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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 54

Introduction

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?

The interpretation of the psalm must fall in line with its title, remembering the great law of revelation, that no Scripture is of exclusive reference to one person, but every part illustrates a principle of universal application. 2 Peter 1:20. TITLE:

Neginoth, Maschil See on titles of Psalms 4, , 32.

Ziphim See the history, 1 Samuel 23:19; 1 Samuel 26:1. The city of Ziph was about twenty three miles south of Bethlehem, in the mountains of Judah. The ruins are still seen, called by the Arabs Zif.

Doth not David hide himself Compare the history, and Psalms 54:3 of the psalm.

Verse 1

1. By thy name For, or on account of, thy name. The name of God is that by which he is known: the manifestation of his nature and attributes, whether by titles or acts. It is the honour of God his public fame as avenger of wrong and defender of the oppressed to which David appeals. Comp. Exodus 32:12; Joshua 7:9; Psalms 20:1.

By thy strength The divine nature and strength are his dependence. God is both disposed and able to save.

Verse 3

3. Strangers The word denotes foreigners, heathen, those who are not of the seed of Israel. If the reference is to the Ziphites, such they were to David in spirit, and in this moral sense the word often occurs. Compare Jeremiah 23:14; Matthew 18:17. But it may refer to Doeg the Edomite, and the political intrigues of his nation through him, to destroy the Hebrew monarchy.

Oppressors seek after my soul Fierce men search after my life. They were Saul’s spies, and the allusion seems to be to the king’s order, (1 Samuel 23:23,) “See therefore, and take knowledge of all the lurking places where he hideth himself, and come ye again to me… and I will go with you.”

Verse 4

4. Behold, God is mine helper From the treachery and enmity of men the psalmist turns in confidence to God. Help, here, literally means to surround, as if to protect on all sides. The complementary word in the next hemistich is uphold, support, make strong. The participial form of the two words denotes a present helping and upholding, as if faith already felt the prayed-for relief. Calvin: “Then must it needs be that he excelled wonderfully in strength of faith, whereby, surmounting so many obstacles, he penetrated even from hell to heaven.” The form is very expressive, not only counting God in the class of his helpers, but placing him as his sole reliance.

Verse 5

5. He shall reward evil unto mine enemies The “evil” they sought to do to me shall recoil upon themselves. God shall turn it back upon them. So the word rendered “reward” properly signifies. It is another instance of the lex talionis.

Cut them off in thy truth The optative sense, here, is to be taken in connexion with the qualifying words “thy truth.” Only in accordance with this does David invoke divine interference. Immutability and authority of law are the gist and essence of the prayer. If these fail all is lost. Prayer for the deliverance of the righteous cannot be answered without the reformation or the destruction of the wicked; that is, destruction as to their power to do evil.

Verse 6

6. I will freely sacrifice Hebrew, with a free-will offering I will sacrifice, etc. נדבה , ( nedabah,) is always used for the free-will offering in the Pentateuch, and generally elsewhere. Its peculiarity consisted in its pure spontaneity, springing solely from the willing heart of the worshipper, without the prompting of a legal requirement or an antecedent vow, with which it, namely, the votive offering, stood in contrast. The free-will sacrifices of the text “were not spiritual in opposition to the ritual sacrifices, (as in Psalms 50:14; Psalms 51:17,) but ritual as an outward representation of the spiritual.” Delitzsch. The free-will offering belonged to the class of peace offering on receiving the answer of prayer, and assured acceptance and fellowship with God. The remaining members of the verse corroborate the view here given. It is good That is, thus to give thanks.

Verse 7

7. Hath delivered… hath seen The past tense of the verbs is the language of faith, which speaks of future events as already accomplished, “and calleth those things which be not as though they were.” Romans 4:17. Mine eye hath seen, etc. The words his desire are not in the text, which simply reads, Mine eye has looked on my enemies; an expression to be interpreted idiomatically. Not merely that they had approached so near that he saw them in their retreat, which, indeed, is quite probable, but that he “calmly surveyed them without alarm, for he feels that the shield of God’s power and love is cast over him to protect him,” (Wordsworth,) with the idea further implied, that God had given him to see their downfall in the miscarriage of their plans, as in Psalms 59:11; Psalms 92:12, where “his desire” is not in the text.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 54". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/psalms-54.html. 1874-1909.