Psalm 55 Continued

12. For it is not an enemy who reproaches me;

David is even more vexed because of who it is who is the terrible enemy who is doing all this to him. It was not one he had thought of as an enemy at all who reproached him.

Then I could bear it.

David testifies that he could bear it if it was an enemy who had done all this to him.

Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me;

Nor is it one who in the past has hated David who has exalted himself against him. Of course, we cannot say that he does not hate David now, for his actions show that he does. Yet what David means is in the past. This one had not been a hater of David at all before this current, sad situation arose.

Then I could hide from him.

If it was one who was a known hater and enemy of David, then David could hide from him. It would be much easier to deal with such an enemy, if he was one who had always been David’s enemy. People would have expected this one to be against David, and he would have been able to hide from him and keep him at a distance.

13. But it was you, a man my equal,

David again has one particular man in mind. We are left with two choices for whom this man might have been: Ahithophel, David’s trusted counsellor, or Absalom, David’s own son. We know these two were the leaders of the conspiracy against him. Of these two, Ahithophel seems the most likely candidate for the one David has in mind here. For one thing, he was truly the mastermind of the revolt. The record in II Samuel proves that, though Absalom was key to the revolt as being the chosen next king instead of David, Ahithophel was the mastermind of the conspiracy. It seems clear as we look at Absalom, self-confident but not overly bright, that his was not the intellect behind the plot, but rather it was the genius of Ahithophel. Plus, considering David’s tender feelings towards Absalom in spite of everything, as we see in II Samuel 18:33, it seems very likely that David would have blamed Ahithophel for the most part in the conspiracy. At any rate, he would have been very reluctant to speak harshly against his own son, even though his son actively sought his death.

Yet, though we might see David calling Absalom his son his equal, would he have been likely to call a mere counsellor that? Certainly some kings would not have thus designated a mere counsellor, and yet when we consider the humility of the man David, we might well imagine him being just this generous. He himself was taken from following the sheep, and he does not count himself as a better man than Ahithophel. Moreover, his equality with him is further emphasized later in the Psalm, as he speaks of their going together to worship the LORD at His tabernacle. This shows the equal status David considered this man as having with him.

My companion and my acquaintance.

David calls Ahithophel his companion and acquaintance. The word “companion” is ‘alluwph, which speaks of an intimate or friend. The word “acquaintance” means one David knows. “My friend whom I know well” is how we might put this.

14. We took sweet counsel together,

David had taken sweet counsel together with Ahithophel. Perhaps this had been regarding how to run David’s kingdom, or how to set up the government of Israel in a righteous way. Yet considering the religious sentiments of the next phrase, this counsel might have been them speaking together of the things of their God, discussing His works and ways. Surely such counsel would have been sweet to David, since he loved Jehovah so much.

And walked to the house of God in the throng.

David had also shared moments of religious joy with Ahithophel, walking together with him to the house of God in the throng. Since David had not built the temple, only preparing for its building that would later be done by his son Solomon, it is clear that it was not to the permanent temple building to which he and Ahithophel had gone. The proper place of worship was not yet fully established at that time. David had brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem to be with him. He had pitched a tabernacle for it to reside in. Yet the tabernacle Jehovah had ordered Moses to build was at Gibeon, and that was where all were to appear before Jehovah three times a year at the feast days. There is good evidence that this is what David considered to be the “house of God” in I Chronicles 21:29-30.

29. For the tabernacle of the LORD and the altar of the burnt offering, which Moses had made in the wilderness, were at that time at the high place in Gibeon. 30. But David could not go before it to inquire of God, for he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the LORD.

This verse gives us evidence that it was the tabernacle at Gibeon to which David would go if he wished to appear before Jehovah and inquire of him. Therefore it was this, and not the tent he had pitched for the ark in Jerusalem, that David considered as the house of God, and so it is to this that he had traveled together with Ahithophel, as he states here.

15. Let death seize them;

David now considers all the wicked men who had conspired against him, and asks God to let death seize or utterly ruin them.

Let them go down alive into hell,

David asks that they might go down alive into hell. Yet this word does not mean “hell,” and this is another case of our translators trying to get as much “hell” as they could into the Bible. The word in Hebrew is sheol. We have discussed previously that the Psalms are Hebrew poetry, and their poetry had to do with repetition of ideas rather than repetition of sounds, as we use in English. Realizing this, we can see that this phrase is parallel to the previous phrase, and that death seizing them is the same thing as their going down alive into hell. Therefore “Sheol” and “death” are made to be synonymous here. They are really the same thing!

How could one go down alive into death or Sheol? This might be understandable if Sheol is a place, but how could one go into death alive? This might seem like a very puzzling thought if it were not for the fact that we have a Biblical example of this very thing in Numbers 16:28-34.

28. And Moses said: “By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. 29. If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me. 30. But if the LORD creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the LORD.”
31. Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, 32. and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. 33. So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly. 34. Then all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up also!”

The phrase in verses 30 and 33 about them going down alive into the pit is the Hebrew word chay for alive and the word Sheol, here translated “the pit.” Therefore in Hebrew this passage is talking about the very same thing as Psalm 55:15: about people going down alive into Sheol. In this case, it was the man Korah, along with Dathan and Abiram and all that belonged to them. The way they went down alive into Sheol was that the earth split apart under them and swallowed them up. It was just as if they went down into death itself alive, and that is how God picturesquely describes what happened to them. They went down alive in the state of death.

One modern example of this that I could think of is a story I heard of a man who fell into a vat of liquid nitrogen. As soon as this man hit the surface of the nitrogen, he was gone. There was no trace of his body, except I suppose that the chemical elements that had made up his body could now be found in the liquid nitrogen. Yet basically this man had one moment existed as a living man, and the next he was gone. It was as if death itself had swallowed him up and removed him from life. This is the idea of one going down alive into Sheol. David wishes that this would happen to these men so that the threat they bore to him and his Godly government might be gone.

For wickedness is in their dwellings and among them.

It is not simply for his own sake that David wishes that these men would go down alive into Sheol, so that he could procure his own safety. It is also because he knows that wickedness is in their dwellings and among them. These are just plain bad men, and their attempt to triumph over David, if it succeeded, would bring no good to God’s people Israel. Therefore David wants to see them destroyed. Notice the reference to their dwellings as well. Remember that this is the way the destruction of Korah and his men was: it took their dwellings and all they owned along with it.

16. As for me, I will call upon God,

David, unlike these men, is going to call upon God in this time of trouble that he is facing. He is still the first One we should all turn to in our time of gravest trouble!

And the LORD shall save me.

David is confident that when he does call upon God, that Yahweh shall save him. He shall deliver him from the schemes and plots of these wicked foes of his, and He will preserve David from their wrath and make him safe in the end from their wickedness. As we know from the record of II Samuel, David was right to think this, for Yahweh did indeed save him from the schemes of these wicked men and deliver him to continue his reign, though these wicked men met their untimely end because of their plots.

17. Evening and morning and at noon

David lists three times of day: evening, morning, and at noon. While this gives us a nice idea of three times a day, the idea in context is probably that David will be doing this constantly, not just at these three times. These times are just put to be representative of David doing this all the time, whichever of these times it might happen to be.

I will pray, and cry aloud,

This is what David says he will do these three times during the day, or constantly during the day. He will pray and cry aloud. Yet as The Companion Bible points out, the word for “pray” is actually the word siyach in Hebrew, and means to meditate, not to pray. David is no doubt meditating on all his troubles and all the schemes of these wicked men against him, and the grim prospect causes him to cry aloud as he thinks of all that may come upon him and his family and nation.

And He shall hear my voice.

David is assured that when, at all times, he does meditate and cry aloud, the LORD shall hear his voice. Since there was no one else around to hear it, David probably did mean his cry to be for the ears of the LORD, even if it was a cry of distress and not a prayer that David had in mind. The Hebrew word here is hamah for “cry aloud,” and The Companion Bible suggests that this is an onomatopoetic word that is meant to express the sort of sound David makes when he utters his woeful cries.

18. He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me,

Jehovah has redeemed and delivered David’s soul in peace from the battle that was against him. This may well have been written after the whole episode of the rebellion was over, and David is looking back on the redemption that Jehovah brought to him by defeating his enemies and putting him back on the throne. David then would be enjoying peace and tranquility in his realm once again when he writes this. On the other hand, considering that in other places in this psalm he seems to still be in the midst of his trouble, we may take this to refer to the successful flight David accomplished from Jerusalem, where he might have been trapped by Absalom’s men. In that case, the point is still at issue, though up to now David has been delivered.

David says that Jehovah has redeemed his soul. Soul here, the Hebrew word nephesh, is put for his whole person, for David himself. Jehovah has redeemed him as a whole person, not just some part of him called his soul. David’s soul is David himself.

For there were many against me.

No doubt David means that this is why he has good cause to be grateful, or to view Jehovah as particularly gracious towards him. There were many foes against him, and we know that much of the nation of Israel had turned against David and joined Absalom’s forces. Yet Jehovah had redeemed him in peace from the battle that was against him regardless of the odds and the number of his foes.

19. God will hear, and afflict them,

David is confident that God will listen to his prayer, and afflict those who are his enemies. God did indeed do this, as we learn from the outcome of the rebellion and the final battle between David’s forces and Absalom’s forces in II Samuel 18. “God” here is the Hebrew El, the Mighty God, the Creator in conflict with His creatures.

Even He who abides from of old. Selah

David here speaks of God as “He who abides from of old.” God, of course, is the most ancient One of all, for He existed at the very beginning of time, and He created time itself. No one, therefore, could possibly claim more antiquity than He. He, the Ancient One, is the One Who will hear David and afflict his enemies.

David uses the word “Selah” here. Ae we have learned, this word indicates a connection between two things, one before and one after. In this case, it connects David’s confidence in God with his enemies’ lack of fear for God.

Because they do not change,

These ones who are against him do not change for the better. What David means is that they do not improve at all in their attitudes toward God.

Therefore they do not fear God.

Because they do not improve, therefore they do not fear God. If they thought better of it and turned to Him in respect and worship, then perhaps their futures might be brighter. Yet they will not do this, so God will do nothing but destroy them.

20. He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him;

Now David’s thought turn again to the one, particular former friend and traitor who is against him: Ahithophel. He was at peace with David, yet now he has put forth his power to attack those who were not attacking him. David had been at peace with him, but he responded with his schemes, treachery, and attempts to kill David.

He has broken his covenant.

Ahithophel has broken his covenant by doing this. We suppose that all David’s men had sworn their loyalty to him as King, and Ahithophel had broken his word and his covenant by his disloyalty.

21. The words of his mouth were smoother than butter,

We can imagine, if rumor reached David of Ahithophel’s activities, the smooth words that this clever man would have used to assure David of his loyalty and that there was no truth to the rumors that he had heard. Yet his butter-smooth words hid what was really in his heart.

But war was in his heart;

War against David was in his heart, even while his smooth words said otherwise.

His words were softer than oil,

Here we have the Hebrew poetic form whereby an idea is repeated in a slightly different way. His words were softer than oil, just as they were smoother than butter.

Yet they were drawn swords.

This completes the poetic parallel. War was in his heart while he spoke more softly than oil, and his smooth words of peace were really drawn swords meant to pierce David to his destruction. So it is with the clever schemer while his schemes are still forming. His words to those whose destruction he is plotting are smooth and soft, yet really they hide the violent and destructive intentions of his heart.

22. Cast your burden on the LORD,

David now speaks to all interested followers of Yahweh, urging us to cast our burdens on Yahweh. The word in Hebrew, yehab, occurs only here, and indicates that which is given, or a lot. Whatever our lot might be, we should cast it on Yahweh. This is important, for it is not just when our lot seems bad, as it did with David at this time, but really whatever our state and our current lot might be, we should cast it on Yahweh. We need His help in the good times and the bad, though we are more likely to realize it in the bad.

And He shall sustain you;

When your lot is cast on Yahweh, He shall sustain you. He is there to help those who trust Him. Of course, in this dispensation, we have no specific promise that any trouble we might go through will work out as we would like it to. Yet He will give us the strength to sustain us through whatever ills life may bring our way.

He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.

Yahweh shall never permit the righteous to be moved. Yet this is quite a statement, for surely trouble comes on all, including the righteous, even as it had currently come on David. The word “never” here is the Hebrew word olam, however, and we might make this, “He shall not for the olam permit the righteous to be moved.” The reference would seem to be to the coming Kingdom of God. When that day comes and Yahweh controls all that happens in this world, He shall not permit anything to move the righteous from the place of good that He has established them in. The righteous might be moved from their place today, when all is dark and chaotic, but it will not happen in the day when He reigns over all the earth. In this we can take comfort, and this should be a great source of joy to all who look to Him.

23. But You, O God, shall bring them down to the pit of destruction;

David now contrasts what will happen to the righteous with what will happen to men like the deceivers and schemers who were working against him. God shall bring them down to the pit of destruction. This is the end of the wicked. They will be destroyed, and the pit, the hole in the ground, will be their final resting place. This is not to say that they will not experience resurrection, at least to the resurrection of the unjust in the day they are to face judgment. Yet ultimately their end shall be death and destruction. That is where God will place them when He puts all in their rightful places.

Bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days;

David calls them men of bloods and deceit. “Men of bloods” refers to their violence, and we certainly see the bloody nature of the rebellion of both Ahithophel and Absalom. They both were deceivers as well. As for not living out half their days, we are unsure of the age of Ahithophel when he died, but we might guess he was more of David’s age. Yet certainly Absalom did not live out half his days, but died while yet still a young man, destroyed in the failure of his wars and schemes. Ahithophel too died early when he put himself to death when he saw that his schemes were being brought to ruin by the LORD.

But I will trust in You.

Yet David will trust in the LORD, and he knows that his trust will be rewarded.

To the Chief Musician. Set to “The Silent Dove in Distant Lands.”

This psalm is dedicated to the Chief Musician, which means again it was turned over by David for public use. “The Silent Dove in Distant Lands” refers, of course, to David when in exile from his son Absalom, fleeing like a dove among distant lands. This psalm speaks of this event in the past, and yet we would suggest that, like all the psalms that have to do with David during this time, it also is relevant to the future day of the revolt against the Kingdom of God, when, as the Lord Jesus said, “A man’s enemies shall be those of his own household,” (Matthew 10:36), and when “brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.” (Mark 13:12) In that day too, David will experience the betrayal of some who were closest to him, and then too he will be forced to flee from Judea, when all those there are ordered to “flee to the mountains” (Mark 13:14). David at that time will have risen from the dead, and will be involved with, if not leading, the flight then. Surely at that time, this song, which will have its music restored, will bring comfort and help to those who experience those hard times. Yet we too today can learn from it, and praise God that this interesting psalm is in the Word of God.