Psalm 57

Psalm 56: the Lord attended by eleven men (above), while angels attack his enemies and the Psalmist is saved by an angel from falling into a pit; a lion nearby. BL Harley603 f1r
Ps 56 (57) in a 12C psalter: angels and enemies, the Psalmist in the cave; a lion (v.4) nearby. BL Harley 603, f31r

As in Psalm 1439 and so many others — David asks for mercy and sings the blues when he hid in a cave from enemies ‘with sharp tongues’ who ‘dug a pit’ for him. As he hides in the cave, David imagines the parallel of divine love as refuge for the soul. If you think you have seen this elsewhere, it’s probably Psalm 142 also written in a cave. Whether this is the same occasion or another we cannot tell. It may have been the occasion (1 Sam. 22-24) when his vicious persecutor Saul came into the cave where David was hiding. David crept up to the unsuspecting king and cut off the corner of his garment, a subtle but powerful message.

An easy refrain by Julie Howard and Vera Lyons, PFAS 57B, draws from verse 1: “I rest in the shadow of your wings”. While pointing out that it may not have been part of the original composition, Everett in TEP uses the inbuilt antiphon in verses 5 and 11:

Be raised over the heavens; be raised over all the earth.

His tune is also simple and accessible but as usual features a more modern harmonisation: slipping between Bb minor and Gb major seventh, it even finishes on the leading note of that second chord just in case you missed the up-beat point.

Verses 7 and 8 are repeated in, or borrowed from, Ps. 108:1, 2:

My heart is firm. I will sing and make melody. Wake up my spirit! Awake lute and harp. I will wake the dawn.

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