By Daniel L. Segraves
October 1, 2017
Beginning with this lesson, our study guide will consist of notes from the Apostolic Study Bible.
The superscription of Psalm 3 forms an opening bracket of a collection of five psalms on the topic of rebellion within David’s family and its threat to the fulfillment of the promise God made to David that Solomon would sit on his throne. (See II Samuel 7:12-16; I Chronicles 22:6-10; 28:5-10; I Kings 1:17-35.) The closing bracket is Psalm 7, which is composed of the words David sang to the Lord when he heard from Cush the news of Absalom’s death.
Psalm 3 shows David’s confidence that God would fulfill His promise to place the Messiah on David’s throne. (See Psalm 89:3-4, 34-37; Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Luke 1:32-33.) This gave the Jewish readers, who read the Psalter in this order after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, confidence that the messianic promise would yet be fulfilled. In the context of Psalms 3-7, Psalm 4 develops the theme of the certainty of the Davidic covenant with its messianic hope, even in the midst of political turmoil.
3:2 The meaning of Selah is uncertain. (See also verses 4, 8.) The word appears seventy-one times in thirty-nine psalms, but never in a superscription. It appears three times in Habakkuk 3. Suggestions for the meaning of Selah include ‘interlude’ and ‘repeat.’ It may also be a call for an instrument to be played for rhythmic purposes or emphasis.
3:3 The “lifting of the head” is a Hebrew figure of speech expressing confidence in the Lord.
3:7 The striking of enemies on the jaw signifies humiliation, and the metaphor of broken teeth compares enemies to animals whose strength is broken.
4 The superscription of Psalm 4 does not identify the circumstances surrounding the origin of the psalm. In relation to its placement in the Psalter, the original circumstances may not be significant, because it finds its place in the section concerning Absalom’s rebellion with the apparent intent of further developing the theme begun in Psalm 3. The prayers of Psalm 4 continue the theme of the prayers of Psalm 3: Because of rebellion in the kingdom, there is a threat to the messianic promise connected with David’s throne.
4:4 The word translated “sin” (chata) has to do with “missing the way” or “the mark.”
4:6 This is an allusion to the priestly benediction of Numbers 6:24-26.
4:8 Compare with Psalm 3:5.
The superscription of Psalm 5 does not identify the circumstances of its writing, but its placement within the framework of Absalom’s rebellion indicates that it should be read as a further development of that theme. Psalm 5 may have originally addressed other enemies and circumstances, but in the structure of the Psalter it further develops the problem of Absalom’s challenge to David’s throne and thus to the Davidic covenant and its messianic promise. It further describes David’s confidence that God’s promise would prevail. To those who read these words after the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon, when David’s throne seemed permanently vacated, the message would be to continue to trust God to keep His promise to raise up the Messiah on David’s throne.
5:12 The final verse of the psalm is similar to the final verses of Psalms 1, 2, and 3. According to Psalm 1:6, the Lord knows the way of those who are righteous, which means they will endure while the ungodly perish. According to Psalm 2:12, those who put their trust in the Son are blessed. Psalm 3:8 indicates that the blessing of the Lord is upon His people. Although the final verse of Psalm 4 is not as specific, it implies the blessing of the Lord in David’s ability to lie down in peace and sleep.
The previous psalms in the collection concerned with Absalom’s rebellion (Psalms 3,4, 5) reflect David’s joyous confidence that Absalom’s plot would fail and that he would be vindicated and restored to the throne. But those who are challenged by circumstances to question the certainty of God’s promise are not always so optimistic. Psalm 6 reveals the heart of a man who knew that God would come to his rescue, but who was nevertheless troubled over the apparent delay.
Like Psalms 4 and 5, Psalm 6 does not identify its circumstances in the superscription, but its placement here further develops the theme of the certainty of God’s covenantal promise to David in the face of its first challenge: Absalom’s rebellion. The psalm can comfort believers in any situation where they are opposed and it seems God’s promises are delayed. At these times, Psalm 6 can be prayed with the assurance that God’s purposes will prevail – in His time.
6:4 David’s appeal to the mercies (chesed, “loyal love”) of the Lord was an apparent reference to the Davidic covenant, characterized by mercy. (See II Samuel 7:15; 22:51; I Kings 3:6; 8:23; II Chronicles 6:42; Nehemiah 1:5; 9:32; Isaiah 55:3; Acts 13:34.)
6:6 David’s previous description of sleep described it as peaceful. (See Psalms 3:5; 4:8.) But people of faith are not always able to avoid the distress that accompanies those circumstances that arise when those around them rebel against God.
The superscription identifies Psalm 7 as a meditation (Shiggaion) of David, “which he sang unto the Lord , concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite.” This indicates Psalm 7 is the conclusion of the unit beginning with Psalm 3, which is a “Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.” Psalm 3 opens a series of five psalms concerned with the rebellion of Absalom against his father David, the first significant attempt to thwart God’s messianic purpose announce in Psalm 2. Psalm 7 was David’s response when he heard of Absalom’s death from Cush. (See II Samuel 18:19-33.) Although David was distressed with Absalom’s rebellion, he loved him as his son, and his initial response to the news of his son’s death was grief. But as he moved past the initial grief, David’s prayer reflects his larger awareness of the fact that Absalom’s rebellion against him was actually rebellion against God and that Absalom’s death was a consequence of his own sin.
The intentional arrangement of the psalms is suggested in that this section concludes with David’s stated intention to “sing praise to the name of the Lord most high” (Psalm 7:17), and the next psalm begins with praise to the name of the Lord (Psalm 8:1). The purposeful placement of the next psalm is also evident in that it is a messianic psalm celebrating the genuineness of the Messiah’s humanity, His solidarity with humankind.
7:9 The word translated “reins” (chĕlāyōṯ) means “kidneys.” It was customary among the Hebrews to use the inner organs of the body as metaphors for the innermost person. This is seen also in the New Testament in references to the heart and “bowels” in the KJV. (See Philippians 1:8; 2:1; Colossians 3:12; Philemon 1:7, 12, 20; I John 3:17). In the modern English-speaking world, the heart is still used as a metaphor for the inner person. Because of the biblical use of these terms, it would be a mistake to try to make fine distinctions between the meanings of words used to represent the inner man.
7:17 The psalm concludes with David’s intention to “sing praise to the name of the Lord most high.” In Hebrew theology the name of the Lord represents the Lord Himself; name and person are essentially identical.
Although the superscription of Psalm 8 offers no information about the circumstances of its writing, its relationship to its context suggests it is intentionally placed. Psalms 3-7, which track the ill-fated attempt of Absalom to usurp his father’s throne, conclude with Absalom’s defeat and David’s announcement that he will “sing praise to the name of the Lord most high” (Psalm 7:17). Psalm 8 begins with this praise, flowing naturally out of the conclusion of Psalm 7.
Psalm 8, with its focus on the Son of Man, should be read as a messianic psalm, for that is how it is interpreted in the New Testament. (See I Corinthians 15:27; Hebrews 2:6-9.) The Son of Man is the same One to whom the Lord said, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee” (Psalm 2:7). He is the King who is placed by the Lord upon His holy hill of Zion (Psalm 2:6), whose inheritance is the nations, whose possession is the ends of the earth (Psalm 2:8), and who must be kissed by the kings and judges of the earth lest He be angry (Psalm 2:12). He is the anointed One, the Messiah (Psalm 2:2).
8:2 Jesus connected this verse with the praise of the Messiah by children. (See Matthew 21:15-16.) As the children in the Temple cried out, “Hosanna to the son of David,” in the words of Psalm 118:25, the chief priests and scribes protested the children’s identification of Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus justified the children’s praise by pointing the chief priests and scribes to Psalm 8:2. This verse indicates that young children would recognize the Messiah and proclaim Him to be so even in the face of God’s enemies who would reject His anointed One. The faith of children would “still the enemy and the avenger.” The reading “perfected praise” in Matthew 21:16 in place of “ordained strength” follows the Septuagint.
8:4 The poetic form of this verse indicates that the emphasis is not on human beings as a whole, but on one specific human being, the Son of Man.
8:5-8 The question in verse 4 does not demean the Son of Man, for although He had been made “a little lower than the angels,” He had been “crowned . . . with glory and honour.” He was given dominion over the entire created realm. David asked a legitimate question, because he knew the Son of Man would be a human being descended from him. (See Psalm 132:11.) In view of the majesty of the created realm, how could a descendant of David be exalted to the place of dominion over it? How could a human being be clothed with glory and honor? As we discover elsewhere, the reason is that this Son of Man was also the Son of God. The crowning of the Son of Man with glory and honor occurred as a consequence of His death. Since He was a human being, made a little lower than the angels, He could “taste death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9).
 These notes were prepared for the Apostolic Study Bible (Hazelwood, MO: WAP Academic, 2014) by Daniel L. Segraves.