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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 141

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Introduction

Psalms 141:0

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASBNKJVNRSVTEVNJB
An Evening Prayer for Sanctification and ProtectionMT IntroA Psalm of David.Prayers for Safekeeping from WickednessPrayer for Deliverance from Personal Enemies(A Lament)An Evening PrayerAgainst the Attractions of Evil
Psalms 141:1-4Psalms 141:1-2Psalms 141:1-2Psalms 141:1-2Psalms 141:1-2
Psalms 141:3-4Psalms 141:3-4Psalms 141:3-4Psalms 141:3-4b
Psalms 141:4-5
Psalms 141:5-7Psalms 141:5a-ePsalms 141:5-7Psalms 141:5-7
Psalms 141:5-7
Psalms 141:6-7
Psalms 141:8-10Psalms 141:8-10Psalms 141:8-10Psalms 141:8-10Psalms 141:8-9
Psalms 141:10

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This Psalm is set during an evening worship time in the temple (Psalms 141:2).

B. Like Psalms 139:0 and 140, this Psalm uses a legal terminology.

1. let the psalmist not speak (Psalms 141:3)

2. the wicked are both (Psalms 141:6)

a. judges

b. witnesses

C. The imagery of hunting is again applied to the psalmist's persecutors (cf. Psalms 140:4-5).

1. the trap, Psalms 141:9a

2. the snares, Psalms 141:9b

3. nets, Psalms 141:10a

D. This Psalm is dominated by prayer requests (imperatives/jussives).

1. for the psalmist

a. hasten to me, Psalms 141:1a - BDB 301, KB 300, Qal imperative

b. give ear, Psalms 141:1b - BDB 24, KB 27, Hiphil imperative

c. may my prayer be counted, Psalms 141:2a - BDB 465, KB 464, Niphal imperfect used in a jussive sense

d. set a guard over my mouth, Psalms 141:3a - BDB 1011, KB 1483, Qal imperative

e. keep watch over the door of my lips, Psalms 141:3b - BDB 665, KB 718, Qal imperative; the word “door” (BDB 194) appears only here in the OT

f. do not incline my heart to any evil thing, Psalms 141:4a - BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil jussive

g. let the righteous smite me in kindness, Psalms 141:5a - BDB 240, KB 249, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

h. let the righteous reprove me, Psalms 141:5a - BDB 406, KB 410, Hiphil imperfect used in a jussive sense

i. do not let my head refuse it, Psalms 141:5c - BDB 626, KB 677, Hiphil imperfect used in a jussive sense

j. do not leave me defenseless, Psalms 141:8b - BDB 788, KB 881, Piel jussive

k. keep me from the jaws of the trap, Psalms 141:9a - BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal imperative

l. let me pass by safely, Psalms 141:10; Psalms 141:10b - BDB 716, KB 778, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. for the wicked

a. my prayer is against their wicked deeds

(1) throw down their judges, Psalms 141:6; Psalms 141:6a

(2) bones scattered at the mouth of Sheol, Psalms 141:7; Psalms 141:7b

b. let the wicked fall into their own nets, Psalms 141:9b - BDB 656, KB 709, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense (i.e., role reversal)

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 141:1-4 1O Lord, I call upon You; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to You! 2May my prayer be counted as incense before You; The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering. 3Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips. 4Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, To practice deeds of wickedness With men who do iniquity; And do not let me eat of their delicacies.

Psalms 141:2a Verses like this in Psalms have allowed Judaism to assert that their worship (i.e., without a temple and, therefore, no possible sacrifices) is acceptable to YHWH. Prayer and praise are now the sacrifices.

Psalms 141:2b “lifting up of my hands” This was the normal position of Jewish prayers.

1. standing

2. head up (i.e., looking to God)

3. hand raised (i.e., as if receiving)

4. eyes open (i.e., a dialogue with God)

“the evening offering” Part of the sacrificial system was an offering of a lamb in the temple every morning at 9 a.m. (cf. Psalms 5:3) and evening at 3 p.m. (cf. Exodus 29:38-46; Numbers 28:1-8). This became a special time of prayer (i.e., Acts 3:1; Acts 10:30).

Psalms 141:3 One wonders what the intent of this verse is.

1. court scene

2. gossip

3. verbal attack on persecutors

Notice the two parallel Qal imperatives (“set a guard,” “keep watch over”).

Psalms 141:4a This verse is a recognition of the sovereignty of God. Moderns must be careful of immediately seeing this in terms of the Calvinist and Arminian debate (see SPECIAL TOPIC: Predestination [Calvinism] vs. Human Free Will [Arminianism]).

This reflects the Hebrew worldview. Their God controls all things (cf. Ecclesiastes 7:14; Isaiah 45:7; Lamentations 3:38; Amos 3:6b). Statements such as this are not to be taken as voiding free will or the need for human actions but a recognition of the one true God (i.e., all causality attributed to God, no secondary causes).

The verb “incline” (BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil jussive) is used in a covenant sense in 1 Kings 8:58; Psalms 119:36. For a good parallel to this see Proverbs 1:8-19. The desires of the heart reveal the true person.

There is true evil (BDB 948) and rebellion in the world. The faithful follower flees from it and those who practice it.

“do not let me eat of their delicacies” This is another imperfect that is used in a jussive sense. It is uncertain if this refers to

1. a social event

2. sinful lifestyle

3. idolatrous worship setting; it is possible both Psalms 139:0 and 140 are related to discussions of idolatry

Verses 5-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 141:5-7 5Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; It is oil upon the head; Do not let my head refuse it, For still my prayer is against their wicked deeds. 6Their judges are thrown down by the sides of the rock, And they hear my words, for they are pleasant. 7As when one plows and breaks open the earth, Our bones have been scattered at the mouth of Sheol.

Psalms 141:5 This verse reflects a recurrent theme in Proverbs (cf. Proverbs 9:8; Proverbs 19:25; Proverbs 25:12; also note Ecclesiastes 7:5). Instruction and correction from a righteous person are treasured gifts to those who have God's wisdom.

Psalms 141:5 has three imperfects used in a jussive sense.

1. smite - BDB 240, 249, Qal imperfect

2. reprove - BDB 406, KB 410, Hiphil imperfect

3. refuse - BDB 626, KB 677, Hiphil imperative

These are prayer requests!

“It is oil upon the head” The NRSV, TEV, NJB, and REB follow the LXX, “but let not the sinner's oil anoint my head.” Psalms 141:5-7 is very difficult in Hebrew. There are many divergent translations. Best to get the general sense and move on to the next strophe!

“in kindness” This is the important covenant term hesed. See SPECIAL TOPIC: LOVINGKINDNESS (HESED).

The last poetic line seems out of place in relation to the first four lines. The NKJV starts the next strophe (Psalms 141:5-7) with it.

The NRSV, TEV, and JPSOA have footnotes which say that Psalms 141:5, Psalms 141:6, Psalms 141:7 are uncertain.

Psalms 141:6 “the rock” This may be

1. a reference to their deaths (cf. 2 Chronicles 25:12)

2. a title for YHWH (i.e., “the Rock,” cf. Deuteronomy 32:18; Psalms 18:2, Psalms 18:31, Psalms 18:46; Psalms 19:14; Psalms 28:1; Psalms 31:3; Psalms 42:9; Psalms 71:3; see NAB and NJB translations)

Psalms 141:7 “the mouth of Sheol” The OT holding place of the dead was personified as an animal that devoured (see Special Topic: Sheol).

Verses 8-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 141:8-10 8For my eyes are toward You, O God, the Lord; In You I take refuge; do not leave me defenseless. 9Keep me from the jaws of the trap which they have set for me, And from the snares of those who do iniquity. 10Let the wicked fall into their own nets, While I pass by safely.

Psalms 141:8a This is the psalmist's affirmation of faith in the covenant God of Israel. For “YHWH” and “Adon” see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

Psalms 141:8b “refuge” This is a common verb (BDB 340, KB 337, Qal perfect) in the Psalter. See notes at Psalms 2:12 online (www.freebiblecommentary.org).

The second verb (BDB 788, KB 881, Piel jussive) basically means “to be naked” or “to be bare” (i.e., exposed). BDB and KB assert that here, and here only, it means “poured out” (which has a sacrificial connotation, see Hiphil form in Isaiah 53:12).

“me” This is the Hebrew nephesh (BDB 659), which denoted the entire person. See note at Genesis 35:18 online.

Psalms 141:9-10 This is imagery from Israel's hunting techniques, see notes at Psalms 140:4-5.

1. the trap (BDB 809)

2. the snares (BDB 430)

3. nets (BDB 485, found only here but another word for “net” [BDB 440] is found in Psalms 140:5)

Psalms 141:10 “Let the wicked fall into their own nets” Humans reap what they sow! This is a biblical principle stated so often (cf. Job 34:11; Psalms 28:4; Psalms 62:12; Proverbs 24:12; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 32:29; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 2:6; Romans 14:12; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7; 2 Timothy 4:14; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 2:23; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 22:12).

“While I pass by safely” This verse expresses the expected outcome of the “two ways” (cf. Deuteronomy 30:15, Deuteronomy 30:19; Psalms 1:0).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk n the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is Psalms 141:2 so important to Judaism?

2. Do Psalms 141:3 and 4 support predestination?

3. To what does Psalms 141:0:4d refer?

4. Is Psalms 141:5-7 all about the wicked?

5. What does “the rock” in Psalms 141:6a mean?

6. Define “the two ways.” How does Psalms 141:10 reference this OT theological assumption?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 141". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-141.html. 2021.
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