141:0Some Bible students think David wrote this psalm when Absalom tried to kill him. Absalom was David's son. Absalom wanted to be king. He did not want David to continue as king. As David left Jerusalem, we have some of his prayers. We say prayers when we talk to God. Psalm 3 is a morning prayer. Psalm 4 is an evening prayer.
Perhaps Psalm 141 is another evening prayer. In verse 2, we read about ‘incense’ and ‘raising hands.’ David was not near the temple in Jerusalem. The temple was the house of God. It was a tent made of animal skins when David was king. So David could not burn incense to God as they did in the temple. Incense made a nice smell when they burnt it. David prays that his prayers will be ‘like incense.’ Also, he could not sacrifice (kill for God) animals. They did this as the ‘evening sacrifice’ at 3 o'clock each afternoon. Instead, David raised up his hands to God.
David wrote Psalm 141 in Hebrew. Hebrew was the language that David spoke. The Hebrew words of verses 5-7 are very difficult to translate. This translation is nearly the same as that in the New International Version of the Bible. There are many other translations of these verses. Some Bibles leave them out!
An Evening Prayer
This is a psalm of David.
1 LORD, I am praying to you. Come to me soon.
I am talking to you. Please hear what I am saying.
2 When I pray to you it will be like incense.
When I raise my hands to you
it will be like an evening prayer.
3 LORD, do not let my mouth speak evil words.
Listen to what my lips are saying.
141:3Verse 3: Here David prays that God will not let him say bad things. He wants God to ‘listen to what my lips are saying.’ And he wants God to stop him ‘speaking evil words.’ The Hebrew Bible talks about the mouth as being like a door. Through it, words come out into the world. ‘Evil’ means ‘very, very bad.’
4 Stop me wanting to do what is wrong.
Do not let me go with evil people to do what is wrong.
Do not let me eat in their feasts.
141:4Verse 4: ‘Feasts’ are special meals (or parties) that people have. In this verse, they are the feasts that evil people have as part of their religion. David's religion was Jewish. He did not want to have the religion of these evil people. Our religion is how we love and obey our god (the god that we believe in).
5 If a good man hits me, he is being kind to me.
If he is angry with me, it is like oil on my head.
I will not say ‘no’ to it.
I am always praying against what bad people do.
141:5Verse 5: This is a hard verse to understand. Maybe what David is saying is this: If a good man is angry with me, I will listen to what he says. The oil is not motor oil, but from a plant called the olive.
6 They will throw their rulers down
from the rocks on the sides of the hills.
Then they will know that my words were true.
141:6Verse 6: This is another hard verse to understand. Perhaps what it means is this: Soon people will throw bad leaders down mountains so they die. Then people will know that David was right and not Absalom.
7 They will say ‘as people break the earth to plant seeds,
so they will throw our bones down to Sheol.’
141:7Verse 7: This is yet another hard verse! Jews believed that people went to Sheol when they died. It was under the earth. Maybe the verse means this: People will die Then people will throw their bones on the ground as like of wood or earth when people break them.
8 But LORD, my eyes are looking to you, my Lord.
I am hoping that you will give me help.
Do not let people kill me.
141:8Verse 8: Here are two words, LORD and Lord. They are not the same in Hebrew. LORD is the covenant name for God. A covenant is when two people (or groups of people) agree. Here, God agrees to love and give help to his people. His people agree to love and obey God. The other word, Lord, means ‘master.’ As God's name, it tells us that he has authority. He is the great ruler of everything! David says ‘My eyes are looking to you.’ It means that David is hoping that God will send him help. David is looking for help from God.
9 Keep me away from the snares they have put to catch me.
Keep me away from the traps that evil people have hidden for me.
10 I pray that their own nets will catch these evil people.
And I pray that I will be safe as I pass the nets.
141:10Verses 9 and 10: Here are three words that mean the same: snares, traps and nets. People used these to catch animals or birds. His enemies put traps to catch David. They put them in places where David would not see them. He would not see them until the snare caught him! But David prayed that he would pass the nets and be safe. He prayed that the snares, traps and nets would catch his enemies.