Psalm 54 – “Petition/Imprecation”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist asks God to punish his enemies.

II. Photo
The psalmist cries out to God: “For strangers have risen against me, and ruthless men seek my life; they are unmindful of God!” (v. 5)

III. Select Verses    
(the entire psalm)
1-2: For the leader; with instrumental music. A maskil of David, when the Ziphites came and told Saul, “Know, David is in hiding among us.”
3-5: O God, deliver me by Your name; by Your power vindicate me. O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth. For strangers have risen against me, and ruthless men seek my life; they are unmindful of God. Selah.
6-7: See, God is my helper; the LORD is my support. He will repay the evil of my watchful foes; by Your faithfulness, destroy them!
8-9: Then I will offer You a freewill sacrifice; I will praise Your name, LORD, for it is good, for it has saved me from my foes, and let me gaze triumphant upon my enemies.

IV. Outline
1-2. Historical superscription
3-4. Invocation, initial petition
5. Complaint
6. Affirmation of confidence
7. Imprecation
8. Vow
9. Wish/rationale

V. Comment
This short psalm has all of the marks of the complaint/petition/imprecation genre. Gerstenberger calls it a “true complaint of the individual, rooted in small-group ritual and employed in order to save and rehabilitate suffering group members.” (222) It is not clear when and where Psalm 54 was written and if the enemies in vv. 5, 7 were foreign or local.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Gerstenberger, Erhard S. “Psalms Part 1 with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” Forms of Old Testament Literature (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1988).
Tate, Marvin. “Psalms 51-100” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 20 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1990).
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