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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Psalms 3

Verses 1-2

1. Present danger 3:1-2

David began by lamenting his situation: enemies surrounded him. His threefold complaint is synthetic parallelism. In synthetic parallelism, the parts of a statement complement one another to create a harmonious desired effect. Here it seemed to David that everyone was against him. As David grew older, people in Israel increasingly turned away from him, believing that God had abandoned him. Absalom had won the hearts and support of many in the kingdom (2 Samuel 15:6). "Deliverance" is literally "salvation" (Heb. yeshua) and appears about 136 times in Psalms. Most references to "deliverance" or "salvation" in the Old Testament have physical deliverance from some bad situation in view, rather than spiritual deliverance to eternal life.

The word "Selah," which occurs 71 times in the psalms, was probably a musical notation. Israel’s leaders may have added it sometime after David wrote the psalm when they incorporated it into public worship. It evidently indicated when the worshippers were to "lift up" their voices or their hands, since "Selah" seems to come from the Hebrew word salah, meaning "to lift up" or "to elevate."

Verses 1-8

Psalms 3

The title of this individual lament psalm identifies the writer as David. It also uses the word "psalm" (Heb. mismor) for the first time in the Psalter. All but four of the psalms in Book 1 of the Psalter identify David as their writer, all except Psalms 1, 2, 10, , 33. The occasion of his writing this one was his flight from Absalom (2 Samuel 15-18). Fourteen psalms record the historical episodes from which they sprang (Psalms 3, 7, 18, 30, 34, 51, 52, 54, 56, 57, 59, 60, 63, 142).

In 1905, J. W. Thirtle proposed the theory that some of the titles, that appear at the beginning of some of the psalms, were originally postscripts at the end of the preceding psalm. He believed copyists unfortunately moved them. He based this theory on the fact that some Egyptian and Akkadian hymns ended with postscripts that contained the kinds of notations found in some of the psalm titles. Not many conservative Bible scholars have agreed with Thirtle’s theory. [Note: J. W. Thirtle, The Titles of the Psalms.]

In Psalms 3, David voiced his confidence that God would protect him, since he was the Lord’s chosen king. This is the first of many prayers in the Psalms. In Psalms 2 the enemies are foreign nations and kings, but in Psalms 3 they are the people of Israel.

Ironside, who believed there was a great deal of prophecy in the Psalms, wrote that in Psalms 3-7 "we have set forth in a peculiar way the sufferings that the remnant of Israel will endure in the days of the great tribulation. But they also apply to God’s people at any time while waiting for the coming again of the rejected King." [Note: Ironside, p. 27.]

Verse 3

David believed that God had not abandoned him, and he regarded Him as his real source of protection, his "shield." This figure of God as Protector is common in the psalms (cf. Psalms 7:10; Psalms 18:2; Psalms 18:30; Psalms 28:7; Psalms 33:20; Psalms 59:11; Psalms 84:11; Psalms 115:9-11; Psalms 119:114; Psalms 144:2). "My glory" reflects the honor of serving the eternal God who ruled gloriously over His kingdom. The king felt confident that God would restore him to his throne. The expression "lift the head" means to restore to dignity and position and reflects confidence in the Lord (cf. Genesis 40:13; Genesis 40:20; 2 Kings 25:27 [AV]). The opposite occurs in 2 Samuel 15:30. The basis for David’s confidence was the Lord’s choice of him as Israel’s king and His not choosing Absalom. It was not his knowledge of the future or his military might.

Verses 3-6

2. Present deliverance 3:3-6

Verses 4-5

David viewed God’s preservation of him through the night, before he wrote this psalm, as a token confirmation of God’s complete deliverance from Absalom. The king had petitioned God in prayer for safety, and the Lord had answered from Mount Zion-where David had pitched a tent for the ark of the covenant (2 Samuel 6:17). The Lord’s answer was His protection through the night (cf. 2 Samuel 17:16; 2 Samuel 17:21-22).

Verse 6

On the basis of this deliverance, David received confidence that God would give him final victory over his thousands of enemies.

Verse 7

The writer continued to pray for complete deliverance. Evidently David was so certain that God would save him that he described his enemy as already defeated. Perhaps he was referring to God’s faithfulness in defeating former enemies. The Hebrew verbs permit either interpretation. The imagery is very graphic and even somewhat grotesque from the viewpoint of a modern reader, but Hebrew poets often expressed their thoughts in strong, vivid terms.

Verses 7-8

3. Ultimate victory 3:7-8

Verse 8

The conclusion contains a testimony from the writer that should serve as a lesson to the reader (cf. Jonah 2:9), and a final prayer. In view of the content of this psalm, the blessing on God’s people that David may have had in mind could be rescue from their enemies when they call on Him.

This encouraging psalm teaches us that when God’s elect call on Him for deliverance from enemies who are behaving contrary to the will of God, they can count on His salvation.

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 3". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/psalms-3.html. 2012.