Psalm 11

Psalm 11

For the director of music. Of David.

In the Lord I take refuge.
    How then can you say to me:
    “Flee like a bird to your mountain.
For look, the wicked bend their bows;
    they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
    at the upright in heart.
When the foundations are being destroyed,
    what can the righteous do?”

The Lord is in his holy temple;
    the Lord is on his heavenly throne.
He observes everyone on earth;
    his eyes examine them.
The Lord examines the righteous,
    but the wicked, those who love violence,
    he hates with a passion.
On the wicked he will rain
    fiery coals and burning sulfur;
    a scorching wind will be their lot.

For the Lord is righteous,
    he loves justice;
    the upright will see his face.

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study BibleBack

11:2 bend their bows. Lit. “step on the bow.” In order to string a bow, a warrior or hunter would step on the midsection in order to draw the ends of the bow close enough to place the string. A psalmist might mention weapons in contexts alluding to a physical threat to life (cf. 60:476:3); however, weapons might also be used as metaphors for a serious threat to one’s legal, economic or social well-being (37:1464:3).

11:3 foundations. This particular Hebrew word appears only here in the sense of social order, but the concept is found elsewhere in the OT (see note on 82:5). In ancient Egypt, the concept of maat(see note on 85:10) referred to the moral and social order of the universe, which was closely linked to the stable and effective rule of the king. Sumerians (third millennium BC) believed that political and social order was established by the gods, who issued decrees concerning civilization to establish controls called “mes.” Control of the mes was a matter of divine management. In the city laments (see the article “City Laments”), the collapse of society meant that this decree for order had been overturned.

11:6 fiery coals and burning sulfur. In Akkadian texts, sulfur burned on coals is described as a fumigating agent. The gods Ea and Enlil send down sulfur as a purifier that counteracts witchcraft. In those texts, unlike here, it is not found as part of the divine warrior’s arsenal for the judging of enemies. The terms here are reminiscent, though not identical, to those used in the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Ge 19:24; see Eze 38:22).

11:7 see his face. Seeing the face of a judge or a god was a metaphor in Mesopotamia and was equivalent to being on their “good side,” because it refers to gaining access to their presence. It usually refers to a supplicant or plaintiff gaining an audience with a judge. If a judge or a god turned his face toward you, you were looked upon with favor.

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