Psalm 65

The Hebrew expression natsách (preceded by the preposition “to”) is commonly thought to signify “to the musical director” or “leader.” In the Septuagint, the rendering is “to the end.” An ancient Latin translation of the Hebrew Psalter reads victori (“to the victor”), probably because of linking the Hebrew expression to a root meaning “to defeat.” This suggests that considerable uncertainty exists about the significance of natsách.

Psalm 65 is attributed to David and is specifically called a “song.”

The ark of the covenant, representing God’s presence, was located on Mount Zion. Therefore, the people would praise God there and fulfill their vows or oath-bound promises to him. In the Masoretic Text, the word dumiyyáh (“silence”) precedes “praise” and has been understood to signify “waiting” or “awaiting.” “Praise is awaiting You, O God, in Zion.” (NKJV) “Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion.” (NIV) A number of literal translations have preserved the meaning “silence.” “Thine, are silence and praise, O God, in Zion.” (J. B. Rotherham) “To You silence is praise, O God, in Zion.” (J. P. Green) “To Thee, silence—praise, O God, [is] in Zion.” (Young) The Septuagint has a form of prépo, meaning “to be fitting,” and this is the sense often conveyed in modern translations. “Praise befits You in Zion, O God.” (Tanakh) “Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion.” (NRSV) Praise is rightfully yours, God, in Zion.” (NJB) “It is fitting to praise you in Zion, God.” (REB) “Our God, you deserve praise in Zion.” (CEV) Regarding the performing or paying of vows, the Septuagint adds “Jerusalem” as the location for doing so.

Whereas the Septuagint phrases verse 2(3) as a petition (“hear my prayer”), the Masoretic Text represents God as hearing prayer. “To him, all flesh [all humans who look to him to answer their appeals] comes.”

The petitions include supplications for the forgiveness of sin. The psalmist speaks of “iniquities” overcoming him (“us,” LXX) and then adds the assurance, “You cover over our transgressions,” granting forgiveness.

The Hebrew term for “iniquities” follows the plural of davár, basically meaning “words,” and the Septuagint reads lógoi (“words”). Depending upon the context, davár can also denote a “matter” or a “thing.” Translators have variously rendered the literal expression “words of iniquities” as “tale of iniquities” (Margolis), “all manner of sins” (Tanakh), “deeds of iniquity” (NRSV), and “evil deeds” (REB).

When granting forgiveness, God makes acceptable approach to him possible. Therefore, fortunate, blessed, or in a state of enviable happiness is the one whom God chooses and brings near as if into his very presence to dwell in his courts. Including himself among God’s people, the psalmist spoke of being “satisfied with the goodness” of God’s house, his “holy temple.” The goodness of God’s house would include all the blessings the Most High bestows on those whom he treats as if they were in his actual presence as guests in his house.

Verse 5(6) opens with the participial plural form of “fear” (yaré’) and is followed by “righteousness” or “justice” (tsédeq) preceded by a preposition that can mean “in” or “with.” The Septuagint renders the expression thaumastós en dikaiosyne (“marvelous in righteousness”), but the words are not linked to the next statement. Possibly the Hebrew may be understood to mean that God, in expression of his justice or righteousness, answered the appeal of his people through wondrous or awe-inspiring deeds. The psalmist recognized the Most High as the God of salvation or deliverance in whom even people living in distant areas (“all the ends of the earth”) and locations “of the farthest seas” could place their trust or hope.

Translators have interpretively rendered this verse 5(6) to convey a variety of meanings. “Answer us with victory through awesome deeds, O God, our deliverer, in whom all the ends of the earth and the distant seas put their trust.” (Tanakh) “You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.” (NIV) “Our God, you save us, and your fearsome deeds answer our prayers for justice! You give hope to people everywhere on earth, even those across the sea.” (CEV) “With wondrous works dost Thou answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation; Thou the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of the far distant seas.” (Margolis) “Through dread deeds you answer us with victory, God our deliverer, in whom all put their trust at the ends of the earth and on distant seas.” (REB) “By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas.” (NRSV) “You respond to us with the marvels of your saving justice, God our Savior, hope of the whole wide world, even the distant islands.” (NJB)

Focusing on the greatness of God, the psalmist called attention to the creative works and the divine care for the creation. Girded with strength, the Most High had established mountains by his might. He stilled (“troubled,” LXX) the roaring seas and the roaring of their waves, causing the winds to die down and thereby calming the waters. He also calmed peoples, ending their state of tumult or agitation. According to the Septuagint, “the nations will be troubled.”

At God’s signs or his awe-inspiring deeds, dwellers “at the boundaries” or in distant places become fearful. The joy of “the outgoings of the morning and the evening” appear to denote the joy people living everywhere (from east to west) experience. The next verse suggests that this would include their enjoyment of bountiful harvests.

The psalmist attributed the abundance the earth or land produces and its fruitfulness to God’s visitation. The reference to the “river of God” may designate all rivers as belonging to him, for he is the Creator whom the psalmist portrayed as keeping them full of water to irrigate the land. People are provided with grain for food, as God has prepared the earth or land to be productive. He waters the plowed furrows and levels the ridges of the land, softening it with showers and blessing its growth or making it possible for crops to thrive.

God’s crowning the year with bounty is descriptive of his ending the agricultural year with good harvests. As if God had ridden over the land with his chariot, the tracks of the wheels “drip with fatness” or give evidence of plenty.

Uncultivated pasture lands “drip” or present a lush appearance. “Hills gird themselves with joy.” Adorned with flourishing vegetation, they present a cheering sight.

Many sheep and goats graze in the meadows, suggesting to the beholder that the pastures have clothed themselves with flocks. Similarly, the cultivated valleys are covered with crops of grain as if they have decked themselves. Everything has taken on a joyous appearance, and so the psalmist concludes with the words, “They shout for joy and sing.”