Samuel (Sir 46:13-46:20)

“Samuel was beloved by his Lord.

He was a prophet of the Lord.

He established the kingdom.

He anointed rulers over his people.

By the law of the Lord

He judged the congregation.

The Lord watched over Jacob.

By his faithfulness,

He proved to be a prophet.

By his words,

He became known as a trustworthy seer.

He called upon the Lord,

The Mighty One,

When his enemies

Pressed him on every side.

He offered in sacrifice

A sucking lamb.

Then the Lord thundered from heaven.

He made his voice heard

With a mighty sound.

He subdued the leaders of the enemy

In Tyre.

He subdued all the rulers of the Philistines.

Before the time of his eternal sleep,

Samuel bore witness before the Lord.

Samuel bore witness before his anointed.

‘No property,

Not so much as a pair of shoes,

Have I taken from anyone!’

No one accused him.

Even after he had fallen asleep,

He prophesied.

He made known to the king his death.

He lifted up his voice from the ground.

In prophecy,

He wanted to blot out

The wickedness of the people.”

Next Sirach praises Samuel, the prophet who was a judge and founder of the monarchy. There is a Hebrew biblical book called Samuel that was later divided into 2 parts. He was a beloved trustworthy faithful prophet. He called upon the Lord when the enemies surrounded him. He offered a sacrifice of a lamb. He defeated the enemies at Tyre and the Philistines. Samuel anointed 2 kings, Saul and David. He never took any property from anyone, not even a pair of shoes. Even after his death, prophecies from the grave came to the king. He continually wanted to blot out the wickedness of his people.

David wanted to be taken out of prison (Ps 142:6-142:7)

“Save me from my persecutors!

They are too strong for me.

Bring me out of prison!

So that I may give thanks to your name.

The righteous will surround me.

You will deal bountifully with me.”

This psalm ends with a plea from David to save him from his persecutors. They were too strong for him. He could not deal with them himself. He wanted to be brought out of prison. There is no specific time mentioned in the stories of David where he was actually in a prison. This might be a metaphor since he feels like he cannot move. If he escaped he would give thanks to the name of Yahweh. He wanted to be surrounded by the righteous ones. He felt that Yahweh would deal with him mercifully and bountifully.

Prayer for deliverance (Ps 125:1-125:5)

A song of ascents

“Those who trust in Yahweh

Are like Mount Zion.

It cannot be moved.

It abides forever.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem,

So Yahweh surrounds his people,

From this time on and forevermore.

The scepter of wickedness shall not rest

On the land allotted to the righteous.

Thus the righteous might not stretch out

Their hands to do wrong.

Do good!

Yahweh!

Do good

To those who are good!

Do good

To those who are upright in their hearts!

But those who turn aside

To their own crooked ways,

Yahweh will lead away with evildoers.

Peace be upon Israel!”

Psalm 125 is another of these short psalms or songs of pilgrimage on the way to ascending towards Jerusalem. They trusted in Yahweh, the way that they trusted in Mount Zion since it could not be moved and would last forever. Just as the mountains surrounded Jerusalem, so too Yahweh surrounds his people today and forevermore. Wickedness will not rest in the land of the righteous so that they will never do wrong. Yahweh was to do good to the good people. He was to be good to the righteous. However, those who follow the crooked ways would be led away with the evildoers. Peace or Shalom should be upon all Israel.

I am surrounded (Ps 118:10-118:12)

“All nations surrounded me.

In the name of Yahweh

I cut them off!

They surrounded me.

They surrounded me on every side.

In the name of Yahweh

I cut them off!

They surrounded me like bees.

They blazed like a fire of thorns.

In the name of Yahweh

I cut them off!”

The psalmist felt that he was surrounded on all sides by some kind of enemies. Somehow with the help of Yahweh he cut them off. He repeated this phrase 3 times, clearly indicating a choral psalm. After they surrounded him on every side Yahweh helped to cut them off. They were like a swarm of bees, and of course, Yahweh helped him. They were like a blazing wood fire until Yahweh helped him.

Praise Yahweh (Ps 89:5-89:7)

“Let the heavens praise your wonders!

Yahweh!

Your faithfulness is in the assembly of the holy ones.

Who in the skies can be compared to Yahweh?

Who among the heavenly beings is like Yahweh?

Yahweh is a God feared in the council of the holy ones.

Yahweh is great and terrible.

He is above all that is around him.”

The heavens should praise the wonders of Yahweh. His faithfulness can be seen in the assembly of the holy ones. There seems to be some kind of divine heavenly council of the holy ones. Perhaps this is a projection of the assembly of the Temple councils of holy men here on earth. Obviously, no one could compare with Yahweh. He was feared by all. He was great and terrible at the same time above all that surrounded him.

The final plea to Yahweh (Ps 88:13-88:18)

“I cry out to you!

Yahweh!

In the morning

My prayer comes before you.

Yahweh!

Why do you cast me off?

Why do you hide your face from me?

Wretched and close to death from my youth on,

I suffer your terrors.

I am desperate.

Your wrath has swept over me.

Your dread assaults destroy me.

They surround me

Like a flood

All day long.

From all sides,

They close in on me.

You have caused friends

To shun me.

You have caused neighbors

To shun me.  

My companions are in darkness.”

Just like Job, the psalmist remains faithful despite all his sufferings. Thus this psalm ends with a direct appeal to Yahweh, over and over again. He cried out in the morning to God. Why was he cast off? Why couldn’t he see the face of God? He believed that his physical suffering was related to his spiritual sufferings. His whole life he has been close to death with his physical afflictions. He felt like he was surrounded with waves of water all around him. More than that was the fact that his friends and neighbors were now shunning him. The only friend that he had left was darkness itself. Wow! This is a dreary bleak psalm of agony.

Asking for mercy (Ps 40:11-40:13)

“Yahweh!

Do no withhold your mercy from me!

Let your steadfast love,

Let your faithfulness,

Keep me safe forever!

Evils have encompassed me

Without number.

My iniquities have overtaken me,

Until I cannot see.

They are more than the hairs of my head.

My heart fails me.

Be pleased!

Yahweh!

Rescue me!

Yahweh!

Make haste to help me!”

David is asking for Yahweh’s mercy. He wanted Yahweh’s steadfast love and faithfulness to keep him safe forever. The problem was that innumerable evils had surrounded him. His iniquities had overtaken him so that he could not see anymore. There were more problems than hairs on his head. His heart was failing him. He wanted to be rescued as soon as possible.

Yahweh is good (Ps 34:7-34:10)

Het     

“The angel of Yahweh encamps

Around those who fear him.

He delivers them.

Tet      

O taste and see!

Yahweh is good!

Happy are those

Who take refuge in him!

Yod     

O fear Yahweh!

You his holy ones!

Those who fear him have no want!

Koph              

The young lions suffer want.

The young lions suffer hunger.

But those who seek Yahweh

Lack no good thing.”

If it is not Yahweh, it is his angel who surrounded David. To those who feared Yahweh, he delivered him. David then asked us to taste and see how Yahweh was good, which has become the title of a popular hymn. Those who took their refuge in Yahweh were to be happy and holy. They would no longer fear like young lions that worried about want and hunger. Those who sought Yahweh would not lack for anything. They were the truly blessed and happy ones.

Yahweh delivers (Ps 32:6-32:7)

“Therefore let all

Who are faithful

Offer prayer to you.

At a time of distress,

The rush of mighty waters

Shall not reach them.

You are a hiding place for me.

You preserve me from trouble.

You surround me

With glad cries of deliverance.

Selah

The faithful ones pray to Yahweh. At the time of distress, the rush of mighty waters does not reach the faithful praying ones. Yahweh hid and preserved David from trouble. He was surrounded with glad cries of deliverance. Once again, there is a pause for a musical interlude with the Selah.

The bulls against David (Ps 22:12-22:13)

“Many bulls encircle me.

Strong bulls of Bashan surround me.

They open wide their mouths at me,

They are like a ravening and roaring lion.”

Bashan was on the northern plains. The first Israelite settlers under Moses had attacked the king of Bashan, King Og, in Numbers, chapter 21. This must have been a great place for bulls to graze. Apparently, they were famous at the time of this biblical writing. Somehow bulls that were like these Bashan bulls surrounded David or the psalmist. With their mouths wide open, they were like roaring lions. Perhaps this is an indication of those who were against him.  This may be the source of the term bullying.