Psalm 55

Psalm 55[a]

Prayer in Time of Betrayal by a Friend

1 For the director.[b] On stringed instruments. A maskil of David.

2 [c]Give ear to my prayer, O God,
do not ignore my supplication.
3 Listen to my cry and answer me,
for my troubles afford me no peace.
4 I am terrified by the shouts of the enemy
and the uproar of the wicked.
For they inflict troubles upon me,
and in their anger they revile me.
5 [d]My heart[e] is filled with anguish,
and I am beset by the terrors of death.
6 Fear and trembling overpower me;
horror overwhelms me.
7 I say, “If only I had wings like a dove
so that I could fly away and be at rest!
8 I would flee away
and seek shelter in the wilderness. Selah
9 I would hurry to a place of refuge,
far from the savage wind and tempest.”
10 [f]Restrain the wicked, O Lord, and confound their speech,[g]
for I see violence and strife in the city.
11 Day and night they make their rounds on its walls,
and within it are iniquity and malice.
12 Destruction is also in its midst;
oppression and treachery pervade its streets.
13 [h]If it was an enemy who reviled me,
I could endure that.
If a foe had treated me with contempt,
I could manage to avoid him.
14 But it was you, one like myself,
a companion and a dear friend,
15 with whom I engaged in pleasant conversation
as we walked with the festive throng
in the house of God.
16 Let death strike my enemies by surprise;
let them descend alive to the netherworld,
for evil dwells in their homes
and in the depths of their hearts.[i]
17 [j]But I make my appeal to God,
and the Lord will save me.
18 Evening, morning, and noon[k]
I will cry out in my distress,
and he will hear my voice.
19 [l]He will deliver me in peace and safety
from those who are arrayed against me,
even though there are many of them.
20 God will hear me and humiliate them,
he who has been enthroned forever. Selah
For they neither change their ways
nor have any fear of God.
21 My companion treats his friends harshly
and breaks his covenant.
22 His speech is smoother than butter,
but war is in his heart.
His words are more soothing than oil,
yet in reality they are drawn swords.
23 Entrust your cares to the Lord,
and he will uphold you;[m]
he will never allow the righteous to waver.
24 But you, O God, will send the wicked
down to the pit of destruction;[n]
those who are bloodthirsty and treacherous
will not live out half their days.
But as for me,
I will put my trust in you.


  1. Psalm 55:1 The psalmist, a sensitive and pious Levite, interminably repeats his lament. Three times he describes his torment as the victim of calumny, distressed to see the holy city corrupted, and abandoned by his best friend. If only he could escape this misfortune that obsesses him! We are reminded of David in the wake of Absalom’s rebellion against him (see 2 Sam 15–17) as well as of Jeremiah excoriated by his enemies (Jer 4:19; 5:1; 6:6; 9:1, 3, 7) and of Christ, the man of sorrows, betrayed by his friend (see Mt 26:21-23, 48-50).
    This psalm is a prayer for days when we feel exhausted by the struggles of life, by the hostility of people and things, when we would like nothing more than to escape, to flee into some deserted spot and encounter nobody. However, the psalmist knows that only God’s presence can free the heart imprisoned by suffering.
  2. Psalm 55:1 For the director: these words are thought to be a musical or liturgical notation. Maskil: see note on Ps 32:1a.
  3. Psalm 55:2 The psalmist begs God to listen to his plight.
  4. Psalm 55:5 So great is the physical danger and the mental anguish (see Pss 18:5f; 116:3) that the psalmist wishes he could run away from it all (see Jer 9:1-5).
  5. Psalm 55:5 Heart: see note on Ps 4:8.
  6. Psalm 55:10 The psalmist issues an urgent call for God to come to his assistance.
  7. Psalm 55:10 See notes on Pss 5:11; 35. Restrain . . . confound their speech: possibly a reference to God’s action at Babel (see Gen 11:5-9). Sins of the tongue, calumnies, false witness, and insults are often denounced in psalms of lamentation. Violence . . . strife: entities are personified here and in verse 11 (iniquity . . . malice), and verses 10b-11 recall Jer 5:1; 6:6; 9:6; Ezek 22:2; Zep 3:1.
  8. Psalm 55:13 Doubtless, the betrayer is a Levite; the Targum identifies the false friend as Ahithophel (see Ps 44:11; 2 Sam 15:12). See also Mt 26:21-25.
  9. Psalm 55:16 The psalmist calls for the sudden, premature death of his enemies (see note on v. 10 above), which was the same as the punishment wished on one’s enemies (see Pss 73:19; 102:25; Job 15:32; Prov 1:12; Isa 38:10; Jer 17:11), a punishment that overtook the rebellious band of Korah (see Num 16:32f). Hearts: (also v. 22). See note on Ps 4:8.
  10. Psalm 55:17 The psalmist believes that God will hear his prayer and come to his aid.
  11. Psalm 55:18 Evening, morning, and noon: the hours for prayer (see Dan 6:11f). The legal day begins at the setting of the sun (“evening”).
  12. Psalm 55:19 The psalmist reflects once again on his friend’s treachery and then puts his full trust in the Lord.
  13. Psalm 55:23 Text cited in 1 Pet 5:7 (see also Ps 121:2; Isa 50:10).
  14. Psalm 55:24 See note on verse 10 above. Pit of destruction: i.e., the grave.

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