Psalm 7 1-17 Commentary

Psalm 7

Psalm 7: The tongue is a fire. It’s the very world of iniquity. With the tongue, men simultaneously bless God and curse those made in his image. The tongue is out of control. Even powerful things like ships and horses can be tamed and directed. But no one can tame the tongue. This is what the book of James in the New Testament teaches us.

And so it’s no surprise that the psalmist is experiencing what’s he’s experiencing in Psalm 7 here. David is being slandered by a particular man. And he needs the Lord to vindicate him – because he’s innocent of the charges.

So, let’s study Psalm 7.

Psalm 7 Genre

Psalm 7 is a lament psalm.

Psalm 7 Structure

This psalm displays the classic structure of a lament psalm. So, let’s find the elements of that structure.

Invocation

I must say that the invocation – which is what we usually see first in lament psalms – it’s not very distinct. The psalmist calls out to God multiple times in Psalm 7. But we don’t really see a separate unit of invocation in this psalm. So, the invocation is there – all throughout the psalm. We just don’t see an extended version of it anywhere in particular.

So, we’ll move on to the next section – which is more noticeable.

Petition

The petition takes up Psalm 7:1-6.

1 <Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the LORD, concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite.> O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me: 2 Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver. 3 O LORD my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands; 4 If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy:) 5 Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. Selah. 6 Arise, O LORD, in thine anger, lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded.

Notice how David is asking God for help. He’s petitioning the Lord in Psalm 7:1-6.

Confidence

Next, David expresses his confidence in the Lord in Psalm 7:7-13.

7 So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about: for their sakes therefore return thou on high. 8 The LORD shall judge the people: judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me. 9 Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins. 10 My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart. 11 God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. 12 If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. 13 He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.

David’s confidence in the Lord stems from the fact that God is the righteous judge. And that means both that God will judge and vindicate David AND that he will judge and condemn those who oppose him.

Lament

Next, in Psalm 7:14-16, we have the lament – that part of a lament psalm that gives special attention to the problem at hand. In this case, as we’ve seen before, it’s David’s enemies.

14 Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood. 15 He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made. 16 His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.

Praise

And finally in Psalm 7:17 we have the section where the psalmist praises the Lord.

17 I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.

So, those are the five elements of a lament psalm – all found to one extent or another in Psalm 7.

And so now that we’ve been through the structure of the psalm, maybe we can figure out the underlying situation.

Psalm 7 Underlying Situation

We’re told that the situation that brought about the writing of this psalm is when a man named Cush from Benjamin said something.

Do you remember that?

If you don’t remember that, it’s OK. It’s because this man is never mentioned in the Bible. So, that knowledge isn’t a great help to us in recreating the underlying situation of this psalm.

But fortunately we have other data from the psalm itself that can help us. Psalm 7:1 has David pleading for help from the Lord to deliver him from persecutors. Psalm 7:2 tells us that this persecutor – or maybe there are more than one – they threaten to tear David apart like a lion would his prey. Psalm 7:3-5 have David swearing that he didn’t commit several acts of injustice. That makes me wonder whether this Cush fellow was slandering David. And the slander was unjustified, according to David. But the enemies weren’t just calmly slandering David. They were raging. Psalm 7:14-16 give us the idea that these men – including Cush, I suppose – were hatching sin and mischief in their hearts and the result was falsehood against David. And it was falsehood that was akin to a pit dug in the ground and hidden that would cause people to fall into it.

So, that’s the data. I think if we put it all together we have a picture like this. Cush was a man from Benjamin – a tribe from which David’s predecessor and main persecutor Saul hailed. And they showed some animosity toward David. Well, Cush and perhaps some others were slandering David. Now, remember, slander is not just unflattering speech. Slander is speech that is not true. It’s false – lies. So, David in Psalm 7 is experiencing slander. Slander that threatens to destroy David.

Psalm 7 Topic

So, let’s talk about the topic of this psalm. When you’re being slandered, what do you need? You need someone to prove those ugly rumors false. You need someone to step in and set the record straight. You need – here’s what I’d call it in one word – vindication. That’s the topic of this psalm. Vindication.

Psalm 7 Theme

And David knows that the only one who can truly vindicate him is the Lord. And he’s sure that the Lord will vindicate him because he is truly innocent of the charges leveled against him. So, here’s the theme – what the writer says about the topic of vindication – God Will Vindicate the Innocent.

Psalm 7:1-17 Details

Now, with genre, structure, underlying situation, topic, and theme laid out, we’ll deal with Psalm 7 in detail.

Psalm 7:1-6

Let’s start back from the beginning. We’ll deal with the petition in Psalm 7:1-6.

1 <Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the LORD, concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite.> O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me: 2 Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver. 3 O LORD my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands; 4 If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy:) 5 Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. Selah. 6 Arise, O LORD, in thine anger, lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded.

Psalm 7:1

Let’s look at the superscription to the psalm first. You see that word “Shiggaion”? It occurs only one other place in the Bible – in Habbakuk. And the reference there doesn’t help us understand what this means. It’s some sort of literary or musical term. You probably have a guess at what it is if you’re carrying a study Bible with notes. But it doesn’t affect the way we interpret this psalm, so we’ll say no more.

Again, in the superscription we have the mention of this mysterious Benjamite by the name of Cush. We don’t know who he is, like I said, but I think it’s helpful to note that this psalm was written as a reaction to “the words of” this man. Again, we’re dealing with slander in this poem and the vindication which the innocent need from such slander – such words like Cush’s.

Moving from the superscription to the main part of the psalm, we see David calling out to the Lord. He trusts in the Lord to deliver him from persecution. Yes, slander can be a form of persecution. And David rehearses for the Lord why he needs his deliverance.

Psalm 7:2

Here’s how David pictures the results of this kind of slander. David’s going to be like someone who experiences an attack by a lion.

For some reason, our two boys love watching footage of animals fighting each other – like you’d see on National Geographic. There are no lack of videos on the internet with titles like “Cobra vs. Honey Badger!” “Spider vs. Insect!” You know. And on and on. I try not to allow them to dwell on death, but at the same time I think it’s informative for them to see the effects of the fall and discuss why it is that some animals kill now after Adam sinned. At any rate, we’ve seen video of lions attacking other animals – even other lions. These beasts are incredibly strong. They will clamp their jaws down on whatever part of their pray they can and they’ll – as our psalm says – tear and rend their helpless victim. No mercy. And no one is going to come to the rescue of that poor lifeless creature that is about to become the lion’s food. [e.g., Siegfried Fischbacher]

That’s graphic. And it’s exactly the way the psalmist is picturing the effects of this man’s slander. David will be torn apart – his reputation will be rent – his livelihood and very life could be destroyed by this man’s slander. That is, unless the Lord delivers him. When a lion attacks its prey, there usually isn’t anyone to deliver. But in David’s case, he’s putting his trust in the Lord to deliver him.

Psalm 7:3-5

Well, why could David be confident that God was going to deliver him from this man and his slander? That’s where Psalm 7:3-5 come in.

These verses serve as something like an oath. David here is testifying to his own blamelessness by cataloging ways in which he could sin that would call for God to hand him over to his enemies.

He says in Psalm 7:3 “O Lord my God, if I have done this…” Done what? Well, the things he lists out in the next several sentences. And these things actually could be what Cush is accusing David of. Having iniquity in his hand. Rewarding evil to someone who is at peace with David. If David has done those kind of things, then he’s openly confessing that he’d be worthy of the kind of fate from which he was just asking God for deliverance.

If David is guilty of the sin that his enemies are claiming, then he’s saying they have every right to stomp him down into the dust – to take his life.

But, see, that’s not the case. David hasn’t sinned as his enemies are saying. And both he and the Lord know the truth. And so David is able to admit that if he’s guilty of the sin that he’s being charged with, he’d be worthy of death. But he’s innocent. And he needs the Lord to vindicate him.

Psalm 7:6

And because of the falsehood that the enemy is spreading about David, he asks the Lord in Psalm 7:6 to arise – to lift himself up – to awake.

Even though we know that God doesn’t sleep or slumber, when you’re being slandered and it seems like God isn’t doing anything to defend you, it can seem like he’s asleep. I think it’s so kindly condescending of God to allow for a mere man to beg him to “wake up” as it were. God could have struck that line from Psalm 7. But he doesn’t. He allows the psalmist to express his feelings – and David feels as if God’s inactivity makes him seem like he’s asleep.

Psalm 7:7-13

Well, ultimately, of course, the psalmist understands that God really isn’t asleep. Because in Psalm 7:7-13 we have David’s statement of confidence in the Lord.

7 So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about: for their sakes therefore return thou on high. 8 The LORD shall judge the people: judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me. 9 Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins. 10 My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart. 11 God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. 12 If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. 13 He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.

Remember – in Psalm 7:6 David asked God to awake and go to judgment. That may have been a mysterious saying. But now in Psalm 7:7-13 David fills out what he meant by that statement.

Psalm 7:7

Here’s what Psalm 7:7 is saying. David is picturing a gathering of all peoples. And they’re surrounding God’s judgment throne. God’s pictured as a king – a high lofty exalted king. His subjects – both those who are loyal and those who are traitors – are waiting for him to return and judge them.

Psalm 7:8

And the Lord will return to judge. Psalm 7:8. The Lord “shall” judge the people. There’s no question about it. It’s going to happen. And you know what? To the innocent – to the righteous man – God’s judgment isn’t a fearful thing. Because when God judges and sets everything straight – it’s going to come out that the innocent was in the right. The innocent will be vindicated.

David asks the Lord to judge him. And the statements of confidence that David makes seem almost arrogant. They sound almost self-righteous. He wants to be judged according to his righteousness? According to his integrity? What is David saying? Is he claiming sinlessness? Is he unaware that we’re all sinners? Is he unaware of what his son Solomon will go on to say in Ecclesiastes – that there’s not a just man on the earth that never sins? David wouldn’t be denying his own statement in one of the psalms of this book that he was conceived in sin!

No, David’s not being unrealistic. In the context, he’s saying – “I’m fine with you judging me, Lord. Because I know that the slander being spread about me is not right. In relation to the things of which I’m being accused, I’m innocent. I’m righteous. I’m a man of integrity.

Psalm 7:9

But – see – God’s judgment doesn’t end so well for the wicked. Psalm 7:9 – when God judges them, their wickedness – the thing they love so much – comes to an end. But again, Psalm 7:9 – at the same time the just – the righteous – the innocent will be established.

Psalm 7:10

Wonder how that happens? The righteous God tries the hearts and reins. God alone knows people’s internal thoughts and even our motives. And if you are righteous and your thoughts and motives are right, he’s not going to let that go unnoticed. And you’ll find God to be just like David experienced in Psalm 7:10 – he’s your defense, your savior who delivers you from evil.

Psalm 7:11

Psalm 7:11 – David again affirms that God will judge the righteous. He’ll render his verdict of innocent and vindicate them. But on the other hand, God is angry every day with wicked men. The idea is that he doesn’t forget the wickedness of those who persecute his people. He’s not a judge just one day a week. He’s constantly watchful over the wicked to make sure judgment is meted out to them.

Psalm 7:12

And the poetic description of God that we have in Psalm 7:12-13 is frightening. You come away from it wondering how the wicked can still disobey the Lord and ignore his threats. Unless the wicked repent and turn from their wickedness to God, the Lord will whet his sword. He’ll sharpen it. Why would an executor of vengeance sharpen a sword? It’s not to display it over his fireplace. It’s so he can use it to kill. God is pictured as having a sharpened sword and being ready to execute the criminal.

Not only does he have a ready sword. But he has a bow, too. He bends it. This can be speaking of taking the unstrung bow and bending it so that the bow could be strung. Or it could be talking about the Lord taking an already-strung bow, putting an arrow on the string, and getting ready to fire.

So, here we have the Lord. He’s judged everyone and declared his verdict. The innocent are vindicated. The wicked are sentenced to death – unless they repent. The unrepentant are faced with a God who has a sharpened sword and a strung bow with arrow ready to shoot. This is pretty serious.

Psalm 7:13

Then Psalm 7:13 broadens the Lord’s arsenal with this mention of these “instruments of death”. That certainly includes the two weapons we’ve already discussed, plus any number of additional deadly weapons. All are at his disposal. And his arrows are ordained for the persecutor. Again, the idea of David being slandered is never far from the flow of this psalm. The persecutor in particular is in view here.

Psalm 7:14-16

And with all that’s been said already about this enemy, you may have thought we’ve addressed the actual lament of this psalm already. But we haven’t yet. But we will now. Psalm 7:14-16.

14 Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood. 15 He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made. 16 His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.

Psalm 7:14

Psalm 7:14 uses a really striking metaphor. The psalmist pictures the slanderer in terms of being pregnant and delivering a child. The word “travaileth” can refer to the travail of a woman being in labor. So, the wicked ones are pictured as being pregnant – or filled with – mischief. Laboring with sin. And giving birth to falsehood – or the slander that they were heaping on David. That’s one picture of the sins of these people.

Psalm 7:15-16

The other picture we have of these men who are making David lament is in Psalm 7:15-16. They might dig a pit for people like David to fall into. But ultimately, they’re the ones who will fall into it.

And they might conceive mischief and violence against innocent men like David – but that mischief and violence will return to themselves. God will cause whatever device they contrive to backfire on them.

So, the wicked are slandering innocent David. But God will judge the wicked and vindicate David and deliver him from all their evil schemes.

Psalm 7:17

And that realization causes David to praise the Lord. Psalm 7:17.

17 I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.

And we can praise the Lord for his righteousness today as we meditate on that fact that God Will Vindicate the Innocent.