A plea for God to destroy the wicked

This psalm reflects the frustration of the righteous with the wicked,
and the desire for God to take vengeance.

Do you# really speak in righteous silence?1
Do you# decide what is upright,
sons of Adam?2

Surely in your heart you# do injustice;
You# make a way in the land
for the violence of your# hands.

The wicked# are estranged from the womb;
From birth they go astray,3
all those who speak a lie.

Their venom is like the venom of a serpent—
Like a deaf cobra it shuts its ear
So that it does not hear
the sound of charmers—4
A cunning enchanter5 of enchantments.

God! Break their teeth in their mouth;
Tear out the fangs of young lions, YAHUEH6!

They will flow away as water,7
they will wander away by
themselves;
He aims8 his arrows as they are cut off.
As a melting9 snail he goes away;
As a woman's miscarriage,
they have not seen the sun.

Before your# pots can feel
the burning of a thornbush,10
He will sweep it away,
the living as the burning.11

The righteous*12 will be glad
for he has seen vengeance;
He will wash his feet
in the blood of the wicked*.

And a man will say,
"There is surely fruit13 for the righteous;
There is surely a God
who judges# on the earth."


1 This opening phrase is difficult. It literally says, "Do you really speak the silence of righteousness?" Instead, some read the word "silence" as "gods," which has the same consonants in Hebrew. But nothing else in the psalm points to gods as the subject. So it's best to understand this as a rebuke either of man's false claim to godlike abilities or his failure to speak righteously. (The # indicates a 2nd person plural.)

2 This is an allusion to the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. Rather than accepting God's decisions about what is right and what is wrong, they decided to disobey God, setting themselves up as an authority in his place.

3 This is the doctrine of original sin: the inherited tendency of mankind to sin since the fall of Adam, even in the earliest moments of our existence.

4 Snake charmers prevent the animal from striking by hypnotizing it with sound and movement. A cobra that cannot hear its charmers is one that is ready to strike.

5 "Enchanter" refers back to "serpent" (nahash in Hebrew) in the previous verse. Nahash is the noun form of the verb that means "to practice divination." So the snake, even by the meaning of its name, is associated with forbidden occult practices, an association that the psalmist uses here. This, too, is an allusion to the story of Adam and Eve and the deception of the serpent. The wicked, that is, are associated with Satan himself.

6 The personal name of God. Its pronunciation is uncertain, replaced with Adonai (Lord) when reading by the Jewish people. This is one of several possible reconstructions. For more on God's Name, click here.

7 Once God breaks their power, they will be as harmless as water and will flow away, wandering about aimlessly.

8 Literally, "he treads." The weight of the body was used in bending the bow, so "treading" was used to describe stringing the bow, or as here, stringing arrows. The one stringing his arrows is sometimes interpreted as God, but the poetic structure indicates that this is the enemy (in parallel with "he goes away" in the next line; the strophe has an a-b-b-a structure). While the wicked is still aiming his arrows, he and those like him are suddenly cut off.

9 The slimy trail left behind by snails makes it look like they are melting.

10 Thornbushes, the natural ground cover of the land, were used as kindling to start fires.

11 God will sweep away both the burned and unburned (still "living") parts of the thornbush. Since thorns burn quickly, this means that he will sweep away the wicked very quickly. This is a prophetic allusion to the day of the Lord, in which the wicked will be destroyed by fire (2 Thess. 1:7).

12 A * indicates the 2nd person singular.

13 Benefit, reward.



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Translation, notes, and title photo by Jeffrey J. Harrison.  Copyright © 2015 by Jeffrey J. Harrison. All rights reserved.
For permission to reproduce this article, contact Jeff@totheends.com
A ministry of To The Ends Of The Earth Ministries
www.totheends.com.