C.H. Spurgeons's The Treasury of David
Verse 2. David complains before his loving God of the worst weapon of his enemies' attacks, and the bitterest drop of his distresses. "Oh!" saith David, many there be that say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Some of his distrustful friends said this sorrowfully, but his enemies exultingly boasted of it, and longed to see their words proved by his total destruction. This was the most unkind cut of all, when they declared that his God had forsaken him. Yet David knew in his own conscience that he had given them some ground for this exclamation, for he had committed sin against God in the very light of day. Then they flung his crime with Bathsheba into his face, and they said, "Go up, thou bloody man; God hath forsaken thee and left thee." Shimei cursed him, and swore at him to his very face, for he was bold because of his backers, since multitudes of the men of Belial thought of David in like fashion. Doubtless, David felt this infernal suggestion to be staggering to his faith. If all the trials which come from heaven, all the temptations which ascend from hell, and all the crosses which arise from earth, could be mixed and pressed together, they would not make a trial so terrible as that which is contained in this verse. It is the most bitter of all afflictions to be led to fear that there is no help for us in God. And yet remember our most blessed Saviour had to endure this in the deepest degree when he cried, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" He knew full well what is was to walk in darkness and to see no light. This was the curse of the curse. This was the wormwood mingled with the gall. To be deserted of his Father was worse than to be the despised of men. Surely we should love him who suffered this bitterest of temptations and trials for our sake. It will be a delightful and instructive exercise for the loving heart to mark the Lord in his agonies as here pourtrayed, for there is here, and in very many other Psalms, far more of David's Lord than of David himself.
Selah. This is a musical pause; the precise meaning of which is not known. Some think it simply a rest, a pause in the music; others say it means, "Lift up the strain -- sing more loudly -- pitch the tune upon a higher key -- there is nobler matter to come, therefore retune your harps." Harp strings soon get out of order and need to be screwed up again to their proper tightness, and certainly our heart strings are evermore getting out of tune, Let "Selah" teach us to pray
"O may my heart in tune be found Like David's harp of solemn sound."
At least we may learn that wherever we see "Selah," we should look upon it as a note of observation. Let us read the passage which precedes and succeeds it with greater earnestness, for surely there is always something excellent where we are required to rest and pause and meditate, or when we are required to lift up our hearts in grateful song. "SELAH."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 2. When the believer questions the power of God, or his interest in it, his joy gushes out as blood out of a broken vein. This verse is a sore stab indeed. William Gurnall.
Verse 2. A child of God startles at the very thought of despairing of help in God; you cannot vex him with anything so much as if you offer to persuade him, There is no help for him in God. David comes to God, and tells him what his enemies said of him, as Hezekiah spread Rabshakeh's blasphemous letter before the Lord; they say, "There is no help for me in thee;" but, Lord, if it be so, I am undone. They say to my soul, "There is no salvation" (for so the word is) "for him in God;" but, Lord, do thou say unto my soul, "I am thy salvation" (Psalms 35:3), and that shall satisfy me, and in due time silence them. Matthew Henry.
Verse 2,4,8. Selah. (hlv) Much has been written on this word, and still its meaning does not appear to be wholly determined. It is rendered in the Targum or Chaldee paraphrase, (!yml[l), lealmin, for ever, or to eternity. In the Latin Vulgate, it is omitted, as if it were no part of the text. In the Septuagint it is rendered diayalma, supposed to refer to some variation or modulation of the voice in singing. Schleusner, Lex. The word occurs seventy three times in the Psalms, and three times in the book of Habakkuk 3:3,9,13. It is never translated in our version, but in all these places the original word Selah is retained. It occurs only in poetry, and is supposed to have had some reference to the singing or cantillation of the poetry, and to be probably a musical term. In general, also, it indicates a pause in the sense, as well as in the musical performance. Gesenius (Lex.) supposes that the most probable meaning of this musical term or note is silence or pause, and that its use was, in chanting the words of the Psalm, to direct the singer to be silent, to pause a little, while the instruments played an interlude or harmony. Perhaps this is all that can now be known of the meaning of the word, and this is enough to satisfy every reasonable enquiry. It is probable, if this was the use of the term, that it would commonly correspond with the sense of the passage, and be inserted where the sense made a pause suitable; and this will doubtless be found usually to be the fact. But anyone acquainted at all with the character of musical notation, will perceive at once that we are not to suppose that this would be invariably or necessarily the fact, for the musical pauses by no means always correspond with pauses in the sense. This word, therefore, can furnish very little assistance in determining the meaning of the passages where it is found. Ewald supposes, differing from this view, that it rather indicates that in the places where it occurs the voice is to be raised, and that it is synonymous with up, higher, loud, or distinct, from (lv) sal, (llv) salal, to ascend. Those who are disposed to enquire further respecting its meaning, and the uses of musical pauses in general, may be referred to Ugolin, "Thesau. Antiq. Sacr.," Tim 22 Albert Barnes, 1868.
Verse 2,4,8. Selah, (hlv) is found seventy three times in the Psalms, generally at the end of a sentence or paragraph; but in Psalms 55:19 57:3, it stands in the middle of the verse. While most authors have agreed in considering this word as somehow relating to the music, their conjectures about its precise meaning have varied greatly. But at present these two opinions chiefly obtain. Some, including Herder, De Wette, Ewald (Poet. Bucher, i. 179), and Delitzsch, derive it from (hlv), or (llv), to raise, and understand an elevation of the voice or music; others, after Gesenius, in Thesaurus, derive it from (hlv), to be still or silent, and understand a pause in the singing. So Rosenmüller, Hengstenberg, and Tholuck. Probably selah was used to direct the singer to be silent, or to pause a little, while the instruments played an interlude (so Sept., diayalma or symphony.) In 9:16, it occurs in the expression higgaion selah, which Gesenius, with much probability, renders instrumental music, pause; i.e., let the instruments strike up a symphony, and let the singer pause. By Tholuck and Hengstenberg, however, the two words are rendered meditation, pause; i.e., let the singer meditate while the music stops. Benjamin Davies, Ph.D., L.L.D., article Psalms, in Kitto's Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 2. The lie against the saint and the libel upon his God.