Psalm 54:3
For strangers are risen up against me, and oppressors seek after my soul: they have not set God before them. Selah.
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(3) For strangers.—This verse, with some variations, occurs again (Psalm 86:14); some MSS. even reading here “proud,” instead of “strangers.” With the received reading we must understand by the word “foreign oppressors”—though, doubtless, the inscription of the Psalm may be defended by taking the word in a derived sense of those Israelites who have degenerated, and so deserve the name “aliens.”

54:1-3 God is faithful, though men are not to be trusted, and it is well for us it is so. David has no other plea to depend upon than God's name, no other power to depend upon than God's strength, and these he makes his refuge and confidence. This would be the effectual answer to his prayers. Looking unto David, betrayed by the men of Judah, and to Jesus, betrayed by one of his apostles, what can we expect from any who have not set God before them, save ingratitude, treachery, malice, and cruelty? What bonds of nature, or friendship, or gratitude, or covenant, will hold those that have broken through the fear of God? Selah; Mark this. Let us set God before us at all times; for if we do not, we are in danger of despair.For strangers are risen up against me - That is, foreigners; those of another nation or land. Saul and his friends who sought the life of David were his own countrymen; these persons who sought go betray him were another people. They attempted to gain the favor of Saul, or to secure a reward from him, by betraying to him an innocent man whom he was persecuting.

And oppressors seek after my soul - Seek after my life. The word here rendered "oppressors" means people of violence; the proud; the haughty; persecutors; tyrants. The word properly denotes those who exert their power in an arbitrary manner, or not under the sanction of law.

They have not set God before them - They do not act as in the presence of God. They do not regard his authority. See the notes at Psalm 36:1. The word "Selah" here merely marks a musical pause. It indicates nothing in regard to the sense.

3. strangers—perhaps Ziphites.

oppressors—literally, "terrible ones" (Isa 13:11; 25:3). Such were Saul and his army.

not set … them—acted as atheists, without God's fear (compare Ps 16:8).

Strangers; the Ziphites, whom, though Israelites, he calls strangers, in regard of their barbarous and perfidious disposition and carriage towards him, by which they showed themselves to be estranged from God, as the wicked are said to be, Psalm 58:3, and from the commonwealth of Israel, and from all the laws of piety and humanity; for which causes he calls such persons heathens, Psalm 59:5, and elsewhere.

They have not set God before them; they cast off all regard to thy presence and authority, and all fear of thy judgments. For strangers are risen up against me,.... Meaning such as Doeg the Edomite, or Heathen soldiers, that Saul had hired and took into his army, who were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel; and such as these rose up against David's antitype, the Messiah, Psalm 2:1, Acts 4:27. Or rather the Ziphims, who were of his own nation, yea, of his own tribe, yet used him as barbarously as the very Heathens would have done, or worse; and who, though notwithstanding they were of Israel, might not be Israelites indeed, but strangers to an inward experience of divine and spiritual things: for men may be professors of religion, and yet be strangers to God in Christ, to Christ himself, and the way of salvation by him, and communion with him; to the Spirit of God, and the operations of his grace on the heart; to themselves, their own hearts, and their state and condition by nature; to the Gospel of Christ, and to the people of God; and these are sometimes the most violent persecutors of good and spiritual men;

and oppressors seek after my soul; or "life" (i), to take it away; as did Saul and his army; who are "the mighty" or "strong ones" (k), as the word here used signifies; see 1 Samuel 24:11; and as the Jewish sanhedrim, Scribes and Pharisees, sought after the soul or life of Christ, to take that away, as they did;

they have not set God before them. They did not consider themselves as under the omniscient eye of God; they did not set his word before them, as the rule of their conduct, but cast it behind their backs; nor did they regard his providential mercies and layouts as a motive to engage them to obedience to him, but despised them; they had not the fear of God before their eyes, nor in their hearts, nor any concern for his glory; and therefore did the wicked things they did against his servant.

Selah; on this word; see Gill on Psalm 3:2.

(i) "vitam meam", Junius & Tremellius, Michaelis. (k) "fortes", V. L. Pagninus, Musculus, Gejerus; "praepotentes", Vatablus.

For {b} strangers are risen up against me, and {c} oppressors seek after my soul: they have not set God before them. Selah.

(b) That is, the Ziphims.

(c) Saul and his army who were like cruel beasts, could not be satisfied except by his death.

3. This verse is repeated almost verbatim in Psalm 86:14 (a mosaic constructed of fragments of other Psalms), with the change, accidental or intentional, of strangers into proud. The consonants of the Heb. words zârîm, strangers, and zçdîm, proud, are almost identical, and some Heb. MSS. and the Targ. read zçdîm here; but the rest of the versions support the Massoretic Text.

and oppressors &c.] Render, and violent men have sought my life, as in 1 Samuel 23:15, “David saw that Saul was come out to seek his life.” It has been argued that the terms ‘strangers’ and ‘violent men’ are inapplicable to Israelites, and prove that the title is erroneous. No doubt they are often used of foreign invaders or oppressors (Isaiah 25:2 ff; Isaiah 29:5; Ezekiel 31:12; cp. Isaiah 1:7; Ezekiel 7:21); but ‘violent men’ or ‘terrible ones’ is not exclusively so used (Job 6:23; Jeremiah 15:21), and might well be applied to Saul and his followers; while the Ziphites might be designated ‘strangers,’ in view of their unneighbourly behaviour. It is however possible that ‘strangers’ refers to the men of Keilah, whom there is some ground for regarding as Canaanites. The peculiar term ‘lords’ or ‘owners’ applied to the men of Keilah (1 Samuel 23:11-12) seems to have been specially (though not exclusively) used of Canaanites. See Joshua 24:11; Jdg 9:2 ff; and J. S. Black’s note on the latter passage in the Smaller Cambridge Bible for Schools.

they have not set God before them] They have no regard for God’s will, and no fear of His judgements. Cp. Psalm 10:4-5; Psalm 36:1; and contrast Psalm 16:8; Psalm 18:22. Under other circumstances loyalty to Saul might have required the Ziphites to surrender David: as it was, they were simply fighting against God in making themselves the tools of Saul’s blind rage, for it must have been well known that God intended David to be Saul’s successor.Verse 3. - For strangers are risen up against me. David's designation of his foes as "strangers" has been made an argument against the trustworthiness of the "title," since the Ziphites were Israelites of the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:55). But he might well call those "strangers" who were treating him as an alien. Comp. Psalm 120:5, where "the psalmist, heavily oppressed by his countrymen, complains that he dwelt in Mesheeh and Kedar" (Hengstenberg). And oppressors seek after my soul; or, my life. The phrase is exactly that used in 1 Samuel 23:15, when David was in the wilderness of Ziph, in a wood, and "saw that Saul was come out to seek his life." They have not set God before them (comp. Psalm 86:14). David, on the contrary, "set the Lord always before him" (Psalm 16:8). Instead of הכּל, the totality, we have כּלּו, which denotes each individual of the whole, to which the suffix, that has almost vanished (Psalm 29:9) from the genius of the language, refers. And instead of סר, the more elegant סג, without any distinction in the meaning.
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