The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 11

Psa 11:1


HISTORICAL SETTING: V 1: David's flight. V 4: A "temple" of the Lord appears to be in existence; ref the reign of David after 2Sa 6. The best possibility: ref to Absalom's rebellion, when flight from Jerusalem seemed to be the only option (2Sa 15:13,14). (If heykal, ie temple, means simply dwelling -- a poss but not very likely meaning -- then the reference could more simply be to heaven itself. In that case, the early wilderness years of David could just as well fit the historical context.) The "foundations" (v 3) of the nation -- Kingship and Priesthood, Jachin and Boaz -- were tottering. David attempted to maintain the influence of the latter by sending ark and high priests back into Jerusalem (Psa 11:4; 2Sa 15:25-29). But the salvaging of the situation is really in God's hands (vv 4-7). Alternatively, v 3 may mean: 'You, David, are the foundation of our nation. If anything happens to you, what will happen to our righteous cause?' For this, cp 2Sa 18:3.

MESSIANIC FULFILLMENT: The rejection of Jesus by his people corresponds to the rebellion against the authority of David (WGos 730-732). As Lot and his family were saved from Sodom, so also the believers were saved from doomed Jerusalem: Luk 21:20,21. And as Sodom was desolated by fire, so also was Jerusalem. But that judgment and that escape will be repeated on a vaster scale in the Last Days: Luk 17:26-33; 2Pe 2:6-9; Isa 26:19-21; Eze 38:22.

IN THE LORD I TAKE REFUGE: Trust in the Lord, not in the mountains. Cp the antithesis in Psa 121:1; see also Luk 13:31,32, where Jesus rejected similar "well-meaning" advice. The advice here (vv 1b-3) seems well-meaning, but it is ill-founded, like Peter's to Jesus in Mat 16:22 and the brethren's to Paul in Act 21:12.

FLEE LIKE A BIRD TO YOUR MOUNTAIN: Sodom (Gen 19:14,16-22).

Psa 11:2

THE WICKED BEND THEIR BOWS: The same figure appears in Psa 64:3,4, related to character assassination.

Psa 11:3

THE FOUNDATIONS: The foundations of God's world are used as a figure of His solid and sure purpose with Israel (Isa 51:13; cp also Heb 11:10). LXX reads: "What thou didst establish (as perfect), they have thrown down." According to Paul, God's purpose with the saints also rests on a sure foundation, having the guarantee that "the Lord knoweth them that are his" (2Ti 2:19). So, no matter what men might do for the moment, God is ultimately in control, and His judgment will at the last right all wrongs. In this profound sense, the true "foundations" can never really be undermined or destroyed (BF 79,80).

Psa 11:4

THE LORD IS IN HIS HOLY TEMPLE: The context seems to equate God's temple with heaven itself. But some vv read, the other way round, as though the Holy of Holies was spoken of as "heaven", being God's dwelling place in the midst of His people (1Ki 8:30,33; 2Ch 30:27; Psa 20:2,6; Heb 7:26; cp 2Ch 7:1 with Lev 9:24). Also, "katapetasma", the veil, is a word which means 'a thing spread out': the exact equivalent of "firmament": cp also Jer 17:12. Hab 2:20 quotes v 4a in this sense.

HE OBSERVES: "His eyes behold" (AV): Eze 1:18,20. What a ct with Psa 10:4,11,13! In a like figure, Christ "the Word of God" can search the inner man, because "all things are naked and open [dissected, like a sacrifice on the altar] unto his eyes" (Heb 4:12,13; cp Rev 1:14).

HIS EYES EXAMINE THEM: The squinting, or contracting, of the eyes suggest close scrutiny.

Psa 11:5

THE LORD EXAMINES THE RIGHTEOUS: Or "trieth the righteous" (AV). "All events are under the control of Providence; consequently all the trials of our outward life are traceable at once to the great First Cause. Out of the golden gate of God's ordinance the armies of trial march forth in array, clad in their iron armour, and armed with weapons of war. All providences are doors to trial. Even our mercies, like roses, have their thorns. Men may be drowned in seas of prosperity as well as in rivers of affliction. Our mountains are not too high, and our valleys are not too low for temptations: trials lurk on all roads. Everywhere, above and beneath, we are beset and surrounded with dangers. Yet no shower falls unpermitted from the threatening cloud; every drop has its order ere it hastens to the earth. The trials which come from God are sent to prove and strengthen our graces, and so at once to illustrate the power of divine grace, to test the genuineness of our virtues, and to add to their energy. Our Lord in His infinite wisdom and superabundant love, sets so high a value upon His people's faith that He will not screen them from those trials by which faith is strengthened. You would never have possessed the precious faith which now supports you if the trial of your faith had not been like unto fire. You are a tree that never would have rooted so well if the wind had not rocked you to and fro, and made you take firm hold upon the precious truths of the covenant grace. Worldly ease is a great foe to faith; it loosens the joints of holy valour, and snaps the sinews of sacred courage. The balloon never rises until the cords are cut; affliction doth this sharp service for believing souls. While the wheat sleeps comfortably in the husk it is useless to man, it must be threshed out of its resting place before its value can be known. Thus it is well that Jehovah trieth the righteous, for it causeth them to grow rich towards God" (CHS).

Psa 11:6

HE WILL RAIN FIERY COALS: "Rain snares" (AV) does not sound right. The smallest possible correction turns the noun into hot coals (NEB; AV mg; cp Gen 19:24,28). Thus Sodom serves as a vivid example of sudden and irremediable divine judgment (Luk 17:28-32; 2Pe 2:6-9; Jud 1:7). (Also a poss allusion to Rom 12:20?)

Psa 11:7

UPRIGHT MEN WILL SEE HIS FACE: Consider the sequence: Exo 33:20; 1Co 13:12; Rev 22:4. See also Psa 4:6; 16:8,11; 17:15; 23:6; 140:13; Mat 5:8; 1Jo 3:2. Parallel in the related NT passage: "The Lord knoweth them that are his" (2Ti 2:19).

HIS FACE: The AV "shewbread" (Exo 25:30; 1Sa 21:6) is actually "the bread of the face". Suggests the seriousness of breaking of bread: "Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face." In Psalms, God's face always ref God's presence in ark/tabernacle/temple: see VL, Psalms, God's face.

SUBSCRIPTION: "FOR THE DIRECTOR OF MUSIC. ACCORDING TO SHEMINITH": "Sheminith": Eight, or the eighth: a poss ref to circumcision, performed the 8th day (Gen 17:12; Lev 12:3; Luk 1:59; 2:21; Ac 7:8; Phi 3:5). May indicate a male choir in the temple (cp also Psa 5; 1Ch 15:21). The "8th": certain especially solemn seasons of worship, on the 8th day (Lev 23:36; Num 29:35; Neh 8:18).

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