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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Psalms 4

Verse 1

1. Prayer to God 4:1

David called on God to hear and answer his prayer. He appealed to God as the righteous One who had delivered him from former distress. God is righteous in Himself, but He also does what is right for His children, namely, come to their rescue when they are in need (cf. Psalms 25:4-5; Isaiah 45:13). The terms used to describe relief from distress picture moving out of a tight corner into an open space. The NASB, "Thou hast relieved me," is a better translation of the Hebrew perfect tense than the NIV, "Give me relief."

Verses 1-8

Psalms 4

Many students of the psalms have recognized that Psalms 4 is very closely akin to Psalms 3 in both subject matter and structure. It is an individual lament with motifs characteristic of psalms of confidence. Bullock saw this type of psalm as a distinct genre (including Psalms 4, 16, 23, 27, 62, , 73) and called these psalms individual psalms of trust.

"Unlike the psalms of thanksgiving, which state the crisis and also add a word of assurance that the crisis has passed, this group of psalms makes their declaration of trust in the Lord, but do not always clarify the occasion that provoked the statement of confidence." [Note: Bullock, p. 166.]

"Somewhere in the shadows of the psalms of trust trouble is lurking." [Note: Ibid.]

David may have written this psalm on the same occasion as the previous one or near then. It is an evening hymn (Psalms 4:8). Perhaps it occurs after Psalms 3 in the Psalter because of these similarities.

Many of the psalms begin with instructions concerning how the Israelites were to use the psalm in public worship, as this one does. As mentioned previously, these notations are very old. They usually constitute the first verse of the psalm in the Hebrew Bible. This authority suggests their divine inspiration.

In this psalm, David warned his enemies not to sin against God by opposing His anointed king.

Verse 2

David’s enemies stand in contrast to God; they were sinners, but He was righteous. If they were Absalom and his followers, or whoever they were, they were trying to turn David’s honor as a godly king into a bad reputation with their lies (cf. 2 Samuel 15:3). They seem to have been despising his position as king. They pursued vanity and deception. "Deception" (NASB) refers to their lies and is preferable to the NIV translation "false gods." David’s questions reflect his amazement at their foolishness.

Verses 2-5

2. Warning for enemies 4:2-5

Verse 3

David was godly (Heb. hasid) because he was the object of God’s election for a special purpose. His godliness was the result of God’s calling, not the reason for it. Because the Lord had set him aside for a special purpose of His own (i.e., sanctified, "set apart," him) David was confident God would hear his prayer.

Verse 4

David urged his enemies on the basis of his calling by God (Psalms 4:3) not to give way to sin in their anger against the king (cf. Ephesians 4:26). They needed to tremble with fear and stop sinning. They would be wise to remain still as they meditated on their opposition to David, while lying in bed at night, rather than getting up and opposing him. Opposing the Lord’s anointed would constitute sin. It would be better for them to submit to God by submitting to His agent, King David.

Verse 5

Righteous sacrifices are those offered with a proper spirit of submission to God and His king (cf. 2 Samuel 15:12). Rather than opposing, David’s adversaries should trust.

Verse 6

The comment of many people that David quoted reflects the spirit of discontent with present conditions that had led them to oppose the king.

"The Jewish Publication Society version reads, ’O for good days!’ It’s well been said that ’the good old days’ are a combination of a bad memory and a good imagination." [Note: Wiersbe, The . . . Wisdom . . ., p. 95.]

The desire of these complainers for good was legitimate. David asked God to show them good by blessing them. Causing God’s face to shine on His people is a figure of speech for bestowing His favor on them (cf. Psalms 31:16; Psalms 44:3; Psalms 67:1; Psalms 80:3; Psalms 80:7; Psalms 80:19; Psalms 119:135). Promised covenant blessings would accompany God’s presence (cf. Numbers 6:25).

Verses 6-8

3. Confidence in God 4:6-8

Verse 7

Knowing he was God’s chosen servant and that those who sought to overthrow him were acting contrary to the will of God brought great joy to David’s heart. He said he felt more joy than he experienced during Israel’s harvest festivals, that were some of the happiest occasions in the year.

Verse 8

He could rest and sleep peacefully with this knowledge (cf. Psalms 3:5). Even though many sinners opposed him, he was right with his righteous God. He knew God would protect him. David’s name means "beloved," and his words in this verse express his appreciation for the fact that he was beloved by the Lord.

The elect of God can experience true joy and peace-even though the ungodly may oppose them-because He will protect and provide for them (cf. Galatians 5:22; Romans 14:17).

"As an expression of confidence in God, the psalm helps the reader to meditate on God’s fatherly care and to leave the troubles and causes of anxiety in his hands. Here the psalmist teaches us that in our walk with God he can bring us to the point where we can sleep without fear." [Note: VanGemeren, p. 80.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/psalms-4.html. 2012.