Week of 25 January 2018 – Psalms 64

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 64, also attributed to David, is a continuation of the darker theme of the previous Psalm. Here the author again decries the work of evildoers and maintains his hope in the salvation of the Almighty.

It contains 3 basic themes: a prayer to be protected from the harmful intentions of his enemies and detractors, a description of the low character of those out to harm him, and a forecast of their eventual failure which would by association lead the righteous to give praise to G-d.

There are those who see parallels between the language employed here and that of other Psalms describing Saul’s persecution of David.

שְׁמַע-אֱ-לֹהִים קוֹלִי בְשִׂיחִי;    מִפַּחַד אוֹיֵב, תִּצֹּר חַיָּי. Hear my voice, O G-d, in my complaint; preserve my life from the terror of the enemy. (Psalms 64:2)

Seeking to have his voice ‘heard’ by G-d is David’s way of reassuring himself that his prayer will be answered.

יְחַזְּקוּ-לָמוֹ, דָּבָר רָע– יְסַפְּרוּ, לִטְמוֹן מוֹקְשִׁים; אָמְרוּ, מִי יִרְאֶה-לָּמוֹ. They encourage one another in evil matters; they converse secretly about laying snares; they ask, who would see them. (Psalms 64:6)

Despite their concerted efforts, clandestine plotting and evil machinations, G-d will take no notice of them.

וַיֹּרֵם, אֱ-לֹהִים: חֵץ פִּתְאוֹם–הָיוּ, מַכּוֹתָם. But God shoots them with an arrow suddenly; hence are their wounds. (Psalms 64:8)

One of the spiritual axioms of life is that harm intended by evil doers against their victims will be revisited upon them by G-d. In Jewish law we find this represented by the case of Edim Zomemim (Witnesses giving Corrupted Testimony). Their punishment is exactly what would have been given to the person they testified against.

וַיִּירְאוּ, כָּל-אָדָם: וַיַּגִּידוּ, פֹּעַל אֱ-לֹהִים; וּמַעֲשֵׂהוּ הִשְׂכִּילוּ. And all men fear; they declare the work of God, and understand His doing. (Psalms 64:10)

As he draws the chapter to a close, David informs that only when men fear G-d will there be moral restraint and an end to unrighteous behaviour.

יִשְׂמַח צַדִּיק בַּי-הוָה, וְחָסָה בוֹ; וְיִתְהַלְלוּ, כָּל-יִשְׁרֵי-לֵב. The righteous will delight in the LORD, and take refuge in Him; and all the upright in heart will offer glory. (Psalms 64:11)

When the righteous see that wrongdoing has no benefit or place in the world, they will joyously give thanks to the Almighty.

An oft-repeated message is that creating a safe, supportive world for all humanity is the task of human beings. It’s not for us to blame G-d when we fail in our mission.