Psalms - Chapter 11
(The following material is compiled predominantly from an anthology of Orthodox Jewish commentary, written and arranged by Rabbi Avroham Chaim Feuer from the Artscroll Tanach Series Tehillim Volume 1. Additional insights from a Nazarene Israelite perspective have been added by Jason Jordan. Additional Tehillim translation by Rabbi Hillel Danziger)
The leading Sages do not agree on the specific event in David’s life to which this Psalm refers. However, all agree that this chapter represents a chronicle of treachery, recounting the slander of those who wished to undermine David. These wicked men flatly denied the cornerstone of our faith, ‘personal divine guidance’ and refused to accept the fact that YHWH is ever-present and intimately involved in human affairs. David’s many misfortunes served them as evidence that YHWH abandons everyone, even the righteous. David forcefully responds to this heresy with his own resounding declaration of unshakable faith.
The Holy Spirit Drop Away
When one of YHWH’s devout ones is in agony it is customary for him to cry out emotionally, “Answer me YHWH, answer me!” (1 Kings 18:37)
. But, when the wicked look on at the unanswered pleas of the righteous they are unable to see or comprehend the deeper dimension of the situation and they quickly proclaim, ‘Their Elohim has abandoned them.’ On the contrary, YHWH’s precise guidance in acquiring victory for the righteous is equally present should He deem one survive a trial or be killed by it. Job’s victory involved loss of children, loss of material wealth and severe illness, whereas Yahshua’s victory for all mankind involved rejection, severe pain and death. Both men fulfilled the roles they had been pre-ordained to play and secured full victories, but on an ignorant earthly level one can cite the death of one as equating to failure.
We should not be like the heathen and judge exceedingly severe trials or even a seemingly premature demise of a believer as sole evidence of a failed victory. The physical realm, at times only exhibits about 20% of what’s happening in the greater spiritual realm, so it is supremely important to enquire of YHWH and be prudent before we risk slandering celestial beings.
But what is exactly going on when a supposed righteous one becomes abandoned just before their victory, whether they survive to live another day in the natural or whether YHWH decides to snatch them back into His bosom?
According to the Talmud, when Queen Esther was on her way to plea for the overturning of Harman’s evil decree against all Israel she passed through one of the king’s chambers that was full of idols and she immediately felt the Ruach HaKodesh leave her. At this moment she uttered these words in anguish, “My Elohim, My Elohim, why have you left me?”
Before Yahshua could atone for man’s sins he had to pass through a sphere of Tzimtzum that was completely barren of YHWH’s presence. This was a full withdrawal of the Spirit to test his devotion whilst still confined to his beaten and battered body. Matthew 27:46; “And about the ninth hour Yahshua cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is, my Mighty One, my Mighty One, why have You forsaken me?”
Like King David who also felt the complete withdrawal of the Father’s Shikinah despite attaining purification through fasting, prayer and study, the deepest drop before the revival had to be experienced. Psalms 22:2-3; “My Eli, my Eli why have You forsaken me! So far from saving me, from the words of my outcry? My Eli, I call out by day, and You do not answer; at night-but there is no respite for me.”
The trust in the heart of David, Esther and Yahshua was matured enough to not react by emotionally lashing out at YHWH when they felt His deliberate withdrawal. They simply asked, “Why YHWH, does Your salvation appear to be delayed?” In contrast, the Children of Israel did not react with such a respectful inquiry. When they reached the shore of the red sea a distant sound of many marching soldiers, horses and chariots could be heard. As it grew loader and loader the very ground trembled beneath their feet. They immediately erupted into panic. Exodus 14:10-13; “As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to YHWH. They said to Moshe, 'Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we say to you in Egypt, Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’ Moshe answered the people, 'Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance YHWH will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.'"
Unlike David, Esther and Yahshua, Moshe was permitted to comfort Israel in their time of doubt due to their spiritual immaturity. But their harsh words to Moshe did not go unnoticed by the Almighty. Expressing vehement doubt in YHWH is the same as an attack on His Kingdom.
The Egyptians didn’t gain on the Israelites because of their own strength; YHWH brought them there. He even allowed them to come clearly into view. YHWH also allowed the spies to see enormous inhabitants in the Land, in fact if the spies had not been sent, Israel would have first glimpsed the giants all lined up in battle formations. Imagine thousands of men, eight times the stature of Goliath armed and ready for battle. There’s always someone bigger and always a situation that we’ll be tempted to let get the better of us, but there’s no-one bigger than YHWH. When faced with seemingly insurmountable odds we should learn to say these simple words, “But YHWH.” When YHWH is steering the course of our lives we should have no reason to fear man or for that matter any earthly thing.
Verse 1 “For the Conductor; of David. In YHWH I took refuge. “How dare you say to me: ‘flee, bird, to your mountain!’?”
“For the Conductor; of David. In YHWH I took refuge.” Rashi says David refers to the dark days when he was a fugitive hunted by Saul. Once he was chased out of the Holy Land and forced to seek refuge on foreign soil. To leave Eretz Yisrael is to leave the presence of YHWH, for in the Land YHWH’s Holy Spirit comes closest to His people. David once bitterly lamented his flight from Israel in these terms: “…for they have driven me out this day from being joined to the estate of YHWH” (1 Samuel 26:19)
. David now declares his complete trust in YHWH that he will one day return to the intimate closeness of Elohim’s proximity.
“How dare you say to me…” Midrash Shocher Tov illustrates this trust, drawing upon another verse, “YHWH is mine, I shall not fear” (Psalms 118:6).
This may be likened to the king who was especially fond of one of his servants. This caused great animosity and jealously among the other attendants who glared menacingly at the favourite. But the favourite remained unafraid, saying to himself: The master’s affection is mine, what man can harm me?
David’s opponents predicated that his body would be killed by Saul and that his soul would find no rest in heaven. They viewed that his soul would be punished in a way known as “the sling shot” because his soul would be slung into a perpetual orbit revolving around the world and never rising upward to reach the coveted heavenly paradise.
Verse 2; “For behold the wicked bend the bow, ready their arrow on the bowstring, To shoot under darkness at the upright of heart.”
Just as you betray me by disclosing my hiding place to Saul, so too, will other evil men be informers wherever I flee. For the wicked are always prepared to do evil like the archer whose bow is bent with his arrows ready to shoot (Radak).
David refers here specifically to the wicked Doeg and the other tale bearers and scandal-mongers of that generation who maliciously provoked animosity between him and Saul (Rashi).
The Sages tell us that tale-bearing is even deadlier than the lethal arrow. For an arrow only kills the victim who is within a certain distance whereas slander has the potential to kill from an unlimited distance.
Verse 3; “You have torn down the foundations, what has the righteous man done?”
By the hand of the wicked were the priests of Nob murdered. Therefore the foundation of Holiness, which formed the pillars of the earth were torn down.
According to Rashi and Metzudas David this is a rhetorical question: ‘What have I, the righteous one, done sinfully in this entire affair? You Saul and Doeg will pay for this crime, not I.”
Verse 4; “YHWH is I His Holy Temple, YHWH’s throne is in heaven, His eyes scrutinize, His pupils examine mankind.”
From the Holy Temple YHWH observes and examines all the deeds of the wicked (Rashi).
Midrash Shocher Tov tells us this refers to the Holy Temple on earth. When Israel is obedient to His will, Elohim is pleased with them and He dwells near them, on earth.
At times YHWH is very near, ‘in His Holy Temple’ and His presence and supervision make it evident that, “His eyes behold’ every human action clearly. But sometimes, He removes His presence from the lower world and rises, to His throne in heaven. Then it seems as if He is closing His eyes and covering them with “lids” so-to-speak. At this time, people can delude themselves into thinking that YHWH is not watching, but when this occurs mankind is more deeply examined. YHWH weeds out those who do evil surreptitiously and those who serve YHWH regardless without deception, out of unswerving love and faith. Thus, by covering His eyes with His eyelids, YHWH does not detach Himself from the world, rather, He becomes more involved by testing and examining the genuine sincerity of mankind. This is the secret to His departure from the righteous and why they inquire as to where He is at these times.
So to sum up, the Holy Spirit literally drops away at crucial times to test man’s devotion.
Verse 5; “YHWH examines the righteous one, but the wicked and the lover of violence He despises.”
Said David to his enemies: Because I am afflicted and pursued by you, you exult and say, “Elohim has abandoned him" (Psalms 71:11)
. But this is not the case. For the way of YHWH is to afflict and test the righteous, but not the wicked. This may be likened to the flaxmaker, who, when he knows that the flax is strong and durable, beats it vigorously. But when it is not strong he refrains from beating, lest it shred and fall apart (Rashi).
Verse 6; “He will rain down upon the wicked fiery coals and brimstone, A burning blast is their allotted portion.”
Though rain is specified, this verse implies everything that comes down from the sky (Hirsch).
The Sage Hirsch explains that the good which YHWH sends to the wicked man brings Him no happiness. All Yah’s bounties are actually traps upon which the wicked treads without concern and which finally lead to his ruin. Thus we read (Psalms 69:23): “Let their table which is before them be for a trap.” That is, they will be caught and punished as a result of their prosperity.
Verse 7; “For YHWH is righteous, and He loves the righteous man. The upright will behold His face.”
YHWH loves the man that performs righteous deeds (Rashi; Radak).
Usually, a craftsman despises his competitors and rivals, but YHWH is not so. He loves the righteous men (Midrash Shocher Tov).
This is similar to a king of flesh and blood. Those who are his favourites are allowed to stand in his presence to behold him directly face to face (Metzudas David).
Malbim emphasizes that the person who is the opposite of the upright man, serves Elohim in a warped, crooked fashion. His concern is only for reward. Only vaguely does he care about YHWH. But the man who serves YHWH forwardly, deserves to behold YHWH’s face directly in the Hereafter.