Psalm 140 Translation and comment

To the chief musician. A psalm for David

Rescue me Yahweh from evil people;

Protect me from men of violence

Who plan harm in their hearts

And stir up strife all the time.

They tease with their tongues like snakes;

A viper’s venom lurks under their lips.

Exit me from evil hands, Yahweh;

Protect me from violent men

Who are trying to trip me up.

Puffed -up men have prepared a trap for me;

Criminals spread wide a net by the wayside;

They have set snares for me.

I say to Yahweh, You are my God:

Listen to my yells for help, Yahweh!

Yahweh Lord, robust rescuer,

Hedging my head on the day of battle,

Do not give in, Yahweh, to what the wicked want.

Do not let their subtleties succeed, when they attack.

The heads of those who harass me-

May the harm done by their lips land on them!

May fiery coals fall upon them!

May they be put down in deep pits

To rise no more!

The man of lies, let him not last on the earth!

The man of violence, let evil overtake him quickly!

I know that Yahweh acts in defence of the afflicted

And announces justice for the needy.

Yes, holy people will sing praise to your name

And just people will dwell in your presence.

The text of much of this psalm is dubious, so that although the main drift is certain many details are a matter of guess work. I have gone along with serious scholars in making my guesses, but the choices are mine.

This psalm of complaint focuses on enemies who probably work by malicious talk rather than anything more physical. The situation is almost a cliche and so are some of the psalmist’s words. Some however of the phrases used are vivid, and give a robust presentation of the desires of the speaker.

Basically the speaker is hoping that the plans of his adversaries bounce back upon them, with God’s help. And God should help because he is the God of the afflicted and the poor

One can imagine the psalm being used by a Ukrainian against Putin.

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