Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
David complains, in great distress, of the number of his enemies, and the reproaches they cast on him, as one forsaken of God, Psa 3:1, Psa 3:2; is confident, notwithstanding, that God will be his protector, Psa 3:3; mentions his prayers and supplications, and how God heard him, Psa 3:4, Psa 3:5; derides the impotent malice of has adversaries, and foretells their destruction, Psa 3:6, Psa 3:7; and ascribes salvation to God, Psa 3:8.
This is said to be A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son - See the account, Sa2 15:1 (note), etc. And David is supposed to have composed it when obliged to leave Jerusalem, passing by the mount of Olives, weeping, with his clothes rent, and with dust upon his head. This Psalm is suitable enough to these circumstances; and they mutually cast light on each other. If the inscription be correct, this Psalm is a proof that the Psalms are not placed in any chronological order.
The word Psalm, מזמור mizmor, comes from זמר zamar, to cut, whether that means to cut into syllables, for the purpose of its being adapted to musical tones, or whether its being cut on wood, etc., for the direction of the singers; what we would call a Psalm in score. This last opinion, however, seems too technical.
Lord, how are they increased that trouble me? - We are told that the hearts of all Israel went after Absalom, Sa2 15:13; and David is astonished to find such a sudden and general revolt. Not only the common people, but his counsellors also, and many of his chief captains. How publicly does God take vengeance for the sins which David committed so privately! In the horrible rebellion of Absalom we see the adultery of Bath-sheba, and the murder of Uriah. Now the words of Nathan begin to be fulfilled: "The sword shall not depart from thy house."
No help for him in God - These were some of the reproaches of his enemies, Shimei and others: "He is now down, and he shall never be able to rise. God alone can save him from these his enemies; but God has visibly east him off." These reproaches deeply affected his heart; and he mentions them with that note which so frequently occurs in the Psalms, and which occurs here for the first time, סלה selah. Much has been said on the meaning of this word; and we have nothing but conjecture to guide us. The Septuagint always translate it by Διαψαλμα diapsalma, "a pause in the Psalm." The Chaldee sometimes translates it by לעלמין lealmin, "for ever." The rest of the versions leave it unnoticed. It either comes from סל sal, to raise or elevate, and may denote a particular elevation in the voices of the performers, which is very observable in the Jewish singing to the present day; or it may come from סלה salah, to strew or spread out, intimating that the subject to which the word is attached should be spread out, meditated on, and attentively considered by the reader. Fenwick, Parkhurst, and Dodd, contend for this meaning; and think "it confirmed by Psa 9:16, where the word higgaion is put before selah at the end of the verse." Now higgaion certainly signifies meditation, or a fit subject for meditation; and so shows selah to be really a nota bene, attend to or mind this.
Thou, O Lord art a shield - As a shield covers and defends the body from the strokes of an adversary, so wilt thou cover and defend me from them that rise up against me.
The lifter up of mine head - Thou wilt restore me to the state from which my enemies have cast me down. This is the meaning of the phrase; and this he speaks prophetically. He was satisfied that the deliverance would take place, hence his confidence in prayer; so that we find him, with comparative unconcern, laying himself down in his bed, expecting the sure protection of the Almighty.
I cried unto the Lord with my voice - He was exposed to much danger, and therefore he had need of fervor.
He heard me - Notwithstanding my enemies said, and my friends feared, that there was no help for me in my God; yet he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah: mark this, and take encouragement from it. God never forsakes those who trust in him. He never shuts out the prayer of the distressed.
I laid me down and slept - He who knows that he has God for his Protector may go quietly and confidently to his bed, not fearing the violence of the fire, the edge of the sword, the designs of wicked men, nor the influence of malevolent spirits.
I awaked - Though humanly speaking there was reason to fear I should have been murdered in my bed, as my most confidential servants had been corrupted by my rebellious son; yet God, my shield, protected me. I both slept and awaked; and my life is still whole in me.
I Will not be afraid of ten thousands - Strength and numbers are nothing against the omnipotence of God. He who has made God his refuge certainly has no cause to fear.
Arise, O Lord - Though he knew that God had undertaken his defense, yet he knew that his continued protection depended on his continual prayer and faith. God never ceases to help as long as we pray. When our hands hang down, and we restrain prayer before him, we may then justly fear that our enemies will prevail.
Those blast smitten - That is, Thou wilt smite. He speaks in full confidence of God's interference; and knows as surely that he shall have the victory, as if he had it already. Breaking the jaws and the teeth are expressions which imply, confounding and destroying an adversary; treating him with extreme contempt; using him like a dog, etc.
Salvation belongeth unto the Lord - It is God alone who saves. He is the fountain whence help and salvation come; and to him alone the praise of all saved souls is due. His blessing is upon his people. Those who are saved from the power and the guilt of sin are his people. His mercy saved them; and it is by his blessing being continually upon them, that they continue to be saved. David adds his selah here also: mark this!
1. Salvation comes from God.
2. Salvation is continued by God.
These are great truths; mark them!