Thijs Booij, «Psalm 141: a Prayer for Discipline and Protection», Vol. 86 (2005) 97-106
Psalm 141 has national distress as its background. The
speaker of this text prays for discipline, not to be enticed by the ‘delicacies’
of profiteers, ‘workers of mischief’, and thus become involved in their
intrigues. Discipline, such as a righteous person may teach him, will enable him
to seek justice for these people when the present regime is overthrown. At the
end of the psalm the speaker asks his God that he himself be guarded from evil
which the ‘workers of mischief’ may plot against him. In vv. 4-6 all 3rd person
plural suffixes refer to those called Nw)-yl(p;
they are also the subject of w(m#$w (v. 6b). In
v. 4 twll( means ‘fabrications’. In v.
5 w dw( can be understood as ‘in the end’, and
tw(r as ‘troubles’.
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Psalm 141: a Prayer for Discipline and Protection 105
(3) The speaker of this text is a person who strives for honesty and
justice. He is clearly an honourable person, well-educated and longing to be
educated even more. Wishing that the profiteers in their humiliation â€˜will
hear his words to be pleasantâ€™, he exhibits a strong sense of dignity. The
statement in v. 6 shows yet another thing: the speaker expects his words to be
important to those hearing them. Apparently, he is not only a person of high
moral standing, but also one of high social rank.
(4) The poem has an intellectual colouring which suits a cultivated
person such as the speaker is. This harmony between the poem and its
speaker is naturally explained by assuming that both reflect the nature of the
author. Psalm 141 is a prayer, describing a situation which, in the setting of
the psalms, can hardly be fiction. It could be supposed now that one
cultivated person composed a prayer to be recited, in that situation, by
another cultivated person. I think it is more likely that the speaker is no other
than the author and that indeed, to a large degree, the psalm voices the
authorâ€™s own concerns.
1 A psalm. Of David.
O YHWH, I call upon you: hasten to me,
give ear to my voice as I call to you!
2 Let my prayer be as the scent of offering before you,
as an evening sacrifice the lifting up of my hands.
3 Set, O YHWH, a guard before my mouth,
keep watch over the door of my lips.
4 Do not turn my heart to an evil thing:
that maliciously I should devise fabrications
with gentlemen who are workers of mischief,
and that I should eat of their delicacies.
5 Let a righteous man caringly strike me for discipline;
oil so excellent my head will not refuse,
for my prayer, in the end, is because of their troubles.
6 They will hear, when their judges are thrown down beside the rock,
that my words are pleasant.
7 As when someone digs in the earth or hacks it,
our bones have been scattered at the mouth of Sheol.
8 But my eyes are turned toward you, YHWH, my Lord;
in you I take refuge, do not pour out my life.
9 Keep me from the trap of those who try to catch me,
and from the snares of the workers of mischief.
10 Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
while I go on my way.
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