This blog continues my translation of Psalms 42-72, with brief commentary.
To the choir leader. According to Jeduthun. A psalm for David.
Only in God is my soul at rest
From him comes my safety.
God only is my saving rock, my fortress;
I shall not be moved.
How long will you assault one man
To murder him, all of you,
like presssing on a bowed wall
or a tumbled hedge?
Yes, they plan to tumble him from his height:
delighted with lies, they bless with their lips
and curse with their hearts.
Only in God is my soul at rest;
from him comes my hope.
Trust in him always, you people,
pour out your hearts before him:
God is a refuge for us.
Common people are a puff of wind;
People of rank, a deception;
Placed on the balance they rise –
together they are lighter than wind.
So put no trust in oppression;
place no empty hope in plunder;
Wealth that keeps increasing?
Do not set your heart upon it.
God has spoken once,
Twice I have heard this:
”Power belongs to God”
“Yours also, Lord, is faithful love,”
because you reward each one
for what they have done.
The scholars say that Jeduthun was a famous temple musician. Perhaps the psalm was sung to his tune.
Again this psalm meditates on the persecution of good people by others, in particular the slander to which they are subjected. In a culture where online slander and abuse are frequent and damaging, this psalm may be a comfort to the victims.
The psalmist begins with his/her fundamental conviction: in the clamour of abusive tongues, she finds a place of peace in God. In the psalms this is rarely a mystical faith: “In God” refers to the whole experience of her faith- the temple, the Teachings, the festivals. These all involve her heart and soul and mind and strength, bringing rest. The blessing of rest comes from the habit of faith and gives her the confidence to say, “I shall not be moved.”
The persecutors are sharply characterised as bullies who think they have spotted a weakness and band together to exploit it. Their weapon seems to be vicious slander. The similes of the bowed wall and the tumbled hedge are unique in the Bible, offering more precision than many more conventional comparisons.
The “resting place” of the psalmist is mimed by the repetition of the phrase that describes it, only this time the gift of God is hope. People of faith can truly trust in God and unburden their hearts to him/ her, as the psalmist is doing. Like the “fortress” of the opening, here the “refuge” names God as the place to which the people can flee in time of trouble.
Then follows a typical piece of Hebrew wisdom. No human life adds up to much; the desire for wealth which leads to oppression and plunder is not only wrong, but foolish, as the possession of wealth cannot be guarranteed. The word translated “puff of wind” was translated by the King James Version as vanity, that is, emptiness; but its root means breath; hence my tranlsation.
The “once and twice” figure of speech is typical of wisdom literature: for example in Proverbs 6:16 we find:
“There are six things the Lord hates / seven that he abhors”
and this is made good by a list of seven evil behaviours.
So in this psalm we should probably see both power and faithful love as the content of this divine wisdom. There is a temptation in Christianity to think of God’s jsitice as opposed to his love and mercy. Here the psalmist sees impartial justice as proof of God’s love. The psalm is an eloquent expression of Jewish faith.