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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 56

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me.

Psalms 56:1-13.-David entreats for deliverance from his many and virulent enemies (Psalms 56:1-2); his trust amidst fears (Psalms 56:3-4); his foes' evil thoughts and wresting of his words (Psalms 56:5-6); God cannot let them escape, for He cares for His child's tears (Psalms 56:7-8); his overflowing joy at the assurance of being heard (Psalms 56:9-11); he promises thanksgiving (Psalms 56:12-13).

Title. - To the chief Musician upon Jonath-elem-rechokim. Hengstenberg translates, 'concerning the dumb dove among strangers.' The reason why David calls himself the 'dove of dumbness' appears from Psalms 38:13. The dove represents defenseless innocence. Psalms 55:6-7, 'I would wander far off' there ( 'archiyq (H7368)) corresponds to 'strangers' here ( rªchoqiym (H7350)) and 'wanderings.' The addition, "Michtam," implies a song of deep mystical import: Psalms 56:9 implies he has a secret revelation from God. The second part of the title explains the first.

When the Philistines took him in Gath. They are the 'far-off strangers' among whom he was sojourning. David, when in their power at the time that he fled to Achish, king of Gath, from Saul, is the 'mute dove' (cf. 1 Samuel 21:13-14). Saul's 'wresting his words' into treason is referred to, Psalms 56:5; Saul's vain attempt to escape the foretold judgment, by iniquitous persecution is referred to, Psalms 56:7. In Psalms 34:1-22, David returns thanks for the deliverance which he here prays for.

Be merciful - `Be gracious unto me' [ chaanan (H2603)].

For man would swallow me up - literally, 'panteth after me,' like a wild beast thirsting for my blood (Psalms 56:2; Psalms 57:3). So the verb is used in Psalms 119:131. "Man" - Hebrew, 'ªnowsh (H582), 'weak man;' marking the puny impotence of the attempt: weak man presumptuously setting himself up against the Almighty God's purpose to defend His people. The singular marks this contrast between man and God.

He fighting daily oppresseth me - or, 'he (as) an eater [ locheem (H3898)] daily oppresseth me.' In Psalms 35:1 ("Fight against them that fight against me") there occurs the same Hebrew word. The image is carried on of a wild beast panting after his prey, and desiring, as an eater, to swallow it up.

Verse 2

Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High.

Mine enemies - literally, 'my watchers;' 'those who lie in wait for me' (Psalms 5:8).

For they be many that fight against me. The same Hebrew as in Psalms 56:1: '(they be) many that would eat me.'

O thou Most High. So the Chaldaic and Muis, 'O thou who from heaven dost behold all things, and art all-powerful on high'-literally, height. Most versions, and Hengstenberg, etc., take it concerning the enemy, adverbially: they ... fight against me Loftily.' So the Hebrew in Psalms 73:8 (cf. Micah 2:3, 'haughtily'). DeBurgh's assertion that the word is never an epithet of the Deity is disproved by Psalms 92:8, 'Thou, Lord, art height [ maarowm (H4791)] forevermore.' Also Micah 6:6. I therefore prefer the English version.

Verse 3

What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.

What, time I am afraid, I will trust in thee - literally, 'what, day.' As 'man daily oppresseth me' (Psalms 56:1), so 'everyday, when I am afraid, I trust in thee.' The Psalmist's fear (Psalms 56:1-2) here gives place to confident hope.

Verse 4

In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.

In God I will praise his word - i:e., trusting "in God, I will praise His word." So Psalms 56:10 expands this clause. Maurer understands even in before "His word," thus-`In God I trust, (even in) His word.' Compare Psalms 44:8. I prefer the English version. "His word" here is His word of promise (Psalms 33:4; Psalms 119:25).

In God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me - repeated in Psalms 56:11, with the slight alteration of "man" into "flesh." (Isaiah 31:3; Isaiah 11:6). Man is but weak flesh; perishing 'like the grass;' what real hurt, then, can he do to one trusting in, and therefore protected by God? (Psalms 118:6; Hebrews 13:6.)

Verse 5

Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil.

Every day they wrest my words. "Wrest" - literally, vex my protestations of innocence. Saul and mine enemies, instead of regarding in the true light, and ceasing to persecute me, distort and misrepresent as feigned words, and insist that I am plotting treason.

Verse 6

They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul.

They gather themselves together. So the Hebrew [ guwr (H1481)] is rendered, Psalms 59:3; Isaiah 54:15. Compare Psalms 31:13.

They hide themselves - lying in wait for me. [The Masoretic text substitutes the Qal, yitspownuw (H6845), for the Hiphil, yitsapiynuw (H6845).]

When they wait for my soul - i:e., for my life. "Wait for" - literally, expect, hope for.

Verse 7

Shall they escape by iniquity? in thine anger cast down the people, O God.

Shall they escape by iniquity? - literally, 'upon (the ground of) their iniquity (there is) to them (the hope of) escape' (cf. Isaiah 28:15). Such was Saul's vain hope of averting, by the persecution of David, God's sentence that he should lose his throne.

In thine anger cast down the people - `the peoples' who plot with Saul against me. So the parallel, Psalms 7:6.

Verse 8

Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?

Thou tellest my wanderings - i:e., Thou takest note of my movements in 'my flight' from my home and country.

Put thou my tears into thy bottle - i:e., receive them as it were in a lachrymatory, or bottle for receiving tears, that thou mayest treasure them up as precious in thy sight, and as calling for an ample compensation to me in joy hereafter (Psalms 126:5; Isaiah 61:7). His tears were shed because of his flight or banishment. There is a play upon similar sounds, to mark this connection an the Hebrew for "my wanderings" and "thy bottle" [ no'dekaa (H4997); nodiy (H5112)].

Are they not in thy book? - thy "book of remembrance" (Malachi 3:16).

Verses 9-11

When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me.

-The turning point of the psalm. The Psalmist is now assured of being heard.

Verse 9. When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back. "Then" points to the sure connection between the coming deliverance from his enemies and the prayer which precedes it. In the day (that I cry (so the Hebrew is), as I do now to thee, then mine enemies are sure to turn back.

This I know; for God (is) for me - literally, 'for God (is) to me:' I have Him on my side (Psalms 73:25; Psalms 124:1-2).

Verse 10. In God will I praise (his) word; in the Lord will I praise (his) word. The first clause of Psalms 56:4 is herein expanded. The words, 'in God ... in Yahweh (the Lord)' form an ascending climax, implying joyful assurance. The change of expression from "His word" (Psalms 56:4) to "word" absolutely is not undesigned. The word here seems not merely His outward word, but Himself, revealed as thy Word to the Psalmist's heart.

Verse 11. In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me - (cf. note, Psalms 56:4.)

Verse 12

Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee.

Thy vows are upon me, O God. David regards his deliverance as already accomplished, and therefore considers his vows, which had been taken in the event of deliverance, as now due.

I will render praise unto thee - I will pay thee thank offerings, or eucharistical sacrifices (Jeremiah 33:11).

Verse 13

For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?

For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling - through the assault of mine enemies. The interrogation strongly confirms the entreaty (cf. Psalms 56:8, end; also. Genesis 13:9).

That I may walk before God in the light of the living? - i:e., among the living (Job 33:30; in Ps. 28:13 , "in the land of the living;" 116:9). "Before God;" i:e., in a way pleasing to God, and under His gracious guidance and care (Genesis 17:1; Genesis 17:18; Psalms 36:9: cf. Isaiah 9:2; John 12:35).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 56". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/psalms-56.html. 1871-8.
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