The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 141

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 14, 2016

An Introduction to Psalm 141

THE psalmist prays that his tongue may be guarded and his heart restrained from evil things—so that he may have no dealings with the wicked. It would seem as if the psalmist and his associates were being tempted towards worldliness and sin. Perhaps there is question of temptations to abandon some of the stricter tenets of Judaism, and the tempters are, possibly, Jews of high rank and great wealth who have made approaches towards heathenism. But the psalmist declares that it is better to be rebuked by the Just One than to be flattered by sinners. He will take no part in the luxuries of sinners, but the gentle words of chiding and warning which come from the Lord he will receive as one receives an anointing on the head with precious ointment. Lest in a moment of weakness he might yield to the seductions of the worldly and wicked, the psalmist prays that their leaders may be cast headlong down the rocks, so that the simpler ones among them may learn that the words which the psalmist speaks are words of power. The psalmist and his comrades are in urgent need of help from the Lord. Like clods scattered over the surface of the ground their bodies are scattered, as it were, close to the greedy mouth of Sheol. If they are not quickly rescued they will be swallowed up. Hence the psalmist declares that his eyes are fixed on the Lord, looking eagerly for a token of coming rescue. Let not Yahweh fail him—lest in spite of his faith and protestations, he become a laughing-stock among the wicked. Let the wicked be entrapped in the snares and nets which they have set for him and his associates. The speedy discomfiture of his foes will have the twofold effect of removing the temptations which are assailing him,, and of setting him right before the world as a loyal servant of the Lord.

The psalm is attributed to David in the superscription, but modern critics are not prepared to accept for it a Davidic origin. It has been inferred (quite wrongly we think) from verse 2 that the daily sacrifices in the Temple were no longer being regularly conducted when the psalm was composed. The psalmist does not, as some writers seem to fancy, hope that his prayer may serve as a substitute for sacrificial offerings that are no longer taking place; he prays that his words of prayer may ascend before the Lord as pleasingly as the odour of the sacrificial incense and the Minhah arises to the throne of Yahweh. The Massoretic text of this psalm is in a very unsatisfactory condition, and it would seem, too, that the Greek translators were here less successful in their rendering than in most of the other psalms. Thus, while the general meaning of the poem is clear enough, the sense of some of the verses is almost hopelessly obscure.


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