Psalm 55 is the 55th psalm from the Book of Psalms. The psalm is a lament in which the author grieves because he is surrounded by enemies, and one of his closest friends has betrayed him. In the Greek Septuagint version of the bible, and in its Latin translation in the Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 54 in a slightly different numbering system.
The introduction to the psalm identifies it as a 'Maskil' (instructional piece) and associates it with David. The anonymous author may have been an Israelite living in a foreign city, and the false friend could be another Israelite living there. This interpretation is especially plausible if the second part of verse 24 is translated "men of idols and figurines," as suggested by Hermann Gunkel, rather than "men of blood and treachery."
The psalm can be divided into three sections. In a commentary written in 1901, Alexander Kirkpatrick identified the themes of the sections as despair, indignation, and trust, respectively. The first section (vss. 1–8) begins with a desperate appeal to God for deliverance (vss. 1–3) and then launches into a description of the psalmist's anguish and his desire for peace. Verses 9–15 are a strident denunciation of the author's enemies, especially an individual described as "my equal" and "my familiar friend" who has turned against the psalmist (vss. 12–14). This second section closes with a wish that the speaker's enemies be swallowed alive in Sheol, a possible allusion to the fate of Korah. The final section (vss. 16–23) is a confident meditation on God's justice. The psalmist is sure that God will save him and destroy the wicked.
It is unclear whether the psalm was written by a single author or not. Some scholars suggest that verses 12–14, 20–21, and 22 are fragments by a different author which were inserted into the text of the original psalm.
- Verse 14 is found in Pirkei Avot Chapter 6, no. 3.
- Verse 19 is found in the prayers recited following Motzei Shabbat Maariv.
- Verse 24 is found in Pirkei Avot Chapter 5, no. 22.
- The text was set to music by Felix Mendelssohn in 1844.
- Czech composer Antonín Dvořák set verses 1-8 to music in his Biblical Songs (1894).
- Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály set Psalm 55 in 1923 with interpolations and extensions of grief and lamentation full of historic associations for the Hungarian people to the paraphrase by 16th-century poet Mihály Vég. This is the Psalmus Hungaricus, Op. 13.
- Kirkpatrick 307
- Rhodes 91
- James Limburg, Psalms (Westminster John Knox Press 2000), pages 182-183.
- Dahood 30, 39
- Kirkpatrick 308
- Rhodes 90–91
- Kirkpatrick 311–312
- Kirkpatrick 312
- Rhodes 90
- Hans-Joachim Kraus (1993). Psalms 1–59: A Continental Commentary. Fortress Press. p. 519. ISBN 978-1-4514-0936-9.
- Ulrike Bail (1999). "The Breath After the Comma, Psalm 55 and Violence Against Women". Journal of Religion and Abuse. 1 (3): 5–18. doi:10.1300/J154v01n03_02.
- The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 583
- The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 605
- The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 579
- Kirkpatrick, A. F. (1901). The Book of Psalms: with Introduction and Notes. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Book IV and V: Psalms XC-CL. Cambridge: At the University Press. p. 839. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
- Human, D.J. (1997). "A tradition-historical analysis of Psalm 55". Verbum et Ecclesia. 18 (2): 267–279. doi:10.4102/ve.v18i2.562. ISSN 2074-7705.
- Dahood, Mitchell (1966). Psalms I: 1–50. Anchor Bible Series. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company.
- Kirkpatrick, A. F. (1901). The Book of Psalms. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Cambridge University Press.
- Rhodes, Arnold B. (1960). The Book of Psalms. The Layman's Bible Commentary. Richmond, Virginia: John Knox Press.