Psalm 61

Submitted by admin on Mon, 2006-12-04 10:53.

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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.

The words “with stringed instruments” could indicate that only strings (and no wind and percussion instruments) were to accompany the singing. The Septuagint, however, does not include this point but has the words en hymnois (among hymns).

Psalm 61 is ascribed to David. His being king and crying to God “from the end of the earth” (verses 2[3] and 6[7]) suggest that he was outside the borders of his royal realm. This would fit the time he and his supporters fled from Jerusalem at the time of Absalom’s revolt.

Faced with a distressing situation, David prayed that God would hear his cry for aid and listen to his prayer. The presence of the ark of the covenant made Zion God’s representative dwelling place. In view of David’s calling “from the end of the earth,” he apparently was not in Zion. The reference to his heart being faint or feeble may signify that, within his deep inner self, he felt weak and had lost courage. Still, he confidently looked to God to lead him to an elevated rock, a rock towering above his head, representative of a place of safety.

For David, God was his refuge and a strong tower in the face of the enemy, providing needed security and protection. The Septuagint reads, “You guided me, for you have become my hope, a tower of strength from the face of the enemy.”

David desired to dwell in God’s tent for all time to come, enjoying the kind of protection granted to a guest. Like young birds seeking the shelter of the mother bird’s wings, David sought the comparable refuge under God’s “wings” or under his protective care.

When faced with distressing circumstances, David made vows to God, and he expressed the confidence that these vows had been heard or been given favorable attention. The Most High had also granted “the inheritance of those fearing [his] name.” The Hebrew does not include an object for the verb “give” or “granted.” Numerous translations have added “me.” The Septuagint, however, reads, “You have given an inheritance to those fearing your name.”

Although facing danger, David apparently did not fear that his life would come to a premature end but looked to God to add days to his days as king. The reference to “years from generation to generation” could signify that his life would span several generations or that he would be granted a long life.

David’s prayerful desire was that he abide or continue for all time to come before God. He wanted God’s compassionate care, steadfast love, or “mercy” (LXX) and “truth,” faithfulness, dependability, or trustworthiness (probably with reference to his promise) to watch over him, securing his well-being.

In appreciation for God’s help and protection, David would sing praises to God’s name or God himself for all time to come, and day after day he would pay his vows.

Note: Verse 4(5) concludes with “selah,” a term of uncertain significance. In the Septuagint, “selah” is rendered diápsalma, thought to mean “pause” or “musical interlude.”