Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 56

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1-2
Psalms 56:1-2. Be merciful unto me, O God — This petition includes all the good we can come unto the throne of grace for: if we obtain mercy there, we obtain all we can desire, and need no more to make us happy. It implies, likewise, our best plea; not our merit, but God’s mercy, his free, rich mercy. He prays he might find mercy with God, for with men he could find none. When he fled from the cruel hands of Saul, he fell into the cruel hands of the Philistines. “Lord,” says he, “be thou merciful to me, or I am undone.” Thus, when we are surrounded on all sides with difficulties and dangers, we must flee and trust to, and pray in faith for, the mercy of God. For man — Hebrew, אנושׁ, enosh, weak, mortal, and miserable man, whom thou canst crush in an instant; would swallow me up — Like wild and ravenous beasts, rather than men. Hebrew, שׁאפני, sheapani, hath swallowed me up. The thing is begun, and in a manner done, if thou do not miraculously prevent it. Mine enemies — שׁוררי, shoreri, my observers, who narrowly mark all my paths, and watch for my halting, and for an opportunity to destroy me. They be many that fight against me — They trust to their great numbers, wherein they know themselves to be much superior to me; O thou Most High — Who from thy high place beholdest all their plots, and canst with perfect ease confound and blast them.

Verse 3-4
Psalms 56:3-4. What time I am afraid, &c. — When I have the greatest cause of fear I will rely on thy providence and promise for deliverance. In God will I praise his word — I will praise, or boast, in the Lord’s word, or, in the Lord for his word. Or with, or by, God’s favour or help, I will praise his word. The sense seems to be this: there are many things to be praised and celebrated in God, his power and wisdom, &c., but among them all, and above them all, I shall now praise him for his Word, which he hath magnified above all his name, as is said Psalms 138:2, even for his promises of protection and deliverance, made to his people in all their exigencies, and particularly for that promise of the kingdom made to me; for which I will now praise him, because, though it be not yet fulfilled, I am as sure of its accomplishment as if it were done already. I will not fear what flesh can do unto me — Infirm and mortal men, altogether unable to oppose thy infinite majesty; called flesh by way of contempt.

Verse 5-6
Psalms 56:5-6. They wrest my words — They misconstrue and pervert my most innocent expressions, and turn them into matter of calumny, in order that they may incense Saul against me. Hebrew, יעצבו, jegnatzeebu, they put upon the rack my words, to extort that out of them which was never in them. Or, they endeavour to squeeze from my words, as it were by torture, any sense they please, contrary to the intention of the speaker. All their thoughts, &c. — It is their whole study to do me mischief. They gather themselves together, &c. — After they have separately employed their thoughts against me, they meet together to hold consultations, and compare their schemes, and put them in execution. They hide themselves — They lurk secretly; either, that they may pry into all my most private actions; or, that they may surprise me with mischief unawares. They mark my steps — All my ways and actions, that they may find some occasion to reproach or entangle, and so destroy me; when they wait for my soul — Or life, namely, to take it away.

Verse 7
Psalms 56:7. Shall they escape by iniquity — Shall they secure themselves by such injurious and malicious practices, whereby they do not only vex me, but provoke and despise thee? Shall they have success instead of the punishments which thou hast threatened, and they have deserved? But the words may be read without an interrogation, By their iniquity they hope to escape; or, they do escape, namely, at present: but, Lord, do not suffer them thus to escape. In thine anger cast down the people — That is, these people of whom I am speaking, namely, my malicious and wicked enemies, as well those followers of Saul, as these Philistines among whom I now am. This request is opposed to their present exultation and triumphs over him, and to their hopes and confidence of safety and success.

Verse 8
Psalms 56:8. Thou tellest my wanderings — “Thou art perfectly acquainted, I am sure, how often I have been forced to flee, like a vagabond, from place to place; which hath cost me many a tear. Good Lord, preserve a kind remembrance of them, and let them not perish as things thou nothing regardest.” — Bishop Patrick. “David’s whole life, from his victory over Goliath till the death of Saul, was almost entirely spent in wandering from place to place. He was now an exile at Gath; he comforts himself, however, in the consideration that God was with him, whithersoever he fled; and that he beheld, as no unconcerned spectator, the distresses of his unhappy situation. He therefore adds, Put thou my tears into thy bottle; which seems to intimate that the custom of putting tears into the ampullĉ, or urnĉ lacrymales, so well known among the Romans, was more anciently in use among the eastern nations, and particularly among the Hebrews. These urns were of different materials, some of glass, some of earth, and were placed on the sepulchres of the deceased, as a memorial of the distress and affection of their surviving friends and relations. It will be difficult to account for this expression of the psalmist but upon this supposition. If this be allowed when the psalmist prays, Put my tears into thy bottle, the meaning will be, ‘Let my distress, and the tears I have shed in consequence of it, be ever before thee; let them excite thy kind remembrance of me, and plead with thee to grant the relief I stand in need of.’ The allusion is pertinent and expressive:” see Chandler and Calmet. Are they not in thy book — But why do I pray God to do that which I am well assured he is of himself inclined to do, and hath already done? Thus the psalmist signifies “the confidence which he placed in the kind regard of God toward him, as though he took an account of every tear he shed, and would, in due time, remember and comfort him. The continual care and providence which God exercises over his people, is frequently represented by his keeping a book, or register, in which he records their conception, Psalms 139:15; their birth, Psalms 87:6; their actions, Malachi 3:16; and what shall happen to them, Jeremiah 22:30; Daniel 12:1.” — Dodd.

Verse 12-13
Psalms 56:12-13. Thy vows are upon me — As I have prayed to thee, and am assured that thou wilt deliver me, so, in confidence thereof, I have made vows to express my gratitude to thee, and I acknowledge myself obliged thereby, and do resolve to perform them. For thou hast delivered my soul from death — Which my enemies designed to bring upon me, and of which I was in extreme danger. Wilt thou not deliver my feet from falling? — I am confident that thou wilt, because of thy promises, and my former experience; that I may walk before God — That I may please, serve, and glorify thee, which is the great end for which I desire life; in the light of the living — In this life here, which is opposed to the death last mentioned; and in heaven hereafter.


Book Navigation Title Page Table of Contents Argument Introduction ► Chapter 1 ► Chapter 2 ► Chapter 3 ► Chapter 4 ► Chapter 5 ► Chapter 6 ► Chapter 7 ► Chapter 8 ► Chapter 9 ► Chapter 10 ► Chapter 11 ► Chapter 12 ► Chapter 13 ► Chapter 14 ► Chapter 15 ► Chapter 16 ► Chapter 17 ► Chapter 18 ► Chapter 19 ► Chapter 20 ► Chapter 21 ► Chapter 22 ► Chapter 23 ► Chapter 24 ► Chapter 25 ► Chapter 26 ► Chapter 27 ► Chapter 28 ► Chapter 29 ► Chapter 30 ► Chapter 31 ► Chapter 32 ► Chapter 33 ► Chapter 34 ► Chapter 35 ► Chapter 36 ► Chapter 37 ► Chapter 38 ► Chapter 39 ► Chapter 40 ► Chapter 41 ► Chapter 42 ► Chapter 43 ► Chapter 44 ► Chapter 45 ► Chapter 46 ► Chapter 47 ► Chapter 48 ► Chapter 49 ► Chapter 50 ► Chapter 51 ► Chapter 52 ► Chapter 53 ► Chapter 54 ► Chapter 55 ► Chapter 56 ► Chapter 57 ► Chapter 58 ► Chapter 59 ► Chapter 60 ► Chapter 61 ► Chapter 62 ► Chapter 63 ► Chapter 64 ► Chapter 65 ► Chapter 66 ► Chapter 67 ► Chapter 68 ► Chapter 69 ► Chapter 70 ► Chapter 71 ► Chapter 72 ► Chapter 73 ► Chapter 74 ► Chapter 75 ► Chapter 76 ► Chapter 77 ► Chapter 78 ► Chapter 79 ► Chapter 80 ► Chapter 81 ► Chapter 82 ► Chapter 83 ► Chapter 84 ► Chapter 85 ► Chapter 86 ► Chapter 87 ► Chapter 88 ► Chapter 89 ► Chapter 90 ► Chapter 91 ► Chapter 92 ► Chapter 93 ► Chapter 94 ► Chapter 95 ► Chapter 96 ► Chapter 97 ► Chapter 98 ► Chapter 99 ► Chapter 100 ► Chapter 101 ► Chapter 102 ► Chapter 103 ► Chapter 104 ► Chapter 105 ► Chapter 106 ► Chapter 107 ► Chapter 108 ► Chapter 109 ► Chapter 110 ► Chapter 111 ► Chapter 112 ► Chapter 113 ► Chapter 114 ► Chapter 115 ► Chapter 116 ► Chapter 117 ► Chapter 118 ► Chapter 119 ► Chapter 120 ► Chapter 121 ► Chapter 122 ► Chapter 123 ► Chapter 124 ► Chapter 125 ► Chapter 126 ► Chapter 127 ► Chapter 128 ► Chapter 129 ► Chapter 130 ► Chapter 131 ► Chapter 132 ► Chapter 133 ► Chapter 134 ► Chapter 135 ► Chapter 136 ► Chapter 137 ► Chapter 138 ► Chapter 139 ► Chapter 140 ► Chapter 141 ► Chapter 142 ► Chapter 143 ► Chapter 144 ► Chapter 145 ► Chapter 146 ► Chapter 147 ► Chapter 148 ► Chapter 149 ► Chapter 150