Vol. 27 New Series August, 1966 No. 4
Like Psalm ii., this is a psalm with a heading (apart from the
simple' psalm of David '). This heading gives the occasion, or reason,
for the writing and the words used. Like Psalm ii. also, it is one of
the SELAH psalms. The subscription, as already explained in connection
with Psalm iii, is taken over from the heading of Psalm viii, as being
out of place there.
The Title, SHIGGAION of David, has the following note in the Companion Bible:—
"A loud cry of danger or joy, from SHA'AG,
always rendered 'roar.' Occurs 21 times. Both meanings are seen in this
psalm, and Habakkuk 3:1 (plur. 'upon'—concerning), the only two
occurrences. See Appendix 65, XX.
Appendix 65. XX. reads as follows:—
(A crying aloud)—This word occurs only in
"The words of Cush," the Hebrew for 'words' is DABAR, which
can mean not only an utterance of speech, but a matter or an act. Cush,
here, is an unknown character, who might have been a servant of Saul,
being a Benjamite, or one of his fanatical supporters, like Shimei. The
Talmud identifies him with Saul himself. The C.B. says that the fact
that he is an unknown character is evidence if the genuineness of the
heading. That this psalm might refer to Absalom or Ahithophel is ruled
out by the word Benjamite.
the superscription of Psalm vii., and in the superscription of
the prayer in Habakkuk 3:1, where it is in its right place. The
scope of the psalm guides Dr. Thirtle to the choice of SHA'AG,
to cry aloud, in trouble, danger, or pain, and to discard SHAGAH,
which means to wander, or go astray. There is nothing in the
psalm to agree with the latter, and everything that points to
the 'loud cry' of David when he was in danger of being torn
to pieces, and to the 'loud cries' (plur.) of Habakkuk: of pain
in verse 16 and of praise in verse 18.
This is the first of eight psalms associated by their titles with
David's experiences as an exile from the court of Saul. The others are
Psalms lii., lix., lvi., xxxiv., lvii., cxlii. and liv., which should
The psalm, like others is naturally divided by the word SELAH, which, it will be remembered, means pause and take
special note of what has gone before and then read on bearing
all that in mind as being particularly relevant to what follows.
Verses 1-5 can be divided into a prayer in the first two verses
and an introspective hypothetical plea for God, who alone knows
every circumstance, to judge, accepting any failure of integrity that might justify such treatment as he was receiving, though
unrecognized by him.
The pause and reconsideration of both prayer and plea of
innocence have convinced David that his cause is just. David
remembers that although Saul is God's anointed and is king of
Israel, yet he too is one anointed of God for some purpose yet
future, when he himself will be used of God. In 1. Samuel
xvi., 1-13 the purpose of the anointing is known only to Samuel.
David's trust in God, that God would keep him alive and bring
him through all dangers, is paramount; and so he knows that
God will give ear to his prayers and deal with the situation in His own way, providing he is innocent and the action of the
enemy is not just retribution for evil he has perpetrated.
The second half of the psalm divides into three, verses 6-9
are a prayer for retaliation against David's persecutors, but throwing
himself, at the same time upon God's mercy and
righteous judgment, for his deliverance will bring benefit to the
People of Israel, who were divided by the animosity of his oppressors.
Verses 10-16 extol God's righteous rule, His upholding the righteous in
their integrity, but sending punish
ment to the guilty who commit the acts described in verses
14-16. In verse 17 David ascribes praise to Jehovah Elyon, his
personal God, who is the God of the covenant, and who is also
the possessor of heaven and earth and therefore the dispenser
of all things and disposer, according to His will.
"O Lord my God, in Thee do I put my trust:
David addresses his prayer to Jehovah, the covenant God of
Israel, as his personal God, who is also Elohim, the Creator, the
Word of the New Testament. As anointed by Samuel he has a
special privilege to do so. At the outset David asserts the ground
on which he puts his trust. It can be put "To Thee do I flee
for refuge" (CHASAH). Save (YASHA), give safety or ease to
me from all them that pursue me and deliver (NATSAL),
snatch me away. Saul was the one who was pursuing him, some
times by his servants and sometimes leading the pursuit him
self. The words of the heading might mean that on this occasion the
hunt for David was being led by Cush himself acting on
Saul's instructions, or alternatively, Cush might have been one
.of Saul's courtiers who had the ear of Saul and was giving him
council to eliminate David who appeared to have so much favour
with God and man, even to the love of Jonathan, of which he was jealous
on David's account. Thus it is quite possible that the pursuer on this
occasion is Saul.
Save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me:
Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces,
While there is none to deliver."
Lest he tear my soul (me) like a lion, rending it in pieces, as the
carnivorous animal does its prey, whilst still alive; and there is no
hope of rescue.
Then David begins to search his heart for some cause for this
ill-treatment. He even pleads that he has done the opposite. This is
shown in David's action in 1. Samuel 24 when Saul lay in his power and
he spared the Lord's anointed.
O Lord my God, if I have done this (that follows): if there be iniquity (AVAL),
unjust dealing, in my hands, perpetrated by me, if I have rewarded evil
unto him that was at peace with me, implying no, I have not been found
guilty of such behaviour, in fact, I have gone out of my way to do the
opposite and have withheld my hand when I might have taken action
against him who had wronged me. This reminds us of two passages in the
N.T., 1. Peter 2:23,
"Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again, when He suffered,
and 1. Corinthians 4:12, the apostle Paul in describing his own life says,
He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that
"Being reviled we bless, being persecuted, we suffer it;"
We see in David the type of David's greater Son and of those who were his bond-slaves, such as Paul.
"Let the enemy persecute my soul and take it;
If I have been guilty of such behaviour then he has cause and let him
carry on with his pursuit of me, overtaking me and trampling me in the
dust of the earth, bringing humiliation and contempt upon me, would be
a fair paraphrase in modern idiom. SELAH. Pause and give thought to
Yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth,
And lay mine honour in the dust."
No. I have done nothing to merit this treatment. I have done nothing
that would grieve the Lord, Who is my God, and therefore, I can call
upon Him to deal with my persecutors, whoever they may be, even if it
be God's anointed, Saul, the king of Israel, from whom I have been
forced to flee.
"Arise, 0 Lord, in thine anger,
These words seem to indicate David's realization of the importance of
his anointing for God's service and the evil that is being
done to him by this one called Cush, a Benjamite (the definite article
does not appear in the text. C.B.). Therefore it is right for him to
appeal to God to confound his enemies, with whom God would naturally be
wrath for imperilling his life, as there was no cause. If you will do
this the congregation of the peoples will gather together, to look to
you and receive the judgment that goes forth from your throne when you
return on high.
Lift up Thyself because of the rage of mine enemies:
And awake for me to the judgment that Thou has commanded."
"So shall the congregation of the peoples compass Thee about:
From His throne on high God will rule (the meaning of 'judge ') and
David looks to Him to do so with equity, measuring out blessing to the
upright of heart and punishment to those doing evil, that their wicked
ways will cease. The wicked will be cut off, but the just ones He will
establish. Thus will He rule over the Peoples, though He will test them
out to prove them by adversity. No true child of God will expect to
have an easy time, for we read in 2. Timothy 3:12, "Yea, and all that
will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." If he does
not so suffer there is something wrong with his manner of life.
For their sakes therefore return Thou on high."
"The Lord shall judge the peoples:
Judge me 0 Lord, according to my righteousness, and according
to mine integrity that is in me.
O let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end;
But establish the just;
For the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins."
One might almost expect another SELAH here, but it is not so recorded in the Scriptures; but the Psalmist here turns from the general to the particular.
"My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart.
My defence (MAGEN—shield) is of God (ELOHIM), which saveth the upright (plural) in heart. The shield here is different to that in Psalm 5:12, which is ZINNA, a shield of the largest
size, used to protect the whole body. Such a one was used by Goliath and was carried by a special shield-bearer. The MAGDEN,
however was a small portable shield that fitted on the arm and was used
to ward off blows or the flight of an arrow. It was used by light
infantry and made of wood or wicker,
covered with leather. Although David says "MY shield is of
God," yet by using the plural in the "upright of heart," he removes any
idea of having the monopoly, but states that the deliverance is not
limited, but is available to 'everyone who is upright in heart. He uses
the name ELOHIM for God, the one who is his shield, not JEHOVAH as in verse one.
God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry - - - every day."
God judgeth the righteous (plural). Again it is Elohim. The word to
judge and the noun judgment are widely misunderstood as being
synonymous with condemn and punishment. The word used here is DIN,
to discern and means to govern or rule (c.f. Psalm, ix., 8). Because,
as Isaiah says in Is. 64:6, "All our righteousnesses are as filthy
rags," of, necessity God is angry every day, or as Ronald Knox puts it,
"God judges ever true, day by day His indignation mounts up." God looks
for the recognition of failure and seeks the contrite heart, but,
"If he turn not,
The New Bible dictionary (LV.F.) says here, "The emphasis here is on
the reality of God's continuous reaction to man's misdeeds (so
correcting any inference of human impatience in 6-7). This reaction is
depicted in the imagery of irresistible
aggression-the sharpened sword, the taut bow, deadly weapons and fiery
darts-encountered by the sinner who obstinately
advances to his doom because he will not turn (12) to the central fact
of God's grace and mercy."
He will whet His sword; He hath bent His bow and made it
He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death;
He ordaineth His arrows against the persecutors."
"Behold he travaileth with iniquity,
These lines remind us of what James wrote in his epistle, chapter
one, verses 14, 15:
and hath conceived mischief,
and brought forth falsehood.
He made a pit and digged it,
and is fallen into the ditch he made.
His mischief shall return upon his own pate."
"But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth
forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."
Here we have, in verse 14 the figure of speech ANABASIS—
ascending step by step, each with an increase of emphasis or
sense-" travaileth . . . conceived. . . brought forth." This is
the second such figure in this psalm. The first is in verse
5—"persecute. . . take. . . tread." Figures of speech are
expressions of emphasis used frequently to give strength to language
and bestow power to its use in description or narrative. In the
Scriptures there are some 1,100 different forms of figures of
speech and much has been lost from ignorance or neglect of these.
Unrecognised, we frequently make use of them in day to
day conversation and correspondence and without them conversation would
be dull, in fact monotonous. But the recognition
of them in the Word of God would help the student and even the reader
to understand it better and grasp some of the things that God would
have us understand.
"I will praise the Lord according to His righteousness:
The Psalm begins with a prayer and ends with praise. The psalmist opens, pleading with JEHOVAH his ELOHIM and concludes by singing praise to JEHOVAH ELYON. David starts his plea by affirming his own integrity. He ends up in the recognition that praise is due to JEHOVAH
his God on the grounds of God's righteousness and not his. Let us
contemplate, in the light of this psalm, the words of the Apostle Paul,
in 1. Corinthians 1:25, 29-31.
And will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High."
"The foolishness of God is wiser than men;
The Subscription alone remains.
and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
That no flesh should glory in His presence.
But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus,
Who of God is made unto us
Wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption:
That according as it is written,
He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."
"To the chief musician upon Gittith."
To the chief musician-this has already been dealt with in Psalm iii.
(Vol. 26, No.6, p. 271). Its meaning is 'with a view to the end,' the
climax, not the culmination, or 'to the giver of victory,' which is the
climax, but points to the victor rather than the victory. We must not
forget that we are still in the series of psalms, of which this is the
seventh, depicting Man and the Son of Man. We see in this psalm the
sinner, the suppliant and the seeker in the man, David; and the
Saviour, the shield and the spotless Son of Man, in Christ.
Upon Gittith.—This is the first of three Psalms that have this subscription (vii., lxxx. and lxxxiii.). GITTITH
means winepresses (not the vat that receives the juice). It indicates
the grape harvest and thus points to the Autumn Feast of Tabernacles.
This feast is the type of the final victory, in so far as Israel is
concerned. It foreshadows the rejoicing when they
recognise the Victor, their Messiah as their Saviour God and King.
"And they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of
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heaven with power and great glory." (Matt. 24:30)
"Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom
of their Father." (Matt. 13:43)