Psalm 140

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2007-07-01 09:08.

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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 pro victoria (“for victory”), 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 140 is attributed to David. Possibly this composition reflects the time Saul pursued David.

The expressions “bad man” and “man of wrongs [acts of violence]” (“unjust man,” LXX) may be regarded as collective designations, for the verb forms that follow are plural. David petitioned YHWH to rescue him from the wicked or to safeguard (“deliver,” LXX) him from the violent or the unjust.

In their “heart” or their deep inner self, they plot evil. “All day” or without any letup, they “stir up” (“prepare,” LXX) wars.

Their language was hateful and vicious, as if their tongue had been made sharp to inflict harm like a poisonous serpent. Their malicious speech was deadly, as if the venom of a viper was under their lips.

David prayed that YHWH would guard him from the “hands [power] of the wicked one” (“sinner,” LXX), and safeguard (“rescue,” LXX) him from the “man of wrongs” (“unjust men,” LXX). Those bent on acting violently or unjustly schemed to trip David up in his steps or cause his downfall.

Haughty men, confident about the successful outcome of their base objectives, tried to bring about David’s ruin. Their scheme was comparable to hiding a trap, spreading a net with cords over a concealed pit, or setting up snares by the wayside.

Faced with grave dangers, David looked to YHWH for help and addressed him in a personal way, “I say to YHWH, You [are] my God. Give ear, O YHWH, to the sound of my supplications.”

David then referred to YHWH as his Lord, the one whom he served and who proved to be the “strength” of his deliverance or the one who acted powerfully to bring about his rescue. In the day of battle, YHWH had protected him as if covering his head with a helmet.

As far as David was concerned, the wicked wanted to see his downfall. Therefore, he prayed that YHWH would not grant such evil desires or not permit their vicious schemes to succeed. Possibly the expression “they lift up” may be understood to mean that, if they were to attain their unworthy aims, they would be “lifted up” or exalted. The Septuagint reads, “May you not abandon me, lest they should be exalted.”

The words “head of those encompassing” may refer to the individuals who were surrounding David for the purpose of inflicting harm. He prayed that the trouble of their own lips or their expressed desire to bring about his ruin would overwhelm them, coming down on their own heads.

Their punishment should be comparable to having fiery coals descend upon them (as when a city’s defenders hurled firebrands from walls and towers upon the attackers on the ground). David also prayed for the retribution to be like that of persons cast into pits from which they are unable to get out. According to the Septuagint, the psalmist’s request is that they not be able to endure the distresses to befall them.

The designation “man of a tongue” probably means a man who misuses his tongue or a slanderer. May such a one not be established or secure in the land. As for the “man of wrong [violence]” (“unjust man,” LXX), may calamity hunt him down, as if weapons are thrust against him to bring about his destruction.

David knew or was fully convinced that YHWH would uphold the cause of the afflicted and execute justice for the needy.

The upright would then give thanks to God’s “name” or to YHWH, the bearer of the name. They would dwell before his “face” or enjoy the security of his abiding presence.


After verses 3(4), 5(6), and 8(9), the expression “selah” appears. This designation is of uncertain significance. The Septuagint rendering is diápsalma, thought to mean “pause” or “musical interlude.”

Regarding the divine name (YHWH), see Psalm 1.