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A Psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his son.
Title.— לדוד מזמור mizmor ledavid; the word mizmor comes from זמר zemer, to cut, to etch or engrave, and denotes a psalm or song; not, I think, as Mr. Le Clerc supposes, because these composures were cut into short periods; but because they were set to music, and cut into notes, the song being engraven with the tune; so that it is properly, A psalm in score. The occasion upon which it is declared to have been written, and the nature of the hymn, shew it to have been David's; and it was impossible that a hymn could be composed with greater propriety or nobler sentiments of religion, upon so extraordinary an event as that of the rebellion of his own son, who had drawn several from most of the tribes of Israel into the conspiracy; so that he was given over by many as absolutely lost, and his enemies thought it was beyond the power of God to save him. Chandler. The psalm is also in some degree typical of our Saviour's sadness and agony, and of his prayer on mount Olivet; (Luke 22:39; Luke 22:41.) the very same mount to which David went up, when he is supposed to have poured forth the substance of this prayer. See 2 Samuel 15:30. For more concerning the titles of the psalms, see the first note on the next psalm.
Psalms 3:1-2. Lord, how are they increased that trouble me!— This psalm answers in every part of it to the inscription. When David was resettled on his throne he penned it, to commemorate both his danger and his deliverance. David begins it with a representation of his danger. Absalom had stolen away the hearts of many of the people. Achitophel aimed at his destruction; and Shimei, with others of his enemies, reproached him, as utterly forsaken of his God; while many of his friends undoubtedly trembled for his safety; and had Achitophel's advice been followed, his ruin, morally speaking, would have been unavoidable. The language in the second verse seems to have been that of his enemies, who imagined that they had him as their prey so secure, that God himself was not able to deliver him. Thus the chief priests, scribes, and elders, insulted his great son, the Messiah, when they had brought him to the cross; bidding defiance to the power of God himself to rescue him out of their hands. See Mat 27:43 and Chandler.
Psalms 3:2. Selah— Various are the conjectures about the meaning of this word, says Dr. Chandler; but, whatever has been hitherto offered in explication of it, is no more than conjecture, and I am far from being able to satisfy myself or others about it. The reader may consult Noldius in his Annotations, p. 540 and Pfeiffer, p. 295. Bishop Bossuet, following the authority of the greater number of interpreters, translates it by the Greek διαψαλμα, and supposes that it implies some note or stop in music; but Parkhurst, after Fenwick, is of opinion with many other learned men, that it is inserted as a note requiring our particular attention: N.B. attend to, or mind this; literally, according to the root, strew, or spread it out; i.e. before the eyes of your mind, that you may thoroughly consider it. This interpretation is confirmed by Psa 9:16 where the word Higgaion is put before Selah, at the end of the verse. Now הגיון Higgaion certainly signifies meditation, or a fit subject for meditation; and so shews סלה Selah to be really a nota bene. See Fenwick's Hebrew Titles on the Psalms, p. 112.
Psalms 3:3. But thou, O Lord, art a shield, &c.— David, in the midst of his distress, having recollected himself, immediately quiets his mind by trusting in God. By prayer he recommended himself to the divine protection; and so calmed his fears, that he quietly laid himself down, slept comfortably, and waked tranquil and easy, as if no danger surrounded him; and resolved that the most formidable combinations against him should not discourage and terrify him: Psalms 3:4-6. Thou art my glory, signifies "I rejoice "and glory in thy protection; as well knowing that thou "art able to restore me to my former dignity and power." To lift up the head, is the mark of prosperity, ease, and comfort, and of a mind elated and joyful in the possession of it. Thus Zophar speaks of the prosperous hypocrite, that his joy should endure but for a moment, though his head should reach up unto the clouds: Job 20:5-6. Something like Horace, Sublimi feriam sidera vertice; which Mr. Dacier interprets, J'apporterai mon superb front jusqu' aux cieux. When, therefore, David speaks of God as the lifter-up of his head, he means that God would remove his distresses, make him to triumph over all his enemies, and cause him to look up with cheerfulness and joy upon the full recovery of his prosperity and honours. Chandler.
Psalms 3:5-6. I laid me down and slept— It was an argument of settled courage, and shews the unspeakable advantage of a religious confidence in God, that David was able, in such distressing and dangerous circumstances, thus to lie down, calmly sleep, and wake in peace: but what cannot that man do, who is sustained of God, propped up by him, as the word סמךֶ samak properly signifies, by inspiring his mind with resolution and courage? Chandler.
Psalms 3:7. Arise, O Lord, &c.— David having related in the former verses the state of his mind during his flight, in the following he expresses his thankfulness to God for his deliverance, which he ascribes entirely to his power and goodness; and, conscious that his future safety must depend on his favour, he suddenly cries out, Arise, O Jehovah, and save me, O my God! and then, instantly recollecting the salvation that God had wrought for him, he starts into the thankful acknowledgment of it. Verily, thou hast smitten all mine enemies. They who know what the pleasures of devotion are, cannot be unacquainted with these sudden transitions of the mind from one object to another, and the various affections which are excited, as the different thoughts of the heart awaken and enliven them. David in this verse compares his enemies to savage beasts, which tear their prey with their teeth, and grind it with their jaws. In countries abounding with these ravenous creatures, such allusions are natural and expressive. David here encourages himself in God, by the experience he had of his gracious interposition in his favour; by saving him from his cruel enemies, who frequently attempted his destruction. But God smote them on the cheek-bone, and broke their teeth; i.e. utterly deprived them of their power to hurt him; as a wild beast is disabled from devouring its prey, when its jaws are broken, and its teeth dashed out. Chandler.
Psalms 3:8. Salvation belongeth unto the Lord, &c.— This should rather be rendered, Salvation be unto the Lord; thy blessing be unto thy people: It shews David's generosity of heart, thus to become an intercessor for the prosperity of his people, many of whom had engaged in support of the unnatural rebellion of his son.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, David, in deep distress, is here flying from his unnatural son; and, as human help failed him, his heart looks up to God; the greatness of his trials could not so discompose his spirit, as to interrupt his communion with the father; nor his danger, however imminent, sink him into despair. We have here,
1. The complaint of the suffering David poured forth into the bosom of the compassionate God: not that he wants our prayers to inform him, but he will be thus inquired of. Many were his foes; the revolt was general, and he, a fugitive, driven from his capital; his cause, to appearance, desperate; and his enemies triumphant and insulting, as if God had forsaken him, and either, as they blasphemously suggested, could not or would not succour him. The sufferings of the Son of David, in the same place, were greater still; betrayed by one disciple, denied by another, forsaken by all; the multitude thirsting for his blood; seized, condemned, insulted, mocked, scourged, crucified; and while he hung upon the bloody tree, he heard the blasphemy of the multitude, deriding his confidence, as utterly forsaken of his God. Such enemies also every faithful follower of Jesus must expect; many within, many without, seeking to trouble his repose, and shake his confidence in God: a frowning world will threaten, a tempting devil suggest distressing doubts and fears, and an unbelieving heart be ready to despond: but, through divine grace, he rises superior to his fears, rejects the dishonourable thought, and rests his hope secure upon the Divine protection.
2. The Psalmist professes his unshaken confidence in God, notwithstanding all his foes: the higher the storm of temptation blew, the deeper his faith took root in God. Thou art a shield for me, to protect me from the impending danger, to quench the fiery darts, which my insulting foes hurl against me; and, safe under thy shadow, I shall rest from fear of evil. My glory; the author of all the greatness to which he had been advanced; and still, in his low estate, in God's salvation he would glory, confident of his restoration: and the lifter-up of mine head, though now bowed down—through outward troubles. Thus Jesus, covered with the shield of the Almighty, was rescued from the hand of his persecutors; foiled the temptations of the wicked one; rose superior to all his sufferings; was glorified by his Father in his resurrection, ascension, and session at the right hand of Majesty on high; and now is lifted up above all his enemies to reign till they are for ever put under his feet.
2nd, The Psalmist had often sweet experience, how good it was for him to draw near to God; for he ever heareth the prayer of the poor destitute: and, as faith encourages the voice of prayer, prayer reciprocally confirms and strengthens our confidence in God. We have here,
1. The application which David made to God, and the answer of peace that he received: I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. The eagerness of his cry spoke the fervour of his heart; and God heard him with favourable acceptance, out of his holy hill, the mount Sion, where he had chosen his residence: Thither the ark had been sent by David on his flight; but the God of the ark was with him, to hear and help him. The great Redeemer thus, in the days of the flesh, with strong crying and tears, presented his supplications, and was strengthened; and every faithful soul has a thousand times experienced the support derived from effectual fervent prayer, and known, by unquestionable evidence, that there is a God who heareth prayer.
2. The effect of the divine answer from God was, rest and peace. Though in the midst of danger from open enemies and suspected friends, I laid me down and slept: I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. No terrors disturb his repose; that guardian whom he trusted sweetly closed his eyes, and he awaked, safe and refreshed, to see the welcome light of the returning morn. Thus Jesus slept in the grave; and, after a short night, awaked on the morning of the resurrection-day, as a giant refreshed with wine: and does not every believer experience the same divine protection; having commended himself into the arms of Jesus, he lays in peace his head upon his pillow; while conscious terrors haunt the bosom of the guilty, and trouble their repose, his sleep is sweet to him, and he awakes refreshed and comforted, ready for the duties of the returning day, thankful for God's mercies, and, from what he has already received, encouraged to trust for what is yet to come. May I ever so lie down, O Lord, in peace and prayer; and when I wake up, may I be still with thee!
3. He expresses his confident trust in God. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. His enemies were on every side; his forces few; himself especially struck at, and for his blood they thirsted: but since faith has seen a covenant God, fear is silenced; and his prayers are the more earnest, for that his faith did not supersede his supplications, but encouraged them. And as God had so often smitten his enemies upon the cheek-bone, and broken the teeth of the ungodly, both covered them with reproach, and disabled them from hurting him, he doubted not but the same mercy would still follow him. The Son of David exercised still greater faith, and fearlessly met his more furious foes, confounded their devices, and turned them to their own destruction. By dying he destroyed death, and him that had the power of it, that is the devil: and in him, and by him, his faithful people also are made more than conquerors; while all the combined powers of Satan, the world, and sin, are kept from hurting them; and, as the answer to their repeated prayers, they behold the salvation of God.
4. The Psalmist gratefully ascribes the praise of all to God: salvation of every kind, temporal or spiritual, belongeth unto the Lord; he is the great author and finisher of it, and to him alone the glory is due. And thy blessing is upon thy people: he is willing as he is able to save them to the uttermost; and his promises have bound him to those who cleave to him in simple faith, to help them in every time of need; for he hath said to such, I will never leave nor forsake thee: blessed then surely are the people who are in such a case.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 3". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19