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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Psalms 3

Verse 1

LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me.

Title. - A psalm, [ mizmowr (H4210), from the Piel conjugation of zaamar (H2167), to sing]. Gesenius explains it 'a song cut or divided in rhythmical numbers.' Mendlessohn, 'a song accompanied by a musical instrument, by which it is divided into portions.' But Hengstenberg takes the root [ zaamar (H2167)] to mean to decorate, dress, adorn (compare Hebrew, Leviticus 25:3-4; Isaiah 5:6, where the word is applied to the dressing of a vineyard): hence, to sing to the Lord in ornate speech and with well-executed music: so the Hebrew is used Judges 5:3.

Of David - i:e., written by David. His name means 'the beloved' [and comes from dowd (H1730), or yaadad (H3032), he loved'] (whence Solomon's name, Jedidiah, 2 Samuel 12:25, margin, 'Beloved of the Lord').

When he fled from Absalom - (2 Samuel 15:16.) The reason why Absalom is not mentioned by David in the psalm, is partly owing to the great love which, as a father, he bore to Absalom (2 Samuel 18:5; 2 Samuel 18:12; 2 Samuel 18:29; 2 Samuel 18:32): chiefly because merely personal particulars were unsuited to the purpose of the Psalms, which are designed for the liturgical service.

This psalm was probably sketched out by David on his way to Mahanaim, where he had fled beyond Jordan, after having heard of Ahithophel's counsel, and that all Israel had joined Absalom (2 Samuel 17:1-2; 2 Samuel 17:21-24; cf. Psalms 3:1-2; Psalms 3:6 here). It describes his confidence in the Lord on his first night, the most critical one in the rebellion (cf. Psalms 3:4-6 with 2 Samuel 16:14; 2 Samuel 17:15-29).

Psalms 3:1-8.-David's troubles (Psalms 3:1-2); his shield (Psalms 3:3); his past resource prayer and its answer (Psalms 3:4); his confidence against foes, so that he lies down calmly through the Lord's help (Psalms 3:5-6); his prayer (Psalms 3:7); his praise (Psalms 3:8).

Many ... rise up against me. So the Antitype, Christ, said to the armed band led by Judas, "Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves?" (Luke 22:53.) As Ahithophel, David's former counselor, rose up against him, so Christ's "familiar friend" (Psalms 41:9), and one of the twelve, "lifted up his heel against Him:" the treachery and suicide of both correspond. When fleeing from Absalom, David passed over the Brook Kidron; so Jesus on the night of His betrayal (John 18:1). The Mount of Olives was the scene of the tears of both David and the Son of David (cf. 2 Samuel 15:30 with Matthew 26:30; Matthew 26:38; Luke 22:44).

Verse 2

Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.

Say of my soul, [ lªnapshiy (H5315)] - better 'say TO my soul, There is no help for him in God.' Then Psalms 35:3 forms a beautiful contrast. For the Hebrew word for "help" and "salvation" is one [in both places yªshuw`aataah (H3444)]. Whence come the names Jehoshua, or Joshua, and Jeshua [ Yeeshuwa` (H3442); (Greek, Ieesous (G2424), Jesus, for Joshua), Nehemiah 8:17; Acts 7:45; Hebrews 4:8 ]. Many say to my soul, "There is no salvation for him in God:" but, do thou "say to my soul, I am thy salvation." Some of his foes thought that God takes no cognizance of earthly affairs (Psalms 10:11; Psalms 42:3; Psalms 42:10); others, that God had forsaken him, as subsequently his Antitype (Psalms 71:11; Psalms 22:7-8; Matthew 27:43). Of the latter was Shimei, 2 Samuel 16:8: this stung David in the sorest point-namely, big trust in God. 'The denial that God is our God finds an ally in the believer's own consciousness of guilt, amid all his convictions of innocence in regard to particular charges. It requires no small faith to gain here the victory' (Hengstenberg). Against the taunt of his foes, "There is no salvation for him in God" ( 'Elohiym (H430)), David (Psalms 3:8) asserts, "Salvation belongeth unto the Lord" (Psalms 3:2) ( Yahweh (H3068)). They use the general name 'ELOHIYM (H430). He in reply (Psalms 3:8) uses the special name that implies God's unchangeable faithfulness to His promises YAHWEH (H3068) (Jehovah). So the taunt uttered against his Antitype, "He trusted in God: let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him" (Matthew 27:43).

Selah - found 73 times in the Psalms 3:1-8 times in Habakkuk: from Celaah (H5542), rest. A music mark, noting a pause during which the singers ceased to sing, and only the instruments were heard. Septuagint, diapsalma, a break in the psalm. It is introduced where the sense requires a rest. It is a call to calm reflection on the preceding words of the psalm; whence, in Psalms 9:16, it follows "Higgaion;" i:e., meditation. The Selah reminds us that the psalm requires a peaceful and meditative soul, which can apprehend what the Holy Spirit reminds us that the psalm requires a peaceful and meditative soul, which can apprehend what the Holy Spirit propounds.

Verse 3

But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.

But - against the enemy's denial of God's power and will to save him, which, indeed, seems confirmed by the trouble on every side in which he is, faith recalls past deliverances, and relies on God's Word. So the Antitype "committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously" (1 Peter 2:23).

Thou art shield - as to Abraham (Genesis 15:1), and to Israel (Deuteronomy 33:29). A favourite designation of God in David's Psalms.

For me, [ ba`ªdiy (H1157)] - rather, as margin, 'around me.' Not merely as a common shield, protecting me in front, but encompassing me on every side against the "many that rise up against me" (Psalms 139:3; Psalms 139:5).

My glory - whereas they think to put me to shame. The honour which God has put on me heretofore is a pledge that He will not now disgrace me for ever. Nay, God Himself is "my glory."

The lifter up of mine head - in times past; for instance, when thou didst lift me up from following the flocks to be King of Israel; again, from the persecutions of Saul; so now wilt thou be my 'lifter up' from the unnatural revolt of Absalom. Compare Genesis 40:13: another type of Christ lifted up from the tomb after three days.

Verse 4

I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.

I cried ... he heard me - `He answered [ `aanah (H6030)] me.' David's habit of "crying" to the Lord at all times, and the fact that the Lord is the continual answerer of his prayer, is the ground of hope that He will now also deliver him.

With my voice. The heart must pray inwardly, and then express its feeling outwardly 'with the voice.' Heart-prayer, unless embodied in words, degenerates into dreamy musing. Words without the heart is hypocritical formalism. Christ, "in the days of His flesh ... offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard" (Hebrews 5:7). God was the Lifter up of His head at the resurrection (Psalms 3:3).

Out of his holy hill - "Zion," upon which David was set as Yahweh king, the type of Messiah, about to reign Out of his holy hill - "Zion," upon which David was set as Yahweh king, the type of Messiah, about to reign on the same hill. The Lord promised to "dwell there forever" (Psalms 132:13-14). Upon Zion, Yahweh, as Israel's God, sat enthroned above the ark of the covenant, which had been removed there by David. The believing Israelite therefore looks for help from Yahweh upon Zion: not merely from 'Elohiym (H430), which expresses God's power in general, but from Yahweh, expressing His covenant relation to Israel; just as the Christian looks to Yahweh Jesus, through whom God is in covenant with believers. Horeb is never in the Old Testament the "holy hill" to which the Israelites looked for help, just as neither do Christians look to the Law, but to the Gospel, which speaks from heaven, of which Zion is the type (Hebrews 12:22-25).

Verse 5

I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me.

I laid me down and slept. Thus this verse would be joined to Psalms 3:3-4; referring to past times, in which God had given him calm sleep amidst troubles. But the "Selah" at the end of Psalms 3:4 marks the break in the music and the sense, at the end of the second strophe. Rather, therefore, refer this 5th verse to his present danger, in which he anticipates safe repose: 'I lay me down and sleep; I awake; because the Lord sustains me.' Faith sees what is not as if it were, the awaking as surely as the lying down (Hengstenberg). (Hebrews 11:1; cf. Psalms 4:8.) The "I" [ 'ªniy (H589)] is emphatic. "I," whom ye imagine to be without "help" from God (Psalms 3:2), 'lay me down and sleep,' sustained by Yahweh. So it was according to his faith. Ahithophel's counsel was defeated, and David slept secure (2 Samuel 17:1; 2 Samuel 17:16; 2 Samuel 17:22; 2 Samuel 17:24). So Jesus composed Himself to sleep in the storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:38; Mark 4:40); and in prospect of the antitypical sleep of the tomb, He could say, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit," (Luke 23:46; Psalms 23:1.)

Verse 6

I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.

Ten thousands - the "many" of Psalms 3:1-2.

Verse 7

Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.

Arise ... save me. What thou hast done for me heretofore is the ground of MY confident prayer that thou wilt do so again. "Save me," and so show 'there is help (Hebrew, salvation) for me in God,' in opposition to their do so again. "Save me," and so show 'there is help (Hebrew, salvation) for me in God,' in opposition to their taunt (Psalms 3:2).

Smitten ... upon the cheek-bone - implying at once the shame and subjugation of his foes (Lamentations 3:30). An image also from wild beasts, which, when their jaw has been broken, and the teeth dashed out, can no longer hurt. David's foes, like so many wild beasts, would have "eaten up his flesh" (Psalms 27:2). But God renders them powerless; because David's foes are God's foes. He was the representative of religions principle: their hatred of him flowed from their hatred of God. 'The ungodly principle, which was put to the worse in Saul, sought afterward to regain the ascendant in Absalom, the center of the unrighteous party' (Hengstenberg). This forms the ground of his prayer. The expression, "MY God," marks David's close relation to God, as his claim upon God for help and salvation.

Verse 8

Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.

Salvation belongeth unto the Lord - as its sole Possessor and Dispenser (Jonah 2:9; Proverbs 21:31, end; Jeremiah 3:23). In opposition to the taunt (Psalms 3:2), "There is no help (Hebrew, salvation) for him in God," David comforts himself with the reflection, To Yahweh alone belongeth saving help; Yahweh is "my God" (Psalms 3:7); therefore there is all-saving help for me.

Thy blessing is upon thy people. 'May thy blessing be' (Hengstenberg). Like the Son of David, David's concern is for God's people, committed to him, more than for himself (cf. 2 Samuel 24:17) The "blessing" desired answers to "salvation" in the former clause. The prayer in the latter clause for this "blessing" rests on the assurance in the former clause, that God has such saving help altogether at His disposal. As Christ and the Church are one, so David, who had spoken as representative of Messiah, here speaks for Messiah's people.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/psalms-3.html. 1871-8.