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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 7

Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the LORD, concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite.

The animated style of this psalm accords well with the genius of David. It was written in a time of great peril, reproach, and suffering, and is commonly referred to his persecution by Saul, chiefly because the allusion of Psalms 7:4 seems to point to the scenes of 1 Samuel 24, 26, where David spared Saul’s life. But there are serious objections to this. The allusion better suits as an answer to the fierce accusations of Shimei, (2 Samuel 16:7-8,) and Psalms 7:3-5 are a protestation of innocence in the catastrophe of Saul’s house, and of the death of Saul and Ishbosheth. Besides, the language of Psalms 7:12-16 is not such as David would use toward Saul, and it is improbable that it applies to a courtier of Saul named Cush in the title, (see note on title,) for no such name appears in the books of Samuel, although Doeg and Shimei, other enemies of David, are named. That David appeals to his integrity (Psalms 7:3-10) is no objection to dating this psalm at the time of Absalom’s rebellion. His great sin had been forgiven, and it is not that he had never sinned, but that he was innocent of the crime alleged, that he urges his plea. The accusation was fresh; it was the occasion of the psalm, (see title;) it charged upon him the blood of the house of Saul, (2 Samuel 16:7-8;) and Psalms 7:3-5 are his answers. No historic occasion suits these circumstances but the one here given. For further argument see the notes.

The divisions of the psalm are as follows: Psalms 7:1-2, an earnest prayer for instant help; Psalms 7:3-5, a solemn protestation of innocence, being his reply to the accusations of his enemies who had distressed him, and were the occasion of the psalm. Thus far may be taken as an introduction to the matter of the psalm, which may be resolved into the following strophic divisions: Psalms 7:6-8, a call upon Jehovah, as the righteous Judge of all, to vindicate his cause on the ground of his integrity and innocence, and for the public effect upon the congregation; Psalms 7:9-10, his profession of confidence in God’s justice, and of his own consequent vindication; Psalms 7:11-13, a warning of the imminence of the ruin of the wicked from the already prepared instruments of death; Psalms 7:14-16, the wicked, personified in his Cushite enemy, taken by their own devices, become victims of the destruction they had prepared for others; Psalms 7:17 seems an independent ejaculation of praise to God for his righteousness.


Shiggaion From שׁגה , ( shagah,) to wander, to reel, is supposed to signify a dithyrambic ode; that is, one irregular in metre and of impetuous performance. Jebb says: “It may be understood of an ode composed in various measures, and consequently adapted to different modes of recitation and accompaniment.” Horseley defines it: “A wandering ode, in different parts taking up different subjects in different styles of composition.” The word occurs only once more as a musical or rhythmical sign, in Habakkuk 3:1; where al-shiggionoth (plural) means, after the manner of shiggionoth, or, of dithyrambic songs. Such is the character of this psalm: “Painful unrest, of defiant self confidence, triumphant ecstasy, calm trust, prophetic certainty, all these states of mind find expression in the irregular arrangement of the strophes of this Davidic dithyramb, the ancient customary psalm for the feast of Purim.” Delitzsch.

Concerning the words On account of the words.

Cush The word means black, dark coloured; and applied to countries means Arabia, Ethiopia, and the parts of Northern Africa. The Cushites were a dark skinned race. The word here is manifestly not a proper name, but an epithet, figuratively used to denote character. “Cush the Benjamite,” is the black hearted, or barbarian Benjamite. So the word is used figuratively, Jeremiah 13:23, “Can the Cushite change his skin?” Amos 9:7, “Are ye not as the children of the Cushites unto me, O children of Israel?” So David said he “dwelt in Meshech and Kedar Moschica=Scythia and Arabia (compare “Gog and Magog,” Revelation 20:8; and Scythian, Colossians 3:11;) meaning only the wildest barbarians. The title, dark souled, fitted Shimei, the Benjamite. 2 Samuel 16:7-8

Verse 1

1. In thee do I put my trust David begins, as in Psalms 31:1, by boldly defining his trust. His refuge is in God alone. If he uses methods and forethought, it is God who giveth them efficiency; if his case lies beyond the reach of means, God can interpose in a way all his own.

Verse 2

2. Tear… rending Different words of kindred import, describing the habits of wild beasts in lacerating, crushing, and separating part from part, their prey. David compares his enemies to lions for their power and ferocity.

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Verse 3

3. O Lord my God A solemn appeal for the truth of what he is about to utter.

If I have done this The shedding of blood in revenge, or to open my way to the throne, of which his enemies accused him. See 2 Samuel 16:5-8

Verse 4

4. Yea, I have delivered him, etc. A plain allusion to the events of 1 Samuel 24:6-7; 1 Samuel 26:8-11

Verse 5

5. Let the enemy persecute my soul Here is a direct and solemn appeal to God to judge and punish him if he were not upright and pure in the matters urged by his accuser. Here is the boldness of conscious righteousness before God, even before his judgment seat. Compare in the evangelical sense, Romans 8:33-34; 1Jn 3:19-21 ; 1 John 4:17.

Lay mine honour in the dust “Honour,” or glory as it is more commonly rendered, unquestionably refers to his kingly dignity, and proves that David had, at this time, come to the throne of Israel, which corroborates the date and occasion above given to this psalm. The significant pause “selah” fitly follows so solemn an appeal to God as has just been made, and closes the strophe.

Verse 6

6. Arise, O Lord, in thine anger From the judgment seat of Jehovah, before which he had just brought his cause, he hears the voice of acquittal, and now (Psalms 7:6-8) calls upon God to arise to immediate execution of the sentence upon his enemies, and the public vindication of his own righteousness.

Thou hast commanded Judgment had not only been given in the case, but a special order for its enforcement, and hence the urgency and confidence of this prayer of the persecuted, righteous man.

Hupfeld gives the construction: “Awake for me; thou hast ordained judgment.” The idea is the same as that above given.

Verse 7

7. So shall the congregation of the people “People,” here, is in the plural peoples, and refers not to Israel only, but the nations, probably those tributary to David. The effect of divine judicial intervention in this individual case should be salutary to the nations, as illustrating the character of the divine administration.

Compass thee about Surround thy throne, as having confidence in thy judgments.

Return thou on high That is, return to thy throne of judgment, which, by the temporary triumph of the wicked, he had seemed to vacate. The Hebrew word for throne, means an elevated seat. Solomon’s throne was ascended by six steps, (1 Kings 10:19,) and Jehovah’s throne is described as “high and lifted up,” (Isaiah 6:1,) “in heaven.” Psalms 11:4. The text is a poetical allusion to the custom of kings in ascending their thrones whenever they would give public audience or administer justice.

Verse 8

8. The Lord shall judge the people The peoples, or nations, as in Psalms 7:7.

Judge me Again David urges his special judgment in connexion with the universal and ultimate right. “The final judgment is only the finale of that judgment which is in constant execution in the world itself.” Delitzsch.

Verse 9

9. Oh let the wickedness of… come to an end A prayer for universal right and justice in the earth, with calm faith in the result, finds expression in Psalms 7:9-10. It is not against men, but against wickedness, that David prays: and this is the true key to all the imprecatory psalms.

Verses 11-13

11-13. God judgeth These verses present an earnest warning, not only to David’s wicked persecutors, but to all contemners of law and justice. The style is more impassioned, although of a didactic turn, and the imagery, apparently rude, is such as is suited to the barbarous and bloodthirsty spirits with whom he has to contend. The present participial form, God is judging, God is angry, shows that the wrath of God is already “revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness of men,” for their timely warning. Not, indeed, his ultimate punishment of sin, but his corrective, disciplinary judgment against it.

If he turn not If the sinner, whoever he be, heed not these incipient and forewarning indications of displeasure. The conditional sentence proves that the present judgments against sin are corrective, and admonitory of what will follow if repentance do not supervene.

He will whet his sword That is, will proceed to ultimate punishment. This, to the subject, is never corrective. The imagery is now wholly borrowed from the use of the deadly weapons of the warrior, not at all from the corrective and disciplinary methods of a parent or magistrate. Instruments of death, are not disciplinary, yet these are prepared for those who “turn not,” repent not: God is [now] ready to inflict punishment on the incorrigible.

Verses 14-17

14-17. He travaileth Literally, he shall bring forth with pain. The dark hearted Cush of the title now re-appears. He brings forth in his conduct, with agony, what he had already conceived in his heart. Both his character and punishment are described, and he shall reap as his reward what he hath sown. Psalms 7:15-16. These are eternal truths in ethics and in the moral government.

Pit An allusion to the mode of catching wild animals.

Fallen into the ditch which he made Here is the lex talionis the most literal form of retributive justice. When will men learn there is “a God that judgeth in the earth?” Psalms 58:11. The closing verse of the psalm is a spontaneous outbreak of praise to God for his righteous dealings with men.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 7". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.