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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Psalms 7

 

 


Introduction

Heading: ‘Shiggaion of David which he sang to YHWH concerning the words of Cush a Benjamite.’

Shiggaion probably corresponds to the Akkadian segu, ‘to howl or lament’. It thus indicates a poem of passionate character written under the influence of strong emotion.

No details are known of Cush the Benjamite. He was a fellow-tribesman of Saul and probably one of those who accused David before Saul, insinuating that he was seeking to take the king’s life (1 Samuel 22:8; 1 Samuel 24:9; 1 Samuel 26:19). The background of David’s life when he was hunted from place to place by Saul, and spared his life when he had him in his power, is essential background reading to the psalm (1 Samuel 21-26).

In this psalm David prays for deliverance from his pursuers (1-2), declares his innocence of what he is accused of (3-5), prays for another worldwide judgment like the Flood which will purify the earth and establish righteousness (6-10), reveals that God is a man of war against unrepentant sinners (11-13), declares God’s law of retribution on those who seek to harm their fellows (14-16), and finally gives praise to YHWH Most High for His goodness (17).


Verse 1-2

David Prays To Be Delivered Because He Is Pursued and Hard-pressed (Psalms 7:1-2).

‘O YHWH my God, in you I put my trust,

Save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me.

Lest he tear my being like a lion,

Rending it in pieces when there is no one to deliver.’

The prayer is a trusting cry to YHWH in the face of false accusations made against him that he was seeking Saul’s life, and the resulting need to flee for safety. He prays for deliverance from those who are seeking to hunt him down, and especially from his chief enemy, who, as a lion does to his prey, wants to tear him in pieces. He had often seen sheep torn to pieces by lions, and had himself outfaced them. He knew precisely what they were capable of. And he knew that God had delivered him from the mouth of lions (1 Samuel 17:34-37). Thus he knew that He was also able to deliver from these adversaries as well.

The singular of lion demonstrates that he had one particular person in mind, probably Saul, for he knew how merciless he could be in his mad rages. But it may have been Cush who was leading the search for him.

His appeal is to the covenant God, YHWH, on the ground of His covenant promises. ‘In you do I put my trust (take refuge)’ is a constant theme in psalms (Psalms 11:1; Psalms 16:1; Psalms 31:1; Psalms 57:1; Psalms 71:1; Psalms 141:8). It expresses his confidence in God and his sense of insecurity in the present situation.

‘There is no one to deliver’. Along with those who were with him he knew that every man’s hand was against him. They had no powerful friends apart from God.

The psalm will be a comfort to all who are hard-pressed or falsely accused. For in the end the hard-pressed one is delivered through prayer.


Verses 3-5

He Pleads His Own Innocence (Psalms 7:3-5).

O YHWH, my God, if I have done this,

If there be iniquity in my hands,

If I have rewarded evil to him who was at peace with me,

Yes, I have delivered him who was without cause my adversary,

Let the enemy pursue my life (nephesh), and overtake it,

Yes, let him tread my life (chay) down to the earth,

And lay my glory in the dust.’ Selah.

David is aware that YHWH at least knows the truth, that he is innocent of seeking Saul’s death. He is guilty of no ‘iniquity’ in this regard. Iniquity is the opposite of ‘right’ and indicates what is crooked and distorted. Indeed he has never done evil against anyone who was at peace with him, and he has spared Saul’s life more than once, in spite of the fact that he is his enemy without genuine reason (1 Samuel 24:3-6; 1 Samuel 26:11). Happy is the man who can say from an honest heart that he has treated fairly those who have treated him fairly, and even those who have treated him unfairly, as David could.

He declares that he is quite willing to be judged in this regard, and that if it be proved untrue, then he is ready to forfeit his own life to the violent men who seek him. Then let him be pursued and slain, his breath be taken from him, and his life trodden in the earth, and his glory laid in the dust (compare Isaiah 26:19). ‘Breath’, ‘life’ and ‘glory’ are three parallel words. Man had within him the breath (nephesh) of life (chay) (Genesis 2:7), and was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). This was man’s glory, the image of the divine glory (compare Psalms 16:9; Psalms 30:12; Psalms 57:8).


Verses 6-10

He Calls On God To Set Up a Court of Justice and Put All On Trial So That The World Can Begin Again (Psalms 7:6-10).

His plight has moved David to a consciousness of the way sin triumphs and the righteous suffer. He is filled with a huge desire that righteousness might be established and that all sin might be done away, and that the world might become one in which righteousness prevails.

Psalms 7:6-10

‘Arise, O YHWH, in your anger,

Lift yourself up against the rage of my adversaries,

And awake for me. You have commanded judgment.

And let the assembly of the peoples surround you,

And over them return you on high.

YHWH ministers judgment to the peoples.

Judge me, O YHWH, according to my righteousness,

And to my integrity that is in me.

O let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous,

For a righteous God tries the hearts and reins,’

My shield is with God who tries the upright in heart.’

Conscious that he is not in the wrong and moved by his unfair treatment David calls on God to set up a court of judgment, both in anger at the behaviour of his adversaries, and in order to justify him, and all who are like him, for his misery has made him aware of all who are treated like he has been in an unfair world. He wants God as the commander of judgment, to ‘command judgment’ (set up the court for that purpose), gather an assembly of the peoples, while He Himself sits on high as Judge in the place of honour. Then He must pass judgment on all, giving David among others a fair trial, and weighing up his righteousness and his integrity. As a result wickedness will cease, and the righteous will be established, for it is the righteous God Who will test all out. His confidence is that God is his shield, his Protector, and that his own heart is upright, so that he has nothing to fear.

(‘You have commanded judgment’ = you are the commander of judgment having established the principle from the beginning. From the eternal point of view judgment and justice are determined, are permanently God’s intention and are continually under His control).

‘Arise --- return.’ There may be intended as a background here the cry when the Ark went forward or settled down in the wilderness. ‘Rise up O YHWH and let your enemies (here David’s enemies) be scattered,’ and then ‘Return O YHWH to the ten thousands of the thousands of Israel’ (Numbers 10:35-36). So David calls on YHWH to rise up to deal with his enemies, followed by His returning on high (to His throne) as the assembly of people surround Him.

‘Arise, O YHWH, in your anger.’ Aware of God’s anger continual against sin, that is, His revulsion to it and determination to deal with it and remove it either in mercy or in judgment, he asks Him to awaken on his, David’s, behalf and judge the sinfulness of his enemies, a sinfulness revealed by their rage against him.

‘You have commanded judgment.’ It is YHWH who has previously decreed that all must be judged, therefore let Him now set up a court of justice, so that all righteous men might be delivered from the kind of treatment he is receiving. It is a reminder that God requires true judgment, and will finally bring it about.

‘And let the assembly of the peoples surround you, and over them return you on high.’

The idea is that He should make a general call to judgment of all peoples. He clearly has in mind a previous similar judgment (‘return you’), possibly the Flood which covered all men, destroying the wicked and establishing the righteous. But see also Genesis 15:14; Exodus 12:12; Deuteronomy 32:39-41 where it is established that God is a God of judgment in many circumstances. ,So he calls for YHWH to return for another such judgment, with Himself ‘on high’ on the Judge’s (or King’s) throne. There is a case for suggesting that he especially has in mind Deuteronomy 32:41-42, which looked to another such judgment, where the whetting of the sword and the arrows of Psalms 7:12-13 also occurs.

‘YHWH ministers judgment (is the One Who administers judgment) to the peoples. Judge me, O YHWH, according to my righteousness, and to my integrity that is in me. O let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous, for a righteous God tries the hearts and reins.’ The psalmist has a real concern that justice for all might come, and that wickedness might be done away. If his prayer were to be answered YHWH would sit in judgment on all the peoples, for He is the minister of judgment. Then David himself is ready to give account because he is satisfied that he is righteous and a man of integrity. As a forgiven sinner his conscious is clear. But his concern is not just for himself but for all righteous men. His prayer is, ‘let righteousness triumph’.

Thus he pleads that wickedness might come to an end by God judging and dealing with the wicked, and that all who are righteous might be established, by the One Who tries the hearts and the reins. The heart signifies the mind and the will which produce man’s moral and religious character, the reins control man’s behaviour. He desires that both will be fully tested. The idea of trying the hearts and the reins was popular with Jeremiah (Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 20:12. See also Revelation 2:23).

Notice David’s confidence in his own state of righteousness before God. He knows that although he is a sinner, he is a forgiven sinner. And he has offered with a righteous heart the appropriate sacrifices, and his conscience is clear before God. Indeed he can say. ‘My shield is with God who tries the upright in heart.’ It is the covenant God Who shields and covers him, and he has assurance that God will keep him.

So David’s prayer, dragged from the bitterness of his experience, is that once again God will come in a great act of judgment, with the result that evil will be removed from the earth and the righteous will be established to build up a new world. Then man can begin again as he did at the Flood. But it is not a totally selfish prayer. He has in mind all the righteous, especially those suffering unfairly (compare Revelation 6:9-11). He longs for a fair world.


Verses 11-13

He Reveals That God Is A Present Judge on All (Psalms 7:11-13).

‘God (Elohim) is a righteous judge,

Yes, a God (El) who has indignation every day.

If a man turn not, he will whet his sword,

He has bent his bow and made it ready,

He has also prepared for him the instruments of death,

He makes his arrows fiery shafts.’

But while longing for that great day of judgment which will slay the wicked and establish the righteous, he wants all to know that even now God judges continually on earth every day (see Psalms 10:4; Psalms 10:11; Psalms 10:13). He is a righteous judge, and thus has indignation every day as He looks at the state of the world. For all things are open to the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do, and He never overlooks anything.

God looks for men to repent, but if they will not do so He becomes a man of war against their sin. He sharpens His sword and has already prepared His bow, and makes ready His arrows, which He has already prepared as His instruments of death. His arrows are shafts of lightning (see Psalms 18:14; Zechariah 9:14), although he may also have in mind arrows with inflammable materials attached which were often fired among the enemy.

It is noteworthy that even here David leaves room for repentance (‘if a man turn not’). He remembers what mercy God had had on him. But his picture is a warning to all who play with sin that God is not mocked. And that He is even now ever ready to deal with sin by death (compare Ezekiel 18:4 onwards).


Verses 14-16

He Declares That There Are Even Now Present Consequences of Sin (Psalms 7:14-16).

‘Behold he exerts himself with iniquity (worthlessness),

Yes, he has conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.

He has made a pit and dug it,

And fallen into the trap which he was making.

His mischief will return on his own head,

And his violence will come down on his own pate.’

(It may be that this was to be sung by a different section of the choir to distinguish the change of subject).

While looking for a great act of judgment David does not over look the fact that God judges continually. The ones who exert themselves to what is worthless and evil, and especially to violence (Psalms 7:16), who plan and bring to birth mischief, and deceive men, laying traps for them, will find if they are not careful that they will fall into the hole of deceit that they are digging for others, will find their mischief returning on their own heads, and their violence crushing their skulls. Thus what they sow they will reap.

The pit being dug has in mind the hunter’s trap. The picture is of one who digs his pit, and while doing so accidentally falls in even before it is finished.


Verse 17

David’s Final Hymn of Praise.

I will give thanks to YHWH according to his righteousness,

And will sing praise to the name of YHWH Most High.’

His final gratitude is expressed concerning the fact that God is righteous and behaves righteously, thus establishing the righteous and destroying the wicked, and this results in his singing praise to YHWH Most High and all that He is (His name). It is only the righteous who recognise the importance of righteousness, who can rejoice that God is truly righteous. Others wish that He was not so particular.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 7:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/psalms-7.html. 2013.

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Sunday, November 29th, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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