Psalm 3:2
Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) There is no help.—According to the current creed, misfortune implied wickedness, and the wicked were God-forsaken. David, too, had sent back Zadok with the Ark, which in the popular view meant sending away the power and the presence of God. Even Zadok seemed to share this feeling; and David’s words to him, “thou a seer” (2Samuel 15:27), seem to contain something of a rebuke.

Selah.—This curious word must apparently remain for ever what it has been ever since the first translation of the Bible was made—the puzzle of ordinary readers, and the despair of scholars. One certain fact about it has been reached, and this the very obscurity of the term confirms. It has no ethical significance, as the Targum, followed by some other of the old versions and by St. Jerome, implies, for in that case it would long ago have yielded a satisfactory meaning. There are many obscure words in Hebrew, but their obscurity arises from the infrequency of their use; but selah occurs no less than seventy-one times in the compass of thirty-nine psalms, and three times in the ode of Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:3; Habakkuk 3:9; Habakkuk 3:13). It is pretty certain that the sense “for ever,” which is the traditional interpretation of the Rabbinical schools, does not suit the majority of these places, and no other moral or spiritual rendering has ever been suggested; nor is it a poetical word, marking the end of a verse or the division into strophes, for it occurs sometimes in the very middle of a stanza, as in Psalm 20:3-4; Psalm 32:4-5; Psalm 52:3-4, and often at the end of a psalm (Psalms 46). There is only one conclusion, now universally admitted, that selah is a musical term, but in the hopeless perplexity and darkness that besets the whole subject of Hebrew music, its precise intention must be left unexplained. The conjecture that has the most probability on its side makes it a direction to play loud. The derivation from sâlah, “to raise,” is in favour of this view. The fact that in one place (Psalm 9:16) it is joined to higgaion, which is explained as a term having reference to the sound of stringed instruments, lends support to it, as also does the translation uniformly adopted in the Psalms by the LXX.: διάψαλμα—if, indeed, that word means interlude. It is curious that the interpretation next in favour to Ewald’s makes the meaning of selah exactly the opposite to his—piano instead of forte—deriving it from a word meaning “to be silent,” “to suspend.”

Psalm 3:2. Many there be that say of my soul — Of me; the soul being commonly put for the person: There is no help for him in God — God hath utterly forsaken him for his many crimes, and will never help him more. Selah — This word is nowhere used but in this poetical book, and in the song of Habakkuk. Probably it was a musical note, directing the singer either to lift up his voice, to make a pause, or to lengthen the tune. But, withal, it is generally placed at some remarkable passage; which gives occasion to think that it served also to quicken the attention of the singer and hearer.

3:1-3 An active believer, the more he is beaten off from God, either by the rebukes of providence, or the reproaches of enemies, the faster hold he will take, and the closer will he cleave to him. A child of God startles at the very thought of despairing of help in God. See what God is to his people, what he will be, what they have found him, what David found in him. 1. Safety; a shield for me; which denotes the advantage of that protection. 2. Honour; those whom God owns for his, have true honour put upon them. 3. Joy and deliverance. If, in the worst of times, God's people can lift up their heads with joy, knowing that all shall work for good to them, they will own God as giving them both cause and hearts to rejoice.Many there be which say of my soul - Or rather, perhaps, of his "life," for so the word used here - נפשׁ nephesh - frequently means Leviticus 17:11; Deuteronomy 12:23; Genesis 9:4; Genesis 35:18; 1 Kings 17:21. The object of their persecution, as here stated, was not his soul, as such, in the sense in which we now understand the word, but his life; and they now said that they were secure of that, and that all things indicated that God would not now interfere to save him. They were perfectly sure of their prey. Compare 2 Samuel 17:1-4.

There is no help for him in God - He is entirely forsaken. He has no power of defending himself, and no hope of escaping from us now, and all the indications are, that God does not intend to interpose and deliver him. Circumstances, in the rebellion of Absalom (2 Samuel 16:1 ff), were such as to seem to justify this taunt. David had been driven away from his throne and his capital. God had not protected him when he had his armed men and his friends around him, and when he was entrenched in a strong city; and now he was a forsaken fugitive, fleeing almost alone, and seeking a place of safety. If God had not defended him on his throne and in his capital; if he had suffered him to be driven away without interposing to save him, much less was there reason to suppose that he would now interpose in his behalf; and hence, they exultingly said that there was no hope for his life, even in that God in whom he had trusted. It is no uncommon thing in this world for good men to be in similar circumstances of trial, when they seem to be so utterly forsaken by God as well as men, that their foes exultingly say they are entirely abandoned.

Selah - סלה selâh. Much has been written on this word, and still its meaning does not appear to be wholly determined. It is rendered in the Targum, or Aramaic Paraphrase, לעלמין le‛alemiyn, forever, or to eternity. In the Latin Vulgate it is omitted, as if it were no part of the text. In the Septuagint it is rendered Διάψαλμα Diapsalma, supposed to refer to some variation or modulation of the voice in singing. Sehleusner, Lexicon. The word occurs seventy-one times in the Psalms, and three times in the Book of Habakkuk, Habakkuk 3:3, Habakkuk 3:9, Habakkuk 3:13. It is never translated in our version, but in all these places the original word "Selah" is retained. It occurs only in poetry, and is supposed to have had some reference to the singing or cantillation of the poetry, and to be probably a musical term. In general, also, it indicates a pause in the sense, as well as in the musical performance. Gesenius (Lexicon) supposes that the most probable meaning of this musical term or note is silence, or pause, and that its use was, in chanting the words of the psalm, to direct the singer to be silent, to pause a little, while the instruments played an interlude or harmony.

Perhaps this is all that can now be known of the meaning of the word, and this is enough to satisfy every reasonable inquiry. It is probable, if this was the use of the term, that it would commonly correspond with the sense of the passage, and be inserted where the sense made a pause suitable; and this will doubtless be found usually to be the fact. But any one acquainted at all with the character of musical notation will perceive at once that we are not to suppose that this would be invariably or necessarily the fact, for the musical pauses by no means always correspond with pauses in the sense. This word, therefore, can furnish very little assistance in determining the meaning of the passages where it is found. Ewald supposes, differing from this view, that it rather indicates that in the places where it occurs the voice is to be raised, and that it is synonymous with up, higher, loud, or distinct, from סל sal, סלה sâlâh, to ascend. Those who are disposed to inquire further respecting its meaning, and the uses of musical pauses in general, may be referred to Ugolin, 'Thesau. Antiq. Sacr.,' tom. xxii.

2. say of my soul—that is, "of me" (compare Ps 25:3). This use of "soul" is common; perhaps it arose from regarding the soul as man's chief part.

no help … in God—rejected by Him. This is the bitterest reproach for a pious man, and denotes a spirit of malignant triumph.

Selah—This word is of very obscure meaning. It probably denotes rest or pause, both as to the music and singing, intimating something emphatic in the sentiment (compare Ps 9:16).

Of my soul, i.e. of me; the soul being commonly put for the person, as Isaiah 46:2 Amos 6:8, compared with Genesis 22:16.

There is no help for him in God; God hath utterly forsaken him for his many crimes, and will never help him more.

Selah: this word is nowhere used but in this poetical Book of the Psalms, and in the song of Habakkuk 3:3,9,13; which makes that opinion probable, that it was a musical note, directing the singer either to lift up his voice, or to make a short stop or pause, or to lengthen out the tune. But withal, it is generally placed at some remarkable passage; which gives occasion to think that it served also to quicken the attention or observation of the singer and hearer.

Many there be which say of my soul,.... Or "to my soul" (u), the following cutting words, which touched to the quick, reached his very heart, and like a sword pierced through it:

there is no help for him in God; or "no salvation" (w): neither in this world, nor in that which is to come, as Kimchi explains it. David's enemies looked upon his case to be desperate; that it was impossible he should ever extricate himself from it; yea, that God himself either could not or would not save him. And in like manner did the enemies of Christ say, when they had put him upon the cross; see Matthew 27:43; and how frequent is it for the men of the world to represent the saints as in a damnable state! and to call them a damned set and generation of men, as if there was no salvation for them? and how often does Satan suggest unto them, that there is no hope for them, and they may as well indulge themselves in all sinful lusts and pleasures? and how often do their own unbelieving hearts say to them, that there is no salvation in Christ for them, though there is for others; and that they have no interest in the favour of God, and shall be eternally lost and perish? And this account is concluded with the word

selah, which some take to be a musical note; and so the Septuagint render it which Suidas (x) interprets the change of the song, of the note or tune of it; and the rather it may be thought to be so, since it is only used in this book of Psalms, and in the prayer of Habakkuk, which was set to a tune, and directed to the chief singer. Kimchi derives it from a root which signifies "to lift up", and supposes that it denotes and directs to an elevation, or straining of the voice, at the place where this word stands. Others understand it as a pause, a full stop for a while; and as a note of attention, either to something that is remarkably bad and distressing, as here; or remarkably good, and matter of rejoicing, as in Psalm 3:4. Others consider it as an affirmation of the truth of anything, good or bad; and render it "verily", "truly", as, answering to "Amen"; so be it, so it is, or shall be; it is the truth of the thing: to this sense agrees Aben Ezra. But others render it "for ever", as the Chaldee paraphrase; and it is a tradition of the Jews (y), that wherever it is said, "netzach", "selah", and "ed", there is no ceasing, it is for ever and ever; and so then, according to this rule, the sense of David's enemies is, that there was no help for him in God for ever. A very learned man (z) has wrote a dissertation upon this word; in which he endeavours to prove, that it is a name of God, differently used, either in the vocative, genitive, and dative cases; as, O Selah, O God, or of God, or to God, &c. as the sense requires.

(u) , Sept. "animae meae", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Musculus, Gejerus, Michaelis; so the Targum. (w) "non est salus", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus; "non ulla salus", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Ainsworth. (x) In voce (y) T. Bab. Erubin, fol. 54. 1. Vid. Ben Melech in loc. (z) Paschii Dissertatio de Selah, p. 670. in Thesaur. Theolog. Philolog. par. 1.

Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. {b} Selah.

(b) Selah here signifies a lifting up of the voice, to cause us to consider the sentence as a thing of great importance.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. Faint-hearted friends may be meant, as well as insolent enemies like Shimei, who professed to regard the king’s calamities as the divine punishment for his past crimes (2 Samuel 16:8 ff.).

of my soul] The ‘soul’ in O.T. language is a man’s ‘self;’ it represents him as a living, thinking, conscious individual.

help] Or, salvation, as in Psalm 3:8; where see note. Cp. ‘save me’ in Psalm 3:7. But the words ‘soul’ and ‘salvation’ are not primarily to be understood in a spiritual sense.

in God] As distinguished from men. All help, divine as well as human, fails him in his need. Hence the general term God is used. But where David expresses his own confident assurance (Psalm 3:8) or pleads for help (Psalm 3:4), he uses the covenant name Jehovah. The LXX however, which P.B.V. follows, reads, in his God.

Verse 2. - Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. When Absalom first raised the standard of revolt, there were no doubt many who looked to see some signal Divine interposition on behalf of the anointed king and against the rebel; but when David fled, and with so few followers (2 Samuel 15:18), and in his flight spoke so doubtfully of his prospects (2 Samuel 15:26), and when no help seemed to arise from any quarter, then we can well understand that men's opinions changed, and they came to think that David was God-forsaken, and would succumb to his unnatural foe (comp. Psalm 71:10, 11). Partisans of Absalom would see in David's expulsion from his capital a Divine Nemesis (2 Samuel 16:8), and regard it as quite natural that God should not help him. Selah. There is no traditional explanation of this word. The LXX. rendered it by διάψαλμα which is said to mean "a change of the musical tone;" but it is against this explanation that selah occurs sometimes, as here, at the end of a psalm, where no change was possible. Other explanations rest wholly on conjecture, and are valueless. Psalm 3:2(Heb.: 3:2-3) The first strophe contains the lament concerning the existing distress. From its combination with the exclamative מה, רבּוּ is accented on the ultima (and also in Psalm 104:24); the accentuation of the perf. of verbs עע very frequently (even without the Waw consec.) follows the example of the strong verb, Ges. ֗67 rem. 12. A declaration then takes the place of the summons and the רבּים implied in the predicate רבּוּ now becomes the subject of participial predicates, which more minutely describe the continuing condition of affairs. The ל of לנפשׁי signifies "in the direction of," followed by an address in Psalm 11:1 ( equals "to"), or, as here and frequently (e.g., Genesis 21:7) followed by narration ( equals "of," concerning). לנפשׁי instead of לי implies that the words of the adversaries pronounce a judgment upon his inmost life, or upon his personal relationship to God. ישׁוּעתה is an intensive form for ישׁוּעה, whether it be with a double feminine termination (Ges., Ew., Olsh.), or, with an original (accusative) ah of the direction: we regard this latter view, with Hupfeld, as more in accordance with the usage and analogy of the language (comp. Psalm 44:27 with Psalm 80:3, and לילה prop. νύκτα, then as common Greek ἡ νύκτα νύχθα). God is the ground of help; to have no more help in Him is equivalent to being rooted out of favour with God. Open enemies as well as disconcerted friends look upon him as one henceforth cast away. David had plunged himself into the deepest abyss of wretchedness by his adultery with Bathsheba, at the beginning of the very year in which, by the renewal of the Syro-Ammonitish war, he had reached the pinnacle of worldly power. The rebellion of Absolom belonged to the series of dire calamities which began to come upon him from that time. Plausible reasons were not wanting for such words as these which give up his cause as lost.
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