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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

Psalms 57

Verses 1-11


This psalm—the "twin psalm" with the last—has also an elaborate "title," which runs thus: "To the precentor (or chief musician): destroy not; David's; Michtam; when he fled from Saul; in the cave." The meaning of the second and fourth headings is doubtful Some explain the second as "musical;" others as an allusion to David's words when he bade Abishai not to kill Saul. The last two clauses give the place and occasion of the composition. It was written "in the cave"—probably the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1)—when David was flying from Saul. No valid reason can be urged against these statements.

The psalm is divided by its refrain (Psalms 57:5, Psalms 57:11) into two parts, which are further subdivided by the pause mark, "Selah." The initial strophe (Psalms 57:1-5) is a mixture of prayer and complaint; the concluding one (Psalms 57:6-11) begins with complaint (Psalms 57:6), but almost immediately changes into "a strain of exulting and triumphant confidence," so exulting and triumphant as to cause its selection by our Church for recitation on Easter Day.

Psalms 57:1

Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee (compare the preceding psalm, Psalms 57:1 and Psalms 57:4). Yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge (see the comment on Psalms 17:8; and comp. Psalms 36:7; Psalms 61:4; Psalms 63:7; Psalms 91:4). The metaphor is first used in Deuteronomy 32:11. Until these calamities (rather, these wickednesses, or these malignities) be overpast. That they will pass away the psalmist has no doubt. What he needs is support while they endure.

Psalms 57:2

I will cry unto God most High. In the original, "unto Elohim 'elyon"—an expression which only occurs here and in Psalms 78:56. El elyon, however, occurs in Psalms 78:45; as in Genesis 14:18, Genesis 14:19, Genesis 14:22, and Jehovah 'elyon in Ps 7:18. Unto God that performeth all things for me (comp. Psalms 138:8). God "accomplishes" for his saints whatever is good for them.

Psalms 57:3

He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. The two clauses stand unconnected in the original, which runs, "He shall send from heaven and save me—my pursuer reproaches—God shall send," etc. The second clause is really parenthetic, and, as Dr. Driver says, "circumstantial," noting the circumstances under which God would take action. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth. His mercy, to relieve the psalmist; his truth, to confound the psalmist's enemies.

Psalms 57:4

My soul is among lions (comp. Psalms 7:2; Psalms 10:9; Psalms 17:12; Psalms 22:21, etc.). And I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men—literally, I lie on firebands, sons of menwhose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. David occupies the cave (of Adullam?), while around him prowl lion-like men, whose fury is like that of firebrands, who threaten to devour him with their sharp teeth, and to pierce his soul with their cruel tongues.

Psalms 57:5

Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; or, exalt thyself, O God, above the heavens; i.e. show forth thy might in such a signal way that the heavens (i.e. the angels) may stand to gaze at it. Let thy glory be above all the earth. Let thy exaltation equally draw the attention of the whole earth.

Psalms 57:6-11

The strophe of "triumphant confidence" now begins, but with an echo from the strophe of complaint. The enemy is still at work, still plotting against the psalmist, still seeking to do him a mischief; but the efforts made are in vain. They only bring the enemy himself into trouble (Psalms 57:6), and cause the psalmist to pour forth a song of joy (Psalms 57:7-11).

Psalms 57:6

They have prepared a net for my steps (comp. Psalms 9:15; Psalms 10:10; Psalms 25:15; Psalms 31:4; Psalms 35:7). These metaphors from the chase are peculiarly appropriate at the time when Saul was "hunting David upon the mountains" (1 Samuel 26:20). My soul is bowed down; rather, they have bowed down my soul; literally, he has bowed down; but the alternate use of the singular and the plural, without any real change of subject, is very common. They have digged a pit before me (comp. Psalms 7:15; Psalms 119:85). Into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves. Here is the first note of triumph—a very familiar note (Psalms 7:15; Psalms 9:15; Psalms 39:8; Psalms 141:10), but one always sounded with marked satisfaction.

Psalms 57:7

My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; or, my heart is steadfastit does not doubt or waver, it is firm in its trust on thee. I will sing and give praise. Sing to thee, i.e; and praise thy Name.

Psalms 57:8

Awake up, my glory; i.e. "my soul" (comp. Psalms 16:9; Psalms 30:12). The psalmist stirs his soul to earnest, heartfelt devotion. Awake, psaltery and harp; i.e. awake, my musical instruments and my musical powers, which have slept, as it were, while I was in affliction. I myself will awake early; or, "will awaken the dawn" (comp. Ovid, 'Metaph.,' 11.597, "Vigil ales evocat auroram;" and Milton, "Cheerly rouse the slumbering morn."

Psalms 57:9

I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people (rather, peoples); I will sing unto thee among the nations. The psalmist's joy is toe great to be confined within any narrower limits than those of the entire earth. He will have his hymn of praise go forth to all "peoples," "nations," and languages. Michaelis notes that his desire has had a full accomplishment.

Psalms 57:10

For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds. "Thy mercy, thy truth" (comp. Psalms 57:3).

Psalms 57:11

Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: let thy glory he above all the earth (compare the comment on Psalms 57:5, with which this verso is identical).


Psalms 57:1-11

One of God's rescues.

The Bible is full of records of deliverances, not only deliverances of nations, hut rescues of individuals. These things are "written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope" (Romans 15:4). We have in this psalm the story of one of God's rescues. We see—

I. RESCUE SORELY NEEDED. The enemies of the soul are represented as strong, crafty, and merciless. They are savage as "lions." They use guile and deceit, and "hunt every man his brother with a net" (Micah 7:2). Though they wound body and soul, this is not enough. Blood is what they want. If they had their will, they would cast the Joseph of their hate into the "pit," caring not if he perish miserably. In this world of sin and sorrow and temptation, we are always in danger; but there are times when peril comes closer, and "calamities" crowd on every side, leaving no way of escape. Happy are we if, in our helplessness and, fear, we "flee for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us"!

II. RESCUE EARNESTLY SOUGHT. (Psalms 57:1-3.) Here is a difference between the ungodly and the godly. The ungodly seeks deliverance by his own devices; the godly seeks deliverance from God. He cries for rescue, not in his own way, but in the way that accords with God's character and will. When it comes, it must be in the line of "mercy and truth." What God was, he is. What God has done is earnest of what God will do. What God undertakes, he will carry out. Man promises more than he performs. God performs more than he promises. The nearer we get to God, the more clearly we see things in God's light. Our faith gains force and our hopes grow stronger. If dangers press, we cry with the more urgency for help. God is "able to do for us exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20).

III. RESCUE GRATEFULLY ACKNOWLEDGED. (Psalms 57:7-11.) Religion is for the whole of life, but there are times when special services are proper. Deliverances wrought for us by God are not to be kept secret, but to be openly acknowledged. Our gratitude should be sincere, hearty, and demonstrative. Like the woman of Capernaum, who was healed of the issue of blood, we should yield to the gentle solicitings of love, and declare unto our Lord, before all the people, what he has done for us. Like the Samaritan cured of his leprosy, though alone, we should come with a full heart to God, and to give thanks for his goodness and wonderful works (Luke 8:47; Luke 17:18). How inspiring and comforting it is to read of the great deliverances which God wrought for David and the prophets, and for the saints of every land and tongue! When we remember these things, our hearts burn within us; for this God is our God, this Saviour is our Saviour. Nay, more; in thought of what God is and has done, we rise to the sight of the things not yet seen, and to the vision of the latter day when the kingdom shall not be limited to Israel, but the glory of the Lord shall fill the whole earth.—W.F.

Psalms 57:3

Mercy and truth.

I. MARK GOD'S CHARACTER. When God proclaimed his Name to Moses, he put "mercy" in the forefront: "The Lord God merciful;" but "truth" had also its place, for it is added," abundant in truth" (Exodus 34:6). The same order is observed in the Psalms. Thus it is said (Psalms 86:15), "Thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth" (cf. Psalms 89:2).

II. SHINE FORTH IN GOD'S JUDGMENTS. What God does shows what he is. His works express his character. "Mercy and truth" are, so to speak, the rails on which his judgments travel (Psalms 25:10; Psalms 103:17).

III. CHARACTERIZE GOD'S DEALINGS WITH HIS PEOPLE. They need "mercy; and unto the Lord "belongeth mercy" (Psalms 62:12). They need "truth," and God is "the God of truth" (Psalms 31:5). In the salvation which God has wrought, both are blended in beautiful harmony (Psalms 85:10). As has been quaintly said, "Mercy and truth are but the transverse arms of the cross of Christ. Righteousness and peace are but its upper and lower limbs. The one springs out of the earth, the other has looked down from heaven, and they have kissed each other, in token of God's love and of his reconciliation with the sons of men."

IV. FOUNDATION OF HOPE TO THE CHILDREN OF MEN. Mercy and truth are the two outspread wings of God. Under them there is sure shelter and peace (Psalms 36:7; Psalms 61:1-4). Here there is hope for the sinner. Here there is comfort for the troubled in heart (Psalms 57:3-10). Here there is inspiration for all who are minded to serve God (Psalms 69:13; Psalms 98:3; Psalms 115:1). Here there is earnest and foreshadowing of the everlasting rest (Psalms 61:7; Psalms 63:7; Psalms 138:8).—W.F.


Psalms 57:1-11

Expectation and assurance of deliverance.

In many respects this psalm is very like the previous one. May be regarded under two general aspects. As expressing ―


1. Upon his trust in God's tender protection. (Psalms 57:1; Deuteronomy 22:11, Deuteronomy 22:12.) This faith in the tender love of God "has no parallel in heathen literature."

2. God could not fail to perform or complete the work he had begun for him. (Psalms 57:2.) "He who hath begun a good work in you," etc. God does not abandon his own work.

3. God's retributive justice must give the victory to the righteous. (Psalms 57:3, Psalms 57:4, Psalms 57:6.) The designs of wicked men recoil in the end upon themselves, and ensure their own destruction. This is true, in the long run, of God's providence.


1. His heart is steadfast with fearless confidence in God. (Psalms 57:7.) The psalm records the gradual progress of his mind towards the highest rejoicing in the Divine deliverance.

2. He calls upon himself to celebrate the praise of God in the highest strains. (Psalms 57:8.) "His glory," equivalent to "his soul." He will wake the dawn with his earnest, fervent songs.

3. He will make his praises to sound forth among the heathen. (Psalms 57:9.) Not only among his own people.

4. He calls upon heaven to unite with earth in praising the glory of God. (Verse 12.) His triumph in God over his enemies has now reached its culminating point.—S.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 57". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.