Psalms 108, 57 & 60 - In The Shadow Of Thy Wings

INTRODUCTION: By ancient Jewish tradition the psalms are divided into five books, and there are some very similar psalms in separate books, as is the case for Psalm 108. The first five verses of Psalm 108 are basically the same as Psalm 57:8-11, then verses 6 through 12 are very close to Psalm 60:5-12. Psalms 57 and 60 are in book two of the Psalms: with Psalm 57 relating to an event, or to continuing perilous circumstances, before David became king. Psalm 60 is related to conquests during David's reign as king at Jerusalem, and give indication of some challenges before final victory. Psalm 108 is in book five, and there is no clear explanation of why it is written as a combination of latter portions of 57 and 60, nor is the time of writing clearly established. Some commentators take the view that Psalm 108 was combined well after David's death, but the verses were originally penned by David, so attributing that psalm to David in verse 108:1 would still reflect at least content authorship. The full collection of the Psalms represents a lengthy time frame, though the majority was probably written during the lifetime of David and Solomon. Psalm 90 (attributed to Moses in the inscription), is perhaps the earliest written among the complete collection, while other psalms may have been written as late as some time after the Babylonian captivity of Judah. By considering some of the history of David's life, we can perhaps gain a better appreciation of the content of all three of the psalms in this study. The Old Testament texts quoted in this study are taken from the 1917 Jewish Publication Society version of the Old Testament, which uses a slightly different verse numbering scheme from the KJV or other similar translations.


A - The opening verses of Psalm 57 [JPS version]

“1 For the Leader; Al-tashheth. [A Psalm] of David; Michtam; when he fled from Saul, in the cave. 2 Be gracious unto me, O God, be gracious unto me, for in Thee hath my soul taken refuge; yea, in the shadow of Thy wings will I take refuge, until calamities be overpast. 3 I will cry unto God Most high; unto God that accomplisheth it for me. 4 He will send from heaven, and save me, when he that would swallow me up taunteth; Selah. God shall send forth His mercy and His truth. 5 My soul is among lions, I do lie down among them that are aflame; even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. 6 Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; Thy glory be above all the earth. 7 They have prepared a net for my steps, my soul is bowed down; they have digged a pit before me, they are fallen into the midst thereof themselves. Selah."

COMMENTS: The opening of this Psalm concentrates more on David's complete trust in the Lord than in the troubles he faces. In verses two through four David speaks directly to the Lord requesting grace and declaring that he places his very soul under the wings of the Lord's for protection until calamity passes. Verse four confidently asserts that God shall send forth His mercy and His truth from heaven to accomplish as David has cried out to Him to be saved, even while being taunted by his enemy. David expresses a vivid word picture of the dangers around him as he lies down to rest, but he praises the Lord by saying, "Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; Thy glory be above all the earth." Then he closes this section with another affirmation of his belief that the net spread by his enemies will only ensnare them, as he has ascribed glory to the Lord and not to himself.

The events leading up to this point are important to review. As King Saul had become more jealous and fearful of David, he tried two separate times to kill David with a spear as David played his harp. Then he sent men to bring David from his house to be killed, but David's wife Michal helped him to escape (1Samuel 19:12). David fled to Knob where he received food from a priest and the sword of Goliath to carry since he had no weapon with him. From there he fled to Gath and feigned being a mad man at the gate of the city, and the Philistine king left him alone. The cave (or system of caves) at Adullam became the stronghold location for David and some four hundred men who assembled there with David (1Samuel 22:2, and at some point that number grew to six hundred.

Over a period of years, David had to move to various territories to evade continual pursuits by King Saul. The first direct encounter between David and King Saul took place at a cave at Engedi, where David had an opportunity to kill King Saul, but instead he only secretly cut off a portion of his robe and would not allow any of his men to harm Saul. After Saul had left the cave and rejoined his forces, David showed that piece of garment to Saul as they talked at a distance across an open area. King Saul responded as if he realized the futility of his desire to destroy David, but that was not a lasting position for Saul after they parted company. In this encounter, David had not harmed Saul when he had an easy opportunity; then he revealed his position to Saul when he would have been at a distinct disadvantage if an engagement of forces had ensued. The Psalm does not give clear indication of which cave is referenced, but there was certainly very imminent danger when David was at Engedi, and the opening verses of the Psalm very much show David's dependence on the Lord for protection, and his confidence that his pursuers would be caught up into their own snare. Because of the inscription in verse 1 of this Psalm, though probably written while David was still a fugitive from Saul, it likely was dedicated some years later when David was king in Jerusalem, and the Ark of the Covenant had been brought into that city to re-establish corporate worship.

The second and last direct encounter is described in 1Samule 26, and no cave is mentioned. David and Abishai crept into camp as Saul and his many troops slept. “So David took the spear and the cruse of water from Saul's head; and they got them away, and no man saw it, nor knew it, neither did any awake; for they were all asleep; because a deep sleep from the LORD was fallen upon them.” (1 Samuel 26:12 JPS). Abishai had wanted to kill Saul, but once again David would not permit any harm to King Saul. Hear David's words in 1 Samuel 26, “And David said to Abishai: 'Destroy him not; for who can put forth his hand against the LORD'S anointed, and be guiltless?' And David said: 'As the LORD liveth, nay, but the LORD shall smite him; or his day shall come to die; or he shall go down into battle, and be swept away.” After David called out across an expanse with some exchange of conversation, the matter closed in this fashion. “And, behold, as thy life was much set by this day in mine eyes, so let my life be much set by in the eyes of the LORD, and let Him deliver me out of all tribulation.' Then Saul said to David: 'Blessed be thou, my son David; thou shalt both do mightily, and shalt surely prevail.' So David went his way, and Saul returned to his place. And David said in his heart: 'I shall now be swept away one day by the hand of Saul; there is nothing better for me than that I should escape into the land of the Philistines; and Saul will despair of me, to seek me any more in all the borders of Israel; so shall I escape out of his hand.'” (1 Samuel 26:24-27:1 JPS). Psalm 57 may have been penned before this second event, but in any case David again demonstrates his reliance on the Lord, as he praised the LORD even though Saul's pursuits seemed relentless. David did not rejoin King Saul despite Saul's words, but rather he moved back into Philistine territory to reduce Saul's opportunities to reach him. Notice again what David said to Saul, "as thy life was much set by this day in mine eyes, so let my life be much set by in the eyes of the LORD, and let Him deliver me out of all tribulation." David obviously did not feel forsaken by the Lord that Saul could not be trusted to receive him in peace, as he asks that the Lord (not Saul) reward him for sparing Saul's life two times. There is no further record of threat from Saul as David spent more than a year in Philistine territory until Saul died in battle with the Philistines -- one of the means David had expected for Saul's removal by the Lord. The events before and after the writing of Psalm 57, surely had some influence on the tone of Psalm 60.


B - Interlinear comparison of the first section of Psalm 108 with closing verses of Psalm 57 [JPS version]

108:1 A Song, a Psalm of David.

108:2 My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises, even with my glory.

57:8 My heart is stedfast, O God, my heart is stedfast; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises.

108:3 Awake, psaltery and harp; I will awake the dawn.

57:9 Awake, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp; I will awake the dawn.

108:4 I will give thanks unto Thee, O LORD, among the peoples; and I will sing praises unto Thee among the nations.

57:10 I will give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises unto Thee among the nations.

108:5 For Thy mercy is great above the heavens, and Thy truth reacheth unto the skies.

57:11 For Thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and Thy truth unto the skies.

108:6 Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; and Thy glory be above all the earth.

57:12 Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; Thy glory be above all the earth.

[In Psalm 57, verses 6 &12 are the same.] 57:6 Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; Thy glory be above all the earth.

COMMENTS: The first verse of Psalm 108 simply attributes this Psalm to David, but there is no instruction for the leaders of worship as with Psalm 57 or other Psalms of David. David proclaims that he has a steadfast heart, and then he speaks of demonstration of same by playing his stringed instrument (either saltery or harp) early in the morning. The stability of trusting in the Lord in his heart was evidenced at the very beginning of his day, and it was such a full emotion that he was not restrained from expression of praise even among all the nations, not just within his homeland of Israel. He wanted to expound, extol, glorify, and exalt the Lord above all else to the highest degree, into the heavens, for the Lord's boundless mercy and truth. So, the closing section of Psalm 57 begins and ends with "Be Thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; Thy glory be above all the earth."

By looking at the opening verses in Psalm 57 we can frame these thoughts with not-so-favorable circumstances for David that nonetheless evoked a very favorable response to the Lord. As he was forced to move around in Israel's territory of Judah, and in Philistine territory, the people with him could develop strong loyalties, and others who had contact with him saw his character. Though Samuel had anointed David to be King of Israel even before this perhaps ten year period of flight from Saul; David showed great respect for Saul's life, who had first been anointed as King over Israel, by the Lord's prophet Samuel. All of this praise to the Lord from David came even as he continued to be an outcast by the ruler of his own people. This may well represent the vigor and energy of a youthful believer in the LORD, as embodied in David before his position seemed in any way secure, and it may be similar for a new zealous Christian whose initial focus is on the sure promises of the Lord despite present circumstances.


C - The opening verses of Psalm 60 [JPS version]

“1 For the Leader; upon Shushan Eduth; Michtam of David, to teach; 2 when he strove with Aram-naharaim and with Aram-zobah, and Joab returned, and smote of Edom in the Valley of Salt twelve thousand. 3 O God, Thou hast cast us off, Thou hast broken us down; Thou hast been angry; O restore us. 4 Thou hast made the land to shake, Thou hast cleft it; heal the breaches thereof; for it tottereth. 5 Thou hast made Thy people to see hard things; Thou hast made us to drink the wine of staggering. 6 Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah."

COMMENTS: After King Saul died in battle with the Philistines, David was made king over Judah in Hebron, and he reigned there for seven and a half years. Then, when Saul's son, as the successor king, was assassinated by two Benjamites who brought his head to David, David rewarded them by having them killed for their murderous act. After this, the elders of the tribes of Israel came to Hebron and asked David to become king over a united Israel. When he moved to Jerusalem at the age of about 37, where his reign would continue another thirty-three years, the Philistines were the first to challenge him, and he defeated them more than once. Subsequently he had two battles with Aramians, and in the second one he defeated allied troops of Aram-naharaim and Aram-zobah. These events are recorded in the first eight chapters of 2Samuel. Among the spoil of the war with the Aramians were golden shields which David dedicated to be used later in the construction of the temple of the Lord. Edom was also defeated and garrisons were established throughout Edom to ensure their subjection to Israel. 1Chronicles 18:11 records that David dedicated to the LORD "the silver and the gold that he carried away from all the nations; from Edom, and from Moab, and from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines, and from Amalek." All of this took place over a period of years before relative peace was established throughout the expanded kingdom, and David had been a soldier now for probably at least twenty years.

The Philistines had been in the land even before Jacob went down into Egypt, and they were not eliminated during Joshua's lifetime, when Israel entered to possess the land. King Saul had some successful campaigns against the Philistines, but David had led Israel's troops to even more decisive victories over them. “And the women sang one to another in their play, and said: Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. And Saul was very wroth, and this saying displeased him; and he said: 'They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands; and all he lacketh is the kingdom!'” (1 Samuel 18:7-8 JPS). Saul's jealousy had led to David becoming a fugitive in his own nation. But the battles with Aram-naharaim and with Aram-zobah under David as King of Israel, years after Saul's death, are defined with the phrase "strove with" (struggled) in the opening of this Psalm. This began a series of campaigns that seemingly David entered into with some concern for extended conflict that would not be without loss. This does not seem to be the same unyielding confidence David had before he faced Goliath in battle. He entreats the Lord, "O God, Thou hast cast us off, Thou hast broken us down; Thou hast been angry; O restore us." David realizes that the Lord has caused them to "see hard things" (verse 5), but he closes this section with praise as he says, "Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth." David as king, had a much greater responsibility for the whole nation, and some of his campaigns were delegated to commanders of troops such as Joab and Abishai. Not all things went smoothly for David as king of all Israel; and not all things will go smoothly for Christians even as they mature in their faith, and see the mixture of "hard things" and great blessings as life progresses. Though some of the zeal and optimism of new faith may be dampened over passage of time, the Lord wants us to remain steadfast as our faith is in the rock of our salvation that cannot be moved.


D - Interlinear comparison of the last section of Psalm 108 with closing verses of Psalm 60 [jps version]

108:7 That Thy beloved may be delivered, save with Thy right hand, and answer me.

60:7 That Thy beloved may be delivered, save with Thy right hand, and answer me.

108:8 God spoke in His holiness, that I would exult; that I would divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth.

60:8 God spoke in His holiness, that I would exult; that I would divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth.

108:9 Gilead is mine, Manasseh is mine; Ephraim also is the defence of my head; Judah is my sceptre.

60:9 Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim also is the defence of my head; Judah is my sceptre.

108:10 Moab is my washpot; upon Edom do I cast my shoe; over Philistia do I cry aloud.

60:10 Moab is my washpot; upon Edom do I cast my shoe; Philistia, cry aloud because of me! (

108:11 Who will bring me into the fortified city? Who will lead me unto Edom?

60:11 Who will bring me into the fortified city? Who will lead me unto Edom?

108:12 Hast not Thou cast us off, O God? and Thou goest not forth, O God, with our hosts?

60:12 Hast not Thou, O God, cast us off? And Thou goest not forth, O God, with our hosts.

108:13 Give us help against the adversary; for vain is the help of man.

60:13 Give us help against the adversary; for vain is the help of man.

108:14 Through God we shall do valiantly; for He it is that will tread down our adversaries.

60:14 Through God we shall do valiantly; for He it is that will tread down our adversaries.”

COMMENTS: What an amazing personal relationship is expressed in verse seven as David refers to himself by saying, "that your beloved may be delivered!" He went directly to the Lord for assistance in his struggle, and in verse eight he proclaimed that God had answered in his uniquely separated status of pure holiness, revealing that David would exult, triumph elatedly, with fervent rejoicing as he already has dominion in Schecem of Monassah west of the Jordan, and in Succoth of Gilead on the east side. Ephraem was with him, as was Judah, to give him military confidence and the guidance of the law. But this did not give David a smug confidence for all future events because he knows that God had not cast Israel off in the past without reason, but for their failure to follow the Lord. So David brought a petition before the Lord which is very applicable for every Christian today, lest we forget the truth contained therein. "Give us help against the adversary; for vain is the help of man." And truth builds upon truth as we further realize, "Through God we shall do valiantly; for He it is that will tread down our adversaries.” And the New Testament echoes these same truths that God accomplishes in us:

“I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12-13 AKJV).

“I am the vine, you are the branches: He that stays in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 AKJV).

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brothers that are in the world.” (1 Peter 5:8-9 AKJV).

“These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 AKJV).


--- Reflections in prayer ---

What a great comfort to know that you care for each one of your children with infinite love, and when I flee to you for safety, your unlimited power assures me that nothing can wrest me from your eternal protection. Though I may experience hard times, you never forget those who place their trust in the Lord. O Lord, that I might remember to awake each morning with praise in my heart and on my lips for you for your mercy and truth is great even unto unreachable heights. May you alone be exalted, O Lord my God, above the heavens; and your glory be above all the earth. Give God's assembly, your church, help against the adversary; for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly; for He it is that will tread down our adversaries. Hallelujah, amen!

Published 24 April 2009