Numbers 16 in Psalm 55
Tonight I taught on Psalm 55 at Kenwood Baptist Church. The psalm is about David’s inner turmoil and anguish due to the betrayal of a close friend(s). Verse 15 stands apart in that David calls for harsh judgment on these former companions—”Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol alive.”
“Sheol” is found frequently in the Bible, but as I was studying the psalm I realized that the latter phrase of v. 15—”let them go down to Sheol alive”—is unique in that it appears only twice in the OT: here in Psalm 55:15 and also in Numbers 16:30, 33, the passage about the Korahite rebellion. In that passage, Dathan and Abiram are destroyed as a consequence of their rebellion against God and their rejection of Moses’ leadership. To demonstrate that God had judged their insolence and that their death was not the ordinary lot of human beings, the ground opened up and Dathan, Abiram, and their families “went down alive to Sheol.” The Hebrew construction in Numbers 16:30, 33 is essentially identical to the one in Psalm 55:15:
Num 16:30 — וְיָרְדוּ חַיִּים שְׁאֹלָה
Ps 55:15 — יֵרְדוּ שְׁאוֹל חַיִּים
So perhaps David had the Korahite rebellion in mind when he called for judgment on his enemies/former-friends. What he wants is probably not the same mode of judgment (i.e. the ground opening up), but the same kind of judgment—abrupt and unexpected.