Psalm 4 – “Didactic Prayer of Trust”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist urges the people to offer sacrifices and trust in God.

II. Photo
The psalmist speaks to god: “You put joy in my heart when their grain and wine show increase!” (v. 8 )

III. Select Verses
2: Answer me when I call, O God, my vindicator! You freed me from distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
4-6: Know that the LORD singles out the faithful for Himself; the LORD hears when I call to Him. So tremble, and sin no more; ponder it on your bed, and sigh. Offer sacrifices in righteousness and trust in the LORD.
8-9: You put joy into my heart when their grain and wine show increase. Safe and sound, I lie down and sleep, for You alone, O LORD, keep me secure.

IV. Outline
1. Superscription
2. Invocation
3-6. Didactic lesson for the people
7. Complaint and petition for the people
8-9. Affirmation of trust

V. Comment
Continuing with our introduction to Psalms, one might ask: How did the book of psalms come about? Gerstenberger writes: “The evidence is overwhelming that written prayers, songs, and rituals were destined to be used primarily by the cultic officiant. The Old Testament Psalter reveals the same original purpose. It received the Hebrew name sepher tehillim “book of praises,” and praising was in later times the responsibility of the Levitical singers (1 Chr 16:7; 23:5, 30; 25; etc.)… What was the worship service like that prompted the compilation of the Psalter? And who were, after all, those singers entrusted with the responsibility of carrying out cultic ceremonies in later Old Testament times? Judging from postexilic situations in general, we know that cult centralization in Jerusalem was a lofty theological ideal. In reality, downtrodden, dependent, dispersed Israel needed religious rituals of various types that were not physically linked with the temple. That is, Jewish communities in many countries had to develop their own rights and prayers, perhaps in some correspondence with the Jerusalem authorities. Petition and praise to [God] had to continue on a local level, although sacrifice was permitted only at the central temple. This situation of worshiping communities far way from Jerusalem, relying on the Word of God, on prayer and obedience, and on solidarity of the faithful and eschatological hope, is manifest with particular clarity in the latest literary layers of the Psalter.” (28-29)

This does not mean, however, that all psalms come from the postexilic period. In fact, Gerstenberger dates the psalms – which were continually redacted – as follows:

  • Early preexilic: Individual psalms and liturgies; small, unidentified collections for liturgical use
  • Later preexilic: Pss 42-49 (Korahite collection), Pss 78-83 (Asaph collection), Pss 96-99 (Yahweh enthronement), Pss 111-118 (Hallelujah psalms), Pss 120-134 (Psalms of ascent)
  • Exilic: Pss 3-41 (David collection), Pss 51-72 (Davidic collection), Pss 84-89 (Elohistic collection), Pss 108-110 (Davidic collection), Pss 138-145 (Davidic collection)
  • Postexilic: Pss 1-2 (Frame), Pss 3-41 (Book One), Pss 42-72 (Book Two), Pss 73-89 (Book Three), Pss 90-106 (Book Four), Pss 107-149 (Book Five), Ps 150 (Frame)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Craigie, Peter C. “Psalms 1-50” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 19 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1983).
Gerstenberger, Erhard S. “Psalms Part 1 with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” Forms of Old Testament Literature (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1988).
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