Psalm 54

Psalm 54


To the leader:A with stringed instruments.B A MaskilC of David,D

Notes on superscript-a

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 “stringed instruments” = neginah. 13x in OT. From nagan (to strike a stringed instrument, to pluck or play it). This is music, a song, a taunt, or a stringed instrument. It can also be a poem given a musical setting.
C “Maskil” = maskil. 13x in OT. From sakal (to consider or be prudent; to instruct, be an expert; dealing prudently, which implies success and prospering; can mean laying cross-wise). This is maskil or maschil. It is a poem used for instruction.
D “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.”

when the ZiphitesE went and told Saul,F “David is in hidingG among us.”

Notes on superscript-b

E “Ziphites” = Ziphi. 3x in OT. From Ziph (Ziph, one of Judah’s children and the name of a city; “flowing”); from the same as zepheth (to liquify, asphalt). This is Ziphite, someone from Ziph, meaning “flowing.”
F “Saul” = Shaul. From shaal (to ask, inquire, beg, borrow, desire, request; can also mean demand). This is Saul or Shaul, meaning “asked of the Lord.”
G “is in hiding” = sathar. This is hide, conceal, or be absent. It is hiding because something is covered – used in a literal or figurative sense.

SaveH me, O God,I by your name,J
    and vindicateK me by your might.L

Notes on verse 1

H “save” = 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.
I “God” = Elohim.
J “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.
K “vindicate” = din. This is to judge.
L “might” = 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.

2 HearM my prayer,N O God;
    give earO to the wordsP of my mouth.Q

Notes on verse 2

M “hear” = shama. This is to hear, call, consent, or consider. It implies listening intelligently, giving attention, and, because of these two factors, obedience and action are often implied.
N “prayer” = tephillah. From palal (to judge for oneself or in an official capacity; to pray or make supplication, to entreat). This is prayer or intercession. It can also be a hymn.
O “give ear” = azan. Perhaps from ozen (ear, hearing, audience, show; properly, broadness – applied to its ear in reference to its shape). Properly, this is to expand or broaden one’s ear i.e. listen intently, pay attention, heed.
P “words” = emer. From amar (to say, speak). This is word, saying, speech.
Q “mouth” = peh. This is mouth in a literal or figurative sense. So, more literally, it can be beak or jaws. More figuratively, it refers to speech, commands, or promises.

3 For the insolentR have risenS against me,
    the ruthlessT seekU my life;V

Notes on verse 3a

R “insolent” = zur. This is one who comes from someone else – a stranger. It is one who stops for lodging. Figuratively, it can also mean profane or one who commits adultery.
S “risen” = 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.
T “ruthless” = arits. From arats (to tremble, dread, stand in awe, oppress, harass). This is awe-inspiring or terror-inducing, ruthless, tyrant, oppressor, violent, powerful.
U “seek” = baqash. This is to seek, ask, desire, or request. It can be any kind of searching. It can also mean to worship or pray – implies a striving for.
V “life” = nephesh. Related to naphash (to refresh or be refreshed). This is soul, self, person, emotion. It is a breathing creature. Can also refer to appetites and desires.

    they do not setW God beforeX them. SelahY

Notes on verse 3b

W “set” = sum. Related to “name” in v1. See note J above.
X “before” = neged. From nagad (to declare, make conspicuous, stand in front, manifest, predict, explain). This is in front of, opposite to. It can refer to a counterpart or partner, one corresponding to or in the sight of.
Y “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.

But surely,Z God is my helper;AA
    the LordBB is the upholderCC of my life.

Notes on verse 4

Z “surely” = hinneh. From hen (lo! Behold! If, though; an expression of surprise). This is to draw attention, show suddenness or surprise, or to emphasize the importance of the coming statement. See! Lo! Behold!
AA “is…helper” = azar. This is to surround, which implies encircling to protect someone or help them out. It can also be help, ally, or support.
BB “Lord” = Adonai. From adon (lord, master, owner); root means to rule or be sovereign. This is the actual Hebrew word for Lord used (in a different form) of humans and (in the present form) of God. It means someone who is in control.
CC “upholder” = samak. This is to lean, rest, support, brace, uphold, sustain, or establish. It is to lean on in a positive or negative sense.

He will repayDD my enemiesEE for their evil.FF
    In your faithfulness,GG put an end toHH them.

Notes on verse 5

DD “repay” = shub. To turn back, return, turn away – literally or figuratively. Doesn’t necessarily imply going back to where you started from. This is also the root verb for the Hebrew word for repentance “teshubah.”
EE “enemies” = sharar. 5x in OT. See shorer (foe, a treacherous watcher); from shur (to behold, see, watch, perceive; to spy out, lie in wait, lurk for; can also be to care for). This is an enemy or watcher.
FF “evil” = ra’. From ra’a’ (to be evil, bad, afflict; properly, to spoil – to destroy by breaking into pieces; figuratively, to cause something to be worthless; this is bad in a physical, social, or moral sense; that which displeases, to do harm or mischief, to punish or vex). This is bad, disagreeable, that which causes pain, misery, something having little or no value, something that is ethically bad, wicked, injury, calamity. This refers to anything that is not what it ought to be – a natural disaster, a disfigurement, an injury, a sin.
GG “faithfulness” = emet. From aman (to believe, endure, fulfill, confirm, support, be faithful, put one’s trust in, be steadfast. Figuratively, this is to be firm, steadfast, or faithful, trusting, believing, being permanent, morally solid). This is firmness or stability. Figuratively, it is faithfulness, truth, or trustworthiness. This is the same root that “amen” comes from.
HH “put an end to” = tsamath. 15x in OT. This is to destroy, cut off, silence, or vanish. It is to put an end to in a literal or figurative sense.

With a freewill offeringII I will sacrificeJJ to you;
    I will give thanksKK to your name, O Lord,LL for it is good.MM

Notes on verse 6

II “freewill offering” = nedabah. From nadab (to offer willingly, volunteer, freely give, be willing). This is a freewill offering, something giving spontaneously.
JJ “sacrifice” = zabach. This is slaughtering an animal, generally for the purpose of sacrifice. It can mean kill or offer.
KK “give thanks” = yadah. From yad (hand). This is to throw one’s hands into the air in a gesture of praise. So, it is to praise, give thanks, or make a confession.
LL “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.
MM “good” = tob. From tob (to be pleasing, to be good). This is good, beautiful, pleasant, agreeable, bountiful, at ease. This word is used for goodness as a concept, a good thing, a good person. This can refer to prosperity and welfare as well as joy, kindness, sweetness, and graciousness. So, this is ethically good, but also enjoyably good.

For he has deliveredNN me from every trouble,OO
    and my eyePP has lookedQQ in triumph on my enemies.RR

Notes on verse 7

NN “delivered” = natsal. This is to snatch someone or something away in a good sense – as rescue, defend, or deliver – or in a bad sense – as strip or plunder.
OO “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.
PP “eye” = ayin. This is eye in a literal or figurative sense so eye, appearance, favor, or a fountain (the eye of the landscape).
QQ “looked” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.
RR “enemies” = oyeb. From ayab (to hate or be hostile to). This is a foe or enemy as one that you are hostile to.

Image credit: “Sunset at Tarutao archipelago” – photo by Phuketian.S

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