New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 54:1 For the Chief Musician. On stringed instruments. A contemplation by David, when the Ziphites came and said to Saul, Isn’t David hiding himself among us?- Most people react badly to betrayal, and it leaves a lingering sense of bitterness. But David dealt with it by writing songs about his experiences, openly sharing how he thought and felt, and bringing God into every feeling and situation. The men of Ziph betrayed David to Saul twice (1 Sam. 23,26). The first time, it seemed Saul would thereby indeed catch David; he chased him around a conical hill and was about to get him, when a message came that the Philistines had attacked and he must return. The second time, David sneaked into Saul's camp at night and stole Saul's spear and water jar, after God had made Saul's guards fall deeply asleep; and by thus sparing Saul, he elicits from Saul a desire to give up the chase. So each time, the betrayal by the Ziphites was undone by direct Divine intervention. But in this Psalm we read of David's hatred of the Ziphites and his earnest desire for their condemnation. Whilst at the same time, showing unusual grace to Saul. As with us, we can show great grace to one enemy whilst at the same time harbouring bitterness against other enemies. Or quite simply, David doesn't maintain his feelings of grace toward Saul. For this Psalm wishes condemnation upon both Saul and the Ziphites. He showed the same failure with his attitude toward Shimei.

Save me, God, by Your name. Vindicate me in Your might-
David understood God's Name as the summary of His personality and character; and it was according to his understanding of this that he asks for salvation. For the summation of God's character is that He is a loving saviour. This came to full term in His Son, and abides true for all time.

Psa 54:2 Hear my prayer, God. Listen to the words of my mouth-
This could imply that David prayed his prayers out loud.

Psa 54:3 For strangers have risen up against me-
The Ziphites were from Judah (Josh. 15:55), but David treats them as Gentiles, which is the implication of "strangers". To hate our brother (for David was also from Judah) is to classify ourselves with the world.


Violent men have sought after my soul- The very phrase used of Saul's hunting of David at the time of the incident with the Ziphites (1 Sam. 23:15). Saul sought  to take David's life. So many of the Psalms contain imprecations against those who were seeking David's soul- not just his physical life, but seeking to destroy his very being (e.g. Ps. 35:4; 40:14; 54:1; 63:9; 70:2; 71:13). These imprecations expose the evil of Saul, and asks God to condemn him. Some of those Psalms appear to have been written by David in the Saul days, and then rewritten at the time of Absalom's rebellion- another man who sought David's soul, and yet whom David loved. 

They haven’t set God before them. Selah- The implication is that David had done this (Ps. 16:8). Always David likes to present himself as of a totally superior spiritual class to his enemies; the sin with Bathsheba was to mean that so much of his hard words about others became relevant to him, driving him to throw himself upon Divine grace alone. 

Psa 54:4 Behold, God is my helper, the Lord is the one who sustains my soul-
The tone of the Psalm changes from desperate begging for help, to confidence that God has heard him. This may have been because of some direct Divine revelation; but I suggest rather it is what happens in our prayers. Within the prayer we ourselves become persuaded of God's answer and find peace and confidence in Him.

Psa 54:5 He will repay the evil to my enemies; destroy them in Your truth-
"Truth" is often a reference to God's covenant. He appeals for judgment of his enemies on the basis that he considers they have broken covenant with God and must receive the curses associated with doing so.

Psa 54:6 With a free will offering, I will sacrifice to You. I will give thanks to Your name, Yahweh, for it is good-
David at this time was on the run from Saul. His freewill offering would have had to be made outside of the sanctuary system. Although he may have in view returning to the sanctuary and offering there, once all his enemies (including Saul) had been destroyed (:7).

Psa 54:7 For He has delivered me out of all trouble. My eye has seen triumph over my enemies
- He speaks in the past tense when he has the future in view. David speaks of that yet future as if it is yet done. This is how God sees things, and the invitation to have faith is an invitation to see things from His perspective. David sees himself at the last day in the presence of other faithful ones, thanking God for His judgments upon the wicked.