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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Psalms 57

 

 

Verses 1-11

Psalm 57

To the chief Musician, Al-taschit, Michtam of David, when he fled from Saul in the cavs

Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me:

For my soul trusteth in thee:

Yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge,

Until these calamities be overpast.

2 I will cry unto God most high;

Unto God that performeth all things for me.

3 He shall send from heaven, and save me,

From the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah.

God shall send forth his mercy and his truth.

4 My soul is among lions:

And I lie even among them that are set on fire,

Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows,

And their tongue a sharp sword.

5 Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens;

Let thy glory be above all the earth.

6 They have prepared a net for my steps;

My soul is bowed down:

They have digged a pit before me,

Into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves. Selah.

7 My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed:

I will sing and give praise.

8 Awake up, my glory; awake psaltery and harp:

I myself will awake early.

9 I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people:

I will sing unto thee among the nations.

10 For thy mercy is great unto the heavens,

And thy truth unto the clouds.

11 Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens:

Let thy glory be above all the earth.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Its Contents and Composition.—For the title comp. Introduction, § 12and § 8[FN8]. The repetition of the same verse, Psalm 57:5; Psalm 57:10, divides the Psalm into two halves. In the first half the hope of faith, in the near and sure help of God, out of great peril of life occasioned by violent men, which hope is based on experience, declares itself in the prayer for new exhibitions of Divine grace, whereby the truth and the trustworthiness of God may be actually proved. In the last half of the Psalm, after a short description of the snares which turned out to the ruin of the enemies themselves, the certainty of victory expresses itself in an exhortation of his own soul to praise God in the whole world on account of God’s revelation of Himself in His glory. The resemblances with other Davidic Psalm are numerous; with Psalm 7, not only in the comparison of enemies with lions, which likewise occurs in Psalm 10, 22, 58, but at the same time in the designation of the soul as glory in the figure of the pit; with Psalm 22, in the reference to the proclamation of the acts of God among all nations; with Psalm 36, in the hiding under the wings of God and the comparison of grace and truth with the height of heaven; with Psalm 46, in the opening words and the similar expressions for persecutor; with Psalm 42, in the poetical word for fulness of ruin, and at the same time with Psalm 55, 59, 64, in the figure of the sword of the tongue, which in Psalm 120 is compared with arrows as here the teeth. Respecting its relation to Psalm 107, see the explanations there. The emphatic repetition of the same word in Psalm 57:1; Psalm 57:3; Psalm 57:7-8, is peculiar to this Psalm. We cannot decide whether the cave mentioned in the title is the one mentioned in 1 Samuel22as the cave of Adullam, or that situated by the sheepcotes upon the Alpine heights of Engedi. These caves are numerous in the limestone and chalk mountains, and are often of great extent and are still the hiding-places of fugitives (Robinson’s Bib. Researches, vol. I. p500).

Str. I. Psalm 57:1. Has sought refuge with Thee.—The perfect, which is important for the sense, in distinction from the imperfect of the same word in the next line, is overlooked by many interpreters [so A. V.], although expressed by the more ancient ones (Chald, Jerome, Flamin, Calvin), and expressly made prominent by Venema.—[In the shadow of Thy wings.—Perowne: “This exceedingly striking image may have been suggested by Deuteronomy 32:11, see above on Psalm 17:8. Still more tender is the N. T. figure, Matthew 23:37.”[FN9] Delitzsch: “The shading of God’s wings is the protection of His soft, sweet love and the shadow of His wings is the refreshing, trusting comfort connected with this protection. In this shadow the poet takes his refuge again as before, until חַוּות, that is to say, the ruinous danger which threatens him passes by, præteriverit (comp. Isaiah 26:20, and for the enallage numeri Psalm 10:10, Gesenius, § 147 a.) Not as if he would not then need the Divine protection any more, but now he feels himself especially needy, and therefore his first aim is the brave, victorious endurance of the sufferings which hover over him.”—C. A. B.]

Str. II. Psalm 57:2. Who accomplisheth concerning me.—It is better to supply: His purposes, than: His mercy (Kimchi), or: His promises (Calvin), or indeed: my wishes (Flamin.), or: my undertakings (Rosenm, De Wette). For since the object is not mentioned, we must not supply an actual limitation of it, but only a comprehensive general term. There is no reason for the translation: who makes an end of my sorrow (Luther), or to regard גמר as the same with the related root, גמל=who is my benefactor (Septuagint, Ewald, Hitzig, Hupfeld, [Perowne]). Psalm 138:8 affords a parallel which explains this clause.

Psalm 57:3. He will send from heaven.—This likewise does not need to have any specific object supplied, neither: His arm ( Deuteronomy 33:27), nor: His hand ( Psalm 18:16; Psalm 144:7), nor: His help ( Psalm 20:2); nor from the following clause: His grace and truth. The singer is satisfied at the beginning with the fact that: if this is sure, he has good ways with the what (Hengstenberg). The additional words: “from heaven,” give the idea of a wonderful, extraordinary deliverance (Calvin).—He reproacheth who snorts at me.—To regard this clause as a simple continuation and therefore a statement of an action of God=He gives my persecutor to shame (the ancient versions, Kimchi, Flaminius, Ewald), is as well against the parallel passage, Psalm 42:10; Psalm 44:16; Psalm 55:12; Psalm 55:21; Psalm 56:5; Psalm 59:7, as against the context, which leads, by the change of word and the close description, Psalm 57:4, to a reproach proceeding from the enemies. That the object of the reproach cannot be here as sometimes elsewhere, God (Cocc. De Wette), is shown by the grammatical construction, which does not allow of the acceptance of a relative clause. The accents indeed point to a clause dependent upon the preceding one; but this can only be a hypothesis, so that we have to supply a particle (Aben Ezra, Geier, and most interpreters). Since, however, in this case the imperfect would be expected, we must, in order to explain with grammatical accuracy, regard the clause as a parenthesis, explaining the situation, with a selah, as Psalm 55:20. Köster would remove it to the close of the verse. To connect it with the following clause, thus making it a hypothetical antecedent: supposing that he reproached (Delitzsch), requires not only that the accents should be altered, but brings about a too close connection with the consequent which would then be, and this is not expressed. The supposition that these words are in the wrong place (Olsh, De Wette), is especially objectionable from the fact that no other suitable place for the clause can be shown. And the alteration of the reading in order to get the sense: “from the first of those who snort against me” (Hitzig), is mere conjecture. The translation: from the reproach of him that would swallow me up (Luther, [A. V.]), is against the form of the word and the meaning of the passage.

Str. 3. Psalm 57:4. I will lie down among the lickerish.—The reference here is not to flames (Ewald) but to lions, which then are designated as (greedy) lickerish, yet, not as devouring (Hupfeld, or as breathing out flames (Chald, Rabbins, and most interpreters). But we must not overlook the fact that שׁכב does not express the idea of prostrate, jacere (most interpreters) but cubare, and that this verb is here in the optative or cohortative. Accordingly it expresses not a complaint of his dangerous situation, but the resolution of trust in God, with which he will lie down to sleep in the midst of dangerous circumstances. But it is not said that he will lie down to sleep among the lions of the wilderness, and that hostile men are worse than these beasts of prey, Sirach 25:15 (Delitzsch), but the enemies are called directly lions. Their name of “lickerish,” which expresses their greed of murder, forms the transition to the direct designation of the enemies as sons of men, whose teeth and tongue are then directly mentioned as the instruments of their attack and pursuit. If there was any reference to flames, this certainly might, according to a figure used in most language, be called as well licking as flattering, but without such occasion we must abide by the usual fundamental meaning of the word, and there is no more reason to think of fiery look and revenge (Delitzsch), than to pass over from the figure of lions to a new comparison by the translation: “I lie upon fire-brands” (Hengstenberg), or, omitting the accents, connect the lying with the first member of the verse, “with my soul I lie in the midst of the lions,” and then add in apposition: fire-breathing children of men (Hitz, similarly, Aquila, Symm, Jerome), or begin a new clause=men are flames (Luther).—[Whose teeth are spears and arrows,etc.—The enemies are lions, greedy of their prey, but the teeth of these men-lions are spears and arrows, and the tongues of these men-lions are a sharp sword. As the lion uses his teeth and tongue, these children of men use their spears, arrows, and swords to destroy their prey, having the same greedy, lickerish natures as the wild beasts.—C. A. B.]

Psalm 57:5. Exalt Thyself above the heavens,etc.—This prayer cannot be here synonymous with the appeal for interference: lift up Thyself, properly: stand up, as Isaiah 21:14; Isaiah 33:10, but must either mean: be exalted=praised ( Psalm 18:46) by the inhabitants of heaven and earth (Hengstenberg), or: show Thyself in Thy sublimity (Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and most interpreters), Psalm 46:10.[FN10]

Str.IV. Psalm 57:6. Have bent down my soul.—This expression is striking, at the same time incorrect and against the parallelism; yet the change of the reading in order to get the sense: “his soul,” that is to say, himself “is seized upon ” (Hitzig), is mere conjecture. [The Anglican Prayer Book has: He pressed down my soul. This is approved by Alexander, with the idea that he was caught, held down by a trap or snare. Perowne, whilst admitting that the word occurs everywhere else in a transitive meaning, assumes an indefinite subject: “one hath bowed down my soul ”=“my soul is bowed down ” [so the A. V.]. But it is better with Moll to regard the enemies as the subject in parallelism with the preceding and following clauses.—C. A. B.]

Str.V. Psalm 57:7. My heart is confident.—The translation: my heart is ready (Septuagint, Chald, Calvin, Luther), though possible in itself, does not agree with the repetition so well as the literal: steadfast (Hitzig, et al.), in the sense which is likewise usual: confident, fearless (Symm, Hupfeld, Delitzsch).

[My glory=my soul, comp. Psalm 7:5; Psalm 16:9; Psalm 30:12—C. A. B.]—I will awake the dawn.—The intransitive interpretation of the verb, Psalm 35:23, which is here parallel with the Kal, is highly objectionable, the interpretation of שָׁחַר as an accusative of time, unheard of, accordingly the translation: I will awake at the time of the dawn (the ancient versions, most Rabbins and interpreters), must be given up. The true interpretation, followed by all recent exegetes, occurs moreover already by itself. The legend of the Talmud is very interesting (according to Delitzsch): “A either hung over David’s bed, and when midnight came, the north wind blew upon the strings, so that it sounded of itself; he arose at once and occupied himself with the law until the pillars of the dawn arose.” Isaki remarks upon this: the other kings are awakened by the dawn, but I, said David, will awaken the dawn.

[Str. VI. Psalm 57:9. Delitzsch: “His song of praise is not to sound in a arrow space where it can scarcely be heard; he will appear as an evangelist of his deliverance and his deliverer, among the nations of the world; his calling extends beyond Israel, the experiences of his person are for the benefit of humanity. We see here the self-consciousness of an all-comprehensive mission, which has accompanied David from the beginning to the end of his royal course ( Psalm 18:49). That which is said, Psalm 57:10, is the motive and at the same time the theme of the preaching among the nations: God’s grace and truth towering up to heaven, Psalm 36:5. That they reach even to the heavens, is only an earthly idea of the infinity of them both (comp. Ephesians 3:18). In Psalm 57:11, which differs from Psalm 57:5 only by one letter [article before שָּׁמַיִם], the Psalm returns to prayer. Heaven and earth have a comparative history, and the blessed, glorious end of this is the sunrise of the Divine glory over both, which is here implored.”—C. A. B.]

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. A fugitive is not so safe and hidden in the gloom of the mountain cave as in the shadow of God’s wings. He who flees thither gains a courageous spirit and a steadfast, confident heart, so that he can lie down to sleep with calmness amidst numerous and mighty enemies, greedy for his life, and can commit himself and his cause to the Almighty in heartfelt prayer, resign his soul and rely upon Him for deliverance. If he is able to appeal to previous experiences of Divine help, his trust in God gains a firm foundation, and his prayer for grace a great confidence and a joyous flight. For the pressure of wickedness passes by; whilst grace and truth, which God sends, remain with the pious, and with every new sending from above, there follows, together with the confirmation of a Divine promise, a strengthening of the faith, and the designs of the wicked will be frustrated, and their attacks as well as their reproaches, slanders, and threats, remain fruitless, whilst God accomplishes His purposes.

2. Grace and truth come down from heaven and reach again up to heaven. These are as immeasurable, inexhaustible, invincible as the latter, but they unite both worlds together, and manifest in both the glory of God. Therefore the acts of God towards His anointed receive through them a universal historical character and a significance as well as to the praise of God. The servant of God will not only late and early praise God, awake cither and harp and anticipate the dawn, so that he is not called by it, but the dawn by him; he will likewise encourage and lead the nations throughout the earth by his praise of God that they may praise Him likewise. He has a missionary calling, and he knows it.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Let him who flees from enemies see to it where he remains and whither he turns.—We may hide from men but not from God; and we cannot hide with men, but with God and in God.—Among the good gifts that come down from above, grace and truth are as valuable as they are indispensable for us; they unite heaven and earth.—If we pray to God for what we want, He will give us what we need.—Wickedness must not only pass by the pious without injuring them, it likewise ruins its own servants and instruments.—The arrows of wickedness rebound harmless from the armor of faith.—Much depends upon how we close the evening and greet the morning.—It would be a bad sign if you had only complaints and no prayer and no thanksgiving.—Grace and truth reach as far as their origin is high, and should be praised accordingly.—The glory of the Lord should be praised early and late, near and far, in heaven and on earth, and yet there would be no recompense for what God has done for us by sending His grace and truth.

Starke: The higher and stronger our enemies are, the more does faith depend on God, who alone is exalted above all the majesty and power of the creature.—Where all human help fails, there God’s help begins in earnest.—Better that sleep should be broken off than prayer.—What we love we speak of more than once.—Osiander: God cannot and will not forsake those who trust in Him with all their hearts.—Selnekker: God protects His own children in a wonderful manner, and gives their enemies into their hands when they rage the most.—Franks: When it is clearly manifested to the heart of man that God is the Most High, he fears nothing, not even the devil and his hosts of hell, but is confident and unterrified.—Renschel: The cross is a storm; it passes by; in the meanwhile we sit under the shadow of His wings.—Tholuck: O how sleepy man remains when the praise of God for undeserved bounties is in question.—Guenther: The delivered must yet inquire: why and wherefore has God spread His wings over you? What would He with you, of you, for you?—Taube: David’s first cry of need is not a call for help, but for grace.—Make not that narrow which God’s love has made wide, wide as the heavens.

[Matt. Henry: To God as the God of grace will I fly, and his promise shall be my refuge, and a sure passport it will be through all these dangers.—We need no more to make us happy, but to have the benefit of the mercy and truth of God.—When God is coming towards us with His favors, we must go forth to meet Him with our praises.—Barnes: The welfare of the universe depends on God; and. that God should be true, and just, and good, and worthy of confidence and love,—that He should reign,—that His law should be obeyed,—that His plans should be accomplished,—is of more importance to this universe than anything that merely pertains to us; than the success of any of our own plans; than our health, our prosperity, or our life.—Spurgeon: Urgent need suggests the repetition of the cry, for thus intense urgency of desire is expressed. If “he gives twice who gives quickly,” so he who would receive quickly must ask twice.—Blessed be God, our calamities are matters of time, but our safety is a matter of eternity.—God’s attributes, like angels on the wing, are ever ready to come to the rescue of His chosen.—C. A. B.]

Footnotes:

FN#8 - This Psalm begins a series of three Psalm, 57, 58, 59, all of which have Al-taschith in their titles.—C. A.B.]

FN#9 - Perowne: “Perhaps there is nothing more remarkable in the Psalm, than this ever-recurring expression of a tender personal affection on the part of the sacred poets to God. There is no parallel to this in the whole range of heathen literature. Monsters to be feared and propitiated were the deities of Paganism, but what heathen ever loved his god? The apotheosis of man’s lusts could only produce a worship of servility and fear.”—C. A.B.]

FN#10 - The same refrain is found in Psalm 57:11, at the close of the Psalm.—C. A. B.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 57:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/psalms-57.html. 1857-84.

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