George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 1

Psalm 5

1. Theme

Psalm 5, like Psalm 3, is a morning hymn (v. 3). The daily sacrifices of the tabernacle — the lamb (Exod. 29:38-42) and the incense (Exod. 30:1-8)— were offered both morning and evening (cp. Psa. 141:2). These would therefore be suitable times for meditation and prayer.

2. Background

Continuing with the thoughts of Psalms 3 and 4: Is this another psalm of David at the time of Absalom’s revolt?

  1. See v. 10: “Transgressions” is literally “rebellions” (NIV).
  2. Also compare the unusual “leasing” of v. 6 with 4:2.
  3. David prays that his enemies may fall by their own counsels (v. 10). This is an echo of 2 Samuel 15:31: “O Lord... turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.”
  4. David, separated by his flight from the ark and tabernacle of God (4:6, notes), arises in the morning to envision the services there; and this inspires him to worship God in the only way now available to him (v. 3).

3. Outline

A two-fold repetition:

1. Prayer:

The wicked: “For....” (vv. 4-6)

The righteous: “But....” (v. 7)
2. Prayer:

The wicked: “For....” (vv. 9,10)

The righteous: “But....” (vv. 11,12)

4. Notes

Meditation. Same root word as in 1:2; 2:1. Not silent thoughts, but whispers, directed — in this case — toward God.
My cry: 3:4; 22:24.

My King. To rule, direct: “Lead me....” (v. 8). The king on earth seeks help from the King in heaven.

My God (Elohim). To save, defend: “Defend me....” (vv. 11,12).
My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord. This is the fittest time for communion with God. An hour in the morning is worth two in the evening. When the dew is on the grass, let grace drop upon the soul. Give God the morning of your days, and the “morning” of your life (Eccl. 12:1). Then, surely, the “evening” will take care of itself.

Direct is the Hebrew garak: to prepare, set in order, as a sacrifice. (“My prayer” is in italics; “my offering” is probably better. “I set out my morning sacrifice”: NEB.) Used of preparing wood on the altar in Gen. 22:9; Exod. 40:4,23. Used of priests in arranging the sacrifices in Lev. 1:8,12; 6:12. A term perfectly suitable also for those called to be spiritual “priests” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Look up, with hands uplifted: Psa. 28:2; 134:2. See 141:2 for the connection with the daily sacrifices. This may mean also to watch or look up expectantly (the Hebrew is from a root that forms Mizpeh : “watchtower”), waiting for an answer from the Lord (cp. 85:8; Isa. 21:6,8; Mic. 7:7; Hab. 2:1).
RSV: Evil may not sojourn with thee; “Wrong shall be no guest of thine” (Rotherham). Compare 15:1-5; Hab. 1:13; Isa. 57:15.
Stand. Literally, “station themselves”, as priests in an official capacity.

Thou hatest all workers of iniquity: those who plan and practice the vilest sins as though it were all in a day’s work! See Deut. 7:25; Psa. 45:7; Prov. 6:16-19; Luke 13:27; Rev. 2:6,15.
Leasing, or lying, as in Psa. 4:2. The habitual liar will be excluded from the kingdom of God (Rev. 21:8).
But as for me. The same phrase appears in Psa. 73:2. For the same general thought, see 73:2,3,17: we may be distressed by the wicked, but only until we enter God’s sanctuary and understand what their final end shall be.

I will come into thy house. In contrast to the “evil”, which God will not allow to dwell with Him (v. 4)! The righteous will not stand at a distance, but will come with confidence into the very sanctuary of God, just as a child comes without fear or hesitation into his father’s house (Luke 2:49).

Worship: “Bow down, prostrate myself”.

Temple: Hebrew heykal = palace (cp. 45:8,15; 144:12). The Lord’s dwelling place: either heaven itself (11:4) or the most holy place (18:6; 1 Sam. 1:9; 3:3). “Temple” and “tabernacle” are convertible terms (cp. Psa. 27:4 with 27:6). “Temple” was applied to the Mosaic tabernacle in 1 Sam. 1:9 and 3:3. “Only he who will not allow for any freedom of expression in poetry would draw conclusions against Davidic authorship from the fact that words such as beth (house) and heykal (palace) are here used, and emphasize that in David’s day the sanctuary was still an ohel (tent)” (Kessler).
Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness, as a little child is led by its father, or as a blind man is guided by a friend. It is safe and pleasant walking when the Lord leads the way!

Make thy way straight before my face. Compare the sense of Isa. 40:3. David’s walk was watched, and marked, by his enemies (as was Daniel’s in Dan. 6:4). So he prays that God will direct him in a careful, consistent walk — not leading him into temptation, but delivering him from evil.
Inward part is the fat covering the kidneys (Lev. 3:14-16), the portion offered to God. It is the symbol of inner thoughts, either for good or evil.

Wickedness. “An engulfing ruin” (Rotherham), an “abyss”.

Their throat is an open sepulchre: Continually gaping; loathsome, abominable, dangerous, and never satisfied (Prov. 30:15,16). As the odor of death emanates from open tombs, so also from the lips of wicked men. The words of flatterers (cp. Prov. 28:23) may at first “smell” sweet, like the spices of embalmers, but they scarcely conceal the putrefying corruption underneath! This verse is cited in Rom. 3:13 to prove that all men, both Jews and Gentiles, are under sin — are in fact the “seed of the serpent” — whose tongue brought original sin and death.

They flatter with their tongue. “A smooth tongue is a great evil; many have been bewitched by it....When the wolf licks the lamb, he is preparing to wet his teeth in its blood” (C.H. Spurgeon).
Destroy = “make (i.e. declare) them guilty” (AV mg.). Condemn and punish them, O Lord!

Let them fall by their own counsels. Possibly the counsels of Ahithophel (2 Sam. 15:31; 17:14,23; see Psalms 3 and 4).
The five steps to blessing for the righteous: (1) Trust, (2) Joy, (3) Security, (4) Love, and (5) Blessing.
With favour wilt thou compass him, as with a shield. “Shield” = zinnah, a large shield that protected the entire body. Rendered “buckler” in 35:2.

5. Subscription

Neginoth = “to strike”, as in affliction. See notes on Psalm 3, another “morning hymn”.
Sheminith = eight, or the eighth: a possible reference to circumcision, which is performed on the eighth day (Gen. 17:12; Lev. 12:3; Luke 1:59; 2:21; Acts 7:8; Phil. 3:5). Thus the term may indicate a male choir in the temple (cp. also Psa. 11 and 1 Chron. 15:21).
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