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Tehillim Tools: 5:10: Nebuchadnezzar’s Praises of God

“Condemn them, Lord, let them fall by their own counsels; for their many sins, cast them aside, for they have rebelled against You (Psalms 5:10).” Here, the words are directed against Nebuchadnezzar and his hosts who destroyed the Temple. Afterwards, Nebuchadnezzar was driven out of the world of men, as it is said, “There fell a voice from heaven: ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom is departed from you. And you shall be driven from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field (Daniel 4:29).” See “Hallel Rosh Chodesh Tevet Paragraph Eight.”


Rabbi Berechiah and Rabbi Chelbo said in the name of Rabbi Samuel: All the praises of God which David elaborated in such detail in the Book of Psalms, wicked Nebuchadnezzar managed to get into a single verse: “Now, I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the Kingdom of heaven; for His works are truth, and His ways justice; and those who walk in pride, He is able to abase (4:34).”

You will find much the same thought in the words of Moses, master of the prophets. For at the end of his praise of God, what did Moses say? The Rock, “His work is perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4).” He said this, lest men should declare that Divine Justice was too severe with him, because he was not permitted to enter the Land of Israel, and he went on to say: “Heaven forbid! There is no partiality in the sight of God: “The Rock, His work is perfect.” So, too, wicked Nebuchadnezzar offered similar praise to God, saying, “His works are truth.”

You will also find a Psalm saying: “Praise God, O Jerusalem; praise your Lord, O Zion (Psalms 147:12),” and concluding, “Praise God (147:20).” But, wicked Nebuchadnezzar said more succinctly: “I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven.”

David said, “For the righteous God loves righteousness (Psalms 11:7).” But, wicked Nebuchadnezzar said, “All His works are truth.”

Hannah said, “God kills and brings to life; He brings down to the grave, and brings up. God makes poor, and makes rich, He brings low, He also lifts up (I Samuel 2:6–7),” but wicked Nebuchadnezzar said, “Those who walk in pride, He is able to abase.”

And so, the Holy One, Blessed is He, said to Nebuchadnezzar: Only yesterday you said to Chananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Who is the Lord that shall deliver you out of my hands (Daniel 3:15),” but today you offer words of praise and adoration. I want no part of you nor of your praise. Who alone are worthy of praising Me? The people of Israel, of whom it is said, “The people which I formed for Myself, that they might set forth My praise (Isaiah 43:21).”

“Let them fall by their own counsels,” refers to those Babylonians who counseled that Chananiah, Mishael, and Azariah be cast into the fiery furnace, and that Daniel be thrown into the lions’ den. But what they counseled to be done to others was what befell them and what was done to them.

“Cast them out because of the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against You.” Rabbi Alexandri said: What concern had the Babylonians with Jerusalem and the sin for which it deserved destruction? “They have rebelled against You,” in destroying it; that is, they destroyed it only out of rebellion against You. (Midrash Tehillim 5:10)

We often fall into the trap of believing that those who are successful against us are blessed by God. When we see people such as the evil Nebuchadnezzar, acknowledge and praise God with powerful words, phrases that may even power over those we sing, we must remember that as beautiful as those words may be, they are not the words or praises God desires; He desires our praises, in our words.

Kavanot-Tehillim-Tevet-JerusalemKavanah: Especially as we approach the Tenth of Tevet, when Nebuchadnezzar began his siege of Jerusalem: Use as Kavanah for Psalm 147 in Pesukei D’Zimrah: “Praise God, O Jerusalem; praise your Lord, O Zion (Psalms 147:12).”

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