For the music director; according to the yonath-elem-rechovim style; 2 a prayer 3 of David, written when the Philistines captured him in Gath. 4
56:1 Have mercy on me, O God, for men are attacking me! 5
All day long hostile enemies 6 are tormenting me. 7
56:2 Those who anticipate my defeat 8 attack me all day long.
Indeed, 9 many are fighting against me, O Exalted One. 10
56:3 When 11 I am afraid,
I trust in you.
56:4 In God – I boast in his promise 12 –
in God I trust, I am not afraid.
What can mere men 13 do to me? 14
56:5 All day long they cause me trouble; 15
they make a habit of plotting my demise. 16
56:6 They stalk 17 and lurk; 18
they watch my every step, 19
as 20 they prepare to take my life. 21
56:7 Because they are bent on violence, do not let them escape! 22
In your anger 23 bring down the nations, 24 O God!
56:8 You keep track of my misery. 25
Put my tears in your leather container! 26
Are they not recorded in your scroll? 27
56:9 My enemies will turn back when I cry out to you for help; 28
I know that God is on my side. 29
56:10 In God – I boast in his promise 30 –
in the Lord – I boast in his promise 31 –
56:11 in God I trust, I am not afraid.
What can mere men 32 do to me? 33
56:12 I am obligated to fulfill the vows I made to you, O God; 34
I will give you the thank-offerings you deserve, 35
56:13 when you deliver 36 my life from death.
You keep my feet from stumbling, 37
so that I might serve 38 God as I enjoy life. 39
1 sn Psalm 56. Despite the threats of his enemies, the psalmist is confident the Lord will keep his promise to protect and deliver him.
2 tn The literal meaning of this phrase is “silent dove, distant ones.” Perhaps it refers to a particular style of music, a tune title, or a type of musical instrument.
3 tn The precise meaning of the Hebrew word מִכְתָּם (miktam), which also appears in the heading to Pss 16 and 57-60 is uncertain. HALOT 582-83 s.v. defines it as “inscription.”
4 sn According to the superscription, David wrote this psalm when the Philistines seized him and took him to King Achish of Gath (see 1 Sam 21:11-15).
5 tn According to BDB 983 s.v. II שָׁאַף, the verb is derived from שָׁאַף (sha’af, “to trample, crush”) rather than the homonymic verb “pant after.”
6 tn Heb “a fighter.” The singular is collective for his enemies (see vv. 5-6). The Qal of לָחַם (lakham, “fight”) also occurs in Ps 35:1.
7 tn The imperfect verbal form draws attention to the continuing nature of the enemies’ attacks.
8 tn Heb “to those who watch me [with evil intent].” See also Pss 5:8; 27:11; 54:5; 59:10.
9 tn Or “for.”
10 tn Some take the Hebrew term מָרוֹם (marom, “on high; above”) as an adverb modifying the preceding participle and translate, “proudly” (cf. NASB; NIV “in their pride”). The present translation assumes the term is a divine title here. The
11 tn Heb “[in] a day.”
12 tn Heb “in God I boast, his word.” The syntax in the Hebrew text is difficult. (1) The line could be translated, “in God I boast, [in] his word.” Such a translation assumes that the prepositional phrase “in God” goes with the following verb “I boast” (see Ps 44:8) and that “his word” is appositional to “in God” and more specifically identifies the basis for the psalmist’s confidence. God’s “word” is here understood as an assuring promise of protection. Another option (2) is to translate, “in God I will boast [with] a word.” In this case, the “word” is a song of praise. (In this view the pronominal suffix “his” must be omitted as in v. 10.) The present translation reflects yet another option (3): In this case “I praise his word” is a parenthetical statement, with “his word” being the object of the verb. The sentence begun with the prepositional phrase “in God” is then completed in the next line, with the prepositional phrase being repeated after the parenthesis.
13 tn Heb “flesh,” which refers by metonymy to human beings (see v. 11, where “man” is used in this same question), envisioned here as mortal and powerless before God.
14 tn The rhetorical question assumes the answer, “Nothing!” The imperfect is used in a modal sense here, indicating capability or potential.
15 tn Heb “my affairs they disturb.” For other instances of דָּבָר (davar) meaning “affairs, business,” see BDB 183 s.v.. The Piel of עָצַב (’atsav, “to hurt”) occurs only here and in Isa 63:10, where it is used of “grieving” (or “offending”) the Lord’s holy Spirit. Here in Ps 56:5, the verb seems to carry the nuance “disturb, upset,” in the sense of “cause trouble.”
16 tn Heb “against me [are] all their thoughts for harm.”
17 tn The verb is from the root גּוּר (gur), which means “to challenge, attack” in Isa 54:15 and “to stalk” (with hostile intent) in Ps 59:3.
18 tn Or “hide.”
19 tn Heb “my heels.”
20 tn Heb “according to,” in the sense of “inasmuch as; since,” or “when; while.”
21 tn Heb “they wait [for] my life.”
22 tc Heb “because of wickedness, deliverance to them.” As it stands, the MT makes no sense. The negative particle אַיִן (’ayin, “there is not,” which is due to dittography of the immediately preceding אָוֶן, ’aven, “wickedness”), should probably be added before “deliverance” (see BHS, note a). The presence of an imperative in the next line (note “bring down”) suggests that this line should be translated as a prayer as well, “may there not be deliverance to them.”
23 tn Heb “in anger.” The pronoun “your” is supplied in the translation for clarification.
24 tn Or perhaps “people” in a general sense.
25 tn Heb “my wandering you count, you.” The Hebrew term נֹד (nod, “wandering,” derived from the verbal root נוֹד, nod, “to wander”; cf. NASB) here refers to the psalmist’s “changeable circumstances of life” and may be translated “misery.” The verb סָפַר (safar, “count”) probably carries the nuance “assess” here. Cf. NIV “my lament”; NRSV “my tossings.”
26 tn Traditionally “your bottle.” Elsewhere the Hebrew word נֹאד (no’d, “leather container”) refers to a container made from animal skin which is used to hold wine or milk (see Josh 9:4, 13; Judg 4:19; 1 Sam 16:20). If such a container is metaphorically in view here, then the psalmist seems to be asking God to store up his tears as a reminder of his suffering.
27 tn The word “recorded” is supplied in the translation for clarification. The rhetorical question assumes a positive response (see the first line of the verse).
28 tn Heb “then my enemies will turn back in the day I cry out.” The Hebrew particle אָז (’az, “then”) is probably used here to draw attention to the following statement.
29 tn Heb “this I know, that God is for me.”
30 tn Heb “in God I praise a word.” The syntax of the Hebrew text is difficult. The statement is similar to that of v. 4, except that the third person pronominal suffix is omitted here, where the text has simply “a word” instead of “his word.” (1) One could translate, “in God I will boast [with] a word.” In this case, the “word” refers to a song of praise. (2) If one assumes that God’s word is in view, as in v. 4, then one option is to translate, “in God I boast, [in] his word.” In this case the prepositional phrase “in God” goes with the following verb “I boast” (see Ps 44:8) and “[his] word” is appositional to “in God” and more specifically identifies the basis for the psalmist’s confidence. God’s “word” is here understood as an assuring promise of protection. (3) The present translation reflects another option: In this case “I praise [his] word” is a parenthetical statement, with “[his] word” being the object of the verb. The sentence begun with the prepositional phrase “in God” is then completed in v. 11, with the prepositional phrase being repeated after the parenthesis.
31 tn The phrase “in the
32 tn The statement is similar to that of v. 4, except “flesh” is used there instead of “man.”
33 tn The rhetorical question assumes the answer, “Nothing!” The imperfect is used in a modal sense here, indicating capability or potential.
34 tn Heb “upon me, O God, [are] your vows.”
35 tn Heb “I will repay thank-offerings to you.”
36 tn The perfect verbal form is probably future perfect; the psalmist promises to make good on his vows once God has delivered him (see Pss 13:5; 52:9). (2) Another option is to understand the final two verses as being added later, after the
37 tn Heb “are not my feet [kept] from stumbling?” The rhetorical question expects the answer, “Of course they are!” The question has been translated as an affirmation for the sake of clarification of meaning.
38 tn Heb “walk before.” For a helpful discussion of the background and meaning of this Hebrew idiom, see M. Cogan and H. Tadmor, II Kings (AB), 254; cf. the same idiom in 2 Kgs 20:3; Isa 38:3.
39 tn Heb “in the light of life.” The phrase is used here and in Job 33:30.