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Psalm 57

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Prayer for Rescue From Persecutors
MT Intro
For the choir director; set to Al-tashheth. A Mikhtam of David when he fled from Saul, in the cave.
Prayer for Safety From Enemies A Prayer for Deliverance From Personal Enemies A Prayer for Help Among Ferocious Enemies
57:1-3 57:1 57:1-3 57:1 57:1
  57:2-3   57:2-3 57:2-3
57:4-6 57:4-5 57:4 57:4 57:4
    57:5 57:5 57:5-6
  57:6 57:6-10 57:6  
57:7-11 57:7-8   57:7-11 57:7
        57:8
  57:9-10     57:9-11
  57:11 57:11    

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.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This Psalm is characterized by the use of double (or triple) words.

1. be gracious to me, Ps. 57:1

2. take refuge, Ps. 57:1

3. my heart is steadfast, Ps. 57:7

4. awake, Ps. 57:8

 

B. In verses 6 and 7 there are several verbs that start with the Hebrew letter Kaph.

1. prepared — BDB 465, KB 464

2. bowed down — BDB 496, KB 493

3. dug — BDB 500, KB 496

4. fall — BDB 656, KB 709

5. steadfast — BDB 465, KB 464 (twice)

Also nouns

1. glory, Ps. 57:5 — BDB 458

2. my soul/liver, Ps. 57:8 — BDB 458 (NASB has "glory," BDB 458)

3. lyre, Ps. 57:8 — BDB 490

 

C. Verse 6 is a typical "reversal" motif, so common in the OT. Enemies plan evil but are caught in their own schemes.

 

D. Two key theological terms are repeated.

1. lovingkingness (hesed) — BDB 338, cf. Ps. 57:3 (personified), 10 (see Special Topic at Ps. 5:7)

2. faithfulness/truth (emet) — BDB 54, Ps. 57:3 (personified), 10 (see Special Topic at Ps. 12:1)

 

E. This Psalm mentions "the nations." See Special Topic: YHWH's Universal Redemptive Plan at Intro. to Psalm 2.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 57:1-3
 1Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,
 For my soul takes refuge in You;
 And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge
 Until destruction passes by.
 2I will cry to God Most High,
 To God who accomplishes all things for me.
 3He will send from heaven and save me;
 He reproaches him who tramples upon me.  Selah.
 God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth.

57:1 This Psalm is characterized by the double use of words (i.e., Hebrew parallelism, see Introductory Article on Hebrew Poetry). See Contextual Insights, A.

▣ "Be gracious to me" Verse 1 (twice). See note at Ps. 56:1.

▣ "refuge" The verb (BDB 340, KB 334) is a recurrent theme in the Psalms. See note at Ps. 5:11. Here there is a play between

1. the perfect denoting completed action and a resulting state

2. the imperfect denoting ongoing continuing action

 

▣ "the shadow of Your wings" This is one of several feminine metaphors to describe God.

1. as a mother bird — Gen. 1:2; Exod. 19:4; Deut. 32:11; 33:12; Isa. 31:5

2. nursing mother — Isa. 49:15; 66:13; Hos. 11:4 (emendation)

See Special Topic: Shadow as Metaphor for Protection and Care at Ps. 5:11-12.

▣ "until destruction passes by" This continues the metaphor of God as a mother bird. Note "destruction" (i.e., destructive winds or storm, BDB 217, cf. similar terms in Ps. 55:8) is personified (cf. Isa. 26:20).

57:2 "God Most High" This is the name Elohim (BDB 43, see Special Topic at Ps. 1:1) combined with Elyon (BDB 751 I). See note at Ps. 7:17.

▣ "God" This is El (BDB 42), the general name for Deity in the ANE.

▣ "who accomplishes all things for me" What an inclusive faith assertion (cf. Ps. 138:8). Experience tells us that "all" must be defined and limited. But this faithful follower believes (cf. Phil. 1:6).

In this context God's actions are noted in verse 3.

1. send from heaven — who or what is not specified

2. save me — from vicious enemies (cf. Ps. 57:4,6)

3. reproach those who trample (cf. Ps. 56:2) — BDB 357 I; it means "rebuke" or "put to shame" those who say sharp things (see the enemies described as wild lions with sharp teeth, Ps. 57:4)

4. send forth His personified lovingkingness and truth/faithfulness, cf. Ps. 89:14 and also Ps. 43:3, where "light" and "truth" are personified as YHWH's servants

 

57:3 "sent from heaven" The term "heaven" has two distinct usages.

1. the atmosphere above the earth (cf. Ps. 57:5)

2. the place YHWH dwells (cf. Ps. 57:5)

See SPECIAL TOPIC: HEAVEN at Ps. 8:1. In OT thought God was transcendent. The Holy One of Israel was separated from sinful creations after Genesis 3. He dwelt with Israel in the Holy of Holies, between the wings of the Cherubim, above the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant (which symbolized the place of atonement, cf. Leviticus 16). There is a purposeful tension between YHWH"s transcendent holiness and immanence with Israel.

▣ "Selah" See note at Ps. 3:2 and Intro. to Psalms, VII.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 57:4-6
 4My soul is among lions;
 I must lie among those who breathe forth fire,
 Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows
 And their tongue a sharp sword.
 5Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
 Let Your glory be above all the earth.
 6They have prepared a net for my steps;
 My soul is bowed down;
 They dug a pit before me;
 They themselves have fallen into the midst of it.  Selah.

57:4-6 These verses characterize the psalmist's enemies and his God who supports him (cf. Ps. 57:2).

1. the enemies

a. like lions

b. breathe fire (or, KB 521 II, to devour, found only here)

c. teeth/words are spears and arrows

d. prepared a trap to catch and kill him but will fall into it themselves (cf. Pro. 26:27)

2. God (cf. Ps. 57:5,11)

a. be exalted — BDB 926, KB 1202, Qal imperative, here "heavens" refers to the atmosphere above the earth (note parallelism)

b. Your glory be above the earth

3. the psalmist

a. I must lie among. . . — BDB 1011, KB 1486, Qal cohortative

b. my soul is bowed down — BDB 496, KB 493, Qal perfect

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 57:7-11
 7My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
 I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!
 8Awake, my glory! 
 Awake, harp and lyre!
 I will awaken the dawn.
 9I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;
 I will sing praises to You among the nations.
 10For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens
 And Your truth to the clouds.
 11Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
 Let Your glory be above all the earth.

57:7-11 This strophe is almost exactly like Ps. 108:2-6. It may have been a liturgical refrain.

57:7-9 This strophe expresses the psalmist's faith and confidence in YHWH's actions on his behalf.

1. my heart is steadfast, Ps. 57:7 (twice) — BDB 465, KB 464, Niphal participle

2. I will sing, Ps. 57:7 — BDB 1010, KB 1479, Qal cohortative

3. I will sing praises, Ps. 57:7 — BDB 274, KB 273, Piel cohortative

4. awake my glory (or "my soul," lit. "liver," both BDB 458), Ps. 57:8 — BDB 734, KB 802, Qal imperative

5. awake my harp and lyre (i.e., instruments for the psalmist to praise God with), Ps. 57:8 — BDB same verb as #4

6. I will awaken the dawn, Ps. 57:8 — BDB 734, KB 802, Hiphil cohortative

7. I will give thanks, Ps. 57:9 — BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense

8. I will sing praises, Ps. 57:9 — BDB 274, KB 273, Piel imperfect used in a cohortative sense

 

57:9 Notice the parallelism between "the peoples" (BDB 766 I) and "the nations" (BDB 115 and BDB 52, i.e., not covenant peoples). There is a recurrent emphasis in the Psalms on the universal aspect of Israel's God (cf. Ps. 9:11b; 18:47,49; 105:1; 145:12-13). The implication of monotheism (see Special Topic at Ps. 2:7) is that there is only one true God who created all humans in His image for fellowship (see Special Topic: YHWH's Universal Redemptive Plan at Psalm 2 Introduction).

57:10 This verse repeats the personified servants of God (i.e., hesed and emet) from verse 3. They are both said to be "above" the heavens and clouds (i.e., atmosphere of this planet), which denotes

1. their greatness

2. their origin in God

 

57:11 This repeats verse 5. It functions as a way to denote the greatness of God (i.e., His transcendence above His creation).

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. Explain the metaphor of "the shadow of Your wings," Ps. 57:1.

2. List the three names for Deity in verse 2 and explain their implication.

3. Define "heaven."

4. Why are aspects of God's character personified?

5. Explain verse 9 in light of monotheism.