Babelic Judgment in Psalm 55

Hello again,

“Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues; for I see violence and strife in the city. Day and night they go around it on its walls, and iniquity and trouble are within it; ruin is in its midst; oppression and fraud do not depart from its marketplace.” – Psalm 55:9-11

Immediately before this, David exclaims, “And I say, ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness…'” Psalm 55:6

So what we see are two things:

David wants to be like a dove and flee and find rest. The dove brings a Noahic image of the dove released from the ark to see if the waters had receded so it was safe to disembark onto the new creation. Also, the concept/word “rest” carries Noahic overtures, as it is the word from which “Noah” is derived in Hebrew.

Of course, this Psalm goes on to speak of the fact that his enemies “in the city” (v.9) are not enemies out there, but rather are his former friends. He also is declaring that the city they have made has become a Babel of sort. David wants God to judge them by “dividing their tongues” (v.9) which is the same judgment as at Babel (as is nowhere else in the Bible except Pentecost (next post!). I think this Psalm tells us something about Babel, also, because this judgment seems to be tied with the sort of sins being perpetrated in the “city”. Genesis doesn’t give us much information on the sins of Babel, but I think it is safe to assume that these sorts of evils were present in that corrupt enterprise.

What I am seeing here, by way of allusion, in summary is:

David is speaking of the ark/city that is the capital of Israel (most likely Jerusalem, but possibly Saul’s court at Gibeah, depending on the timeline). And how he used to be friendly with these current enemies. They were his counselors and friends, members of God’s people (v.12-15). Yet they have turned that ark/city into another Babel. Within the Ark, in Noah’s day, there lay the seeds of Babelic tyranny in his son Ham, but no information is given to us regarding it. The Ark was still the safe place. But as soon as they disembarked into the new creation, the Babel project began. David sees another Ark, the people of God surrounding the Lord’s Anointed, and they have turned that Ark into another Babel. David wants to be the dove released into the wilderness (v.7) (perhaps the wilderness of the sea?) so that rest is gained. This is a shadow of Jesus’ great replay of this narrative in the Gospels and Acts and throughout Church history.

The theological implications are pretty clear: There is a way of understanding the Exile as God’s “dividing of tongues” at the Babel of Jerusalem. Combined with Cyril’s edict that every nation have its own tongue, and the “Jerusalem without walls” of Zechariah, we have a pretty solid case for God’s diverse politeuma within the world that is the normal post-exilic state of affairs for the people of God. When the Jews went back to Jerusalem and then started acting as they did in Jesus’ day, you can see how another Babel was forming/had already formed with a Nimrod (Herod the Great) building another Temple to the Heavens by human hands. And Pentecost and the events of A.D. 70, the destruction of that Temple, were instrumental in God’s hands for the final and complete spiritual reversal of the Babel project within the historia salutis.

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