Verse 1. - Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; literally, man panteth after me - like a wild beast after his prey. The contrast is sharp between "man" (enosh, "weak man") and God (Elohim, "the Mighty One"). He fighting daily oppreseeth me; rather, all the day long is he fighting and oppressing me.
Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High.
Verse 2. - Mine enemies; literally, my watchers - those who keep a continual guard over me. If David had been seized and made a prisoner by the Philistine lords, this expression would be very appropriate. Would daily swallow me up; rather, pant after me all day. For they be many that fight against me. The "lords of the Philistines" were, doubtless, "many;" they seem to have, all of them, opposed themselves to David (1 Samuel 29:2-9). O thou Most High. This rendering is now generally abandoned, since marom (מָרום), "height," is nowhere else used in this sense. Dr. Kay, Hengstenberg, and the Revised Version render "proudly;" Professor Cheyne, "with high looks."
What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.
Verse 3. - What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee; literally, the day when I am afraid. When the day comes that I feel fear stealing over me, by an act of will I (even I, weak as I am) will put my trust in thee (comp. Psalm 7:1; Psalm 11:1; Psalm 18:2, etc.).
In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.
Verse 4. ? In God I will praise his word; rather, through God; i.e. "with God's help, by his grace," I am ready to praise whatever sentence he pronounces, whatever flat goes forth from him. In God I have put my trust (so again, ver. 11). This is at once the refrain and the keynote of the psalm. In all dangers, in all troubles, whatever happens, whatever seems to be impending, the psalmist will never relinquish his trust in the Almighty. I will not fear what flesh can do unto me. This is the true martyr spirit. Compare our Lord's words, "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell" (Matthew 10:28).
Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil.
Verse 5. - Every day they wrest my words; rather, all the day long. they wrest (or, torture) my words. They seek to give my words an evil meaning, and so to misrepresent me to Achish, their king. As Canon Cook says, "This description is singularly applicable to David's position among the envious nobles at the court of Achish Still, it does not speak of his having been actually arrested, and does not, therefore, seem to have suggested the inscription." All their thoughts are against his for evil. They are entirely bent on doing the psalmist some hurt. What they really seek is his life (ver. 6); but, short of that, they would gladly do him some mischief.
They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul.
Verse 6. - They gather themselves together, they hide themselves; or, "they gather themselves together; they set an ambush." They mark my steps, when they wait for my soul; literally, they, even they, mark my steps; i.e. they themselves, grand as they are, condescend to be spies, and track my footsteps.
Shall they escape by iniquity? in thine anger cast down the people, O God.
Verse 7. - Shall they escape by iniquity? Shall they escape God's judgments, the psalmist asks, by their iniquity? Assuredly not. God will prevent such an escape. In thine anger cast down the people, O God; literally, the peoples; i.e. the heathen generally, to whom David's enemies, the Gittites, belong. Though assured that they will not escape, the psalmist, to make assurance doubly sure, prays that they may not.
Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?
Verse 8. - Thou tellest my wanderings; i.e. thou, O God, takest account of my wretched wandering life (1 Samuel 21-30), and notest each occasion when I am forced to move from one city, or cave, or wilderness to another. Put thou my tears into thy bottle. Take also note of my tears - let them not pass unheeded. Rather, gather them drop by drop, and store them, as costly wine is stored, in a flask. The thought, thus dressed in a metaphor, was, no doubt (as Professor Cheyne observes), "Store them up in thy memory." Are they not in thy book? i.e. hast thou not anticipated my request, and entered an account of every tear that I have shed, in thy book of records (comp. Psalm 69:28; Psalm 139:16)?
When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me.
Verse 9. - When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me; literally, in the day that I call upon thee.
In God will I praise his word: in the LORD will I praise his word.
Verse 10. - In God will I praise his word; rather, through God (see the comment on ver. 4). In the Lord (rather, through the Lord) will I praise his word. Professor Cheyne looks upon this as "a feeble Jehovistic interpolation, which interrupts the refrain." But other commentators see in it a certain force.
In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.
Verse 11. - In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me. Repeated word for word from ver. 4 (see the comment on that passage).
Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee.
Verses 12, 13. - The psalm ends with an expression of thankfulness to God for the deliverance, which is so confidently expected, that it is looked upon as assured, and even spoken of as past (ver. 13). Verse 12. - Thy vows are upon me, O God. The psalmist, under his affliction, has made vows to God; i.e. promises of thank offerings if God would come to his aid, and save him from his enemies. These vows he considers to be now due, and himself to be under the obligation of paying them. Accordingly, he announces his intention of speedily discharging his obligation - I will render praises (rather, thank offerings) unto thee.
For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?
Verse 13. - For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling; rather, hast thou not delivered (Revised Version); or, surely thou hast delivered (Professor Cheyne). The psalmist views his entire deliverance as accomplished; nothing remains to be asked for. That I may walk before God in the light of the living; i.e. that henceforth I may be free from trouble, and walk before God in the clear daylight, no longer dwelling in darkness, but in "the light of life" (comp. Job 33:30; John 8:12).