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Psalm 56 - David And The Philistines

INTRODUCTION: David fled from Israel's territory because King Saul was very jealous and afraid of him, as many people in Judah and Israel loved and praised David. On two different occasions Saul threw his javelin at David while David was playing the harp to calm Saul's spirit. Then Saul sent men to wait outside David's house to kill him in the morning, but David escaped through a window by night with the help of his wife. Going to a city of the Philistines was certainly an act of desperation since they were the enemies of Israel, and David had won many victories over them as a commander of troops serving King Saul. But, David had enemies whether inside or outside of Israel's territory.

NOTE: All scriptures are from the 21st Century King James Version.


1 Samuel 21 "10 And David arose and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath. 11 And the servants of Achish said unto him, "Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, 'Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands'?" 12 And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath. 13 And he changed his behavior before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard. 14 Then said Achish unto his servants, "Lo, ye see the man is mad. Why then have ye brought him to me? 15 Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?" 22:1 David therefore departed thence and escaped to the cave of Adullam; and when his brethren and all his father's house heard it, they went down thither to him."

COMMENTS: King Achish seemed to have little interest in David as a prize prisoner, but the servants of the king certainly knew David's reputation even to the detail of the praise sung by women in Israel. We know from an earlier passage that Goliath whom David had killed was from Gath, but there is no mention of him while David was seeking refuge. 1Sa 17 "4 And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span." It may be that David did not expect to be recognized in Gath, but whether that was true or not, when he heard what was said about him, he was afraid for his life. He decided to act as though he was a madmen, and that worked well enough that Achish wanted nothing to do with him. David decided to take the opportunity to escape from Gath, and he took refuge in a cave. We are not told how his family learned of his location, but they joined him at the cave of Adullam. The content of this Psalm has no element reflecting the comfort of being joined by his family members. It was likely composed at least in his thoughts while he was alone, and later dedicated for use in worship at the temple.


Psalm 56 "1 [To the chief musician: Upon Jonathelemrechokim. Michtam of David when the Philistines took him in Gath.] Be merciful unto me, O God, for man would swallow me up; he, fighting daily, oppresseth me. 2 Mine enemies would daily swallow me up, for they are many that fight against me, O Thou Most High. 3 In the time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. 4 In God I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me."

COMMENTS: David appeals directly to the Most high God for mercy, knowing that some among his own countrymen, as well as the Philistines, represented numerous immediate threats to his life while he was totally alone. It is easier to speak of trust in the Lord when all seems well with us, but David declared while he was alone and afraid, that he still trusted the Lord. David's trust was based on God's word, without receiving any miraculous sign or a message from God by angels to strengthen him. He praised God's word because that was how he had trusted in God. Therefore he had the confidence to say that he would not fear what any man could do to him, and surely that included that he was not afraid of death at the hands of an enemy.

David had much less scripture than Christians have available today, however he had the same kind of devotion to God as was recorded for moses, Joshua, and Caleb. Exodus 14 "10 And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid; and the children of Israel cried out unto the LORD. 11 And they said unto Moses, "Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? 12 Is not this the word that we told thee in Egypt, saying, 'Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians'? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness." 13 And Moses said unto the people, "Fear ye not. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will show to you today; for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more for ever. 14 The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace."" After the twelve representatives of the tribes had scouted the promised land, only Joshua and Caleb trusted fully in God to defeat what seemed like an overwhelming enemy. Numbers 14 "3 And why hath the LORD brought us unto this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? Were it not better for us to return into Egypt?" 4 And they said one to another, "Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt." 5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel. 6 And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were of those who searched the land, rent their clothes; 7 and they spoke unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, "The land which we passed through to search it is an exceeding good land. 8 If the LORD delight in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land which floweth with milk and honey. 9 Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their defense has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Fear them not."" Joshua and Caleb believed the Lord would give them victory over their enemies in battle.

David had been anointed by Samuel to be king over Israel, though becoming king did not seem very likely at this juncture. David expressed his trust in the Lord even to the point beyond physical life, and another Psalm has that message. Psalm 118 "6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do unto me? 7 The LORD taketh my part among them that help me; therefore shall I see what I desire upon them that hate me. 8 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. 9 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes." The Lord Jesus provided more complete clarity to the protection afforded those who believe in God with their whole heart, because God alone has power over the everlasting soul. Matthew 10 "28 And fear not them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him that is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 9 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear ye not, therefore; ye are of more value than many sparrows." What a beautiful comparative picture of the great love our God has for us throughout every detail of our lives!


Psalm 56 "5 Every day they wrest my words; all their thoughts are against me for evil. 6 They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps as they lie in wait for my soul. 7 Shall they escape by iniquity? In Thine anger cast down the people, O God."

COMMENTS: David felt a continual threat as he said his enemies twisted the meaning of his words every day, and everything they thought about regarding him was to bring about evil on him. He believed they gathered together in secret to watch his every step and to lie in wait to take his life. David was saying to God that such people should not escape punishment while being so wickedly unjust, so he asked that God would in anger throw them down. David knew that just as his protection in such dangerous circumstances came from God; that regardless of apparent strength in the enemies of God, they could be easily and quickly cast down with the anger of God against them.


Psalm 56 "8 Thou countest my wanderings; put Thou my tears into Thy bottle: are they not in Thy book? 9 When I cry unto Thee, then shall mine enemies turn back! This I know, for God is for me. 10 In God will I praise His word; in the LORD will I praise His word."

COMMENTS: David had tried to maintain loyalty to King Saul and had not wronged him in any way, but he had been threatened by Saul for quite some time as indicated in this earlier passage. 1Samuel 20 "1 And David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said before Jonathan, "What have I done? What is mine iniquity? And what is my sin before thy father, that he seeketh my life?" 2 And he said unto him, "God forbid! Thou shalt not die. Behold, my father will do nothing either great or small but that he will show it to me. And why should my father hide this thing from me? It is not so." 3 And David swore moreover and said, "Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes, and he saith, 'Let not Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved.' But truly as the LORD liveth and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death.""

Job 31 "4 Doth not He see my ways, and count all my steps?" Job knew that there is nothing hidden from God, and David also believed that to be true. So, David said he knew not only all of his steps in flight from pursuit were known by God, but he felt the comfort of knowing that every tear he had shed was precious as if kept in a bottle. Because these things were in the record book of God, David trusted that when he cried out to God his enemies would turn away because God was on his side. With this confident thought in his heart, David began again to praise his God and Lord for his precious Word.


Psalm 56 "11 In God have I put my trust; I will not be afraid what man can do unto me. 12 Thy vows are upon me, O God; I will render praises unto Thee. 13 For Thou hast delivered my soul from death; wilt Thou not deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?"

COMMENTS: David summarized his thoughts and his praise to God as he reaffirms that his trust was fully in the Lord and he would not fear what mere man can do to him. With the firm belief that the vows of God were on him, David offered all praise to his God. God had delivered his soul from the eternal death, and he believes that God would soon deliver him from the eminent peril so he could continue to walk before his God in "the light of the living." David was not asking for anything lavish, and in the latter years he never sought to do anything to remove Saul as king over Israel so he could take that position. Though most Christians will not be prepared by God for leadership as was David, a New Testament passage gives a reminder applicable to all Christians. Hebrews 13 "5 Let your manner of living be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have. For He hath said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee"; 6 so that we may boldly say, "The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.""


I thank you, Lord, that my security in this life is not in myself or in any amount of supporters around me, but in the promises you have given to me through the gift of faith in Christ Jesus for salvation of my soul. In those times when I do not feel very secure through whatever causes me anxiety, help me, Lord, to remember your Word and to praise you for that precious gift of many assurances. Whatever may happen to me while in this body, I know you will preserve my soul. Lord, I want to walk before you in a manner of contentment that is pleasing to you, and that may provide a witness to others of the peace you offer through faith in the true and living God. Amen.

Published 12 January 2016