MENU

Where the world comes to study the Bible

Psalm 9

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
A Psalm of Thanksgiving for God's Justice
MT Intro
"For the choir director; on Muth-labben. A Psalm of David"
Prayer and Thanksgiving for the Lord's Righteous Judgments Prayer for Deliverance From Personal Enemies
(Psalm 9-10, A Lament)
 
Thanksgiving To God for His Justice God Strikes the Wicked and Saves the Humbled
(Psalm 9-10)
Acrostic
9:1-2 9:1-2 9:1-2 9:1-2 9:1 (Aleph)
        9:2
9:3-6 9:3-5 9:3-4 9:3-4 9:3-4 (Bet)
    9:5-6 9:5-6 9:5-6 (Gimel)
  9:6-8      
9:7-10   9:7-8 9:7-8 9:7-8 (He)
  9:9-10 9:9-10 9:9-10 9:9-10 (Waw)
9:11-16 9:11-12 9:11-12 9:11-12 9:11-12 (Zain)
  9:13-14 9:13-14 9:13-14 9:13-14 (Het)
  9:15-16 9:15-16 9:15-16 9:15-16 (Tet)
9:17-20 9:17-18 9:17 9:17-18 9:17 (Yod)
        9:18 (Kaph)
  9:19-20 9:19-20 9:19-20 9:19-20

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. The New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) asserts that Psalm 9 and Psalm 10 form a loose acrostic (cf. LXX).

 

B. Acrostics are a specialized type of poetry. In order to make each letter fit

1. rare words used

2. rare forms of words used

3. strained lines of poetry occur

4. unusual metaphor and figurative language occurs

5. use of prepositions

The ancients felt the alphabet had magical significance (i.e., Kabala, Ras Shamra texts).

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 9:1-2
 1I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart;
 I will tell of all Your wonders.
 2I will be glad and exult in You;
 I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.

9:1-2 This opening strophe has five cohortatives.

1. I will give thanks — BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense

2. I will tell — BDB 707, KB 765, Piel cohortative

3. I will be glad — BDB 970, KB 1333, Qal cohortative

4. I will exult — BDB 763, KB 836, Qal cohoratative

5. I will sing, praise — BDB 274, KB 273, Piel cohortative

All of these relate to YHWH (i.e., the Most High). Thanksgiving and praise are the duty of mankind. These are signs/evidences of an intimate, personal, daily relationship with God.

Notice the four "I wills" of Ps. 9:1-2 are based on the five "You haves" of Ps. 9:4-6. YHWH has acted! Now His followers can praise Him!

9:1 "with all my heart" This was a Hebrew idiom of complete devotion (cf. Psalm 86:12; 111:1; 138:1; 1 Kgs. 8:23,61; 11:4; 1 Chr. 28:9). For "heart" see Special Topic at Ps. 4:7.

NASB, NJB,
JPSOA"wonders"
NKJV"marvelous works"
NRSV, REB,
LXX"wonderful deeds"

This is a Hebrew construct (BDB 481 and BDB 810, Niphal participle). See Special Topic below.

TOPIC: WONDERFUL THINGS (פלא)

9:2 "in You. . .to Your Name" These are parallel. Notice the personal element in worship. See Special Topic: The Name of YHWH at Ps. 5:11-12.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 9:3-6
 3When my enemies turn back,
 They stumble and perish before You.
 4For You have maintained my just cause;
 You have sat on the throne judging righteously.
 5You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked;
 You have blotted out their name forever and ever.
 6The enemy has come to an end in perpetual ruins,
 And You have uprooted the cities;
 The very memory of them has perished.

9:3-6 This strophe extolls YHWH as a Righteous Judge (cf. Ps. 9:4b).

Notice His actions toward the enemy.

1. enemies turn back, Ps. 9:3a — BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal infinitive construct (i.e., in battle)

2. enemies stumble, Ps. 9:3b — BDB 505, KB 502, Niphal imperfect

3. enemies perish, Ps. 9:3b — BDB 1, KB 2, Qal imperfect

4. has rebuked the nations, Ps. 9:5a — BDB 172, KB 199, Qal perfect (NET Bible sees this as referring to a "battle cry," p. 858, #19)

5. has destroyed the wicked, Ps. 9:5a — BDB 1, KB 2, Piel perfect

6. has blotted out their name, Ps. 9:5b — BDB 562, KB 567, Qal perfect (i.e., died in battle)

7. has uprooted the enemy's cities, Ps. 9:6 — BDB 684, KB 737, Qal perfect

Notice how YHWH is characterized.

1. You have maintained my just cause

2. You sat on the throne judging righteously

3. cf. Ps. 9:7-8 (emphasis repeated in next strophe)

It is possible that "the just cause" is YHWH installing the psalmist as King of His covenant people.

9:3 "perish before You" Notice this verb (BDB 1, KB 2) is repeated in Ps. 9:5, 6, 18. It is used of

1. individual enemies

2. the nations

3. the afflicted (negated)

It obviously refers to physical life but also of eternal existence (cf. Ps. 9:6, Hebrew idiom). Opposing God and His people is a dangerous activity with temporal and eschatological consequences.

9:5 "the nations" The same switch from an individual to "the nations" (cf. Ps. 9:17-20) occurs in Ps. 7:6-7. Many psalms written by individuals became corporate in worship liturgy.

Also note that YHWH as Judge is expressed in Ps. 7:7 (cf. Ps. 9:4-6,7-8).

▣ "has blotted out their name forever and ever" Notice how the theme of "permanent" judgment is repeated (cf. Ps. 69:28).

1. blotted out, Ps. 9:5 (Qal perfect, cf. Ps. 69:28; also note Num. 5:23; Deut. 9:14; 25:19; 29:20)

2. forever and ever, Ps. 9:5 (see Special Topic: Forever below)

3. perpetual ruins, Ps. 9:6 (Piel perfect, cf. Jer. 25:9; 49:13)

4. the very memory of them has perished, Ps. 9:6 (Qal perfect, cf. Ps. 34:16; 109:15)

Verses 5-6 remind me of the opening dialog in Malachi 1, where Israel's very existence is contrasted with the complete demise of Edom as evidence of YHWH's covenant love. Where are the ancient surrounding nations? They are lost to history, but not Israel!

The verb "blot out" (#1) may refer to the book of life.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FOREVER (‘OLAM)

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TWO BOOKS OF GOD

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 9:7-10
 7But the Lord abides forever;
 He has established His throne for judgment,
 8And He will judge the world in righteousness;
 He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity.
 9The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed,
 A stronghold in times of trouble;
 10And those who know Your name will put their trust in You,
 For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.

9:7-8 Nations will come and go based on their relationship to the righteous God/Judge (cf. Ps. 89:14).

SPECIAL TOPIC: JUDGE, JUDGMENT, and JUSTICE (שפט) IN ISAIAH

9:7

NASB"abides"
NKJV"endures"
NRSV, TEV,
NJB"sits enthroned"

Psalm 9:7 is in stark contrast to Ps. 9:5-6. The rebellious nations are temporary but the God of Israel is permanently enthroned (BDB 442, KB 444, Qal imperfect, cf. Ps. 10:16; 29:10).

The second verb of Ps. 9:7, "established" (BDB 465, KB 464), is a Polel perfect, which denotes His permanent throne!

9:8 "He will judge the world in righteousness" Again the theological issue is the meaning of "world" (BDB 385). In Ps. 96:13 and 98:9, this word is parallel with erets (BDB 75, see Special Topic: Land, Country, Earth at Ps. 2:2). It must refer to the "known" world of that day. However, from the NT this concept involves the whole planet (i.e., John 3:16).

9:9 "stronghold" The verb (BDB 960) means "to be high." The noun is used regularly of God as a high, mighty, and safe stronghold or fortress (cf. Ps. 9:9 [twice]; 18:2; 46:7,11; 48:3; 59:9,16,17; 62:2,6; 94:22; 144:2). This is an idiom for safety and protection. For the faithful follower (cf. Ps. 9:10) our God is our stronghold and there is no other!

Notice the phrase, "in times of trouble," of Ps. 9:9b reappears in Ps. 10:1b. It is found only here in the OT. There is some doubt about the meaning of the word translated "trouble" (BDB 131). In Jer. 14:1 and 17:8 it means "drought," but that connotation does not fit here. Remember words only have meaning in sentences and sentences in literary units.

9:10a This line of poetry expresses a major biblical reality. I have added my comments from Isa. 26:3-4 below.

For the Hebrew word "know" see Special Topic at Ps. 1:6.

 

Isaiah 26

Isaiah 26:3 "The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace" Notice the covenantal aspect.

1.The believer's mind is stayed on YHWH (BDB 701, KB 759, Qal passive participle, but used in an active sense, cf. 1 Chr. 29:18).

2.YHWH keeps him/her (BDB 665 I, KB 718, Qal imperfect, the covenant relationship has two participants, see Special Topic at Isaiah 1:19).

3."Perfect peace" is a doubling of shalom (BDB 1022, cf. DSS). This doubling of words is very common in this section of Isaiah.

 

▣ "he trusts in You" The word "trust" (BDB 105, KB 120, Qal passive participle) means "trust in YHWH" (cf. Ps. 12:2; 26:4; 36:15; 37:10; 50:10). Notice that the next verse has the same word as an imperative. This is such an important theological concept of the need for a personal relationship with God, not just obedience. Both are crucial!

26:4 "Trust in the Lord forever" For the verb (BDB 105, KB 120, Qal imperative), see Special Topic at Ps. 22:23.

The name for Deity in the first line of Ps. 9:4 is YHWH; in the second line a contraction Yah and YHWH, see Special Topic at Ps. 1:1.

The term "forever" (BDB 723 I), first the plural form and then the singular form (construct, cf 65:18; Ps. 83:18; 92:8). This construction, along with "everlasting" (BDB 761), used of YHWH, implies a personal relationship beyond this life (cf. Ps. 9:14,19; Ps. 23:6).

▣ "we have an everlasting rock" The word "rock" is a metaphor for God's unchanging character (cf. Ps. 18:1, 2; Isa. 17:10; 30:29; 44:8).

9:10b What a wonderful statement of YHWH's faithfulness! This is a repeated theme in the Psalms (cf. Ps. 37:28; 94:14). Believers' hope is in the unchanging character of the merciful Creator (cf. Mal. 3:6).

SPECIAL TOPIC: CHARACTERISTICS OF ISRAEL'S GOD

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 9:11-16
 11Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion;
 Declare among the peoples His deeds.
 12For He who requires blood remembers them;
 He does not forget the cry of the afflicted.
 13Be gracious to me, O Lord;
 See my affliction from those who hate me,
 You who lift me up from the gates of death,
 14That I may tell of all Your praises,
 That in the gates of the daughter of Zion
 I may rejoice in Your salvation.
 15The nations have sunk down in the pit which they have made;
 In the net which they hid, their own foot has been caught.
 16The Lord has made Himself known;
 He has executed judgment.
 In the work of his own hands the wicked is snared. Higgaion Selah.

9:11-12 YHWH is praised because of His justice (cf. Ps. 9:12,15-16).

1. He avenges bloodshed

2. He does not forget the cry of the afflicted

His justice is seen in the evil plans of the wicked by which they have ensnared themselves (cf. Ps. 9:15-16).

9:11 "who dwells in Zion" Zion is the hill in Jerusalem on which stood the Jebusite fortress that was captured by David. He built his palace on this hill. It came to designate the entire city.

Jerusalem, and particularly the temple on the hill Moriah, became the place where YHWH "dwelt," between the wings of the Cherubim above the ark of the covenant. This place fulfills the repeated phrase in Deuteronomy, "the place that YHWH causes His name to dwell."

9:12

NASB"He who requires blood"
NKJV, NRSV"He avenges blood"
NJB, REB"the avenger of blood"
JPSOA"He who requires bloodshed"

This phrase links to Gen. 9:5-6. Life is a gift from God. One who takes away that gift must give an account before God and pay with his/her own life (cf. Deut. 32:43).

Later in Hebrew thought this developed into "the Blood Avenger" (i.e., Jos. 20:3,5,9).

"remembers them. . .does not forget" Notice how "remembers" is parallel with "forget" (negated). He will not forget His people!

9:13-14 The wicked seek the psalmist's life (i.e., the King) but YHWH has delivered him. Now he wants to praise YHWH in the tabernacle/temple ("who dwells in Zion," Ps. 9:11).

1. "that I may tell" — BDB 707, KB 765, Piel cohortative

2. "that I may rejoice" — BDB 162, KB 189, Qal cohortative

 

9:13 "the gates of death" Sheol (see full note at Ps. 6:5) is depicted as

1. an open grave/pit (cf. Exod. 15:12; Num. 16:22; 26:11; Ps. 124:3; Pro. 1:12)

2. a carnivorous animal (cf. Isa. 5:14; Hab. 2:5)

3. a city with gates (cf. Job 38:17; Ps. 107:18; Isa. 38:10; Matt. 16:18) or

4. a prison with gates (cf. Rev. 1:8; 9:1; 20:1)

 

9:14 "in the gates of the daughter of Zion" There is an obvious contrast between "the gates of death" in Ps. 9:13c and the gates of Jerusalem/temple in Ps. 9:14c. In the first there is no remembrance but in the second there is praise and testimony about YHWH.

9:15-16 Notice the string of six perfects. The defeat of the enemy army by YWHW (i.e., Holy War imagery of the Conquest) is the focus.

9:15 Notice the psalmist's adversaries are nations (cf. Ps. 9:17) and not individuals. Therefore, this must be a king, so the traditional introduction is probably correct.

9:16 In the OT God's character is manifested in time by His actions.

1. grace, mercy, and love toward covenant people

2. judgment and wrath toward their enemies

Notice the reversal of the plans of the wicked. What they planned for others, occurs to them. Justice is built into God's created order.

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV, JPSOA"snared"
TEV, REB"trapped"
NJB"ensnared"
LXX"trap"

The MT has "strikes down" from BDB 669, KB 723, Qal active participle (found only here in the OT). All the English translations see it as the Niphal perfect of BDB 430, KB 432, "entrap" or "lure." The UBS Text Project (p. 171) gives the MT a "C" rating (considerable doubt).

▣ "Higgaion" The BDB (212; see note at Intro. to Psalms, VII) defines this as

1. resounding music (cf. Ps. 92:3)

2. meditation, musing (cf. Ps. 19:14)

It is translated in Lam. 3:62 as "mutter" (KB 238).

▣ "Selah" See note at Psalm 3:2.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 9:17-20
 17The wicked will return to Sheol,
 Even all the nations who forget God. 18For the needy will not always be forgotten,
 Nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever.
  19Arise, O Lord, do not let man prevail;
  Let the nations be judged before You.
 20Put them in fear, O Lord;
  Let the nations know that they are but men.  Selah.

9:17-18 As the wicked act foolishly (i.e., turn to Sheol), the needy (BDB 2) and afflicted (BDB 776, lit. "poor") will be helped by YHWH.

9:17 "all the nations who forget God" Most of Israel's enemies were from the surrounding nations who had some exposure to YHWH. The verb "forget" (BDB 1013) implies they had turned from the truth and by implication, worshiped false idols.

9:19-20 These last two lines comprise a series of commands for YHWH to act.

1. arise — BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal imperative (in contrast to Ps. 9:4b,7, where He sits enthroned on call to action as the Divine Warrior)

2. do not let man prevail — BDB 738, KB 808, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

3. let the nations be judged before You — BDB 1047, KB 1622, Niphal imperfect used in a jussive sense

4. put them in fear — BDB 1011, KB 1483, Qal imperfect

5. let the nations know they are but men — BDB 393, KB 390, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense (cf. Ps. 62:9; 90:5-6; 103:14; Isa. 40:7-8)

 

9:20 "Selah" See note at Psalm 3:2.

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. Why is verse 3 a court scene?

2. How are "the nations" and "the wicked" of verse 5 related?

3. Define the different "gates" in verses 13 and 14.

4. How are Sheol and the Pit related?