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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Psalms Chapter 7


psa 7:0

(In the Hebrew, v.1 is the designation 'A Shiggayon of David, which he sang....'; from then on v.1-17 in English translation corresponds to v.2-18 in the Hebrew)

Appeal to the Judge of the Whole Earth against Slander and Requiting Good with Evil

In the second part of Psa 6:1-10 David meets his enemies with strong self-confidence in God. Ps 7, which even Hitzig ascribes to David, continues this theme and exhibits to us, in a prominent example taken from the time of persecution under Saul, his purity of conscience and joyousness of faith. One need only read 1 Sam 24-26 to see how this Psalm abounds in unmistakeable references to this portion of David's life. The superscribed statement of the events that gave rise to its composition point to this. Such statements are found exclusively only by the Davidic Psalms.

(Note: Viz. Psa 7:1, Psa 59:1, Psa 56:1, Psa 34:1, Psa 52:1, Psa 57:1, Psa 142:1, Psa 54:1 (belonging to the time of the persecution under Saul), Psa 3:1, Psa 63:1 (to the persecution under Absolom), Psa 51:1 (David's adultery), Psa 60:1 (the Syro-Ammonitish war).)

The inscription runs: Shiggajon of David, which he sang to Jahve on account of the sayings of Cush a Benjamite. על־דּברי is intentionally chosen instead of על which has other functions in these superscriptions. Although דּבר and דּברי can mean a thing, business, affairs (Exo 22:8; Sa1 10:2, and freq.) and על־דּברי "in reference to" (Deu 4:21; Jer 7:22) or "on occasion of" (Jer 14:1), still we must here keep to the most natural signification: "on account of the words (speeches)." Cûsh (lxx falsely Χουσί = כּוּשׁי; Luther, likewise under misapprehension, "the Moor") must have been one of the many servants of Saul, his kinsman, one of the talebearers like Doeg and the Ziphites, who shamefully slandered David before Saul, and roused him against David. The epithet בּן־ימיני (as in Sa1 9:1, Sa1 9:21, cf. אישׁ־ימיני Sa2 20:1) describes him as "a Benjamite" and does not assume any knowledge of him, as would be the case if it were הבּנימיני, or rather (in accordance with biblical usage) בּן־הימיני. And this accords with the actual fact, for there is no mention of him elsewhere in Scripture history. The statement וגו על־דברי is hardly from David's hand, but written by some one else, whether from tradition or from the דברי הימים of David, where this Psalm may have been interwoven with the history of its occasion. Whereas there is nothing against our regarding לדוד שׁגּיון, or at least שׁגיון, as a note appended by David himself.

Since שׁגּיון (after the form הזּיון a vision) belongs to the same class as superscribed appellations like מזמור and משׂכּיל, and the Tephilla of Habakkuk, Hab 3:1 (vid., my Commentary), has the addition על־שׁגינות, שׁגיון must be the name of a kind of lyric composition, and in fact a kind described according to the rhythm of its language or melody. Now since שׁגה means to go astray, wander, reel, and is cognate with שׁגע (whence comes שׁגּעון madness, a word formed in the same manner) שׁגיון may mean in the language of prosody a reeling poem, i.e., one composed in a most excited movement and with a rapid change of the strongest emotions, therefore a dithyrambic poem, and שׁגינות dithyrambic rhythms, variously and violently mixed together. Thus Ewald and Rdiger understand it, and thus even Tarnov, Geier, and other old expositors who translate it cantio erratica. What we therefore look for is that this Psalm shall consist, as Ainsworth expresses it (1627), "of sundry variable and wandering verses," that it shall wander through the most diverse rhythms as in a state of intoxication - an expectation which is in fact realized. The musical accompaniment also had its part in the general effect produced. Moreover, the contents of the Psalm corresponds to this poetic musical style. It is the most solemn pathos of exalted self-consciousness which is expressed in it. And in common with Hab it gives expression to the joy which arises from zealous anger against the enemies of God and from the contemplation of their speedy overthrow. Painful unrest, defiant self-confidence, triumphant ecstasy, calm trust, prophetic certainty-all these states of mind find expression in the irregular arrangement of the strophes of this Davidic dithyramb, the ancient customary Psalm for the feast of Purim (Sofrim xviii. 2).

Psalms 7:1

psa 7:1

(Heb.: 7:2-3) With this word of faith, love, and hope בּך חסיתּי (as in Psa 141:8), this holy captatio benevolentiae, David also begins in Psa 11:1; Psa 16:1; Psa 31:2, cf. Psa 71:1. The perf. is inchoative: in Thee have I taken my refuge, equivalent to: in Thee do I trust. The transition from the multitude of his persecutors to the sing. in Psa 7:3 is explained most naturally, as one looks at the inscription, thus: that of the many the one who is just at the time the worst of all comes prominently before his mind. The verb טרף from the primary signification carpere (which corresponds still more exactly to חרף) means both to tear off and to tear in pieces (whence טרפה that which is torn in pieces); and פּרק from its primary signification frangere means both to break loose and to break in pieces, therefore to liberate, e.g., in Psa 136:24, and to break in small pieces, Kg1 19:11. The persecutors are conceived of as wild animals, as lions which rend their prey and craunch its bones. Thus blood-thirsty are they for his soul, i.e., his life. After the painful unrest of this first strophe, the second begins the tone of defiant self-consciousness.

Psalms 7:3

psa 7:3

(Heb.: 7:4-6) According to the inscription זאת points to the substance of those slanderous sayings of the Benjamite. With בּכפּי אם־ישׁ־עול one may compare David's words to Saul אין בּידי רעה Sa1 24:12; Sa1 26:18; and from this comparison one will at once see in a small compass the difference between poetical and prose expression. שׁלמי (Targ. לבעל שׁלמי) is the name he gives (with reference to Saul) to him who stands on a peaceful, friendly footing with him, cf. the adject. שׁלום, Psa 55:21, and אישׁ שׁלום, Psa 41:10. The verb גּמל, cogn. גּמר, signifies originally to finish, complete, (root גם, כם ,גם t, cf. כּימה to be or to make full, to gather into a heap). One says טּוב גּמל and גּמל רע, and also without a material object גּמל עלי or גּמלני benefecit or malefecit mihi. But we join גּמלתּי with רע according to the Targum and contrary to the accentuation, and not with שׁלמי (Olsh., Bttch., Hitz.), although שׁלם beside משׁלּם, as e.g., דּבר beside מדבּר might mean "requiting." The poet would then have written: אם שׁלּמתּי גּמלי רע i.e., if I have retaliated upon him that hath done evil to me. In Psa 7:5 we do not render it according the meaning to הלּץ which is usual elsewhere: but rather I rescued... (Louis de Dieu, Ewald 345, a, and Hupfeld). Why cannot הלּץ in accordance with its primary signification expedire, exuere (according to which even the signification of rescuing, taken exactly, does not proceed from the idea of drawing out, but of making loose, exuere vinclis) signify here exuere = spoliare, as it does in Aramaic? And how extremely appropriate it is as an allusion to the incident in the cave, when David did not rescue Saul, but, without indeed designing to take חליצה, exuviae, cut off the hem of his garment! As Hengstenberg observes, "He affirms his innocence in the most general terms, thereby showing that his conduct towards Saul was not anything exceptional, but sprang from his whole disposition and mode of action." On the 1 pers. fut. conv. and ah, vid., on Psa 3:6. ריקם belongs to צוררי, like Psa 25:3; Psa 69:5.

In the apodosis, Psa 7:6, the fut. Kal of רדף is made into three syllables, in a way altogether without example, since, by first making the Sheb audible, from ירדּף it is become ירדף (like יצחק Gen 21:6, תּהלך Psa 73:9; Exo 9:23, שׁמעה Psa 39:13), and this is then sharpened by an euphonic Dag. forte.

(Note: The Dag. is of the same kind as the Dag. in גּמלּים among nouns; Arabic popular dialect farassı̂ (my horse), vid., Wetzstein's Inshriften S. 366.)

Other ways of explaining it, as that by Cahjg = יתרדף, or by Kimchi as a mixed form from Kal and Piel,

(Note: Pinsker's view, that the pointing ירדף is designed to leave the reader at liberty to choose between the reading ירדּף and ירדּף, cannot be supported. There are no safe examples for the supposition that the variations of tradition found expression in this way.)

have been already refuted by Baer, Thorath Emeth, p. 33. This dactylic jussive form of Kal is followed by the regular jussives of Hiph. ישּׂג and ישׁכּן. The rhythm is similar so that in the primary passage Exo 15:9, which also finds its echo in Psa 18:38, - viz. iambic with anapaests inspersed. By its parallelism with נפשׁי and חיּי, כּבודי acquires the signification "my soul," as Saadia, Gecatilia and Aben-Ezra have rendered it - a signification which is secured to it by Psa 16:9; 30:13; Psa 57:9; Psa 108:2, Gen 49:6. Man's soul is his doxa, and this it is as being the copy of the divine doxa (Bibl. Psychol. S. 98, [tr. p. 119], and frequently). Moreover, "let him lay in the dust" is at least quite as favourable to this sense of כבודי as to the sense of personal and official dignity (Psa 3:4; Psa 4:3). To lay down in the dust is equivalent to: to lay in the dust of death, Psa 22:16. שׁכני עפר, Isa 26:19, are the dead. According to the biblical conception the soul is capable of being killed (Num 35:11), and mortal (Num 23:10). It binds spirit and body together and this bond is cut asunder by death. David will submit willingly to death in case he has ever acted dishonourably.

Here the music is to strike up, in order to give intensity to the expression of this courageous confession. In the next strophe is affirmation of innocence rises to a challenging appeal to the judgment-seat of God and a prophetic certainty that that judgment is near at hand.

Psalms 7:6

psa 7:6

(Heb.: 7:7-9) In the consciousness of his own innocence he calls upon Jahve to sit in judgment and to do justice to His own. His vision widens and extends from the enemies immediately around to the whole world in its hostility towards Jahve and His anointed one. In the very same way special judgments and the judgment of the world are portrayed side by side, as it were on one canvas, in the prophets. The truth of this combination lies in the fact of the final judgment being only the finale of that judgment which is in constant execution in the world itself. The language here takes the highest and most majestic flight conceivable. By קוּמה (Milra, ass in Psa 3:8), which is one of David's words of prayer that he has taken from the lips of Moses (Psa 9:20; Psa 10:12), he calls upon Jahve to interpose. The parallel is הנּשׂא lift Thyself up, show thyself in Thy majesty, Psa 94:2, Isa 33:10. The anger, in which He is to arise, is the principle of His judicial righteousness. With this His anger He is to gird Himself (Psa 76:11) against the ragings of the oppressors of God's anointed one, i.e., taking vengeance on their many and manifold manifestations of hostility. עברות is a shorter form of the construct (instead of עברות Job 40:11, cf. Psa 21:1-13 :31) of עברה which describes the anger as running over, breaking forth from within and passing over into words and deeds (cf. Arab. fšš, used of water: it overflows the dam, of wrath: it breaks forth). It is contrary to the usage of the language to make משׁפּט the object to עוּרה in opposition to the accents, and it is unnatural to regard it as the accus. of direction = למּשׂפט (Psa 35:23), as Hitzig does. The accents rightly unite עוּרה אלי: awake (stir thyself) for me i.e., to help me (אלי like לקלאתי, Psa 59:5). The view, that צוּית is then precative and equivalent to צוּה: command judgment, is one that cannot be established according to syntax either here, or in Psa 71:3. It ought at least to have been וצוּית with Waw consec. On the other hand the relative rendering: Thou who hast ordered judgment (Maurer, Hengst.), is admissible, but unnecessary. We take it by itself in a confirmatory sense, not as a circumstantial clause: having commanded judgment (Ewald), but as a co-ordinate clause: Thou hast indeed enjoined the maintaining of right (Hupfeld).

The psalmist now, so to speak, arranges the judgment scene: the assembly of the nations is to form a circle round about Jahve, in the midst of which He will sit in judgment, and after the judgment He is to soar away (Gen 17:22) aloft over it and return to the heights of heaven like a victor after the battle (see Psa 68:19). Although it strikes one as strange that the termination of the judgment itself is not definitely expressed, yet the rendering of Hupfeld and others: sit Thou again upon Thy heavenly judgment-seat to judge, is to be rejected on account of the שׁוּבה (cf. on the other hand 21:14) which is not suited to it; שׁוב למּרום can only mean Jahve's return to His rest after the execution of judgment. That which Psa 7:7 and Psa 7:8 in the boldness of faith desire, the beginning of Psa 7:9 expresses as a prophetic hope, from which proceeds the prayer, that the Judge of the earth may also do justice to him (שׁפתני vindica me, as in Psa 26:1; Psa 35:24) according to his righteousness and the purity of which he is conscious, as dwelling in him. עלי is to be closely connected with תּמּי, just as one says נפשׁי עלי (Psychol. S. 152 [tr. p. 180]). That which the individual as ego, distinguishes from itself as being in it, as subject, it denotes by עלי. In explaining it elliptically: "come upon me" (Ew., Olsh., Hupf.) this psychologically intelligible usage of the language is not recognised. On תּם vid., on Psa 25:21; Psa 26:1.

Psalms 7:9

psa 7:9

(Heb.: 7:10-11) In this strophe we hear the calm language of courageous trust, to which the rising and calmly subsiding caesural schema is particularly adapted. He is now concerned about the cessation of evil: Oh let it come to an end (גּמר intransitive as in Psa 12:2; Psa 77:9).... His prayer is therefore not directed against the individuals as such but against the wickedness that is in them. This Psalm is the key to all Psalms which contain prayers against one's enemies. Just in the same manner וּתכונן is intended to express a wish; it is one of the comparatively rare voluntatives of the 2 pers. (Ew. 229): and mayst Thou be pleased to establish.... To the termination of evil which is desired corresponds, in a positive form of expression, the desired security and establishment of the righteous, whom it had injured and whose continuance was endangered by it. וּבחן is the beginning of a circumstantial clause, introduced by ו, but without the personal pronoun, which is not unfrequently omitted both in the leading participial clause, as in Isa 29:8 (which see), and in the minor participial clause as here (cf. Psa 55:20): cum sis = quoniam es. The reins are the seat of the emotions, just as the heart is the seat of the thoughts and feelings. Reins and heart lie naked before God-a description of the only kardiognoo'stees, which is repeated in Jer 11:20; Jer 20:12, Rev 2:23. In the thesis the adjective is used with אלהים in the sing. as in Psa 78:56, cf. Ps 58:12. God is the righteous God, and by his knowledge of the inmost part He is fully capable of always showing Himself both righteous in anger and righteous in mercy according to the requirements and necessity of the case. Therefore David can courageously add על־אלהים מגנּי, my shield doth God carry; ל Psa 89:19) would signify: He has it, it (my shield) belongs to Him, על (Ch1 18:7) signifies: He bears it, or if one takes shield in the sense of protection: He has taken my protection upon Himself, has undertaken it (as in Psa 62:8, cf. Jdg 19:20), as He is in general the Saviour of all who are devoted to Him with an upright heart, i.e., a heart sincere, guileless (cf. Psa 32:1 with Psa 7:2). צדּים is intentionally repeated at the end of the first two lines - the favourite palindrome, found more especially in Isa 40:1. And to the mixed character of this Psalm belongs the fact of its being both Elohimic and Jehovic. From the calm language of heartfelt trust in God the next strophe passes over into the language of earnest warning, which is again more excited and somewhat after the style of didactic poetry.

Psalms 7:11

psa 7:11

(Heb.: 7:12-14) If God will in the end let His wrath break forth, He will not do it without having previously given threatenings thereof every day, viz., to the ungodly, cf. Isa 66:14; Mal 1:4. He makes these feel His זעם beforehand in order to strike a wholesome terror into them. The subject of the conditional clause אם־לא ישׁוּב is any ungodly person whatever; and the subject of the principal clause, as its continuation in Psa 7:14 shows, is God. If a man (any one) does not repent, then Jahve will whet His sword (cf. Deu 32:41). This sense of the words accords with the connection; whereas with the rendering: "forsooth He (Elohim) will again whet His sword" (Bttch., Ew., Hupf.) ישׁוּב, which would moreover stand close by ילטושׁ (cf. e.g., Gen 30:31), is meaningless; and the אם־לא of asseveration is devoid of purpose. Judgment is being gradually prepared, as the fut. implies; but, as the perff. imply, it is also on the other hand like a bow that is already strung against the sinner with the arrow pointed towards him, so that it can be executed at any moment. כּונן of the making ready, and הכין of the aiming, are used alternately. לו, referring to the sinner, stands first by way of emphasis as in Gen 49:10; Sa1 2:3, and is equivalent to אליו, Eze 4:3. "Burning" arrows are fire-arrows (זקּים, זיקות, malleoli); and God's fire-arrows are the lightnings sent forth by Him, Psa 18:15; Zac 9:14. The fut. יפעל denotes the simultaneous charging of the arrows aimed at the sinner, with the fire of His wrath. The case illustrated by Cush is generalised: by the sword and arrows the manifold energy of the divine anger is symbolised, and it is only the divine forbearance that prevents it from immediately breaking forth. The conception is not coarsely material, but the vividness of the idea of itself suggests the form of its embodiment.

Psalms 7:14

psa 7:14

(Heb.: 7:15-18) This closing strophe foretells to the enemy of God, as if dictated by the judge, what awaits him; and concludes with a prospect of thanksgiving and praise. Man brings forth what he has conceived, he reaps what he has sown. Starting from this primary passage, we find the punishment which sin brings with it frequently represented under these figures of הדה and ילד (הוליד, חבּל, חיל), זרע and קצר, and first of all in Job 15:35. The act, guilt, and punishment of sin appear in general as notions that run into one another. David sees in the sin of his enemies their self-destruction. It is singular, that travail is first spoken of, and then only afterwards pregnancy. For חבּל signifies, as in Sol 8:5, ὠδίνειν, not: to conceive (Hitz.). The Arab. ḥabila (synonym of ḥamala) is not to conceive in distinction from being pregnant, but it is both: to be and to become pregnant. The accentuation indicates the correct relationship of the three members of the sentence. First of all comes the general statement: Behold he shall travail with, i.e., bring forth with writhing as in the pains of labour, און, evil, as the result which proceeds from his wickedness. Then, by this thought being divided into its two factors (Hupf.) it goes on to say: that is, he shall conceive (concipere) עמל, and bear שׁקר. The former signifies trouble, molestia, just as πονηρία signifies that which makes πόνον; the latter falsehood, viz., self-deception, delusion, vanity, inasmuch as the burden prepared for others, returns as a heavy and oppressive burden upon the sinner himself, as is said in Psa 7:17; cf. Isa 59:4, where און instead of שׁקר denotes the accursed wages of sin which consist in the unmasking of its nothingness, and in the undeceiving of its self-delusion. He diggeth a pit for himself, is another turn of the same thought, Psa 57:7; Ecc 10:8. Psa 7:16 mentions the digging, and Psa 7:16 the subsequent falling into the pit; the aorist ויּפּל is, for instance, like Psa 7:13, Psa 16:9; Psa 29:10. The attributive יפעל is virtually a genitive to שׁחת, and is rightly taken by Ges. 124, 3, a as present: in the midst of the execution of the work of destruction prepared for others it becomes his own. The trouble, עמל, prepared for others returns upon his own head (בּראשׁו, clinging to it, just as על־ראשׁו signifies descending and resting upon it), and the violence, חמס, done to others, being turned back by the Judge who dwells above (Mic 1:12), descends upon his own pate (קדקדו with o by q, as e.g., in Gen 2:23). Thus is the righteousness of God revealed in wrath upon the oppressor and in mercy upon him who is innocently oppressed. Then will the rescued one, then will David, give thanks unto Jahve, as is due to Him after the revelation of His righteousness, and will sing of the name of Jahve the Most High (עליון as an appended name of God is always used without the art., e.g., Psa 57:3). In the revelation of Himself He has made Himself a name. He has, however, revealed Himself as the almighty Judge and Deliverer, as the God of salvation, who rules over everything that takes place here below. It is this name, which He has made by His acts, that David will then echo back to Him in his song of thanksgiving.

Next: Psalms Chapter 8