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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 57

To the chief Musician, Al-taschith, Michtam of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave.

This psalm divides into two parts, each ending in the refrain, Psalms 57:5; Psalms 57:11. The first contains his prayer and complaint, the second, his trust and triumph. It belongs to the period of the Sauline persecutions, probably to 1 Samuel 24:0, and with the other psalms belonging to the same class, it has many points of resemblance, to which allusion will be made in the notes.

TITLE: Al-taschith Literally, Destroy not. Supposed to be the initial words of an earlier song to the melody of which this psalm was to be sung. The Hebrews commonly gave the first word or words of a book, or song, as its title. Thus the book of Genesis is entitled Bereysheeth In the beginning and Exodus, Veeyleh shemoth, Now these (are) the names; and so of others. But more probably, as others suppose, the word in question was a maxim which David had adopted in regard to Saul, to remind him not to take his life, or oppose him with violence. It occurs also in the titles of Psalms 58, 59, , 75. For Michtam, see on Psalms 16:0, title.

In the cave Probably the cave of Engedi, (1 Samuel 24:1, etc.,) not Adullam; see note on title of Psalms 142:0. The place where David retreated was probably among the mountains north of the plain of Engedi, especially the notable cliff Ras el-Mersed, “perhaps the highest and most inaccessible of all the cliffs along the western coast of the Dead Sea.” Robinson. Here, among its caverns and narrow passes, he enjoyed a brief respite, “upon the rocks of the wild goats.” 1 Samuel 24:1-2. (Jos., Antiq., 6, 13, 4.) Our psalm would seem to have been written earlier than Psalms 63:0, as appears from the calm tone of assured safety of the latter. The site of the city is at the base of the mountain, near the sea, and before it stretches a beautiful and fertile valley not much over a mile square.

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Verse 1

1. Be merciful… be merciful The repetition springs from a soul in agony.

Shadow of thy wings The metaphor denotes protection and tenderness. Psalms 94:1; Psalms 94:4; Matthew 23:37.

Until these calamities be overpast The plural noun with a singular verb denotes that it is to be taken distributively until every one of these calamities shall pass.

Verse 2

2. Unto God that performeth all things for me The verb for “performeth” signifies to bring to an end, as Psalms 7:9; also, to complete; and in the judicial sense, to bring to a righteous determination. David expresses his confidence that God will adjudge and bring to a righteous termination all things concerning him, whether promises to himself or threatenings upon his enemies. See the same word in Psalms 138:8, and compare, doctrinally, Philippians 1:6

Verse 3

3. He shall send from heaven David steadfastly refused to take vengeance into his own hands against Saul and his evil counsellors, but left the questions of his vindication and of his promised accession to the throne wholly with God.

The reproach The slander of his enemies was the keenest edge of his sufferings.

Swallow me up See on Psalms 56:1-2.

Mercy and… truth See on Psalms 25:10, and compare “light and truth,” Psalms 43:3-4. David asked and desired no mercy which was against truth; but in the triumph of these lay all his hope.

Verse 4

4. Among lions “Saul and his courtiers are here ‘lions’ to David, as were the kings of Asshur and Babel afterwards to Israel, (Jeremiah 1:17,) the Roman emperor to Paul, (2 Timothy 4:17,) and all wicked rulers over the poor people, (Proverbs 28:15.)” Ainsworth. The imagery of this verse is not unusual to David.

I lie That is, I lie down to sleep.

Among them that are set on fire Men inflamed with jealousy, envy, and malice. To lie down for rest in sorrow and fear was the emblem of calamity, (Job 7:4; Isaiah 50:11,) and the opposite of peace and happiness, (Leviticus 26:6; Job 11:19; Proverbs 3:24.)

Sharp sword Malicious words cut deeper than the flesh.

Verse 5

5. Be thou exalted, O God The cause of David was the cause of God. The manifested glory of God as supreme, implied David’s deliverance, and either implied the defeat of his enemies. His prayer against his enemies was, therefore, at once a prayer for deliverance and for the honour of God. The dawn of David’s deliverance appears in this verse, and fully breaks forth in Psalms 57:8

Verse 6

6. They have prepared a net He returns to the artful designs of his enemies, which he illustrates by an eastern method of catching wild animals by snares and pitfalls. See Isaiah 24:17-18.

Into the midst whereof they are fallen By faith David sees the retributive justice of God meeting out to them the evil they had plotted against himself. Saul had fallen into David’s hands, not David into Saul’s. Comp. 1Sa 24:2 ; 1 Samuel 24:8. The selah, or pause, which to the reader is a call to meditation on the import of what is said, and is nearly equal to the amen, closes this first division of the psalm, which otherwise might be ended with the refrain of Psalms 57:5

Verse 7

7. My heart is fixed, O God “Fixed,” here, may take the sense either of established or of prepared. He was established in his faith and purposes not to be moved by any adversity; or, he was prepared for all the will of God. The Septuagint gives the latter, ( ετοιμη ,) “my heart is ready.” Thus he was one with God, and would rejoice in this consciousness.

Verse 8

8. Awake up, my glory Arouse, my soul. כבדי , ( kebodee,) here rendered glory, is sometimes used for the soul as the most honourable and excellent part of man. It is used synonymously with נפשׁ , ( nephesh,) soul, by the law of parallelism, (Genesis 49:6; Psalms 7:5,) and in the text it answers to I, myself. In Psalms 57:6 his soul is “bowed down,” now he calls upon himself to “awake,” arouse. See notes on Psalms 16:9; Psalms 30:12.

Awake early Literally, I will awake the dawn. See on Psalms 63:1, where this is fulfilled while David was in the same region. This preceding the literal daybreak was not only helpful to praise and worship, but evidence of a willing and joyful heart.

Verse 9

9. People… nations In each place the original word is the same. The repetition is for emphasis, and the plural ( peoples, nations) must be understood of the Gentile nations. David’s deliverance should be so great, and its effects so public and glorious, that the nations around would be led to recognise the hand of God and to fear him. The psalmist suddenly rises to the sublime conception of the triumph of theocratic principles, which is the common stepping stone, as here, for an anticipation of the gathering of the nations by the gospel.

Verse 10

10. Unto the heavens… clouds See on Psalms 36:5

Verse 11

11. The daydawn of triumph, which opened in Psalms 57:5, is here brought forward as a closing refrain.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 57". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.