- A psalm of David1
Lord, I have a request
- 1 LORD, I need to talk to you.
Please, quickly, I need you to listen.
- 2 Consider my prayer as an offering,
Like fragrant incense in the Temple.
I’m raising my hands,
As I would for the evening sacrifice.
- 3 Please post a guard at my mouth.
I need your help controlling what comes out that door,
past the swinging hinges of my lips.
- 4 Don’t let my head develop a mind of its own,
With a fondness for evil,
Friendships with the wicked,
And a taste for the delicacies they serve.
- 5 If I stray, may good people
Kindly call me out for it.
That correction would be as welcome
As the finest olive oil anointing my head.
I’m continuing to pray for protection
From sinners who would lure me into sin.2
- 6 When they stand in front of their judge, the Rock,
They’ll understand what I said—and agree with it.
- 7 When we plow the ground,
We break the earth and scatter the clumps.
In much the same way,
Our bones fall apart in the grave,
At the mouth of the place of the dead.3
- 8 Lord God, I’ve locked my eyes on you.
I’m coming to you for protection.
Don’t leave me helpless.
- 9 Don’t let me step into the jaws of a trap
Evil people have set to stop me.
- 10 Let them step into their own traps,
While I walk on by, safely.
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.
Verses 5-7 are littered with words that puzzle scholars. The confusion is the reason why Bible translations of those verses vary so dramatically. These differences represent scholars making their best educated guesses, based in part on context clues and in their studies of the meaning of ancient Hebrew words and related words in languages of neighboring countries of what is now the Middle East.
Literally, Sheol, a word Old Testament writers used to describe the place of the dead. It is a kind of underworld where the dead are cut off from the living—and from God—and there is no coming back.