Psalms - Chapter 9
(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)
In the previous Psalm, David sang of the Divine order manifest in the wonders of creation. YHWH purposely made his splendid universal scheme very clear…to establish strength because of tormentors, to silence foe and avenger (Psalms 8:3)
But, the enemies of YHWH are not silenced. They demand: ‘If indeed the earth is the Lord’s why does He not guide the events of history in accordance with a strict pattern of justice, just as He regulates the world of nature?’
Now, David replies forcefully to his own foes and to remember that the universe was created for the son of YHWH, Israel (Exodus 4:22)
, whom YHWH is determined to make pure and innocent [lit. white]. To test the purity of their faith, YHWH conceals His ways from the righteous. The confusion, havoc, and ruin wrought by the wicked are but a manifestation of concealment. But the joyous song of the devout is not muted by affliction or misery; they continue to sing even beyond death and forever.
The Hebrew word used to describe YHWH’s concealment is “Tzimtzum.” The function of the Tzimtzum is “to conceal from created beings the activating force (that enables) them to exist as tangible entities, instead of (causing them to be) utterly nullified by (YHWH’s unapproachable light).” If YHWH were to appear in His full undiluted form all creation would be consumed by the intense light that emanates from Him. Messiah Yahshua was brought forth from the Father’s bossom to tangibly build and enter creation when it became broken. This brokenness caused the world to become finite, but through Yahshua who is the expressed image of YHWH, a path was always open to rescue that creation. Hebrews 1:3; “The Son is the radiance of (YHWH’s) glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful Word."
YHWH began the process of creation by “contracting” His infinite light in order to allow for a “conceptual space” in which a finite and seemingly independent world could exist.
The Hebrew word for “world” is derived from the root word עלם meaning “concealment.” This word’s etymology complements the concept of Tzimtzum, in that the physical universe conceals the spiritual nature of creation.
Tikkun (“Repairing the Breach”)
King David’s awareness of YHWH’s Tzimtzum was the reason he constantly used the physical realm as an indicator of his spiritual state before the Creator. Even though David sinned, his desire to repair himself always exceeded all other goals. His confession to the prophet Nathan over his sin with Beth Sheba is testimony to his fear of YHWH exceeding his fear of man. Even though the nature of his sin was enormous, more enormous was his road to repentance.
The strength of one’s desire to right his wrongs equals the desire he has to repair a world that has been broken by sin. Ultimately, the action one takes to rectify personal sins indirectly reflects his desire to see the world turn from its wicked ways, which principally requires our Messiah to return. In Hebrew, this concept is called “Tikkun Olom” (literally, “repairing the world”). Messiah Yahshua is the “chief repairer of the world,” but we also have a role to play in this mission.
When YHWH contracted His Divine Self to make room for creation, His Divine Light became contained in special vessels, called in Hebrew “Kelim,” some of which shattered and scattered. While most of the light returned to its Divine Source, some light attached itself to the broken shards. These shards constitute evil and are the basis for the material world; their trapped sparks of light give them life. This is what makes people perceive that they exist from moment to moment without YHWH’s intervention.
Understanding “Tzimtzum” and “Tikkun” are the keys to understanding and participating in YHWH’s plan of salvation. Because once the reason for YHWH’s concealment is meditated on deeply, the desire to achieve good thinking patterns and blameless conduct increases. Philippians 4:8; “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”
The Battlefield of the Mind
Messiah Yahshua’s victory at Golgotha (literally, “the Place of the Skull”) was to teach that man’s severest battle will take place in the mind. It is therefore very fitting the he defeated the Dark Forces at the location where mankind receives his first attack.
Thoughts are one of the most spiritual things a man possesses, because they have no corporality and never truly cease. Even in sleep, the mind is still working away.
When the Evil Inclination (Sitra Ahra) continuously defeats a man his thinking becomes constantly clouded. The result is his conduct becomes virtually impossible to rectify. Genesis 6:5; “YHWH saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
At this time, the majority of the world’s population possessed minds that were prefigured toward evil. This means that even healthy concepts were mined for their evil potential.
The eyes, heart and thoughts are closely linked throughout Scripture. The eyes act as receptacles that fire the engine room of the heart, which pumps thoughts to the brain. The brain then engages the body to act accordingly. But when an occupant disengages the body from the other three workings, the mind idles, wildly amassing stronger urges until the body buckles under the weight and acts out the sin. This whole process is completely natural, but it was the Creator’s intention that it be channelled toward good and not evil. One should not refrain from doing evil at the point of bodily action, but at the point of contemplation. This is why Proverbs 15:26
says, “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to YHWH.”
As discussed in an earlier session, the Sages viewed every person as a mini-universe in which reside two kingdoms that struggle for dominion over it - The Good and the Evil Inclination.
To win control of the mini-universe these kingdoms war exclusively in the place of the skull. Therefore as Messiah demonstrated, we must first crucify ourselves at the place of the skull. Proverbs 23:7; “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”
The only person struggling to align his thoughts and conduct with the Torah is the believer. The unbeliever has no trouble, what does he care. If you find yourself removing a pure thought, this is a good sign. If on the other hand, you’re completely relaxed with your thoughts and allow them meander wherever the wind blows, this is a dangerous state. Don’t be focused on the fact that you had a spark of an impure thought enter you head, but rejoice in the fact that you put it down and won an unseen victory against the Sitra Ahra.
An evil thought is more difficult to be rid of than an action because; nobody else is privy to a thought. It’s pointless to refrain from acting out a sin when the thought that birthed that sin is not addressed first. Romans 7:23; “But I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.”
A person who continually broods over real or supposed faults of others, the injuries he has received or the evil that others have done, is in a state of self-torment. On the other hand, a mind that meditates on being charitable and looking for the good in people is assured of experiencing real peace and quietness of spirit. Romans 12:2; “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed in the renewing or your mind.”
Proverbs 4:23; “Keep (your) heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”
Tzimtzum as it Occurs in Torah Instruction
According to Chassidic thought, when a Torah scholar, whose level of mind and understanding is almost completely removed and incomparable to his student, he has to “find” an idea that is simple enough to convey. To do this he chooses a simplistic utterance, usually in the form of a parable, and relays his teaching. While the Torah scholar speaks he retains all the knowledge he has, but contracts it only to the point of view of his student’s lesser intellect. The student then grasps the basic elements of this diminished concept and in turn begins to see the bigger picture. If he is feeble minded his understanding will not unlock the greater concept and though he hears he will not understand.
This is what Messiah Yahshua was talking about when he responds to his own disciples as to why he spoke in parables to the masses. Matthew 13: 10-16; “The disciples came to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’ He replied, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become dull; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.’”
Messiah Yahshua’s disciples’ level of understanding was vastly superior to the masses, this is despite centuries of religious leaders and commentators citing them as feeble based on texts where they fall asleep or do the unthinkable and deny him. Messiah Yahshua is saying that the mind of the masses is so devoid of understanding that his teaching must be simplified and even then many are too dull to understand it. Also note his comment, “whoever has will be given more.” This means that despite the simplistic nature of his teaching, to someone who has a will to analyse it, there is much more to glean as first appears evident. This is the very essence of the parables spoken of within the Chassidic movement by their leaders over the years. When you hear or read a leader of the Chabad Movement speak you will be immediately surprised at the basic level of their teaching, but if a person who is advanced in Torah knowledge hears the same teaching they will almost certainly pick up aspects that are veiled to beginners or people who are dull of heart.
Psalms 9 – YHWH’s Will Revealed through Adversity
Verse 1-4; “For the Conductor, on the death of Laben, A song of David. I will thank YHWH with all my heart, I will proclaim all of Your wondrous deeds. I will rejoice and exalt You, I will sing praise to Your Name, Most High. When the enemies retreat, they will stumble and perish from Your Countenance.”
Verse 1; “For the Conductor, on the death of Laben, A song of David."
The Sages are somewhat divided over who is actually being referred to at the commencement of this Psalm. The best guess according to Radak is that it refers to Goliath because the letters in the name can be derived from the express, “the man in between them” which is used when addressing Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:23
Verse 2; “I will thank YHWH with all my heart, I will proclaim all of Your wondrous deeds.”
The victory over Goliath was a crucial event for David and all of Israel and so it deserved full-hearted praise according to Radak.
The reference to “…all (YHWH’s) wondrous deeds”
carries basis of our faith which is to praise YHWH for the bad with the very same feeling of appreciation that we have for good he allows us to experience.
King David thanks YHWH, not only for his overt, extraordinary miracles, but also the ordinary daily operation of the world. His eyes are open to hidden miracles contained in simple everyday events.
Verse 3; “I will rejoice and exalt You, I will sing praise to Your Name, Most High.”
David delights in the growth of his emotional development, which is strengthened by overcoming resistance and freeing himself from the bonds of spiritual and physical oppression and confinement.
Verse 4; “When the enemies retreat, they will stumble and perish from Your Countenance.”
This refers to the entire Philistine army who turned their backs and fled in terror after seeing their champion Goliath slain by a shepherd boy (Radak).
Verses 5-10; “For You executed my judgement and my cause, You sat on Your throne, O righteous Judge. You destroyed peoples, and doomed the wicked; You blotted out their name for all eternity. The enemy is finished because of the eternal sword; As for the cities You uprooted – their every remembrance has perished. But YHWH is enthroned forever, He has prepared His throne for judgement. And He will judge the world with righteousness, judging the nations in fairness. YHWH will be a tower of strength for the oppressed, a tower of strength in times of distress.”
Verse 5; “For You executed my judgement and my cause, You sat on Your throne, O righteous Judge.”
You executed justice when You fought for me, for the circumstances of Goliath’s downfall were amazing. Here he (was), shielded in heavy armour from head to toe, and You guided my rock to enter the one minute uncovered spot on the forehead (Radak).
You dealt out well deserved justice to Goliath who cursed and taunted the armies of the living Elohim (Radak).
Verse 6; “You destroyed peoples, and doomed the wicked; You blotted out their name for all eternity.”
Your destruction consisted of harshly rebuking the peoples that stood behind Goliath with the same malicious intent. A single stone from a shepherd boy defeated an entire army that was arrayed against Israel.
Verse 7; “The enemy is finished because of the eternal sword; As for the cities You uprooted – their every remembrance has perished.”
Just as the cities you destroyed are finished and forgotten forever, so, too, will you be blotted out from human memory (Radak).
Verse 8; “But YHWH is enthroned forever, He has prepared His throne for judgement.”
YHWH’s throne of judgement is permanent and everlasting (Radak).
Rashi notes that only after the eradication of Amalek will YHWH’s throne and name be full and complete.
Verse 9; “And He will judge the world with righteousness, judging the nations in fairness.”
YHWH will ultimately set up a permanent, secure standard of justice and judge all the inhabited regions of the world. To judge with “righteousness” means to adhere to a strict letter of the law with no leniency while “fairness” implies to go beyond the limits of the law and judge in the most favourable light possible.
YHWH always seeks to judge people at the most favourable time. The Gentiles are therefore judged while they are asleep, but Israel is judged while it is awake, because at the moment of awakening an Israelite immediately hastens to the Synagogue to be immersed in prayer and Torah study.
Verse 10; “YHWH will be a tower of strength for the oppressed, a tower of strength in times of distress.”
This distress refers to the moment when Israel was threatened to be overcome by the Philistines according to Radak.
YHWH never brings punishment to pay for sins all together, but rations out pain in small doses administering it in intervals.
David had no right to place himself in danger when he challenged Goliath, but since he had previously received divine assistance against overwhelming odds, he had the right to count on supernatural salvation. YHWH enabled David unarmed to slay a ferocious lion and at another time a powerful bear. YHWH was his tower of strength on two occasions and for a third time David relied on His tower of strength to vanquish Goliath.
Verses 11-14; “And those knowing Your Name will trust in You, for You forsake not those who seek You, YHWH. Sing praise to YHWH who dwells in Zion, proclaim among the nations His deeds. For He who avenges blood has remembered them, He has not forgotten the cry of the afflicted. Have mercy on me, YHWH, see my affliction by my foes, You Who have retrieved me from the gates of death.”
Verse 11; “And those knowing Your Name will trust in You, for You forsake not those who seek You, YHWH.”
Men who comprehend YHWH’s ways with undistorted clarity will discern His hand guiding the world in its constant, secretly miraculous operation and they will know with certainty that Elohim personally directs all, without intermediaries (Malbim).
Verse 12; “Sing praise to YHWH who dwells in Zion, proclaim among the nations His deeds.”
When YHWH returns to make Zion His permanent dwelling place, Israel will rejoice and sing praises (Rashi).
Verse 13; “For He who avenges blood has remembered them, He has not forgotten the cry of the afflicted.”
YHWH painstakingly investigates and keeps track of every drop of blood that has been shed from each and every Israelite. Although His vengeance may not be swift, He waits for the proper time and will repay with unbridled fury.
Verse 14; “Have mercy on me, YHWH, see my affliction by my foes, You Who have retrieved me from the gates of death.”
The Hebrew word “mercy” in this instance is spelled with three consecutive nuns (Hebrew letters). This means that David requests a more generous portion of mercy from YHWH according to Rashi.
Verses 15-18; “That I may proclaim all of Your praises in the gates of the daughter of Zion; that I may rejoice in Your salvation. The peoples are mired in their self-made pit, in this very snare which they hid, their own foot is caught. YHWH become known – He executed judgment. Through his very own handiwork was the wicked entrapped. Reflect on this. Selah. To the lowest world will the wicked return, all the peoples that forgot Elohim.”
Verse 15; “That I may proclaim all of Your praises in the gates of the daughter of Zion; that I may rejoice in Your salvation.”
When I am saved from my enemies, the proper place to go and offer thanks will be the gates of Zion (Ibn Ezra). Because I was saved so near to the gates of death I will give thanks at the gates of Zion.
Verse 16; “The peoples are mired in their self-made pit, in this very snare which they hid, their own foot is caught.”
The Philistines who came to make us fall, fell themselves.
Verse 17; “YHWH become known – He executed judgment. Through his very own handiwork was the wicked entrapped.”
YHWH, manifest Your greatness and dominion by judging the evil with vengeance (Rashi). The amazing rout of the mighty Philistines was a clear demonstration of Divine intervention.
Goliath was killed with his own sword. Let the Philistines meditate on this and see that YHWH will save His people against overwhelming odds at the 11th hour.
Verse 18; “To the lowest world will the wicked return, all the peoples that forgot Elohim.”
Gehinnom, known as “hell” to most people, consists of seven levels. The nations who apposed Israel will be contained in the lowest level and be consumed by flames. After they are completely consumed they will be raised again to be judged, only to be condemned to the same fate again. This will happen endlessly (Rabbeinu Bachya, Numbers 16:33; “They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.”
Verses 19-21; “For the pauper shall not eternally be forgotten, nor shall the hope of the afflicted forever perish. Arise YHWH, let not frail man be strengthened! Let the peoples be judged because of Your anger. YHWH, place Your mercy over them, let the peoples know that they are but frail men. Selah!”
“For the pauper shall not eternally be forgotten, nor shall the hope of the afflicted forever perish.”
A pauper is even worse than a poor man who at least has something. Israel who has been reduced to a pauper requires everything because it has been left with absolutely nothing.
“Arise YHWH, let not frail man be strengthened! Let the peoples be judged because of Your anger.”
David prayed that YHWH answer his request swiftly (Rashi).
Let not the wicked endure for an extended period of time. The Roman entry into and desecration of the Holy of Holies roused in YHWH a great anger.
Verse 21; “YHWH, place Your mercy over them, let the peoples know that they are but frail men. Selah!”
Let the nations know their place, that they are frail creatures and not Elohim; so that they shall stop tyrannising other people with their might (Rashi).
David is exhorting those kings who became so enamoured of themselves that they proclaimed themselves as divine. We find this of the Pharaoh of Egypt, Hiam of Tyre, Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon, and Yoash of Judea. In each instance, the Scriptures relate how YHWH eventually degraded every one of them.
When a man exerts his might outside the will of YHWH, he no longer recognises his limitations as a mere mortal; therefore, the exercise of dominion is unbefitting a man, except if it be for the sake of heaven (Rabbeinu Yonah).