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Psalms 3:1-8

Context
Psalm 3 1 

A psalm of David, written when he fled from his son Absalom. 2 

3:1 Lord, how 3  numerous are my enemies!

Many attack me. 4 

3:2 Many say about me,

“God will not deliver him.” 5  (Selah) 6 

3:3 But you, Lord, are a shield that protects me; 7 

you are my glory 8  and the one who restores me. 9 

3:4 To the Lord I cried out, 10 

and he answered me from his holy hill. 11  (Selah)

3:5 I rested and slept;

I awoke, 12  for the Lord protects 13  me.

3:6 I am not afraid 14  of the multitude of people 15 

who attack me from all directions. 16 

3:7 Rise up, 17  Lord!

Deliver me, my God!

Yes, 18  you will strike 19  all my enemies on the jaw;

you will break the teeth 20  of the wicked. 21 

3:8 The Lord delivers; 22 

you show favor to your people. 23  (Selah)

1 sn Psalm 3. The psalmist acknowledges that he is confronted by many enemies (vv. 1-2). But, alluding to a divine oracle he has received (vv. 4-5), he affirms his confidence in God’s ability to protect him (vv. 3, 6) and requests that God make his promise a reality (vv. 7-8).

2 sn According to Jewish tradition, David offered this prayer when he was forced to flee from Jerusalem during his son Absalom’s attempted coup (see 2 Sam 15:13-17).

3 tn The Hebrew term מָה (mah, “how”) is used here as an adverbial exclamation (see BDB 553 s.v.).

4 tn Heb “many rise up against me.”

5 tn Heb “there is no deliverance for him in God.”

6 sn The function of the Hebrew term סֶלָה (selah), transliterated here “Selah,” is uncertain. It may be a musical direction of some kind.

7 tn Heb “a shield round about me.”

8 tn Heb “my glory,” or “my honor.” The psalmist affirms that the Lord is his source of honor, i.e., the one who gives him honor in the sight of others. According to BDB 459 s.v. II כָּבוֹד 7, the phrase refers to God as the one to whom the psalmist gives honor. But the immediate context focuses on what God does for the psalmist, not vice-versa.

9 tn Heb “[the one who] lifts my head.” This phrase could be understood to refer to a general strengthening of the psalmist by God during difficult circumstances. However, if one takes the suggestion of the superscription that this is a Davidic psalm written during the revolt of Absalom, the phrase “lift the head” could refer to the psalmist’s desire for restoration to his former position (cf. Gen 40:13 where the same phrase is used). Like the Hebrew text, the present translation (“who restores me”) can be understood in either sense.

10 tn The prefixed verbal form could be an imperfect, yielding the translation “I cry out,” but the verb form in the next line (a vav [ו] consecutive with the preterite) suggests this is a brief narrative of what has already happened. Consequently the verb form in v. 4a is better understood as a preterite, “I cried out.” (For another example of the preterite of this same verb form, see Ps 30:8.) Sometime after the crisis arose, the psalmist prayed to the Lord and received an assuring answer. Now he confidently awaits the fulfillment of the divine promise.

11 sn His holy hill. That is, Zion (see Pss 2:6; 48:1-2). The psalmist recognizes that the Lord dwells in his sanctuary on Mount Zion.

12 tn The three verbal forms that appear in succession here (perfect + vav [ו] consecutive with preterite + perfect) are most naturally taken as narrational. When the psalmist received an assuring word from the Lord, he was able to sleep calmly. Because the Lord was protecting him, he awoke safely from his sleep.

13 tn Or “supports”; “sustains.” In this explanatory causal clause the imperfect verbal form probably has a habitual or present progressive nuance, for the psalmist is confident of God’s continual protection (see v. 3). Another option is to take the verb as a preterite, “for the Lord protected me.” In this case, the psalmist focuses specifically on the protection God provided while he slept.

14 tn The imperfect verbal form here expresses the psalmist’s continuing attitude as he faces the crisis at hand.

15 tn Or perhaps “troops.” The Hebrew noun עָם (’am) sometimes refers to a military contingent or army.

16 tn Heb “who all around take a stand against me.”

17 tn In v. 2 the psalmist describes his enemies as those who “confront” him (קָמִים [qamim], literally, “rise up against him”). Now, using the same verbal root (קוּם, qum) he asks the Lord to rise up (קוּמָה, qumah) in his defense.

18 tn Elsewhere in the psalms the particle כִּי (ki), when collocated with a perfect verbal form and subordinated to a preceding imperative directed to God, almost always has an explanatory or causal force (“for, because”) and introduces a motivating argument for why God should respond positively to the request (see Pss 5:10; 6:2; 12:1; 16:1; 41:4; 55:9; 56:1; 57:1; 60:2; 69:1; 74:20; 119:94; 123:3; 142:6; 143:8). (On three occasions the כִּי is recitative after a verb of perception [“see/know that,” see Pss 4:3; 25:19; 119:159]). If כִּי is taken as explanatory here, then the psalmist is arguing that God should deliver him now because that is what God characteristically does. However, such a motivating argument is not used in the passages cited above. The motivating argument usually focuses on the nature of the psalmist’s dilemma or the fact that he trusts in the Lord. For this reason it is unlikely that כִּי has its normal force here. Most scholars understand the particle כִּי as having an asseverative (emphasizing) function here (“indeed, yes”; NEB leaves the particle untranslated).

19 tn If the particle כִּי (ki) is taken as explanatory, then the perfect verbal forms in v. 7b would describe God’s characteristic behavior. However, as pointed out in the preceding note on the word “yes,” the particle probably has an asseverative force here. If so, the perfects may be taken as indicating rhetorically the psalmist’s certitude and confidence that God will intervene. The psalmist is so confident of God’s positive response to his prayer, he can describe God’s assault on his enemies as if it had already happened. Such confidence is consistent with the mood of the psalm, as expressed before (vv. 3-6) and after this (v. 8). Another option is to take the perfects as precative, expressing a wish or request (“Strike all my enemies on the jaw, break the teeth of the wicked”). See IBHS 494-95 §30.5.4c, d. However, not all grammarians are convinced that the perfect is used as a precative in biblical Hebrew.

20 sn The expression break the teeth may envision violent hand-to hand combat, though it is possible that the enemies are pictured here as a dangerous animal (see Job 29:17).

21 tn In the psalms the Hebrew term רְשָׁעִים (rÿshaim, “wicked”) describes people who are proud, practical atheists (Ps 10:2, 4, 11) who hate God’s commands, commit sinful deeds, speak lies and slander (Ps 50:16-20), and cheat others (Ps 37:21). They oppose God and his people.

22 tn Heb “to the Lord [is] deliverance.”

23 tn Heb “upon your people [is] your blessing.” In this context God’s “blessing” includes deliverance/protection, vindication, and sustained life (see Pss 21:3, 6; 24:5).



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