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Psalms 3:1 « A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son. » LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many [are] they that rise up against me.
A Psalm of David ] Tremellius addeth, Quem cecinit, which he sang when he fled, &c. As birds in the spring tune most sweetly when it rains most sadly. This was better yet than that black sanctus (as they call it) sung by our Henry II in like case, and for like cause. For when, as some few hours before he died, he saw a list of their names who conspired with the king of France and Earl Richard (his son and successor) against him, and found therein his son John (whom he had made earl of Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset, Nottingham, Derby, and Lancaster, &c.), to be the first; he fell into a grievous passion, both cursing his sons and the day wherein himself was born; and in that distemper departed the world, which so often himself had distempered.
When he fled from ] Heb. From the face of Absalom, which he had too much admired, and was now afraid of. Then when he went up Mount Olivet weeping, 2 Samuel 15:30 , made he this psalm, say the Rabbis. So in the sack of Ziklag he comforted himself in the Lord his God, 1 Samuel 30:6 . A Christian is never without his cordial.
Absalom his son ] His darling, his tidling, his one eye. Such another good son was Barabbas, which signifies his father’s son, his white boy, as we say, like as Absalom signifieth his father’s peace, but it proved otherwise; as it likewise befell Eve, when she called her firstborn Cain, and thought she had got a great boon from the Lord. But
Fallitur augurio spes bona saepe suo,
David was disappointed: for Absalom proved like the sea Pacific or calm, so it is called; but Captain Drake found it rough and troublous above measure (Heyl. Geog.). Absalom would have done by David, if he could have come at him, as afterwards Amidas did with his father Muleasses, king of Tunis, in Africa, whom he first dethroned, and afterwards put out his eyes (Turk. Hist.). In Absalom was nothing good but his name. That may have a good name the nature whereof is so ill that it is not to be named; like as, Leviticus 20:17 , abominable incest between brother and sister is called chesed, or kindness, per antiphrasin.
Ver. 1. Lord, how are they increased that trouble me? ] He worthily wondereth at so sudden a change:
Omnia sunt hominum tenui pendentia filo;
Et subito casu, quae valuere, ruunt.
David was deserted by all almost, and had now as many enemies as till now he had subjects, excepting a few that stuck to him. Our Henry VI, who had been the most potent monarch for dominions that ever England had, was, when deposed, not the master of a molehill; and served to show that mortality was but the stage of mutability.
Many are they that rise up against me ] Many, and many, by the figure anaphora. Here is also in the original a ομοιοτελευτον in the words, Tsarai in the former clause, and Gnalai in the latter; not unlike that doleful ditty of the Church, Lamentations 5:16 , Oi na lanu, chei chattanu, Woe to us that we have sinned! which is so elegant in the original, that Mr William Whately of Bradbury (who used to be very plain in his preaching, and not to name a Greek, Latin, or Hebrew word) quoted it once in the Hebrew, as a hearer of his relateth (Mr Leigh, Saint’s Encour. Ep. dedic.).
Psa 3:2 Many [there be] which say of my soul, [There is] no help for him in God. Selah.
Ver. 2. Many there be which say of my soul ] These scoffs and sarcasms leniter volant, non leniter violant. David felt them as a murdering weapon in his bones, Psalms 42:3 ; Psalms 42:10 , and oft complaineth of them to God, Qui satis idoneus est patientiae sequester, as Tertullian phraseth it, who will see that his saints shall lose nothing by their patience.
There is no help for him in God ] Salvation itself cannot save him; he is at that pass that there is neither hope of better for him, nor place of worse; there is no help, health, or deliverance for him at all. The Hebrew hath a letter more than ordinary, to increase the signifcation. Hebrew Text Note R. David rendereth it, Nullum auxilium, nullum auxilium, There is no help, there is no help for him; and interpreteth it, neither in this world nor in the world to come. Thus haply his enemies argued from his sin in the matter of Uriah; concluding that God would not look at him therefore. But for that matter he had soundly repented, and made his peace, 2Sa 12:13 Psalms 51:1-19.51.2 , though this present conspiracy, and the trouble thereupon (which lasted six months, saith Jerome, Ex tradit. Hebraeor.), was a part of the temporal punishment of that scandalous sin, 2 Samuel 12:10 . But that it lay not upon his conscience it appeareth, in that on his death bed he regretteth it not, as he did his not punishing of Joab and Shimei; concerning whom he therefore leaveth his charge with his son Solomon, 1 Kings 2:5 ; 1 Kings 2:8 .
Selah ] i.e. In truth, or amen, saith Aben Ezra; Plane, Tremel.; Omnino, penitus, revera, Polan. The Hebrews at this day accordingly add to the end of their prayers and epitapha Amen, Selah, twice or thrice repeated. The Greek maketh it only a musical notion, Dιαφαλμα .
Psa 3:3 But thou, O LORD, [art] a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.
Ver. 3. But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me ] And such a shield as will never fail me. Prodente clypeo vulneratus sum, I am betrayed by my shield, said Brasidas the Lacedaemonian, when he was wounded through it (Plutarch). David had a better shield than so; better than that of Ajax, in Homer, which was επταβοειον ; better than that of Demosthenes, whereupon was written, Quod felix faustumque sit; better than that of Sceva at the siege of Dyrrachium, wherewith he so long resisted Pompey’s army, that he had two hundred and twenty darts sticking in it. Densamque tulit in pectore sylvam (Lucan.). God was to David a shield around him, as the Hebrew here hath it; and not a shield only, but a sun too, as Psalms 84:11 . Hence it followeth,
My glory ] Or, my victory, Quia victor semper habet gloriam, saith Aben Ezra here, because a conqueror is never without glory; such as was Caesar with his Veni, vidi, vici; and Cimon, the Athenian, who twice in one day triumphed over the Persian navy; and Huniades, who fought five times in one day with the Turks, and five times foiled them, and put them to flight. Whereupon he was entertained and welcomed home with most glorious acclamations of the people, some calling him the father, some the defender, of his country; the soldiers their invincible general; the captives, their deliverer; the women, their protector; the young men and children, their most loving father, &c.
And the lifter up of my head ] Giving me matter of mirth, and making me, who was very sad, and thrown down with grief, joyful and cheerful. See Genesis 40:13 ; Gen 40:20 Luk 21:28 Jeremiah 52:31 Psalms 110:7 .
Psa 3:4 I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.
Ver. 4. I cried unto the Lord with my voice ] I prayed aloud and lustily; I roused up myself, and wrestled with God: and this was the ground of his courage and confidence. So Esther, when she had fasted and prayed, put her life in her hands, and was fearless. So Christ, when, being in an agony, he had prayed more earnestly, went and met his enemies in the face; though before his soul was heavy to the death, and he began to be out of the world, as the word signifieth, Matthew 26:37 , αδημονειν .
And he heard me out of his holy hill ] i.e. E suo sacrario et coelesti et terrestri, out of his heavenly and earthly sanctuary (Jun.). Zion signifeth a surehold, a goodly prospect; for that from the top of that hill a man might have seen all the country over. And it was a type of heaven, whence God seeth all, and heareth his. Lucian, the atheist, feigneth, or fancieth, that there are certain chinks in heaven through which Jupiter at certain times only heareth his suitors; which times they who take not pray to no purpose.
Psa 3:5 I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me.
Ver. 5. I laid me down and slept ] My faith was above my fear; I knew whom I had trusted. No marvel I slept so soundly, seeing Antipater was by, and watched, said Philip of Macedon (Plutarch). We may better say so of Antipater, our gracious Father. Oh the safety of a saint! He ever goes guarded with the peace of God within him and the power of God without him, Philippians 4:7 1 Peter 1:5 , and hence his spiritual security. David will never break his sleep for any danger or doubt of success. Peter was found fast asleep the night before he should have been executed, Acts 12:6 . So was our proto martyr, in Queen Mary’s days, Mr Rogers; insomuch as that, scarce with much shugging, could he be awakened, when he was called for to be burned. Some few years since Mr White, of Dorchester, being a member of the assembly of divines at Westminster, was appointed minister of Lambeth; but for the present could get no convenient house to dwell in, but one that was possessed by the devil. This he took; and not long after, his maid, sitting up late, the devil appeared to her; whereupon in a great fright she ran up to tell her master; he bade her get to bed, saying, she was well served for sitting up so late. Presently after, the devil appeared to Mr White himself, standing at his bed’s feet. To whom Master White said, If thou hast nothing else to do thou mayest stand there still and I will betake myself to my rest. And accordingly composing himself to sleep, the devil vanished (Mirror for Saints, by Mr Clark, 460).
I awaked ] A proverbial speech, as Mark 4:27 . Tamerlane could not sleep at all through care (though he endeavoured it) the night before the mortal battle between him and Bajazet (Turk. Hist. 218).
For the Lord sustained me ] Heb. will sustain me. He hath done it, and I doubt not but he will do it again. Experience breedeth confidence. He hath, he will, is an ordinary Scriptural medium.
Psa 3:6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set [themselves] against me round about.
Ver. 6. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, &c. ] Quomodo timeret hominem homo in sinu Dei positus? saith an ancient. See here in David the triumph of trust in God, Gloriatio fidei elegantissima (Jun). David looketh not downward on the rushing and roaring streams of troubles that ran so swiftlv under him, for that would have made him giddy; but stedfastly fasteneth on the power and promise of God all sufficient, and is confident. This the world wondereth at; but little do they know the force of faith, nor the privy armour of proof that the saints have about their hearts. Achilles was said to be safe, because Styge armatus. A Christian is Deo armatus, and therefore he walketh about the world as a conqueror.
Psa 3:7 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.
Ver. 7. Arise, O Lord, &c. ] If the Lord do but arise only his enemies shall be scattered; those also that hate him shall flee before him, Psalms 68:1 . And God will arise and harness when his people put his promises in suit by their faithful prayers. This Moses knew, and therefore appointed the priests, whensoever the ark removed, to say, "Rise up, Lord," &c., Numbers 10:35 . Commanders must pray before they lead on their forces to battle, as did Huniades, and that late brave king of Sweden, more addicted to prayer than to fighting; according to that,
Vincere quisquis aves hostilem exercitum, age ante
Invictum, vincas per tun vota, Deum.
Save me, O my God ] David had many good old soldiers about him, as the Cherethites, Pelethites, Gittites, and others that would stick to him, 2 Samuel 15:18 , - Animasque capaces mortis (Lucan.), mighty men of war, and chafed in their minds, as a bear robbed of her whelps in the field; himself also was a man of war from his youth, 2 Samuel 17:8 , and not used to be worsted; yet he flees to God for deliverance, and pleads the covenant ("Save me, O my God"), which is that Alvearium Divini mellis, the beehive of heavenly honey. So Psalms 119:94 , "I am thine, save me."
For thou hast smilten all mine enemies on the cheek bone ] Thou hast given them a box on the ear, as Queen Elizabeth once did the Earl of Essex, turning his back upon her uncivilly, upon some discontent. Or, as some great man doth a mean fellow, with whom he scorns to fight. Thou hast sent them away with smart and shame enough, Job 16:10 . Thou hast so handled them that now they may go seek their teeth in their throats, as the proverb is. God’s hand is a mighty hand, saith Peter, 1 Peter 5:6 , it is a fearful thing to fall into it, saith Paul, Hebrews 10:31 . For who knoweth the power of his wrath? saith Moses, Psalms 90:11 . His enemies are sure to speed worse than did Dares in Virgil (Aeneid), whom, when he had been well beaten by old Entellus, his fellows led away
Iaetantemque utroque caput, crassumque cruorem
Ore reiectantem, mistosque in sanguine dentes.
Psa 3:8 Salvation [belongeth] unto the LORD: thy blessing [is] upon thy people. Selah.
Ver. 8. Salvation belongeth unto the Lord ] Here is much in few. Fulgentius saith, that the most golden sentence is ever measured by brevity and suavity. Brevis et suavis, planeque aurea est haec sententia. Salvation in the full extent of it (and it is very comprehensive) is of the Lord. It properly denoteth the privative part of man’s happiness, freedom from evils and enemies of all sorts. But it importeth the positive part also, fruition of all good; and all is from the Lord, he alone is the chief efficient, and author of all, the true sospitator, the ο Sωτηρ , which, saith Cicero (Acts iv. in Verr.), is a word so emphatic, that other tongues can hardly find another word fit to express it. See Trapp on " Jon 2:9 "
Thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah ] Or, prayerwise, Let thy blessing be upon thy people. Etiam qui imprudenter ad Absalomum desciverat (Jun.), even upon those also who have foolishly taken part with Absalom against me (thus David prays for his rebels, as Christ and Stephen afterwards did for their persecutors and murderers), but especially upon those that do yet adhere unto me, and are shortly to fight for me. David knew that victory is of the Lord, and must be got by prayer. For if Queen Elizabeth could say, Cui adhaereo praeest, He whose part I take shall get the better, how much more may the Lord of hosts say so! This the people also knew, and therefore persuaded David not to venture his person among them in the field, but to stay at home and pray for them, 2 Samuel 18:5 . It is better, say they, that thou help us out of the city; thence shalt thou help us, or cause us to be helped; that is, thy prayers shall prevail with God for our assistance, as the Rabbis sense that text.
Selah ] Or, So be it, Hoc ratum, firmumquo esto. See Psalms 3:2 .
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 3". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent