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Psalm 9

God of justice and compassion

A David psalm.

1 I thank you with all my heart, Yahveh
and recount all the awesome things you’ve done.
2 I celebrate you, Most High God
and sing praise to your name!
3 When you appeared
my foes turned tail, staggered and dropped like flies.
4 You upheld the justice of my cause
seated as the just king on your throne.
5-6 You blasted the nations and destroyed the wicked
The enemy is utterly devastated
their names totally forgotten
their cities permanently wiped off the map
7 while Yahveh sits enthroned
executing judgment forever.
8 He rules the world with justice
judging all of its peoples fairly.
9 Yahveh is a refuge for the oppressed
a shelter when they’re in trouble.
10 That’s why all who know your name
put their trust in you, Yahveh—
you never desert anyone who turns to you.
11 So sing your praise to Yahveh
who reigns from Zion.
Tell everyone everywhere what he does—
12 how the one who avenges bloodshed
remembers every single victim
and never turns a deaf ear
to the cries of the wretched.

13 Be gracious to me, Yahveh!
See how I suffer because of those who hate me.
Snatch me away from death’s gaping maw
14 to burst through Zion’s gates
with news of how you’ve saved me.
15 The nations who reject you
have fallen into the pit they dug—
their feet got tangled in the net they hid!
16 Yahveh reveals his character by enacting justice
when the wicked get caught
in the trap they themselves made.
17 The wicked will plunge headlong into hella
and all the nations who forget God.
18 For the helpless won’t always be forgotten
nor will the hopes of the oppressed die unmet.

19 Move out, Yahveh!
Don’t let these small-time thugs defy you!
Make the nations face your stern judgment.
20 Strike terror into them, Yahveh—
let them know they’re just puny men!

Crafted as a single whole, Psalms 9 and 10 should be viewed as completing each other.b David praises God for his just judgment of those who oppress the helpless, and he isn’t talking theory, but rather about his own enemies, his cause, his deliverance. Verse 3 reminds me of God’s defeating Goliath and the Philistines, verse 9 of God’s protecting David from Saul. Whatever stories David has in mind, he’s learned by experience that Yahveh’s reign isn’t interrupted by his enemies’ abuse of power. He never ignores the cry of the afflicted, overlooks a single victim or deserts those who trust in him.

This prompts David to ask God to act on behalf of the oppressed, to take down the oppressor. But again, his prayer is personal, not generic. He needs deliverance now. Death is threatening to swallow him alive. But David has learned what to expect from God. In God’s economy, evil is its own undoing—no one is smart enough to avoid the traps they set for others. Knowing what God is like, David freely asks him to judge his enemies, cut them down to size and stop them from flagrantly defying him.

Lord, you see everyone who oppresses the poor—you miss nothing. Thank you that you care, you never forsake those who turn to you and you will yet right every wrong and avenge every unjust death. Move out, Lord! End the reign of injustice and oppression now, I pray. Amen.


a Literally Sheol, which refers to the realm of the dead, before Israelites had any real conception of hell.

b Psalm 10 is the only psalm in Book I missing a title. Even more telling, the two psalms are arranged as both an acrostic and a chiastic whole. The letters of the Hebrew alphabet begin the psalms’ poetic units, with Hebrew’s “A” starting Psalm 9, its “Z” starting Psalm 10’s final unit. Chiasm arranges the text’s subject matter in an ABCBA mirror pattern, with the pattern running through both psalms. Futato, 58-59.

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.