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Psalms 56:1 « To the chief Musician upon Jonathelemrechokim, Michtam of David, when the Philistines took him in Gath. » Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me.
Upon Jonath-elem-rechokim ] Meaning himself, who had wished before the wings of a dove, Psalms 55:6 , and was now the dove of dumbness among foreigners, Philistines, those ravenous hawks that were ready to seize and tear him, Fatua columba, Hosea 7:11 . Dumb he was fain to feign himself, and worse, among them (see Psalms 34:1 , the title; 1 Samuel 22:17 , &c.), and therein was more of the serpent than of the dove.
Michtam of David ] Davidi insigne aureolum, David’s jewels, or golden ingot. See Psalms 16:1 , title. This Michtam he made likely (as also Psa 34:1 ) when, gotten away from Gath, he came into the cave of Adullam, 1 Samuel 22:1 .
Carmine secessum scribentis et otia quaerunt.
Ver. 1. Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up] Sup me up (as the Hebrew word soundeth), make but one draught of me, or suck me in as a whirlpool, swallow me up as a ravenous wild beast. The devil is said to seek whom he may swallow down 1Pe 5:8 at a gulp, as it were; and his imps are as greedy, but that they are gagged by God. The man here mentioned is Ishbibenob, the brother of Goliath, saith the Chaldee; but they do better who understand it to be Saul and his accomplices.
He fighting daily oppresseth me ] Pliny saith of the scorpion, that there is not one minute wherein he doth not put forth the sting. The like do Satan and his instruments.
Psa 56:2 Mine enemies would daily swallow [me] up: for [they be] many that fight against me, O thou most High.
Ver. 2. Mine enemies (or observers) would daily swallow me up] Anhelant observatores mei. To set forth the indignity of the thing, he repeateth the same sentence again in the plural number; noting that there were not a few of them bitterly bent by might and main to mischief him, a poor forlorn, friendless man.
For they be many that fight against me, O thou most High ] Or, though there be many that fight for me from on high, that is, the angels, as Aben Ezra rendereth and senseth the text.
Psa 56:3 What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.
Ver. 3. What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee ] This was bravely resolved: Quid timet hominem homo in sinu Dei positus? Faith quelleth and killeth distrustful fear; but awful dread, it breedeth, feedeth, fostereth, and cherisheth.
Psa 56:4 In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.
Ver. 4. In God I will praise his word ] Having placed my confidence in God, I will take his bare word for my security. He hath promised to make me king, 1 Samuel 16:13 , and he will not suffer his faithfulness to fail, or alter the thing that is gone out of his mouth, Psalms 89:33 . The word of God cannot be broken, John 5:35 . David once doubted it, but he soon took himself up for halting, Psalms 116:11 .
I will not fear what flesh can do unto me ] Flesh is terminus diminuens. What can proud flesh do against the God of the spirits of all flesh? Man is but despicable flesh at the best.
Psa 56:5 Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts [are] against me for evil.
Ver. 5. Every day they wrest my words ] Or, my matters; they distort and pervert everything I say, or do, from the true intention, and all to make a traitor of me. That I carried myself wisely in the court, valiantly in the field, faithfully toward Jonathan, cautiously for the safeguard of mine own life, shifting as I could from one place to another; all this they say was done out of affectation for the kingdom, and as seeking Saul’s death. So they dealt by our Saviour in the Gospel, taking that with the left hand which he tendered with the right, and many times marring a good text by an ill gloss put upon it. So Simon the leper served that good woman, who made an ewer a of her eyes and a towel of her hair, Luke 7:34 . Men should interpret everything the best way, and not as logicians do, Sequi partem deteriorem.
All their thoughts, &c. ] See Trapp on " Psa 56:1 "
a A servant who supplied guests, etc. at table with water to wash their hands.
Psa 56:6 They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul.
Ver. 6. They gather themselves together ] They convene and combine to do me mischief; and should not God’s people meet often together to counterplot such malignants, and to pray them down? Cum bent, cum probi coeunt, cum pii, cum casti congregantur, non est factio dicenda, sed curia: Et e contrario, illis nomen factionis accommodandum est, qui in odium bonorum et proborum conspirant, saith Tertullian (Apol. advers. Gentes, cap. 39, num 520).
They mark my steps ] They spy and pry into my practices, that they may take any advantage; this calls for careful and exact walking, 1Pe 2:21 Hebrews 12:13 .
Psa 56:7 Shall they escape by iniquity? in [thine] anger cast down the people, O God.
Ver. 7. Shall they escape by iniquity? ] q.d. No, let them never think it, their sin will surely find them out, as cunning as they are; and since they are so foolhardy as to walk upon iniquity’s fireworks, let them look to be blown up; and they shall have my prayers to that purpose.
In thine anger cast down, &c. ] It is prophetic as well as optative.
Psa 56:8 Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: [are they] not in thy book?
Ver. 8. Thou tellest my wanderings ] Or, thou cipherest up my flittings, and hast them in numerato, ready told up; my vagaries while hunted up and down like a partridge, and hushed out of every bush, so that I have nowhere to settle. St Paul was at the same pass, αστατουμεν , saith he, we have no certain abode, 1 Corinthians 4:11 ; and so were sundry of the holy martyrs and confessors, who wandered about in sheep skins and goat skins, &c., driven from post to pillar, from one country to another, God all the while noting and numbering all their flittings, yea, all their footings, bottling up their tears, booking down their sighs, as here, and Malachi 3:16 ; see Matthew 10:30 . The Septuagint, for my wanderings, or flittings, have my life, ζωην , to teach us, saith one, that our life is but a flitting.
Put thou my tears into thy bottle ] Heb. my tear, that is, every tear of mine; let not one of them be lost, but kept safe with thee, as so much sweet water. It is a witty observation of one, that God is said in Scripture to have a bag and a bottle, a bag for our sins, a bottle for our tears; and that we should help to fill this as we have that. There is an allusion here in the original that cannot be translated into English.
Are they not in thy book? ] sc. Of providence; where they cannot be blotted out by any time or tyrants.
Psa 56:9 When I cry [unto thee], then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God [is] for me.
Ver. 9. When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back ] For how should they stand before so mighty a God? Of the power of prayer for the beating back of enemies, besides the Scripture, histories are full; that famous Victoria Halleluiatica for instance.
Psa 56:10 In God will I praise [his] word: in the LORD will I praise [his] word.
Ver. 10. In God will I praise his word ] The Jewish doctors observe that Elohim, God, is a name importing justice; and that Jehovah, Lord, holdeth out mercy, according to that, Exodus 34:6 , Jehovah, Jehovah merciful, gracious, &c. But if God should seem neither to show his mercy upon us nor his justice upon our enemies, we must nevertheless adhere to his word or promise, and patiently wait his performance; which will be as sure as he is God and Lord. See Trapp on " Psa 56:4 "
Psa 56:11 In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.
Ver. 11. In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid, &c.] When news came to Luther, that both the emperor and pope had threatened his ruin, be bravely answered, Contemptus est a me Romanus et favor et furor, I care for neither of them, I know whom I have trusted. See Psalms 56:4 .
Psa 56:12 Thy vows [are] upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee.
Ver. 12. Thy vows are upon me, O God ] Sunt tua post, quam vovi (Arab.). I am a votary ever since I was at Gath, there and then I vowed, that if the Lord would vouchsafe to bring me out of that brake I would do as became a thankful man every way. And now I am Damnatus votorum, as the Latin expression is; vow I must, and pay to the Lord my God; Ecce ego Domine, Lord, I am ready, do thou but set me up an altar, and I will offer a sacrifice; restore me to thy sanctuary, and I will do it exactly, in the ceremonies and formalities thereof; meanwhile, mine heart and lips shall not be wanting to give thee praise in spirit and truth, I will render praises unto thee.
Psa 56:13 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?
Ver. 13. For thou hast delivered my soul from death ] Which was the very thing I begged of thee when I was at worst, viz. that thou wouldest save my life, which then lay at stake; I also then solemnly took upon me such and such engagements, which lie upon me as so many debts, and I am in pain till I have paid them. This if I shall do effectually,
Wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling ] Yea, I know thou wilt, Lord, for every former favour of thine is a pledge of a future.
That I may walk before God in the light of the living? ] Called elsewhere the land of the living; that is, in this present life, spending the span of it in thy fear, and labouring to be every whit as good as I vowed to be at the time when I was in great distress and danger. Pliny, in an Epistle of his to one that desired rules from him how to order his life aright, I will, saith he, give you one rule that shall be instead of a thousand, Ut tales esse perseveremus sani, quales nos futures esse profitemur infirmi, i.e. That you hold out to be such when well as you promised to be the time when weak and sick, &c.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 56". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany