:6-8b
        140:8c-11
140:9-11 140:9-11 140:9-11 140:9-11  
140:12-13 140:12-13 140:12-13 140:12-13 140:12-13

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. Several names for God are used in this Psalm.

1. YHWH, Ps. 140:1,4,6 (twice),7,8,12

2. God (i.e., El), Ps. 140:6

3. Adon, Ps. 140:7

B. Notice how different persons are characterized.

1. the unfaithful

a. evil men, Ps. 140:1a

b. violent men, Ps. 140:1b,4b

c. devise evil things in their hearts, Ps. 140:2a

d. stir up wars, Ps. 140:2b

e. sharpen their tongues as a serpent, Ps. 140:3a

f. poison of a viper is under their lips, Ps. 140:3b

g. wicked men, Ps. 140:4a

h. purposed to trip, Ps. 140:4c

i. the proud have a hidden trap, Ps. 140:5a

j. spread a net, Ps. 140:5b

k. set snares, Ps. 140:5c

2. Israel's Deity

a. rescues, Ps. 140:1a

b. perseveres, Ps. 140:1b,4b

c. keep, Ps. 140:4a

d. He is El, Ps. 140:6a

e. gives ear, Ps. 140:6b

f. He is the strength of salvation, Ps. 140:7a (only here in the OT)

g. protector in battle, Ps. 140:7b

h. maintain the cause of the afflicted, Ps. 140:12a

i. justice for the poor, Ps. 140:12b

3. faithful followers

a. the afflicted, Ps. 140:12a

b. the poor, Ps. 140:12b

c. the righteous give thanks, Ps. 140:13a

d. the upright dwell with God, Ps. 140:13b

C. This Psalm clearly illustrates "the two ways" (cf. Deut. 30:15,19; Psalm 1).

D. This Psalm, like Psalm 139, has a large number of hapax legomena and rare words.

E. The Masoretic scholars suggested three changes (Qere) to the MT, one in Ps. 140:10,11,13, which show confusion in the text.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 140:1-3
 1Rescue me, O Lord, from evil men;
 Preserve me from violent men
 2Who devise evil things in their hearts;
 They continually stir up wars.
 3They sharpen their tongues as a serpent;
 Poison of a viper is under their lips.  Selah.

140:1-3,4-5 These two strophes are parallel in several ways, especially Ps.140:1 and 4 are prayers to God. The second line of both are imperfects used as jussives or even possibly an imperative of request. So the first verb of Ps. 140:1, "rescue" (BDB 322, KB 321, Piel imperative), is parallel to "keep" (BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal imperative) of Ps. 140:4.

The second lines of both Ps. 140:1 and 4 are the same.

The wicked are thus characterized in Ps. 140:2-3 and 4c-5.

140:2 "devise evil things" This is characteristic of those who do not follow God (cf. Ps. 7:14; 36:4; 52:2; Pro. 3:29; 6:14; Isa. 59:4; Hos. 7:15; Mic. 2:1; Nah. 1:9). By their actions you know who their father is (cf. John 8:39-44)! By their fruit you will know them (cf. Matt. 7:15-23)!

The same verb, "devise" (BDB 362, KB 359, Qal perfect) is repeated in Ps. 140:4c.

▣ "Hearts" This is a Hebrew idiom for the whole person. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEART.

▣ "continually stir up wars" In context this would refer to interpersonal strife, not armed conflict between nations (see NET Bible, #21, p. 1005). It is possible that as Psalm 139 may have been written against the judicial backdrop of the charge of idolatry, so too, Psalm 140 (esp. Ps. 140:12).

140:3 Notice the number of words with שׁ in them (i.e., sound play).

1. verb, "make sharp" (BDB 1041)

2. noun, "tongues" (BDB 546)

3. noun, "serpent" (BDB 638)

4. noun, "vipers" (BDB 747)

5. their lips (BDB 973)

All are meant to play on the hissing sound of a snake. Paul quotes this verse in Rom. 3:13 as one of many examples from the OT of mankind's sin (cf. Rom. 3:9-18,23). See note at Ps. 130:3-4.

▣ "viper" This noun (BDB 747, עכשׁוב) is found only here in the OT. Most translations have "asp" or "viper" or "cobra" but some (REB) have "spider" (BDB 747, עכבישׁ).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 140:4-5
 4Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
 Preserve me from violent men
 Who have purposed to trip up my feet.
 5The proud have hidden a trap for me, and cords;
 They have spread a net by the wayside;
 They have set snares for me.  Selah.

140:4-5 Notice the string of hunting metaphors (cf. Ps. 9:15; 31:4; 35:7; 64:5; 119:110; 141:9-10; 142:3).

1. trip up my feet, Ps. 140:4c

2. set a hidden trap, Ps. 140:5a

3. set hidden cords, Ps. 140:5a

4. spread a net by the road, Ps. 140:5b

5. set snares

 

140:5,8 "Selah" See full note at Ps. 3:2.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 140:6-8
 6I said to the Lord, "You are my God;
 Give ear, O Lord, to the voice of my supplications.
 7O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation,
 You have covered my head in the day of battle.
 8Do not grant, O Lord, the desires of the wicked;
 Do not promote his evil device, that they not be exalted."  Selah.

140:6-7 This is covenant language. The faithful follower calls on his faithful God for help and deliverance.

Notice the prayer requests.

1. rescue me, Ps. 140:1a

2. preserve me, Ps. 140:1b

3. keep me, Ps. 140:4a

4. preserve me, Ps. 140:4b

5. give ear, Ps. 140:6b

6. do not grant the desires of the wicked, Ps. 140:8a

7. do not promote their evil device, Ps. 140:8b

8. may the mischief of their lips cover them, Ps. 140:9b

9. may burning coals fall upon them, Ps. 140:10a

10. may they be cast into the fire, Ps. 140:10b

11. may they be cast into deep pits they cannot get out of, Ps. 140:10c

12. may the slander not be established, Ps. 140:11a

13. may evil hunt the violent man speedily, Ps. 140:11b

These are a combination of imperatives, imperfects used as imperatives, imperfects used as jussives, and jussives. This Psalm is a prayer for justice to be done to evil, violent, wicked, proud, lying people!

140:8 "desires" This term (BDB 16) is found only here in the OT. The psalmist prays that the "desires" of the wicked go unfulfilled. God gives the "desires" of the heart of faithful followers because He places them there. Our "desires" (and our words) clearly reveal our hearts!

▣ "device" This term (BDB 273) is found only here in the OT.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 140:9-11
 9"As for the head of those who surround me,
 May the mischief of their lips cover them.
 10May burning coals fall upon them;
 May they be cast into the fire,
 Into deep pits from which they cannot rise.
 11May a slanderer not be established in the earth;
 May evil hunt the violent man speedily."

140:9 "the head" This Hebrew word (BDB 910) refers to (1) the leader or organizer of the wicked, violent, lying, proud men who have plotted against the psalmist or (2) an idiom for being victorious. Number 2 fits the context best. There are several "collective singulars" in this Psalm.

140:10 "fire" This is a symbol of judgment. See SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE.

NASB, NKJV"deep pits"
NRSV, TEV,
JPSOA"pits"
NJB"mire"
REB"miry depths"

This term (BDB 243) occurs only here. BDB has the meaning of "watery pit" or "flood." For water as an ancient symbol of chaos, see Special Topic: Waters.

It is also possible that the imagery of this verse refers to a fiery Sheol (cf. Deut. 32:22). See Special Topic: Sheol.

140:11 "speedily" This term (BDB 191) occurs only here in the OT. It seems to mean "blow upon blow," therefore, it denotes violence. The NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 934, suggests that "speedily" implies that "the slanderer is to be destroyed before he can become established in the country" (i.e., Promised Land).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 140:12-13
 12I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted
 And justice for the poor.
 13Surely the righteous will give thanks to Your name;
 The upright will dwell in Your presence.

140:12 "the afflicted. . .the poor" These are often used in the Psalter for faithful followers (cf. Ps. 9:18; 34:6; 40:17; 70:5; 86:1; 109:22). This may be the origin of Jesus' imagery in Matt. 5:3-4.

140:13 "Your name" See Special Topic: "The Name" of YHWH.

▣ "will dwell in Your presence" This could refer to

1. worshiping in the temple

2. an afterlife with God

Only context can tell; see Ps. 11:7; 16:11; 17:15; 23:6; 31:20.

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 n 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. How is this Psalm possibly related to Psalm 139?

2. List the ways the wicked are described.

3. Why are Psalm 140:6 and 7 considered the psalmist's confession of faith?

4. To what group does the term "afflicted" and "poor" refer?

5. Does Ps. 140:13b refer to temple worship or eternity with God?