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Bible Commentaries

Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 57

Verses 1-3

Heading (Psalms 57:1 a).

‘For the Chief Musician; set to Al-tashheth. A Psalm of David. Michtam; when he fled from Saul, in the cave.’

This is one of many Psalms dedicated to the Choirmaster or Chief Musician. It may simply indicate Psalms put at his disposal. It is set to the tune Al-tashheth (‘Do not destroy’), and is one of the ‘Psalms of David’. Michtam is probably to be seen as a plea for protection Its provenance is said to be ‘when he fled from Saul in the cave’, which probably refers to his exploits in the wilderness of Engedi, near the Dead Sea, rather than to his time in the Cave of Adullam. There is nothing in the Psalm which excludes Davidic authorship.

It commences in the same way as the previous Psalm and in the same way speaks of those who would ‘swallow him up’ (Psalms 57:3). It continues the theme of God’s protection from his enemies, and from those who speak against him (Psalms 57:4), forecasting the downfall of his enemies (Psalms 57:6). There is thus some relationship between the two Psalms.

The Psalm can be divided into three parts:

· A Call For God’s Favour And Protection In The Face Of His Enemies (Psalms 57:1-3).

· A Description Of His Enemies And Their Fate (Psalms 57:4-6).

· An Expression Of Praise And Thanksgiving For God’s Intervention On His Behalf (Psalms 57:7-11).

Psalms 57:1-3

A Call For God’s Favour And Protection In The Face Of His Enemies (Psalms 57:1-3 ).

He calls for God’s favour to be shown towards him because he has taken refuge under the shadow of His wings until all danger is past, and because he looks to Him to save him from the reproaches of his enemy.

Psalms 57:1

‘Show favour to me, O God, show favour to me,

For my person takes refuge in you,

Yes, in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge,

Until these calamities are overpast.’

He twice calls on God to show him favour in the midst of his calamities, confident that at some stage they will pass, as they must do in the face of God’s promises to him. He reminds Him that at His word he has taken refuge in him, and that he will continue to take refuge under the shadow of His wings. God has called him and he looks to Him to protect him. The picture is of nestlings sheltering under the wings of the mother bird, secure from all that is happening around including storms and tempests, not emerging until all is safe. It was a favourite illustration of David, see Psalms 17:8; Psalms 36:7; Psalms 61:4; Psalms 63:7. Compare also Psalms 91:4; Ruth 2:12; Matthew 23:37.

Psalms 57:2-3

‘I will cry to God Most High,

To God who performs all things for me.

He will send from heaven, and save me,

When he who would swallow me up reproaches. [Selah

God will send forth his covenant love and his truth.’

He declares that his cry is to God Most High (Elohim Elyon), the God Who is above all things, and Whom he knows will perform all things that are necessary for him. He is confident that God will send from heaven and deliver him from the reproaches of ‘him who would swallow him up’. This last can only be Saul, who began so well, but failed in the end through disobedience. As we know David was innocent of the charges of being a traitor that were laid against him. So David’s confidence lies in the fact of the God Who will send forth His covenant love and truth. He will be faithful to His promises given in the covenant, revealing His love towards those who walk in it, and establishing them in truth. Or ‘truth’ may be a description of God’s own faithfulness. He is true to those who look to Him. Compare Psalms 57:10 where he again exalts God’s covenant love and truth.

As in Psalms 55:0 the selah appears in mid theme. It is drawing attention to God’s intervention on David’s behalf. Note that David expects His help ‘from heaven’, not from Zion. He is aware that God is over all. He is God Most High.

This is the only use of the title God Most High by David, although he does refer to Him as YHWH Most High in Psalms 7:17. It is used in a Maschil of Asaph in Psalms 78:56. YHWH Most High is also used by the sons of Korah in Psalms 47:2. When used it is therefore significant.

Verses 4-6

A Description Of His Enemies And Their Fate (Psalms 57:4-6 ).

David describes the kind of people whom he is up against, and their desire to trap him, but is confident that, although he feels beset by them, they will fall into their own pit. Meanwhile he exalts the great God Who will cause this to happen.

Psalms 57:4

‘My person is among lions,

I lie among those who are set on fire,

Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows,

And their tongue a sharp sword.’

He describes his enemies as being ‘like lions’, on the prowl for their prey (compare Psalms 7:2; Psalms 10:9; Psalms 17:12. He was very familiar with the depredations of lions (1 Samuel 17:34). And as being like ‘those who are set on fire’. This may signify those who are inflamed against him, having been stirred on by Saul. Or it may even have in mind an attempt, not spoken of elsewhere, to smoke him out of his hideout. Both descriptions bring out he fierce intent of his enemies. But he lies down without fear among them, unafraid of their teeth or their fiery flames.

His life in the wilderness of Engedi was one of almost unceasing pursuit, as men sought to hunt him down and to envelop him in their flames. But along with his men he lay at rest in the midst of his searching foes, because he knew that God was with him. His enemies might bare their teeth like lions on the prowl, or seek to strike him down with their tongues, but they did not disturb his peace one wit. Indeed, he was not only unafraid, but entered his enemy’s camp at night, in order to demonstrate that had he wanted to he could have slain Saul out of hand (1 Samuel 26:4 ff.).

Psalms 57:5

‘Be you exalted, O God, above the heavens,

Let your glory be above all the earth.’

He makes clear that his courage does not just arise from within himself, but that it is because his trust is in God. Thus he calls on the God to exalt Himself above the heavens as He steps in on his behalf. And he prays that in the same way His glory might be above all the earth. His main desire in what he does is for the glory of God. He knows that God’s purposes surmount all earthly situations. And this is why he can lie at peace among his enemies.

Psalms 57:6

‘They have prepared a net for my steps,

My person is bowed down,

They have dug a pit before me,

They are fallen into the midst of it themselves. [Selah

But he is not deceived. he knows that he has to be wary. He knows that his enemies have spread a net in order to entrap him, and have dug a pit for him to fall into. They are using all their wiles as hunters. And it has bowed him down. He finds being constantly on the run and having to watch all the time for what his enemies plot against him very wearing. But he is not afraid, and is assured in his heart that in the end they will fall into their own pit. For God is on his side.

Verses 7-11

An Expression Of Praise And Thanksgiving For God’s Intervention On His Behalf (Psalms 57:7-11 ).

Even in the midst of his trials David was able to sing and compose Psalms, for his delight was in his God, and he now calls on himself to wake early in order to do so. He wants all peoples and nations to be aware of God’s goodness and of His covenant love and faithfulness. He wants God’s glory to be above all the earth (Psalms 57:5).

Psalms 57:7

‘My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed,

I will sing, yes, I will sing praises.’

He assures God that his heart is fixed on one thing, the praise and glory of God. And to that end he will sing, yes, he will sing praises. Hunted he may be but his spirit is free.

Psalms 57:8

‘Awake up, my glory, awake, psaltery and harp,

I myself will awake right early.’

So he calls on his own spirit (his glory) to wake up. He calls on his psaltery (a stringed instrument) and harp to awake. He assures God that he himself will awake right early for the purpose of praising God. He wants the day to begin with praise, before the time arrives for once more evading the enemy.

‘I myself will awake right early’ or ‘will awake the dawn’. He does not want to wait for the dawn to wake him, but wants himself to awake the dawn.

Psalms 57:9-10

‘I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples,

I will sing praises to you among the nations.’

‘For your covenant love is great to the heavens,

And your truth to the skies.’

And his purpose is in order to give thanks to his Sovereign Lord among the peoples, and to sing His praise among the nations. There may be a hint in this that among his six military units were men from a number of nations. But his thoughts are also looking forward to the time when God fulfils his promise to him and he comes into his kingship.

And what he wants to bring to men’s attention is God’s covenant love which is so great that it is great to the heavens. It stretches to heaven above. and His trustworthiness and faithfulness which reaches to the skies.

Psalms 57:11

‘Be you exalted, O God, above the heavens,

Let your glory be above all the earth.’

He finishes the Psalm with a repeat of his prayer that God might be exalted, from Psalms 57:5. He calls on God to exalt Himself above the heavens, and let His glory be above all the earth. In other words that God might reveal Himself as above all and over all.

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Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 57". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.