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This psalm was composed by David at the time when the death of Abimelech and the other priests had spread universal terror among the people, indisposing them for lending any countenance to his cause, and when Doeg was triumphing in the successful issue of his information. Supported, even in these circumstances, by the elevating influence of faith, he inveighs against the cruel treachery of that unprincipled informer, and encourages himself by the reflection, that God, who is judge in heaven, will vindicate the interests of such as fear him, and punish the pride of the ungodly.
To the chief singer. A Psalm of David for instruction; when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and said unto him, that David had come into the house of Abimelech.
I have already had occasion to observe that the term משכיל, maskil, is strictly affixed to those psalms in which David makes mention of having been chastised by God, or at least admonished, by some species of affliction, sent, like the rod of the schoolmaster, to administer correction. Of this we have examples in Psalms 32 and 42. As inscribed above the 45th psalm, its meaning is somewhat different. There, it seems designed to intimate to the reader that the song, although breathing of love, was not intended to please a mere wanton taste, but describes the spiritual marriage of Christ with his Church. In this and the following psalms, the term admits of being understood as signifying instruction, more particularly such as proceeds from correction; and David, by employing it, would evidently insinuate that he was at this time subjected to peculiar trials, sent to instruct him in the duty of placing an absolute trust in God. The portion of history to which the psalm refers is well known. When David had fled to Abimelech in Nob, he obtained provisions and the sword of Goliath from the hands of that priest, having concealed from him the real danger in which he stood, and pretended that he was executing a secret and important business of the king. Doeg, chief of the king’s herdsmen, having conveyed intelligence of this to Saul, in expectation of a reward, was the means of drawing down the rage of the tyrant, not only upon that innocent individual, but the whole priesthood. 275275 The history of this transaction is recorded in 1 Samuel 21:1-7, and 22:9-19. It affords a strong evidence of the hatred which Saul bore to David, and of his savage cruelty to order the execution of eighty-five priests for no crime; and what a monster of iniquity must Doeg have been, who executed this command when not another individual in all Saul’s company would do it, and who, in addition to this, “smote the city of the priests with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and sucklings, and oxen, and asses, and sheep?” “If we are confounded,” says Walford, “by the savage ferocity of a prince who could order the execution of eighty-five persons of most venerable station, for a crime which existed alone in his disturbed imagination, we shall feel disposed to execrate the ruthless villain who could imbrue his hands in the blood of so many innocent victims; and we shall be ready to draw the conclusion, that both Saul and Doeg were prompted to this deed of atrocious cruelty, not merely by their hatred of David, but by a malevolence, almost without parallel, against the ministers of religion, and which rendered conspicuous their contempt and hatred for God himself. It can excite little surprise to find David saying, as he does, in the next psalm, ‘The fool saith in his heart, There is no God.’” The bloody example which was thus made must have deterred the people from extending to David even the commonest offices of humanity, and every avenue of relief seemed shut upon the miserable exile. As Doeg triumphed in the success of his crime, and others might be tempted, by the reward which he had received, to meditate the ruin of David, we find him in this psalm animating his soul with divine consolations, and challenging his enemies with the audacity of their conduct.
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