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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Psalms 54

 

 

Verse 1

PSALM 54

PRAYER FOR DELIVERANCE FROM ENEMIES

Superscription: For the Chief Musician: on stringed instruments. Maschil of David: when the Ziphites came and said to Saul, Doth not David himself hide with us?

The historical background here, according to the superscription, is related in 1 Samuel 23:19, which reports the offer of the Ziphites to betray David into the hands of Saul. The Ziphites became involved in this manner. David and his men had been joined by Abiathar, a son of Abimelech, who had escaped Doeg's massacre, and being a priest, he brought the sacred Ephod with him, by means of which David, after saving Keilah from the hands of the Philistines, escaped to the wilderness of Ziph, being warned by God through Abiathar.

While David was in that wilderness (Ziph), the Ziphites, hoping to ingratiate themselves with Saul, offered to betray David, whereupon, again being warned through Abiathar, David fled to the wilderness of Maon.

The speculation of Bible critics is a very poor substitute for these superscriptions, which, to us, seem more and more dependable as psalm after psalm is seen to agree perfectly with what is written in the superscriptions.

There are only seven verses here, and we shall examine them in order instead of seeking some kind of an outline.

Psalms 54:1

"Save me, O God, by thy name,

And judge me in thy might."

David may very well have been in the wilderness of Maon at the time of writing this psalm. It was in that wilderness that Saul was almost able to surround David and capture him; but in what we believe was a providential intervention, Saul received a message that the Philistines were invading Israel; and "He returned from pursuing David" (1 Samuel 23:28). This indeed appears to have been a direct answer to David's prayer. David then took up a stronger position in what is called, "the stronghold of Engedi" (1 Samuel 23:29).


Verse 2

"Hear my prayer, O God;

Give ear to the words of my mouth.

For strangers are risen up against me,

And violent men have sought after my soul:

They have not set God before them. (Selah)"

The greatness of David is seen in the fact that in whatever difficulty he found himself, he always turned to God in prayer. Here he earnestly pleaded for God's help against unbelieving enemies.

"Strangers are risen up against me" (Psalms 54:3). These were the Ziphites who had no business whatever meddling in the affairs of Israel. They were pagans "who set not God before them." Furthermore, their willingness to help Saul may have been due to Saul's involvement with their pagan gods. Saul had even named one of his sons Ethbaal, after the old Canaanite god Baal. God's rejection of Saul was undoubtedly due, at least partially, to his tolerance of such pagan deities.

"They have not set God before them" (Psalms 54:3). As Spurgeon said, "David felt that atheism lay at the bottom of the enmity that pursued him."[1] This, of course, points squarely at the pagan Ziphites.


Verse 4

"Behold, God is my helper:

The Lord is of them that uphold my soul.

He will requite the evil unto mine enemies:

Destroy thou them in thy truth."

"The Lord is of them that uphold my soul" (Psalms 54:4). "This is a literal rendition of the Hebrew";[2] but the thought is not that the Lord is merely one of David's helpers, but that it is no other than God himself who supports and aids all of those helpers who are helping David. "Like a string of zeroes, our many friends stand for nothing, unless the Lord sets himself as a unit in front of them; then their number is innumerable."[3] Who were David's human helpers? They were the "six hundred men"; they were the "thirty-three mighty men"; they were "all in Israel who loved the Lord," and who prayed to be rid of the blatant paganism of Saul.

"He will requite the evil unto mine enemies" (Psalms 54:5) "The center of the Psalm is God's faithfulness; therefore right will be vindicated and enemies will be punished."[4] Nothing is further from the Spirit of God than the foolish notion that God is never really going to punish anybody.


Verse 6

"With a freewill-offering will I sacrifice unto thee:

I will give thanks unto thy Name, O Jehovah, for it is good.

For he hath delivered me out of all trouble;

And mine eye hath seen my desire upon mine enemies."

That sudden cessation of Saul's pursuit of David in the wilderness of Maon was as dramatic and evident an answer to prayer as anyone could imagine; and David no doubt understood it to mean that God would indeed deliver him and preserve him, hence the confidence of these last verses.

"Confidence having now mounted up to certainty, and regarding his deliverance as already surely accomplished, David promises to make a freewill-offering as soon as he is able to approach the sanctuary. The freewill-offering mentioned here is the one mentioned in Numbers 15:3."[5]

"And mine eye hath seen my desire upon mine enemies" (Psalms 54:7). We believe this translation is defective because, as Rawlinson said, "There is nothing about `desire' in the original."[6] That is the reason the word `desire' is written in italics in many versions, including the ASV. Rawlinson proposed this as a better rendition, "Mine eye has looked calmly and leisurely upon my defeated enemies."[7]

Certainly this is a thousand times better than that of J. M. P. Smith, who rendered it, "My eye has gloated over my foes." He then called it a "Nasty note of personal vengeance."[8]

"This is probably not personal vindication, but an affirmation of how things must work in a world ruled by God's faithfulness."[9]

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 54:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/psalms-54.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, August 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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