Psalm 56 Study Notes


Ps 56 title A Silent Dove Far Away was probably a known song tune (see note at Ps 22 title). On Miktam, see note at Ps 16 title. The historical setting for this psalm is the same as Ps 34 (1Sm 21:10-11; see note at Ps 34 title).

56:1-2 Trampling (Hb sh’p) appears twice in these verses. There are two meanings for this Hebrew word: (1) “pant” or “long for” (Is 42:14; Jr 2:24) and (2) “crush” or “trample” (Ps 57:3; Am 8:4). Since the first of these is more common, some translations take that as the meaning here. However, the parallel terms fights and oppresses argue for the second meaning.

56:3-4 Mere mortals is literally “flesh” (Hb basar), which represents man’s weakness and mortality (Is 2:22; 31:3; 40:6). This word is often used to contrast man’s weakness with God’s power (2Ch 32:8). Similar words are repeated in Ps 56:10-11.

56:5 Twist (Hb ‘atsav) expresses the idea of “shape” or “fashion” (Jb 10:8). It portrays these enemies as shaping the psalmist’s words into whatever they wanted for their own evil purposes.

56:6 Lurk describes the psalmist’s enemies as predatory animals waiting to attack their prey (10:9; 17:12).

56:7 The answer to the question is understood to be no, they will not escape. Bring down the nations probably means more than simply defeat them, but rather bring them under divine judgment.

56:8-9 Tears probably refers to prayers or, more specifically, laments that involve crying. The bottle refers to God’s storing of these prayers so he can act on them later. This is similar to the image of incense in Revelation to represent the prayers of the saints (Rv 5:8; 8:3-4). The records are similar to the “books of remembrance” referred to in Dn 7:10 and Mal 3:16. The knowledge that God is for me should bring remarkable peace (see Rm 8:31).


Hebrew pronunciation [bah tak]
CSB translation trust, be confident
Uses in Psalms 46
Uses in the OT 118
Focus passage Psalm 56:3-4,11

Batach denotes trust (Jdg 9:26). People are confident (Jdg 20:36) or bold (Pr 28:1). They are (Is 47:10) or feel (Am 6:1) secure. They rely (Ps 21:7), depend (Jb 39:11), and trust (Ps 40:3). Participles imply unsuspecting (Jdg 18:7), overconfident (Is 32:9), or protected (Pr 11:15). Betach (42x) means security (Jr 49:31), confidence (Is 32:17), and safety (Ps 78:53). It appears as securely (Lv 25:18) and unsuspecting (Gn 34:25). Mibtach (15x) means trust (Ps 40:4) or object of trust (Ezk 29:16). It denotes hope (Ps 65:5), security (Jb 18:14), and confidence (Jr 17:7). It appears as safe (Is 32:18). Bitchah is confidence (Is 30:15); battuchot, security (Jb 12:6); and bittachon, hope (Ec 9:4). The latter with batach means what you are relying on or basing confidence on (2Kg 18:19; Is 36:4). Verses say people should trust in God rather than idols, men, or self.

56:10-11 What can mere humans do to me? again reminds us of Rm 8:31.

56:12 Vows were commonly made during petitions and fulfilled through thank offerings (see note at 22:25-26).

56:13 Light is used as a synonym for life (Jb 3:20) but also may represent joy (Is 9:2) and salvation (Is 58:8). See notes at Ps 27:1; 36:9.