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This Psalm was certainly composed by David, when he was greatly distressed and persecuted, either by Saul, or rather by Absalom, and betrayed by some pretended or former friend.
David, being surrounded and surprised with danger and distress, complaineth to God, Psalms 55:1-8, prayeth for the frustrating the practice of his cruel and false enemies, Psalms 55:9-15, and strengtheneth himself with God’s protection, Psalms 55:16-18, and his enemies’ utter destruction, Psalms 55:19-23.
Turn not away thy face and ear, as one resolved not to hear nor help.
For my misery is very great, and forceth tears and bitter cries from me.
The voice of the enemy, i.e. their clamours, and threats, and slanders, and insolent boastings; all which are hateful to thee, as well as injurious to me.
They cast iniquity upon me: the sense is, either,
1. They make me the great object of their wicked, and injurious, and mischievous practices; or,
2. They lay many crimes to my charge falsely, as if by my wickedness I was the cause of all my calamities.
They hate me; their anger and rage against me is no sudden and transitory passion, but is boiled up into malice and hatred.
My heart is sore pained within me; with pains like those of a travailing woman, as the word signifies. My heart, which hath commonly supported me in my distresses, is now ready to sink within me; therefore, Lord, pity and help me.
The terrors of death; either deadly terrors, such as seize upon men in the agonies of death; or fear of death; which is the more grievous to me, because my death will reflect dishonour upon thee, and bring many miseries upon the people.
Like a dove; which being fearful, and pursued by birds of prey, flies away, and that very swiftly and far, and into solitary places, where it hides and secures itself in the holes of the rocks, or in some other secret and safe place; all which fitly represents David’s present disposition and desire. And be at rest; or, that I might, or where I might, be at rest, or dwell, in some settled and safe place, and be delivered from those uncertainties and wanderings to which I am now exposed.
In the wilderness; where I might be free from the company, and rage, and treachery of my wicked enemies, who are worse than the wild beasts of the wilderness.
From the force and fury of mine enemies, which now highly threaten me.
Divide their tongues, i.e. destroy them by dividing.
Their tongues, i.e. their speech, as thou didst at Babel, Genesis 11:0; their votes, and opinions, and counsels; which was eminently done among Absalom’s followers, 2 Samuel 17:0.
I have seen; or, I do see or perceive, by certain and general report. Violence and strife in the city; that injustice, and fraud, and oppression, and contention bear rule there, instead of that public justice and peace which I established and maintained in it. In the city; either,
1. In Keilah, where David thought to abide, 1 Samuel 23:0, Or,
2. In Gibeah, where Saul had his abode. Or rather,
3. In Jerusalem; which is called the city by way of eminency; and which in Absalom’s time was the chief seat of rebellion, and a mere sink of all sins. And this circumstance is noted as an aggravation of their wickedness, that it was committed in that city, where the throne and seat of public justice was settled; and where God was in a special manner present and worshipped; and where they had great opportunities, both for the knowledge and practice of their several duties.
They, i.e. the violence and strife last mentioned, Psalms 55:9, go about it; do encompass it, and are as it were the garrison by which they design to defend it.
Upon the walls thereof; in the more outward parts, as also in the very midst of it, as it follows. So that all parts were horribly corrupted.
The places of buying and selling, and of public and common conversation. So their sins were both universal and impudent.
Not an enemy; either,
1. Not an open and professed enemy; or rather,
2. Not an old and inveterate enemy, as may be gathered from the following description.
I could have borne it with more patience, because I could expect nothing else from such persons.
Hated me with a manifest or old hatred.
I would have hid myself from him; I could and should easily have prevented or avoided the effects of his hatred.
Mine equal; not in power and dignity, which could not be, but in reputation for his deep wisdom and excellent conduct, and the great influence which he had upon me, and upon all my people.
My guide; whose counsel I highly prized, and constantly sought and followed: all which agrees very well to Ahithophel. See 2 Samuel 15:12,2 Samuel 15:31; 2 Samuel 16:23.
We took sweet counsel together; I imparted my secret thoughts and designs to him with great delight and satisfaction.
We walked unto the house of God; we agreed no less in exercises of piety, than in acts of state and policy. In company; or, in comfort, or with consent; as all the ancients render it. He seemed as forward in religion as I.
Them, i.e. him and all such false-hearted wretches, that pretended religion with wicked design, and now have manifestly apostatized, both from the profession and practice of it, and fallen into all manner of wickedness; for such are the vilest of men, and most obnoxious to the curse of God.
Into hell; or, into the grave; cut them off by a sudden and violent death, as thou didst those Numbers 16:32. But these imprecations used by inspired persons in extraordinary cases is no precedent for our imitation.
Their dwellings; or, where they sojourn. They carry their wickedness along with them from place to place, and leave the impressions and effects of it wheresoever they come.
Among them, Heb. in their inwards. Wickedness is deeply rooted in their hearts, and it breaks forth in all their houses and actions.
Whilst he destroys them. As they and I differ in the courses of our lives, so shall we in our ends.
The three stated times of prayer amongst the Jews. See Daniel 6:10; Acts 3:1; Acts 10:3,Acts 10:9,Acts 10:30.
He hath delivered my soul: either this is an argument whereby he encourageth himself now to trust God, because of former deliverances; or lie speaks of a future deliverance as a thing done, because of the certainty of it.
In peace; or, into peace. He hath restored me from the state of war to my former peace and tranquillity.
For there were many with me; for there were more with me than against me; even the holy angels, whom God employed to defend and deliver me. See 2 Kings 6:16; Psalms 34:7; Psalms 57:3.
3. Or, for (or rather though, as this particle is oft rendered) there were many with me, or about me, or against me, as this particle is rendered, Psalms 85:3; Psalms 94:16, and in other places. So he speaks here of his enemies; which seems best to suit with the context; for of them he speaks implicitly in the foregoing words, and expressly in the following.
God shall hear; either,
1. My prayers against them, mentioned Psalms 55:15. Or,
2. Their reproaches, Psalms 55:12; their deceitful and treacherous speeches, Psalms 55:21. He said God would hear his voice, Psalms 55:17; now he adds that God will hear his enemies’ voice also, of which he spake Psalms 55:3.
Afflict them; or, testify against them, or give an answer to them; not in words, but really, and by dreadful punishments, as this word signifies, Ezekiel 14:4; which seems best to agree with the next foregoing word, God will hear and answer them. He that abideth of old, Heb. he that inhabiteth antiquity or eternity; who is eternal, and therefore unchangeable and almighty; and consequently, as he ever was, so he still is and will be, ready to defend his people, and to destroy their enemies; and none can prevent nor hinder-him in either of those designs.
No changes; either,
1. For the better; because they do not repent nor turn from their sins. But then the next clause must be rendered, as it is in the Hebrew, and not fear God. Or rather,
2. For the worse; for of such destructive changes this word, when applied to persons. is generally used in Scripture, as Job 10:17; Job 14:14, &c., because they meet with no crosses nor disappointments, and hitherto all their counsels succeed well, and the people flow in to them unanimously; as it was in the beginning and progress of Absalom’s rebellion.
They fear not God; their prosperous success makes them go on securely and obstinately in their wicked courses, without any regard to God, or dread of his judgments; there being nothing which more hardens men’s hearts, and makes them presumptuous and incorrigible, than uninterrupted prosperity. See Psalms 30:6; Proverbs 1:32; Jeremiah 22:21.
He, i.e. they, the persons last mentioned. Before the singular number, Psalms 55:13,Psalms 55:14, was suddenly changed into the plural, Psalms 55:15, that the punishment might reach not him only, but his partners, in those treacherous and treasonable actions; and here is as sudden a change from the plural into the singular, and he returns to that person who was the chief contriver and promoter of this rebellion under Absalom, even to Ahithophel, of whom he spoke Psalms 55:13; and though he doth not excuse the rest, as we have seen, yet he lays the chief blame upon him, and here he adds new aggravations of his treason.
Hath put forth his hands, in way of force or violence, as this phrase is used, Genesis 37:22; 1 Samuel 26:9; Nehemiah 13:21; Acts 12:1.
Against such as be at peace with him; against me, who gave him no provocation nor disturbance, but lived in great peace, and security, and friendship with him.
Hath broken his covenant; all those solemn obligations by which he was tied to me, both as his king and as his friend.
He covered his treasonable and bloody design with fair and flattering speeches.
Drawn swords; pernicious in their design and consequences.
Thy burden, or portion, Heb. gift; whatsoever affliction God giveth or sendeth to thee; for even the sufferings of good men are called God’s gifts in Scripture, Philippians 1:29; John 18:11. So it is a synecdochical expression. Or, whatsoever gift thou desirest from him. Although the following words of the verse seem to restrain it to afflictions. The sense is, All thy affairs, and crosses, and cares, and fears, lay them upon the shoulders of the Almighty by faith and prayer, with a confident expectation of a good issue. He directeth this speech to himself, or his own soul, as he oft doth in this book, and withal to all good men in like circumstances. To be moved, i.e. to be removed, to wit, from his sure and happy estate. Or, which agrees as well with the Hebrew,
he shall not suffer the righteous to be moved, or fall for ever, as he doth wicked men; though he may for a season suffer them to be shaken, yet he will not suffer them to be utterly overwhelmed.
Shalt bring them down; my wicked enemies, of whom I have hitherto spoken.
deceitful men; that colour their cruel intentions with specious and deceitful pretences; which are most hateful to God and all men.
Shall not live out half their days; not half of what others live, and they by the course of nature might live; but shall be cut off by God’s just judgment, by an untimely and violent death.
But I will trust in thee; and in this confidence I will quietly and patiently wait upon thee, for their downfall, and for my deliverance.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 55". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany