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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 54

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-7

Psalms 54:0

To the chief Musician on Neginoth, Maschil, A Psalm of David, when the Ziphim came and said to Saul, Doth not David hide himself with us?

          Save me, O God, by thy name,
And judge me by thy strength.

2     Hear my prayer, O God;

Give ear to the words of my mouth.

3     For strangers are risen up against me,

And oppressors seek after my soul:
They have not set God before them. Selah.

4     Behold, God is mine helper:

The Lord is with them that uphold my soul.

5     He shall reward evil unto mine enemies:

Cut them off in thy truth.

6     I will freely sacrifice unto thee:

I will praise thy name, O Lord; for it is good.

7     For he hath delivered me out of all trouble:

And mine eye hath seen his desire upon mine enemies.


Its Contents and Composition.—This Psalm, Which was to be accompanied by stringed instruments, and was designed for devotional consideration (vid. Introduct., § 8 and § 12), is plain and simple in form and contents. It expresses at first a prayer to God for deliverance in a just cause from dreaded ungodly enemies (Psalms 54:1-3). It then expresses, in a lively manner, confidence in the divine help and the punishment of his enemies (Psalms 54:4-5); finally it concludes with the vow of thanksgiving for such acts of God in confirmation of His name (Psalms 54:6-7). That the title agrees in part literally with 1 Samuel 20:19; 1 Samuel 20:26, is no sound reason for rejecting its authenticity (Paulus, De Wette), or of preferring the title of the Syriac referring to the war with Absalom (Rudinger). We may suppose a common source in the Annals (Delitzsch). No more is the reference of enemies (Psalms 54:3) to foreigners against the title (vid. Psalms 54:3), nor is there any occasion for the conjecture that the people themselves are here introduced as speaking.

Str. I., Psalms 54:1.—By Thy name does not mean for Thy name’s sake (J. H. Mich.), but designates that which in the divine nature has been made known by His revelation of Himself, and therefore here, Psalms 54:6, as in Psalms 52:9, it is called טוֹב, good. This refers to the qualifications of a person or thing, or that something is entirely as it should be, and thus in accordance with its idea and aim. The name is here still less synonymous with power (Hengst.) or goodness (Delitzsch), as it is in close connection with Elohim in Psalms 54:1 and with Jehovah in Psalms 54:6, and is the subject of the clause of deliverance, Psalms 54:7. Comp. Isaiah 30:27.

Psalms 54:3. Strangers.—If this expression is regarded as=foreigners, barbarians, then it is inconsistent with the title, since the inhabitants of Ziph, a town situated in the mountain wilderness of Judah, a few miles south-east of Hebron, were of the same race as David. The fundamental meaning of זָרִים=alieni is used frequently by Isaiah and Ezekiel for foreign enemies; that is to say, those belonging to another nation; but it has usually the secondary meaning of wicked, violent, cruel in disposition, and men of this class, Isaiah 1:7 (Hupfeld), and it can thus gain the general idea of enemies of this kind, especially when parallel with עָרִיצִים, as here and Isaiah 25:5; Isaiah 29:5; Ezekiel 7:21; Ezekiel 31:12 (Calvin, Geier, et al.). It is unnecessary to prefer the more convenient reading זֵדִים, that is to say, the proud (Luther, Muscul., Venema); for it is only found in the Chald. paraphrase and a few MSS. perhaps changed in accordance with Psalms 86:14. The explanation that those who were by origin and divine law friendly are compared on account of their behaviour, not as it were with barbarians, but are called at once strangers, is favored by the comparison with Psalms 120:5 (Hengst.), where the Psalmist, afflicted by his countrymen, complains that he dwells in Mesech and Kedar among heathen nations. The idea of stranger includes, Jeremiah 2:21, that of degeneration, changed into a foreign nature, (Hupfeld); hence the explanation of many (in Calvin) alieni=degeneres filii Abrahami.1

Str. 2, Psalms 54:4. Among the supporters of my soul.—This does not mean that God is one among many others who support his soul; the so-called beth essentisæ states the class, the only representative of which is God, Psalms 118:7; Judges 11:35.

Psalms 54:5. Evil shall return to my oppressors.—Since יָשׁוּב is construed with ל instead of with עַל, many editions and interpreters [so A. V.] prefer with the ancient translation and numerous MSS. the Keriיָשִׁיב=he will requite, comp. Psalms 94:23.—In Thy truth.—The prep. בְ does not state that the truth of God (others: His faithfulness) is the instrumental means of their destruction, but the active cause of it (Delitzsch).

Psalms 54:6. In willingness will I sacrifice unto Thee.—The reference here is not to freewill offerings, Exodus 35:29; Leviticus 7:16, etc. (Calvin, J. H. Mich., Rosenm., Hengst., [Alexander]), in contrast with those offered in the fulfilment of vows; but it is said, that they are to be brought voluntarily, that is to say, with glad heart and willing mind, Deuteronomy 23:24; Hosea 14:5 (the ancient versions, Kimchi and most interpreters). Decisive for this interpretation is the circumstance that זבח is construed here not with an accusative, but with בְ, just as Numbers 15:3, where the same expression is used as a motive of thank-offering (Hupfeld). The offerings in question are not spiritual (many of the older interpreters) in contrast to the ritual sacrifices (Psalms 50:14), but the latter as external representatives of the former.

Psalms 54:7. It hath delivered me, &c.—[This is the translation of Moll, referring to the name of God as the subject, although he does not explain his reasons here. So also Delitzsch, et al., in accordance with the biblical usage of the name of God for God in accordance with Leviticus 24:11; Isaiah 30:27. This is better than the ordinary translation making God Himself the subject of the clause.—C. A. B.] The preterites indicate that the Psalmist feels himself in his spirit and faith transported to the circumstances from which and for which thanksgiving is to come.—[On my enemies my eye has looked.—Wordsworth: “The words ‘his desire’ are not in the original, and would be better omitted. What David says is, that his eyes look calmly on his enemies: he views them without alarm; for he feels that the shield of God’s power and love is cast over him to protect him. The consummation of this idea is seen in the serene movement of Christ, passing through the midst of His enemies and looking calmly upon them, while they were taking up stones to cast at Him (John 8:59. Comp. Luke 4:30, and see the rendering in Sept., Vulg., Syriac, Æthiopic). Christ also lit up the gleams in the dying martyr’s face (Acts 6:15; Acts 7:54-59).—C. A. B.]


1. A man may be forsaken by all earthly means of help, and have unfaithful friends and dreaded enemies; yet he is by no means lost. ‘The example of David may and will teach us, that even in the greatest danger we should not seek any unlawful means, or despair, but call upon God’s name and commit all our affairs to Him as the supreme Judge” (Berlenb. Bibel). But faith, patience, and a good conscience are requisite for this.

2. The name of God is not a mere word, least of all a word in the mouth of men and possessed of human power, but an esssential and efficient revelation of God Himself by which we not only learn to know God, so that we can speak properly to Him and about Him, but by which we still more gain true consolation, real power and actual salvation from God, and wherein we possess a valuable means of communion with God.

3. Faith sees the invisible God, and bases itself upon the truth of God. Therefore it gives assurance of salvation in the wicked world and works joy in suffering and hope where there is no hope; for it fixes the attention upon the name and the word of God, whereby the deliverance of the pious, as well as the ruin of the ungodly, is pledged. By this means also the heart and eye are purified, so that without being glad in the injury of others, or without a revengeful feeling, or any other sinful excitement, we delight ourselves in the tokens of divine righteousness, and can see our pleasure in the fact that God will not be mocked.


God’s power not only helps our weakness; it likewise breaks the power of all our enemies.—When forsaken, we should not only trust God, but likewise call upon Him.—God does not allow those out of His sight who put Him away from their eyes; but He does not close His ears to those who pray to Him.—To be forsaken is not to be lost.—Among all conceivable helpers, God is the only true support of our soul; therefore we may implore=receive from heaven what the earth refuses to us.—He who has not only expected the help of God, but has implored it, will likewise be willing to render thanks, and will be unwearied in praising the name of God.—God’s actions correspond with His name; how is it with our faith and behaviour?—What thou hast promised, keep; but see to it that thou doest the one as well as the other with willing heart.Faith sees what no eye can see; therefore it gives us comfort, courage and gladness.—He who calls upon the name of God must likewise trust in the truth of God and rejoice in the acts of God.

Starke: The unfaithfulness of men should teach us to give more heed to the faithfulness of God.—To put God’s omnipresence away from our eyes, is the origin of all carnal security, unrighteousness and a perversity of nature.—The great ones of the earth have great power; but if they do not use it to protect the right, there is a greater and mightier one than they, who will not always look upon injustice.—God remains indebted to no one; every one will sooner or later receive the recompense for what he has done.—Either sin must be destroyed in man by the word of truth, or the man himself who neglects this will be destroyed on account of the truth of the divine threatenings.—Frisch: What we cannot accomplish against our enemies by earthly power, God’s word and truth will perform.—J. Arndt: God’s faithfulness and truth are sure, and must finally cause themselves to be seen.—Rieger: As David’s heart believed, his eyes finally saw.—Tholuck: The Lord Himself will be the helper of those who are forsaken by all others.—Guenther: We should not rise up from prayer until God has answered our petitions.—Diedrich: If we abide in God’s word, the worse our enemies are, the greater the preservation from God.—Taube: David’s deliverance and the ruin of his enemies were both the words of God and a comfortable revelation of the name of God.

[Matt. Henry: Never let a good man expect to be safe and easy till he comes to heaven.—What bonds of nature or friendship or gratitude or covenant will hold those that have broken through the fear of God?—There is truth in God’s threatenings as well as in His promises, and sinners that repent not will find it so to their cost.—Barnes: We can be thankful for the mercies which we enjoy without having any malignant delight in those woes of others through which our blessings may have come upon us.—Spurgeon: A child may well complain to his father when strangers come in to molest him.—Saul, that persecuting tyrant, had stamped his image on many more.—Kings generally coin their own likeness.—What matter the number or violence of our foes when He uplifts the shield of His omnipotence to guard us, and the sword of His power to aid us?—It is of great use to our souls to be much in praise; we are never so holy or so happy as when our adoration of God abounds.—C. A. B.]


[1][Perowne suggests that “the word ‘strangers’ may mean only enemies, the idea of a foreigner, one of another country, passing over readily into the idea of an enemy, just as in Latin hostes meant originally nothing more than hospes.”—C. A. B.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 54". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/psalms-54.html. 1857-84.
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