Psalm 20

Notes (NET Translation)

For the music director; a psalm of David.

The psalm is not so much a prayer to God as it is a blessing of the king by the people.

Blessing involves the avowal to someone that God has such intentions toward them. It is thus related to prayer in the sense that God wills that it play a role in the implementing of God’s will in the world, but a blessing is not so much a request addressed to God as a declaration of what the blesser is empowered to say God will do. It is performative language, language that puts into effect what it speaks of. Blessing is God’s means of implementing a purpose in people’s life. The relationship of blessing can be two-way, and there is a relationship of codependence between people and king. King blesses people; people bless king.1

1 May the LORD answer you when you are in trouble; may the God of Jacob make you secure!

The phrase “God of Jacob” recalls the covenant relationship between God and Israel.

2 May he send you help from his temple; from Zion may he give you support!

The word qodesh (“temple”) means “holiness.”

3 May he take notice of your offerings; may he accept your burnt sacrifice! (Selah)

The idea is hardly that Yhwh’s support can be bought: at least Ps. 50 (for instance) would deny that. The gifts are rather a sign of the king’s serious turning to Yhwh in a situation of need. Verse 7 will hint at the possibility that the king might do otherwise, the possibility referred to in passages such as Isa. 30-31.2

4 May he grant your heart’s desire; may he bring all your plans to pass!

5 Then we will shout for joy over your victory; we will rejoice in the name of our God! May the LORD grant all your requests!

6 Now I am sure that the LORD will deliver his chosen king; he will intervene for him from his holy heavenly temple, and display his mighty ability to deliver.

The “I” of this verse could be the king, speaking in the third person about himself, or the words of a priest, prophet, or some other representative of the people.

7 Some trust in chariots and others in horses, but we depend on the LORD our God.

The reversion to “we” talk suggests these are the words of the people again.

The words “chariotry” and “horses” should probably be taken as poetically synonymous. Chariots, and the horses which pulled them, represented the most powerful military resources available in the ancient Near Eastern practice of warfare.3

8 They will fall down, but we will stand firm.

9 The LORD will deliver the king; he will answer us when we call to him for help!

Bibliography

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.


  1. Goldingay 2006, loc. 6232-6236 
  2. Goldingay 2006, loc. 6154 
  3. Craigie 2004, p. 187 
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