Psalm 85

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Psalm 85
"LORD, thou hast been favourable unto thy land"
Justitia et pax - Brescia - Pinacoteca Tosio-Martinengo - 13-4-2002.jpg
Justitia et pax (Justice and Peace) by an anonymous artist
Other name
  • "Benedixisti Domine terram tuam"
Textby Korahites
LanguageHebrew (original)

Psalm 85 is the 85th psalm of the Book of Psalms, beginning in English in the King James Version: "LORD, thou hast been favourable unto thy land". In the Greek Septuagint version of the bible, and in the Latin Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 84 in a slightly different numbering system. In Latin, it is known as "Benedixisti Domine terram tuam".[1] In Judaism, it is called "a psalm of returned exiles".[2] The psalm is attributed to the sons of Korah.

The psalm is a regular part of Jewish, Catholic, Anglican and Protestant liturgies. It was paraphrased in hymns and set to music. Its image of Justice and Peace kissing was a popular theme for artworks from the Middle Ages through the 18th century.

Background and themes[edit]

While the superscript attributes this psalm to the sons of Korah, Christian commentators are undecided about the period in which the psalm was written. One suggestion is that it was penned at the end of the reign of Saul.[3] Alexander Maclaren posits that the setting of Psalm 85 corresponds to the description in the Book of Nehemiah in which only part of the Jewish nation had returned from the Babylonian captivity. They returned "to a ruined city, a fallen Temple, and a mourning land, where they were surrounded by jealous and powerful enemies".[3]

According to Jewish commentators, the sons of Korah are speaking prophetically about the conclusion of the Babylonian exile. They pray that God will also return the Jewish people from the Roman exile, and remove his anger from them altogether. The image of kindness and truth "meeting" alludes to the interrelationship between Israel's truth and God's righteousness. When Israel adheres to the truth, God will respond with righteousness; He will send rain to produce abundant harvests.[4] The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia also interprets the "kiss" shared by Righteousness and Peace (in the KJV translation) as signifying the spiritual union of "God bowing down from heaven to meet earth and earth rejoicing up to Him, foretelling the glory of salvation for the people".[5]

According to the Midrash Tehillim, the land being referred to in this psalm is the Land of Israel, of which Scripture states, "A land which the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it" (Deuteronomy 11:12). God waits for the Jewish people to perform the mitzvot (biblical commandments) associated with the Land – such as tithing the crops and observing the Shmita (sabbatical year) and Yovel (Jubilee year) – and when they do, both they and the land will find favor in God's eyes.[6]

Kissing or fighting?[edit]

The image of "Justice and Peace kissing" (per the KJV translation) became a popular theme for artworks from the Middle Ages through the 18th century.[7] However, the Hebrew word neshek (Hebrew: נשק) has several translations, including "kiss", "fight", and "fought against each other".[8] According to Eder, the word describes a dynamic type of contact, whether positive or negative.[8]

The Midrash understands this interaction in a turbulent light, relating it to God taking counsel with His ministering angels about whether to create the first man. The Midrash states:

Rabbi Simon said, "When the Holy One, blessed be He, came to create Adam, the ministering angels formed themselves into groups and parties, some of them saying, 'Let him be created,' whilst others urged, 'let him not be created.' Thus it is written, "Chesed [Kindness] and Truth fought together, Righteousness and Peace combated each other" (Psalms 85:11). Chesed said, 'Let him be created, because he will dispense acts of love'; Truth said, 'Let him not be created, because he is compounded of falsehood'; Righteousness said, 'Let him be created, because he will perform righteous deeds'; Peace said, 'Let him not be created, because he is full of strife.'

"What did the Holy One do? He took Truth and cast it to the ground. As it says, 'And truth was thrown to the ground...' (Daniel 8:12). The ministering angels said before the Almighty: 'Master of the worlds! Why do You put to shame Your chief of court?' The Almighty replied: 'Let Truth rise from the ground!' This is what is meant when it is written, 'Truth shall grow from the ground'" (Psalms 85:12).[9]


Verse numbering[edit]

In the Hebrew Bible, Psalm 85:1 comprises the designation

To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah. (KJV)

From then on Psalm 85:1–13 in English versions correspond to verses 2–14 in the Hebrew text.

Hebrew Bible version[edit]

Following is the Hebrew text of Psalm 85:[10]

Verse Hebrew
1 לַֽמְנַצֵּ֬חַ | לִבְנֵי־קֹ֬רַח מִזְמֽוֹר
2 רָצִ֣יתָ יְהֹוָ֣ה אַרְצֶ֑ךָ שַׁ֜֗בְתָּ שְׁבִ֣ית (כתיב שְׁבִ֣ות) יַֽעֲקֹֽב
3 נָשָׂאתָ עֲו‍ֹ֣ן עַמֶּ֑ךָ כִּסִּ֖יתָ כָל־חַטָּאתָ֣ם סֶֽלָה
4 אָסַ֥פְתָּ כָל־עֶבְרָתֶ֑ךָ הֱ֜שִׁיב֗וֹתָ מֵֽחֲר֥וֹן אַפֶּֽךָ
5 שׁוּבֵנוּ אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׁעֵ֑נוּ וְהָפֵ֖ר כַּֽעַסְךָ֣ עִמָּֽנוּ
6 הַֽלְעוֹלָ֥ם תֶּֽאֱנַף־בָּ֑נוּ תִּמְשֹׁ֥ךְ אַ֜פְּךָ֗ לְדֹ֣ר וָדֹֽר
7 הֲלֹ֣א אַ֖תָּה תָּשׁ֣וּב תְּחַיֵּ֑ינוּ וְ֜עַמְּךָ֗ יִשְׂמְחוּ־בָֽךְ
8 הַרְאֵ֣נוּ יְהֹוָ֣ה חַסְדֶּ֑ךָ וְ֜יֶשְׁעֲךָ֗ תִּתֶּן־לָֽנוּ
9 אֶשְׁמֳעָ֗ה מַה־יְדַבֵּר֘ הָאֵ֪ל | יְהֹ֫וָ֥ה כִּֽי־יְדַבֵּ֬ר שָׁל֗וֹם אֶל־עַ֖מּוֹ וְאֶל־חֲסִידָ֑יו וְאַל־יָשׁ֥וּבוּ לְכִסְלָֽה
10 אַ֚ךְ | קָר֣וֹב לִֽירֵאָ֣יו יִשְׁע֑וֹ לִשְׁכֹּ֖ן כָּב֣וֹד בְּאַרְצֵֽנוּ
11 חֶֽסֶד־וֶֽאֱמֶ֥ת נִפְגָּ֑שׁוּ צֶ֖דֶק וְשָׁל֣וֹם נָשָֽׁקוּ
12 אֱמֶת מֵאֶ֣רֶץ תִּצְמָ֑ח וְ֜צֶ֗דֶק מִשָּׁמַ֥יִם נִשְׁקָֽף
13 גַּם־יְ֖הֹוָה יִתֵּ֣ן הַטּ֑וֹב וְ֜אַרְצֵ֗נוּ תִּתֵּ֥ן יְבוּלָֽהּ
14 צֶדֶק לְפָנָ֣יו יְהַלֵּ֑ךְ וְיָשֵׂ֖ם לְדֶ֣רֶךְ פְּעָמָֽיו

King James Version[edit]

To the chief Musician, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.
  1. LORD, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob.
  2. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah.
  3. Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.
  4. Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease.
  5. Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations?
  6. Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?
  7. Shew us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation.
  8. I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.
  9. Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.
  10. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
  11. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
  12. Yea, the LORD shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase.
  13. Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.


In Judaism[edit]

In the Sephardic tradition, Psalm 85 is recited after Kaddish (Titkabel) during the afternoon service on Yom Kippur eve.[2] Sephardi Jews also recite this psalm along with numerous others on Yom Kippur itself.[11]

Verses 5 and 8 (in the Hebrew) are part of Selichot;[12] verse 8 is also recited during the morning service in Pesukei Dezimra.[13]

Psalm 85 is recited to express gratitude, as a prayer for a livelihood, and as a prayer for assistance in times of need.[14]

In Catholicism[edit]

The beginning of Psalm 85 is recommended as introit or antiphon on Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent.[15]

Hymns and musical settings[edit]

Paul Gerhardt paraphrased Psalm 85 in a hymn, "Herr, der du vormals hast dein Land", which is part of the Protestant German hymnal Evangelisches Gesangbuch as EG 283.

Heinrich Schütz set a German rhymed version in the Becker Psalter, Herr, der du vormals gnädig warst (Lord, who you were mercyful before), SWV 182.

Themes from verses 9 to 11 were paraphrased in "The Lord will come and not be slow", a hymn by John Milton.[16]

The Four Virtues[edit]

In verse 10 in the KJV, virtues are described as meeting: "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other", in erotic imagery,[17] which became a popular theme for artworks from the Middle Ages through the 18th century.[7] These include paintings by Tiepolo, Lanfranco, Pompeo Batoni, Nicolas Prévost, and Laurent de La Hyre.[7] In 2003, American artist John August Swanson produced the work Psalm 85.[18][19] The verse was also engraved on a papal tiara which Napoleon gifted to Pope Pius VII.

The four virtues, Mercy, Truth, Righteousness (or Justice), and Peace, are allegorized as Four Daughters of God.[20] The psalm has also been quoted in nonviolent movements, for example in a 1993 document of Catholic bishops in the United States, for its verse "for he will speak peace unto his people".[21]


  1. ^ Parallel Latin/English Psalter / Psalmus 84 (85) Archived 2017-05-07 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b Nulman 1996, p. 209.
  3. ^ a b Guzik, David (2019). "Psalm 85 – Praying for Revival and Restoration". Enduring Word. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  4. ^ Abramowitz, Rabbi Jack. "Truth, Meet Kindness. Kindness, This is Truth". Orthodox Union. Retrieved January 19, 2010.
  5. ^ Bromiley 1995, p. 44.
  6. ^ "Midrash Tehillim / Psalms 85" (PDF). October 2012. Retrieved January 19, 2020. (password:
  7. ^ a b c Rosenberg & Funaroli 1982, p. 252.
  8. ^ a b Eder, Sigrid (July 2017). "Do Justice and Peace Really Kiss Each Other?". Vetus Testamentum. 67 (3): 387–402.
  9. ^ "Throwing Truth to the Ground" (PDF). January 2017. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  10. ^ "Tehillim - Psalms - Chapter 85". 2019. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
  11. ^ Nulman 1996, p. 317.
  12. ^ Brauner, Reuven (2013). "Shimush Pesukim: Comprehensive Index to Liturgical and Ceremonial Uses of Biblical Verses and Passages" (PDF) (2nd ed.). p. 42.
  13. ^ Scherman 1987, p. 64.
  14. ^ "Psalms for Special Occasions". Psalms Online. Retrieved January 19, 2020.
  15. ^ Cantica 2020.
  16. ^ Hymnary 2020.
  17. ^ Portier-Young 2014, p. 328.
  18. ^ "Psalm 85" (2003)
  19. ^ Gates & Mann 2012, p. xxi–xxiii.
  20. ^ Lavin 2005, p. 178.
  21. ^ McCarthy 2012, p. 183.

Cited sources[edit]

External links[edit]