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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Psalms 55

 

 

Verse 1

Psalms 55:1 « To the chief Musician on Neginoth, Maschil, [A Psalm] of David. » Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication.

A Psalm of David] Whether made upon occasion of his flight from Keilah, 1 Samuel 23:2, or from Absalom, 2 Samuel 15:16. Idem est argumentum, et idem usus huius Psalmi atque, superioris, saith Beza; this and the former psalm are of the same argument and for the same use. It is most probable that this psalm was written when Absalom was up, and Hushai related unto Zadock the troubled state of the city, 2 Samuel 17:15, with which compare Psalms 55:9-11 of this psalm. For thereupon David, put into a great perturbation, as Psalms 55:4-5, wished for the wings of a dove, not the pinions of a dragon, that he might fly far away.

Ver. 1. Give ear to my prayer, O God] David’s danger was present, his prayer therefore is pressing, being not the labour of his lips, but the travail of his heart. The breath that cometh from the lips is cold, not that which cometh from the lungs.

Hide not thyself] As men when they are not willing to be sued unto will not be seen.


Verse 2

Psalms 55:2 Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise;

Ver. 2. Attend unto me, and hear me] Heb. answer me, that is, grant me deliverance from this death which threateneth me. This is his sense, as appeareth by the sequel; though at present he could not instance, but only beggeth audience.

I mourn in my complaint] Heb. I toss this way and that way; I am so much troubled ut meipsum lamentando huc et illuc versare, et mire agitare cogar. Prae dolore moveo me nunc huc nunc illuc (Campensis).

And make a noise] Plungo, et perstrepo. Of our Saviour it is said, that, being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly; he bent, as it were, all his nerves, and set up his note, Luke 22:44.


Verse 3

Psalms 55:3 Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me.

Ver. 3. Because of the voice of the enemy] He may very well intend Shimei’s bitter revilings, 2 Samuel 16:5, &c.

For they cast iniquity upon me] They tumble it on me, as men do stones or anything else upon their besiegers, to endamage them; so did these, sin, shame, anything, upon innocent David, to make him odious.

And in wrath they hate me] Heb. they Satanically hate me.


Verse 4

Psalms 55:4 My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.

Ver. 4. My heart is sore pained within me] No otherwise than a woman is pained in travail; cordicitus doleo. I am pained deep in my heart.

And the terrors of death are fallen upon me] Caused, doubtless, by the deep sense and conscience of his late grievous sins.


Verse 5

Psalms 55:5 Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me.

Ver. 5. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me] Fearfulness of heart, and trembling of body, Timor cordis, tremor corporis; which last falleth out, when as the spirits flying back to the heart, to relieve it, leave the outward parts destitute.

And horror hath overwhelmed me] This was David’s infirmity; for he should have better fortified his heart against that cowardly passion of fear; the devil also had a finger in it. At another time David could better resolve and say, What time I am afraid I will trust in thee.


Verse 6

Psalms 55:6 And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! [for then] would I fly away, and be at rest.

Ver. 6. And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove!] Ut citissime et longissime fugerem, that I might swiftly fly far off from Absalom’s pursuers; as the dove saveth herself by fight, and not by fight, scoureth away to the rocks and deserts, Jeremiah 48:28. Many souls are swifter of flight than doves; but these hold out better. R. Jonah saith, that whereas other birds, when they are wearied with flying, do rest them upon rocks or trees, and are taken; the dove doth not so, but letteth down one wing, and flieth with the other, and thereby escapeth the pursuer (R. Jonah, apud Kimchi).

For then would I fly away] But whither he saith not, because he knew not. The Church in the Revelation fled into the wilderness, Revelation 12:6 God provided a Pella for those primitive Christians. Luther, being asked where he would be at quiet from his enemies? answered, Sub coelo, under heave, somewhere God would secure him.


Verse 7

Psalms 55:7 Lo, [then] would I wander far off, [and] remain in the wilderness. Selah.

Ver. 7. Lo, then would I wander far off] Far from the force and fury of these breathing devils. Jeremiah wisheth the like, as being tired out by the ungodly practices of his countrymen, Psalms 9:2. And many a dear child of God, forced to be in bad company, cries, Oh that I had the wings, &c. Or if that Oh will not set him at liberty, he takes up that Woe, to express his misery, Woe is me, that I sojourn in Meshech, &c.

And remain in the wilderness] Among wild beasts; which were better than to abide with these lycanthropi (a), men more cruel, savage, and bloody than any beasts.


Verse 8

Psalms 55:8 I would hasten my escape from the windy storm [and] tempest.

Ver. 8. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm, &c.] I would thrust my ship into any creek in the whole world, go as far as my legs, nay, wings, could carry me. Of the swiftness of the dove’s flight, see Plin. l. 10, c. 37; and how David hastened his flight from Absalom, see 2 Samuel 15:14.


Verse 9

Psalms 55:9 Destroy, O Lord, [and] divide their tongues: for I have seen violence and strife in the city.

Ver. 9. Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues] Heb. Swallow them up, O Lord, and divide their tongues; by an allusion, as some conceive, to those two famous judgments of God upon Dathan and Abiram, first, Numbers 16:31-33, and then, secondly, upon the Babel builders, Genesis 11:6-9, both which were thrown out for examples to all succeeding ages (as St Jude saith of the Sodomites, 1:7), and are to be considered by the saints, as here, in their prayers against their enemies. How God answered this prayer to David, see 2 Samuel 17:1-14, &c.

For I have seen violence and strife in the city] i.e. In Jerusalem, something I have seen, but more outrages I have heard of, since Absalom with his army came into it. The rude soldiers plunder the poor citizens at pleasure, and cannot agree among themselves in dividing the spoil.


Verse 10

Psalms 55:10 Day and night they go about it upon the walls thereof: mischief also and sorrow [are] in the midst of it.

Ver. 10. Day and night they go about it, upon the walls thereof] The ruffian soldiers do, as in garrisons is usual; or violence and strife do; so that in no place are good men in safety from rapines and robberies.

Mischief also and sorrow are in the midst of it] What work may be thought to be made the common soldiers, among the women especially, when Absalom openly defileth his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel! 2 Samuel 16:22. When Tilly took Magdeburg in the late German wars, besides many other outrages, the ladies, gentlewomen, and others, like beasts and dogs, they yoked and coupled together, leading them into the woods to ravish them. Such as resisted they stripped naked, whipped them, cropped their ears, and so sent them home again.


Verse 11

Psalms 55:11 Wickedness [is] in the midst thereof: deceit and guile depart not from her streets.

Ver. 11. Wickedness is in the midst thereof] As if it were no longer, as once, Theopolis, but Poneropolls, for all kind of naughtiness there.

Deceit and guile depart not from her streets] The Vulgate hath it, Usura et dolus, Usury and guile; and Theodoret’s note here is, Notandum est, non mode Novi Testamenti perfectionem, sed Legis statum faenus damnare, that usury is condemned in both Old and New Testament.


Verse 12

Psalms 55:12 For [it was] not an enemy [that] reproached me; then I could have borne [it]: neither [was it] he that hated me [that] did magnify [himself] against me; then I would have hid myself from him:

Ver. 12. For it was not an enemy that reproached me] Ahithophel’s perfidy and villany troubled David more than all the rest; there not being any wound worse, as Sophocies saith, than the treachery of a friend, ουδεν μειζον ελκος η φιλος αδικων; he being such a kind of enemy, quem neque fugere, neque fugare possumus, as Bernard hath it, whom we cannot easily prevent. See Psalms 41:9.

Then I could have borne it] Though as a burden; but nothing so grievous; I should not have much mattered it.


Verse 13

Psalms 55:13 But [it was] thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.

Ver. 13. But it was thou, a man mine equal] Heb. according to my rank, my compeer, my colleague, mine Alter-ego, my bosom friend, one that stood even with me, and upon the same ground, as it were.

My guide] In all mine affairs and actions; so that I thought nothing well done that I did not by his advice and counsel; my duke, my doctor, my Rabbi Davidis, as Rabbi David hath it, out of Kabuenaki.


Verse 14

Psalms 55:14 We took sweet counsel together, [and] walked unto the house of God in company.

Ver. 14. We took sweet counsel together] It was my great delight to confer and consult with him, especially about the things of God and the exercises of religion; which is or should be sacratissimum inter homines vinculum, the straitest tie of all. Religioa religando.

And walked unto the house of God in company] But so do those false Italians, who carry a pocket Church book with a pistol hid in the binding, which, turning to such a page, dischargeth; a plot to entrap him whom they hate, even while they are in their devotions together, when there is the least suspicion (II Mercurio Italico, Introd.).


Verse 15

Psalms 55:15 Let death seize upon them, [and] let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness [is] in their dwellings, [and] among them.

Ver. 15. Let death seize upon them] Irruat super illos mors, as a merciless landlord, as a cruel creditor, or as he in the Gospel, who took his fellow by the throat, and said, Pay that thou owest me. A sad time it must needs be with the wicked when death shall come upon them with a writ of Habeas corpus, and the devil with another of Habeas animam. Capiat illos mors, Thou shalt have the spirit. Let death seize them, so Aben Ezra rendereth it; Exigat mors in cos, so Kimchi, a נושׁח, Psalms 89:22 . Here it is written, saith he, without an Aleph, {Hebrew Text Note} as it were, with a swift hand; and as if death and seize were all one word; to note the sudden stroke of death, and that it will soon despatch them. To which sense also some render it, Decipiat eos mors, Let death deceive them, be too nimble for them.

And let them go down quick into hell] As did Dathan and his complices, Numbers 16:31-33 {See Trapp on "Psalms 55:9"} According to this imprecation Ahithophel and Judas, hanging themselves, went to hell alive, that is, hale and well; not enfeebled by sickness first. Augustine saith that heretics do the like, falling with open eyes, and self-condemned.

For wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them] Heb. in their sojourning place (for here we are but guests and sojourners), and in the middle of them, that is, in their hearts and houses both, undique circumfluunt malitia et maleficiis, they are as naught as need to be.


Verse 16

Psalms 55:16 As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me.

Ver. 16. As for me, I will call upon God] Or, I have called upon God, sc. for good to be done to myself, Psalms 55:1, &c., and for evil to mine enemies, Psalms 55:9, &c. (of which sort of imprecations. {See Trapp on "Psalms 35:4"}

And he hath heard me] I know he hath, both for myself, Psalms 55:17-18, and against them, Psalms 55:19-21. For what reason? first, they fear not God, Psalms 55:19; secondly, they break covenant, Psalms 55:20; thirdly, they use deceit, Psalms 55:21. These courses will work their ruth and ruin.


Verse 17

Psalms 55:17 Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.

Ver. 17. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray] So Daniel prayed three times a day, Daniel 6:10; and in the temple they prayed at the third, sixth, and ninth hour of the day. The saints set themselves certain hours to pray in (besides extraordinary occasions putting them upon that daily sacrifice), the better to arouse their spirits, and to keep constant intercourse with God. Papists have their set times; and Mahometans, whatever occasion they have, either by profit or pleasure, to divert them, will pray five times every day. This they do by form and custom, not by conscience: take we heed of those ordinary traitors, formality and customariness; it hath been bewailed before that many hold only a certain stint of daily duties (as malt-horses their pace, or mill-horses their round), and rest upon them when they have done, using the means as mediators, and so fall short, of Christ.

And cry aloud] Rousing up myself, and wrestling with God, not in a customary, frigid, bedulling way; but with all intention of spirit and contention of speech.

And he shall hear my voice] How should he do otherwise, I coming upon him with such earnestness? Preces fundimus, coelum tundimus, misericordias extorquemus, saith those primitive Christians whose prayers came before God as the noise of many waters, Revelation 14:2.


Verse 18

Psalms 55:18 He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle [that was] against me: for there were many with me.

Ver. 18. He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle] This he speaketh upon his prayer, by the force of his faith; as being assured of victory before the battle was fought or stroke struck, as they say.

For there were many with me] i.e. God’s holy angels, as 2 Kings 6:16-17. Vel multi ex Israele orantes pro Davide, sic Aben Ezra.


Verse 19

Psalms 55:19 God shall hear, and afflict them, even he that abideth of old. Selah. Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.

Ver. 19. God shall hear] sc. My prayers which are on the file before him, and as solicitors with him. Mittamus preces et lachrymas, cordis legatos, saith Cyprian. Up go prayers, down come deliverances.

And afflict them] Ludit ambiguitate verbi. The same word signifieth to afflict and to answer, q.d. he shall answer me, but afflict them; answer them with blows, with bitter answers.

Even he that abideth of old] And is therefore no changeling; the Eternity of Israel cannot lie, nor repent; "for he is not a man, that he should repent," 1 Samuel 15:29; neither can mine enemies hide themselves from him in any starting holes. Sedet Deus ad iudicandum, et surgit ad puniendure (Aug.).

Selah] Id est, modo honorabili, saith R. Gaon. Or, So be it, O Lord. It is set in the middle of the verse, as respecting both parts of it.

Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God] Changed they are not by repentance (which is such a change of the heart, as bringeth forth a reformed life), but continue obstinate and obdurate; neither have they any alterations in their outward estate; they are not poured from vessel to vessel, have a constant prosperity (such as Demetrius called mare mortuum, a dead sea), and do therefore settle upon their lees, cast away all care of God and his service.


Verse 20

Psalms 55:20 He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him: he hath broken his covenant.

Ver. 20. He hath put forth his hands, &c.] That wicked Ahithophel hath. The Fathers understand it of God and his judgments.

He hath broken his covenant] His oath of allegiance, and a particular oath when he was sworn of David’s counsel. The Scythians were strict covenant keepers (Herod. Melp.); and the Carthaginians infamous for the contrary; as now the Turks are.


Verse 21

Psalms 55:21 [The words] of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war [was] in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet [were] they drawn swords.

Ver. 21. The words of his mouth were smoother than butter] Full finely he could soothe and smooth me up, while he was my counsellor, with his pithanology.

Mel in ore, verba lactis:

Fel in corde, fraus in factis.

But war was in his heart] Heb. His heart was war. So in another psalm David saith of himself, "I am peace"; but when I speak of it, they are for war.

His words were softer than oil] So were Joab’s to Amasa; Judas’s to Christ; Cambyses’ to his brother whom he slew; Andronicus’s to his nobles, put to death by him, while he wept over them, as if he had been the most sorrowfull man alive. Whereupon the historian crieth out, Oh deep dissimulation and crocodile’s tears, &c.! The wiser sort deemed Andronicus’s praisings to be the beginnings of a man’s disgrace; his bounty, his undoing, and his kindness, his death.


Verse 22

Psalms 55:22 Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.

Ver. 22. Cast thy burden upon the Lord] Dare tuum, vel donum tuum, that is, whatsoever thou wouldest have the Lord bestow upon thee, cast it first by faith upon him in prayer, Agedum igitur animula men cur te diutius excrucias? (Beza); even all thy cares, businesses, travails, and troubles. This David speaketh first to himself, and then to others. R. Solomon maketh this God’s answer to David’s prayers, Spiritus sanctus sic respondit, saith he.

And he shall sustain thee] Or, victual thee, nourish thee as a foster father; thou shalt have thy σιτομετριον, thy demensum, thy due allowance: as Joseph did his father and brethren, chepi tappam, according to the mouths of their little ones, Genesis 47:12; as Barzillai at this time nourished David at Mahanaim, 2 Samuel 17:27; 2 Samuel 19:32.

He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved] Or if moved, yet not greatly moved, Psalms 62:2, nor removed, He will establish the just, Psalms 7:9.


Verse 23

Psalms 55:23 But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction: bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in thee.

Ver. 23. But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction] Into the deep Gehenna, saith the Chaldee; thou shalt hurl them into hell, from their lofty tops here.

Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days] Heb. shall not half their days; that is, shall be soon cut off, die in the flower of their age, come to an untimely end ( Ad generum Cereris, &c.); either the sword in battle or the sword of justice shall cut them off; or some treachery of men, or their own intemperance, or God’s immediate hand, shall make an end of them betimes, and before they come to the full age of a man, or before they have effected their evil designs (Luther rendereth it, Non dimidiabunt negotia), or before they are in fit case to die, Tempore non sue, Ecclesiastes 7:17, then when it were better for them to do anything than to die. Our Richard III and Queen Mary reigned the shortest while of any other since the conquest. Charles IX of France, that bloody prince, died young, of a bloody disease, &c. Absalom and Ahithophel came to tragic and unhappy ends; so did all the primitive persecutors, those cruel crafties.

But I will trust in thee] For safety here and for salvation hereafter.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 55:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/psalms-55.html. 1865-1868.

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