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A.M. 2981. B.C. 1023.
From the complaint which the psalmist makes in the middle of this Psalm, that his greatest confidant proved treacherous to him, it seems probable that it was composed when Absalom’s rebellion broke out, and he was forced to flee suddenly from Jerusalem, and as he was going barefoot up the mount of Olives, (he and all his company weeping,) to increase his sorrow, was informed that Ahithophel also was among the conspirators, 2 Samuel 15:31 . Immediately he had recourse to God in prayer for support and relief, beseeching him to turn the counsel which Ahithophel might give Absalom into foolishness, and disappoint the conspirators. And it is probable, as soon as he came to a place where he could rest and retire himself, he spread before God his distressed condition more largely in this Psalm, in which there are many excellences. “His description of his own distress is very pathetic, and the occasion of it such as must deeply affect any man of real virtue and honour; namely, the undeserved reproaches with which his enemies loaded him. His wishing for the wings of a dove to carry him into the wilderness, and representing the confusions and violences that were occasioned by the rebellion, under the similitude of a sweeping storm and furious tempest, is truly poetical. The character and treachery of this false friend are painted in such strong colours that no one who reads it can help detesting the man, and abhorring his falsehood and treason. His conduct in casting his cares upon God, under all the distresses he was involved in, and his assurance that God would sustain him, and cause him at last to triumph over all his treacherous and bloody enemies, discover his high sentiments of the benevolence and faithfulness of God, and show us that the principles of religion will support good men under the greatest afflictions and most threatening dangers to which they can be exposed.” Chandler. In this Psalm,
(1,) David prays for support and relief in his great distress, through the conspiracy formed against him, and the clamour, treachery, and violence, that abounded in the city, Psalms 55:1-5 .
(2,) Wishes for the wings of a dove, that he might hasten his escape from that scene of confusion and wickedness, which excited his abhorrence and threatened his destruction, Psalms 55:6-8 .
(3,) Entreats that the iniquitous counsels of his enemies might be divided and confounded, Psalms 55:9-11 .
(4,) Describes the baseness and treachery of one who had been his intimate friend, Psalms 55:12-14 .
(5,) Fortels the destruction of his enemies on account of their wickedness, Psalms 55:15 .
(6,) Determines still to call upon God, and expresses his confidence that God would hear and deliver him, Psalms 55:16-18 . And sooner or later would avenge his cause, and cut off his bloody and deceitful enemies, Psalms 55:19-23 .
Psalms 55:1-3. Hide not thyself from my supplication Either as one unconcerned and not regarding it, or as one displeased, and resolved not to hear nor help. I mourn and make a noise I cannot forbear such sighs and groans, and other expressions of grief, as discover it to those about me. The word ואהימה , veahimah, here rendered and make a noise, is translated by Chandler, and am in the greatest consternation. He was brought into such immediate danger, as that he scarcely knew what method to take to avoid the destruction which threatened him. Because of the voice of the enemy That is, 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 They make me the great object of their wicked and mischievous practices; or rather, they lay many crimes to my charge falsely, as if by my own wickedness I was the cause of all my calamities. And in wrath they hate me Their anger and rage against me is not a sudden and transitory passion, but has increased and ripened into constant malice and settled hatred.
Psalms 55:4. My heart is sore pained within me Hebrew, יחיל , jachil, trembles, or suffers pains like those of a travailing woman, as the word properly signifies. My heart, which hath generally supported me in my distresses, is now ready to sink within me; therefore, Lord, pity and help me. The terrors of death are fallen upon me 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 would reflect dishonour upon thee, and bring many miseries upon the people.
Psalms 55:6-8. O that I had wings like a dove Hebrew, מי יתן לי , mi jitten li, who will give me wings like a dove? “The dove is remarkable for the swiftness of its flight; therefore the psalmist, who saw himself in the extremest danger, and knew that his very life depended on his immediate escape, wishes for the swift wings of a dove, that, with the utmost speed, he might fly from the destruction which threatened him.” Dodd. And be at rest Or, that I might, or where I might, be at rest. Or, as אשׁכנה , eshchonah, rather signifies, may dwell, namely, in some settled and safe place, and be delivered from those uncertainties and wanderings to which I am now exposed. Observe, reader, gracious souls wish to retire from the hurry and bustle of the world, not only or chiefly that they may escape trouble and danger, but also, and especially that they may sweetly enjoy God. And remain in the wilderness Where I might be free from the rage and treachery of my wicked enemies, who are worse than the wild beasts of the wilderness. Peace and quietness, in silence and solitude, are what the wisest and best of men have most earnestly coveted, and the more when they have been vexed and wearied with the noise and clamour of those about them. I would hasten, &c., from the windy storm and tempest Hebrew, מרוח סעה מסער , meruach sognah missagnar, literally, from the sweeping wind and furious tempest, as Chandler translates the words. From the force and fury of mine enemies, who highly threaten me, or from the tumult and ferment that the city is now in, and the danger arising therefrom. This makes heaven desirable to a child of God, that it is a final escape from all the storms and tempests of this world, to perfect and everlasting rest.
Psalms 55:9. Destroy, O Lord, and divide Destroy them by dividing their tongues 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 violence and strife Injustice and fraud, oppression and contention rule there, instead of that public justice and peace which I established. In the city In Jerusalem, which in Absalom’s time was a sink of all sins. And this circumstance is mentioned as an aggravation of their wickedness, that it was committed in that city where the throne and seat of public justice were 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.
Psalms 55:10-11. Day and night they That is, the violence and strife, last mentioned; go about Do encompass it, as it were a garrison. Upon the walls thereof In the outward parts, as also in the very midst of it So that all parts were horribly corrupted. Deceit and guile depart not from her streets The places of buying and selling, and of public commerce. So their sins were both universal and impudent.
Psalms 55:12-14. It was not an enemy Not an open and professed enemy, or, not an old and inveterate enemy, (as appears from the following description to be his meaning,) that reproached me That misrepresented me, and my government, as if I either abused my power, or neglected the proper use of it, and who industriously spread other similar accusations to incense the people against me; then I could have borne it With more patience, because I could have expected nothing better from such persons. Neither was it he that hated me With a manifest or old hatred; then I would have hid myself from him I would have stood upon my guard against him; would have concealed my counsels from him, and have prevented or avoided the effects of his hatred. But it was thou mine equal Not in power and dignity, which could not be; but in reputation for deep wisdom, and thy great influence upon me, and upon all my people; my guide Whose counsel I highly prized, and constantly followed. The Chaldee paraphrase names Ahithophel as the person here meant, and certainly the description agrees perfectly well to him, whom David had used as his counsellor and friend, and to whom he had committed his most important secrets; and certainly nothing in the plot of the rebels seems to have discouraged David so much as to hear that Ahithophel was among the conspirators with Absalom. We took sweet counsel together I imparted my secret counsels and designs to him with great delight and satisfaction. And we walked unto the house of God We agreed no less in exercises of piety than in matters of state and policy; in company Hebrew, ברגשׁ , beragesh, in, or with, the numerous congregation. The Seventy, however, render it, εν ομονοια , in concord, consort, or union, or with consent, as the ancients in general interpret the word.
Psalms 55:15. Let death seize upon them Hebrew, ישׁי מות עלימו , jashi maveth gnaleemo, which Cocceius renders, death will exact the debt with usury, a version which, as Dr. Chandler well remarks, preserves the propriety of the original verb, and greatly adds to the force of the expression. The verb is in the future tense, and therefore should not be rendered as an execration; for it only points out what would be the punishment of such perfidy and wickedness. And let them go down, &c. Hebrew, ירדו שׁאול חיים , jeeredu sheol chiim, they shall descend alive into hades, or into the grave, for the word, as has been observed before, may mean either. Thou wilt cut off, by a sudden and violent death, him, and all such false-hearted and hypocritical wretches, that pretend to religion with a wicked design, and now have manifestly apostatized both from the profession and practice of it. This was awfully verified by the event, as Ahithophel hanged himself, and went down, as it were, alive into hades. Wickedness is in their dwelling במגורם , bimguram, in the place 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. And among them Hebrew, בקרבם , bekirbam, in their inwards. Wickedness is deeply rooted in their hearts, and it breaks forth in all their houses and actions.
Psalms 55:16-17. As for me, I will call upon God Let them take what course they please to secure themselves; let violence and strife be their guards, prayer shall be mine. By this I have found deliverance, support, and comfort, and therefore this I will abide by. And the Lord shall save me While he destroys them. For whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, in a right manner, shall be saved, Romans 10:13. As they and I differ in the course of our lives, so shall we in our end. Evening and morning, &c., at noon, &c. The three stated times of prayer among the Jews; will I pray It is probable this had been his constant practice, and he resolves to continue it, now he is in his distress. And he could come more boldly, and with greater confidence, to God in his trouble, inasmuch as he did not then first begin to call upon him, but it was what he had long constantly, practised and especially in all his difficulties, dangers, and distresses he had been accustomed to have recourse to him his strong helper, and that not in vain. “They,” says Henry, “that think three meals a day little enough for the body, ought much more to think three solemn prayers a day little enough for the soul, and to count it a pleasure, not a task. As it is fit in the morning we should begin the day with God, and in the evening close it with God; so it is fit that, in the midst of the day, we should retire a while to converse with him. It was Daniel’s practice to pray three times a day, Daniel 6:10. And noon was one of Peter’s hours of prayer, Acts 10:9. Let us not be weary of praying often, for God is not weary of hearing.” And cry aloud Pray fervently. The former word, אשׂיחה , asicha, rendered, I will pray, means also, I will meditate, speak with my heart, or converse. Then we pray aright when we pray with all that is within us; when we think first, and then pray; for the true nature of prayer is lifting up our hearts to God. David, having meditated, will cry, yea, will cry aloud: the fervour of his spirit in prayer shall be expressed, and yet more excited by the intenseness and earnestness of his voice. And he shall hear my voice The Lord shall hear and answer my prayer, by granting my petitions, and will not blame me, either for coming too often, or being too earnest and importunate.
Psalms 55:18 . He hath delivered my soul He may be considered, either as referring to former deliverances, and mentioning them as a reason why he should now trust in God; or as speaking of a future deliverance as already effected, because he was confident it would be effected. He adds, in peace, because he was persuaded God would restore him to his former peace and tranquillity. But, perhaps, he speaks of inward peace, peace of soul. By patience and trusting in God, he kept possession of his peace, in the midst of the tumult, clamour, and confusion, yea, and the bloodshed and slaughter attending the rebellion. For there were many with me David thought, at first, almost all were against him, but now he sees there were many with him, more than he imagined; his interest proved better than he expected, and of this he gives God the glory. For it is he that raiseth us up friends when we need them, and makes them faithful to us. There were many with him; for though his subjects in general deserted him, and went over to Absalom; yet God was with him, and the good angels. With an eye of faith he now sees himself surrounded, as Elisha was, with chariots of fire, and horses of fire, and, therefore, triumphs thus: There are many with me, more with me than against me, 2 Kings 6:16-17.
Psalms 55:19. God shall hear My prayer against them, mentioned Psalms 55:15, or their reproaches, Psalms 55:12, their deceitful and treacherous speeches, Psalms 55:21. He had 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. And afflict them Or, testify against them; or, give an answer to them, as יענם , jagnaneem, may be properly rendered; not in words, but in deeds, and by dreadful punishments, as this word signifies Ezekiel 14:4, which seems best to agree with the word next foregoing, God will hear and answer them. Even he that abideth of old Hebrew, וישׁב קדם , vejosheb kedem, he that inhabiteth antiquity, or eternity: who is eternal, and, therefore, unchangeable and almighty; who sits judge from the beginning of time, and hath always presided in the affairs of the children of men, and consequently, as he ever was, so he still is and ever will be, ready to defend his people, and to destroy their enemies; and none can prevent or hinder him in either of these designs. Chandler, after Cocceius, translates the clause, Even he who reigns from everlasting: and observes, “The introducing God, as reigning of old, and holding the government of the world from before all ages, has great propriety, and was one of the principal considerations which established David’s hope in God, that he would deliver him from this unnatural rebellion.” Mortal men, though ever so high and strong, will easily be crushed by an eternal God, and are a very unequal match for him. Because they have no changes No afflictions, no crosses, nor disappointments, no interruption to the constant course of their prosperity, no trouble and distress to empty them from vessel to vessel; therefore 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, or makes them more presumptuous and incorrigible, than uninterrupted prosperity. See Psalms 30:6; Proverbs 1:32; Jeremiah 22:21.
Psalms 55:20-21. He, &c. I speak especially of “that perfidious person, who hath not only violated all the laws of friendship, but profanely broken his promise and oath of fidelity, wherein he was engaged to me.” Bishop Patrick. Although, as we have seen, David did not excuse the rest that were concerned in these treacherous and treasonable practices, yet the base conduct of Ahithophel grieved him most, and dwelt most upon his mind; and, therefore, having mentioned the wickedness: and foretold the punishment of the others, he here returns to him of whom he had spoken, Psalms 55:13, and of whose wickedness, as being the chief contriver and promoter of the rebellion, he here adds some new and aggravating circumstances. Hath put forth his hand In the way of force or violence; 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. He hath broken his covenant All those solemn obligations by which he was tied to me, both as his king and as his friend. The words of his mouth were smoother, &c. Chandler and Houbigant, taking מחמאת , ma-chamaoth, for an adjective, render the clause, Smooth and deceitful are the buttery words of his mouth. It is, however, considered by Kimchi as a substantive, with the preposition מ prefixed, and so taken is properly translated, than butter. Either way the sense is the same, namely, he covered his treasonable and bloody design with fair and flattering speeches. So courteous was he, and obliging, so free in his professions of respect and kindness, and the proffers of his service, that he carried the appearance of a true and faithful friend: but war was in his heart All this courtesy and pretended kindness was but a stratagem of war, and those very words had a mischievous intention: though softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords Pernicious in their design and consequences.
Psalms 55:22 . Cast thy burden upon the Lord Whoever thou art that art burdened, and whatever the burden is; whatever affliction God sendeth to thee; all thy trials and troubles, thy crosses and distresses, thy cares and fears, nay, and all thy affairs, lay upon the shoulders of the Almighty, and commit to him, by faith and prayer, with a confident expectation of a good issue. He directs his speech to himself, or to his own soul, as he often does in this book, and withal to all good men in like circumstances. The word יהבךְ , jehabecha, however, here rendered thy burden, properly means, thy gift, or portion: for even the afflictions, trials, and troubles of good men are God’s gifts to them, and are termed such in Scripture, Philippians 1:29; John 18:11. Or, he may intend gifts of another kind, namely, such as are agreeable and pleasing to us; and then his meaning is, Whatever blessings God has given thee to enjoy, commit to his custody, and use to his glory; and particularly commit the keeping of thy soul to him. Or, Whatever it is that thou desirest God should give thee, leave it to him to give it thee in his own way and time. The version of the LXX. is excellent, επιρριψον επι Κυριον την μεριμναν σου . Throw, or cast, upon the Lord thy care; to which St. Peter refers, 1 Peter 5:7. Care is a burden to many, which depresses their spirits. This burden we should learn to cast upon God by faith and prayer, committing our ways and works to him, and saying, Let him do what seemeth him good, and I shall be satisfied. To cast our burden upon the Lord, is to stay ourselves on his providence and promise, and to be very easy in the assurance that all shall work for good. And he shall sustain thee Both support or bear thee up, and supply thy wants. He has not promised immediately to free us from the trouble which gives rise to our cares and fears, but he will strengthen our spirits by his Spirit, so that they shall not sink under the trial, and he will provide that we be not tempted above what we are able, and that as our day is our strength shall be. The LXX. render it, αυτος σε , διαθρεψει , he himself shall nourish thee, shall supply thy every need, according to his riches in glory, Philippians 4:19. Shall give thee all things that pertain to life, as well as those that pertain to godliness. He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved 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.
Psalms 55:23. Thou shalt bring them My wicked enemies, of whom I have hitherto spoken; down into the pit of destruction Not only to the dust, but to hell, called destruction, Job 26:6. God afflicted them, Psalms 55:19, to humble and reform them, but as that effect was not produced by their afflictions, he will at last bring them to ruin. Those that are not reclaimed by the rod of correction will certainly be brought into the pit of destruction. Bloody and 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 so long as men ordinarily live, and as they, by the course of nature, might have lived, and as they themselves expected to live, but shall be cut off by God’s just judgment, by an untimely and violent death. But I will trust in thee In thy providence, power, and mercy; and not in my own prudence, strength, or merit. When the wicked are cut off in the midst of their days, I shall still live by faith in thee. And in this confidence I will quietly and patiently wait on thee for their downfall, and for my deliverance.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 55". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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