This psalm is broken down into two major sections. Verses 1-3 introduce the issue at hand as the nay-saying advisors exhort the poet to flee because of the imminent danger of an unknown attack from his enemies. Verse 4 acts as a hinge as the speaker shifts to the poet from his advisors. He speaks of the greatness of the Lord and how He will protect and avenge the righteous from the wicked.
Preliminary Translation of Psalm 11
1To the director, from David.
In the Lord I take refuge.
How can you say to me,
“Flee to the mountain like a sparrow!
2For look, the wicked are taking out their bows,
their arrows are formed on the strings,
to shoot in the darkness at the pure of heart
3When the foundations are in ruins,
what can the righteous do?”
4The Lord is in his holy temple,
the Lord’s throne is in the heavens.
His eyes look;
his eyes test the sons of man.
5The Lord examines the righteous and the wicked,
but he hates the one whose heart loves destruction.
6May the Lord rain down fire and brimstone on the wicked!
A raging wind is the gift in their cup!
7Surely the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteousness;
the upright will see his face.
I don’t see step 2, analysis of parallelism.
Textual/Exegetical Analysis & Commentary
This verb consists of lahmed preposition def. article mem prefix piel ptcp ms from the root נצח meaning “to direct.” The participial usage is substantival referring to “the one who directs” as the addressee of the Psalm.
This verb is qal pf 1cs from the root חסה meaning “to take refuge/shelter.” The perfect verbal form is functioning as a characteristic perfect with a progressive nuance denoting that the action was taken in the past but has continuing effect to the present. HALOT provides only one translation for this word, “to take refuge” specifically with God in this verse.
This verb is qal impf 2ms from the root אמר meaning “to say/speak.” 3 root letters with תּ prefix and וּ ending on the imperfect denote 2ms PGN. The use of the imperfect seems to be conveying a present time frame, so present progressive seems to be the best classification. This usage also adds congruence with the progressive nuance of the preceding verb.
This noun is functioning as the accusative direct object of the preceding verb אמר. It is in construct with lahmed preposition and has 1cs ps. HALOT (712-13) offers several possible translations for this noun; the best translation here is “soul” or possibly “heart.”
|5. נ֝֗וּדִ֯ו or נוּדוּ|
TC: The MT usage of this verb is qal impv mp, while the variant reading is qal impv, fs both from the root נוּד, meaning “to wander/flee.” HALOT (678) provides the possible translations as “to sway,” “to be aimless/homeless,” and “to indicate cooperation” for the qal usage. This is usage is categorized with the translation “to be aimless/homeless” referring to the birds later mentioned in this verse. In agreement with numerous Hebrew manuscripts the Qere (fs usage) is read here instead of the MT. The feminine singular reading is also in agreement with the preceding fs noun לְנַפְשִׁ֑ and is not intended to be associated in any way? with the following masculine plural noun הַרְכֶ֥ם.
TC: The Hebrew noun is ms in construct with 2mp ps. This noun is classified as a dative indirect object. Huh? This sounds like a Greek, not Hebrew, classification. This classification is given because of the previous decision to classify the preceding verb as fs instead of mp, associating the verb directly with the fs noun preceding it. The variant reading of this text has very strong support (LXX, Syriac, & Targums) and is worth noting. The Hebrew translation of the Greek variation should be כְּמֹו הַר and can be explained by a misdivision in words. This seems to be the more likely original reading because of supporting manuscript evidence and it provides a clearer translation within the immediate context. The reading for MT would be translated, “flee to your (pl.) mountain, O bird.” The 2mp ps with הַר, does not seem to fit grammatically. Using the more accurate, variant reading the passage can be translated, “flee to the mountain, like a bird.”
This Hebrew noun functions as the object of the preceding prepositional phrase (assuming that the variant reading for the previous TC issue is the original).
This adjective is functioning substantively with the definite article to define the subject of the following verb. This word begins the chiastic structure of the Psalm and can be connected with the similar word usage in 11:5-6. The idea being portrayed here is one of wickedness associated with guilt. BDB provides three possible translations to the word while HALOT (1295) gives two broad categories with special instances also provided (4 total categories). The general theme of both dictionaries is the understanding of guilt associated with the person being described as one who is an offending party. The offense is generally one toward God or his people; the idea being conveyed is that the “wicked” person is a criminal. The Hebrew root word—רשׁע—spelled incorrectly is used frequently throughout the Psalms and is generally referring to those who are slanderers, liars, and sinners who have a particularly offended God or his people.
I’d like to see a survey of usage here designed to develop character profile of this group.
Qal impf 3mp with paragogic nun ending from the root דרכ meaning “to go out/walk over.” The imperfect verbal form here is demonstrating a present progressive nuance of the action being done by the “wicked.” BDB classifies this usage with the fourth possible translation, specifying a person who “treads” or “stands” upon a bow in order that they may easily bend it/pull it back. The word is describing the wicked as they are preparing to launch an assault upon the righteous.
This noun is functioning as the accusative direct object of the previous verb. The noun is feminine singular but will render a plural nuance because of the potential plurality of the “wicked” and to allow for a smoother translation.
Polel pf 3cp from the root כון meaning “to form.” The perfect usage of the verb here has a present progressive this is not a category for the perfect; better: simple present or characteristic present nuance similar to the previously mentioned imperfect form in this verse.
5. כּוֹנְנ֣וּ חִצָּ֣ם עַל־יֶ֑תֶר
This phrase is literally translated “they form their arrow on a string.” The verb’s 3cs classifications is congruent with the 3mp ps on חִצָּ֣ם, while the second noun (יֶ֑תֶר) agrees with the first in gender and number (ms). This phrase is providing a continued description of the action being taken by the “wicked” as they prepare to attack. For a smoother reading it is best read, “they put their arrows on the strings.”
Lahmed preposition qal infinitive construct mp from the root ירה, meaning “to throw.” The infinitive is functioning to introduce the following clause that describes the purpose or result of the “wicked” preparing their bows.
TC: The apparatus provides a variant reading for his phrase. Each word is given its own note in BHS, but the variant readings work best if read together. The first variant changes בְּמֹו to כְּמֹו. This would change the translation from “in the darkness” to “like the darkness.” The second variant witches עוֹף for the place of אֹ֝֗פֶל. This would alter the translation from “in the darkness” to “in a bird.” Taking both variant readings would render a translation “like a bird” similar to the phrase at the end of 11:1. Since there are very few, if any, manuscripts supporting both variants it is unlikely they were original. They are explained by conjectural emendation by an editor possibly trying to create parallelism with the similar phrase at the end of 11:1. The similarity in the letters that differ is also worth noting as a possible explanation for how the variant readings came about. Even still, the MT reading is still preferred. The phrase does not seem to make much sense and does not flow with the passage if the variants are read here. The only addition that the variants make is the possible parallelism, which is not a strong enough argument to include the variant readings over MT.
This phrase is crucial to the passage as it helps further define the “wicked” and it provides a vivid picture of the fear that the poet was experiencing. In note 1 for 11:2 the wicked were described as being slanderers, liars, cheaters, and criminals. These are the types of characters who would do such a thing as mounting an attack in the darkness. The poet is experiencing great fear as he waits for the attack to happen. Since this event is taking place “in darkness” he is unaware of when his enemies will attack.
Within this construction we see the lahmed preposition mp adjective functioning attributively providing a description of לֵב. This construction (lit. “the upright of heart”) is commonly used to describe those who are righteous. These people tend to be God’s faithful followers who will fall under his protection in times of distress and trouble. This phrase exists elsewhere in the Psalms (7:10, 32:11, 36:10, 64:10, 94:15, 97:11) making similar references to God’s faithful followers. In each of these usages these people are always contrasted with the “wicked.” They love and trust the Lord and expect his protection. I’d like to see a more detailed discussion of these parallel texts and a fuller character profile. The reason for the attack on these people in this verse seems to be because they fall into the category of “upright/pure of heart.” This language is one of a few different ways the poet refers to God’s people throughout Psalm 11.
This particle introduces the next clause with a temporal nuance to what is being said; translated “when.”
This word consists of definite article mp noun. This word is very rare making it difficult to translate. BDB categorizes its only other to usages as meaning “seat of the body” or “buttocks” (2 Samuel 10:4; Isaiah 19:10).
This verb is niphal impf 3ms from the root הרס meaning “to destroy.” Use of impf?
4. הַ֭שָּׁתוֹת יֵֽהָרֵס֑וּן
TC: The apparatus in BHS provides the variant reading ἃ κατηρτίσω, καθεῖλον (strong things are taken down) here, which is supported by the LXX and Syriac manuscripts. Much fuller discussion is needed.
This Hebrew adjective is masculine singular, but is probably carrying a plural or collective nuance. The idea of the “righteous” can be compared and associated with the “pure in heart” mentioned at the end of 11:2. Even though this form is singular it is deemed collective because of the association with the plural לְיִשְׁרֵי־לֵֽב.
TC: This construct form consists of the interrogative pronoun qal pf 3ms verb from פּעל meaning “to do/make.” The apparatus shows a possible variant reading with the imperfect form יפעל. The perfect verbal form is preferred here is more likely original because it is the more difficult reading. Syntactically, the imperfect form fits better here setting the poet up to answer the rhetorical question being posed in this verse. The change was probably made by an editor or scribe in order to develop better grammar within the text. How is the perfect being used here?
1. יְהוָ֤ה בְּֽהֵ֘יכַ֤ל קָדְשׁ֗וֹ
This clause opens with the proper name יְהוָה spelling incorrect here and below as the subject. The second word is a construct consisting of בְּ preposition ms noun and can be translated “in the temple/palace.” The final word in this clause consists of the ms noun with 3ms ps, referring back to יְהוָה. The entire clause can be translated “The Lord is in His holy temple.” This clause demonstrates a shift in mood as the poet has turned his gaze from the impending danger of his enemies, to the Lord. This reference can be understood as referring to the temple in Jerusalem, meaning that God is with his people. Based on the following context it is probably better understood as being the Lord’s heavenly temple, rather than the earthly temple. A verb of being is necessary here and is implied in this clause because there are no other verbal aspects.
2. יְהוָה֮ בַּשָּׁמַ֪יִם כִּ֫סְא֥וֹ
Like the previous clause this one begins by referring to יְהוָה. The next construction consists of bet preposition definite article mp noun and translates “in the temple.” The final word of this clause consists of the ms noun in construct with 3ms ps. The pronominal suffix is referring ownership of the throne to יְהוָה, and is best translated “his throne.” This final word in the phrase is functioning as a nominative absolute. Yahweh is the nominative absolute This phrase adds more description to the previous statement about the Lord and his throne and his presence. By stating that the Lord’s throne is in heaven the poet places him in a sovereign position. The poet is establishing that the Lord’s throne and kingdom is greater and higher than the thrones and kingdoms of other rulers. Similar to the previous clause the verb of being should be implied in this clause.
3. עֵינָ֥יו יֶחֱז֑וּ
The noun is ms 3ms ps and carries a dual nuance. The verb is qal impf 3ms from the root חזה meaning “to see/look.” The imperfect verbal form is functioning as a characteristic present, speaking of the Lord’s ever present gaze upon every situation that exists. The poet is further displaying reasons why his trust is in the Lord. The God who sees is particularly encouraging here because of the previous reference to “darkness” being the place where the enemies were attacking from. Even though they appeared to be hiding themselves in this darkness, the Lord is able to see.
TC: The apparatus in BHS records 2 possible variants that follow the verb here. The LXX adds εἰς τὸν πένητα after יֶחֱזוּ. The GU Syh adds εἰς τὴν οικουμένην in the same position. The LXX reading is translated “over all things” and the reading of GU Syh translates “over the world.” Both of these variants make the reading much easier than MT and should be rejected.
4. עַפְעַפָּ֥יו יִ֝בְחֲנ֗וּ
The first word is composed of ms noun with a dual nuance 3ms ps. The verb is qal impf 3mp from the root בחן meaning “to test/examine.” The dual nuance of the noun accounts for the 3mp form of the verb. HALOT (119) provides two possible translations of the verb: “to test” (metals) and “to put to the test/examine.” This usage is categorized with the second nuance. Psalm 7:9 uses the same word when it speaks of the Lord “examining the inner thoughts of people.” Psalm 26:2 carries a similar nuance as the psalmist asks the Lord to “examine” his inner thoughts. Psalm 139:23 also has a similar idea when translating this verb.
5. בְּנֵ֣י אָדָֽם
These two nouns are in construct. The first is mp while the second is ms. The phrase is literally translated “sons of mankind” but could also be translated “all people.”
1. יְהוָה֮ צַדִּ֪יק יִ֫בְחָ֥ן
The verb here is qal impf 3ms from the root בחן, meaning “to test/examine.” The imperfect here is functioning as a characteristic/habitual present stating the Lord’s expected examining of the righteous. This is the same word used in 11:4 and NET Bible notes that the translation may have a sense of “examine and approve.” Its translation reflects this decision, “The Lord approves…” The adjective צַדִּ֪יק is functioning substantively referring to the same “righteous” people that are mentioned in 11:3 and the pure of heart in 11:2.
TC: A small issue appears here. The LXX and Syriac place the phrase צַדִּ֪יק יִ֫בְחָ֥ן, in inverse order from MT. This variant goes away from typical Hebrew grammar in placing the adjective after the verb for clarification of its usage. The MT could be translated “The righteous Lord examines,” as is, taking the adjective as attributive. The more likely translation based on the context of the passage is what the variant is attempting to make clear through the inversion, “The Lord examines the righteous.” In this case doesn’t the verb bachan have a different nuance than in verse 4, where the object is more generally all men, not just the righteous? The variant appears to be added to facilitate an easier translation, and is therefore rejected as original. The MT reading is more difficult here and should be understood as the original reading.
2. וְ֭רָשָׁע וְאֹהֵ֣ב חָמָ֑ס
This phrase begins with the waw conjunction substantive adjective, as the poet brings back into light the “wicked” from 11:2-3 in order to provide contrast with the “righteous.” The ms usage can be understood as a collective singular, speaking of the one group of wicked enemies. The verb is waw qal active ptcp ms from the root אהב, meaning “to love” and is functioning predicatively supplying the action being done by the preceding substantive adjective. The participle can be understood as having a continuous present nuance as it describes the current and former desires of the רשׁע “loving violence.” The final noun is functioning as the accusative direct object of the preceding participle, receiving the “loving” of the רשׁע. This phrase can be translated, “And the wicked who are loving violence.”
3. שָֽׂנְאָ֥ה נַפְשֽׁוֹ
This construct provides much to be dealt with in translation, syntax and TC. The noun is fs 3ms ps functioning as the subject of the preceding verb. In what sense does God have a soul? In what sense does he hate evildoers?
TC: The verb in MT is qal pf 3fs from the root שׂנא, meaning “to hate.” The LXX provides a variant reading with the 3ms form of the same verb. The translation of the MT reading is “his soul hates,” and the variant reads “he hates his soul.” The question becomes who and what are doing the hating and being hated. The variant reading refers to the masculine singular רשׁע in the previous clause as being the implied subject of the verb which makes his (3ms ps) נפשׁ the recipient of the hate. This is an acceptable translation, but the MT seems to better fit the contrastive parallel structure of the verse. The MT reading provides yet another contrast of the “righteous” and “wicked.” The 3fs form of the verb makes the fs noun נפשׁ the subject of the verb instead of the direct object. This raises the question of the referent for the 3ms ps. Taking the “wicked” as the referent doesn’t make sense, and the “righteous” clearly are not the “haters.” This leaves only YHWH as the referent which provides a clearer translation of “His soul hates.” This MT reading fits perfectly with the parallelism and creates a logical flow for the rest of the psalm. The variant may have come about in trying to rectify gender issues with YHWH as the subject of the fs verb. The fs noun נפשׁ is actually the subject, and YHWH is the referent of the 3ms ps, rectifying any concerns about referring to YHWH as feminine.
1. יַמְטֵ֥ר עַל־רְשָׁעִ֗ים
This is the key clause in the verse. The verb is qal jussive ms from the root מְטֵ֥ר meaning “to rain down.” The jussive nuance of the verb here causes the translation to be “May the Lord rain down,” instead of an imperfect nuance that would translate “The Lord rains down.” This usage denotes that the poet is calling on the Lord to act on the account of the previous statement about the Lord’s detest of the “wicked.” The construct form of the preposition mp noun is functioning as the accusative direct object of the clause.
2. פַּ֫חִ֥ים אֵ֣שׁ וְ֭גָפְרִית
TC: This clause acts as the dative indirect object of the first part of this verse. The TC issue is the presentation of the word פחםי in place of פַּ֫חִ֥ים, which changes the translation from “snares, fire, and brimstone” to “coals of fire and brimstone.” The variant reading would be in construct with אֵ֣שׁ, making אֵ֣שׁ a genitive describing the “coals.” If this is the original reading the poet could be referring to similar judgment that the Lord rained down on Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24). The variant reading is preferred because the MT reading of “snares” raining down on the wicked does not make sense. The variant and MT can be easily explained as a scribal error that took place, switching the last two letters from the original form.
3. וְר֥וּחַ זִלְעָפ֗וֹת
This phrase continues in the description that the poet is making of what the Lord’s judgment will be like for the “wicked.” The word רוּחַ is usually translated as “spirit” but can also be translated as “wind/breath.” The emphasis on this clause should be placed on the descriptor fp noun זִלְעָפ֗וֹת. BDB provides three possible translations and categorizes this usage as meaning “a burning wind.” The idea of a scorching/burning wind coming along with raining fire would be very intimidating for someone living in this time period. Fire is one of the most destructive forces of nature. This is especially true if one considers the lack of ability to sufficiently deal with fire that the culture of the psalmist possessed. This judgment would have been particularly threatening and devastating to the person or group of people who received it.
4. מְנָ֣ת כּוֹסָֽם
The literal translation for this clause “the gift of their cup” is better expressed as “what they deserve.” The idea of drinking from a cup is used elsewhere in the OT to demonstrate the reception of something deserved, often this is understood as blessing, but here it is referring to the judgment from the Lord being described in the first part of the verse.
1. כִּֽי־צַדִּ֣יק יְ֭הוָה
In this phrase the poet uses צַדִּיק spelling is incorrect as a descriptor for the Lord. He has used צַדִּיק to describe himself and God’s people throughout the psalm and as he makes his final statement here using the same word in association with the Lord. The conjunction can be taken as causal, but is probably better understood as a means of emphasis on the statement that follows. This verse also takes an implied verb of being here because of the lack of another verbal form.
2. צְדָק֣וֹת אָהֵ֑ב
The fp noun is translated “righteous things/deeds” acting as the accusative direct object of the following verb. Discuss the use of the plural elsewhere. The verb is qal pf 3ms from אהב meaning “to love.” The perfect is functioning with a characteristic present nuance speaking of the Lord’s characteristic love for righteous things/deeds.
3. יָ֝שָׁ֗ר יֶחֱז֥וּ פָנֵֽימוֹ
TC: The LXX has εὐθύτητα in the place of יָ֝שָׁ֗ר. This accusative form assumes that it is the direct object of the verb which changes the translation to “His face sees the righteous” instead of MT’s “The righteous see his face.” The question to be addressed is whether this adjective is functioning as the subject or object of the verb. The verb is qal impf 3mp with a dramatic future nuance which would mean that the singular יָ֝שָׁ֗ר would not agree. The adjective though is considered to be collective referring to a single group making it grammatically acceptable. The adjective is best understood as being the subject of the clause rendering a translation of “The righteous will see his face.” The other TC issue in this clause is a possible substitution of פָנֵֽימו with פניו. The variant form provided in the apparatus is the typical way that it should appear in Hebrew. The form in the MT is not a recognizable form with the unnecessary מ. Therefore, the variant reading is preferred, but MT most likely original because of the difficulty of the reading.
Final Translation & Chiastic Structure:
1To the director, of David.
In the Lord I take refuge
How can you say to my soul,
“Flee to the mountain, like a bird!”
2Look, the wicked are preparing their bows,
their arrows are on the strings,
to shoot in the darkness at the pure of heart.
3When the foundations are in ruins,
what can the righteous do?”
4The Lord is in his holy temple,
the Lord’s throne is in heaven.
His eyes watch;
his eyes examine all people.
5The Lord examines the righteous,
but the wicked who are loving violence, His soul hates.
6May the Lord rain down fire and brimstone on the wicked!
A scorching wind is what they deserve!
7Surely the Lord is righteous;
He loves righteous deeds;
the righteous will see his face.
Figurative Language Use:
Figurative language is used to help create mood and shift the mood of the psalm. Verse 1 begins with the metaphoric “fleeing to the mountain, like a bird.” The mountain would have been a safe place for a bird, especially from the looming attack of archers. In verse 2 the poet describes the advisors as painting the idea of an attack under darkness and the danger and fear of this type of attack. The advisors are trying to portray fear on the psalmist. Verse 4 signals the shift in mood as it appears that the speaker(s) changes from the nay-saying advisors to the righteous poet. Verse 6 provides a dismal picture of what awaits the enemies when the Lord comes to avenge the “righteous.” The scorching wind that comes along with the raining fire and brimstone are devastating to a culture that does not have sufficient means to deal with fire.
I. The psalmist’s advisors recognize his need for shelter from the impending attack of his enemies (vv. 1-3)
a. The psalmist recognizes and announces having taken shelter in YHWH (v 1a)
b. The advisors to the psalmist tell him to flee to the mountains and give the reasons why they have told him this (v 1b-3)
i. The advisors tell the psalmist to flee to the mountains like a bird. (v 1b)
ii. The psalmist is advised to flee because his enemies—the wicked—are preparing their attack against the righteous under the cover of darkness (v 2)
iii. The advisors continue their negativity, stating as a rhetorical question that nothing can be done when the impending disastrous situation comes about (v 3)
II. The psalmist responds to his critics telling them what protection from YHWH entails (vv 4-7)
a. The psalmist establishes YHWH’s position & authority (v 4)
i. The psalmist states the Lord’s exalted position in His temple on His throne in heaven (v 4a)
ii. The psalmist describes the Lord’s intent examination of all things and people (v 4b)
b. The psalmist states that the Lord examines with approval the righteous and His very soul hates the wicked who love violence (v 5)
c. The Lord’s judgment for the wicked is burning coals and brimstone and a raging wind (v 6)
d. The psalmist finishes by exclaiming the justice of the Lord and the reward of His favor that the righteous experience.
I. The advisors of the psalmist are seeing the impending danger and attack from his enemies and are encouraging him to run from them out of fear and lack of awareness of the intentions of the wicked (vv 1-3).
II. The psalmist demonstrates confidence and faith in YHWH, the High Heavenly King, as his Protector from the attack of the wicked and the avenger of the righteous (vv 4-7).
I. Because of fear, the typical response of people to potential attacks from wicked enemies is to flee from them (vv 1-3).
II. The righteous and pure of heart know that the Lord is their Almighty Protector and He will avenge the actions of the wicked (vv 4-7).
Big Idea: Because the Lord is the Almighty Protector of the righteous and pure of heart they do not fear or run when they are under fire from their enemies.
Throughout the NT there is mention of the attacks and persecutions that Believers will face in light of their decision to follow Christ. Many of these attacks could come from friends, family and even other “believers.” Jesus clearly stated in his address to his disciples in John 15 that they would definitely be persecuted and face attacks and trials. He provides great comfort at the end of John 16 when he states that the disciples should, “Take heart, I have overcome the world.” Even the NT Believers were instructed to run to the Lord as their Protector and Refuge during times of trial and persecution.
Comment on the problem of the imprecation in v. 6. Can/should Christians call down judgment on their enemies?
I. When others are encouraging us to rely in our own means of protection from imminent danger and attacks we must stand firm in our trust in the Lord.
II. We must trust in the Lord as our avenger and protector when people with wicked motives seek to attack us.
Big Idea: We must place our trust in the Lord Almighty as our protector and avenger, when we face “attacks” from our enemies and the doubts of our so called “advisors.”
Grade on steps 1-5: 87
Grade on outlines: 95
 Note 6 for 11:1 explains the textual variant that can be assumed to be a possible parallel phrase with this phrase and is the assumed reason for the emendation.
 Kraus, 202.
 Briggs, Psalms, ICC, 89.
 For more complete discussion of the “righteous” and the “pure of heart” see 11:2 note 8.
 Craigie, 133.
 For a more detailed discussion on the Hebrew verb בחן see note 4 for 11:4.
 Further discussion on the each of these referents in note 8 for 11:2 and note 5 for 11:3.
 For more detailed discussion on רשׁע see 11:2 note 1.
 Briggs, 91.