Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 5

A PRAYER FOR GUIDANCE AND FOR THE
PUNISHMENT OF THE GODLESS

HERE David (according to the title of the poem) depicts himself as a priest who comes for the morning offering to the Temple. The morning service is preluded by a prayer for God’s help and guidance. The priest sets the morning sacrifice in order, and then waits for the tokens of God’s good pleasure. He reflects that neither the unjust, nor liars, nor murderers, nor the treacherous, are tolerated in the presence of the Lord. And yet he himself is before the face of his God in the Temple; but he has this privilege only through the rich fulness of God’s kindness and mercy. He begs, then, to be kept on the path which God would have him follow. He calls for Divine punishment on the godless and unjust; but for the faithful worshippers like himself he begs the continuance of that Divine favour which protects, like an all-encompassing shield, the faithful friends of God.

There is some difficulty in regarding David as the author of this psalm. The Temple-service seems to be presupposed—though it is possible that the “Temple” (verse 8) is nothing more than the Tent in which the Ark was kept on Sion. At all events, if David is the singer, he seems to take here the role of a priest who is entrusted with the care of the morning service in God’s House. Lying, and treachery, and murder were familiar in Israel at all periods; and the reference to general godlessness does not, therefore, greatly help to date the poem.

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