Psalm 11:1
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. In the LORD put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?
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(1) Put I my trust.—Better, as in Psalm 7:1, I find my refuge.

Flee as a bird.—Literally, flee ye a bird. The plural verb, with the singular noun, offers a difficulty which is not obviated by the reading which changes the verb to the singular, since your mountain has the plural suffix. We may supply the sign of comparison, as elsewhere sometimes omitted (Psalm 22:14); “flee ye like a bird;” or we may, with Ewald, take the noun as collective—a flock of birds. The idea of trepidation is conveyed in the original by the verb, which suggests the hurried flap of wings. Dr. Thomson, in The Land and the Book, finds in the habits of the dove an illustration of the passage; and compares Psalm 55:6, “Oh that I had wings as a dove!”

Psalm 11:1. In the Lord put I my trust — It is not in fortresses or strong holds that I place my confidence, but only in the Lord, in his power, and love, and faithfulness. How say ye to my soul — Ye, my friends; Flee as a bird to your mountain? — Fly away, as a timorous bird before the fowler, to a place of safety. Thus “the Christian, like David, in perilous times, should make God his fortress, and continue doing his duty in his station; he should not, at the instigation of those about him, like a poor, silly, timorous, inconstant bird, either fly for refuge to the devices of worldly wisdom, or desert his post, and retire into solitude, while he can serve the cause in which he is engaged. Nor, indeed, is there any mountain on earth, out of the reach of care or trouble. Temptations are everywhere, and so is the grace of God.” — Horne.

11:1-7 David's struggle with, and triumph over a strong temptation to distrust God, and betake himself to indirect means for his own safety, in a time of danger. - Those that truly fear God and serve him, are welcome to put their trust in him. The psalmist, before he gives an account of his temptation to distrust God, records his resolution to trust in Him, as that by which he was resolved to live and die. The believer, though not terrified by his enemies, may be tempted, by the fears of his friends, to desert his post, or neglect his work. They perceive his danger, but not his security; they give him counsel that savours of worldly policy, rather than of heavenly wisdom. The principles of religion are the foundations on which the faith and hope of the righteous are built. We are concerned to hold these fast against all temptations to unbelief; for believers would be undone, if they had not God to go to, God to trust in, and future bliss to hope for. The prosperity of wicked people in their wicked, evil ways, and the straits and distresses which the best men are sometimes brought into, tried David's faith. We need not say, Who shall go up to heaven, to fetch us thence a God to trust in? The word is nigh us, and God in the word; his Spirit is in his saints, those living temples, and the Lord is that Spirit. This God governs the world. We may know what men seem to be, but God knows what they are, as the refiner knows the value of gold when he has tried it. God is said to try with his eyes, because he cannot err, or be imposed upon. If he afflicts good people, it is for their trial, therefore for their good. However persecutors and oppressors may prosper awhile, they will for ever perish. God is a holy God, and therefore hates them. He is a righteous Judge, and will therefore punish them. In what a horrible tempest are the wicked hurried away at death! Every man has the portion of his cup assigned him. Impenitent sinner, mark your doom! The last call to repentance is about to be addressed to you, judgement is at hand; through the gloomy shade of death you pass into the region of eternal wrath. Hasten then, O sinner, to the cross of Christ. How stands the case between God and our souls? Is Christ our hope, our consolation, our security? Then, not otherwise, will the soul be carried through all its difficulties and conflicts.In the Lord put I my trust - This, in general, expresses the state of mind of the author - a state of feeling which runs through the entire psalm. It is designed to be an answer to the counsel which others had been giving him to escape, and it implies that he was determined at that time, and always, to put his trust in God. They advised him to flee. In the existing circumstances he felt that that would have implied a want of confidence in God. He determined, therefore, to maintain his present position, and to rely upon the interposition of God in due time.

How say ye to my soul - How say ye to "me" - the soul being put for the person himself. "Why" do you say this to me? how can you give me such counsel, as if I were to run away from danger, and to put no trust in God? He seems to have supposed that such an act of flight would have been construed by his enemies, and by the enemies of religion, as evidence that he had no faith or confidence in God. Such circumstances often occur in the world; and when that would be the "fair" and "natural" construction of one's conduct, the path of duty is plain. We are to remain where we are; we are boldly to face the danger, and commit the whole matter to God.

Flee as a bird to your mountain - This implies that it was supposed there was no longer any safety where he then was. The use of the plural number here - "Flee ye," by a change not uncommon in the Hebrew writings - seems designed to refer to the whole class of persons in those circumstances. The mind turns from his own particular case to that of others in the same circumstances; and the language may be designed to imply that this was the usual counsel given to such persons; that, on the same principle on which they now advised flight in this particular case, they would also advise flight in all similar cases. That is, they would counsel persons to flee to a place of safety when they were in danger of their life from persecution. This is the common counsel of the world; this would be the ordinary teaching of human prudence. The mountains in Palestine were regarded as places of safety, and were the common refuge of those who were in danger. In their caves and fastnesses, and on their heights, those who were in danger found security, for they could there hide themselves, or could more easily defend themselves, than they could in the plains and in the vallies. Hence, they became the place of retreat for robbers and banditti, as well as for the persecuted. The allusion to the bird here does not imply that birds sought a refuge in the mountains, and that he was to resemble them in this respect; but the point of the comparison turns on the rapidity with which this refuge should be sought:" Fly to the mountains as swiftly as a bird flies from danger." Compare Matthew 24:16; Judges 6:2; Hebrews 11:38.


Ps 11:1-7. On title, see [574]Introduction. Alluding to some event in his history, as in 1Sa 23:13, the Psalmist avows his confidence in God, when admonished to flee from his raging persecutors, whose destruction of the usual foundations of safety rendered all his efforts useless. The grounds of his confidence are God's supreme dominion, His watchful care of His people, His hatred to the wicked and judgments on them, and His love for righteousness and the righteous.

1. my soul—me (Ps 3:2).

Flee—literally, "flee ye"; that is, he and his companion.

as a bird to your mountain—having as such no safety but in flight (compare 1Sa 26:20; La 3:52).

1 In the Lord put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain.

2 For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart.

3 If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?

These verses contain an account of a temptation to distrust God, with which David was, upon some unmentioned occasion, greatly exercised. It may be, that in the days when he was in Saul's court, he was advised to flee at a time when this flight would have been charged against him as a breach of duty to the king, or a proof of personal cowardice. His case was like that of Nehemiah, when his enemies, under the garb of friendship, hoped to entrap him by advising him to escape for his life. Had he done so, they could then have found a ground of accusation. Nehemiah bravely replied, "Shall such a man as I flee?" and David, in a like spirit, refuses to retreat, exclaiming, "In the Lord put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?" When Satan cannot overthrow us by presumption, how craftily will he seek to ruin us by distrust! He will employ our dearest friends to argue us out of our confidence, and he will use such plausible logic, that unless we once for all assert our immovable trust in Jehovah, he will make us like the timid bird which flies to the mountain whenever danger presents itself. How forcibly the case is put! The bow is bent, the arrow is fitted to the string: "Flee, flee, thou defenceless bird, thy safety lies in flight; be gone, for thine enemies will send their shafts into thy heart; haste, haste, for soon wilt thou be destroyed!" David seems to have felt the force of the advice, for it came home to his soul; but yet he would not yield, but would rather dare the danger than exhibit a distrust in the Lord his God. Doubtless, the perils which encompassed David were great and imminent; it was quite true that his enemies were ready to shoot privily at him; it was equally correct that the very foundations of law and justice were destroyed under Saul's unrighteous government: but what were all these things to the man whose trust was in God alone? He could brave the dangers, could escape the enemies, and defy the injustice which surrounded him. His answer to the question, "What can the righteous do?" would be the counter-question, "What cannot they do?" When prayer engages God on our side, and when faith secures the fulfilment of the promise, what cause can there be for flight, smitten a giant before whom the whole hosts of Israel were trembling, and the Lord, who delivered him from the uncircumcised Philistine, could surely deliver him from King Saul and his myrmidons. There is no such word as "impossibility" in the language of faith; that martial grace knows how to fight and conquer, but she knows not how to flee. This Psalm seems to have been composed by David when he was persecuted by Saul, and forced to flee from place to place for safety.

David encourageth himself in God, Psalm 11:1, against the wicked designs of his enemies, Psalm 11:2,3. The providence and justice of God, Psalm 11:4, to the righteous and wicked, Psalm 11:5-7.

In the Lord, i.e. in his faithfulness, who hath promised, and will, I doubt not, give me the kingdom.

How say ye? either,

1. Ye my friends; who through diffidence and despondency advised him to this course. Or,

2. Ye my enemies; who said it scoffingly and insultingly. How say ye? With what face or reason can you say thus to him, who hath the Lord God Almighty for his refuge?

To my soul, i.e. to me, as Psalm 6:4 7:2.

Flee as a bird, suddenly and swiftly, and to some remote place, where thou mayst be out of Saul’s reach. Feed not thyself with vain hopes of the kingdom, but consult for thy own safety, which thou canst not do without taking the wings of a dove, or some other bird, that thou mayst flee away out of the land, and be at rest, as thou sayest, Psalm 55:6. Or, Flee away, O thou bird, thou little silly bird, lest the royal eagle seize upon thee.

To your mountain, i.e. to some of your mountains in Judah, and there hide thyself. But this was David’s common practice; and therefore there was no need that any should advise him to it, or that he should reprove them for that advice. Or, from (which prefix is oft wanting, and to be understood, as Joshua 10:13 2 Samuel 23:24)

your mountain i.e. from the mountain or mountainous country of Judah, as it is called, Joshua 20:7; the mountain being frequently put for a mountainous country, as Numbers 13:29 23:7 Joshua 9:1 10:6,40, and oft elsewhere. Or, from your mountains, in which thou and thy companions use to hide yourselves. Flee into some foreign land, where you may be safe. For this was the design of David’s enemies, as he complains, 1 Samuel 26:19; and afterward, when David was under sore temptations, it was his practice once or twice.

In the Lord put I my trust,.... Not in himself, in his own heart, nor in his own righteousness and strength; nor in men, the greatest of men, the princes of the earth; nor in his armies, or any outward force; but in the Lord, as the God of providence and of grace; and in the Messiah, in his person and righteousness; so the Chaldee paraphrase renders it, "in the Word of the Lord do I:hope": and the phrase denotes a continued exercise of faith in the Lord; that he was always looking to him, staying himself on him, and committing himself and all his concerns to him; for he does not say, I "have", or I "will", but I "do", put my trust in the Lord; at all times, even in the worst of times, and in the present one; wherefore he is displeased with his friends for endeavouring to intimidate him, persuading him to flee and provide for his safety, when he had betaken himself to the Lord, and was safe enough;

how say ye to my soul, flee as a bird to your mountain? they compare him to a little, fearful, trembling bird, wandering from its nest, moving through fear from place to place, whereas his heart was fixed, trusting in the Lord; and this gave him a disgust: they advise him to flee either "from" his mountain, so Kimchi and Ben Melech interpret it; that is, either from Judea, which was a mountainous country, especially some parts of it; or from Mount Zion, or rather from the mountain in the wilderness of Ziph, or the hill of Hachilah, where David sometimes was, 1 Samuel 23:14; or it may be rendered "to your mountain", as we, so the Targum; that is, to the said place or places where he had sometimes hid himself; and this they said to his "soul", which was very cutting and grieving to him; the word rendered "flee" in the "Cetib", or writing of the text, is in the plural, "flee ye"; but is pointed for, and in the "Keri", or marginal reading, is "flee thou"; the latter agrees with this being said to David's soul, the former with the phrase "your mountain", and both are to be taken into the sense of the words; not as if the one respected David's soul only, and the other both soul and body, as Kimchi and Ben Melech observe; but the one regards David's person, and the other his companions, or the people with him; and contains an advice, both to him and them, to flee for their safety; the reasons follow.

<A Psalm of David.>> In the LORD put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, {a} Flee as a bird to your mountain?

(a) This is the wicked counsel of his enemies to him and his companions to drive him from the hope of God's promise.

1. put I my trust] Rather, have I taken refuge (cp. Psalm 7:1): and therefore it would be an act of unbelief as well as cowardice to seek another asylum in the mountain.

to my soul] To me, as one whose very life is in danger. Cp. Psalm 3:2, note.

Flee as a bird] Or, as R.V. marg., flee ye birds. David and his companions are addressed, and exhorted to flee to their obvious or accustomed place of refuge in the mountain. But the pronoun your should probably be omitted, and as inserted. Timorous and defenceless birds supply a graphic figure for the victims of persecution who have no resource but flight. Cp. 1 Samuel 26:20; Lamentations 3:52. The ‘mountain’ or ‘hill-country’ with its caves and strongholds was the natural place of retreat for fugitives. See 1 Samuel 14:22; 1 Samuel 23:14; 1 Samuel 26:1; 1Ma 2:28. Possibly ‘to flee to the mountain’ may have been a proverbial phrase, taken from the narrative of Genesis 19:17 ff., for the last resource in extremity of peril.

Note IV

On Psalm 11:1There are two readings here: the Qrç, flee thou (fem.): the Kthîbh, flee ye. If flee thou is addressed, as it is natural to suppose, to David’s soul, it must be explained as a bold combination of direct and indirect speech, equivalent to ‘that she should flee as a bird to your mountain,’ i.e. join you in your mountain retreat. Or David and his adherents may be addressed. ‘Flee, O birds (fem. collective), to your mountain!’ The second reading, ‘flee ye, like birds (or, ye birds), to your mountain,’ is simpler. David and his companions are exhorted to seek the mountain which is their natural or accustomed place of refuge. But it must be admitted that the plural ‘flee ye’ is harsh, and that we should expect the poet’s soul to be addressed; while at the same time if the singular ‘flee thou’ is read, the plural ‘your mountain’ can only be explained by the assumption of a bold construction, or an abrupt transition from sing, to plur. And when we find that all the ancient versions give the verb in the singular, and none of them express your, it becomes almost certain that by a very slight change of text we should read ‘Flee (thou) as a bird to the mountain.’ (גודי הר כמו צפור).

1–3. Faith’s indignant repudiation of faint-hearted counsel in the hour of danger.

Verse 1. - In the Lord put I my trust; or, in the Lord have I taken refuge (Kay, Cheyne). Before his friends address him on the subject of his danger, David has himself recognized it, and has fled to God for succour. How say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? rather, flee ye, birds, to your mountain. Probably a proverbial expression, used when it was necessary to warn a man that in flight lay his only safety. The singular (צִפור) is used collectively. Psalm 11:1David rejects the advice of his friends to save his life by flight. Hidden in Jahve (Psalm 16:1; Psalm 36:8) he needs no other refuge. However well-meant and well-grounded the advice, he considers it too full of fear and is himself too confident in God, to follow it. David also introduces his friends as speaking in other passages in the Psalms belonging to the period of the Absolom persecution, Psalm 3:3; Psalm 4:7. Their want of courage, which he afterwards had to reprove and endeavour to restore, showed itself even before the storm had burst, as we see here. With the words "how can you say" he rejects their proposal as unreasonable, and turns it as a reproach against them. If the Chethb, נוּדוּ, is adopted, then those who are well-disposed, say to David, including with him his nearest subjects who are faithful to him: retreat to your mountain, (ye) birds (צפּור collective as in Psalm 8:9; Psalm 148:10); or, since this address sounds too derisive to be appropriate to the lips of those who are supposed to be speaking here: like birds (comparatio decurtata as in Psalm 22:14; Psalm 58:9; Psalm 24:5; Psalm 21:8). הרכס which seems more natural in connection with the vocative rendering of צפור (cf. Isaiah 18:6 with Ezekiel 39:4) may also be explained, with the comparative rendering, without any need for the conjecture הר כמו צפור (cf. Deuteronomy 33:19), as a retrospective glance at the time of the persecution under Saul: to the mountains, which formerly so effectually protected you (cf. 1 Samuel 26:20; 1 Samuel 23:14). But the Ker, which is followed by the ancient versions, exchanges נודו for גוּדי, cf שׁחי Isaiah 51:23. Even reading it thus we should not take צפור, which certainly is epicoene, as vocative: flee to your mountain, O bird (Hitz.); and for this reason, that this form of address is not appropriate to the idea of those who profer their counsel. But we should take it as an equation instead of a comparison: fly to your mountain (which gave you shelter formerly), a bird, i.e., after the manner of a bird that flies away to its mountain home when it is chased in the plain. But this Ker appears to be a needless correction, which removes the difficulty of נודו coming after לנפשׁי, by putting another in the place of this synallage numeri.

(Note: According to the above rendering: "Flee ye to your mountain, a bird" it would require to be accented נודו הרכם צפוז (as a transformation from נודו הרכם צפור vid., Baer's Accentssystem XVIII. 2). The interpunction as we have it, נודו הרכם צפור, harmonises with the interpretation of Varenius as of Lb Spira (Pentateuch-Comm. 1815): Fugite (o socii Davidis), mons vester (h. e. praesidium vestrum, Psalm 30:8, cui innitimini) est avis errans.)

In Psalm 11:2 the faint-hearted ones give as the ground of their advice, the fearful peril which threatens from the side of crafty and malicious foes. As הנּה implies, this danger is imminent. The perfect overrides the future: they are not only already in the act of bending the bow, they have made ready their arrow, i.e., their deadly weapon, upon the string (יתר equals מיתר, Psalm 21:13, Arab. watar, from יתר, wata ra, to stretch tight, extend, so that the thing is continued in one straight line) and even taken aim, in order to discharge it (ירה with ל of the aim, as in Psalm 54:5, with acc. of the object) in the dark (i.e., secretly, like an assassin) at the upright (those who by their character are opposed to them). In Psalm 11:3 the faint-hearted still further support their advice from the present total subversion of justice. השּׁתות are either the highest ranks, who support the edifice of the state, according to Isaiah 19:10, or, according to Psalm 82:5, Ezekiel 30:4, the foundations of the state, upon whom the existence and well-being of the land depends. We prefer the latter, since the king and those who are loyal to him, who are associated in thought with צדּיק, are compared to the שׁתות. The construction of the clause beginning with כּי is like Job 38:41. The fut. has a present signification. The perf. in the principal clause, as it frequently does elsewhere (e.g., Psalm 39:8; Psalm 60:11; Genesis 21:7; Numbers 23:10; Job 12:9; 2 Kings 20:9) in interrogative sentences, corresponds to the Latin conjunctive (here quid fecerit), and is to be expressed in English by the auxiliary verbs: when the bases of the state are shattered, what can the righteous do? he can do nothing. And all counter-effort is so useless that it is well to be as far from danger as possible.

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