We resume our reading of the Psalms. You will find an introduction to the Psalms, here.
A prayer for your used before reading from Gregory of Nazianus (329-389) an early Church father.
Lord, as I read the psalms let me hear you singing. As I read your words, let me hear you speaking. As I reflect on each page, let me see your image. And as I seek to put your precepts into practice, let my heart be filled with joy. Amen.
Psalm 57: An individual petition/lament. “Do Not Destroy” is likely the name of the melody. We do not know what “A Miktam” is. To read about David’s flight from Saul see 1 Sam 22:1-2; 24:1-23. This psalm is divided into sections by a refrain which is verse 5 and 11. Verse 1 is a cry for help. Verses 2-3 an expression of trust. Verses 4-6 the psalmist’s situation. Verse 5 the refrain. Verses 7-11 a vow.
Psalm 58: A communal lament. Verses 1-5 describe the actions or character of the enemies. The phrase “you gods” or “you lords” may refer to human judges or the pagan gods or perhaps the heavenly council. Verses 6-9 are the petition of the psalmist. Notice again, that the psalmist calls for God to act. The psalmist does not take actions into his own hands. Verses 10-11 are about the vindication of the righteous.
Psalm 59: Some believe this is an individual lament, others think it is a communal lament. Or perhaps it is an individual lament that has been adapted to community use. What do you think? See 1 Sam 11-19 for the story the psalm references. There is a structure to this psalm. V 1- 9 and 11-13 lament and petition
V 6 -7 and 14-15 refrain with dogs.
V 8 and 16 confidence in God
V 9 and 17 “O my strength….”
Psalm 60: A communal petition asking God to remember God’s people and to be faithful to God’s promises. The Lily of the Covenant is likely the melody. We do not know what a Miktam is. For the historical context see 2 Samuel 8:3-8 and 10:6-13. Verses 1-5 describe the situation and the petition. Verses 6-8 refer to God’s promises to the patriarchs. The places named either are Hebrew territories or were part of the United Monarchy. “I hurl my shoe” (v8) is likely a reference to a legal act claiming ownership of property. (See Ruth 4:7). Verses 9-12 are a prayer for victory. As is common in the psalms success depends on God’s actions not human actions.
Psalm 61: A lament, a prayer for help. Verses 1-4 call upon God for help and offer a prayer. “From the end of the earth” may refer to the psalmist being in exile or perhaps near death. Verses 5 and 8 are thanksgiving. Verses 6-7 are an intercession on behalf of the king. Kings were to offer safety to travelers. Kings were also associated with the Temple, as God’s anointed. Notice the many metaphors for the Temple, Rock, refuge, tower, tent, shelter of your wings.
Here are several good sources to aid your reading of the Psalms
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Clifford, Richard, “Psalms” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version.Coogan, Michael D.; Brettler, Marc Z.; Perkins, Pheme; Newsom, Carol A. (2010-01-20) Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
Stuhlmueller, Carroll, “Psalms” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
McCann,Jr, J. Clifton “Psalms”,in The New Interpreter’s Bible Vol 3, Keck, Leander E. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 1996.