Psalm 9 Study Notes


Ps 9 title The Hebrew word Muth-labben could be related to Alamoth, which appears in the title of Ps 46. It could be translated as “for the death of a son” in the sense of being used for that occasion. More likely it identifies a specific tune or style of music. Ps 10 does not have a title and is joined to this psalm in the LXX and the Vulgate. Another reason for seeing Pss 9 and 10 as one is that there is an alphabetic acrostic that begins in Ps 9 and is continued in Ps 10. However, there is a sufficient change that takes place, especially in terms of mood and form (Ps 9 focuses on thanksgiving whereas Ps 10 takes the form of a lament psalm). This seems to argue for them being two distinct psalms.

9:1 With all my heart means “sincerely” (86:12; 111:1; 119:10). Wondrous works are unspecified here, but elsewhere the phrase refers to God’s acts of creation (136:4), his works in the natural order (Jb 5:9), or the redemptive acts performed on behalf of his people (Ex 3:20).

9:2 The name Most High (‘Elyon) is used twenty-one times in the Psalms.

9:3 The retreat and stumbling of enemies describes either an event recently experienced or a frequent situation brought about by God (27:2; 56:9).

9:4-6 The verbs in these verses express completed action, indicating the confidence of the psalmist that the execution of God’s justice was certain. In this context, the throne describes God’s judgment (v. 7; 11:4) more than his rule, as it is sometimes used (45:6). Their name being erased and their memory perishing are related phrases; they refer to complete annihilation and the destruction of one’s existence (21:10; 83:4; Dt 32:26).

9:7-8 The Lord is enthroned forever (29:10; 93:2) and is portrayed as judging the world (see note at 7:6-8). Even though there will be a final judgment of the world in the future (96:13; 98:9), God is currently executing his justice on the world as well since he is and has always been the Judge of the earth (94:2).

9:9-10 The fact that the Lord is on his throne is a comfort to the persecuted because he offers them protection (a refuge) from the wicked who afflict them. The phrases know your name, and trust in you, and seek you have essentially the same meaning. They describe those who have personal, experiential knowledge of the Lord (“knows” is connected with love in 91:14), and who depend on him and look to him in times of need.

9:11 Sing and proclaim are parallel commands indicating the responsibility of those who know God and his works to tell others about him (30:4; 1Ch 16:8; Is 12:4).

9:12 Bloodshed is literally “bloods”; it is used in a phrase describing the avenging of murder (Gn 9:5; 42:22; Ezk 33:6).

9:13-14 The plea in v. 13 has a purpose, which is to declare all your praises. This further expands the commands in v. 11 and shows how the psalmist’s deliverance will be used to tell others about God’s goodness. Rescue from the gates of death will allow him to once again enter the gates of Daughter Zion. This description of Jerusalem appears only here in the Psalms, but it is not uncommon in other books, especially Isaiah and Lamentations. It refers to more than the city itself, including its inhabitants as well.

9:15-16 The idea of enemies suffering the same fate that they had planned for someone else is found in other psalms (7:15-16; 35:8; 57:6). In this case, the enemies are the nations who are being judged by God for their rebellion against his authority (2:1). This is clear from the parallel designation the wicked in v. 16. Higgaion comes perhaps from a Hebrew root meaning “murmur.” It might refer to the use of quieter instruments.

9:17-18 There is a play on the word forget in these verses. Those who forget God will go to Sheol, a place where they are forgotten (88:5), a concept similar to that of 9:5-6. In contrast, the future looks good for those who trust in the Lord but are currently being persecuted by others; the God of justice will see to it that they are remembered.

9:19-20 Rise up is a martial call for the Lord to act (see note at 7:6-8). More specifically, he is asked to put terror in them. This is not the “fear of the Lord” that is characteristic of those who believe in the Lord but the terror of people at the approach of an army (Dt 2:25; 11:25).