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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Psalms 54

 

 

Verse 1

Heading (Psalms 54:1 a).

Psalms 54:1

‘For the Chief Musician, on stringed instruments. Maschil of David; when the Ziphites came and said to Saul, “Does not David hide himself with us?”

Dedicated to the Choirmaster or Chief Musician, and to be played on stringed instruments, this is another Maschil of David. It is said in the heading to have been written when the Ziphites, in the Judean wilderness, betrayed David to Saul (1 Samuel 26:1). That was a particularly difficult time for David, for having built up a private army a few hundred strong, he had previously been in danger of being handed over to Saul by the men of Keilah, whom he had delivered from the Philistines (1 Samuel 23:1-13). Having therefore escaped to the wilderness of Judea he was once more betrayed to Saul by the Ziphites, who may well have been very concerned at having such a large armed contingent in their territory.

The Psalm divides into two sections separated by the usual word Selah, indicating a pregnant pause in the singing, when the singers and listeners could pause to consider what had been said. The two sections are as follows:

· David Prays To Be Delivered From The Hands Of Saul (Psalms 54:1-3).

· David Expresses His Confidence In God’s Protection And Deliverance, And Assures Him That He Will Not Be Short On Gratitude (Psalms 54:4-6).


Verses 1-3

David Prays To Be Delivered From The Hands Of Saul (Psalms 54:1-3).

Psalms 54:1-2

‘Save me, O God, by your name,

And judge me in your might.

Hear my prayer, O God,

Give ear to the words of my mouth.’

David calls on God to deliver him ‘by His Name’, in other words by the character and attributes that that Name reveals. It would be in His Name that David was anointed by Samuel to be Saul’s replacement (1 Samuel 16:12-13), which David no doubt saw as giving him the right to God’s protection. It was to Samuel that David first fled when he recognised that he was no longer safe from Saul’s jealousy (1 Samuel 19:18). He was also relying on what that Name revealed of loyalty to those who observed His covenant (which Saul had failed to do).

‘Judge me in Your might.’ He calls on God as ‘the Strong One’ to consider his case and act accordingly, demonstrating a verdict in favour of David by acting in might on his behalf. Confident that he is in the right, David calls on God to hear his prayer, and listen to what he has to say..

Psalms 54:3

‘For strangers are risen up against me,

And violent men have sought after my life,

They have not set God before them. [Selah

He points out to God that strangers and violent men have risen up against him and are seeking his life, because they have not given consideration to God’s purposes. They are not looking to God for guidance (something that David constantly did. See for example, 1 Samuel 23:9-12; 2 Samuel 2:1). ‘Strangers’ regularly signifies ‘foreigners’ of whom there may well have been a good number in Saul’s standing army. Having come to dwell in Israel they would be content to be on full time duty because they possessed no land which had to be cultivated (they may have included the Habiru of 1 Samuel 14:21. Habiru (landless people) were often mercenaries). One such was Doeg the Edomite who might well have been in David’s mind. (David’s mighty men also included non-Israelites). Or ‘strangers’ may refer to the Ziphite wilderness dwellers, who lived lives separately from ‘civilised society’.


Verses 4-6

David Expresses His Confidence In God’s Protection And Deliverance And Assures Him That He Will Not Be Short On Gratitude (Psalms 54:4-6).

Psalms 54:4-5

‘Behold, God is my helper,

The Sovereign Lord is of those who uphold my life.

He will requite the evil to my enemies,

Destroy you them in your truth.’

Having prayed to God he is confident of God’s help and protection. He sees God as his helper. For had God not anointed him to replace Saul? How then could He not help him to escape from Saul? And he sees Him as the Sovereign Lord (adonai) Who is the Upholder of his life, as One Who is on his side. He is thus confident that God will respond to the evil of his enemies by Himself acting against them, requiting them for what they are doing. And that, having by anointing David demonstrated His favourable attitude towards him, He will be true to His promise so given.

Psalms 54:6

‘With a freewill-offering will I sacrifice to you,

I will give thanks to your name, O YHWH, for it is good,

For he has delivered me out of all trouble,

And my eye has seen (my desire) on my enemies.’

David then promises that he himself will respond in gratitude. He will sacrifice a freewill offering to God, and will give thanks to Him under His covenant Name of YHWH, a Name which he declares to be ‘good’ (totally reliable, dependable and trustworthy). Contrast this offering of a sacrifice with Psalms 51:16 where, because he had sinned with a high hand, he knew that no sacrifice would be acceptable until he was sure of forgiveness as a consequence of God’s free and unmerited favour.

The goodness of YHWH’s Name is especially brought out by the fact that He has delivered David from ‘all trouble’, something demonstrated by the fact that David’s eye has seen what was necessary for his deliverance on his enemies. (‘Desire’ is not there in the Hebrew. David did not desire their discomfiture as such, in the sense of wanting them to suffer and gloating over them. He sought it because it was the only way in which he could be delivered)

Note the fairly unusual use (in this Second Part of Psalms) of the Name YHWH. It is an indication that he is seeing God as having helped him because He is the covenant God.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 54:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/psalms-54.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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