20 April 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Easter:
20 April 2022 (Psalm 56)

‘My enemies trample on me all day long, for many fight against me’ (Psalm 56: 2) … a display in the Military Museum in Chromonastiri, in the mountains above Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During this season of Easter, I have returned to my morning reflections on the Psalms, and in this Prayer Diary on my blog each morning I am reflecting in these ways:

1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;

2, reading the psalm or psalms;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Psalm 56:

Psalm 56 is the first of a series of five psalms in this section of the Psalms that are referred to as Miktams. Miktam or Michtam (מִכְתָּם) is a Hebrew word of unknown meaning found in the headings of Psalms 16 and 56-60 in the Hebrew Bible. These six psalms, and many others, are associated with King David, but this tradition is more likely to be sentimental than historical. They may have formed one of several smaller collections of psalms which preceded the present psalter and on which it was based.

Miktam corresponds to the Babylonian nakamu, lid, a metal cover for a vessel, but efforts to derive a meaning for the term in the psalms have not been convincing. In modern Hebrew, the word has come to mean epigram, and numerous collections of Hebrew epigrams have used that word in their titles.

In the slightly different numbering found in the Greek Septuagint (LXX) and the Latin Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 55.

This psalm is attributed to King David and may be considered representative of him or anyone else hiding from an enemy.

In the Hebrew Bible, Psalm 56: 1 comprises the designation: ‘To the leader: according to The Dove on Far-off Terebinths. Of David. A Miktam, when the Philistines seized him in Gath.’ From then on, verses 1-13 in English versions correspond to verses 2-14 in the Hebrew text.

The heading in the Septuagint reads ‘for the people far off from the holy places (or holy people),’ while the Targum has ‘concerning the congregation of Israel, which is compared to a silent dove at the time when they were far from their cities, and turned again and praised the Lord of the world.’

The setting of this Psalm, as given in its title, is David’s flight to Gath, which is recorded in I Samuel 21: 10-15. It is a prayer for help against enemies, ascribed to royal rites, as indicated by the interpretation of the ‘peoples’ in verse 7 as foreign enemies, the references to national war in verses 1-2 and 9, as well as the vows and thank-offerings (verse 12) that are particularly suitable for a king, and the references to ‘death’ and the 'light of life' (verse 13) are also linked to royal imagery.

‘You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle’ (Psalm 56: 8) … sunset at the Sunset Taverna in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 56 (NRSVA):

To the leader: according to The Dove on Far-off Terebinths. Of David. A Miktam, when the Philistines seized him in Gath.

1 Be gracious to me, O God, for people trample on me;
all day long foes oppress me;
2 my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many fight against me.
O Most High, 3 when I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I am not afraid;
what can flesh do to me?

5 All day long they seek to injure my cause;
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
6 They stir up strife, they lurk,
they watch my steps.
As they hoped to have my life,
7 so repay them for their crime;
in wrath cast down the peoples, O God!

8 You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your record?
9 Then my enemies will retreat
on the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
11 in God I trust; I am not afraid.
What can a mere mortal do to me?

12 My vows to you I must perform, O God;
I will render thank-offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered my soul from death,
and my feet from falling,
so that I may walk before God
in the light of life.

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘From Death to Resurrection,’ and was introduced on Sunday by the Revd Dr Rachel Mash, Coordinator of the Environmental Network of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. The USPG Prayer Diary this morning (20 April 2022) invites us to pray:

We pray for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and the Green Anglicans Network.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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