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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 55

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-2

David began this psalm with a prayer in which he called on God to hear his petition.

Verses 1-8

1. A cry out of agony 55:1-8

Verses 1-23

Psalms 55

The occasion that inspired the composition of this individual lament psalm was David’s betrayal by an intimate friend. We do not know with certainty who he was, though some commentators have suggested Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:31). One manuscript of Jerome’s Latin Version has the title "The voice of Christ against the chiefs of the Jews and the traitor Judas." [Note: Kirkpatrick, p. 308.]

David prayed that God would deliver him from his plight. He also lamented his distress that a trusted friend had betrayed him, and he voiced confidence in God who redeems His elect.

Verses 2-3

The pressure David’s enemy had placed on him sprang from a grudge. Evidently David had offended this person previously and now he was getting even. His enemy’s words had brought trouble down on the psalmist.

Verses 4-5

David expressed his anguish in a variety of expressions in these verses. His friend’s betrayal had upset him greatly.

Verses 6-8

He wished he could escape his situation as a harmless dove flies away from a storm and hides in a remote and secure desert nest.

Verses 9-11

Specifically, David wanted God to confuse the person responsible for his suffering. His opposition had resulted in confusion in the city, perhaps Jerusalem. The manifestations of this confusion were violence, strife, iniquity, mischief, destruction, oppression, and deceit.

Verses 9-15

2. A request out of deceit 55:9-15

Verse 12

Such antagonism would have been easier for David to bear had it come from someone he disliked. However, his adversary had been an intimate friend who had just "stabbed him in the back."

Verses 13-14

David addressed his former friend. Not only had he and David been good friends, they had also shared their deepest commitments in life, as worshipping together indicates.

Verse 15

David called down God’s judgment on his former friend and his ungodly allies. By opposing David, this traitor was also opposing God since David was the Lord’s anointed. As he had deceived David by his treachery, so God should deceive him by putting him to death. Going down alive to the grave pictures a violent rather than a peaceful death (cf. Numbers 16:31-40).

Verses 16-19

Rather than practicing evil, as his enemies did, David said he would pray to God for deliverance (cf. Daniel 6:10). Rather than creating havoc in the city, he would petition the courts of heaven for justice. In place of a violent death, David anticipated a peaceful salvation. God, the eternal sovereign, will give to each person what he or she deserves. He will give peace to the guiltless and punishment to the guilty, eventually.

Verses 16-23

3. A call out of confidence 55:16-23

Verses 20-21

David further described the deceitfulness of his former friend’s treachery.

Verses 22-23

The psalmist concluded this poem with a homily to the reader. He encouraged the righteous to roll their burdens on the Lord rather than bearing them themselves (cf. 1 Peter 5:7). He trusted in the Lord’s ability to sustain His own-having experienced it many times in his life (cf. Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5). However, he had also learned that sin leads to death (Romans 6:23). Normally those who live by the sword perish by the sword and die prematurely (Genesis 9:6; Matthew 26:52). In view of these two alternatives, David reaffirmed his decision to trust in the Lord.

The opposition of ungodly people is difficult to bear, but the antagonism of formerly intimate friends is even harder. When friends prove unfaithful, believers should continue to remain faithful to the Lord and trust Him to sustain and vindicate them.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 55". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/psalms-55.html. 2012.
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