"Give ear to my prayer, O God"
Beginning of a setting by Dvořák in German and Czech
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". 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 introduction to the psalm identifies it as a 'Maskil' (instructional piece) and associates it with David. 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."
King James Version
- Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication.
- Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise;
- 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.
- My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.
- Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me.
- And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.
- Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah.
- I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.
- Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues: for I have seen violence and strife in the city.
- Day and night they go about it upon the walls thereof: mischief also and sorrow are in the midst of it.
- Wickedness is in the midst thereof: deceit and guile depart not from her streets.
- 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:
- But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.
- We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.
- Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.
- As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me.
- Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
- He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me.
- God shall hear, and afflict them, even he that abideth of old. Selah. Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.
- He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him: he hath broken his covenant.
- 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.
- Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
- 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.
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. 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. 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). 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. 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.
It is unclear whether the psalm was written by a single author or not. 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.
- Verse 14 is found in Pirkei Avot Chapter 6, no. 3.
- Verse 19 is found in the prayers recited following Motzei Shabbat Maariv.
- Verse 24 is found in Pirkei Avot Chapter 5, no. 22.
- The text was set to music by Felix Mendelssohn in 1844.
- Czech composer Antonín Dvořák set verses 1-8 to music in his Biblical Songs (1894).
- Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály set Psalm 55 in 1923 with interpolations and extensions of grief and lamentation full of historic associations for the Hungarian people to the paraphrase by 16th-century poet Mihály Vég. This is the Psalmus Hungaricus, Op. 13.
- Parallel Latin/English Psalter / Psalmus 54 (55) Archived 10 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine medievalist.net
- Kirkpatrick 307
- Rhodes 91
- James Limburg, Psalms (Westminster John Knox Press 2000), pages 182-183.
- Dahood 30, 39
- Kirkpatrick 308
- Rhodes 90–91
- Kirkpatrick 311–312
- Kirkpatrick 312
- Rhodes 90
- Hans-Joachim Kraus (1993). Psalms 1–59: A Continental Commentary. Fortress Press. p. 519. ISBN 978-1-4514-0936-9.
- 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.
- The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 583
- The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 605
- The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 579
- 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.
- 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.
- Dahood, Mitchell (1966). Psalms I: 1–50. Anchor Bible Series. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company.
- Kirkpatrick, A. F. (1901). The Book of Psalms. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Cambridge University Press.
- Rhodes, Arnold B. (1960). The Book of Psalms. The Layman's Bible Commentary. Richmond, Virginia: John Knox Press.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Psalm 55.|
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- Psalm 55 in Hebrew and English - Mechon-mamre
- Pieces with text from Psalm 55: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
- Psalm 55: Free scores at the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
- Text of Psalm 55 according to the 1928 Psalter
- Psalm 55 – Trusting God Against a Treacherous Enemy text and detailed commentary, enduringword.com
- For the leader. On stringed instruments. A maskil of David. / Listen, God, to my prayer; do not hide from my pleading text and footnotes, usccb.org Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Psalm 55:1 introduction and text, biblestudytools.com
- Psalm 55 / Refrain: Cast your burden upon the Lord and he will sustain you. Church of England
- Psalm 55 at biblegateway.com
- Charles H. Spurgeon: Psalm 55 detailed commentary, archive.spurgeon.org
- "Hymns for Psalm 55". hymnary.org. Retrieved 30 April 2020.