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Psalm 10

God of the poor and weak

Why are you avoiding me, Yahveh
hiding away when I’m in trouble?
2 Evildoers brazenly harass the powerless.
Make them victims of their own schemes!
3 The wicked celebrate their unbridled lusts.
They applaud the greedy and curse Yahveh.
4 Too full of themselves to seek him
they push him right out of their minds.
5 Yet they succeed in all they do
and scoff at their opponents
without regard for your judgment.
6 They tell themselves
“Nothing will ever shake us—
our luck will never run out!”
7 Their mouths spew curses, lies, threats.
Mischief and evil well up
from under their tongues.
8 They lurk on the edge of town
stealthily watching for the innocent
waiting to get them alone and murder them.
9 They lurk like lions
ready to pounce on the helpless
to grab them and drag them away.
10 The hapless are crushed
and collapse, overpowered.
11 The powerful tell themselves,
“God doesn’t even care.
He’s looking the other way
and won’t see a thing!”

12 Do something, Yahveh!
Raise your hand to judge.
Don’t forget the afflicted.
13 How dare the wicked sneer at God
scoffing, “He’ll never call us to account!”
14 But you do see!
You see the trouble and torment they cause
and will yet square accounts with them.
The poor and helpless trust in your care
for you’re the helper of orphans.
15 Break the striking arm of the wicked.
Go after their evil till there’s none to be found.
16 Yahveh is king forever and ever.
Those who worship other gods
will ultimately disappear from his land.

17 Yahveh, you know the hopes of the helpless.
You will surely hear their cries
and give them courage to go on.
18 You’ll champion the cause of orphan and oppressed
so that mere mortals terrorize no more.

This double-psalm[a] has an agonizing “Why?” at its heart (10:1-11). Hounded by the wicked, David is desperate for God, but he’s nowhere in sight. Psalm 1 says the wicked don’t prosper, but that’s not what David sees in the real world. Each success makes the wicked more arrogant. Religious or not, they refuse to let God cramp their style, one marked by greed, aggression, curses, lies, threats, murder. They’re confident the sun will always shine on them, that God has too much else to think about to bother with them.

But God sees what they do and the pain they cause. He’s the defender of orphans and the powerless even when it doesn’t look like he is. So David urges him to remember the afflicted, defend the weak and put the wicked out of commission. However bleak things are, God still reigns and will root evil out of the land till those who serve false gods and live like God doesn’t care what they do and are no more.

Yahveh knows the hopes of the powerless. He’ll hear their cries, give them courage and champion their cause till mortals are indeed put out of the business of terror for good.

Increasingly contemptuous of you, evildoers attack the powerless more and more. It looks like you don’t care, don’t even see. But you see everything, Lord. So we cry out to you to remember the poor. Stand up and defend them till you’ve totally rooted evil out of the land. Amen.

[a] The form of Psalms 9 and 10 tell us that they were written as one psalm. On this, see my commentary on Psalm 9 above.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.