Please note that the verse numbering follows that of the RSVCE. The first three verses are my own translation; the remainder of the verses are from the RSVCE which is under copyright: “The Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1965, 1966 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”.
We saw that Psalm 4 was characterized as an evening prayer. Psalm 5 is generally held to be a morning prayer on the basis of verse 4. Perhaps we are to see a connection between the two psalms (Note the similar openings: Psalm 4:1 = Psalm 5:1-3. Also, note that both close with the theme of God providing security: Ps 4:8 = Ps 5:11-12).
Ps 5:1. Bend your ear to my speaking, O Lord, consider my complaint.
Ps 5:2. Prick up your ears to the call of my cry, my king and my God, for to you do I pray.
Ps 5:3. O LORD, at the dawn hear my voice, at the dawn I lay down preparations and look up. (my translation).
The opening shows that this is a song of lament or, as it is sometimes termed, a song of complaint (see footnote 1, NAB). The Psalmist calls upon God with four imperatives: “bend you ear“, “consider“, and “prick up your ears“, “hear my voice“. The imperatives are closely connected with the psalmist’s actions (“to you do I pray,” I make preparations“), and his expectations (i.e., his watching). Such imperatives are typical of complaint psalms and serve to highlight the petitioners confidence in God. Such confidence is also seen in his referring to the Lord as “my King and my God.” This confidence and insistent prayer is typical of biblical prayers (see Luke 11:5-13; and 18:1-8. See also CCC 2610 and 2613).
Vs 2 My king and my God. Personalizes the prayer. In ancient Israel a king wasn’t just a ruler, he was also a judge and defender of those who were in the right regarding legal and religious laws (see 1 Kings 3:18-27; 2 Sam 14:4-24). It appears that the psalmist is engaged in some form of legal contention with his adversaries and expects God to judge the case (see notes on vs 3). My God is the more personal part of the address. It is followed by the words for to you do I pray. Why this emphasis? Are we to understand that his enemies are in the habit of praying to other Gods?.
The Hebrew word for pray in verse 2 is related to a word for “judge.” The psalmist is here portrayed as a humble servant of a mighty potentate from whom he is begging a hearing on a legal matter because he desires the king’s judgment.
O LORD, at the dawn hear my voice. Both the liturgy and legal proceedings were heard in the morning. Some scholars suggest that the psalmist is facing an unjust legal accustation but is confident that he will receive a favorable judgment and as a result will offer a morning sacrifice in the temple (see below).
At the dawn I make preparations. The Hebrew ערך (‛ârak) has a wide range of meaning, including the preparation for making a sacrifice; a fact reflected in translations such as the RSV and ESV. But the word also has a legal sense, i.e., preparing a legal defense or presentation. This is reflected in various translations also (NIV, NLT). Many translations employ a reference to prayer (KJV, RV).
The Psalmist will look up to God for an answer (see Psalm 123). Again the psalmist expresses confidence that God will hear and answer him, because he knows that the Lord watches over the way of the just (see psalm 1:6. Also Psalm 121). This Looking up to God with confidence is based also on the Psalmist’s knowledge of the state of the wicked, they may not stand before God’s eyes. (see verse 6)
Ps 5:4. For thou art not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not sojourn with thee.
Ps 5:5. The boastful may not stand before thy eyes; thou hatest all evildoers.
Ps 5:6. Thou destroyest those who speak lies; the LORD abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful men.
Vs 4 For- acts as a conjunctive linking up what is said here about God with the confidence expressed by the Psalmist in verse 3. Wickedness- the Hebrew word is resha (reh-shah) which is often used in the Bible to describe those who pervert ethics or civil law.
Evil may not sojourn with thee. This could mean that no evil dwells in God. However, since the word is also used for dwelling in God’s tent (Psalm 15:1; 61:4) the meaning could be that evil men will sooner or later be exposed and cast out from worshiping at the temple (contrast with verse 7).
Vs 5 The boastful may not stand before thy eyes. Forms a nice contrast with the Psalmist’s attitude in verse 3. The Psalmist humbly lays down preparations before the Lord and watches (looks up) expectantly for a response; on the other hand, the boastful (those who make a spectacle of themselves in relation to God and men) cannot b stand in God’s sight.
thou hatest all evildoers. See3 Job 31:2-3–”For what is the portion from God above, and the heritage from the Almighty on high? Is it not calamity to the unrighteous, and disaster to the workers of iniquity?”
Vs 6 Thou destroyest those who speak lies. Again, this is probably referring to false accusers or witnesses in a legal (civil or religious) case. The prophets of the OT often condemned perjury and giving false witness, along with other perversions of the legal system (see Amos 5:7, 10; Isa 1:23; 5:18-24).
2476 False witness and perjury. When it is made publicly, a statement contrary to the truth takes on a particular gravity. In court it becomes false witness. 276 When it is under oath, it is perjury. Acts such as these contribute to condemnation of the innocent, exoneration of the guilty, or the increased punishment of the accused. 277 They gravely compromise the exercise of justice and the fairness of judicial decisions. (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Ps 5:7. But I through the abundance of thy steadfast love will enter thy house, I will worship toward thy holy temple in the fear of thee.
But I. establishes a strong contrast with the preceding verses which described both the sinners state and God’s attitude towards sinners. Because of the Lord’s steadfast love the Psalmist will enter thy (God’s) house, unlike the wicked whom the God of steadfast love is said to take no delight in, for evil will not sojourn with God (4). Only those who, like the psalmist, whorship toward God’s holy temple (vs 7) can stand before God’s eyes (vs 5).
Ps 5:8. Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of my enemies; make thy way straight before me.
Ps 5:9. 9 For there is no truth in their mouth; their heart is destruction, their throat is an open sepulchre, they flatter with their tongue.
Ps 5:10 Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of their many transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against thee.
Vs 8 Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness. Having established God’s superiority and power over the unrighteous, the psalmist calls upon God to make his (God’s) way straight before him. The psalmist, in other words, is asking God to direct his moral/religious life (the way of God).
Vs 9. For. Supplies the reason for the petition in verse 8. The moral/religious way of life of sinners is diametrically opposed to God’s way and leads to ruin (Psalm 1:1-6). Here we see the reason why.
There is no truth in their mouth, their heart is destruction, their throat is an open sepulchre. Everything about them is corruption and death. as the psalmist has previously mentioned, God has nothing to do with such people (Ps 5:4-6).
Vs 10 Let them fall by their own counsels…cast them out. That those who do evil trap themselves in their wickedness is a very common motif in the wisdom literature (see Ps 7:14-16). As we have seen, the wicked may not sojourn with God (4) and so it is fitting that the psalmist here asks that they be cast out. The boastful may not stand before God’s eyes (5) and so the psalmists pleads that they fall.
Ps 5:11 But let all who take refuge in thee rejoice, let them ever sing for joy; and do thou defend them, that those who love thy name may exult in thee.
Ps 5:12 For thou dost bless the righteous, O LORD; thou dost cover him with favor as with a shield.
Vs 11 But let all who take refuge in thee rejoice…and do thou defend them. The opening word “but” establishes a contrast with verse 10. The fate of the rebel against God (he is cast out) is very different from the fate of the refugee who rejoices in, and is defended by, God. God’s favor covers the righteous like a protecting shield and is an effect of his (God’s) own righteousness (verse 8)