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PSALM 141

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
An Evening Prayer for Sanctification and Protection
MT Intro
A Psalm of David.
Prayers for Safekeeping from Wickedness Prayer for Deliverance from Personal Enemies
(A Lament)
An Evening Prayer Against the Attractions of Evil
141:1-4 141:1-2 141:1-2 141:1-2 141:1-2
  141:3-4 141:3-4 141:3-4 141:3-4b
        141:4c-5
141:5-7 141:5a-e 141:5-7 141:5-7  
  141:5f-7      
        141:6-7
141:8-10 141:8-10 141:8-10 141:8-10 141:8-9
        141:10

READING CYCLE THREE(see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This Psalm is set during an evening worship time in the temple (Ps. 141:2).

B. Like Psalms 139 and 140, this Psalm uses a legal terminology.

1. let the psalmist not speak (Ps. 141:3)

2. the wicked are both (Ps. 141:6)

a. judges

b. witnesses

C. The imagery of hunting is again applied to the psalmist's persecutors (cf. Ps. 140:4-5).

1. the trap, Ps. 141:9a

2. the snares, Ps. 141:9b

3. nets, Ps. 141:10a

D. This Psalm is dominated by prayer requests (imperatives/jussives).

1. for the psalmist

a. hasten to me, Ps. 141:1a - BDB 301, KB 300, Qal imperative

b. give ear, Ps. 141:1b - BDB 24, KB 27, Hiphil imperative

c. may my prayer be counted, Ps. 141:2a - BDB 465, KB 464, Niphal imperfect used in a jussive sense

d. set a guard over my mouth, Ps. 141:3a - BDB 1011, KB 1483, Qal imperative

e. keep watch over the door of my lips, Ps. 141:3b - BDB 665, KB 718, Qal imperative; the word "door" (BDB 194) appears only here in the OT

f. do not incline my heart to any evil thing, Ps. 141:4a - BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil jussive

g. let the righteous smite me in kindness, Ps. 141:5a - BDB 240, KB 249, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

h. let the righteous reprove me, Ps. 141:5a - BDB 406, KB 410, Hiphil imperfect used in a jussive sense

i. do not let my head refuse it, Ps. 141:5c - BDB 626, KB 677, Hiphil imperfect used in a jussive sense

j. do not leave me defenseless, Ps. 141:8b - BDB 788, KB 881, Piel jussive

k. keep me from the jaws of the trap, Ps. 141:9a - BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal imperative

l. let me pass by safely, Ps. 141:10b - BDB 716, KB 778, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. for the wicked

a. my prayer is against their wicked deeds

(1) throw down their judges, Ps. 141:6a

(2) bones scattered at the mouth of Sheol, Ps. 141:7b

b. let the wicked fall into their own nets, Ps. 141:9b - BDB 656, KB 709, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense (i.e., role reversal)

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 141:1-4
 1O Lord, I call upon You; hasten to me!
 Give ear to my voice when I call to You!
 2May my prayer be counted as incense before You;
 The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.
 3Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth;
 Keep watch over the door of my lips.
 4Do not incline my heart to any evil thing,
 To practice deeds of wickedness
 With men who do iniquity;
 And do not let me eat of their delicacies.

141:2a Verses like this in Psalms have allowed Judaism to assert that their worship (i.e., without a temple and, therefore, no possible sacrifices) is acceptable to YHWH. Prayer and praise are now the sacrifices.

141:2b "lifting up of my hands" This was the normal position of Jewish prayers.

1. standing

2. head up (i.e., looking to God)

3. hand raised (i.e., as if receiving)

4. eyes open (i.e., a dialogue with God)

 

▣ "the evening offering" Part of the sacrificial system was an offering of a lamb in the temple every morning at 9 a.m. (cf. Ps. 5:3) and evening at 3 p.m. (cf. Exod. 29:38-46; Num. 28:1-8). This became a special time of prayer (i.e., Acts 3:1; 10:30).

141:3 One wonders what the intent of this verse is.

1. court scene

2. gossip

3. verbal attack on persecutors

Notice the two parallel Qal imperatives ("set a guard," "keep watch over").

141:4a This verse is a recognition of the sovereignty of God. Moderns must be careful of immediately seeing this in terms of the Calvinist and Arminian debate (see SPECIAL TOPIC: Predestination [Calvinism] vs. Human Free Will [Arminianism]).

This reflects the Hebrew worldview. Their God controls all things (cf. Eccl. 7:14; Isa. 45:7; Lam. 3:38; Amos 3:6b). Statements such as this are not to be taken as voiding free will or the need for human actions but a recognition of the one true God (i.e., all causality attributed to God, no secondary causes).

The verb "incline" (BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil jussive) is used in a covenant sense in 1 Kgs. 8:58; Ps. 119:36. For a good parallel to this see Pro. 1:8-19. The desires of the heart reveal the true person.

There is true evil (BDB 948) and rebellion in the world. The faithful follower flees from it and those who practice it.

▣ "do not let me eat of their delicacies" This is another imperfect that is used in a jussive sense. It is uncertain if this refers to

1. a social event

2. sinful lifestyle

3. idolatrous worship setting; it is possible both Psalm 139 and 140 are related to discussions of idolatry

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 141:5-7
 5Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me;
 It is oil upon the head;
 Do not let my head refuse it,
 For still my prayer is against their wicked deeds.
 6Their judges are thrown down by the sides of the rock,
 And they hear my words, for they are pleasant.
 7As when one plows and breaks open the earth,
 Our bones have been scattered at the mouth of Sheol.

141:5 This verse reflects a recurrent theme in Proverbs (cf. Pro. 9:8; 19:25; 25:12; also note Eccl. 7:5). Instruction and correction from a righteous person are treasured gifts to those who have God's wisdom.

Psalm 141:5 has three imperfects used in a jussive sense.

1. smite - BDB 240, 249, Qal imperfect

2. reprove - BDB 406, KB 410, Hiphil imperfect

3. refuse - BDB 626, KB 677, Hiphil imperative

These are prayer requests!

▣ "It is oil upon the head" The NRSV, TEV, NJB, and REB follow the LXX, "but let not the sinner's oil anoint my head." Psalm 141:5-7 is very difficult in Hebrew. There are many divergent translations. Best to get the general sense and move on to the next strophe!

▣ "in kindness" This is the important covenant term hesed. See SPECIAL TOPIC: LOVINGKINDNESS (HESED).

The last poetic line seems out of place in relation to the first four lines. The NKJV starts the next strophe (Ps. 141:5f-7) with it.

The NRSV, TEV, and JPSOA have footnotes which say that Ps. 141:5,6,7 are uncertain.

141:6 "the rock" This may be

1. a reference to their deaths (cf. 2 Chr. 25:12)

2. a title for YHWH (i.e., "the Rock," cf. Deut. 32:18; Ps. 18:2,31,46; 19:14; 28:1; 31:3; 42:9; 71:3; see NAB and NJB translations)

 

141:7 "the mouth of Sheol" The OT holding place of the dead was personified as an animal that devoured (see Special Topic: Sheol).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 141:8-10
 8For my eyes are toward You, O God, the Lord;
 In You I take refuge; do not leave me defenseless.
 9Keep me from the jaws of the trap which they have set for me,
 And from the snares of those who do iniquity.
 10Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
 While I pass by safely.

141:8a This is the psalmist's affirmation of faith in the covenant God of Israel. For "YHWH" and "Adon" see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

141:8b "refuge" This is a common verb (BDB 340, KB 337, Qal perfect) in the Psalter. See notes at Ps. 2:12 online (www.freebiblecommentary.org).

The second verb (BDB 788, KB 881, Piel jussive) basically means "to be naked" or "to be bare" (i.e., exposed). BDB and KB assert that here, and here only, it means "poured out" (which has a sacrificial connotation, see Hiphil form in Isa. 53:12).

▣ "me" This is the Hebrew nephesh (BDB 659), which denoted the entire person. See note at Gen. 35:18 online.

141:9-10 This is imagery from Israel's hunting techniques, see notes at Ps. 140:4-5.

1. the trap (BDB 809)

2. the snares (BDB 430)

3. nets (BDB 485, found only here but another word for "net" [BDB 440] is found in Ps. 140:5)

 

141:10 "Let the wicked fall into their own nets" Humans reap what they sow! This is a biblical principle stated so often (cf. Job 34:11; Ps. 28:4; 62:12; Pro. 24:12; Eccl. 12:14; Jer. 17:10; 32:29; Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; Rom. 2:6; 14:12; 1 Cor. 3:8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:7; 2 Tim. 4:14; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 2:23; 20:12; 22:12).

▣ "While I pass by safely" This verse expresses the expected outcome of the "two ways" (cf. Deut. 30:15,19; Psalm 1).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk n the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is Ps. 141:2 so important to Judaism?

2. Do Ps. 141:3 and 4 support predestination?

3. To what does Ps. 141:4d refer?

4. Is Ps. 141:5-7 all about the wicked?

5. What does "the rock" in Ps. 141:6a mean?

6. Define "the two ways." How does Ps. 141:10 reference this OT theological assumption?

 

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