Psalms - Chapter 10
(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)
This Psalm’s lack of introduction and continuation of the same theme as the last, that of YHWH’s concealment, prompted the Sages to consider it as a sequel to Psalm 9.
Here David tells of the tyranny and despotism which face Israel on a broad national scale which affects all of human history. However, Psalms 10 deals with everyday human relations with the degenerate man who has cast off the yoke of moral law and threatens to harm defenceless individuals.
The Sage Radak holds that David did not dedicate this Psalm to any particular event, rather he composed it with the intention that it should be a prayer for any man who finds himself threatened by an enemy.
According to Ashkenazic ritual, this Psalm is recited during “The Ten days of Repentance.” This practice may be explained in the light of the Talmud which states that Elohim is very close to each individual during this ten day period and so it is the ideal season for sincere repentance, as the prophet says, “Seek out YHWH while He may be found” (Isaiah 55:6)
Thus a person who fails to feel YHWH’s proximity during these days cries out in anguish, “Why YHWH do You stand aloof? Hiding yourself in times of Torment?”
Psalms 10 – Hide and Seek
Verse 1; “Why YHWH, do You stand aloof; hiding Yourself in times of torment?”
YHWH does indeed stand at a distance, but we, Israel are to blame for this, not He. When we neglect YHWH’s call to us and attempt to push Him out of our lives, He goes, as it says: “And so, just as they did not listen when I called out, so shall they call out and I will not listen, says YHWH, Lord of Hosts.” (Zechariah 7:13)
Rabbi Yochanan said: ‘For three and one half years the Shechinah, Elohim’s presence, stood atop the Mount of olives and proclaimed constantly, “Seek out YHWH while He may be found. “(Isaiah 55:6)
. But the people paid no attention to the call.
Rabbi Chanina said: This can be likened to the captain of a caravan who was invited by a peasant to spend the night in his home, but the captain turned down the offer saying, “It is not the custom of the captain to lodge in a lowly hut.” When night fell and wrapped the captain in a deep, lonely darkness, he decided to return to the hut and ask for shelter. However, now the peasant answered from behind his bolted door: ‘It is not the custom of the peasant to open his doors to unknown strangers at night. When I invited you to enter you refused, now I can no longer take you in. So, to YHWH called out, pleading with Israel to return but they refused. Then YHWH said: “I will go and return to my abode, until they acknowledge their offence and seek out My Presence” (Hoshea 5:15)
The most frightening thing about YHWH’s eventual departure is how it can go by unnoticed as if He tiptoes away while you’re busy impressing an audience with theological back flips and somersaults.
YHWH tiptoed away from Korah in the wilderness rebellion, from Sampson when he turned from his vow, from Saul when his jealousy was roused and even from the wisest of all men - Solomon. These men were spiritual giants and yet they fell, how much more should we, who are babes, be guarded against turning the Father away.
We must not flinch or shrink away from the task that is set before us. We should not hide away from the outside world, but go out and proclaim the Kingdom.
Inactivity motivated to avoid trials can lead to even greater mayhem. Proverbs 21:25; “The desire of the sluggish man will kill him; for his hands refuse to work.”
We’re at war! Being idle is the polar opposite to the act of the nerve racking evangelism, which all believers are called to do! 2 Timothy 4:5
says; “…keep your head in all situations, endure hardship (and) do the work of an evangelist.” If we hold up in a ghetto and wait for Messiah we are not forewarning or preparing anyone, least of all us, for the return of a vengeful Messiah who will have his tallit dipped in blood. Sometimes we complain about Israel’s inability to push aggressively against its enemies when we won’t even push against our own laziness that leads to a dullness of the heart. If we truly believe that we have been given a special privilege by being shown a truth that is ignored by the majority, we would show that gratitude by getting in and working hard. Luke 12:42-48; “YHWH answered, "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. "That servant who knows his master's will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27; “you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
Verse 2; “In the wicked one’s haughtiness, he hunts down the poor who are caught in the devices which they have contrived.”
Rabbeinu Yonah writes in Shaarei Teshuva: Haughtiness and pride are the cause of many other sins, for pride gives a man’s Evil Inclination the power to overcome him. As it says: “In the wicked one’s haughtiness he hunts down the poor.” Not only is conceit a cause of other sins, but it is also itself a sin as it says: “All who are proud of heart are an abomination to YHWH” (Proverbs 16:5). Because YHWH despises this man, He does not help him at all to conquer his evil impulse. Eventually he will fall “Pride goes before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)
Verse 3; “For the wicked man glorifies in his personal desires, and the brazen robber blesses himself for blaspheming YHWH.”
The wicked man glories in his ability to fill all the unbridled desires of his spirit without anyone hindering him. Show him, YHWH, that You are the Master, by trapping him in his own devices.” “Those who forsake the Torah praise the wicked, but those who keep the Torah resist them.”(Proverbs 28:4)
Verse 4; “The wicked man, in the pride of his countenance, says: ‘He will not avenge!’”
The excessive pride of the heart is visible on the face. The entire face is called “a nose,” for the nose is the most prominent facial feature because it protrudes outward more than any other part (Radak; Ibn Ezra). Be cautious that the pride of your heart does not grow so inflated that it appears on your face when you speak. Instead be humble. One can disagree, but do it with dignity and grace.
Verse 5; “All his thoughts are: ‘There is no Elohim.’ His ways are always successful, Your judgements are far removed from him. But as for all His foes? – He puffs at them!”
Deep down in the heart of the heretic, he recognises the truth of YHWH’s omnipotence and this thought gives him no rest. Since the wicked man wishes to remain uninhibited and unrestricted – he feels compelled to smother the internal voice of his conscience by constantly repeating the heresy, “There is no Elohim!” (Psalms 14:1)
Have you ever noticed those who get involved in heretical ideas within the faith always feel the need to talk about and justify their view and actions? No wonder, because if they were silent, just for a few minutes, their inner voice would convict them of their folly.
Verse 6; “He says in his heart: ‘I shall never fall for all generations I shall not be in adversity.”
The success of the wicked is a worse fate than failure because the wicked who prosper heap greater judgment upon themselves. The greater the wicked man becomes the greater his belief that no mishap will befall him and he will never be able to repent.
Verse 7; “He fills his mouth with oaths, with deception and malice, and under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.”
When the wicked wish to deceive people, they utter oaths with their entire mouth, i.e. with vehemence, without hesitation of fear, in order to convince people of their sincerity (Radak).
The thoughts of the heart are concealed until they are uttered by the tongue (Radak).
Verse 8; “He waits in ambush near open cities, in hidden places he murders the innocent, His eyes spy on the helpless.”
Most wicked men hide far away from cities and in dense forests, but these wicked men are so confident in their deceptive masquerade that they lurk near open cities, without fear of detection.
Verse 9; “He lurks in hiding like a lion, he lurks in concealment to seize the poor, then he seizes the poor when he draws his net.”
A vicious man is far more dangerous than the most ferocious beast. For the beast only attacks the prey which it sees in its immediate vicinity. It has no mental capacity to scheme and plan an elaborate hunt. But man is endowed with a far-reaching intellect. YHWH endowed him with this gift so that he should seek out perfection. However, man distorts his mission and uses his mind as a weapon to hurt others in ingenious ways through elaborate machinations (Moreh Nevuchim 1:7).
Verse 10; “He stoops down prostrate, and the helpless fall pray to his might.”
The wicked person is morally low and weak. He is like a disabled man, but this can also be his means of attack, by appearing weak as to not rouse suspicion.
Verse 11; “He says in his heart: Elohim has forgotten, He hides His face, He will never see, forever.”
The wicked man may even admit that there is an Elohim, but claims that he has no interest in human affairs (Ibna Ezra). In truth a wicked man’s deeds eat away at him and his haughty words serve to drown out inner doubt, but if old age reaches him, this inner doubt prevails as the vigour of his haughtiness subsides. Isaiah 57:21; “There is no peace, says my Elohim, for the wicked.”
Antiochus IV is remembered as a major villain and persecutor in the Jewish traditions associated with Chanukah. He can be read about in The Book of Maccabees and the Scroll of Antiochus. Rabbinical sources refer to him as הרשע harasha ("the wicked").
After committing countless atrocities against the Jews he died years later away from his Kingdom still on campaign. He died from a sudden disease or “dis-ease.” For it is documented that before his end he was troubled by a perpetual delirium, imagining that spectres stood continually before him shrieking and wailing for his soul.
Verse 12; “Arise, YHWH! O Elohim, raise Your hand! Forget not the poor!”
YHWH lift up Your mighty hand and smite the wicked man. Show him that You have not forgotten the poor and humble (Metzudas David).
Verse 13; “Why does the wicked man blaspheme Elohim? Because he says in his heart: ‘You will not avenge.”
A man cannot be sure of anything, much less proclaim certainty that the Almighty will not avenge the poor and downtrodden. Even believers are warned by Yahshua’s brother Ya’akov not to carry on as if every day is guaranteed. James 4:13-17; “13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”
Verse 14; “But You do see! For You observe mischief and vexation. To grant is in Your Power; Helpless rely upon You, the orphan – You were the Helper.”
Not only does YHWH see the actions of the wicked, but He is aware of their every thought to do mischief and their plans for vexation (Malbim).
Verse 15; “Break the strength of the wicked; the evil one - You will search for his wickedness and find it not.”
Shatter the might of the wicked that they will acknowledge You as the Elohim of justice and retribution (Metzdas David). The wicked entice others to do wickedness when no immediate punishment is perceived, but when punishment comes, no wicked one will be found because wickedness will be undesirable to all.
Verse 16; “YHWH is king forever and ever, when the people have perished from the earth.”
After YHWH punishes the pillagers, He will be recognised as King throughout the world and no one will dare defy Him (Radak).
Verse 17; “The desire of the humble You heard, YHWH, You direct their heart, You are attentive.”
YHWH hears the desires of the humble hearted even before they articulate them. (Radak).
Verse 18; “To vindicate the orphan and the downtrodden, so that they shall no longer terrify the frail from the earth.”
YHWH removes the orphan and downtrodden soul’s preoccupation with the problems of this world which interfere with their concentration. Thus their prayers will be recited with such pure intentions that YHWH will surely listen and respond favourably (Radak).