Psalm Cultural background

Psalm 5[a]

For the director of music. For pipes. A Psalm of David.

1 Listen to my words, Lord,
    consider my lament.
Hear my cry for help,
    my King and my God,
    for to you I pray.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you
    and wait expectantly.
For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
    with you, evil people are not welcome.
The arrogant cannot stand
    in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong;
    you destroy those who tell lies.
The bloodthirsty and deceitful
    you, Lord, detest.
But I, by your great love,
    can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
    toward your holy temple.

Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness
    because of my enemies—
    make your way straight before me.
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
    their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
    with their tongues they tell lies.
10 Declare them guilty, O God!
    Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
    for they have rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
    let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

12 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

 

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1 of 2

5:7 house … temple. The temple was viewed as God’s residence, a visible manifestation of his presence on earth (see note on 48:1 – 2; see also the article “Hymn to Holy Cities”). Consequently, it was reasonable for an ancient Israelite to look, either physically or figuratively, “toward” Jerusalem and its temple in order to seek the Lord. The underlying premise was that the temple was God’s base of operations; therefore, help would come from it.

2 of 2

5:9 open grave. Embalming was not practiced in Israel as it was in Egypt, so signs of bodily decay commenced within days of death, and burial was immediate, even for criminals (Dt 21:23). Natural or rock-cut caves were used as tombs (Ge 23:202Ch 16:14). If circumstances dictated, earthen graves were also used, which was probably the custom for the common people (Ge 35:8,201Sa 31:132Ki 23:6). Sometimes the body was left permanently at rest. In other instances, after decomposition of the body, the bones were moved to a central repository in the tomb, and the bench upon which the body was originally laid could be reused. Except for the temporary offset from burial spices, the odor of decomposition was potent, and an open grave is a graphic image of the “rot” issuing forth from the mouth (vocal cords and tongue) of the wicked.