Psalm 10

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In the Septuagint and the Vulgate, this composition is a continuation of Psalm 9, resulting in a different numerical order for the book of Psalms from this point onward. The Masoretic Text does link both compositions. The incomplete acrostic arrangement of Psalm 9 continues in Psalm 10 with the letter lamed (L).

The psalmist was deeply troubled about God’s seeming unresponsiveness to human suffering. His initial unsettling question portrays YHWH as having distanced and hidden himself in “times of trouble.” Based on the context, the expression “times of trouble” denotes times when ungodly men oppressed the poor and engaged in ruthless acts of violence. Despite their defying YHWH, they prospered.

Arrogantly, the oppressors pursued the poor or defenseless ones as if they were mere prey, apparently depriving them of what little they possessed. The psalmist’s next words may be understood as a prayerful petition that the wicked would be caught in their own schemes. There is a possibility, however, that the Hebrew may mean that the poor would be trapped by the schemes cruel oppressors devised.

The wicked one praised himself for his soul’s desires. Through corrupt and ruthless methods, he fulfilled his soul’s or his own base desires. He then took pride in his ill-gotten gain. Apparently the phrase about cursing and renouncing YHWH applies to the same corrupt man. His defiance in praising himself for profiting from violence or lawless means was tantamount to cursing and renouncing YHWH. According to the reading of the Septuagint, the unrighteous or unjust one “blesses himself.”

The wicked one’s countenance reflects haughtiness. As one having an arrogant and defiant bearing, he does not “seek” (possibly YHWH is to be understood as the One whom he does not seek). In all his thoughts, he totally ignores God as if he did not exist. Evidently because of not considering himself accountable for his actions, the ungodly one is depicted as thinking there is no God.

The Septuagint reads, “The sinner provoked the Lord. According to the fullness of his anger, he will not seek. God is not before him.” As in the case of the Masoretic Text, the verb “seek” has no object, but may be understood to be the “Lord.” The lawless one was not inclined to seek YHWH, with the desire of having an approved standing. Because the Hebrew verb for “seek” can include the thought of seeking with care, the Masoretic Text also has been interpretively rendered, “God doesn’t care, doesn’t even exist.” (NAB) “He does not call to account; God does not care.”

In the Septuagint, the “ways” of the sinner are polluted or defiled at all times. The Masoretic Text portrays his “ways” as being “strong” or “firm,” suggesting that the wicked one is secure and prosperous while engaging in lawless actions. God’s judgments are high above him, completely out of his sight. According to the Septuagint, they are “removed from his face” or from before him. Because these judgments are far out of his range, he would not be concerning himself about facing a day of reckoning. As for all the wicked one’s adversaries, he “puffs” at them, which may be understood to mean that he sneers or scoffs at everyone who might oppose him. The Septuagint, however, speaks of the sinner’s dominating or having the mastery over his enemies.

In his heart or deep inner self, the impious one considers himself secure, thinking that he will not be moved or shaken and never experience calamity. The reference to “generation and generation” (“from generation to generation,” LXX) seemingly indicates that the wicked one reasons within himself that even his offspring will be secure.

The corrupt one’s mouth is full of oaths, deceit, and oppression. Either the reference is to lying oaths or to curses. If the Hebrew is to be understood as meaning curses, the thought could be that, instead of wishing others well, he calls down evil upon them. Nothing he says can be trusted, and his utterances are aimed at gaining power over others in order to oppress them. Instead of “deceit and oppression,” the Septuagint reads “bitterness and deceit,” with “bitterness” probably being indicative of the lawless one’s making life bitter or painful for others. Under his tongue, trouble and iniquity (pain, LXX) lodge. Accordingly, he is always prepared to use his tongue to harm others.

In settlements, the wicked one sits in ambush, ready to pounce on his victims. According to the Septuagint, the sinner lies in ambush with the rich. In concealed places, away from view, he slays the innocent one. His eyes are always on the lookout for the downcast or disadvantaged one, evidently to spring upon him an evil scheme to further a base objective.

The godless one, like a lion, lies in wait, ready to rush against the poor or defenseless one. Seizing the poor one in his net, he ruthlessly drags his victim away, bringing about his ruin. The Hebrew may also be understood to mean that he draws the net shut, making any escape impossible.

Crushed and prostrate, the downcast, disadvantaged, or defenseless ones fall by the might of the wicked one. The Hebrew may also be understood to refer to the wicked one as being in a stooped and crouched position like a lurking lion. According to the Septuagint, the sinner would experience retribution. After gaining dominion over the poor, he would find himself bowing down and falling.

While pursuing his godless course, the wicked one, in his heart or his deep inner self, imagines that God has no memory about the evil committed and has hidden his face, which would mean that he could not observe anything. Believing God will never see what he is doing, the impious one imagines that he will escape punishment.

The psalmist pleads that YHWH might arise as if from a seated position and act, lifting up his hand in a display of power to deliver the afflicted ones. For YHWH not to forget them would mean that he would take note of their plight and come to their aid.

The psalmist’s question implies that he could not understand how the ungodly one could spurn or, according to the Septuagint, provoke God and reason that he would go unpunished. In his heart or deep inner self, the lawless one says or concludes that God will not call him to account for his actions.

Confidently, the psalmist declares that YHWH does see, taking note of the trouble and vexation to which the afflicted one is submitted. The reference to God’s taking into his hand may mean that he has the power to act or that he will take the matter in hand. In his desperate situation, the downcast or helpless one commits himself to YHWH, looking for relief. For the orphan or fatherless, YHWH has been the helper in time of need.

The psalmist prays that YHWH would break the “arm” of the wicked one. This would signify depriving him of the power to harm others. The psalmist also petitions that YHWH would seek out the wickedness of the ungodly one, probably meaning to find it and render justice until no evil act remains unpunished.

By acknowledging YHWH as being King forever and ever, the psalmist evidently expresses the conviction that, as Sovereign, God would administer justice. In the exercise of his kingship, the Almighty would cause enemy nations to perish from his land or the land he had given to his people.

The “meek” would be the lowly ones who were often the object of injustice or oppression. The Septuagint rendering refers to them as the “poor” or “needy.” Their desire would have been for YHWH to come to their aid, and the psalmist confidently affirms that this desire will be realized. For YHWH to strengthen the heart of the meek or needy may mean that he would infuse them with courage and hope in the face of hardships. He would incline his ear to their pleas.

In response to their prayers, YHWH would render justice for the orphan or fatherless and the oppressed. The result would be that man (evidently the wicked collectively), who is of the earth or a mere earthling, would no longer cause terror. According to the Septuagint, the effect of Godʼs action would be “that man on earth” might not continue to brag, which could mean that the wicked ones on earth would no longer be able to boast about their oppressive deeds. Those who were once afflicted would be liberated from distress.


Regarding the divine name YHWH, see Psalm 1.

To show that all humans are under sin, Paul, in his letter to the Romans (3:14), quoted words found in Psalm 10:7, but the quotation and the Septuagint text are not identical. (See the comments in the Notes section of Psalm 14.)