The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me. Selah. – Psalm 140:5
Meaning of Psalm 140:5
The meaning of the verse, “The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me. Selah” is that David’s enemies wanted him to trip over snares that were hidden and set traps for him. The entire Psalm is David’s description of how his enemies plot against him and try to harm him. However, David was not unaware of their tactics, but he was hopeful for God’s help. The enemies wished to snare him in his path of service to God, and King Saul was one of many people to do so. Hence, this verse is David’s cry for help from God to save him from his enemies. The word “selah” means to pause, as the author is taking a pause to think or consider something in the midst of his hymn or song.
Interpretations of Psalm 140:5
The verse of Psalm 140:5 is not a commonly quoted verse and is often misinterpreted in various ways. The following are some examples.
Interpretation #1 Christians are always under physical threat
The interpretation of the verse, “The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me. Selah” is that Christians are under physical threats all the time. The reader believes that whenever someone, especially a non-Christian, enters or approaches a Christian’s life, they have a hidden agenda or a plan to cause them to harm physically. The mention of snares, cords, and nets in verse entails physical harm. The New Testament in the Bible also confirms that Christians will face persecution for the belief they hold toward Christ.
Interpretation #2 The author lacks faith due to fear
The meaning of the verse, “The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me. Selah” is that the writer lacks faith due to fear. The reader takes the verse literally, and a Christian will always live in fear and might develop psychological issues. David was just a boy and a shepherd before becoming a king, and he was known for his courage and bravery. However, in this verse, he loses that courage and faith. He speaks this verse out of fear, and thus it shows that David is not strong or courageous all the time.
Interpretation #3 Christians make enemies because of their faith
Another interpretation of the verse, “The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me. Selah” is that Christians have enemies just because of their faith. The reader believes that every Christian comes under spiritual attack because of their belief in Christ. In many Asian countries, Christianity is frowned upon, and many Christians are also persecuted because of their religion. They are also forced to convert to a particular country’s religion or faith. Hence, the reader perceives that most non-Christians hate Christians. Also, they compare this verse to the restrictions they face.
Interpretation #4 Christians are paranoid
In this interpretation, the reader believes that Christians are always scared and hypervigilant. This is because they are always anticipating spiritual or physical attacks from the world of evil or non-Christians. The reader believes that Christians are a major target group, as a result of which they have to live in deep fear like King David was. Hence, Christians or believers take the words of the author, David, word-for-word. This is because they believe that if David, who was once a courageous and strong person, could be shaking so easily, then it is normal for Christians to be afraid too.
Interpretation #5 Christians must be mindful of evil
The final interpretation of the verse, “The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me. Selah” is that every Christian should be careful of the devil and evil people. The Christian world believes in both God and evil. The Bible, Church, and Christian communities repeatedly warn their believers to pray and seek God’s help and protection to stay safe and secure. Hence, the reader believes that David’s description and cry for help is every Christian’s story, and David, every Christian, needs to be careful of evil and its plans to bring down believers. Additionally, David is also warning Christians to be careful and vigilant but not to be fearful and place their trust in God.
Historical background of Psalm 140:5
The book of Psalms is a collection of hymns and songs largely composed by King David. The Psalms date between the 15th – 13th centuries BC and 400 BC. Most of the psalms have been turned into songs of worship churches sing. Psalm 140 is the 140th Psalm in the Book of Psalms. The 140th Psalm is a cry for help to God as David prays for protection from his enemies, and help also describes the extent of his enemies’ attacks. The fifth verse, in particular, is David describing his enemies setting traps for him to trip him and get hold of him.
Literary Devices of Psalm 140:5
Psalm 140:5 is a cry for help from the Psalmist to God. It consists of some significant literary devices. Following are some literary devices.
Alliteration – The verse has a one-consonant sound in quick succession at the beginning of the word. For example, the sound of /h/ in ‘The proud have hid a snare for me’.
Consonance – Psalm 140:5 uses a few consonant sounds in repetition throughout the verse. However, one of them is not quick succession. For example, the sound of /d/ and the sound of /r/ in, ‘The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords’.
Assonance – The verse has a few vowel sounds used in repetition. For example, the sound of /a/ in ‘The proud have hid a snare for me’, the sound of /e/ in ‘they have spread a net by the wayside’, the sound of /i/ and /e/ in ‘they have set gins for me. Selah’.
Theme – The major themes of Psalm 140:5 are fear or paranoia and insidious plans. The minor themes are war and violence.