Book #2: 42-72
This is called Michtam-a golden psalm. So some other psalms are entitled, but this has something peculiar in the title; it is upon Jonath-elem-rechokim, which signifies the silent dove afar off. Some apply this to David himself, who wished for the wings of a dove on which to fly away. He was innocent and inoffensive, mild and patient, as a dove, was at this time driven from his nest, from the sanctuary (Ps. 84:3), was forced to wander afar off, to seek for shelter in distant countries; there he was like the doves of the valleys, mourning and melancholy; but silent, neither murmuring against God nor railing at the instruments of his trouble; herein a type of Christ, who was as a sheep, dumb before the shearers, and a pattern to Christians, who, wherever they are and whatever injuries are done them, ought to be as silent doves.
Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Psalms 56,
The background of this Psalm was the time when King Saul had again tried to kill David. David ran for his life to the land of the Philistines in Gath. From the hand of one threat to his life into the hand of another. There, he heard some of the officers of the king remind him that David was a military hero and that he posed a potential threat to them. So, he faked insanity, acting as if he had totally lost his mind so that the king would not be afraid of him (cf. 1 Samuel 21:10-15).
Psalm 56:1-2-David tells God that his enemies pose a constant threat to his life. To times he says, “all day long”. You get the feeling that he is weary and tired of the constant struggle. When he says that they have “trampled upon me”, “Fighting”, “oppresses me”, “trampled upon me”, “fight proudly”…you recognize that he is always looking over his shoulder and can never relax. No wonder he is weary and tired.
Psalm 56:3-4-Notice that David doesn’t say that he is never afraid. Indeed, because of the constant attack of his enemies he does fear for his life. But, David says that when his enemy attacks him and he is afraid…he puts his trust in God's word, His promise. God is greater than any man and He can be trusted to do what He has said. What can mere man do to him when God is with him?
Psalm 56:5-7-Men constantly distort his words and plan evil against him. They watch his every move…looking for an opportunity to attack. David asks God to judge them for their actions.
Psalm 56:8-12-David says that God is for him and is aware of everything that is going on. He knows his wanderings and keeps a record of his sorrows (:8).
- God is mindful of his exile and remembers his tears. The custom of bottling the tears of mourners as a memorial, which has existed in some Eastern nations, may explain the figure.
Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Commentary on Psalm 56,
Verse 8. Put thou my tears in thy bottle. Among other things in the collection of Mr. Abbott, of Cairo, he had a lachrymatory, or tear bottle, which had been found in a tomb at Thebes. This interested me very much. The custom in old times was, when a person was ill or in great distress, for his friends to go to see him, and take with them a tear bottle. Then, as the tears rolled down the cheeks of the sufferer, they were caught in these bottles, sealed up, and preserved as a memorial of the event. This is what David referred to in Psalms 56:8. Put thou my tears into thy bottle. But it implies much more than at first suggests itself, and much more than I can attempt to write. For instance, it is as if David had said, "Visit me, and behold my tears;" ("O visit me with thy salvation!") for without such visit there could be no bottling of his tears. "Thou tellest my wanderings; O visit me, and behold my anguish; put my tears into thy bottle," for "they have been my meat day and night." Psalms 42:3. "Keep them before thee, by way of remembrance, and when thou seest the bottle, O think of him whose tears it contains. Are they not in thy book?" That is, God's book of remembrance, that was written for those "who thought upon his name" (Malachi 3:16), just as the kings of old used to keep a book of chronicles of important events. See Esther 6:1-11. John Gadsby, 1860.
David says that He trusts in God's word...meaning the promises that God has made to him…and that as a result he will not be afraid (see :3-4). He will offer thanksgiving to the Lord because He has delivered him from death and allowed him to continue to live (:12-13).
Psalm 57 …Al-tashheth. Lit., do not destroy; possibly a tune indication…
The Ryrie Study Bible, Psalm 57, p. 850
The title of this psalm has one word new in it, Al-taschith-Destroy not. Some make it to be only some known tune to which this psalm was set; others apply it to the occasion and matter of the psalm. Destroy not; that is, David would not let Saul be destroyed, when now in the cave there was a fair opportunity of killing him, and his servants would fain have done so. No, says David, destroy him not, 1 Sa. 24:4,6. Or, rather, God would not let David be destroyed by Saul; he suffered him to persecute David, but still under this limitation, Destroy him hot; as he permitted Satan to afflict Job, Only save his life. David must not be destroyed, for a blessing is in him (Isa. 65:8), even Christ, the best of blessings. When David was in the cave, in imminent peril, he here tells us what were the workings of his heart towards God; and happy are those that have such good thoughts as these in their minds when they are in danger!
Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Psalms 57,
The setting for this Psalm (1 Samuel 24) was the time when David and his men were fleeing from King Saul and had hidden in a cave. Saul, unaware that David and his men were in the cave, went into that very cave to relieve himself. David’s men tried to convince him to kill Saul…saying that it was providential, God had brought Saul into his hands. But David refused, saying that Saul was God’s chosen man to rule and that they should respect him as King…regardless of the fact that he was trying to kill David.
Psalm 57:1-3-David calls upon God to protect him from those who attack him.
Psalm 57:4-6-He says that those who attack him are like wild animals. They are like men who set a net or dig a pit to capture their enemy.
Psalm 57:7-11-David says that his heart is set on God…meaning that his focus is intently set on God and even the attack of his enemies will not distract him. He will sing praise to Him. God is exalted above all else.
Psalm 58:1-5-The word translated “gods” by the NASV, is somewhat ambiguous and is variously translated—“congregation” (KJV), “rulers” (NIV, NLT), and “honest politician” (Message). It is most likely a reference to those who serve in the position of judges over Israel. David accuses these judges of not being just...but of ruling unfairly. David describes these men in the worst of terms: “in your heart you work unrighteousness…weigh out the violence of your hands” (:2); “wicked…speak lies” (:3); “venom like a serpent…like a deaf cobra that stops up its ear, so that it does not hear” (:4).
58:1 gods. Or, mighty ones. Though the meaning of the Hebrew word is obscure, the reference is clearly to unrighteous judges, who either are being referred to sarcastically as “gods” or who had taken that as an honorific title.
The Ryrie Study Bible, Psalm 58:1, p. 851
- O congregation—literally, "Oh, dumb"; the word used is never translated "congregation." "Are ye dumb? ye should speak righteousness," may be the translation. In any case, the writer remonstrates with them, perhaps a council, who were assembled to try his cause, and bound to give a right decision.
Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Commentary on Psalm 58,
Psalm 58:6-9-He calls upon God to judge the judges.
Psalm 58:10-11-When God does that, the righteous will rejoice...because they realize that God does judge the wicked.
Prayer: Father, thank You for the honesty of this Psalm. David was afraid. Sometimes, when I am facing difficulties and uncertainties…I feel afraid. When that happens…I feel guilty for feeling afraid and it makes it even worse. But then I read that David made a decision to trust Your word and His fear was relieved. So, I thank You that You understand my fears and worries. Emotions and thoughts are hard to control. But You know that. So, You give me Your Word that is stronger than anything that I will ever face. And when I trust in Your Word…my fear is relieved.