Psalm 55

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Psalm 55
"Give ear to my prayer, O God"
Dvorak's Biblicke Pisne i-8.jpg
Beginning of a setting by Dvořák in German and Czech
Other name
  • Psalm 54 (Vulgate)
  • "Exaudi Deus orationem meam"
LanguageHebrew (original)

Psalm 55 is the 55th psalm of the Book of Psalms, beginning in English in the King James Version, "Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not thyself from my supplication". The Book of Psalms is the third section of the Hebrew Bible, and a book of the Christian Old Testament. In the Greek Septuagint version of the Bible, and in the Latin Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 54 in a slightly different numbering system. In Latin, it is known as "Exaudi Deus orationem meam".[1] The psalm is a lament in which the author grieves because he is surrounded by enemies, and one of his closest friends has betrayed him.

The psalm is a regular part of Jewish, Catholic, Anglican and Protestant liturgies. Metrical hymns in English and German were derived from the psalm, and it has been set to music.

Background[edit]

Psalm 55 is similar to Psalm 41,[2] especially 41:9: "Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me" (ESV).[3]

The introduction to the psalm identifies it as a 'Maskil' (instructional piece) and associates it with David.[4] The anonymous author may have been an Israelite living in a foreign city, and the false friend could be another Israelite living there. This interpretation is especially plausible if the second part of verse 24 is translated "men of idols and figurines," as suggested by Hermann Gunkel, rather than "men of blood and treachery."[5]

Jerome, in the Vulgate, titled the psalm Vox Christi adversus magnatos Judaeorum et Judam traditorem, meaning The voice of Christ against the chiefs of the Jews and the traitor Judas.[6]

Text[edit]

King James Version[edit]

  1. Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication.
  2. Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise;
  3. Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me.
  4. My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.
  5. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me.
  6. And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.
  7. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah.
  8. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.
  9. Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues: for I have seen violence and strife in the city.
  10. Day and night they go about it upon the walls thereof: mischief also and sorrow are in the midst of it.
  11. Wickedness is in the midst thereof: deceit and guile depart not from her streets.
  12. For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:
  13. But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.
  14. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.
  15. Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.
  16. As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me.
  17. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
  18. He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me.
  19. God shall hear, and afflict them, even he that abideth of old. Selah. Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.
  20. He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him: he hath broken his covenant.
  21. The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.
  22. Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
  23. But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction: bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in thee.

Structure[edit]

The psalm can be divided into three sections. In a commentary written in 1901, Alexander Kirkpatrick identified the themes of the sections as despair, indignation, and trust, respectively.[6] The first section (vss. 1–8) begins with a desperate appeal to God for deliverance (vss. 1–3) and then launches into a description of the psalmist's anguish and his desire for peace.[7] Verses 9–15 are a strident denunciation of the author's enemies, especially an individual described as "my equal" and "my familiar friend" who has turned against the psalmist (vss. 12–14).[8] This second section closes with a wish that the speaker's enemies be swallowed alive in Sheol, a possible allusion to the fate of Korah.[9] The final section (vss. 16–23) is a confident meditation on God's justice. The psalmist is sure that God will save him and destroy the wicked.[3]

Analysis[edit]

It is unclear whether the psalm was written by a single author or not.[10] Some scholars suggest that verses 12–14, 20–21, and 22 are fragments by a different author which were inserted into the text of the original psalm.[11]

In a 1999 article, Ulrike Bail used intertextual interpretive methods to read the psalm as a reference to the rape of Tamar.[12]

Uses[edit]

Judaism[edit]

New Testament[edit]

Verse 22 is quoted in 1 Peter 5:7[16]

Music[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Parallel Latin/English Psalter / Psalmus 54 (55) Archived 10 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine medievalist.net
  2. ^ Kirkpatrick 307
  3. ^ a b Rhodes 91
  4. ^ James Limburg, Psalms (Westminster John Knox Press 2000), pages 182-183.
  5. ^ Dahood 30, 39
  6. ^ a b Kirkpatrick 308
  7. ^ Rhodes 90–91
  8. ^ Kirkpatrick 311–312
  9. ^ Kirkpatrick 312
  10. ^ Rhodes 90
  11. ^ Hans-Joachim Kraus (1993). Psalms 1–59: A Continental Commentary. Fortress Press. p. 519. ISBN 978-1-4514-0936-9.
  12. ^ Ulrike Bail (1999). "The Breath After the Comma, Psalm 55 and Violence Against Women". Journal of Religion and Abuse. 1 (3): 5–18. doi:10.1300/J154v01n03_02.
  13. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 583
  14. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 605
  15. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 579
  16. ^ Kirkpatrick, A. F. (1901). The Book of Psalms: with Introduction and Notes. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Book IV and V: Psalms XC-CL. Cambridge: At the University Press. p. 839. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  17. ^ Human, D.J. (1997). "A tradition-historical analysis of Psalm 55" (PDF). Verbum et Ecclesia. 18 (2): 267–279. doi:10.4102/ve.v18i2.562. ISSN 2074-7705.

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]