New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Psa 11:1 For the Chief Musician. By David.
In Yahweh I take refuge-
The idea is that God was David's city of refuge. These cities were for those who needed to flee when being chased by the avenger of blood (Num. 35:26). The imagery is very appropriate to David when fleeing from Saul and Absalom. David's constant meditation upon God's law would have included the sections about the cities of refuge; he realized that actually no such city was available for him, but the spirit of the law led him to reflect that Yahweh was his refuge, wherever he was. David tends to open wilderness Psalms with this reflection, just as we may tend to begin prayers with the same opening phrase and thoughts (Ps. 7:1; 11:1; 16:1; 31:1; 57:1; 71:1).

How can you say to my soul, Flee as a bird to Your mountain!- David likens himself to a bird whose only option is to flee (1 Sam. 26:20), and such birds lived in the mountains / hill country where David was driven (1 Sam. 23:14; 26:1). David was indeed going to flee- but to God, and not simply acting like a scared man who has to flee someplace else.

Psa 11:2 For, behold, the wicked bend their bows and set their arrows on the strings, that they may shoot in darkness at the upright in heart-
David is seeing himself and the righteous as Job, and he here continues that connection, seeing that Job is described likewise as "upright in heart" (Job 1:8; 2:3). David sees this as characteristic of all God's people (s.w. Ps. 11:2; 19:8; 32:11; 36:10; 64:10; 94:15; 97:11). He sees the wicked as those who are not upright (Ps. 14:3; 51:1,3). But these words which David writes about the wicked are then reinterpreted as applying to all men, God's people included (Rom. 3:12). Like Job, David had to be taught that actually he was failing to see the seriousness of sin; righteousness and acceptability with God is imputed to men by grace through faith, because actually there are none who are upright in heart, apart from God's representative son.

Psa 11:3 If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?-
The GNB understands :1-3 as a quotation from the words said to David: "How foolish of you to say to me, "Fly away like a bird to the mountains, because the wicked have drawn their bows and aimed their arrows to shoot from the shadows at good people. There is nothing a good person can do when everything falls apart"". "Foundations" is literally 'what has been appointed or set'. David's enemies had been set under his feet (s.w. Ps. 8:6; 110:1 and often in the Psalms). What God had appointed had not been destroyed, and could not be. So David was not going to respond to his distress in a secular way, but to flee to God, trusting He would maintain His own foundation purpose for David and the righteous.  

Psa 11:4 Yahweh is in His holy temple. Yahweh is on His throne in heaven-
In many verses in the Psalms, David expresses his understanding that God's temple is in Heaven (e.g. Ps. 11:4); both David and Solomon recognized that God cannot be confined to a physical house, seeing that even the heavens cannot contain Him (2 Chron. 6:18). But David seems to depart from this understanding in his final obsession for building God a physical temple.

His eyes observe, His eyes examine the children of men- The idea is of squinting. This is how closely God was watching the entire situation between Saul and David, and therefore David didn't need to accept the secular advice of :1-3. See on :5.


Psa 11:5 Yahweh examines the righteous, but the wicked and him who loves violence His soul hates-
Ps. 11:4,5 describes the scene in the court of Heaven: "The Lord's throne is in Heaven (mirrored by the Mighty Angel of Israel being enthroned over the Mercy Seat in the temple): His eyes (Angels) behold, His  eyelids  try, the children of men. The Lord trieth the righteous (who are in His presence by their Angel), but the wicked and him that loveth violence His soul hateth" (AV).

Psa 11:6 On the wicked He will rain blazing coals; fire, sulphur, and scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup-
This is the language of the judgment of Sodom. David expected a day to come when God would open intervene in human affairs after the pattern of how He had done at the time of Sodom; and the wicked amongst Israel would be destroyed at the same time as the world generally is judged. This would imply their resurrection to face that judgment.

Psa 11:7 For Yahweh is righteous, He loves righteousness. The upright shall see His face
- Again David takes comfort in the fact that although he must flee his enemies (see on :1), there will come a day of final judgment. And at that time, David would see God's face. He perhaps learned this from Job's conclusions in Job 19:27- remember that Job and the Pentateuch were likely the only extant scriptures at David's time. His idea of salvation was to see God's face; God again is presented as having literal, personal existence.