We lost the battle
God, you let invaders beat us
Note to music leader: To the tune of “The Words of a Lily.” An enlightening psalm of David. It’s about when David fought wars with a coalition of Arameans from northern Syria: Aram-naharaim and Aram-zobah. And it’s about when Joab defeated 12,000 Edomites in Salt Valley.1 God, you broke up with us.
Then you broke us, snapping our defenses
You’re mad at us.
Please stop it. Take us back.
2 You’ve shaken the ground under us.
You split it wide open.
Heal the rifts in our land.
Fix this before it all caves in.
3 You’ve made life hard on your people.
It’s as though you gave us wine,
Because we’re staggering around like drunks.
4 You had us hang a banner
To rally people devoted to you.
But in the end, they ran away,
To avoid arrows of enemy archers.
Instruments5 Save the people you love.
You have in your right hand the power to do it.
So, do it. Save us.
God talks back6 God speaks from the Temple:
“I’m going to win the battles.
I’ll capture Shechem
And divide the land among my people.
I’ll do the same for Succoth Valley.
7 Regions of Gilead and Manasseh
Now belong to me.
So does the tribal land of Ephraim,
Which I’ll wear as my helmet.
Judah is the royal scepter in my hand.
8 But Moab will be just a wash bowl,
A place to get rid of dirt.
Edom? I’ll toss my sandals there.
As for those Philistines,
They’ll be screaming because of me.”
Invade Edom9 Who will go with me to attack the walled city?
Who will show me the way to the rocks of Edom?
We can’t win without God10 You’ve rejected us, haven’t you God?
You’re refusing to fight alongside our armies.
11 Please, help us fight our enemy.
We can’t beat them without you.
12 We could win this thing, with God’s help.
He’s the one who will crush our enemies.
It’s unclear what the Hebrew phrase means: shoshannim eduth. The word shoshannim means “lilies,” but not necessarily the flowers. Some scholars say it might refer to lily-shaped trumpets or to some other instruments. Eduth could refer to a contract agreement or someone’s testimony. It’s sometimes used in the company of the Ten Commandments. So, some scholars translate the phrase as “lily of the covenant” and “lily of the testimony.” How about “trumpet of the contract” perhaps? The phrase may have been the name of a well-known song.
“An enlightening psalm” is a guess. The original Hebrew word is maskil (mass-KEEL). Scholars say they aren’t sure what it means. They say they don’t even know if the word refers to the lyrics or the music. Maskil sounds a bit like another Hebrew word, askilkha, which means “let me enlighten you.” Some scholars associate maskil with a root word, sakal, which generates a lot of words with various meanings such as: thoughtful, instructive, wise, and proper. One theory is that the word relates to both lyrics and music. It could, for example, describe the lyrics as “thoughtful” and the music as a harmony fit for that theme.
The subtitle wasn’t part of the original psalm. And the possible byline “of David,” isn’t necessarily a byline. The vague phrase could mean the song was written by David, about David, or was inspired by David. Almost half of the psalms are attributed to David in this way, 73 of 150. Ancient Jewish history tells of David playing a lyre and writing songs. For one, he wrote a song of mourning at the battlefield death of King Saul and his sons: “How have the mighty fallen!” (2 Samuel 1:19-27 New American Standard Bible). An ancient Jewish scroll from about the time of Jesus, discovered among the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, reports that David wrote 3,600 songs.
2 Samuel 8:5. “Salt Valley” may have been near the Dead Sea, which has a higher salt concentration than the ocean. The Dead Sea’s water makes people too buoyant to sink.
The thundering sound of an advancing army can shake the ground and feel like a an earthquake.
The banner may have been a sign hung from the top of the city walls. This verse is difficult to translate because several of the key words have multiple meanings and can go in different directions. For example, the reference to running away from archers is based on a Hebrew word that might mean “bow.” But that same word could also mean “truth.” The approach used here is reminiscent of Jeremiah 4:6, in which a banner is being raised in Jerusalem, warning the people to run for their lives and not stay in the city.
The word in the original language of Hebrew is selah. Bible scholars haven’t figured out what it means yet, so all we can do is guess. It could mean “pause for effect,” “instrumental interlude,” or “choir singing ‘Amen.’” We’re offering a guess instead of selah. Though selah might be the better way to go because it’s always correct, it’s also always incomprehensible. “Instruments” has a good chance of being wrong, but at least we convey the idea that the Hebrew word behind it probably has something to do with enhancing the song.
Gilead and Manasseh were ancient Israelite territories east of the Jordan River in what are now parts of the Arab countries of Syria and Jordan.
The helmet is possibly a symbol of military power. Ephraim and Judah were the two main Israelite tribes west of the Jordan River, in what are now Israel and Palestinian Territories.
The Israelite capital of Jerusalem was in the tribe of Judah. The scepter—a royal rod—was a symbol of the king’s power.
The ancient kingdom of Edom was south of the Dead See, in what is now the Arab country of Jordan. This was the homeland of Esau, brother of Jacob. The Edomite fortress city of Petra, carved out of solid rock, is a popular tourist attraction.
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.