Psalm 9 Praising the God of Justice and Might

The Hebrew Alphabet. Hebrew reads right to left so it begins with Aleph and ends with Tet

The Hebrew Alphabet. Hebrew reads right to left so it begins with Alef and ends with Tav

 Psalm 9

<To the leader: according to Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.>
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
2 I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
3 When my enemies turned back, they stumbled and perished before you.
4 For you have maintained my just cause; you have sat on the throne giving righteous judgment.
5 You have rebuked the nations, you have destroyed the wicked;
you have blotted out their name forever and ever.
6 The enemies have vanished in everlasting ruins; their cities you have rooted out;
the very memory of them has perished.
7 But the LORD sits enthroned forever, he has established his throne for judgment.
8 He judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with equity.
9 The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.
11 Sing praises to the LORD, who dwells in Zion. Declare his deeds among the peoples.
12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them; he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.
13 Be gracious to me, O LORD. See what I suffer from those who hate me;
you are the one who lifts me up from the gates of death,
14 so that I may recount all your praises, and, in the gates of daughter Zion, rejoice in your deliverance.
15 The nations have sunk in the pit that they made; in the net that they hid has their own foot been caught.
16 The LORD has made himself known, he has executed judgment;
the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands. Higgaion. Selah
17 The wicked shall depart to Sheol, all the nations that forget God.
18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor perish forever.
19 Rise up, O LORD! Do not let mortals prevail; let the nations be judged before you.
20 Put them in fear, O LORD; let the nations know that they are only human. Selah

Most scholars think Psalms 9 and 10 were originally linked together for a number of reason but the form we have them now they have been broken into separate Psalms. Together they form a movement from the current Psalm where the Psalmist reflects upon the way the LORD has been powerful in the past into the cry for deliverance from enemies in Psalm 10. Separated as they are now Psalm 9 forms a psalm praising God’s power and justice but there are lots of indications that this is not all of the story. Psalms 9 and 10 together seem to form an acrostic poem, where roughly every other verse begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet, yet it is not a fully consistent pattern. For example verse 5 should begin with Dalet (the Hebrew ‘D’ equivalent) but it does not and there is no sensible way to create a break where it would begin with either Dalet or He and we will never be able to explain exactly why, but more to the point the movement of the two Psalms together in effect move from A to Z to form a completion.

In its current arrangement Psalm 9 poetically reflects back on the past beginning and continuing with a theme of praising the LORD and the victories the LORD has delivered in the past. Perhaps one reason for the current separation is the difference between the seemingly final judgment on the enemies of the Psalmist and the reality of the reemergence of the same or new enemies. Psalms are poetry so they may tend to be dramatic about the reality to express a point but the Psalmist remembers how their enemies stumbled and perished, how the nations (presumably those challenging Israel) were rebuked and the wicked destroyed, and their names were blotted out forever. The enemies are vanquished to the point where the memory of them has perished. In contrast between the strength of the enemies and the strength of the LORD the enemies are overwhelmed. In contrasting the equity and fairness of the LORD with the wickedness of the enemies the LORD reigns as a righteous judge ensuring justice and equity and defending the weak and powerless.

Yet, in verse 13 we see the turning from the broad picture to the narrow. From the LORD’s actions toward the nations to the peril of the individual.  We may not know what the crisis of the Psalmist is but it him from praise to pleading. The petitioner asks God for deliverance so that they may continue to lift up praise and worship in Zion and return back to the primary motif of Psalm 9. Perhaps this one piece of the acrostic (verses 13-14 would be the Heth, an H sound) is the key on which the whole psalm turns for it introduces the dissonance between the hope of the psalmist and the reality of the plight they see themselves and other faithful ones enduring. The psalmist has a vision for how God is to interact and intervene in the world and calls upon God to act and to take notice. In a situation where it seems like the needy are forgotten and the poor are perishing and might is making right the psalmist calls on the LORD to act, as the LORD has acted before. To save and to liberate, to establish justice and to protect and save the righteous.

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One Response to Psalm 9 Praising the God of Justice and Might

  1. Pingback: Psalm 25: The Struggle of Faith From Aleph to Tav | Sign of the Rose

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