Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, April 20th, 2024
the Third Week after Easter
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 55

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-23

Psalms 55:6 . Oh that I had wings like a dove, to outfly the hawks which seek my life. The Latin reads, Who will give me wings like a dove? But the English is preferable, as uttering the heart before the Lord.

Psalms 55:13 . But it was thou. The Chaldaic reads, “But thou, Ahithophel.”

Psalms 55:15 . Let death, seize upon them. These are the usual prayers before a battle. They were just prayers, such as God answered in the wood of Ephraim, where the rebels were forced over a precipice, as stated in 2 Samuel 18:6-8.

Psalms 55:16-18 . The Lord shall save me. Jerome reads, “from the battle that was fought against me; for there were many against me.”

Psalms 55:23 . The pit of destruction. The Chaldee, The abyss of gehenna, which is a punishment beyond the grave.


We have here another psalm of grief and deep distress. It was written after David had fled from his capital, to avoid Absalom and the rebels. It is very useful to men under calumny and reproach, and cannot but remind us of what Christ suffered in the garden, and from the Jews.

We here see what was the conduct of those who originated this rebellion. While Absalom was conciliating popularity by degrading condescensions, those initiated into his plot were degrading the king throughout the city, by false and shameful imputations of wickedness; for rebellion unfolds the depravity of man on a full scale. It paints sometimes the grandeur, but oftener the enormity of his passions; and exhibits him as capable of perpetrating crimes, at which in a cooler moment every feeling of his soul would revolt.

When David was apprized of the nature and extent of the plot; indignation at the perfidy, horror at the crimes, and the terrors of the carnage seized his soul. He sighed not for the throne; he was weary of royalty; but he envied the happy liberty of the dove, who in a moment of danger, stretches her wings to a peaceful retreat. So Jeremiah, unsuccessful in his ministry in the like evil age, sighed for a shepherd’s hut, or even a tent in the desert among wayfaring men, that he might weep for their wickedness. So also the good man, long assailed with calamities and pains, sighs for a retreat at his master’s feet; and by and bye, his master will grant his utmost wish. He shall gain the peaceful shore, and smile to leave the raging floods behind.

David at first, having no adequate help in man, nor knowing whom to trust, sought his help in God. He prayed the Lord to destroy the slander of their tongues, and to divide their counsel. This the Lord did when Absalom’s officers preferred Hushai’s counsel before Ahithophel’s. No man succeeds as candidate for a throne but he who has first received his commission from above, and no prince falls but he whom the Lord forsakes.

The horror with which David viewed Ahithophel’s treason and hypocrisy is next finely painted. This man, consummate in address, and famed as an oracle of wisdom, had so far ingratiated himself with the king as to fill the first place in his council. David had made this man his equal and friend; he had imparted to him every secret, and allowed him to dictate in all the affairs of state. This man, to complete his ascendancy over the royal mind, had affected also to be religious. He daily walked with his master to the house of God; he talked delightfully on religious subjects, and the affairs of salvation. Thus while he flattered his sovereign, and seemed a saint of the first class, he was secretly plotting his destruction. What then must have been David’s indignation when he learned that this saint had joined Absalom; that this saint had advised the prince to dishonour his father’s bed? Well might he exclaim, Let death seize them; let them go down, like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, alive into hell. But when David in this manner pours maledictions on his foes, we should remember that he had a right to speak as a prophet and a judge; and that his sentence or prediction was in a few days most awfully executed against them, as has already been explained. But we are not to rejoice in the destruction of those that hate us, nor indulge in a spirit of malevolence. Job 31:29.

We are farther told that bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days. As a candle in a calm place burns out its full time, but sweals away in a draft; so human life is shortened by intemperance, and the wicked destroy one another by contention and war. This more fully evinces that when David thus sentenced the rebels, he did it by the Holy Spirit. See Psalm 35. 59. 69.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 55". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/psalms-55.html. 1835.
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