Psalm 55

55:0David had a friend. They did a lot of good things together. But one day the friend betrayed David. David thought that his friend liked him, but he was wrong. His friend worked for David's enemies. This is like Jesus' friend Judas. Judas told Jesus' enemies where to catch Jesus. Judas betrayed Jesus as David's friend betrayed David. But who was David's friend?

– Maybe it was Ahithophel. You will find the story in 2 Samuel 15:31; 16:15-23 and 17:1-23. Old Jewish Bibles tell us that it was Ahithophel, but not everyone agrees.

– Maybe it was Absalom. Absalom was King David's son. So, he was a prince. ‘A man just like me’ in verse 13 may mean ‘a king or a prince like me.’ Again, not everyone agrees. The story of how Absalom tried to kill David and become king himself is in 2 Samuel chapters 15 to 19.

– Maybe we will never know! David had many friends whose names we do not know. Many Christians now think that one of these betrayed David. They said that they were David's friends, but they helped David's enemies in a secret way.

Betraying a Friend

This is for the music leader.

He must use musical instruments.

It is a maskil for David.

55:0The psalm has 3 parts:

– Verses 1-8: Here David tells us that his enemies have made him afraid.

– Verses 9-14: Here David tells us about his friend that told his enemies about him.

– Verses 15-23: Here David prays that God will send his enemies to Sheol.

1 God, listen to my prayer.

Do not turn away when I cry for mercy.

2 Hear me and answer me.

I cannot sleep because of my trouble. I am very unhappy

3 because of what my enemies say. They give me a lot of pain.

And they are so angry that they hate and make trouble for me.

55:3Verse 3: ‘Pain’ here is not only what his body feels. It is what he also feels in his mind (or, as the Jews would say, in his heart).

4 My heart is jumping inside me.

And all the fear of death is on every side of me.

55:4Verse 4: So, his heart is ‘jumping.’ Here it means his real heart, not his thoughts. He can feel his heart inside him. It is like when we feel our hearts after we have run fast! It also happens to us when we are afraid. David was afraid that his enemies would kill him.

5 Great fear and shaking have come to me.

They are all over me.

55:5Verse 5: Not only does our heart jump when we are afraid. Our whole body shakes, or trembles. It cannot stop moving.

6 So I said, ‘I would like to fly away as a bird.

Then I would find peace.

55:6Verse 6: The bird here is a dove. Christians use the dove as a sign of peace. David wants wings like a bird, then he can fly away to a place where his enemies cannot find him. A bird uses its wings when it flies.

7 Yes! I would go far away and live in a wild place.

SELAH

55:7Verse 7: The wild place, or wilderness, was near Jerusalem. Not many people lived there. David's enemies did not live there, so there would be no fighting!

8 I would hurry to a safe place,

safe from angry wind and storm.’

55:8Verse 8: The ‘angry wind and storm’ were the things that his enemies were doing. They were trying to kill David.

In this part of the psalm, SELAH may be in the wrong place. Many people think that it should be after verse 8. We are not sure what selah means. Most people now think it means a place where we stop and think, or pray, or make music.

9 Lord, destroy the evil people! Confuse their words!

Because I see fighting and angry people in the city.

55:9Verse 9: The city is Jerusalem, where David lived. This may have happened when Absalom tried to become king.

10 They walk on its walls in the day and at night.

There are evil things and trouble inside it.

11 Cruel men that destroy people are in the city.

People that tell lies never leave her streets.

55:11Verse 11: Oppression is when people with power hurt people that have no power. It is common in our world today.

12 For it was not an enemy that laughed at me.

That would not have hurt me.

It was not someone that fought against me and said bad things to me.

I could have hidden from him!

13 But it was you, a man just like me!

We did things together, you were my best friend!

55:13Verse 13: ‘A man just like me’ may mean a king or a prince. It was somebody that was often with David. It was not a servant or a slave.

14 We had good times together!

We used to go with a crowd of people to the house of God!

15 I want death to take my enemies by surprise!

I want them to go down to Sheol alive!

Because evil has made its home in them.

55:15Verse 15: Here David is praying that his enemies will die. Sheol was where dead people went. Very bad people went to a part of Sheol that they called ‘the pit.’

2 Samuel tells us that Ahithophel and Absalom both died before David came back to Jerusalem. ‘Evil has made a home in them’ means that ‘they are evil (or very bad) people.’

16 But I will cry to God for help and the LORD will make me safe.

17 I will tell God that something is wrong,

and cry to him in the evening, in the morning and at noon.

He will listen to my voice.

55:17Verse 17: The Jews prayed to God 7 times a day in later years. Here the psalmist, David, prays 3 times a day.

18 He will make me safe and well

after the many times that I have fought against people

that are my enemies.

19 God will listen to me and he will punish them.

God will always be King!

SELAH

He will never change towards the people that are not afraid of God.

55:19Verse 19: This verse is very difficult to translate. Bible students are not sure what it means. Our translation is one way to understand it. Again, SELAH seems to be in the wrong place. It is not usual to find it in the middle of a verse!

20 But my best friend attacks his friends.

He does not do what he promised to do.

55:20Verse 20: The word ‘he’ in this verse is confusing. ‘He’ is not God, who was ‘he’ in verses 17 and 18. ‘He’ in verse 20 may be:

– Either David's best friend from verse 13

– Or one of the people that are not afraid of God in verse 19

– Or both of them!

21 What he says is as soft as butter, but there is war in his heart.

His words are as soothing as oil but really they are like sharp knives.

55:21Verse 21: This verse is a good example of poetry, both Hebrew and English.

– In English poetry we try to make the words sound beautiful. Also, to tell us things, using words in a way that is not usual. Words can be like butter or oil, soft and soothing. Such words do not hurt us. But a person may not mean what he says. He may tell lies.

– In Hebrew poetry the second part of a verse often says the same as the first part. But, it uses different words.

22 Take your problems to the LORD. He will give you help.

The LORD will never let his people fall.

55:22Verse 22: Peter repeats this verse in 1 Peter 5:7 in the New Testament. Peter used the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The ‘he’ is again difficult as it was in verse 19. So we have used the Greek translation of the Old Testament just like Peter did. ‘His people’ in both the Hebrew and Greek Old Testaments is ‘the righteous.’ Look after Psalm 5, for what it means.

23 And you, God, you will make bad people go to the pit.

The pit will destroy them.

It will destroy the people that tell lies and kill people.

They will only live half their lives!

But I will trust in you, God.

55:23Verse 23: ‘Half their lives’ means 30 or 40 years, not 70 or 80 years. This is because in the Bible a life is 70 or 80 years.