Continuing translation with comment of Psalms 90-106
Yahweh, avenger God!
Avenger God, appear in light!
Judge of the earth, arise,
Pay back the proud!
How long will the criminals, Yahweh,
How long will the criminals crow?
They spew out words, they speak proudly
All these wrongdoers.
They break your people in pieces,
They damage your property.
They wipe out the widow and the foreign worker
They fell the fatherless.
Saying, “Yahweh will not see,
The God of Jacob will not judge.”
Pay attention you dullest of the people!
When will you be wise, you fools?
Does the one who fitted the ear not hear?
Does the one who fashioned the eye not see?
Does the one who reproves the nations not punish?
The one who nurtures human knowledge,
Yahweh knows that human machination is a mere breath.
How fortunate is the fellow whom you correct
Whom you train from your Teaching,
Giving him quiet in time of trouble
Until a pit is prepared for the criminals.
For Yahweh will not forsake his folk;
He will not leave the land which he owns.
Fair judgement will return to the just,
And those whose hearts are true will follow it.
Who comes to my side against the criminals?
Who reinforces me against the wrongdoers?
If Yahweh had not been my help
My soul would soon have lodged in the land of silence.
If I say, “My foot is slipping!”
Your lovingkindness, Yahweh, lifts me up.
If fearful thoughts proliferate
Your consolations calm my soul.
Can a destructive dynasty be your ally
One that devises harm by decree?
They join together against the life of the just,
And pass sentence on the blood of the innocent.
But Yahweh has become my hill fort
And my God the rock of my refuge.
He will throw back their evil upon them
And uproot them in their wrongness,
He will eradicate them, Our God Yahweh.
The argument of the psalm is conventional enough, being a complaint against the wrongdoers, the criminals; but at the same time a praise song for Yahweh the avenger. The first lines encourage this God to reveal himself in splendour. This is a hint that perhaps he has not been as active as the psalmist would like. The conventional question, “how long? “ is a further indication that all is not well in the world. The psalmist admits that there is some excuse for the lawless people thinking that God is deaf and blind to their wrongdoing.
The questions of the faithful person however are just as powerful as the practical atheism of wrongdoers, “Does the one who fashioned the eye not see?” Trust in a creator God has its own sharpness. Of course God knows that human machinations are empty of substance, while the teaching of the Torah about God’s justice gives quietness to the anxious heart. This trust is comprehensive, “Fair judgement will return to the just,” – I would like to believe that myself.
The psalmist backs up this trust from personal experience of divine help in time of trouble. God is on the side of decent people, not the side of the anointed rulers who claim God’s favour while engaged in criminal acts. “Passing sentence on the blood of the innocent,” is a bitter and perceptive phrase: modern tyrants also justify their killings by passing laws that condemn opposition; China, North Korea, Russia, Hungary, USA, they’re there.
The psalm ends on a note of optimism. Eventually the thugs will get theirs, better believe it.