Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
This psalm offers a good example of the way in which hymns were sometimes composed for the congregation It is plainly the work of a man with a fine poetic sense. The imagery is striking, and the versification regular and pleasing. A refrain divides it into two equal pieces, each falling into two stanzas of six lines. Yet it is plainly a composition from older hymns. (Comp. especially Psalm 36:5-6; Psalm 56:2-3; Psalm 7:15; Psalm 9:15.) The second part has itself in turn been used by another compiler. (See Psalms 108)
Title.—See Psalms 4, 16, title, and comp. titles of Psalms 58, 59, 75
Al-taschith—i.e., destroy not, the first words of some song to the tune of which this was to be sung.
To the chief Musician, Altaschith, Michtam of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave. Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.(1) Trusteth.—Better, has taken refuge. The future of the same verb occurs in the next clause.
Shadow of thy wings.—See Note, Psalm 17:8.
Until these calamities.—Danger of destruction gives the feeling of the Hebrew better than “camities.”
I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.(2) Peformeth all things for me.—Literally, completes for me, which may be explained from the analogy of Psalm 138:8. But as the LXX. and Vulg. have “my benefactor” (reading gomēl for gomēr) we may adopt that emendation.
He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth.(3) He shall send . . .—The selah in the middle of this verse is as much out of place as in Psalm 55:19. The LXX. place it after Psalm 57:2. The marginal correction of the second clause is decidedly to be adopted, the word “reproach” is here being used in the sense of “rebuke.” For the verb “send,” used absolutely, comp. Psalm 18:16.
My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.(4) Them that are set on fire.—Rather, greedy ones (literally, lickers) in apposition to lions. The verse expresses the insecurity of the poet, who, his dwelling being in the midst of foes, must go to sleep every night with the sense of danger all round him. (See LXX.) How grandly the refrain in Psalm 57:8 rises from such a situation.
They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down: they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves. Selah.(6) A net.—For this image, so common in Hebrew hymns, see Psalm 9:15, &c, and for that of the pit, Psalm 7:15, &c
My soul is bowed down.—The verb so rendered is everywhere else transitive. So LXX. and Vulg. here, “And have pressed down my soul.” Despite the grammar, Ewald alters “my soul” into “their soul.” But no conjecture of the kind restores the parallelism, which is here hopelessly lost. We expect,
They have prepared a net for my steps;
They are caught in it themselves.
My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.(7) Fixed.—Better, steadfast (See Psalm 51:10, Note.)
Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early.(8) My glory.—See Note, Psalm 7:5.
I myself will awake early.—Perhaps, rather, I will rouse the dawn. Comp Ovid. Met. xi. 597, where the cock is said evocare Auroram; and Milton, still more nearly:
“Oft listening how the hounds and horn,
Cheerily rouse the slumbering morn”—L’Allegro.)