He shall return
- A lamentation to David, who sung to Yahweh.
Based on the words of Kush of the tribe of Benjamin.
- Yahweh, my God, in You I have my protection.
Save me from all who persecute me and deliver me !
- For fear that he cut my soul to pieces like a lion that tears things up, and there be no one to deliver me !
- O Yahweh, my God, if I have done this : if there is wickedness on my hands,
- If I have repaid evil to a man who was at peace with me and have despoiled a man who hated me without reason,
- may an enemy persecute my soul, may he take hold of me, may he crush my life into the earth, and may my Glory lie in the dust !
- Arise, Yahweh, with your wrath ; rise up against the pride of my adversaries ! Awaken, my God, and establish justice !
- May the assembly of peoples throng around You, and, over the heights above them, come back !
- Yahweh will judge the peoples. Do me justice, Yahweh, do justice against me, in accord with my righteousness and in accord with my innocence !
- May the wickedness of the impious come to an end, and You will remain “ righteous and the One Who probes hearts and minds, ” Elohim the righteous.
- My shield against Elohim is : “ He Who saves ” just hearts.
- Elohim is a just judge and a God Who is ever enraged.
- If He does not return, it is because He sharpens His sword. He draws His bow and readies it,
- He equips it with weapons of death. He fashions His arrows to use against those in pursuit.
- Behold : « He lusts after iniquity, he conceives his misdeed, and he gives birth to the lie.
- He opens a pit and digs it, and he falls into the pit that he fashions. »
- He will return. His sorrow is upon his own head, and his violence will fall back upon his own skull.
- I shall praise Yahweh as I praise His justice. And I shall sing the name of Yahweh the Most High.
AUTHORS are agreed that this psalm is a heterogeneous piece, composed of « two amalgamated protestations of innocence » (Jerusalem Bible). This, however, dulls its point and veils its precious light and the marvellous novelty that rather than the strict application of the lex talionis, the Messiah demands the intervention of the heavenly Judge, drawing His inspiration from the Poems of the Servant.
In Verse 1, the dedication announces a lamentation of the Messiah, Son of David, the sole hope of the faithful Yahwists in the persecutions inflicted by their enemies. The « words » are signed : Kush, of the tribe of Benjamin.
1. CHRIST EXPOSED TO OUTRAGE
Verse 2 : the Messiah utters His complaint. In accordance with the promise that concludes Psalm 5 : « Then all who take shelter in You will rejoice, they will cry for joy forever ; and You will defend them » (Ps 5.12), He launches an appeal full of confidence to Yahweh, taken from Psalm 3 : « In Yahweh is salvation. » (Ps 3.9)
Thus is confirmed the unity and continuity of the collection of the Psalms, the reflection of the great battle of God and His “ Anointed ” against Their common enemies (Ps 2), who are the schismatic Samaritans, who united against the faithful Yahwists after the return from Exile, as we have explained in our commentary of Psalm 5.
In verse 3, the change from the plural to the singular personifies « those who persecute me » (v. 2), behind whom « the Devil », who « is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour », conceals himself (1 P 5.8).
In verse 4, the persecuted Psalmist examines his conscience, and verse 5 explains what « the wickedness » is for which he examines himself : not only is it repaying good with evil, but also « life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot » (Ex 21.23-24). Here is something new ! The inspired author considers the lex talionis « wickedness ». To repay evil with evil, that is the very evil that calls for a chastisement that is made explicit in verse 6.
Verse 6 : the expression « My Glory » is as good as a signature, for it points to the attribute of God Himself, but it is also proper to the Servant of Yahweh as we have seen in Psalms 3 and 4. « O children of men, how long will My Glory be outraged ? » (Ps 4.3) Here, it seems as though He makes it His « Glory » to let Himself be trampled underfoot rather than to cause harm to others.
2. THE CALL TO GOD’S JUDGEMENT
In verse 7, we find once again the call for a victorious intervention of Yahweh, a call that was already expressed in Psalm 3 : « Arise, O Yahweh ! Save me, O my God ! » (Ps 3.8)
« With your wrath » : as in Psalm 2, the « wrath » of Yahweh is instrumental, medicinal and pedagogical (Ps 2.5).
As a result, the Psalmist’s supplication becomes more pressing and takes its inspiration from the Unknown of the Exile :
« Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of Yahweh. Awake as in the days of old, in ages long ago. » (Is 51.9)
« Establish justice (mishpât ). » This prayer is a call to fulfil the promise of the first Song of the Servant « Here is My Servant whom I uphold, My chosen One with Whom I am pleased, upon Whom I have put My Spirit ; He shall bring forth law for the nations (mishpât). » (Is 42.1)
8. May the assembly of peoples throng around You, and, over the heights above them, come back !
This is an appeal for the “ return ” of Yahweh for a grandiose, solemn and cosmic judgement. Let all the peoples, in rebellion « against Yahweh and His Anointed » (Ps 2.2), gather together, and « the ungodly will not stand firm before an equitable judgement, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous » (Ps 1.5).
The Unknown of the Exile had predicted this judgement in favour of the outraged Servant, in his third song : « He is near who upholds my right. Who wishes to oppose me ? Let us appear together ! Who disputes my right ? Let him confront me ! See, the Lord Yahweh is my help; who will prove me wrong ? Lo, they will all wear out like cloth ; the moth will eat them up. » (Is 50.8)
9. Yahweh will judge the peoples. Do me justice, Yahweh, do justice against me, in accord with my righteousness and in accord with my innocence !
« Do me justice (mishpât) », in fulfilment of what the second Song of the Servant affirms : « Yet my judgement (mishpât) was with Yahweh. » (Is 49.4) This reference gives meaning to the ending that authors omit, admitting that they do not understand. For, the justice and innocence of the Messiah works « against » Him, according to the fourth song : « He had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood. It was Yahweh’s good pleasure to crush Him with pain. » (Is 53.9-10)
10. May the wickedness of the impious come to an end, and You will remain “ righteous and the One Who probes hearts and minds, ” Elohim the righteous.
This was already the entire hope of Prophet Jeremiah in the midst of persecutions : « Yahweh Sabaoth, Who judge righteously, Who probe hearts and minds, I shall see Your vengeance on them, for to You I have revealed my cause. » (Jr 11.20)
11. My shield against Elohim is : “ He Who saves ” just hearts.
12. Elohim is a just judge and a God Who is ever enraged.
In Psalm 3, the Messiah said : « But You, O Yahweh, You are a shield around me. » (Ps 3.4) It is therefore Yahweh-God Who is a shield… against God ? How can this be understood ? The key to the mystery resides in the name given to the « shield », taken from the root yasha’, « to save », as is the name of “ Jesus ”. In this manner, one could translate « My shield against Elohim is : the Jesus of just hearts » ! Jesus, Son of God, God Himself, fulfilled this prophecy by becoming our « shield » against « a God who is ever enraged » because of our sins. Already in the course of this verse there comes into view the entire mystery of the Redemption being wrought until the end of time !
3. THE COMING OF THE MESSIAH
13. If He does not return, it is because He sharpens His sword. He draws His bow and readies it,
14. He equips it with weapons of death. He fashions His arrows to use against those in pursuit.
Yahweh is the subject of all the verbs of these two verses, and the warning takes its inspiration from the prophecy of the Unknown of the Exile in the second song of the servant : « He made of My mouth a sharp-edged sword and concealed Me in the shadow of His hand. He made Me a sharpened arrow, in His quiver He hid Me. » (Is 49.2)
As we have established concerning Psalm 5, the wrath of Yahweh has not yet « subsided », even after the Exile. Why not ? Here is why :
15 Behold : « He lusts after iniquity, he conceives his misdeed, and he gives birth to the lie.
The subject of the verbs is the wicked, whose « pride » is the cause of the persistent « wrath » of Yahweh (v. 7).
16. He opens a pit and digs it, and he falls into the pit that he fashions. »
This is a proverbial judgement, like the maxims that are so replete with imagery and that one finds in the Wisdom literature. Those writings date to the fourth century BC, and so, they are contemporaneous with the Psalms. For example, in the Book of Proverbs : « He who digs a pit falls into it ; and a stone comes back upon him who rolls it. (Pr 26.27)
All that is said « so that they might recognise that a man is punished by the very things through which he sins » (Ws 11.16)
17. He will return. His sorrow is upon his own head, and his violence will fall back upon his own skull.
The subject of the first verb is Yahweh. His “ return ”, the object of this anticipated thanksgiving, consists in the coming of the promised Messiah, the only « shield » during the time of the « wrath » that remains suspended over the « head » of the wicked, the object of the second sentence.
18. I shall praise Yahweh as I praise His justice. And I shall sing the name of Yahweh the Most High.
How far we are from Pharisaism : it is not my own justice that saves me ! We are also very far away from the lex talionis : it is not a question of dispensing one’s own justice, since it is Yahweh Himself Who is our justice. This psalm is already very close to the Gospel : « Stop judging, that you may not be judged. » (Mt 7.1)
Brother Bruno de Jesus
He is risen ! n° 25, September 2004