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Psalm 60

Prayer for National Victory after Defeat

To the leader: according to the Lily of the Covenant. A Miktam of David; for instruction; when he struggled with Aram-naharaim and with Aram-zobah, and when Joab on his return killed twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.


O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses;

you have been angry; now restore us!


You have caused the land to quake; you have torn it open;

repair the cracks in it, for it is tottering.


You have made your people suffer hard things;

you have given us wine to drink that made us reel.



You have set up a banner for those who fear you,

to rally to it out of bowshot. Selah


Give victory with your right hand, and answer us,

so that those whom you love may be rescued.



God has promised in his sanctuary:

“With exultation I will divide up Shechem,

and portion out the Vale of Succoth.


Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine;

Ephraim is my helmet;

Judah is my scepter.


Moab is my washbasin;

on Edom I hurl my shoe;

over Philistia I shout in triumph.”



Who will bring me to the fortified city?

Who will lead me to Edom?


Have you not rejected us, O God?

You do not go out, O God, with our armies.


O grant us help against the foe,

for human help is worthless.


With God we shall do valiantly;

it is he who will tread down our foes.

4 Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee. Some interpreters would change the past tense, and read the words as if they formed a continuation of the prayers which precede — O that thou wouldst give a banner to them that fear thee! 386386     Boothroyd gives a translation similar to this, and thinks that this is required by the connection. But see note 3, p. 397. But it is better to suppose that David diverges to the language of congratulation, and, by pointing to the change which had taken place, calls attention to the evident appearances of the divine favor. He returns thanks to God, in the name of all the people, for having raised a standard which might at once cheer their hearts, and unite their divided numbers. 387387     Hamer has given a very ingenious explanation of this passage, derived from the manners of the East. “It seems,” says he, “that the modern Eastern people have looked upon the giving them a banner as a more sure pledge of protection ‘than that given by words.’ So Albertus Aquensis tell us, that when Jerusalem was taken in 1099, about three hundred Saracens got upon the roof of a very lofty building, and earnestly begged for quarter, but could not be induced, by any promises of safety, to come down, until they had received the banner of Tancred [one of the chiefs of the Crusade army] as a pledge of life. It did not, indeed, avail them, as that historian observes; for their behavior occasioned such indignation that they were destroyed to a man. The event showed the faithlessness of these zealots, whom no solemnities could bind; but the Saracens surrendering themselves upon the delivery of a standard to them, proves in what a strong light they looked upon the giving them a banner; since it induced them to trust it when they would not trust any promises. Perhaps the delivery of a banner was anciently esteemed, in like manner, an obligation to protect, and the Psalmist might consider it in this light, when, upon a victory gained over the Syrians and Edomites, after the public affairs of Israel had been in a bad state, he says, ‘Thou hast showed thy people hard things, etc.; thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee.’ Though thou didst for a time give up thine Israel into the hands of their enemies, thou hast now given them an assurance of thy having received them under thy protection.” — Observations, volume 3, pp. 496, 497. Harmer supposes that our translation, which speaks of a banner displayed, is inaccurate; observing, that it is most probable that the Israelites anciently used only a spear, properly ornamented to distinguish it from a common one — a supposition which he founds on the fact, that a very long spear, covered all over with silver, and having a ball of gold on the top, was the standard of the Egyptian princes at the time of the Crusade wars, and was carried before their armies. He proposes to read, “Thou hast given an ensign or standard [נם, nes] to them that fear thee, that it may be lifted up.” But Parkhurst considers the radical meaning of the Hebrew word נם, nes, to be a banner or ensign, from its waving or streaming in the wind; in other words, a streamer See his Lexicon on נם. Mant’s explanation of the phrase is similar to that of Calvin. “In this place,” says he, “it may mean no more than that God had united his people under one head, and so enabled them to meet their enemies by repairing to the standard of their sovereign.” “The banner, or standard of an army,” says Walford, “is the object of constant attention to soldiers: so long as it is safe, and elevated, so long courage, hope, and energy, are maintained. The poet uses this symbol to express his hope that God Himself would be the source of their valor and success, in order that the truth, the promise made to David, might be accomplished.” It is a poor and meagre interpretation which some have attached to the words, before the truth, that God showed favor to the Jews because he had found them true-hearted, and sound in his cause. Those in the higher ranks had, as is well known, proved eminently disloyal; the common people had, along with their king, broken their divine allegiance: from the highest to the lowest in the kingdom all had conspired to overthrow the gracious purpose of God. It is evident, then, that David refers to the truth of God as having emerged in a signal manner, now that the Church began to be restored. This was an event which had not been expected. Indeed, who did not imagine, in the desperate circumstances, that God’s promises had altogether failed? But when David mounted the throne, his truth, which had been so long obscured, again shone forth. The advantage which ensued extended to the whole nation; but David intimates that God had a special respect to his own people, whose deliverance, however few they might be in number, he particularly contemplated.

He next proceeds to address God again in prayer; although, I may observe in passing, the words which follow, that thy beloved may be delivered, are read by some in connection with the preceding verse. I am myself inclined to adopt that construction; for David would seem to magnify the illustration which had been given of the divine favor, by adverting to the change which had taken place, 388388     The Latin is here concise — “Nam in ipsa varietate David magnitudinem gratiae commendat.” Accordingly, the French version amplifies the passage — “Car David en proposant la diversite et la changement d’un temps a l’autre magnifie,” etc. God having inspirited his people so far as to display a banner; where, formerly, they were reduced to a state of extremity, from which it seemed impossible to escape without a miracle. In the previous verse he calls them fearers of the Lord, and now his beloved; implying that, when God rewards such as fear and worship him, it is always with a respect to his own free love. And prayer is subjoined: for however great may be the favors which God has bestowed upon us, modesty and humility will teach us always to pray that he would perfect what his goodness has begun.

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