Psalm 3

Notes (NET Translation)

A psalm of David, written when he fled from his son Absalom.

The psalm titles are part of the canonical text. Some editions will assign the title to the first verse while other editions will not assign a verse number to the title. This is why references to a verse in the Psalter can seem to be off by one.

The Hebrew preposition le, used in titles throughout the Psalter, can be translated a number of ways based on context: (1) for, for use on, for the use of; (2) by; (3) on behalf of; (4) to, dedicated to, belonging to; or (5) with reference to, concerning, about. Unfortunately, the context of the psalm titles is too ambiguous for us to know how the preposition is used in each instance. In general, the title does not require that the psalm was authored by the person mentioned.

David’s escape from his son Absalom is narrated in 2 Sam. 15:13ff. The content of the psalm fits David’s situation and there is nothing in the psalm that rules out David being its author. The generality of the language makes the psalm amenable for use by others.

1 Lord, how numerous are my enemies! Many attack me.

David invokes the covenantal name Yahweh (“Lord”). He was faced with enemies from within Israel, led by his son Absalom (2 Sam. 15:13; 17:11).

2 Many say about me, “God will not deliver him.” (Selah)

In 2 Sam. 16:7-8 Shimei curses David: “Leave! Leave! You man of bloodshed, you wicked man! The Lord has punished you for all the spilled blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you rule. Now the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. Disaster has overtaken you, for you are a man of bloodshed!”

The term selah occurs 71 times in the Psalter. It’s exact meaning is uncertain but the term is generally thought to have “some kind of musical significance, either with respect to the singing of the psalm or with respect to its musical accompaniment” (Craigie 2004, p. 76). The LXX translation might imply “pause”, “instrumental interlude”, or “louder”. The Targum and some early Christian interpreters took it to mean “for ever”, implying that a benediction or chorus was to be sung. D. Kidner thinks it is derived from the root sll, meaning to lift up. Perhaps it was to strike up with voices or instruments (Kidner 2008, p. 51).

3 But you, Lord, are a shield that protects me; you are my glory and the one who restores me.

Note the confidence that God will restore him (cf. 2 Sam. 7:10-11, 29).

4 To the Lord I cried out, and he answered me from his holy hill. (Selah)

As he left Jerusalem David wept and covered his head in shame (2 Sam. 15:30). The “holy hill” is Mount Zion/Jerusalem.

5 I rested and slept; I awoke, for the Lord protects me.

The act of sleep expresses David’s confidence in God’s response.

6 I am not afraid of the multitude of people who attack me from all directions.

7 Rise up, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Yes, you will strike all my enemies on the jaw; you will break the teeth of the wicked.

David uses the language of his enemies (“deliver”, v. 2) to petition God. The deliverance of David requires the defeat of his enemies. The enemies are defeated by God, not merely because they crossed the wrong man, but because they are wicked.

8 The Lord delivers; you show favor to your people. (Selah)

David was eventually victorious (2 Sam. 19:1-2). Things are ultimately in God’s hands. The Davidic covenant effects the people as a whole. A king serves his people, who are God’s people, not his own.


Craigie, Peter C., and Marvin E. Tate. Psalms 1-50. Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004.

Goldingay, John. Psalms: Volume 1: Psalms 1-41. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 2006.

Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.

VanGemeren, Willem. Psalms. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008.


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