Psalms 56

For the director of music. To the tune of “A Dove on Distant Oaks.” Of David. A miktam. When the Philistines had seized him in Gath.

1 [a][b]Be merciful to me, my God, for my enemies are in hot pursuit; all day long they press their attack.
2 My adversaries pursue me all day long; in their pride many are attacking me.
3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
5 All day long they twist my words; all their schemes are for my ruin.
6 They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, hoping to take my life.
7 Because of their wickedness do not[c] let them escape; in your anger, God, bring the nations down.
8 Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll[d] — are they not in your record?
9 Then my enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will know that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise—
11 in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?
12 I am under vows to you, my God; I will present my thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.

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Psalms 56 Commentary

Chapter 56

David seeks mercy from God, amidst the malice of his enemies. (1-7) He rests his faith on God's promises, and declares his obligation to praise him for mercies. (8-13)

Verses 1-7 Be merciful unto me, O God. This petition includes all the good for which we come to throne of grace. If we obtain mercy there, we need no more to make us happy. It implies likewise our best plea, not our merit, but God's mercy, his free, rich mercy. We may flee to, and trust the mercy of God, when surrounded on all sides by difficulties and dangers. His enemies were too hard for him, if God did not help him. He resolves to make God's promises the matter of his praises, and so we have reason to make them. As we must not trust an arm of flesh when engaged for us, so we must not be afraid of an arm of flesh when stretched out against us. The sin of sinners will never be their security. Who knows the power of God's anger; how high it can reach, how forcibly it can strike?

Verses 8-13 The heavy and continued trials through which many of the Lord's people have passed, should teach us to be silent and patient under lighter crosses. Yet we are often tempted to repine and despond under small sorrows. For this we should check ourselves. David comforts himself, in his distress and fear, that God noticed all his grievances and all his griefs. God has a bottle and a book for his people's tears, both the tears for their sins, and those for their afflictions. He observes them with tender concern. Every true believer may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and then I will not fear what man shall do unto me; for man has no power but what is given him from above. Thy vows are upon me, O Lord; not as a burden, but as that by which I am known to be thy servant; as a bridle that restrains me from what would be hurtful, and directs me in the way of my duty. And vows of thankfulness properly accompany prayers for mercy. If God deliver us from sin, either from doing it, or by his pardoning mercy, he has delivered our souls from death, which is the wages of sin. Where the Lord has begun a good work he will carry it on and perfect it. David hopes that God would keep him even from the appearance of sin. We should aim in all our desires and expectations of deliverance, both from sin and trouble, that we may do the better service to the Lord; that we may serve him without fear. If his grace has delivered our souls from the death of sin, he will bring us to heaven, to walk before him for ever in light.

Cross References 24

  • 1. Psalms 6:2
  • 2. Psalms 57:1-3
  • 3. Psalms 17:9
  • 4. Psalms 35:25; Psalms 124:3; Psalms 57:3
  • 5. Psalms 35:1
  • 6. Psalms 55:4-5
  • 7. S Psalms 55:23
  • 8. ver 10
  • 9. S Psalms 27:1
  • 10. Psalms 118:6; Matthew 10:28; Hebrews 13:6
  • 11. Psalms 41:7; 2 Peter 3:16
  • 12. Psalms 59:3; Psalms 94:21; Mark 3:6
  • 13. Psalms 17:11
  • 14. Psalms 71:10
  • 15. Proverbs 19:5; Ezekiel 17:15; Romans 2:3; Hebrews 12:25
  • 16. Psalms 36:12; Psalms 55:23
  • 17. S 2 Kings 20:5
  • 18. Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 7:10; Daniel 12:1; Malachi 3:16
  • 19. Psalms 9:3
  • 20. Psalms 102:2
  • 21. S Numbers 14:8; S Deuteronomy 31:6; Romans 8:31
  • 22. Psalms 50:14
  • 23. Psalms 30:3; Psalms 33:19; Psalms 49:15; Psalms 86:13; Psalms 107:20; Psalms 116:8
  • 24. S Job 33:30

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. In Hebrew texts 56:1-13 is numbered 56:2-14.
  • [b]. Title: Probably a literary or musical term
  • [c]. Probable reading of the original Hebrew text; Masoretic Text does not have "do not" .
  • [d]. Or "misery;" / "put my tears in your wineskin"

Chapter Summary

To the chief Musician upon Jonathelemrechokim, Michtam of David when the Philistines took him in Gath. The words "jonathelemrechokim" are by our translators left untranslated. Aben Ezra takes them to be the beginning of a song; and others think they are the name of a musical instrument: but they seem rather to design the subject matter of the psalm, and may be rendered, "concerning the mute dove among them that are afar off" {m}, or "in far places" {n}; and refer to David, who, when he wrote this psalm, was among the Philistines, who were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, afar off from God and his law, and from righteousness; and when David was there, he was at a distance from his native country, his father's house, the king's court, and, what gave him most concern, from the house and worship of God; and here he was as a mute dove. He may be compared to a dove for his innocence in the case of Saul; and to a silly dove, for his acting the part of a fool or madman before Achish king of Gath; and was mute to what the servants of Achish said, and was dumb before the Lord, who had suffered him to fall into their hands, and into this distress he was now in. They are also applicable to Christ, who is comparable to a dove for his harmlessness, innocence, meekness and humility; and was as a mute one before Pontius Pilate the Roman governor, when his enemies accused him, and he answered not a word; and when among the Roman soldiers, who mocked at him and reviled him, and he reviled not again; and when he was led to be crucified, he opened not his mouth either against God or man. They may be also applied to the church of God, which is often called a dove in Song of Solomon 4:1; and is in the wilderness, and among wicked men, that are afar off from God, and is silent under all afflictions and persecutions; see Song of Solomon 2:14. The Targum paraphrases the words thus; "concerning the congregation of Israel, which is like to a silent dove, at the time they are removed afar off from their cities."

Moreover, the words may be applied to any truly gracious soul, that is sensible of sin, and mourns as a dove for it; has fled to Christ, as doves to their windows; and is harmless and humble; and living among men, aliens from God, is vexed and afflicted by them, yet patiently bears all that is said and done unto it. The fact which occasioned the writing of this psalm is related in 1 Samuel 21:10. Of the word "michtam," See Gill on "Ps 16:1," title; and Gussetius {o} is of opinion, that every psalm that has this title belongs to Christ.

{m} "De columba muta procul inter alienos constituta," Musculus; "inter longinquos," Piscator, Pfeiffer. {n} "Remotis," Pagninus, Montanus, Munster, Vatablus; so Ainsworth. {o} Ebr. Comment p. 410.

Psalms 56 Commentaries

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