Week of 14 December 2017 – Psalm 60

This comment is in memory of my late mother (Brainah Leah bat Moshe Aharon) and for all those who read Tehillim for the sake of others. [To see the full Mechon Mamre text, please click here.]

Psalm 60 returns to our Mikhtum LeDavid style (Chapters 52-55 were of the LaMaskil variant and 57-59 were of the Tash’het series).

Historically, this Psalm is set in the period well after David was anointed King, at the zenith of his power, leading troops in military victory in the north. (II Samuel 8:3-13)

In Psalm 60, David reflects upon 4 themes: G-d’s previous indifference to the poor state of Israel’s public security and the Almighty’s happy return to offering providential support; praise for G-d’s delivering into his hands the armies of surrounding nations and a prayer that his military success would continue until the work was completed.

בְּהַצּוֹתוֹ, אֶת אֲרַם נַהֲרַיִם– וְאֶת-אֲרַם צוֹבָה: וַיָּשָׁב יוֹאָב, וַיַּךְ אֶת-אֱדוֹם בְּגֵיא-מֶלַח– שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר אָלֶף.  When he strove with Aram-naharaim and with Aram-zobah, and Joab returned, and smote of Edom in the Valley of Salt twelve thousand. (Psalms 60:2)

 אֱ-לֹהִים, זְנַחְתָּנוּ פְרַצְתָּנוּ; אָנַפְתָּ, תְּשׁוֹבֵב לָנוּ. O G-d, You cast us off, You’ve broken us down; You’ve been angry; O restore us. (Psalms 60:3)

הִרְאִיתָ עַמְּךָ קָשָׁה; הִשְׁקִיתָנוּ, יַיִן תַּרְעֵלָה. You’ve made Your people see hard things; You’ve made us drink the wine of staggering. (Psalms 60:5)

Verse 7 is quite familiar; found in the final paragraph at the end of the silent Amidah.

(לְמַעַן, יֵחָלְצוּן יְדִידֶיךָ; הוֹשִׁיעָה יְמִינְךָ ועננו (וַעֲנֵנִי. That Your beloved may be delivered, save with Your right hand, and answer me. (Psalms 60:7)

The northern border of Israel was vulnerable to regular incursion by Syrian and Edomite forces. The battles reported here were an attempt to consolidate David’s military reputation internationally while securing his hold on power domestically. II Samuel Chapter 3 reports that after this campaign several nations offered Israel annual tribute.

מוֹאָב, סִיר רַחְצִי–עַל-אֱדוֹם, אַשְׁלִיךְ נַעֲלִי; עָלַי, פְּלֶשֶׁת הִתְרוֹעָעִי. Moab is my wash-pot; upon Edom I cast my shoe; Philistia, cry aloud because of me! (Psalms 60:10)

בֵּא-לֹהִים נַעֲשֶׂה-חָיִל; וְהוּא, יָבוּס צָרֵינוּ. Through G-d we shall do valiantly; for He will tread down our adversaries. (Psalms 60:14)

Because this chapter begins with reference to Shushan-Eduth and perhaps because it refers to military conquest, it is read each year by some communities on Shushan Purim.