Psalm 56 – “Petition / Affirmation of Confidence”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmists trusts in God and asks to be saved from his enemies.

II. Photo
The psalmist trusts in God: “You keep count of my wanderings; put my tears into your flask, into your record.” (v. 9)

III. Select Verses    
2-3: Have mercy on me, O God, for men persecute me; all day long my adversary oppresses me. My watchful foes persecute me all day long; many are my adversaries, O Exalted One.
4-5: When I am afraid, I trust in You, in God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I am not afraid; what can mortals do to me?
7: They plot, they lie in ambush; they watch my every move, hoping for my death.
9: You keep count of my wanderings; put my tears into Your flask, into Your record.
13-14: I must pay my vows to You, O God; I will render thank offerings to You. For You have saved me from death, my foot from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.

IV. Outline
1. Historical superscription
2a. Invocation, initial petition
2b-3. Complaint
4-5. Refrain = affirmation of confidence
7. Complaint
8. Imprecation (?)
9-10. Affirmation of confidence
11-12. Refrain = affirmation of confidence
13. Vow
14. Rationale

V. Comment
Psalm 56 appears to have all of the components of the petition/complaint/imprecation genre. Yet, it is unique in that its petition is relatively short (v. 2a) and its affirmations of confidence are relatively long (vv. 4-5, 9-12). Additionally, it is to be noted that the meaning of the imprecation in v. 8 is unclear. If the Septuagint’s reading of אין “no/nobody” instead of און “iniquity” is to be accepted, the verse would read as follows: “Thou wilt on no account save them; thou wilt bring down the people in wrath!” (Brenton’s translation)

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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