Psalms – Chapter 9

Who is "Laben?"

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

David composed this Psalm “on the death of Laben.” Who was Laben? (Not to be confused with Laban, from the book of Genesis.) Rashi’s first suggestion is that “laben” means “to the son” and that this Psalm was composed on the death of David’s son Avshalom. Rashi immediately dismisses this idea on the grounds that grammatically it should say “haben,” meaning on the death of a son, not death to the son. Instead, Rashi next notes that laben is an anagram of Nabal, who harassed David in I Samuel 25. He dismisses this, too, as Nabal was not a pleasant person, but he was a minor nuisance to David. He was hardly significant enough to merit such a Psalm. After offering several other explanations, Rashi concludes with an opinion first proffered by Donash ben Labrat, that Laben was one of the tyrant kings defeated by David. The fact that the conquest of Laben is not detailed elsewhere is not problematic, as we are hardly given every detail of David’s reign. (The Radak concludes that it refers to Goliath; see there for how he reaches this conclusion.)

David thanks G-d wholeheartedly and praises His wonders, referring not only to overt miracles, but those of “nature,” as well. David praises G-d because not only do his enemies run away, they are also destroyed in flight. G-d used His attribute of justice to defend David against His enemies. G-d destroyed the evil ones and eradicated all remembrance of them.

The evil ones have been destroyed, but G-d rules eternally. He is prepared to sit in judgment over the world, which He will judge fairly. G-d will be a source of strength for the poor and downtrodden in their times of trouble. Those who recognize G-d will put their trust in Him and He will not overlook those who turn to Him.

David says to praise G-d, Whose Temple is destined to be built in Jerusalem. We should proclaim His deeds throughout the nations of the world. He avenges even those whom all others have forgotten. David asks G-d to grant him special consideration in light of his enemies; G-d has taken him from the brink of death. When G-d saves him, David will rejoice and praise G-d for it.

David’s enemies prepare a trap for him, but it backfires and they are caught by their own schemes. G-d was recognized when He judged the evil ones and allowed them to undo themselves. These evil people, who allow themselves to forget G-d, will descend to the lowest levels of Hell. G-d will not forget those who rely upon Him.

David asks that G-d not allow the wicked to endure, but rather that He judge them in His anger. When He exercises His rule over them, the people of the world will recognize that these evil people have no real power.

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