O Jehovah my God, if I have done this;
If there be iniquity in my hands;
If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me
(Yea, I have delivered him that without cause was mine adversary);
Let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it;
Yea, let him tread my life down to the earth,
And lay my glory in the dust. (Selah)"
Notice the triple "if" in Ps. 7:3-5. This format was typical of what was called The Oath of Clearance which is mentioned in 1 Kings 8:31-32. When one was accused, he could go to the temple and there take a solemn oath after the pattern noted here, asking that God would receive his affirmation as righteous and true, including also a curse upon his own head in case his oath was false. This oath was supposed to be taken in the Temple and administered by the priests; but it was sometimes taken elsewhere. Job is supposed to have had this Oath of Clearance in mind in the words of Job 31:5-40.F4
The fact of David's having been viciously slandered by people like Doeg and perhaps also by Cush the Benjamite, has led some to refer to this Psalm as the Song of the Slandered Saint. But as someone once said, "If God Himself was slandered in the Garden of Eden, we mortals living upon this sinful and rebellious earth should not expect to escape it."
The New English Bible's rendition of the second line in Ps. 7:4 is severely condemned by Derek Kidner who affirmed that, "Their translation not only contradicts the Old Testament's demand of generosity to a personal enemy, but also David's known convictions."F5
Yea, I have delivered him that without cause was mine adversary. George DeHoff cited two clear examples of David's doing that very thing on behalf of King Saul in 1 Sam. 24:1-22; and in 1 Sam. 26:1-25.F6
In the following six verses (Psalms 7:5-11), believed by some to have once been a separate Psalm, "The Psalm moves from the intensely personal plea of a man who is betrayed and hounded, to the conviction that God is judge of all the earth,"F7 and in effect calls for such a judgment in which Israel will be declared innocent.
It was perhaps passages such as this one that led ancient Israel to the habit of frequently calling upon God to usher in the judgment day. Of course, they had some very erroneous ideas about that day, as indicated by the prophet Amos (Amos 5:18-20). For some, the Judgment Day was envisioned as a day when Almighty God would appear, kill all the Gentiles and turn the whole world over to God's Chosen People!
Arise, O Jehovah, in thine anger;
Lift up thyself against the rage of mine adversaries,
And awake for me; thou hast commanded judgment.
And let the congregation of the peoples compass thee about;
And over them return thou on high."
Here the petitioner would appear to be personified Israel, pleading for justice before the Great and Final Tribunal. Israel never seemed to understand the warning of Amos, mentioned above, to the effect that the Judgment Day would be a day of sorrow and not a day of joy.
The picture here is that of the Lord reigning on high and holy Israel gathered around him.
Jehovah ministereth judgment to the peoples.
Judge me, O Jehovah, according to my righteousness, and to mine integrity that is in me.
Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish thou the righteous:
For the righteous God trieth the minds and hearts."
In these two verses we have the universal hope and longing of the redeemed of all ages. The blessing of God upon the righteous and the cessation of wickedness are the ideals to be realized ultimately in that "new heaven and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." It does not seem to this author a reasonable expectation for our troubled and rebellious earth to attain such a status during the current dispensation.
My shield is with God,
Who saveth the upright in heart.
God is a righteous judge,
Yea, a God that hath indignation every day."
Verses 10, 11
My shield is with God, Who saveth the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, Yea, a God that hath indignation every day.
God is angry with the wicked every day, and presumably that is the indignation indicated here. The righteous are protected and blessed by the Lord who is a shield about them, protecting and preserving them from the ravages of the wicked.
The last six verses (Psalms 7:12-17) return to a description of God's judgment upon evil men, who appear here as the enemies of the hated and slandered righteous man of Ps. 7:1-5.
If a man turn not, he will whet his sword;
He hath bent his bow, and made it ready;
He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death;
He maketh his arrows fiery shafts.
Behold, he travaileth with iniquity;
Yea, he hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood."
If a man turn not, he will whet his sword; He hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; He maketh his arrows fiery [shafts]. Behold, he travaileth with iniquity; Yea, he hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.
This is any man who will not repent; and he is here represented as a man pregnant with wickedness, who has conceived mischief, and will soon be delivered of falsehood! What a picture! His delight is in the preparation of the tools for killing and murder. His bow and his arrows have received from him the most careful attention. He has sharpened his sword continually. How will God handle such a character? The answer is revealed in the next two verses.
He hath made a pit, and digged it.
And is fallen into the ditch which he made.
His mischief shall return upon his own head,
And his violence shall come down upon his own pate."
Haman made a gallows upon which he planned to hang Mordecai, but it was Haman himself who was hanged there; and many another wicked man has experienced exactly the same kind of retribution.
It is of interest that Spurgeon in his "Treasury of David" interpreted these lines of God Himself; but the words "If a man turn not" in Ps. 7:12, it seems to this writer, require the understanding of the passage as indicated here.
I will give thanks unto Jehovah according to his righteousness,
And will sing praise to Jehovah Most High."
It is of great interest here that the true God is designated as Most High. Yes, it is true that the pagans of Palestine so designated one of their false deities, but "in the Bible" the term has no other application than the one evident here. It belongs to the true God and Creator of all things. Melchizedek was a priest of "God Most High" (Genesis 14:17-24); and in the few verses where he is introduced the expression "God Most High" is found four times; but the expression is not often found in the Old Testament. Significantly, Abraham himself used it and made it absolutely certain that the words refer to the true and only God. He said, "I have lifted up my hand unto Jehovah God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth" (Genesis 14:22).
The scriptural application of the words is made even more certain in the New Testament, where the author of Hebrews revealed Melchizedek as a type of Jesus Christ, absolutely forbidding the notion that Melchizedek was the worshipper of a false deity. Also in Luke 8:18 the demoniac confessed the Christ as "Son of God Most High," adding the request that Christ would not torment him. The Matthew account of the same event (Matthew 8:29) indicated that the demonic world recognized the right of God to torment them eventually in hell at some appointed time in the future, hence the request that Christ would not torment him "before the time."
Likewise, the martyr Stephen's great address has a reference to "The Most High" (Acts 7:48), revealing that Person as the one whose throne is in heaven and who "dwelleth not in temples made with hands."
Footnotes for Psalms 7
1: W. E. Addis, Peake's Commentary on the Bible (Edinburgh: T. C. and E. C. Jack, Ltd., 1924), p. 374.
2: George DeHoff, DeHoff Commentary, Vol. 3 (Murfreesboro, Tennessee: DeHoff Publications), p. 94.
3: Arnold Rhodes, The Layman's Bible Commentary (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1960), p. 34.
5: Derek Kidner, Psalm 7 (London: InterVarsity Press, 1973), p. 64.
6: George DeHoff, op. cit., p. 94.
7: Derek Kidner, op. cit., p. 63.