Psalms 56


לַמְנַצֵּחַ עַל־יוֹנַת אֵלֶם רְחֹקִים לְדָוִד מִכְתָּם בֶּאֱחֹז אֹתוֹ פְלִשְׁתִּים בְּגַת׃   56:1

Psal. 56:1    A lyric poem of David's for the leader al-jonath-elem-rehokim, on the Philistines

having taken him at Gath:

The episode alluded to here is probably that described in 1Sam. 21:11 ff.  The term al-jonath-elem-rehokim, which literally means by the dove of silence of distant ones, is assumed to be the title of the melody to which this psalm is sung.

חָנֵּנִי אֱלֹהִים כִּי־שְׁאָפַנִי אֱנוֹשׁ כָּל־הַיּוֹם לֹחֵם יִלְחָצֵנִי׃   56:2

Psal. 56:2    Be gracious to me, O God, for humankind pants after me;

                                fighting all the time, it has to oppress me.

שָׁאֲפוּ שׁוֹרְרַי כָּל־הַיּוֹם כִּי־רַבִּים לֹחֲמִים לִי מָרוֹם׃   56:3

Psal. 56:3    My enemies are thirsting for blood all the time;

                                indeed many fighting me are in a high place.

The last word, ~Arm', which I translate as are in a high place, is often found translated as Most High, referring to the Lord, as well as a variety of other fanciful translations.  For example, some translate it as proudly, (that is, with a high hand).  My translation implies that some of David’s enemies are elevated in rank.  The reason I reject the meaning Most High is because another word, !Ayl.[, is the one associated with that translation.  And the reason I reject proudly is because that adverb would have to be plural, and it’s singular.           [Return to Psal. 57:3]

יוֹם אִירָא אֲנִי אֵלֶיךָ אֶבְטָח׃   56:4

Psal. 56:4    Any day I would be afraid,

                                I should be confident because of You.

בֵּאלֹהִים אֲהַלֵּל דְּבָרוֹ בֵּאלֹהִים בָּטַחְתִּי לֹא אִירָא מַה־יַּעֲשֶׂה בָשָׂר לִי׃   56:5

Psal. 56:5    In God - I will praise His word - in God I trust; I will not fear.

                               What can flesh do to me?

כָּל־הַיּוֹם דְּבָרַי יְעַצֵּבוּ עָלַי כָּל־מַחְשְׁבֹתָם לָרָע׃   56:6

Psal. 56:6    They would disturb my pursuits all the time,

                               all their thoughts for evil against me.

יָגוּרוּ (יַצְפִּינוּ) [יִצְפֹּונוּ] הֵמָּה עֲקֵבַי יִשְׁמֹרוּ כַּאֲשֶׁר קִוּוּ נַפְשִׁי׃   56:7

Psal. 56:7    They would stay,

                               they would lurk,

                       they would observe my steps,

                               as they wait for my soul.

The word in the parentheses is incorrectly spelled with a second yad.  It probably should be a vav, as in the word in the brackets.

עַל־אָוֶן פַּלֶּט־לָמוֹ בְּאַף עַמִּים הוֹרֵד אֱלֹהִים׃   56:8

Psal. 56:8    Eject them due to wickedness;

                                in anger bring down the peoples, O God.

נֹדִי סָפַרְתָּה אָתָּה שִׂימָה דִמְעָתִי בְנֹאדֶךָ הֲלֹא בְּסִפְרָתֶךָ׃   56:9

Psal. 56:9    You have taken account of my wandering;

                               put my tears in Your bottle.

                       Can they not be in Your book?

I suspect the phrase Your book is meant to be taken as a figure of speech, not literally.

אָז יָשׁוּבוּ אֹויְבַי אָחֹור בְּיֹום אֶקְרָא זֶה־יָדַעְתִּי כִּי־אֱלֹהִים לִי׃   56:10

Psal. 56:10    In the day I will call,

                                then my enemies will turn back.

                        This I know: That God is for me.

בֵּאלֹהִים אֲהַלֵּל דָּבָר בַּיהוָה אֲהַלֵּל דָּבָר׃   56:11

Psal. 56:11    Because of God, I can boast of the matter;

                                because of the Lord, I can praise the matter.

בֵּאלֹהִים בָּטַחְתִּי לֹא אִירָא מַה־יַּעֲשֶׂה אָדָם לִי׃   56:12

Psal. 56:12    In God I trust; I will not fear.

                                What can a human do to me?

This verse contains the same words that are found in v. 56:5 above, there with an additional phrase and one substitution.  Despite this, while I suspect they were meant to be identical in intent, the former expands on David’s trust, adding that he praises the Lord’s word.  Then the verse, 56:11, preceding this one includes the Hebrew words that appear in the interjection in v. 56:5, but I translate them differently this time.  Not as I will praise His word, but as I can boast of [praise] the matter., because I suspect these words refer back to the preceding verse (56:10), continuing the thought started there in the last line.  I believe this is another example of a rather unique poetic style.

עָלַי אֱלֹהִים נְדָרֶיךָ אֲשַׁלֵּם תּוֹדֹת לָךְ׃   56:13

Psal. 56:13    God, Your vows are upon me;

                                 I will contribute thank offerings to You.

The reference to Your vows in this verse baffles me.  The commentators’ explain that these are vows that David has sworn in the past.  I don’t accept this.  If it were correct, the words would be my vows, not Your vows,  As I see this, David is referring to God’s covenants with and promises to Israel and him.  So in my opinion, David is saying in the first line that God is keeping His promises.  Thus he will be thankful.

כִּי הִצַּלְתָּ נַפְשִׁי מִמָּוֶת הֲלֹא רַגְלַי מִדֶּחִי לְהִתְהַלֵּךְ לִפְנֵי אֱלֹהִים בְּאוֹר הַחַיִּים׃   56:14

Psal. 56:14    For You deliver my soul from death

                                (not my feet from stumbling?)

                         to walk about before God in the light of the living.

Most other translators erroneously translate the words corresponding to the middle line as something like “and do You not deliver my feet from stumbling?”  In my translation, the line becomes David’s questioning thought that God has not kept him from making errors.  And once more I get the distinct impression that in this psalm the psalmist is again identifying himself with Israel.


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