Psalm 61

Psalm 61


To the leader:A with stringed instruments.B 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 “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 “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.”

HearD my cry,E O God;F
    listen toG my prayer.H

Notes on verse 1

D “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.
E “cry” = rinnah. From ranan (a cry of joy or a joyful song; properly, emitting a shrill sound, especially one of joy). This is a song, shout, cry of joy, or proclamation. It could also be a shout of grief.
F “God” = Elohim.
G “listen to” = qashab. To listen, pay attention to, incline – used in the phrase incline the ears.
H “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.

From the endI of the earthJ I callK to you,
    when my heartL is faint.M

Notes on verse 2a

I “end” = qatseh. From qatsah (to cut off, cut short; figuratively, to destroy). This is end, brink, border, edge, frontier. It can refer to that which is within set boundaries.
J “earth” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.
K “call” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.
L “heart” = leb. 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.
M “is faint” = ataph. 16x in OT. This is to turn, faint, hide, be overwhelmed, cover, fail.

LeadN me to the rockO
    that is higherP than I;

Notes on verse 2b

N “lead” = nachah. This is lead, guide, or bring. It can be used for transporting into exile or coming in as colonists. This is the word used in Psalm 23 “he leads me in the paths of righteousness.”
O “rock” = tsur. From tsur (to confine, cramp, or bind in a literal or figurative sense; to besiege, assault, or distress). This is rock, tone, cliff, boulder, rocky. It can also be a refuge, a way to refer to God.
P “is higher” = rum. This is to rise or raise, to be high literally or figuratively. So it can also mean to exalt or extol.

for you are my refuge,Q
    a strongR towerS againstT the enemy.U

Notes on verse 3

Q “refuge” = machaseh. From chasah (to take refuge or flee for protection; figuratively, to hope or trust in someone or something). This is a shelter in a literal or figurative sense. It is refuge or place of refuge. It could also be hope or trust.
R “strong” = oz. From azaz (to be strong, become fixed, be bold, prevail, be impudent; it means to be stout literally or figuratively. A Late Hebrew word). This is strength in the sense of force, majesty, praise, material and physical strength, the abstract notion of security. It can also speak of social or political power.
S “tower” = migdal. From gadal (to grow, grow up, be great, magnify, exalt). This is a tower, podium, bed of flowers. This is perhaps the root of “Magdalene.”
T “against” = paneh. From panah (to turn, face, appear). This is face in a literal or figurative sense. It could be face, presence, anger, respect. It can also be used of God to indicate divine favor or presence.
U “enemy” = oyeb. From ayab (to hate or be hostile to). This is a foe or enemy as one that you are hostile to.

Let me abideV in your tentW forever,X

Notes on verse 4a

V “abide” = guwr. Properly, this is the act of turning off the road for any reason. So, it means sojourning, becoming a guest. It can mean being fearful since one is outside of home territory. It can also mean dwelling, living, or inhabiting if one has turned off the root to encamp for a longer duration. This word is where the Hebrew “ger” comes from, which is the word translated “stranger” or “resident alien.”
W “tent” = ohel. Perhaps from ahal (to shine, be clear). This is a tent, covering, home, or side pillar.
X “forever” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).

    find refugeY under the shelterZ of your wings.AA SelahBB

Notes on verse 4b

Y “find refuge” = chasah. Related to “refuge” in v3. See note Q above.
Z “shelter” = sether. From sathar (hide, conceal, or be absent; hiding because something is covered – used in a literal or figurative sense). This is covering, shelter, protection, hiding place. It can be hidden by a mountain, by clouds, in the womb, in a matter of secrecy, through slander, or of nations.
AA “wings” = kanaph. This is wing, edge, corner, extremity. It can also be a flap or fold of a garment or the pinnacle of a building.
BB “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.

For you, O God, have heard my vows;CC
    you have given me the heritageDD of those who fearEE your name.FF

Notes on verse 5

CC “vows” = neder. From nadar (to vow or promise). This is a vow – literally, that which was promised.
DD “heritage” = yerushshah. 14x in OT. From yarash (inheriting or dispossessing; refers to occupying or colonizing – taking territory by driving out the previous inhabitants and living there instead of them; by implication, to seize or rob, to expel, ruin, or impoverish). This is possession, heritage – something that has been occupied, an inheritance or conquest.
EE “fear” = yare. From the same as yare (to fear, be afraid, dreadful; also fearful reverence – to fear in a moral sense is to say to revere, respect). This is fearful or morally reverent.
FF “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.

ProlongGG the lifeHH of the king;
    may his years endure to all generations!II

Notes on verse 6

GG “prolong” = yasaph. This is to add, increase, continue, exceed.
HH “life” = yom + al + yom. Literally “days upon days.”
II “all generations” = dor + dor. Literally “generation and generation.” From dur (to move in a circle, which implies living somewhere or remaining there; it can also be the sense of piling or heaping up). This is a revolution of time, which is to say, an age or generation. It can also be a dwelling or one’s posterity.

May he be enthronedJJ forever beforeKK God;
    appointLL steadfast loveMM and faithfulnessNN to watch overOO him!

Notes on verse 7

JJ “enthroned” = yashab. This is to sit and so to remain and so to dwell. It is sitting for any reason – as a judge, in order to ambush, or just sitting quietly. Causatively, this can mean settling or marrying. This can also mean continue, endure, or establish.
KK “before” = paneh. Same as “against” in v3. See note T above.
LL “appoint” = manah. To weigh out, reckon, count, number, set, tell. By implication, it is allotting or providing something officially.
MM “steadfast love” = chesed. From chasad (being good, kind, merciful; may mean bowing one’s neck as is done in the presence of an equal for courtesy’s sake; so, if one in a superior position is treating you like an equal, that is what is captured here). This is favor, goodness, kindness, loving kindness, pity, reproach, or a good deed. When done by God to humanity, this is mercy/loving kindness. When done by humanity to God, it is piety.
NN “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.
OO “watch over” = natsar. This is to watch, guard, protect. It can be positive – preserve or obey. It can be negative as conceal.

So I will always sing praisesPP to your name,
    as I payQQ my vows dayRR after day.

Notes on verse 8

PP “sing praises” = zamar. Perhaps from zamar (to trim or prune). This is making music. It is used specially of music to worship God. So, music with singing, singing praise, or singing psalms.
QQ “pay” = shalam. This is to be complete or sound – to have safety mentally, physically, or extending to one’s estate. So, if these things are safe and complete, the implication is that one would be friendly; and, if being friendly, one would make amends and that friendship would be reciprocated. This is the root verb that “shalom” comes from, the Hebrew word for peace.
RR “day” = yom. Same as “life” in v6. See note HH above.

Image credit: “On the Edge” featuring a Nubian Ibex by Amir Appel at Makhtesh Ramon in Israel’s Negev desert, 2013.

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