King David - Psalm 71

by Rev. Samuel Issa

1. In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; never[1] let me be put to shame.
2. In your righteousness[2] save me and let me escape, incline your ear to me and save me.
3. Be to me a rock of refuge[3], to enter continually. You have commanded, to help me! For You are my rock and my stronghold.
4. My God, let me escape from the hand of the wicked, from the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.
5. Because you are my hope, O Lord God, my trust from my childhood.
6. On You I have leaned from birth[4], from my mother’s womb You are my deliverer, You I shall praise continually.
7. I am as a wonder unto many, but You are my strong refuge[5].
8. My mouth shall be filled by Your praise, all the day, with Your glory.
9. Do not throw[6]me away in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails.
10. For my enemies have spoken against me; and those who watch my life have taken counsel together.
11. Saying, God has abandoned him; pursue and seize him, for there is none to deliver him[7].
12. O God, be not far[8] from me; O my God, make haste to my help.

The three first verses in this Psalm can possibly originate from the Psalm 31.[9] In a closer look at the meaning of”taking refuge” or “seeking refuge in the Lord”; many scholars suggest that there was an old custom, that if you where condemned for any religious or moral reasons you could seek asylum in the sanctuary to be forgiven and let off. This is can be clearly viewed in I Kings 1:50, which state: Adonijah, fearing Solomon, got up and went to grasp the horns of the altar and was forgiven. These three verses express clearly how the writer is confident that his God will give him protection and rescue him from either his physical or mental suffering. This Psalm makes continual references to the righteousness of God, in verses 2, 15, 16, 19, 24. When the Psalmist writes in v.2“In your righteousness save me”, it signifies how much the psalmist is entirely relying on his Creator, because he is faithful to his people especially his servants. His is true to his people because He has fulfilled His promises; He delivered them from slavery and made them a blessed and a proud nation. In v.3 where God becomes the refuge for the psalmist means also that the King can look to no other gods for help except from the Lord God.[10]

As we continue with v.4 we can see that the psalmist addresses his concern and problem to the Lord. It is the wicked, the unjust and the cruel people who want to destroy him and make him look like a fool or maybe even take his life. This approach that the psalmist makes to the Lord is also clear in Psalm 1:1,“Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or taken the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers”.[11] This verse can be used independently or attached to the three first verses in this Psalm. In v.5 the psalmist uses the word “hope” not in sense that he wishes for better future but a more likely a personal surrender on the Lord. He waits, though, for God to intervene he becomes stronger and his hope grows more and more that God will not let him down, because the Lord is righteous. It seems also that the psalmist has many previous experiences where God rescues him from other kind of danger, for instance, when he was boy; a famous situation is, if the psalmist is King David, which I believe it is, when God rescued David as child from the hand of Goliath. Even though I am fully aware that many scholars would strongly argue that this psalm lack a heading and that v.9 could suggest that it might be another person. Having said that, in v.6 the psalmist confirms what he claims in v.5, but this time he wants to confirm for himself and for God that he is chosen by Him since the very day of his birth. For God says: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord…to give you future and hope”(Jer. 29:11).

In ancient Israel suffering for many was a sign divine disfavour, because this was the way God punishes. But, here in v.7 the psalmist as many others in Israel believed also that in the suffering one might found peace, in the personal experience of God’s presence. Verse 8 is wonderful because it shows us how the psalmist really has unshakable hope in God. It is when the psalmist says: “I shall tell”[12], which is present and hence means that he shall praise the Lord even though in the midst of the sufferings. This clearly indicates that the psalmist believes and hopes that God will surely rescue him as He always does. But in v.9 he starts to beg his God not abandoning him now when he has become old and very weak. He needs God’s protection now more than any time. However, there are other scholars who do not agree that the psalmist is old man. Instead they think that he is only looking down the years ahead to old age, just as he already mentioned his childhood.[13] In v.10 the psalmist identifies a concern that could harm him, especially, when he is old. The concern he had was how his enemies could begin conspiring with the aim of harming him both emotionally and physically. The psalmist is very concerned that his enemies might believe that his God has left him. In v.11 the psalmist becomes very troubled, because he really wants to believe that God has not forsaken him and that He will rescue him. Moreover, the psalmist knows that if God leaves him his enemies could very easily capture him. It is there for we can see clearly in v.12 how the psalmist makes a spontaneous shout to God. His call is simple and obvious departing from the bottom of his heart; hoping that God would hear him and come to his aid and rescue.
The language of ancient worship was in the very centre of Jewish worship; they were usually written in a poetic form. “Mizmor” is a Hebrew word meaning “Psalms”, which is a truly surviving type of worship in ancient Israel.[14] The title “Psalms” can also simply mean “songs”.[15]Having said that, the Psalms are much more than simply song are poems. In the Psalms we can find individual or the whole congregation praising to the all mighty God of Israel, prying for physically or spiritually deliverance, thanksgiving and much more. We could also add that there are scholars who have made very good attempts to divide Psalms to different classes and themes. So, in other words, Psalms can be divided to different classes and themes, but unfortunately not all of them are easy to give a theme or a group. However, this Psalm belongs to the category of song Psalms and certainly expressed by an individual. This Psalm is filled with expression of trust and exulting cries in the first 14 verses. The rest of the Psalm changes direction and becomes more a song of praise. [16]

Psalm 71 is a Psalm without a title and that means the issue of authorship is surely ambiguous. The title and the heading of a Psalm help to identify its own origin. Still many of the Psalms are headed by King David; it could also be possible that the royal house itself continued to use the name of David for a number of Psalms.

Concerning the metre of this Psalm it is most certainly irregular. One might ask: What is a metre? All 150 or 151 Psalms are written as poems and all of they have a rhythmic pattern. Therefore, the use of the metre becomes very important since it portrays the linguistic sound patterns of a verse. But, we have to understand that the Hebrew poetic art is more a balancing of sense than a sound.[17] Now as we have cleared that out we can now take a closer look on the metre of these teen verses. This Psalm has three-member verses as well as many other irregular. These are the three-member verses: 3+2+2 in verse 2; 3+3+3 in verse 3; 3+4+3 in verse 6. The irregular verses are: 3+2 in verses 1, 7, 8; 3+3 in verses 5, 9, 12; 4+3 in verse 4; 3+4 in verse 10; 2+2+2 in verse 11.[18] This is roughly how the metre is read in these twelve verses, which gives us a deeper knowledge in the structure of this Psalm. This shows us clearly that these teen verses are very irregular and different in there metres. We know that poetry is something very difficult to translate because in every language there are different ways of poetic art. Having said that, the Hebrew poetry is also as other poetry difficult to translate, but still it is not impossible.

In the end, we will have a last detailed approach on the format of this Psalm. It is without a doubt very clear that you can see in this Psalm many individual fragments from other Psalms. Perhaps that is why many scholars have attempted to think of this Psalm as a collection of quotations.[19] These quotations are most obvious from Psalm 22 and 31; there are also from Psalm 35 and 40 which have similarity in the language and ideas. Furthermore, all these Psalms with the Psalm 71 engage in a same tradition, which suggest that the Psalm 71 post dates all these Psalms. However, as far as the date of the composition, there is no way we can establish the exact time.[20] Anderson’s also agrees that this Psalm had references from various Psalms without any real logical sequence, but the thing that hold them together is the author’s unshakable trust in God. [21] He also agrees that this Psalm is little more than a mosaic of fragments and reminiscences of other Psalms. Kraus, on the other hand, believes that through this Psalm we can observe the author’s awareness of the Psalm’s tradition; moreover, the richness of available data which the author possess and liberally use in this Psalm. There is a possibility that this Psalm belongs to a prayer literature which is believed was developed at a later time in ancient Israel. [22]

This Psalm expresses the prayer of deliverance, when the old age drags with it all kind of sufferings and especially when the strength has weakened. We Christians believes that this deliverance prayer becomes in its full meaning when offered through Jesus Christ.[23] Because God have chosen to deliver the house of David through his only Son Jesus Christ, who gave His life on the cross and gave the world an eternal proclamation for salvation.


- A. A. Anderson, The Book Of Psalms, Vol. 1, Purnell & Sons Ltd, 1972.
- F. Brown, S. R. Driver, C. A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, Oxford University Press, 1963.
- Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Anglicized edition, Oxford University Press, 2003.
- Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150, A Continental Commentary, Fortress Press, 1993.
- J. H. Eaton, Psalms, Introduction and commentary, SCM Press Ltd, 1967.
- J. W. Rogerson, J. W. Mckay, The Cambridge Bible Commentary, Cambridge University Press, 1977.
- R. Payne Smith, Compendious Syriac Dictionary, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1999.

[1] “LeOlam” literally means “For ever”, Anderson, however, believes that it could also be read as a vocative, namely, “O Eternal”. I have chosen to write it “never” that seems most appropriate for this verse. (A. A. Anderson, The Book of Psalms, p. 511)
[2] ”Batsadkateka maon” can here also be translated as” in the area of your help” this is how Kraus suggests.(Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150, p. 71)
[3] The Massoretic text writes it in this way” a rock of habitation”. (A. A. Anderson, The Book of Psalms, pp.511)
[4] ”Batan” is a feminine noun word and means “womb”, but can also mean birth. (BDB, p. 105)
[5] It derives from the word “Hasa” which is the name of the Levitical doorkeepers of the temple in I Ch 16:38.(BDB, p. 340)
[6] ”Thashlykny” derives from ”Shalak” second masculine singular jussive (impf) with “al”, Hiphil, “to cast”.(BDB, p. 1020)
[7] “Him” is not in the text but I chose to include it so the verse becomes more understandable.
[8] It derives from the word”Rahak” second masculine singular passive qal and means to become far; in the Syriac it is more clear because the word ”Rahek” means to slowly but surely abandon someone or something more like a process than state. (R. Payne Smith, Compendious Syriac Dictionary, p. 538)
[9] A. A. Anderson, The Book Of Psalms, p. 247
[10] J. H. Eaton, Psalms, Introduction and commentary, p.179
[11] J. W. Rogerson, J. W. Mckay, The Cambridge Bible Commentary, p. 107
[12] J. W. Rogerson, J. W. Mckay, The Cambridge Bible Commentary, p. 107
[13] J. W. Rogerson, J. W. Mckay, The Cambridge Bible Commentary, p. 108
[14] J. H. Eaton, Psalms, Introduction and commentary, p. 1
[15] J. W. Rogerson, J. W. Mckay, The Cambridge Bible Commentary, p.1
[16] Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150, p.73
[17] J. H. Eaton, Psalms, Introduction and commentary, p. 24
[18] Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150, p. 71
[19] Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150, p. 71
[20] J. W. Rogerson, J. W. Mckay, The Cambridge Bible Commentary, p. 106
[21] A. A. Anderson, The Book Of Psalms, p. 510
[22] Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms 60-150, p. 71
[23] J. H. Eaton, Psalms, Introduction and commentary, p. 180

Reproduced with the permission of Melthodhaye
Melthodhaye means the life giving word, that is to say; the Word became flesh and was sacrificed for our salvation. The Word, Jesus Christ, gave us a new life through His resurrection. The choice of the name for this homepage and organization was obvious for us, because we work for what is in the Holy Script, the Bible. The Holy Script is God's word that can give human beings a new and pure life. The Bible’s words are within us, and that is what enriches our lives and helps us to produce good works before our Lord. Melthodhaye is an independent and international spiritual organization working under the blessing of His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas.



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