Psalm 7 – “Petition for God to Judge Fairly”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist proclaims his innocence, condemns his enemies, and asks God to judge accordingly.

II. Photo
The psalmist petitions God: “Deliver me from all my pursuers and save me, lest they tear me apart like a lion” (vv. 2b-3a)

III. Select Verses    
1: Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the LORD, concerning Cush, a Benjaminite.
2-6: O LORD, my God, in You I seek refuge; deliver me from all my pursuers and save me, lest, like a lion, they tear me apart, rending in pieces, and no one save me. O LORD, my God, if I have done such things, if my hands bear the guilt of wrongdoing, if I have dealt evil to my ally, — I who rescued my foe without reward — then let the enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground, and lay my body in the dust. Selah.
9-10: The LORD judges the peoples; vindicate me, O LORD, for the righteousness and blamelessness that are mine. Let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; he who probes the mind and conscience is God the righteous.
16-17: He has dug a pit and deepened it, and will fall into the trap he made. His mischief will recoil upon his own head; his lawlessness will come down upon his skull.

IV. Outline
1. Historical superscription
2-3. Invocation, petition, rationale
4-6. Proclamation of innocence
7-10. Petition for all people to be judged fairly
11. Statement of trust
12-17. God judges and attacks the wicked
18. Vow

V. Comment
Psalm 7 has most of the elements of the Complaint/Petition genre: invocation (v. 2a), complaint (description of enemies in vv. 2-3, 10-17), assertion of innocence (vv. 4-6, 9, 11), affirmation of confidence (v. 11), petition (vv. 2-3, 7-10), imprecation (vv. 7, 10), vow (v. 18), and hymnic elements (10b-12a). However, not all complaints/petitions are the same. As Gerstenberger notes, “We should distinguish between prayers to be recited by people without blemish and those to be spoken by admitted culprits in offices of complaint and petition. The professional liturgist probably had to decide which kind could be used in a particular prayer ceremony. Psalm 7 definitely was designed for persons whose guiltlessness was beyond doubt; we may therefore call it a Protestation of Innocence.” (65)

Verse 1 begins with a historical connection: “Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord, concerning Cush, a Benjaminite.” Who was Cush the Benjaminite? The historical books of the Bible do not mention him, and it is possible that his story was recorded in the books described in 1 Chron 29:28-29: “The acts of King David, early and late, are recorded in the history of Samuel the seer, the history of Nathan the prophet, and the history of Gad the seer, together with all the mighty deeds of his kingship and the events that befell him and Israel and all the kingdoms of the earth.” Also, while the book of Samuel records David’s conflicts with the tribe of Benjamin, it is possible that Cush is the Cushite messenger from 2 Sam 18:31-32: “Just then the Cushite came up; and the Cushite said, “Let my lord the king be informed that the LORD has vindicated you today against all who rebelled against you!” The king asked the Cushite, “Is my boy Absalom safe?” And the Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rose against you to do you harm fare like that young man!”” Whatever the case, it should be noted that v. 1 is not the only historical superscription; Psalm 3 is attributed to David when he fled from Absalom, and Psalm 34 is attributed to David when he feigned madness in front of Abimelech.

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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