28 April 2022

Praying with the Psalms in Easter:
28 April 2022 (Psalm 64)

‘Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked … who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, shooting from ambush at the blameless’ (Psalm 64: 2-4) … a fresco in a church in Georgioupoli in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During this season of Easter, I am reflecting each morning 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 64:

Psalm 64 may be treated as a prayer for deliverance from enemies, or as a thanksgiving, or a testimony to divine judgment. In the slightly different numbering in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate, this psalm is counted as Psalm 63.

Psalm 64 is directed against the ‘wicked’ (רעע‎) and ‘workers of iniquity’ (פֹּעֲלֵי אָֽוֶן‎), whom God shall shoot with an arrow (וַיֹּרֵם אֱלֹהִים חֵץ‎).

The psalm is divided into either 10 or 11 verses, depending on whether the introductory לַמְנַצֵּחַ מִזְמֹור לְדָוִֽד‎ ‘To the leader’ or ‘To the chief Musician (נצח‎), A Psalm of David’ is counted as a separate verse.

In verse 4, the wicked shoot arrows secretly at the righteous.

In verse 7, God shoots an arrow (arrows, plural, in some translations) at the wicked, but for some these will be saving arrows, as in verse 9: all will ‘will tell what God has brought about, and ponder what he has done.’

The arrow of God leads to a turning to God.

Verses 6-7 have been the subject of confusion in early Bible translations. The Authorised or King James Version translates these verses Hebrew as: ‘They search out iniquities; they accomplish a diligent search: both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep. But God shall shoot at them with an arrow; suddenly shall they be wounded.’

But in the Vulgate, Jerome, based on the Septuagint text, rendered this as: Scrutati sunt iniquitates; defecerunt scrutantes scrutinio. Accedet homo ad cor altum, et exaltabitur Deus. Sagittæ parvulorum factæ sunt plagæ eorum. This translates to ‘They have searched after iniquities: they have failed in their search. Man shall accede to a lofty heart: And God shall be exalted. The arrows of children are their wounds.’

The adjective altum in Latin has both the meanings ‘high’ and ‘deep,’ and it is here used to translate the Septuagint Greek work βαθεῖα, ‘deep,’ but it offered itself to an interpretation of an ‘exalted heart.’

The ‘arrows of children’ (Sagittæ parvulum) render the Septuagint Greek words βέλος νηπίων, although these words have no correspondence in the Hebrew text as it has been received.

They ‘whet their tongues like swords’ (Psalm 64: 3) … a ceremonial sword and mace in Kilkenny (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 64 (NRSVA):

To the leader. A Psalm of David..

1 Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint;
preserve my life from the dread enemy.
2 Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
from the scheming of evildoers,
3 who whet their tongues like swords,
who aim bitter words like arrows,
4 shooting from ambush at the blameless;
they shoot suddenly and without fear.
5 They hold fast to their evil purpose;
they talk of laying snares secretly,
thinking, ‘Who can see us?
6 Who can search out our crimes?
We have thought out a cunningly conceived plot.’
For the human heart and mind are deep.

7 But God will shoot his arrow at them;
they will be wounded suddenly.
8 Because of their tongue he will bring them to ruin;
all who see them will shake with horror.
9 Then everyone will fear;
they will tell what God has brought about,
and ponder what he has done.

10 Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord
and take refuge in him.
Let all the upright in heart glory.

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Logging in the Solomon Islands,’ and was introduced on Sunday morning by Brother Christopher John SSF, Minister General of the Society of Saint Francis.

The USPG Prayer Diary this morning (28 April 2022) invites us to pray:

We pray for those working to prevent deforestation in the Solomon Islands.

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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