- Note to music leader: To the tune of “Silent Dove So Far Away.”1 An enlightening psalm2 of David2 about when Philistines captured him in the city of Gath.4
I refuse to be afraid
- 1 Please God, show me some mercy.
People are hunting me down.
They press their attack all day.
- 2 My enemies keep coming.
And there are a lot of them
Proud5 to fight against me.
- 3 When I’m afraid
I trust you.
- 4 I sing the praises of God’s promises.
I trust God.
I refuse to be afraid.
What can mere humans do to me.
- 5 All day they twist my words.
All they can think about is how to hurt me.
- 6 They plot their ambush.
They track me, watching my every move.
They want to kill me.
- 7 In spite of their crime,
would you let them go free?
Please God, unleash your anger
And take them down.
God catches my tears
- 8 You know where I’ve been.
You’ve caught my tears and held them.
They’re recorded in your book, aren’t they?
- 9 My enemies will turn and run
The day I call on you.
This much I know without a doubt:
God is with me and on my side.
- 10 I sing praises about God’s promises.
I sing praises about the LORD’s promises.
- 11 I trust in God.
Doggone it, I refuse to be afraid.
What can people do to me?
- 12 The promises I made to you, dear God,
Are the promises I’ll keep.
I’ll express my gratitude to you
In an offering of thanks.6
- 13 You’ve saved my life.
You’ve kept me from tripping up.
You’ve kept me walking with you
In the light of day and in the land of the living.
It’s unclear what the Hebrew phrase means, as evidenced by the different ways various Bible versions translate it. Scholars say that a literal meaning could be something like “according to a dove of speechlessness of distant ones.” Some scholars talk like that when they’re on the job, but not eating a hotdog at a ballgame. An ancient Jewish interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, the Targum, interprets the dove as the people of Israel when they are far from their promised homeland, yet praising God from a distance.
“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.
When David was on the run from King Saul, he fled to Saul’s enemies, the Philistines. Gath wasn’t just one of the Philistine cities. It was the hometown of Goliath, champion warrior David had killed.
It could be easy to understand the pride of someone taking on a giant killer like David, who defeated the Philistine champion Goliath in mortal combat (1 Samuel 17:49-51).
Thanksgiving offerings were partially eaten by the worshipper, at a meal with family and friends. Burnt offerings were different. They atoned for sin, and were entirely burned in the fire.