Psalm 7: David’s Flight from Saul

Feb 1st, 2012 | By | Category: Psalms, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Psa. 7:0 Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the LORD, concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite.

According to the King James margin, “shiggaion” is a Hebrew word indicating a turbulent lyric. Although there is some truth in that statement because of the ups and downs in mood that David expressed in this Seventh Psalm, the word “shiggaion” means “wandering” in another sense. While the emotions in the Psalm do wander, or change back and forth, much more is involved. Psalm 7 is a song that David sang either to himself or to the compatriots who were with him as he wandered from place to place, seeking safety and refuge during his flight from the wrath of King Saul, who intended to kill him. The content of the Psalm bolsters this thought.

The rest of the preface, “which he [David] sang unto the LORD, concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite,” helps us to understand what David was referring to. However, nothing in Scripture particularizes anything pertaining to Cush the Benjamite. Actually, from the standpoint of discretion, David was using a hidden pseudonym in the expression of whom he had in mind. As we read this Psalm, we will see that he was protesting his innocence much like Job, who contended for his integrity of heart. While Job’s conscience was clear, his trials were severe, yet he knew God’s judgment was superior to his. Therefore, he very much wanted an answer to his prayer. Likewise, David asked for an answer to his prayer in this Psalm. (Incidentally, the terms Benjamite and Benjaminite are synonymous and interchangeable.)  The point is that we believe “Cush” was a pseudonym for King Saul, who was the son of Kish from the tribe of Benjamin. “Now there was a man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish … a mighty man of power. And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man … and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people” (1 Sam. 9:1,2). Therefore, Saul was a Benjamite, and his father was Kish (Cush). The “c” in the English “Cush” is the eleventh letter of the Hebrew alphabet, namely, “kaph,” or “k.” However, this paronomasia is spelled with the nineteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, “qoph,” yet strangely, both kaph and qoph are pronounced the same as a hard “k.” Since the “u” of Cush is a vowel, it could just as easily be an “i,” and hence the son of “Kish” the Benjamite. Therefore, we believe—and others have believed as well—that David was referring to Saul. David composed this ode, or Psalm, to express the experience he was having when fleeing from place to place to escape Saul’s wrath.

Psa. 7:1 O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me:

David was referring to Jehovah: “O LORD.” The term “my God” means that David had entered into covenant relationship and that his whole soul, or being, lay at the disposition of God, his Creator. On the one hand, having made this commitment, he wholly put his trust in God, but on the other hand, he immediately said, “Save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me.” We know Saul, in his pursuit of David, at times sent out soldiery to apprehend and bring him back so that he could vent his spleen, or wrath, upon David. In addition, there were a couple of instances in which Saul left the throne, as it were, and personally pursued David, and that was the case in the incident recorded in this Psalm. Of course some soldiery were with the king, but they were a more private kind of soldiery and very few in number. Evidently, Saul was given explicit information as to David’s whereabouts and was, therefore, more interested in personally going after him for various reasons. We will try to extract clues from the Psalm as we proceed. It is important to realize that before David did anything, he put his trust in God and petitioned for protection and deliverance from all who were persecuting him.

Psa. 7:2 Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver.

Verse 2 becomes more personal. Instead of “all them” who persecuted David, he now mentioned “he” (singular). “Lest he [Saul] tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver.” Here is a little clue as to why Saul was personally pursuing David on this occasion; namely, he was like a lion about to rend his victim into pieces. Just as a lion in the forest is the king of the animal creation, so Saul was a lion in the forest of men. Sometimes the Scriptures liken individuals to trees (plural) and sometimes to a tree (singular).

The king of Israel was now in pursuit, and there was “none to deliver.” Saul was personally pursuing David because of the latter’s reputation. Among the populace of Israel, David had many friends who considered him to be of good report. For example, “the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Sam. 18:7). Moreover, David slew Goliath when for many days, the giant had challenged Israel and none dared to fight him. Along came David, who went out with a slingshot and delivered Israel by God’s providence in directing the stone through a chink in the armor to slay the giant. Saul was now pursuing David so that he could privately execute his wrath following the capture. The king cagily wanted to complete the capture before any of David’s friends, who far outnumbered the king and his few soldiery, could interfere.

Comment: David knew that King Saul was the Lord’s anointed. Therefore, he was troubled because he could not fight back and take Saul’s life or allow his men to do so.

Psa. 7:3 O LORD my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands;

Psa. 7:4 If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy:)

Psa. 7:5 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.

Again David said, “my God,” showing his total commitment. David continued, “If I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands; If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me … 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.”

In the parenthetical expression “(yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy:),” David was referring to Saul, for David could have had him killed. David’s men wanted to slay Saul when they found him sleeping in a cave at En-gedi, but David commanded them not to kill God’s anointed (1 Samuel 24). Thus the theme of the Seventh Psalm was motivated by the actions of Saul, a particular individual.

In his integrity, David was very much like Job, who similarly prayed to God that if there was any iniquity in him to please reveal it. Job had honestly searched his heart and could not find anything that would merit the experiences he was having. Here David was saying that if, unbeknownst to him, there was a flaw in his character that merited his being hunted like a fugitive, he wanted to suffer the consequences. He was examining his heart as Job did and could not find any fault with his motive and intent. “If there be iniquity in my hands … Let the enemy persecute my soul, and … tread down my life.”

“Selah” is like an exclamation point. David was appealing to God, the righteous Judge, to do that which was fitting. This Psalm, a prayer, was recorded for posterity after David was made king, but it was uttered earlier while he was in flight from Saul. In other words, the Holy Spirit, as the spirit of remembrance, enabled David later to put the prayer into proper writing for preservation in the Hebrew record of Holy Writ.

In verses 1 and 2, David was asking, “LORD, save me from them that persecute me and deliver me, lest Saul tears my soul to pieces like a lion.” In verses 3-5, he said, “If there is iniquity in me, let it be as Saul intends.” Verses 6-9 are a radical change, being another soliloquy.

Psa. 7:6 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.

Psa. 7:7 So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about: for their sakes therefore return thou on high.

Psa. 7:8 The LORD shall judge the people: judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me.

Since, in searching his heart, David could not find any iniquity to justify his experience, he now had a degree of confidence in his own personal integrity of heart. Again his spirit reminds us of Job, who consistently and persistently claimed his innocence to the three supposed comforters who persecuted him during his trial. David was convinced of his integrity of heart (verse 8). He was contending that his heart was pure in intent.

“Arise, O LORD, in thine anger, lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies.” David wanted justice to be done on his behalf. “Awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded.” David knew that God was just and that He had commanded others to be just and fair in judgment, so now he was asking God to execute judgment on his behalf and thus to exonerate and deliver him. David knew he had been anointed to be king, but in the meantime, Saul was still on the throne. It was not David’s intention to cut short Saul’s reign but to let the situation be just as God, in His providence, would ordain.

In verse 7, David was saying that when he got into office, he would benefit the congregation of Israel, for he would execute justice on behalf of those who were in need of help—widows, orphans, and those who had been encroached upon in various ways. The end of the verse reads, “For their sakes therefore return thou on high.” In any court of justice in any nation in any land, the throne of judgment is invariably an elevated seat. Even if the seat is only six inches above the ground, there is a platform with a chair. The judge ascends the platform and sits on the chair of justice either to hear the charges or to render the verdict. Therefore, David was saying to God, “Thou righteous Judge, ascend on high, be seated, and render the verdict to benefit my cause.” Of course when God rendered the verdict in Saul’s judgment, David would be enthroned. God would judge the people, and David, as God’s spokesperson on the throne, would render that judgment according to the integrity and righteousness that were in him. Not only would he be exonerated personally as an individual, but he would, in turn, do justice on behalf of others. David knew about the wrong acts that Saul, as king, had already committed.

Comment: David prayed to the Lord for protection from his enemies but was not necessarily asking for their death because he loved Saul and Jonathan and mourned for them.

Reply: On the one hand, David’s intent was not to do harm, but on the other hand, as we will see, he indicated that if he were in power, he would destroy enemies.

Psa. 7:9 Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.

Verse 9 is rather touching, for David was reasoning with God. Just as Moses reasoned with the Almighty God, not wanting any bad reflection on His throne or name, so David reasoned that God should put an end to this situation for His name’s sake as a “righteous God [who] trieth the hearts and reins [of men].”

Psa. 7:10 My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart.

Psa. 7:11 God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.

Psa. 7:12 If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready.

God was a shield and buckler to David. God saves the “upright in heart [not only David but all who are righteously inclined]” and “judgeth the righteous [in delivery or salvation], and He is angry with the wicked every day.” For example, God raised up judges in the nation of Israel to help bring about relief from oppression, bondage, wrongdoing, and injustices. Although His anger is usually secondary, it is always there.

The King James wording for verse 11 is a little awkward. Many Bible expositors express pros and cons on this verse. Some say that God is not angry with the wicked every day, and others say that He is, which is the slant of the King James. The thought is that God recognizes the wicked for what they are. Verse 12 says, “If he [the wicked] turn not,” implying that while God has anger against the wicked, a patience is combined with that anger, for His intent is to save the wicked from wrongdoing if they have a change of heart. But if the wicked “turn not” and persist, then impending judgment will come, thus revealing God’s anger. However, that anger is held in abeyance and will not come right away. God has righteous anger and wrath, but He curbs it patiently for a time.

“If he [the wicked] turn not [from what he is doing], he [God] will whet his sword.” To “whet” the sword is to sharpen it, and since the sharpening process takes time, the implication is that there is time before the execution of justice. God is figuratively whetting His sword, intending to use it on the wicked who turn not from their evil way. An impending judgment is coming, and God patiently holds His anger in abeyance until the due time.

God “hath bent his bow, and made it ready.” When the archer has an arrow in the bow, he pulls it back, but he also carefully aims the arrow, focusing attention upon the target. Again time is involved, as well as purpose. Finally the archer lets the arrow go, bringing about swift destruction.

Verses 10-12 were prophetic of Saul’s demise, for both he and Jonathan died in a war. When Saul was wounded, being pierced by an arrow, he asked one of his men to slay him, for he was afraid the enemy would behead him and use his head as a trophy. Rather than to fall into the hands of the enemy and have dishonor and shame come upon his posterity, Saul wanted his servant to slay him and put him out of his misery right away. Thus he was mortally wounded by an arrow and then slain by a sword in fulfillment of verse 12 (1 Sam. 31:3-5). Way back when Saul first intended to kill David, a judgment awaited him, but that judgment was held in abeyance until the due time of God’s providence. Not only are verses 10-12 a prophecy, but they provide instruction about God’s patience and desire to change the wicked from their way if possible. If the change is not made in the allotted time frame, then judgment surely awaits the individual(s) and will be inflicted. God is ever ready to judge the wicked—He has the desire to expunge them—but His patience holds the judgment in abeyance for a time.

Psa. 7:13 He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.

Psa. 7:14 Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.

Psa. 7:15 He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made.

Psa. 7:16 His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.

Impending judgment awaited Saul. God prepared the “instruments of [Saul’s] death,” that is, the sword and the bow and arrows. In His own time, God will take care of matters, but in the meantime, the temporary permission of evil continues. Ultimately, in His own time and way, He will reveal that He is a just God.

Saul “travaileth with iniquity.” At times, he was filled with violent emotions. On more than one occasion, he wanted to pin David to the wall with a javelin (1 Sam. 18:10,11; 19:9,10). Instead of the javelin killing David, Saul had a similar experience in connection with his own demise.

Saul “hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.” Saul told the people that David was a mischief maker in conceiving a conspiracy to seize the throne. This false reasoning gave Saul an excuse to try to exterminate David. He gave wrong slants on David’s character to justify the iniquity he had in mind, but David knew his own heart was not evil. He had no intention whatever of assassinating Saul to obtain the throne of Israel.

In his mind, Saul “made a pit, and digged it” by thinking how to capture David. However, Saul fell “into the [very] ditch which he [had] made.” His mischief returned “upon his own head and his violent dealing … [came] down upon his own pate [the crown of his head].” To a large extent, much of the retribution to be inflicted on the wicked will be somewhat in the nature of what those individuals originally conceived. An example is Haman, who plotted the death of Mordecai, a Jew, and had a gallows built for that purpose. Instead Haman was hung on the gallows (Esther 7:10).

Psa. 7:17 I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.

David was saying that in spite of his persecutions and the evil and slander directed against him, he would not change—he would praise God. Regardless of what happened in his life, he would begin and end each day praising God. A reading of all the Psalms shows that this sentiment was characteristic of David. Most of the Psalms express praise and honor to God, so David did not let circumstances make him forget to render praise and thanks. The lesson for us as new creatures is to be thankful to God for calling us and to accept whatever providences He permits, appreciating them as part of our training for office in future glory, Lord willing.


(2004-2006 Study)


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