Psalm 20

Submitted by admin on Mon, 2006-04-17 10:36.

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Possibly the Hebrew designation natsách designates the “musical director.” As in other superscriptions, however, the Septuagint reads, “To the end.” The psalm is attributed to David and relates to a time when the Israelites faced a serious military threat.

In this psalm, the singular “you” (as the concluding verse suggests) may apply to the king. Possibly as a song, it was often used when the Israelites went into battle.

Evidently an eminent enemy attack gave rise to the distress. The prayerful desire was that YHWH would respond to the king with needed assistance and provide protection. YHWH’s being referred to as the “God of Jacob” called attention to the relationship the king enjoyed as a descendant of Jacob or Israel; he was one of God’s people. The “name” represented the person, and so the God of Jacob is identified as the One who would place the king “on high” or out of the reach of danger.

In David’s time, the “holy place” was Zion, the site where the ark of the covenant (representative of YHWH’s presence) was located in a tent. Although possibly having to fight on foreign soil, the king (and his warriors) could be confident that YHWH, who resided representatively on Mount Zion, would not be hampered by distance in providing help and support from his representative dwelling place.

Before going into battle, the king would arrange to have sacrifices offered, and these sacrifices constituted an appeal for YHWH’s aid. (Compare 1 Samuel 13:9-12.) The words of the psalm are an appeal for YHWH to favorably remember all the sacrifices. The parallel thought is that YHWH would regard the whole burnt offerings or holocausts as being “fat,” perhaps meaning “choice” and, therefore, approved.

The king’s heart desire (and that of every warrior) would have been to gain the victory and not to suffer humiliating defeat. Therefore, in this psalm, the prayerful wish expressed is that YHWH grant this desire and also fulfill all the counsel. This counsel would have been the plan formulated for meeting the military threat, and the fulfillment thereof would mean that its execution would prove to be successful.

YHWH’s granting victory would make it possible for the army (and the nation as a whole) to shout for joy. The banners may have been signs that identified various parts of the army, and these banners would be raised in the name of God, that is, in recognition of what he had done for the victors.

Next, the focus is again on the individual (singular “you”), apparently the king. The prayerful desire is that YHWH fulfill all the king’s petitions.

As YHWH’s anointed one, the king could confidently express that he knew that YHWH would provide help. Aware that Zion was only YHWH’s representative dwelling place, the king could speak of the answer to his appeals as coming from the “holy heavens.”

YHWH’s hand is representative of his power. The right hand would signify the very best or the fullness of that power being brought to bear in effecting impressive deliverance.

Other nations trusted in their military might, boasting about their chariots and horses. Faithful Israelites, however, would “remember” or call to mind the name of YHWH their God. It was to him that they gave the credit for their victories and deliverance from enemy assaults. Those relying on military might would “bow down” and fall in shameful defeat, but those who trusted in YHWH, though it might appear that they had fallen, would rise and stand erect as victors.

The psalm concludes with the petition that YHWH save the king or grant him victory and that he answer the people when they cry out to him for aid. Accordingly, both on an individual level in the case of the king and from the standpoint of God’s people as a whole, the psalmist voiced unshakable confidence in divine assistance.


In verse 1(2), where the Masoretic Text refers to being placed “on high,” the Septuagint has a form of hyperaspízo, meaning “protect,” “shield,” or “protect as with a shield.”

Verse 3(4) concludes with “selah.” This expression is of uncertain meaning. In the Septuagint, the rendering is diápsalma and is thought to designate a “pause” or a “musical interlude.”

In verse 5(6), the Septuagint does not mention “banners” but reads, “and in the name of our God we will be magnified.” This is almost identical to the Septuagint wording in verse 7(8), “but we, in the name of the Lord our God, will be magnified.” The Masoretic Text, however, there refers to “remembering” the name of God.

Instead of an expression for “bow down” (verse 8[9]), the Septuagint uses a form of sympodízo, which can signify “bind the feet” or “bind hand and foot.”

For a discussion of the divine name (YHWH), see Psalm 1.