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Psalms 11:1-7

Context
Psalm 11 1 

For the music director; by David.

11:1 In the Lord I have taken shelter. 2 

How can you say to me, 3 

“Flee to a mountain like a bird! 4 

11:2 For look, the wicked 5  prepare 6  their bows, 7 

they put their arrows on the strings,

to shoot in the darkness 8  at the morally upright. 9 

11:3 When the foundations 10  are destroyed,

what can the godly 11  accomplish?” 12 

11:4 The Lord is in his holy temple; 13 

the Lord’s throne is in heaven. 14 

His eyes 15  watch; 16 

his eyes 17  examine 18  all people. 19 

11:5 The Lord approves of 20  the godly, 21 

but he 22  hates 23  the wicked and those who love to do violence. 24 

11:6 May the Lord rain down 25  burning coals 26  and brimstone 27  on the wicked!

A whirlwind is what they deserve! 28 

11:7 Certainly 29  the Lord is just; 30 

he rewards godly deeds; 31 

the upright will experience his favor. 32 

1 sn Psalm 11. The psalmist rejects the advice to flee from his dangerous enemies. Instead he affirms his confidence in God’s just character and calls down judgment on evildoers.

2 tn The Hebrew perfect verbal form probably refers here to a completed action with continuing results.

3 tn The pronominal suffix attached to נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh) is equivalent to a personal pronoun. See Ps 6:3.

4 tc The MT is corrupt here. The Kethib (consonantal text) reads: “flee [masculine plural!] to your [masculine plural!] mountain, bird.” The Qere (marginal reading) has “flee” in a feminine singular form, agreeing grammatically with the addressee, the feminine noun “bird.” Rather than being a second masculine plural pronominal suffix, the ending כֶם- (-khem) attached to “mountain” is better interpreted as a second feminine singular pronominal suffix followed by an enclitic mem (ם). “Bird” may be taken as vocative (“O bird”) or as an adverbial accusative of manner (“like a bird”). Either way, the psalmist’s advisers compare him to a helpless bird whose only option in the face of danger is to fly away to an inaccessible place.

5 tn In the psalms the “wicked” (רְשָׁעִים, rÿshaim) are typically 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 threaten his people (Ps 3:8).

6 tn The Hebrew imperfect verbal form depicts the enemies’ hostile action as underway.

7 tn Heb “a bow.”

8 sn In the darkness. The enemies’ attack, the precise form of which is not indicated, is compared here to a night ambush by archers; the psalmist is defenseless against this deadly attack.

9 tn Heb “pure of heart.” The “heart” is here viewed as the seat of one’s moral character and motives. The “pure of heart” are God’s faithful followers who trust in and love the Lord and, as a result, experience his deliverance (see Pss 7:10; 32:11; 36:10; 64:10; 94:15; 97:11).

10 tn The precise meaning of this rare word is uncertain. An Ugaritic cognate is used of the “bottom” or “base” of a cliff or mountain (see G. R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends, 47, 159). The noun appears in postbiblical Hebrew with the meaning “foundation” (see Jastrow 1636 s.v. שָׁת).

11 tn The singular form is used here in a collective or representative sense. Note the plural form “pure [of heart]” in the previous verse.

12 sn The quotation of the advisers’ words (which begins in 11:1c) ends at this point. They advise the psalmist to flee because the enemy is poised to launch a deadly attack. In such a lawless and chaotic situation godly people like the psalmist can accomplish nothing, so they might as well retreat to a safe place.

13 tn Because of the royal imagery involved here, one could translate “lofty palace.” The Lord’s heavenly temple is in view here (see Mic 1:2-4).

14 sn The Lords throne is in heaven. The psalmist is confident that the Lord reigns as sovereign king, “keeps an eye on” all people, and responds in a just manner to the godly and wicked.

15 sn His eyes. The anthropomorphic language draws attention to God’s awareness of and interest in the situation on earth. Though the enemies are hidden by the darkness (v. 2), the Lord sees all.

16 tn The two Hebrew imperfect verbal forms in this verse describe the Lord’s characteristic activity.

17 tn Heb “eyelids.”

18 tn For other uses of the verb in this sense, see Job 7:18; Pss 7:9; 26:2; 139:23.

19 tn Heb “test the sons of men.”

20 tn Heb “examines,” the same verb used in v. 4b. But here it is used in a metonymic sense of “examine and approve” (see Jer 20:12).

21 tn The singular form is used here in a collective or representative sense. Note the plural form “pure (of heart)” in v. 2.

22 tn Heb “his [very] being.” A נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, “being, soul”) is also attributed to the Lord in Isa 1:14, where a suffixed form of the noun appears as the subject of the verb “hate.” Both there and here the term is used of the seat of one’s emotions and passions.

23 sn He hates the wicked. The Lord “hates” the wicked in the sense that he despises their wicked character and deeds, and actively opposes and judges them for their wickedness. See Ps 5:5.

24 tn Heb “the wicked [one] and the lover of violence.” The singular form is used here in a collective or representative sense. Note the plural form רְשָׁעִים (rÿshaim, “wicked [ones]”) in vv. 2 and 6.

25 tn The verb form is a jussive, indicating that the statement is imprecatory (“May the Lord rain down”), not indicative (“The Lord rains down”; see also Job 20:23). The psalmist appeals to God to destroy the wicked, rather than simply stating his confidence that God will do so. In this way the psalmist seeks to activate divine judgment by appealing to God’s just character. For an example of the power of such a curse, see Judg 9:7-57.

26 tc The MT reads “traps, fire, and brimstone,” but the image of God raining traps, or snares, down from the sky is bizarre and does not fit the fire and storm imagery of this verse. The noun פַּחִים (pakhim, “traps, snares”) should be emended to פַּחֲמֵי (pakhamey, “coals of [fire]”). The rare noun פֶּחָם (pekham, “coal”) occurs in Prov 26:21 and Isa 44:12; 54:16.

27 sn The image of God “raining down” brimstone on the objects of his judgment also appears in Gen 19:24 and Ezek 38:22.

28 tn Heb “[may] a wind of rage [be] the portion of their cup.” The precise meaning of the rare noun זִלְעָפוֹת (zilafot) is uncertain. It may mean “raging heat” (BDB 273 s.v. זַלְעָפָה) or simply “rage” (HALOT 272 s.v. זַלְעָפָה). If one understands the former sense, then one might translate “hot wind” (cf. NEB, NRSV). The present translation assumes the latter nuance, “a wind of rage” (the genitive is attributive) referring to a “whirlwind” symbolic of destructive judgment. In this mixed metaphor, judgment is also compared to an allotted portion of a beverage poured into one’s drinking cup (see Hab 2:15-16).

29 tn Or “for.”

30 tn Or “righteous.”

31 tn Heb “he loves righteous deeds.” The “righteous deeds” are probably those done by godly people (see v. 5). The Lord “loves” such deeds in the sense that he rewards them. Another option is to take צְדָקוֹת (tsÿdaqot) as referring to God’s acts of justice (see Ps 103:6). In this case one could translate, “he loves to do just deeds.”

32 tn Heb “the upright will see his face.” The singular subject (“upright”) does not agree with the plural verb. However, collective singular nouns can be construed with a plural predicate (see GKC 462 §145.b). Another possibility is that the plural verb יֶחֱזוּ (yekhezu) is a corruption of an original singular form. To “see” God’s “face” means to have access to his presence and to experience his favor (see Ps 17:15 and Job 33:26 [where רָאָה (raah), not חָזָה (khazah), is used]). On the form פָנֵימוֹ (fanemo, “his face”) see GKC 300-301 §103.b, n. 3.



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