8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
   for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.

9 The Lord has heard my supplication;
   the Lord accepts my prayer.

Who is HP addressing when he says, “Depart from me, all you workers of evil”? Are these “workers of evil” in the room with him? Is he speaking directly to some maleficent beings he feels the need to drive away?

The Hebrew word here translated “Depart” can also mean “put aside”.

I know I am bucking the trend of all Hebrew translators here. And my Hebrew-scholar-Psalm-blog-buddy-Bob will probably want to take me to task for my suggestion.  But, what if, instead of HP giving a command that “workers of evil,” should “depart” from him, I imagine HP speaking to himself, telling himself he should “put aside” something?

What is it that HP might need to “put aside”?

Since, I have already gone out on a precarious translation limb, let me go one step further. The translation “workers of evil,” requires some degree of interpretation and is, at best, uncertain. There may be another way of understanding the Hebrew phrase paal aven that the NRSV has translated as “workers of evil.” It is possible to read the phrase paal aven as “workers of idolatry.”

What if, instead of hearing HP trying to drive away all “workers of evil”, I hear HP saying to himself, “put aside all idolatry”? Suddenly this verse becomes an injunction that HP is making to himself.

Surely, it is “idolatry” that lies at the root of much of the grief and sorrow I experience in life. When I worship at the altar of my own comfort, control, or personal satisfaction, I am setting myself up for a world of grief. To put aside such “idolatry” is perhaps a doable task and may help alleviate some of the senseless self-inflicted suffering by which I am often afflicted. It is certainly a potentially more healthy way of hearing HP’s words here than engaging in the unhelpful practice of enemy-formation and projection.

Where do I see “idolatry” at work in my life? What are its effects?

Lord, help me to see and “put aside” the idols that keep me bound to the endless cycle of senseless pain.