The Silent *Dove Among Strangers

(or Do Not Be Afraid)

Psalm 56

An EasyEnglish Translation with Notes (about 1200 word vocabulary) on Psalm 56

Gordon Churchyard

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

Words marked with a *star are described in the word list at the end.

The translated Bible text has yet to go through Advanced Checking.


The *Holy Spirit came down on to Jesus. The shape of his body was *like a *dove. A voice from *heaven said, "You are my Son that I love. You give to me a lot of pleasure". (Luke 3:22) (The *Holy Spirit is another name for God. A dove is a bird. The dove is often a sign of *peace or of the *Holy Spirit.)

Jesus said, "Do not be afraid of people that kill the body. They cannot kill the *soul. But rather, be afraid of him that can destroy both *soul and body in hell". (Matthew 10:28) (The *soul is the part of us that lives after our bodies die. *Hell is a place where bad people go when they die.)

Psalm 56

  (This is) for the music leader.
Use (the music that we call) The Silent *Dove Among Strangers.
(It is) a *miktam for David, when the Philistines caught him at Gath.

v1   God, be *gracious to me, because people are fighting me.
  *All day long they are attacking me.

v2   *All day long my enemies are fighting me.
  Many people are attacking me!

v3   *Most High, when I am afraid I will *trust in you.

v4   By Godís help I will *praise his word.
  By Godís help I will *trust in him. I will not be afraid.
  What can men (on earth) do to me?

v5   *All day long they make my words mean something else
  (that I did not mean).
  All their thoughts about me are bad thoughts against me.

v6   They meet together and hide themselves.
  They watch where I go and hope to kill me.

v7   Do not let them *get away with this!
  God, destroy these people, because you are angry with them.

v8   You count the times when I (cry because I) am not happy.
  Put all my *tears in your bottle.
  (Make sure that) they are all in your book.

v9   Then my enemies will turn back, on the day when I cry (to you).
  Then I will know that God is *on my side.

v10   By Godís help I will *praise (his) word.
  By the help of the *LORD I will *praise (his) word.

v11   By Godís help I will *trust in him.
  I will not be afraid of what *human beings can do to me.

v12   I have made special promises to you, God.
  I am ready to give you thanks and *praise.

v13   This is because you have saved my life from death.
  Keep my feet from falling so that I may walk before God and stay alive.

(You may know some of the words with asterisks but this psalm uses them in a way that you may not know.)

The Story of Psalm 56

Saul was trying to kill David. David was a servant of Saul. David ran away to Gath. Gath was the town where Goliath had lived. Gath was one of the Philistine towns. The Philistines were enemies of Saul and David and their people. To us it seems crazy for David to go to Gath. When he got there, David thought it was crazy too! So he pretended to be crazy. This was because in times past people did not kill anyone that was crazy. But David was afraid. He told God about it in this psalm. You will find the story in 1 Samuel 21:10 to 22:2. See after Psalm 34.

What Psalm 56 means

There are three parts to Psalm 56:

    the words before verse 1; we call this the title

    verses 1 - 7

    verses 8 - 13.

The Title

In the Hebrew Bible, this is part of the psalm. It tells us the name of the music that the music leader must use. The Silent *Dove is David. He is silent. That means that he does not say anything to the Philistines. He is a *dove. That means that he does not fight the Philistines while he is in Gath. He is among strangers. That means foreign people *like the Philistines. In the psalm David speaks to God, he does not speak to the Philistines. He asks God to destroy the Philistines, he does not try to do it himself.

The psalm is also a *miktam. Bible students think that this means "hidden meaning" or "special teaching". It teaches us something. It teaches us what to do when bad people are everywhere. We must be *like David and pray to God.

Verses 1 - 7

In verse 1 *gracious is the adjective from *grace. We put adjectives before words to describe the words. "A gracious God" is a God that has *grace. "Grace" means "not *punishing people when you ought to *punish them". It means that God is kind to people. Instead of sending people to *hell when they die, God gives them the chance to go to *heaven. But they must ask him for that chance! Some people use an old *prayer of the Church: "kyrie eleison". This means the same: "God (or *Lord) be *gracious". Another way to say "be gracious" is "have mercy". Again, *mercy means "be kind when you do not have to be kind". The people that are fighting and attacking David in verses 1 and 2 are the Philistines.

In verse 4 (and verse 11) people are called "men (on earth)" and "*human beings". David is saying the same as Jesus said in Matthew 10:28. This is at the top of this psalm. Both the Hebrew words mean that what men do to each other is here on earth. What we really must be afraid of is what God can do to us after we die. If we *trust God, we do not have to be afraid of him!

In verse 7 "do not let them *get away with this!" is very difficult to translate into English. This translation makes it mean "*punish them!" Some Christians and Jews think that it means "they are so bad that nobody will *punish them". In either translation, David then asks God to destroy them.

Verses 8 - 13

In verse 8 the bottle would be of animal skin. Every time David cried, he asked God to put his *tears into a bottle. He asked God to count them all, and write them down in his book. David wants God to see and remember all the bad things that happen to him.

Verses 10 and 11 are almost the same as verses 3 and 4. But there is one big difference. In verse 10 David calls God "*LORD". This is the name that Godís servants and friends use. This is the turning point in the psalm. A turning point is the place where things change. In verses 1-7 David is praying for help. Now, in verses 8-13, he believes that God is going to give him help. God has:

    counted Davidís *tears (verse 8) and so will

    turn back his enemies (verse 9).

In verse 10 the Hebrew does not have "his word" but "a word". Some Bible students think that this means a promise that God made to David. Perhaps it was a promise to give David help. It was "a word of promise". So David made a special promise to God and in verse 12 David says that he will do it. We call these "special promises" by the name "vows". In a vow, you give something to God as well as promise to do something.

In verse 13 "stay alive" is "in the light of life" in Hebrew. This was their way to say that:

    if you were dead, you were in a dark place called *Sheol

    if you were alive, you could see the light of the sun.

Something to do

1.  Learn to say verse 11 by heart. ("By heart" means that you do not look at the words.)

2.  Read the story of David in Gath in 1 Samuel 21:10 to 22:2.

Word list

all day long ~ either every day, or all through the day.

dove ~ bird that people think shows *peace.

get away with ~ not caught for doing bad things.

grace ~ being kind to someone when you do not have to be.

gracious ~ kind, not *punishing when you should.

heaven ~ the home of God.

hell ~ where bad people go when they die.

holy ~ very very good; only God is really holy (because he always obeys his rules); Jerusalem was holy because people *worshipped God there.

Holy Spirit ~ a name for God.

human beings ~ people that are human.

like ~ another word for "as".

LORD ~ a special name for God; only his people use it (look after Psalm 25).

lord ~ someone with authority (with a capital L a name for God, look after Psalm 25).

mercy ~ when you do not *punish (hurt) people that you should.

miktam ~ maybe it means one of: something made from gold, something hidden, something with special meaning.

Most High ~ a name for God which means that he is very important.

nation ~ a group of people (or a country) with a government.

on my side ~ not against me.

peace ~ when we are friends with God and with other people; no war.

praise ~ (noun, or being something) words that say that someone or something is very good.

praise ~ (verb, or doing something) say that someone or something is very good.

prayer ~ words that you say when you pray.

punish ~ hurt someone when they do something wrong(hit them with a stick or put them in prison).

Sheol ~ where the Jews thought that dead people went.

soul/spirit ~ the part of us that lives on after our bodies die.

tears ~ salt water that comes from our eyes when we cry.

trust ~ (noun, or being something) believing that someone will help.

trust ~ (verb, or doing something) believe that someone will help.

worship ~ say that someone is very wonderful.


© 2000-2001, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level A (1200 words)

July 2001

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