Psalm 20

Psalm 20


To the leader.A A PsalmB of David.C

Notes on superscript

A “leader” = natsach. Properly, something that glitters from a distance. So, something that stands out, excels, has status/standing (such as a chief musician or superintendent of Temple services). This can also mean to be permanent or enduring.
B “psalm” = mizmor. From zamar (making music; used specially of music to worship God; music with singing, singing praise, singing psalms); may be from zamar (to trim or prune). This is a melody or a psalm.
C “David” = david. From the same as dod (beloved, love, uncle); the root may mean to boil, which is used figuratively to describe love. So, this implies someone you love such as a friend, a lover, or a close family member like an uncle. David’s name likely means something like “beloved one.”

The LordD answerE you in the day of trouble!F
    The nameG of the GodH of JacobI protectJ you!

Notes on verse 1

D “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
E “answer” = anah. This is answer, respond, announce, sing, shout, or testify. It means to pay attention, which implies responding and, by extension, starting to talk. Used in a specific sense for singing, shouting, testifying, etc.
F “trouble” = tsarah. From tsar (properly, a narrow or constricted place; figuratively, trouble, a pebble, an enemy, anguish, or distress); from tsarar (to bind, restrict, narrow, be cramped, an adversary). This is tightness, distress, affliction, trouble, or adversary.
G “name” = shem. May be from sum (to put, place, set). This is name, fame, renown. A name was thought to indicate something essential about a person – something about their individuality. So, this word can also mean honor, authority, or character.
H “God” = Elohim.
I “Jacob” = yaaqob. From the same as aqeb (heel, hind part, hoof, rear guard of an army, one who lies in wait, usurper). This is Isaac’s son and his descendants. The name means heel-catcher or supplanter.
J “protect” = sagab. This is to raise, lifted, high, set secure on high, excellent, or strong. It is inaccessibly high in a literal and figurative sense. It implies something that is safe and, therefore, something that is strong.

May he send you helpK from the sanctuary,L
    and give you supportM from Zion.N

Notes on verse 2

K “help” = ezer. From azar (to help, protect, support, ally; properly, to surround so as to provide aid). This is help, aid, or helper. This word is used in Genesis 2:18 when God decides to make for Adam, “a helper as his partner.” If the same word can be used of God’s help (as in Psalm 121:1), then we should not downplay the significance of this formulation of “help.”
L “sanctuary” = qodesh. This is set apart and so sacred. God is different from us and so God is holy/set apart. Things we dedicate to God’s service are set apart for God and so they, too, are holy, etc.
M “give…support” = saad. 12x in OT. This is to support – usually used in a figurative sense. So it is sustain, hold, refresh, comfort, establish.
N “Zion” = tsiyyon. The word is related to tsyiyyun (signpost, monument); from tsavah (to charge someone, to command, order); from the same as tsiyyah (dryness drought); from a root meaning parched as desert, dry land. Zion can refer to a mountain in Jerusalem as well as another name for Jerusalem itself or the people.

May he rememberO all your offerings,P
    and regard with favorQ your burnt sacrifices.R SelahS

Notes on verse 3

O “remember” = zakar. This is to remember, to mark something so that it can be recalled, to be mindful of, to mention.
P “offerings” = minchah. This is a gift or an offering, particularly a sacrificial one that is generally bloodless and given spontaneously (voluntarily).
Q “regard with favor” = dashen. 11x in OT. Perhaps related to deshen (fat or the ashes from fat). This is to be fat or anointed, to be fattened. It can also mean to remove ashes from. Figuratively, this can mean to enrich, satisfy.
R “burnt sacrifices” = olah. From alah (to go up, climb, approach, bring; to be high or actively climb; can be literal or figurative). This is a step, stairs, or some kind of ascent. It is also used for whole burnt offerings, being the offering in which the whole things is burned and rises as smoke. Burnt offerings were the least common of the offerings: most were eaten, shared with the priest and the one bringing the offering.
S “selah” = selah. From salal (to lift up, build, pile, extol, exalt; can also be used for opposing as a dam holds back water). This is to lift up or exalt. Also, “selah” in the psalms where its precise meaning is uncertain. It could be a pause in the music, a moment of silence. It could signal a change in the service or mean something akin to amen.

May he grant you your heart’sT desire,
    and fulfillU all your plans.V

Notes on verse 4

T “heart’s” = lebab. May be related to labab (to encourage; properly, to be encased as with fat; used in a good sense, this means to transport someone with love; used in a bad sense, it can mean to dull one’s senses). This is the heart, courage, one’s inner self, the mind, or the will. Heart is only used in a figurative sense in the Old and New Testaments.
U “fulfill” = male. This is fill, satisfy, replenish, accomplish, fulfill, confirm, or consecrate. It is fill in a literal or figurative sense.
V “plans” = etsah. From yaats (to counsel, advise, determine). This is advice, purpose, plan, prudence, or counselor.

May we shout for joyW over your victory,X
    and in the name of our God set up our banners.Y

May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.Z

Notes on verse 5

W “shout for joy” = rannan. This is crying out or making a shrill sound – usually from joy. So it can be a joyful song, to rejoice, to sing out loud.
X “victory” = yeshuah. From yasha (to deliver, defend, help, preserve, rescue, be safe. Properly, to be open, wide or free, which implies being safe. Used causatively, it means to free). This is salvation, deliverance, health, victory, prosperity.
Y “set up…banners” = dagal. 4x in OT. This is to look, behold, or flaunt. It can be to raise a flag or, figuratively, to be chief-most or very noticeable.
Z “petitions” = mishalah. 2x in OT. From shaal (to ask, inquire, beg, borrow, desire, request; can also mean demand). This is a desire, request, or petition.

Now I knowAA that the Lord will helpBB his anointed;CC
    he will answer him from his holyDD heavenEE

Notes on verse 6a

AA “know” = yada. This is to know, acknowledge, advise, answer, be aware, be acquainted with. Properly, this is to figure something out by seeing. It includes ideas of observation, recognition, and care about something. It can be used causatively for instruction, designation, and punishment.
BB “help” = yasha. Related to “victory” in v5. See note X above.
CC “anointed” = mashiach. From mashach (to smear or anoint; to run oil on, to consecrate). This is the anointed or consecrated one. So, it could refer to a king, priest, or saint. It is also the root of the word “messiah.”
DD “holy” = qodesh. Same as “sanctuary” in v2. See note L above.
EE “heaven” = shamayim. Root may mean being lofty. This is sky, the air, or heaven. It is in a dual noun form so this might refer to the part of the sky where the clouds move on the one hand and the part beyond that where the sun, moon, and stars are on the other hand.

    with mightyFF victoriesGG by his right hand.HH

Notes on verse 6b

FF “mighty” = geburah. From gabar (to be strong or mighty; to prevail or be insolent). This is force in a literal or figurative sense. So, it could be strength, power, courage, triumph, victory, or mastery.
GG “victories” = yesha. Related to “victory” in v5 & “help” in v6. From yasha (see note X above). This is salvation, deliverance, rescue, safety, welfare, liberty.
HH “right hand” = yamin. May be from yamam (to go or choose the right, use the right hand; to be physically fit or firm). This can mean right hand, right side, or south. Since most people are right-handed, the metaphorical usage of this word presumes that the right hand is stronger and more agile. Thus, it is the instrument of power and action.

Some take pride inII chariots,JJ and some in horses,KK
    but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.

Notes on verse 7

II “take pride in” = zakar. Same as “remember” in v3. See note O above.
JJ “chariots” = rekeb. From rakab (to ride an animal or in some vehicle; also, bringing on a horse). This is a vehicle, wagon, or chariot. It can be cavalry or an individual rider.
KK “horses” = sus. Root may mean to skip as in jump for joy. This is a crane or a swift bird. It is also a horse as leaping.

They will collapseLL and fall,
    but we shall riseMM and stand upright.NN

Give victoryOO to the king, O Lord;
    answer us when we call.PP

Notes on verses 8-9

LL “collapse” = kara. This is to bow, crouch, kneel down, subdue. It is to bend the knee in many senses. It can also mean to smite, a woman crouching in childbirth, or bowing to worship God.
MM “rise” = qum. To arise, stand, accomplish, establish, abide. This is rising as in rising against, getting up after being sick or asleep, arising from one state to another, becoming powerful, or rising for action. It can also be standing in a figurative sense.
NN “stand upright” = uwd. This is to repeat, return, do again. This implies testifying something since that is a repetition. It can also mean to charge, admonish, protest, relieve, restore, or lift up.
OO “give victory” = yasha. Same as “help” in v6. See note BB above.
PP “call” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.

Image credit: Statue of King David at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral in Spain. Photo by J Voitus.

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