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Psalm 55

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Title: Psalm 55  
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Subject: Psalm 107, Psalm 138, Psalm 140, Psalm 16, Psalm 35
Collection: Psalms
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Psalm 55

Psalm 55 (also designated using Roman numerals as Psalm LV) 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.


  • Background 1
  • Text 2
  • Analysis 3
  • Uses 4
    • Judaism 4.1
    • Music 4.2
  • Notes 5
  • References 6


Psalm 55 is similar to Psalm 41,[1] especially 41:9: "Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me" (ESV).[2]

The introduction to the psalm identifies it as a 'Maskil' (instructional piece) and associates it with David.[3] 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."[4]

Jerome, in the Vulgate, titled the psalm Vox Christi adversus magnatos Judaeorum et Judam traditorem, meaning The voice of Christ against the chiefs of the Jews and the traitor Judas.[5]


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.[5] 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.[6] 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).[7] 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.[8] 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.[2]


It is unclear whether the psalm was written by a single author or not.[9] 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.[10]

In a 1999 article, Ulrike Bail used intertextual interpretive methods to read the psalm as a reference to the rape of Tamar.[11]





  1. ^ Kirkpatrick 307
  2. ^ a b Rhodes 91
  3. ^ James Limburg, Psalms (Westminster John Knox Press 2000), pages 182-183.
  4. ^ Dahood 30, 39
  5. ^ a b Kirkpatrick 308
  6. ^ Rhodes 90–91
  7. ^ Kirkpatrick 311–312
  8. ^ Kirkpatrick 312
  9. ^ Rhodes 90
  10. ^ Hans-Joachim Kraus (1993). Psalms 1–59: A Continental Commentary. Fortress Press. p. 519.  
  11. ^ Ulrike Bail (1999). "The Breath After the Comma, Psalm 55 and Violence Against Women". Journal of Religion and Abuse 1 (3).  
  12. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 583
  13. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 605
  14. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 579
  15. ^ Human, D.J. (1997). "A tradition-historical analysis of Psalm 55". Verbum et Ecclesia 18 (2).  


  • Dahood, Mitchell (1966). Pslams I: 1–50.  
  • Rhodes, Arnold B. (1960). The Book of Psalms. The Layman's Bible Commentary. Richmond, Virginia: John Knox Press. 
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