Verse 1. - Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God. This is David's almost constant cry (see Psalm 7:1; Psalm 17:13; Psalm 22:20; Psalm 25:20; Psalm 31:1, 2, 15; Psalm 35:17; Psalm 40:13; Psalm 43:1; Psalm 69:18; Psalm 70:1, 4; Psalm 109:21, etc.). He has enemies, both domestic and foreign. In his early youth Saul becomes his enemy out of jealousy; then most of Saul's courtiers espouse their master's quarrel, he has enemies at the court of Achish; enemies in his family, even among his sons, as Absalom enemies among his counsellors, as Ahithophel; foreign enemies on all sides of him - Philistines, Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, Amalekites, Syrians, Mesopotamians, etc. Against all of them he invokes God's aid, and by God's aid he triumphs over all. Defend me from them that rise up against me; or, set me on high above them (Kay, Revised Version). David's domestic foes "rose up against him," no less than his foreign foes; made war on him; sought to seize his person, and put him to death.
Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody men.
Verse 2. - Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody men. Foreign enemies are never reproached with being "bloody men," since war is their trade, and it is their business to wound and slay.
For, lo, they lie in wait for my soul: the mighty are gathered against me; not for my transgression, nor for my sin, O LORD.
Verse 3. - For, lo, they lie in wait for my soul. The emissaries of Saul were sent to David's house "to watch him, and to slay him in the morning" (1 Samuel 19:11). This seems to be the "lying in wait" intended. Warned by his wife, Michal, Saul's daughter, David fled from his house during the night through a window, and so saved himself (1 Samuel 19:12). The mighty (or, the strong ones) are gathered against me; not for my transgression, nor for my sin, O Lord. Not in consequence of any wrong that I have done. It is noted, as characteristic of David's early psalms, that he protests his absolute innocence in them.
They run and prepare themselves without my fault: awake to help me, and behold.
Verse 4. - They run and prepare themselves without my fault; or, "establish themselves" - "take up their position" (so Hengstenberg, Kay, and Professor Cheyne). Awake to help me (see the comment on Psalm 44:23). And behold; i.e. "see how things are - how innocent I am; how unjust and cruel are my enemies!"
Thou therefore, O LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel, awake to visit all the heathen: be not merciful to any wicked transgressors. Selah.
Verse 5. - Thou therefore, O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel (comp. Psalm 69:6, also "a psalm of David"). Awake to visit all the heathen. "All" is emphatic, and means not only those without the covenant, but also those within - the wicked Israelites. It is noted that Saul's instruments consisted of two classes - actual heathen, such as Doeg the Edomite; and irreligious Israelites, as the Ziphites and others, who were no better than heathen. Be not merciful to any wicked transgressors. "The Hebrew words denote treachery and faithlessness" (Cook). They are scarcely applicable to open foreign enemies.
They return at evening: they make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city.
Verses 6-9. - "Here a new stanza begins" (Cheyne). The "enemies" of ver. 1 and the "workers of iniquity" of ver. 2 are more elaborately portrayed. First they are represented as "dogs" - such hideous, half-wild dogs as frequent Eastern cities, which sleep during the greater part of the day, and rove about in packs at night - unclean, horrid, loathsome animals (ver. 6). Then they appear as men - abusive, slanderous, godless (ver. 7). In conclusion, appeal is made to God against them. He will "laugh them to scorn" (ver. 8); and he is a sure Defence against all their efforts (ver. 9). Verse 6. - They return at evening. Having traced David to his house, they disperse for a time, but "return" again at evening, and take up their watch (1 Samuel 19:11). They make a noise like a dog; i.e. snarl and growl, quarrelling more or less among themselves during the night time. And go round about the city. Either wander vaguely about, as dogs do for prey, or patrol the walls and gates to see that David does not quit the city, and so escape them.
Behold, they belch out with their mouth: swords are in their lips: for who, say they, doth hear?
Verse 7. - Behold, they belch out with their mouth. All night long they keep uttering abuse and execrations and threats (comp. Psalm 94:4). Swords are in their lips (comp. Psalm 57:4). Speeches that wound and cut to the heart. For who, say they, doth hear! (comp. Psalm 10:11-13; Psalm 64:5; Psalm 73:11; Psalm 94:7). They think themselves irresponsible for their words. No one will hear or know what they say.
But thou, O LORD, shalt laugh at them; thou shalt have all the heathen in derision.
Verse 8. - But thou, O Lord, shalt laugh at them (comp. Psalm 2:4). Thou shalt have all the heathen in derision (see the comment on ver. 5, and particularly the explanation there given of "all the heathen").
Because of his strength will I wait upon thee: for God is my defence.
Verse 9. - Because of his strength. There is no "because of" in the original, and the reading, "his strength" (עזּו), is doubtful. Several manuscripts have "my strength" (עזּי), and this reading was followed in all the ancient versions. Most modern critics prefer it, and translate, O my strength, as in ver. 17. Will I wait upon thee; rather, I will wait upon thee. For my God is my Defence; or, my High Tower (Revised Version).
The God of my mercy shall prevent me: God shall let me see my desire upon mine enemies.
Verses 10-13. - The enemies are still the main subject. Their pride, their cursing, their lying, are denounced (ver. 12). The psalmist trusts to "see his desire" upon them (ver. 10). First he begs that they may not be slain, but only "scattered abroad," so that they may remain as examples of God's vengeance for the warning of others (ver. 11). Then, forgetting this wish, he pleads for their capture and their utter destruction, without which God's glory will not be fully vindicated (vers. 12, 13). Verse 10. - The God of my mercy shall prevent me; or, according to another reading, God with his mercy shall prevent (i.e. anticipate) me. God shall let me see my desire upon mine enemies (comp. Psalm 54:7).
Slay them not, lest my people forget: scatter them by thy power; and bring them down, O Lord our shield.
Verse 11. - Slay them not, lest my people forget; i.e. my true people - faithful Israel. The psalmist's "first thought is, that by lingering on in life for a while the wicked may be more edifying monuments of the Divine anger" (Cheyne). (For a parallel, see Exodus 9:16.) Scatter them by thy power; or, make them wanderers (comp. Genesis 4:12, 14). It has been often noted that David's curse seems to have passed on to the entire nation of the Jews. And bring them down, O Lord our Shield; i.e. "cast them down from their honourable positions bring them into misery and disgrace - O Lord, who art our Defense and Shield" (comp. Psalm 3:3; Psalm 18:2; Psalm 28:7).
For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips let them even be taken in their pride: and for cursing and lying which they speak.
Verse 12. - For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips; rather, the sin of their mouth is each word of their lips (Hupfeld, Cheyne); or, O the sin of their mouth! O the word of their lips! (Ewald, Kay, Canon Cook). Let them even be taken in their pride. Saul's special emissaries (1 Samuel 19:11) would, of course, be proud of their mission. And for cursing and lying which they speak (comp. Psalm 10:7; and, for an example, see 2 Samuel 16:5-8).
Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be: and let them know that God ruleth in Jacob unto the ends of the earth. Selah.
Verse 13. - Consume them in wrath, consume them; or, "make an end of them" ? "bring them to naught." That they may not be; or, "that they be no more." And let them know that God ruleth in Jacob unto the ends of the earth. The frustration of their plans, and their signal punishment, will cause the God of Israel to be recognized widely as the King of the whole earth. Compare the words of David to Goliath, "I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel" (1 Samuel 17:46).
And at evening let them return; and let them make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city.
Verses 14-17. - David here turns back from the future fate of his enemies to their present condition,and repeats ver. 7 verbatim. He thus reminds himself of his existing danger; he is still being sought - they are still in quest of their prey, and will continue so till morning comes (ver. 15). But in the morning he will be gone - he will have escaped them. Upon this thought occurring, he raises a renewed thanksgiving to God (vers. 16, 17) Verse 14. - And at evening let them return; rather, they return, as in ver. 6. And let them make a noise like a dog; rather, they make a noise. And go round about the city. Keeping their watch upon me.
Let them wander up and down for meat, and grudge if they be not satisfied.
Verse 15. - Let them wander up and down for meat; rather, they wander up and down for meat. David himself was the prey which they desired. They kept guard around his house, wandering, no doubt, up and down. And grudge if they be not satisfied; rather, as in the margin and in the Revised Version, and if they be not satisfied, they will stay all night. This they appear to have done from 1 Samuel 19:11-15.
But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble.
Verse 16. - But I will sing of thy power; rather, of thy strength - the same word as that used in vers. 9 and 17. Yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning. When the morning came, David had escaped (1 Samuel 19:12), and could "sing of God's mercy" securely at Ramah, where he had joined Samuel. For thou hast been my Defense and Refuge in the day of my trouble; or, my High Tower, as in vers. 9 and 17.
Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing: for God is my defence, and the God of my mercy.
Verse 17. - Unto thee, O my Strength, will I sing: for God is my Defense; or, Strong Tower (comp. ver. 9, which, if we read עזּי for עזו, is so far, excepting in the verb, identical). And the God of my mercy; i.e. "the God who showeth mercy upon me" (comp. ver. 10).