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Psalm 55[a]

For the music director, to be accompanied by stringed instruments; a well-written song[b] by David.

55 Listen, O God, to my prayer.
Do not ignore[c] my appeal for mercy.
Pay attention to me and answer me.
I am so upset[d] and distressed,[e] I am beside myself,[f]
because of what the enemy says,[g]
and because of how the wicked[h] pressure me,[i]
for they hurl trouble[j] down upon me[k]
and angrily attack me.
My heart beats violently[l] within me;
the horrors of death overcome me.[m]
Fear and panic overpower me;[n]
terror overwhelms[o] me.
I say,[p] “I wish I had wings like a dove.
I would fly away and settle in a safe place.
Look, I will escape to a distant place;
I will stay in the wilderness. (Selah)
I will hurry off to a place that is safe
from the strong wind[q] and the gale.”
Confuse them,[r] O Lord.
Frustrate their plans.[s]
For I see violence and conflict in the city.
10 Day and night they walk around on its walls,[t]
while wickedness and destruction[u] are within it.
11 Disaster is within it;
violence[v] and deceit do not depart from its public square.
12 Indeed,[w] it is not an enemy who insults me,
or else I could bear it;
it is not one who hates me who arrogantly taunts me,[x]
or else I could hide from him.
13 But it is you,[y] a man like me,[z]
my close friend in whom I confided.[aa]
14 We would share personal thoughts with each other;[ab]
in God’s temple we would walk together among the crowd.
15 May death destroy them.[ac]
May they go down alive into Sheol.[ad]
For evil is in their dwelling place and in their midst.
16 As for me, I will call out to God,
and the Lord will deliver me.
17 During the evening, morning, and noontime
I will lament and moan,[ae]
and he will hear[af] me.[ag]
18 He will rescue[ah] me and protect me from those who attack me,[ai]
even though[aj] they greatly outnumber me.[ak]
19 God, the one who has reigned as king from long ago,
will hear and humiliate them.[al] (Selah)
They refuse to change,
and do not fear God.[am]
20 He[an] attacks[ao] his friends;[ap]
he breaks his solemn promises to them.[aq]
21 His words are as smooth as butter,[ar]
but he harbors animosity in his heart.[as]
His words seem softer than oil,
but they are really like sharp swords.[at]
22 Throw your burden[au] upon the Lord,
and he will sustain you.[av]
He will never allow the godly to be shaken.[aw]
23 But you, O God, will bring them[ax] down to the deep Pit.[ay]
Violent and deceitful people[az] will not live even half a normal lifespan.[ba]
But as for me, I trust in you.


  1. Psalm 55:1 sn Psalm 55. The suffering and oppressed author laments that one of his friends has betrayed him, but he is confident that God will vindicate him by punishing his deceitful enemies.
  2. Psalm 55:1 tn The meaning of the Hebrew term מַשְׂכִּיל (maskil) is uncertain. See the note on the phrase “well-written song” in the superscription of Ps 52.
  3. Psalm 55:1 tn Heb “hide yourself from.”
  4. Psalm 55:2 tn Or “restless” (see Gen 27:40). The Hiphil is intransitive-exhibitive, indicating the outward display of an inner attitude.
  5. Psalm 55:2 tn Heb “in my complaint.”
  6. Psalm 55:2 tn The verb is a Hiphil cohortative from הוּם (hum), which means “to confuse someone” in the Qal and “to go wild” in the Niphal. An Arabic cognate means “to be out of one’s senses, to wander about.” With the vav (ו) conjunctive prefixed to it, the cohortative probably indicates the result or effect of the preceding main verb. Some prefer to emend the form to וְאֵהוֹמָה (veʾehomah), a Niphal of הוּם (hum), or to וְאֶהַמֶה (veʾehameh), a Qal imperfect from הָמָה (hamah, “to moan”). Many also prefer to take this verb with what follows (see v. 3).
  7. Psalm 55:3 tn Heb “because of [the] voice of [the] enemy.”
  8. Psalm 55:3 tn The singular forms “enemy” and “wicked” are collective or representative, as the plural verb forms in the second half of the verse indicate.
  9. Psalm 55:3 tn Heb “from before the pressure of the wicked.” Some suggest the meaning “screech” (note the parallel “voice”; cf. NEB “shrill clamour”; NRSV “clamor”) for the rare noun עָקָה (ʿaqah, “pressure”).
  10. Psalm 55:3 tn Heb “wickedness,” but here the term refers to the destructive effects of their wicked acts.
  11. Psalm 55:3 tc The verb form in the MT appears to be a Hiphil imperfect from the root מוֹט (mot, “to sway”), but the Hiphil occurs only here and in the Kethib (consonantal text) of Ps 140:10, where the form יַמְטֵר (yamter, “let him rain down”) should probably be read. Here in Ps 55:3 it is preferable to read יַמְטִירוּ (yamtiru, “they rain down”). It is odd for “rain down” to be used with an abstract object like “wickedness,” but in Job 20:23 God “rains down” anger (unless one emends the text there; see BHS).
  12. Psalm 55:4 tn Heb “shakes, trembles.”
  13. Psalm 55:4 tn Heb “the terrors of death have fallen on me.”
  14. Psalm 55:5 tn Heb “fear and trembling enter into me.”
  15. Psalm 55:5 tn Heb “covers.” The prefixed verbal form with vav (ו) consecutive carries on the descriptive (present progressive) force of the preceding imperfect.
  16. Psalm 55:6 tn The prefixed verbal form with vav (ו) consecutive carries on the descriptive (present progressive) force of the verbs in v. 5.
  17. Psalm 55:8 tn Heb “[the] wind [that] sweeps away.” The verb סָעָה (saʿah, “sweep away”) occurs only here in the OT (see H. R. Cohen, Biblical Hapax Legomena [SBLDS], 120).
  18. Psalm 55:9 tn Traditionally בַּלַּע (balaʿ) has been taken to mean “swallow” in the sense of “devour” or “destroy” (cf. KJV), but this may be a homonym meaning “confuse” (see BDB 118 s.v. בַּלַּע; HALOT 135 s.v. III *בֶּלַע). “Their tongue” is the understood object of the verb (see the next line).
  19. Psalm 55:9 tn Heb “split their tongue,” which apparently means “confuse their speech,” or, more paraphrastically, “frustrate the plans they devise with their tongues.”
  20. Psalm 55:10 tn Heb “day and night they surround it, upon its walls.” Personified “violence and conflict” are the likely subjects. They are compared to watchmen on the city’s walls.
  21. Psalm 55:10 sn Wickedness and destruction. These terms are also closely associated in Ps 7:14.
  22. Psalm 55:11 tn Or “injury, harm.”
  23. Psalm 55:12 tn Or “for.”
  24. Psalm 55:12 tn Heb “[who] magnifies against me.” See Pss 35:26; 38:16.
  25. Psalm 55:13 sn It is you. The psalmist addresses the apparent ringleader of the opposition, an individual who was once his friend.
  26. Psalm 55:13 tn Heb “a man according to my value,” i.e., “a person such as I.”
  27. Psalm 55:13 tn Heb “my close friend, one known by me.”
  28. Psalm 55:14 tn Heb “who together we would make counsel sweet.” The imperfect verbal forms here and in the next line draw attention to the ongoing nature of the actions (the so-called customary use of the imperfect). Their relationship was characterized by such intimacy and friendship. See IBHS 502-3 §31.2b.
  29. Psalm 55:15 tc The meaning of the MT is unclear. The Kethib (consonantal text) reads יַשִּׁימָוֶת עָלֵימוֹ (yashimavet ʿalemo, “May devastation [be] upon them.”). The proposed noun יַשִּׁימָוֶת occurs only here and perhaps in the place name Beth Jeshimoth in Num 33:49. The Qere (marginal text) has יַשִּׁי מָוֶת עָלֵימוֹ (yashi mavet ʿalemo). The verbal form יַשִּׁי is apparently an alternate form of יַשִּׁיא (yashiʾ), a Hiphil imperfect from נָשַׁא (nashaʾ, “deceive”). In this case one might read “death will come deceptively upon them.” This reading has the advantage of reading מָוֶת (mavet, “death”) which forms a natural parallel with “Sheol” in the next line. The present translation is based on the following reconstruction of the text: יְשִׁמֵּם מָוֶת (yeshimmem mavet). The verb assumed in the reconstruction is a Hiphil jussive third masculine singular from שָׁמַם (shamam, “be desolate”) with a third masculine plural pronominal suffix attached. This reconstruction assumes that (1) haplography has occurred in the traditional text (the original sequence of three mems [מ] was lost with only one mem remaining), resulting in the fusion of originally distinct forms in the Kethib, and (2) that עָלֵימוֹ (ʿalemo, “upon them”) is a later scribal addition attempting to make sense of a garbled text. The preposition עַל (ʿal) does occur with the verb שָׁמַם (shamam), but in such cases the expression means “be appalled at/because of” (see Jer 49:20; 50:45). If one were to retain the prepositional phrase here, one would have to read the text as follows: יַשִּׁים מָוֶת עָלֵימוֹ (yashim mavet ʿalemo, “Death will be appalled at them”). The idea seems odd, to say the least. Death is not collocated with this verb elsewhere.
  30. Psalm 55:15 sn Go down alive. This curse imagines a swift and sudden death for the psalmist’s enemies.
  31. Psalm 55:17 tn The first verb is clearly a cohortative form, expressing the psalmist’s resolve. The second verb, while formally ambiguous, should also be understood as cohortative here.
  32. Psalm 55:17 tn The prefixed verb with vav (ו) consecutive normally appears in narrational contexts to indicate past action, but here it continues the anticipatory (future) perspective of the preceding line. In Ps 77:6 one finds the same sequence of cohortative + prefixed verbal form with vav (ו) consecutive. In this case as well, both forms refer to future actions.
  33. Psalm 55:17 tn Heb “my voice.”
  34. Psalm 55:18 tn The perfect verbal form is here used rhetorically to indicate that the action is certain to take place (the so-called perfect of certitude).
  35. Psalm 55:18 tn Heb “he will redeem in peace my life from [those who] draw near to me.”
  36. Psalm 55:18 tn Or “for.”
  37. Psalm 55:18 tn Heb “among many they are against me.” For other examples of the preposition עִמָּד (ʿimmad) used in the sense of “at, against,” see HALOT 842 s.v.; BDB 767 s.v.; IBHS 219 §11.2.14b.
  38. Psalm 55:19 tc Heb “God will hear and answer them, even [the] one who sits [from] ancient times.” The prefixed verbal from with vav (ו) consecutive carries on the anticipatory force of the preceding imperfect. The verb appears to be a Qal form from עָנָה (ʿanah, “to answer”). If this reading is retained, the point would be that God “answered” them in judgment. The translation assumes an emendation to the Piel וַיְעַנֵּם (vayeʿannem; see 2 Kgs 17:20) and understands the root as עָנָה (ʿanah, “to afflict”; see also 1 Kgs 8:35).
  39. Psalm 55:19 tn Heb “[the ones] for whom there are no changes, and they do not fear God.”
  40. Psalm 55:20 sn He. This must refer to the psalmist’s former friend, who was addressed previously in vv. 12-14.
  41. Psalm 55:20 tn Heb “stretches out his hand against.”
  42. Psalm 55:20 tc The form should probably be emended to an active participle (שֹׁלְמָיו, sholemayv) from the verbal root שָׁלַם (shalam, “be in a covenant of peace with”). Perhaps the translation “his friends” suggests too intimate a relationship. Another option is to translate, “he attacks those who made agreements with him.”
  43. Psalm 55:20 tn Heb “he violates his covenant.”
  44. Psalm 55:21 tn Heb “the butter-like [words] of his mouth are smooth.” The noun מַחְמָאֹת (makhmaʾot, “butter-like [words]”) occurs only here. Many prefer to emend the form to מֵחֶמְאָה (mekhemʾah, from [i.e., “than”] butter”), cf. NEB, NRSV “smoother than butter.” However, in this case “his mouth” does not agree in number with the plural verb חָלְקוּ (khalequ, “they are smooth”). Therefore some further propose an emendation of פִּיו (piv, “his mouth”) to פָּנָיו (panayv, “his face”). In any case, the point seems to that the psalmist’s former friend spoke kindly to him and gave the outward indications of friendship.
  45. Psalm 55:21 tn Heb “and war [is in] his heart.”
  46. Psalm 55:21 tn Heb “his words are softer than oil, but they are drawn swords.”
  47. Psalm 55:22 tn The Hebrew noun occurs only here.
  48. Psalm 55:22 tn The pronoun is singular; the psalmist addresses each member of his audience individually.
  49. Psalm 55:22 tn Heb “he will never allow swaying for the righteous.”
  50. Psalm 55:23 tn The pronominal suffix refers to the psalmist’s enemies (see v. 19).
  51. Psalm 55:23 tn Heb “well of the pit.” The Hebrew term שַׁחַת (shakhat, “pit”) is often used as a title for Sheol (see Pss 16:10; 30:9; 49:9; 103:4).
  52. Psalm 55:23 tn Heb “men of bloodshed and deceit.”
  53. Psalm 55:23 tn Heb “will not divide in half their days.”