Psalm 57– SING & LEARN – Words of weapon are defeated by words of G-d’s praises

We are fortunate again to have Professor Victoria’s analysis to the chapter, Psalm 57.
Below the analysis you can find the historical background for the Psalm. Last, there are few short comments I remember we brought up in the study.

Psalm 55 – Analysis

 The imagery in song 57 is very like that of song 55, but the perspective is not the same. As if one landscape was being described from two different angles of perception. The wings, in song 55, are those of a dove and they describe the poet’s longing to escape his enemies; in song 57, however, the wings describe the shelter the poet seeks in God. In both songs, the weapons of the poet’s enemies are forged out of words. But in 57 the contrast between the two images, wings and swords, makes clear their oppositeness, a quality that is merely suggested in 55.

Song 57 begins with the poet’s taking shelter in the “shadow” of God’s wings. A shadow, because it is a negative, has the connotation, usually, of something hidden, of something best obscured. For the poet, however, the shadow cast by God’s wings is beneficial; providing the poet with necessary shelter, a haven which will hide him from his enemies. The image becomes particularly vivid when the poet discloses exactly where he is — not only is he in the midst of his enemies but he is actually lying down among enemies who are wild beasts in their thoughts and actions. The poet is, apparently, completely defenseless and vulnerable.

The poet takes as his protector the “steadfastness” and the “faithfulness” of God. These two qualities that he ascribes to God become, in their effect, the two wings that provide him not only protection, but also turn upon his enemies. The snares that the poet’s enemies prepared for him snare their own selves instead. They fall into the pit they themselves have dug. The Rabbi pointed out, in our discussion group, that the Hebrew word “pit” is similar to the Hebrew word for “conversation” (without the vowels it seems even more like ‘conversation’: שיחה). The Hebrew thus makes the irony sharper than the English translation can: the weapons forged of words are turned on their wielders; they are their own victims.

With the defeat of his enemies, the poet fashions a song out of words, replacing his enemies’ swords of words with his own exultation at God’s steadfastness and faithfulness. The repetition of phrases that the poet employs, first in verse 2, to sound a lament and a plea, become, in verses 8 and 9, the poet’s song of praises. Swords are beaten into praises. The poet’s exaltation is such that it will “wake the dawn”. He is not taking upon himself God’s attributes; he is not saying he can control time. Rather, the image connotes a rebirth, a renewal, a new day, one in which God’s wings will be spread not merely over the poet, but will provide shelter for “all the ear

Psalm 57 – Historical background, Samuel 23-24

David is chad after by King Saul, a righteous king admired by David himself and the people of Israel, the first king of Israel. Although persecuted by the king of Israel, David risks himself for saving the lives of the people the city of Keilah, and wages war against the Philistines who attacks the city.

Regardless to his help to them, some people of Keilah send a word to King Saul that ‘the man he seeks’ is there and he he has an opportunity to catch him.

David and his men succeeds in escaping the city in time to the dessert ‘Zif’.  The people of Zif also betray David and help King Saul to locate the area where David and his men are hiding.  Afterwards David finds a place in ‘Metzadot Ein Geddi’.

– Twice we see what David talks about in Psalm 57, that people are attacking him by using their words and speech as weapons – twice he was betrayed by the people he favored and risked his life for.

In Ein Geddi, there is the story where David and his men hide inside the cave when King Saul enters to rest there. This was an opportunity for David to ‘get rid’ of this man who seeks to kill him, but instead he stops his men from harming the King of Israel. (only cuts the wing of his dress instead).

see the full chapters (Samuel 24-35) below the comments over our Psalm.

Few more interesting comments we discussed:

– An interesting Midrash (Alef Bet of Ben Sirah) recalls a story, that once David was sitting in the garden observing a spider capturing a wasp in his spider net. He asked HASHEM: Why did you created those two useless creatures, the wasp and the spider. The wasp just cause harm without producing any honey, the spider creates these webs without even the ability to make itself a cloth..
HASHEM answered David: you are mocking my creatures, behold, there will be a time that you will be saved by them.

When David was hiding from King Saul inside the cave, G-d sent a spider to make a web at the entrance of that cave, so king Saul will not suspect there is someone inside….

Psalm 57:7 might be hinting to this story: They prepared a net for my steps, he bent down my soul; they dug a pit before me, they will fall into it forever.

– We compared verses 57:2 and 57:8 , in both of them the Psalmist repeats the key words:
Psalm 57:2  “Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, because my soul took refuge in You, and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until the destruction passes.”
Psalm 57:8  “My heart is steadfast with God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises.”
At the beginning of Song 57, David is asking two things, that HASHEM will save him from being killed, and the second time is a request that he will not have to be the one hurting king Saul (as we previously saw that happened).
Then he thanks HASHEM for indeed not being hurt and that he resisted from hurting the person chasing him.

– Psalm 57:9 “Awaken, my honor; awaken [me], lyre and harp; I will awaken the dawn.”  We mentioned the Talmud, that speaks about King David not like other kings who wakes up in the late morning hours, but rather he wakens the dawn, he wakes up before even the dawn in order to say HASHEM praises and start his worship and taking care of the people of Israel.

– Again at Psalm 57:9  “..I will awaken the dawn”,  we mentioned that this time of dawn is the darkest time of the night. The hardest one to be awake at. This time many times in the Jewish writings describes the moment before / the beginning of Israel’s redemption, looks like the hardest darkness which won’t be able to overcome and survive, then a bigger good is created.

Shmuel 2, chapters 24-25 — King Saul chases after David, whom hides in the cave:

1 And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying: ‘Behold, David is in the wilderness of En-gedi.’ {S}
2 Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats.
3 And he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave.
4 And the men of David said unto him: ‘Behold the day in which the LORD hath said unto thee: Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thy hand, and thou shalt do to him as it shall seem good unto thee.’ Then David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe privily.
5 And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.
6 And he said unto his men: ‘The LORD forbid it me, that I should do this thing unto my lord, the LORD’S anointed, to put forth my hand against him, seeing he is the LORD’S anointed.’
7 So David checked his men with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. And Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way. {S}
8 David also arose afterward, and went out of the cave, and cried after Saul, saying: ‘My lord the king.’ And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth, and prostrated himself. {S}
9 And David said to Saul: ‘Wherefore hearkenest thou to men’s words, saying: Behold, David seeketh thy hurt?
10 Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the LORD had delivered thee to-day into my hand in the cave; and some bade me kill thee; but mine eye spared thee; and I said: I will not put forth my hand against my lord; for he is the LORD’S anointed.
11 Moreover, my father, see, yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand; for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee not, know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in my hand, and I have not sinned against thee, though thou layest wait for my soul to take it.
12 The LORD judge between me and thee, and the LORD avenge me of thee; but my hand shall not be upon thee.
13 As saith the proverb of the ancients: Out of the wicked cometh forth wickedness; but my hand shall not be upon thee.
14 After whom is the king of Israel come out? after whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after a flea.
15 The LORD therefore be judge, and give sentence between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause, and deliver me out of thy hand.’ {P}
16 And it came to pass, when David had made an end of speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said: ‘Is this thy voice, my son David?’ And Saul lifted up his voice, and wept.
17 And he said to David: ‘Thou art more righteous than I; for thou hast rendered unto me good, whereas I have rendered unto thee evil.
18 And thou hast declared this day how that thou hast dealt well with me; forasmuch as when the LORD had delivered me up into thy hand, thou didst not kill me.
19 For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? wherefore the LORD reward thee good for that which thou hast done unto me this day.
20 And now, behold, I know that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thy hand.
21 Swear now therefore unto me by the LORD, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father’s house.’
22 And David swore unto Saul. And Saul went home; but David and his men got them up unto the stronghold. {S}

Chapter 25

1 And Samuel died; and all Israel gathered themselves together, and lamented him, and buried him in his house at Ramah. And David arose, and went down to the wilderness of Paran. {P}
2 And there was a man in Maon, whose possessions were in Carmel; and the man was very great, and he had three thousand sheep, and a thousand goats; and he was shearing his sheep in Carmel.
3 Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail; and the woman was of good understanding, and of a beautiful form; but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb.
4 And David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep.
5 And David sent ten young men, and David said unto the young men: ‘Get you up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name;
6 and thus ye shall say: All hail! and peace be both unto thee, and peace be to thy house, and peace be unto all that thou hast.
7 And now I have heard that thou hast shearers; thy shepherds have now been with us, and we did them no hurt, neither was there aught missing unto them, all the while they were in Carmel.
8 Ask thy young men, and they will tell thee; wherefore let the young men find favour in thine eyes; for we come on a good day; give, I pray thee, whatsoever cometh to thy hand, unto thy servants, and to thy son David.’
9 And when David’s young men came, they spoke to Nabal according to all those words in the name of David, and ceased.
10 And Nabal answered David’s servants, and said: ‘Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there are many servants now-a-days that break away every man from his master;
11 shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men of whom I know not whence they are?’
12 So David’s young men turned on their way, and went back, and came and told him according to all these words.
13 And David said unto his men: ‘Gird ye on every man his sword.’ And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword; and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the baggage.
14 But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, saying: ‘Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to salute our master; and he flew upon them.
15 But the men were very good unto us, and we were not hurt, neither missed we any thing, as long as we went with them, when we were in the fields;
16 they were a wall unto us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep.
17 Now therefore know and consider what thou wilt do; for evil is determined against our master, and against all his house; for he is such a base fellow, that one cannot speak to him.’
18 Then Abigail made haste, and took two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and a hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on asses.
19 And she said unto her young men: ‘Go on before me; behold, I come after you.’ But she told not her husband Nabal.
20 And it was so, as she rode on her ass, and came down by the covert of the mountain, that, behold, David and his men came down towards her; and she met them.–
21 Now David had said: ‘Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him; and he hath returned me evil for good.
22 God do so unto the enemies of David, and more also, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light so much as one male.’–
23 And when Abigail saw David, she made haste, and alighted from her ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed down to the ground.
24 And she fell at his feet, and said: ‘Upon me, my lord, upon me be the iniquity; and let thy handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine ears, and hear thou the words of thy handmaid.
25 Let not my lord, I pray thee, regard this base fellow, even Nabal; for as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and churlishness is with him; but I thy handmaid saw not the young men of my lord, whom thou didst send.
26 Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, seeing the LORD hath withholden thee from bloodguiltiness, and from finding redress for thyself with thine own hand, now therefore let thine enemies, and them that seek evil to my lord, be as Nabal.
27 And now this present which thy servant hath brought unto my lord, let it be given unto the young men that follow my lord.
28 Forgive, I pray thee, the trespass of thy handmaid; for the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord fighteth the battles of the LORD; and evil is not found in thee all thy days.
29 And though man be risen up to pursue thee, and to seek thy soul, yet the soul of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of life with the LORD thy God; and the souls of thine enemies, them shall he sling out, as from the hollow of a sling.
30 And it shall come to pass, when the LORD shall have done to my lord according to all the good that He hath spoken concerning thee, and shall have appointed thee prince over Israel;
31 that this shall be no stumbling-block unto thee, nor offence of heart unto my lord, either that thou hast shed blood without cause, or that my lord hath found redress for himself. And when the LORD shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thy handmaid.’ {S}
32 And David said to Abigail: ‘Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who sent thee this day to meet me;
33 and blessed be thy discretion, and blessed be thou, that hast kept me this day from bloodguiltiness, and from finding redress for myself with mine own hand.
34 For in very deed, as the LORD, the God of Israel, liveth, who hath withholden me from hurting thee, except thou hadst made haste and come to meet me, surely there had not been left unto Nabal by the morning light so much as one male.’
35 So David received of her hand that which she had brought him; and he said unto her: ‘Go up in peace to thy house; see, I have hearkened to thy voice, and have accepted thy person.’
36 And Abigail came to Nabal; and, behold, he held a feast in his house, like the feast of a king; and Nabal’s heart was merry within him, for he was very drunken; wherefore she told him nothing, less or more, until the morning light.
37 And it came to pass in the morning, when the wine was gone out of Nabal, that his wife told him these things, and his heart died within him, and he became as a stone.
38 And it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, so that he died.
39 And when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said: ‘Blessed be the LORD, that hath pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and hath kept back His servant from evil; and the evil-doing of Nabal hath the LORD returned upon his own head.’ And David sent and spoke concerning Abigail, to take her to him to wife.
40 And when the servants of David were come to Abigail to Carmel, they spoke unto her, saying: ‘David hath sent us unto thee, to take thee to him to wife.’
41 And she arose, and bowed down with her face to the earth, and said: ‘Behold, thy handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord.’
42 And Abigail hastened, and arose, and rode upon an ass, with five damsels of hers that followed her; and she went after the messengers of David, and became his wife.
43 David also took Ahinoam of Jezreel; and they became both of them his wives. {S}
44 Now Saul had given Michal his daughter, David’s wife, to Palti the son of Laish, who was of Gallim.

Psalm 57

1 For the Leader; Al-tashheth. [A Psalm] of David; Michtam; when he fled from Saul, in the cave.
2 Be gracious unto me, O God, be gracious unto me, for in Thee hath my soul taken refuge; {N}
yea, in the shadow of Thy wings will I take refuge, until calamities be overpast.
3 I will cry unto God Most high; unto God that accomplisheth it for me.
4 He will send from heaven, and save me, when he that would swallow me up taunteth; Selah {N}
God shall send forth His mercy and His truth.
5 My soul is among lions, I do lie down among them that are aflame; {N}
even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.
6 Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; Thy glory be above all the earth.
7 They have prepared a net for my steps, my soul is bowed down; {N}
they have digged a pit before me, they are fallen into the midst thereof themselves. Selah
8 My heart is stedfast, O God, my heart is stedfast; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises.
9 Awake, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp; I will awake the dawn.
10 I will give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises unto Thee among the nations.
11 For Thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and Thy truth unto the skies.
12 Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; Thy glory be above all the earth.