Psalm 10

Notes (NET Translation)

1 Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you pay no attention during times of trouble?

2 The wicked arrogantly chase the oppressed; the oppressed are trapped by the schemes the wicked have dreamed up.

3 Yes, the wicked man boasts because he gets what he wants; the one who robs others curses and rejects the Lord.

4 The wicked man is so arrogant he always thinks, “God won’t hold me accountable; he doesn’t care.”

The wicked man in this psalm need not be an atheist. He is a man who rejects God and does not expect to be held accountable by God.

It is not the theoretical issue of atheism which is raised here, but practical or functional atheism, which is a much more dangerous and sinister matter for the theist. The functional atheist is not concerned so much with the theoretical question as to the existence of God; rather, he lives and behaves as if God did not exist. Indeed, the functional atheist may well admit the theoretical possibility that God does exist, but affirms by his speech and behavior that such existence is irrelevant. . . .

In contrast to the theoretical atheists, the practical or functional atheists, of whom the psalmist speaks, are a most dangerous species of human being. Ultimately, their character is determined not simply by dispensing with belief in God, but more specifically by dispensing with the concepts and precepts of morality and justice, which throughout the ancient world presupposed the existence of gods or God. And it is the absence of morality which makes the functional atheist dangerous. The functional atheist, as portrayed by the psalmist, is self-confident (“I won’t slip,” v 6) and desires only such things as power and happiness of a sort (“Happiness without misfortune,” v 6). To gain such goals as security, wealth, power and happiness, anything goes; life and behavior are not modified by morality, are not lived beneath the horizon of justice, and are not qualified by the possibility of either human or divine judgment. The weak are there to be exploited or oppressed; the stronger may be recognized, though only for safety’s sake. Their goals are entirely self-centered, and in seeking to attain them, they do not hesitate to oppress and exploit their fellow human beings.[1]

5 He is secure at all times. He has no regard for your commands; he disdains all his enemies.

6 He says to himself, “I will never be upended, because I experience no calamity.”

7 His mouth is full of curses and deceptive, harmful words; his tongue injures and destroys.

8 He waits in ambush near the villages; in hidden places he kills the innocent. His eyes look for some unfortunate victim.

9 He lies in ambush in a hidden place, like a lion in a thicket; he lies in ambush, waiting to catch the oppressed; he catches the oppressed by pulling in his net.

10 His victims are crushed and beaten down; they are trapped in his sturdy nets.

11 He says to himself, “God overlooks it; he does not pay attention; he never notices.”

The wicked “mistake God’s patience with evil for God’s lack of interest in justice and the innocent victims of injustice” [2].

12 Rise up, Lord! O God, strike him down! Do not forget the oppressed!

13 Why does the wicked man reject God? He says to himself, “You will not hold me accountable.”

14 You have taken notice, for you always see one who inflicts pain and suffering. The unfortunate victim entrusts his cause to you; you deliver the fatherless.

While it may seem like it, troubles are never faced alone. God always knows about those who inflict pain and suffering.

15 Break the arm of the wicked and evil man! Hold him accountable for his wicked deeds, which he thought you would not discover.

To break the arm is to break the power held by the wicked and evil man [3].

16 The Lord rules forever! The nations are driven out of his land.

17 Lord, you have heard the request of the oppressed; you make them feel secure because you listen to their prayer.

18 You defend the fatherless and oppressed, so that mere mortals may no longer terrorize them.

The psalm ends on a note of supreme confidence. God has heard; God will act. God has heard the desperate prayer of the afflicted for deliverance; he would act in strengthening their courage and continually listening to their pleas. Divine and favorable judgment could be expected for those who requested it and needed it, namely the “orphan” (symbolizing the one with no protection) and the “oppressed,” whereas the oppressors would be terrified with a reminder that they were “mere earthlings,” or merely mortal. . . . [4]


[1] Craigie 2004, p. 126-127

[2] VanGemeren 2008, p. 157

[3] Kidner 2008, p. 89

[4] Craigie 2004, p. 126


Craigie, Peter C., and Marvin E. Tate. Psalms 1-50. Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004.

Goldingay, John. Psalms: Volume 1: Psalms 1-41. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 2006.

Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.

VanGemeren, Willem. Psalms. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008.


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