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Psalm 56

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Supplication for Deliverance, and Grateful Trust in God
MT Intro
For the choir director; according to Jonath elem rehokim. A Mikhtam of David when the Philistines seized him in Gath.
Prayer for Relief From Tormentors A Prayer for Deliverance From Personal Enemies A Prayer of Trust in God Trust in God
56:1-7 56:1-2 56:1-4 56:1-4 56:1-2
  56:3-4     56:3-4
  56:5-7 56:5-7 56:5-7 56:5-6
        56:7-9a
56:8-13 56:8-11 56:8-11 56:8-11  
        56:9b-11
  56:12-13 56:12-13 56:12-13 56:12-13

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. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 56:1-7
 1Be gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me;
 Fighting all day long he oppresses me.
 2My foes have trampled upon me all day long,
 For they are many who fight proudly against me.
 3When I am afraid,
 I will put my trust in You.
 4In God, whose word I praise,
 In God I have put my trust;
 I shall not be afraid.
 What can mere man do to me?
 5All day long they distort my words;
 All their thoughts are against me for evil.
 6They attack, they lurk,
 They watch my steps,
 As they have waited to take my life.
 7Because of wickedness, cast them forth,
 In anger put down the peoples, O God!

56:1-7 "Be gracious" This imperative (BDB 335, KB 334) begins many Psalms (cf. Ps. 4:1; 6:2; 51:1; 57:1 [twice]; 86:3; 123:3 [twice]) and it occurs in many others (cf. Ps. 9:13; 25:16; 26:11; 27:7; 30:10; 31:9; 41:4,10; 86:16; 119:29,58,132). It is often associated with

1. deliverance from enemies

2. forgiveness of sins

In this Psalm the prayer is because of reason #1. Notice how the psalmist describes his adversaries (Ps. 56:1-2).

1. trampled upon (or "pant," same consonants) him, Ps. 56:2 — BDB 983 II, KB 1375, Qal perfect, cf. Ps. 56:3; Ps. 57:3; Ezek. 36:3; Amos 8:4

2. fight proudly against him, Ps. 56:2 — BDB 535, KB 526, Qal participle

3. distort (lit. "vex" him) his words, Ps. 56:5 — BDB 780, KB 864, Piel imperfect

4. their thoughts are evil against him, Ps. 56:5 — no verb

5. attack (lit. "stir up strife"), Ps. 56:6 — BDB 158, KB 184, Qal imperfect, cf. Ps. 59:3; 140:3

6. lurk (lit. "hide"), Ps. 56:6 — MT has Hiphil imperfect, Qere Qal imperfect of BDB 860, KB 1049

7. watch his steps (lit., "heels"), Ps. 56:6 — BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal imperfect (i.e., so as to find a time and place to attack), cf. Ps. 71:10

8. have waited to take his life, Ps. 56:6 — BDB 875, KB 1082, Piel perfect, cf. Ps. 119:95

 

56:1 "all day long" Notice that this idiom for continual attack is used in verses 1, 2, and 5.

The psalmist looks forward to a day (cf. Ps. 56:3) when his enemies will be turned back, Ps. 56:9a. In the Bible "day" can refer to

1. temporal judgment

2. eschatological judgment

See SPECIAL TOPIC: THAT DAY at Ps. 11:4b.

NASB Margin"fighting man"
NRSV"foes"
TEV"enemies"
JPSOA"adversary"
REB"assailants"

The MT has the Qal active participle of the verb "to fight" (BDB 535, KB 526). This same group is called "men" (i.e., weak men, BDB 60).

56:2 "proudly" The MT has the noun "height" (BDB 928). It is translated in two ways.

1. the arrogance of the adversaries, NASB, NIV

2. part of the title for God

a. "Most High," LXX, NKJV, NRSV, REB

b. "Lord Almighty," TEV

c. "O Exalted One," JPSOA

 

56:3 Verse 3 is a repeated theme; repeated in verses 4 and 11.

1. I am afraid — BDB 431, KB 432, Qal imperfect

2. I will put my trust in God — BDB 105, KB 120, Qal imperfect, see note at Ps. 4:5

3. then I shall not be afraid, Ps. 56:4,11, cf. Ps. 112:7-8; 118:6

 

56:4 "In God, whose word I praise" Notice this is repeated in verse 10 in a parallel way where Elohim and YHWH are connected.

The "word" (BDB 182) is a parallel to "Your vows" (BDB 623), Ps. 56:12. There are many terms used to characterize YHWH's revelations. See Special Topic at Ps. 1:2.

▣ "What can mere man (lit. ‘flesh') do to me" This same sentiment is expressed in Ps. 118:6 and quoted in Heb. 13:6. The concept is also seen in relation to spiritual forces in Rom. 8:31,35-39.

56:7 Because of the vicious and continuing attacks the psalmist asks God to act in judgment against his adversaries.

1. cast them forth (lit. "for crimes, will they escape," NKJV) — BDB 812, KB 930, Piel imperative

a. the verb means "deliver," cf. Ps. 17:13; 18:3, so here it must be a question or the translation must add a negative by emendation to "crimes" (REB, LXX)

b. it is also possibly to change "deliverance," BDB 812, פלט, to"weigh out," BDB 814, פלס

2. put down the peoples — BDB 432, KB 434, Hiphil imperative, cf. Ps. 55:23. It is surprising that "the peoples," which is usually used of national groups (NEB, REB), is used here. There are several theories.

a. this is a royal Psalm and refers to other nations

b. this is an Israelite/Judean living among foreigners

c. just a way of referring to his enemies who act like non-covenant peoples

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 56:8-13
 8You have taken account of my wanderings;
 Put my tears in Your bottle.
 Are they not in Your book?
 9Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call;
 This I know, that God is for me.
 10In God, whose word I praise,
 In the Lord, whose word I praise,
 11In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid.
 What can man do to me?
 12Your vows are binding upon me, O God;
 I will render thank offerings to You.
 13For You have delivered my soul from death,
 Indeed my feet from stumbling,
 So that I may walk before God
 In the light of the living.

56:8-13 This strophe deals with the psalmist's faith conviction that God was with him and for him. One day his adversaries will face the consequences of their actions (Ps. 56:9).

56:8 God knows what the psalmist is going through (cf. Exod. 3:7). He expresses this faith worldview (i.e., based on the promises of Scripture) in

1. the verb, "taken account" (i.e., God knows) — BDB 707, KB 765, Qal perfect

2. the verb, "put my tears in a bottle" — BDB 962, KB 1321, Qal imperative (i.e., prayer request); a metaphor for remembering the suffering and evil the psalmist experienced at the hands/words of his enemies

3. Your book — the word "book" (BDB 707) is very similar to the verb "take into account" (BDB 707). "Book" is a biblical idiom of God's memory. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TWO BOOKS OF GOD of God at Ps. 9:5.

 

▣ "bottle" The word (BDB 609) means an animal skin (sheep) sewed into a container for liquid (cf. Jos. 9:4,13; Jdgs. 4:19; 1 Sam.16:20; Ps. 119:83).

NASB, NKJV,
JPSOA"wanderings"
NRSV"tossings"
TEV"how troubled"
NJB"sorrows"
REB"grief"

The Hebrew noun (BDB 627 I) is found only here. It is the same consonants as "move to and from" "wander," "flutter," "show grief" (BDB 626). The usage of "wander" can be seen in Ps. 36:11; 59:11; 2 Kgs. 21:8. There is a sound play in Hebrew between "wander" and "bottle."

56:9 "when I call" It is possible the "call" is the statement of faith.

1. v. 9b

2. v. 3a

3. v. 4a-b

Whichever it refers to, it denotes an act of volitional faith. There is a theological tension between the sovereignty of God and the freewill of man. Both are necessary for covenant. See Special Topics at Ps. 25:12 and Ps. 25:10.

▣ "This I know, that God is for me" This is a play on the meanings of the Hebrew word "know" (BDB 393). See Special Topic: Know at Ps. 1:6.

56:12 "vows" This may be another way of referring to God's promises (cf. Ps. 56:10b) or it may refer to promises the psalmist made to God. Once they are fulfilled then 

1. an offering is required (cf. Ps. 56:12b)

2. verbal praise is required

In context it may refer to the psalmist's fear of death by his adversaries and thereby he asked God to save him. In this request he made some kind of a vow. God did save him, now he must fulfill his vow.

56:13 The psalmist mentions several things God has done for him.

1. delivered his soul from death — BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil perfect; this must relate to verse 6

2. kept his feet from stumbling and, thereby allowing him to walk before God; godly living was described as a clear, level, unobstructed path/road (see note at Ps. 1:1). They "watched his steps" in Ps. 56:6, but now God helps him walk.

 

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. The heart of the Psalm is a repeated refrain, what is it?

2. Explain the idiom of "book." How many "books" does the Bible mention that God keeps?

3. What does "in that day" imply?

4. Explain verse 10 in your own words.

5. What does it mean to "walk before God"?