A Lament over Betrayal
1For the leader. On stringed instruments. A maskil of David.
2Listen, God, to my prayer;a
do not hide from my pleading;
3hear me and give answer.
I rock with grief; I groan
4at the uproar of the enemy,
the clamor of the wicked.
They heap trouble upon me,
savagely accuse me.
5My heart pounds within me;
death’s terrors fall upon me.
6Fear and trembling overwhelm me;
shuddering sweeps over me.
7I say, “If only I had wings like a dove
that I might fly away and find rest.b
8Far away I would flee;
I would stay in the desert.c
9“I would soon find a shelter
from the raging wind and storm.”
10Lord, check and confuse their tongues.
For I see violence and strife in the city
11making rounds on its walls day and night.
Within are mischief and trouble;
12treachery is in its midst;
oppression and fraud never leave its streets.d
13For it is not an enemy that reviled me—
that I could bear—
Not a foe who viewed me with contempt,
from that I could hide.
14But it was you, my other self,
my comrade and friend,e
15You, whose company I enjoyed,
at whose side I walked
in the house of God.
16Let death take them;
let them go down alive to Sheol,f
for evil is in their homes and bellies.
17But I will call upon God,
and the LORD will save me.
18At dusk, dawn, and noon
I will grieve and complain,
and my prayer will be heard.g
19He will redeem my soul in peace
from those who war against me,
though there are many who oppose me.
20God, who sits enthroned forever,h
will hear me and afflict them.
For they will not mend their ways;
they have no fear of God.
21He stretched out his hand at his friends
and broke his covenant.
22Softer than butter is his speech,
but war is in his heart.
Smoother than oil are his words,
but they are unsheathed swords.i
23Cast your care upon the LORD,
who will give you support.
He will never allow
the righteous to stumble.j
24But you, God, will bring them down
to the pit of destruction.k
These bloodthirsty liars
will not live half their days,
but I put my trust in you.l
* [Psalm 55] The psalmist, betrayed by intimate friends (Ps 55:14–15, 20–21), prays that God punish those oath breakers and thus be acknowledged as the protector of the wronged. The sufferings of the psalmist include both ostracism (Ps 55:4) and mental turmoil (Ps 55:5–6), culminating in the wish to flee society (Ps 55:7–9). The wish for a sudden death for one’s enemies (Ps 55:16) occurs elsewhere in the Psalms; an example of such a death is the earth opening under the wicked Dathan and Abiram (Nm 16:31–32). The psalmist, confident of vindication, exhorts others to a like trust in the God of justice (Ps 55:23). The Psalm is not so much for personal vengeance as for a public vindication of God’s righteousness now. There was no belief in an afterlife where such vindication could take place.