For Psalm 54:1, most of the recent English translation's use the word "vindicate" but the KJV uses the word "judge"

Psalm 54 (NASB) Save me, O God, by Your name, And [c]vindicate me by Your power. 2 Hear my prayer, O God; Give ear to the words of my mouth. 3 For strangers have risen against me And violent men have sought my [d]life; They have not set God before them. [e]Selah.

Psalm 54 (KJV) Save me, O God, by thy name, and judge me by thy strength.

2 Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.

3 For strangers are risen up against me, and oppressors seek after my soul: they have not set God before them. Selah.

(Reference: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/judge ) judge verb judged; judging

Definition of judge (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb 1 : to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises 2 : to form an estimate or evaluation of trying to judge the amount of time required especially : to form a negative opinion about shouldn't judge him because of his accent 3 : to hold as an opinion : guess, think I judge she knew what she was doing 4 : to sit in judgment on : try judge a case 5 : to determine or pronounce after inquiry and deliberation They judged him guilty. 6 : govern, rule —used of a Hebrew tribal leader

(Reference: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/vindicate )

vindicate verb vin·​di·​cate | \ ˈvin-də-ˌkāt \ vindicated; vindicating Definition of vindicate

transitive verb 1a : to free from allegation or blame b(1) : confirm, substantiate (2) : to provide justification or defense for : justify c : to protect from attack or encroachment : defend 2 : avenge 3 : to maintain a right to 4 obsolete : to set free : deliver

תהילים Psalm 54 (WLC)
לַמְנַצֵּ֥חַ בִּנְגִינֹ֗ת מַשְׂכִּ֥יל לְדָוִֽד׃

2 בְּב֣וֹא הַ֭זִּיפִים וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ לְשָׁא֑וּל הֲלֹ֥א דָ֝וִ֗ד מִסְתַּתֵּ֥ר עִמָּֽנוּ׃

3 אֱ֭לֹהִים בְּשִׁמְךָ֣ הוֹשִׁיעֵ֑נִי וּבִגְבוּרָתְךָ֥ תְדִינֵֽנִי׃

IMHO, obviously, in view of God's Gracious Love, I'd prefer "vindicate" since vindicate means to "free from allegation or blame"

In any case, Could someone please read and evaluate the Hebrew (or maybe even the Septuagint) and tell us whether said language translations lean closer to "vindicate" or "judge"?

  • 1
    Excellent question. +1. I look forward to some expert Hebrew comment as 'vindicate' would be a useful word to know about, if it be seriously suitable.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 25, 2020 at 22:55

1 Answer 1


The operative word here is דִּין (din). Its primary meaning is "to judge". That much is not controversial. To understand the meaning of the ancient Hebrew idea of judgement we must recall two things:

  • The idea of judging and governing are essentially synonymous. A king ruled/governed by being supreme judge, eg, 1 Sam 2:10, Isa 3:13, Jer 22:16, etc.
  • People most frequently sought judgement in order to be vindicated. If a person believed they were really guilty then such a person necessarily avoided judgement. Eg, see Jer 21:12, Deut 32:36, Gen 30:6, Ps 7:8, Prov 31:9, Jer 30:13, etc.

Therefore, in almost all cases, where people seek judgement, they are seeking vindication.

This can be readily seen in several case such as Jesus' parable of the importunate widow, and David's many requests that God judge him, that is vindicate him in the sight of his enemies and accusers.

Therefore, I would argue that "vindicate is the preferred translation in Ps 54:1.

Note the meaning attributed to this word from BDB (in part):

1 act as judge, minister judgment, of God ידין עמוֺ Deuteronomy 32:36 (poetry = Psalm 135:14) Psalm 50:4; דין עמים Psalm 7:9; Psalm 96:10; Isaiah 3:13; יָדִין לְאֻמִּים בְּמֵישָׁרִים Psalm 9:9; Messianic king Psalm 72:2.

2 plead the cause,

a. of men, usually with accusative of congnate meaning with verb, אֵיןדָּֿן דִּינֵךְ there is none to plead thy cause Jeremiah 30:13; דִּין יָתוֺם ׳ד plead cause of orphan Jeremiah 5:28; דין עני ואביון ׳ד Jeremiah 22:16; also, accusative of congnate meaning with verb omitted, Proverbs 31:9.

b. of God, דָּנַנִּי אֱלֹהִים God has pled my cause Genesis 30:6 (E).

3 execute judgment, vindicate, in battle against enemies, דָּן יָדִין עַמּוֺ Dan will judge (vindicate as a warrior) his people (see Di) Genesis 49:16 (poetry); the Messianic king בגוים Psalm 110:6; God, בִּגְבוּרָֽתְךָ תְדִינֵנִי in thy might judge me (vindicate me) Psalm 54:3.

4 execute judgment, requite, of man, דִּינוּ לַבֹּקֶר מִשְׁמָּט execute judgment every morning Jeremiah 21:12; of God, upon Egypt Genesis 15:14 (E); עמים by means of powers of nature Job 36:31; אפסי ארץ 1 Samuel 2:10 (poetry)

5 govern, אַתָּה תָּדִין אֶתבֵּֿיתִי thou shalt govern my house Zechariah 3:7.

6 לֹאיֿוּכַל לָדִין עִם he cannot contend with one mightier than he Ecclesiastes 6:10.

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