New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 3:1 A Psalm by David, when he fled from Absalom his son- A fair case can be made that the titles of the Psalms are in fact just as inspired as the verses which follow them. Indeed on at least one occasion they are quoted or alluded to in the New Testament. The LXX treats them as part of the first verse of the Psalms following, although J.W. Thirtle made a fair case that at times the title of a Psalm ought to be attached to the previous Psalm, and it is a title of the previous Psalm appended at the bottom of it.

Yahweh, how my adversaries have increased! Many are those who rise up against me-
The historical reference is to how the support for Absalom appeared to mushroom once Ahithophel betrayed David and joined it: "The conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom" (2 Sam. 15:12). They considered that God wouldn't now help David (Ps. 3:2); there was a spiritual argument used against David, no matter how wrong it was. We have here a classic example of a collapse mentality, whereby a feeding frenzy begins against an innocent man, and quasi spiritual arguments are brought in to support it. "Many" in Ps. 3:1,2 is the same word used for how the people "increased" with Absalom. "Rise up" in Ps. 3:1 is the word used of Ahithophel wishing to 'rise up" and pursue David (2 Sam. 17:1; 18:31). In response to the rising up of others against him, David asks God to 'rise up' (Ps. 3:7 s.w.). David's prayer in Psalm 3 was answered, and Ahithophel 'rose up' and committed suicide (2 Sam. 17:23).

Psa 3:2 Many there are who say of my soul, There is no help for him in God! Selah-
"Many" is a tacit recognition of how popularly supported was Absalom's uprising (2 Sam. 15:12). But the "selah", the pause for meditation, is an invitation to reflect that masses of human strength is nothing compared to God.


Psa 3:3 But You, Yahweh, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head-
The "selah" of :2 may also reflect David's pause for introspection, as to whether in fact God had really indeed cast him off because of his sins. But he concludes with the triumph of :3, that God now lifted up his head and would be a shield to him- appealing to the promises to Abraham, that God would be a shield to Abraham and his true seed (Gen. 15:1). Such appeal to the promises which form the basis for the new covenant is common in the Psalms, and can just as legitimately be made by us.

Psa 3:4 I cry to Yahweh with my voice, and He answers me out of His holy hill-
David had fled Jerusalem and the "holy hill" of the temple mount, which was now under Absalom's control. But he believes Yahweh is still there, present as it were in the temple, and answering his prayer. He perhaps alludes to the promises that if Israel sinned and were exiled, they could always pray to God and hope for regathering to His holy hill (Dt. 30:1-4; Neh. 1:9). Solomon develops these thoughts further, in teaching that Israel in their dispersion were to pray to God toward Jerusalem, His "holy hill" of Zion (1 Kings 8:48,49). We see therefore how Solomon would have reflected upon his father David's experience; David had prayed towards God's "holy hill" when in exile from it, and had been heard. Solomon may well have been in David's retinue at the time, and would have experienced the wonder of return to Zion because of his father's prayer towards God in Zion.

Psa 3:5 I laid myself down and slept; I awoke, because Yahweh sustains me-
At his very nadir, with the insurrection apparently gaining momentum on every hand, David was able to lay down in peace and sleep, probably near the roadside somewhere on the way. As he awoke, he reflected that Yahweh had sustained him, and would ultimately 'awake' him to salvation. We likewise marvel how Peter could sleep soundly in prison the night before his planned execution. This is the peace which comes from true faith. And let us too not fail to be impressed by God's grace in awaking us each morning. Let our first thoughts on awakening be of Him, in prayer. God will keep us in "perfect peace" if our mind is "stayed" or 'sustained' upon Him (s.w. Is. 26:3). If we allow our mind to be sustained upon Him, He will sustain us. So often the Psalms reflect the mutuality possible between a man and his God. See on Ps. 4:4.

Psa 3:6 I will not be afraid of tens of thousands of people who have set themselves against me on every side-
These thousands of people were those in the "strong" conspiracy of Absalom which at that time appeared to be gathering momentum by the hour (2 Sam. 15:12).

Psa 3:7 Arise, Yahweh! Save me, my God! For You have struck all of my enemies on the cheek bone. You have broken the teeth of the wicked-
"Cheek bone" is literally "the jaw bone", and is the same word used about Samson's victory with a jaw bone when his own people had betrayed him (s.w. Jud. 15:16). The Hebrew could as well be an invitation for God to strike his enemies with the jaw bone. We then go on to observe that Psalm 3 is full of reference to Samson's fight at Lehi. It was also written at a time when David was betrayed by his own people: "Many are saying of me, 'God will not deliver him'" - the thoughts of the Israelites as they delivered the bound Samson to the Philistines. "But you are a shield around me"- how it must have seemed to a spectator. "To the Lord I cry aloud"- as Samson did. "I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me"- huge armies against one solitary man is a clear reference to Samson at Lehi.

Psa 3:8 Salvation belongs to Yahweh. Your blessing be on Your people. Selah
- David wanted salvation from Absalom's rebellion so that God's blessing would be upon His people. He had a far wider ranging motivation than mere personal salvation. David acts here as the High Priest pronouncing the priestly blessing of the people (Num. 6:24); just as he acted several times as a priest. See on Ps. 4:6.