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Psalms 9 Summary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

There is evidently a close relationship between the Ninth and Tenth Psalms. In the LXX, Vulg., and Jerome’s Latin Version they are reckoned as a single Psalm: and the absence of a title to Psalms 10, contrary to the general rule in Book I (Introd. p. liii), may indicate that in the Hebrew text also it was originally united to Psalms 9. [4]

[4] Comp. the analogous case of Psalms 42, 43.

They are connected by resemblances ( a) of form, and ( b) of language. ( a) The same ‘alphabetic’ or ‘acrostic’ structure appears in both. In Psalms 9 the pairs of verses begin with successive letters of the alphabet, with the exceptions that the fourth letter ( Daleth) is missing; the fifth letter ( ) is obscured by a corruption of the text in Psa 9:7; and the eleventh letter ( Kaph) is represented by Qôph [5] in Psa 9:19. Psalms 10 begins with the twelfth letter ( Lamed); but the alphabetical arrangement is then dropped, and six letters are passed over. At Psa 9:12 however the structure of Psalms 9 reappears, and Psa 9:12 ; Psa 9:14-15 ; Psa 9:17 begin with the last four letters of the alphabet in order. ( b) Language. ‘In times of trouble’ (Psa 9:9, Psa 10:1) is a peculiar phrase found nowhere else: the word for ‘oppressed’ or ‘downtrodden’ (Psa 9:9; Psa 10:18) occurs elsewhere only in Psa 74:21; Pro 26:28 (?): ‘mortal man’ is mentioned at the close of both Psalms in the same connexion (Psa 9:19-20; Psa 10:18). Comp. further Psa 9:12 a with Psa 10:4; Psa 10:13, Psa 9:12 b with Psa 10:12, and Psa 9:18 with Psa 10:11: ‘for ever and ever,’ Psa 9:5, Psa 10:16: the appeal to ‘arise’ Psa 9:19, Psa 10:12: and other points of thought and expression.

[5] i.e. the hard guttural Semitic k, the 19th letter of the alphabet, takes the place of the soft k.

But while the resemblance in form and language is so marked, the difference in tone and subject is not less striking. The individuality of the writer, which is so prominent in Psalms 9 ( Psa 9:1-4 ; Psalms 13, 14), disappears in Psalms 10. Psalms 9 is a triumphant thanksgiving, rarely passing into prayer ( Psa 9:13 ; Psa 9:19): its theme is the manifestation of God’s sovereign righteousness in the defeat and destruction of foreign enemies of the nation. Psalms 10 is a plaintive expostulation and prayer, describing the tyrannous conduct of godless men within the nation [6] , and pleading that God will no longer delay to vindicate His righteousness, and prove Himself the Defender of the helpless.

[6] The only reference to ‘the nations’ (in Psa 9:16) is by way of illustration.

The two Psalms present an unsolved literary problem. The description of the wicked man (Psa 10:3-11) may have been taken from another poem, for it is distinguished by other peculiarities, besides the absence of the alphabetic structure. We cannot tell whether verses beginning with the missing letters of the alphabet were displaced to make room for it, or whether it stood here from the first. The latter alternative seems most probable, for the concluding verses of the Psalm have links of connexion with Psa 9:3-11. Comp. ‘helpless” in Psa 9:14 with Psa 9:8 ; Psa 9:10; Psa 9:13 with Psa 9:4; Psa 9:14 with Psa 9:11.

Psalms 9 however appears to be complete in itself, and it seems preferable to regard Psalms 10 as a companion piece rather than as part of a continuous whole.

The connexion of thought is clear. The Psalmist has watched the great conflict between good and evil being waged in two fields: in the world, between Israel and the heathen nations; in the nation of Israel, between godless oppressors of the weak and their innocent victims. He has seen the sovereignty of God decisively vindicated in the world by the defeat of Israel’s enemies: but when he surveys the conflict within the nation, wrong seems to be triumphant. So he prays for an equally significant demonstration of God’s sovereignty within the nation by a signal punishment of the wicked who deny His power or will to interpose.

These Psalms have been assigned to widely differing dates. But the tradition of their Davidic origin may be right. The author of Psalms 9 speaks as the representative of the nation, in language more natural to a king than to anyone else. The enemies of the nation are his enemies ( Psa 9:3); the national cause is his cause ( Psa 9:4).

This Psalm then may celebrate David’s victories in general (2 Samuel 8); and Psa 10:16 may refer in particular to the expulsion of the Philistines who occupied the north of Palestine for some time after the disaster of Gilboa (1Sa 31:7), and to the subjugation of the Jebusites.

Nor is it difficult to understand how David might have to deplore the existence of domestic evils such as those described in Psalms 10, without being able to remedy them [7] . The misgovernment of Saul’s later years, and the contest between Ish-bosheth and David must have left a serious legacy of civil disorder (1Sa 22:1-2; 2Sa 3:1 ; 2Sa 3:22; 2Sa 4:2); and we have indications that David was not in a position to control his powerful nobles and enforce the administration of justice ( 2Sa 3:39 ; 2Sa 15:2 ff.).

[7] Compare the account of Charlemain’s reign in Dean Church’s Beginning of the Middle Ages, p. 125.

The Davidic origin of Psalms 9 is supported by its connexion with Psalms 7. The closing words of Psalms 7 (cp. Psa 18:49) are taken up and expanded in Psa 9:1-2: both Psalms are inspired by a vivid sense of the judicial righteousness of Jehovah (Psa 7:6 ff., Psa 7:11; Psa 9:4; Psa 9:7-8; Psa 9:16; Psa 9:19): in both we have the thought of evil recoiling upon its authors (Psa 7:14 ff.; Psa 9:15 ff.). The connexion of Psa 5:11, Psa 7:17, Psa 8:1; Psa 8:9, Psa 9:1; Psa 9:10; should also be noted.

It may further be remarked that in Psalms 10 triumphant injustice is regarded in the simplest light as a wrong that calls for redress; not as in Psalms 37, as a ground of discontent, or as in Psalms 73, as a trial of faith.

The train of thought is as follows.

Psalms 9. The Psalmist resolves to celebrate Jehovah’s praise for victory won by His help (Psa 9:1-4). He contrasts the transitoriness of the nations in their wickedness with the eternal sovereignty of the righteous Judge (Psa 9:5-8), Who never fails to defend the godly (Psa 9:9-10). A renewed invitation to praise (Psa 9:11-12) is succeeded by a prayer for help in the hour of need (Psa 9:13-14); and the revelation of Jehovah’s judicial righteousness in the discomfiture of the heathen is once more proclaimed (Psa 9:15-16). After an interlude of music the Psalm concludes with a confident anticipation of the certainty of judgement and deliverance (Psa 9:17-18), and a prayer that the nations may be taught to know their human impotence (Psa 9:19-20).

Psalms 10. From the conflict between Israel and the nations in which God’s sovereignty has been victoriously manifested, the Psalmist turns to the triumph of might over right in Israel itself. He remonstrates with Jehovah for His apparent indifference (Psa 9:1-2), and draws a graphic picture of the atheistic self-complacency and pitiless tyranny of ‘the wicked man’ (Psa 9:3-11). An urgent appeal to Jehovah to intervene and right these crying wrongs is followed by a confident expression of assurance that they are not unobserved or disregarded (Psa 9:12-14). The prayer for the extirpation of evil finds a pledge for its fulfilment in the eternal sovereignty of Jehovah and the extermination of the heathen from His land (Psa 9:15-16). The prayer of faith cannot remain unanswered, and heaven-protected right will finally be triumphant over earthly might (Psa 9:17-18).

The title should be rendered as in R.V., For the Chief Musician; set to Muth-labben. Probably (if the Massoretic text is sound) Muth-labben are the opening words of some well-known melody to which the Psalm was to be sung. Comp. the title of 22: ‘set to Ayyeleth hash-Shahar,’ i.e. ‘the hind of the morning’; and of 56 and 57. The words are obscure, but may mean ‘Die for the son,’ or, ‘Death to the son.’

The analogy of other titles is decisive against all the interpretations which explain these words to refer to the contents or occasion of the Psalm; ‘upon the death of Ben,’ or, ‘Labben,’ or ‘the son;’ by whom some unknown but formidable enemy of the nation, or Goliath, or even (as though David could possibly have written in this tone then) Absalom, is supposed to be intended. The tradition that it refers to Goliath is as old as the Targum, which paraphrases, “Concerning the death of the man who went forth between the camps,” an allusion to 1Sa 17:4, where the Heb. word for ‘champion’ is ‘man of the space between the camps.’

It is however possible that the present text is a corruption of the words ‘upon Alamoth’ which occur in the title of 46 (cp. 1Ch 15:20). So the LXX, Aquila, and Theodotion appear to have read, though they give wrong renderings. See Introd. p. xxv.

Consult other comments:

Psalms 9:0 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Psalms 9:0 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Psalms 9:0 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Psalms 9:0 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Psalms 9:0 - Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary

Psalms 9:0 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Psalms 9:0 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Psalms 9:0 - Commentary Series on the Bible by Peter Pett

Psalms 9:0 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Psalms 9:0 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges