What does Psalm chapter 55 mean?This psalm is not assigned to any specific event. However, clues throughout tie closely to the rebellion of Absalom and the betrayal of Ahithophel. When David's son tried to take over the kingdom (2 Samuel 15:1–12), one of David's closest advisors sided with the rebels (2 Samuel 15:31). This forced David to flee from Jerusalem and sparked a bloody civil conflict (2 Samuel 15:14; 18:6–8). The song is attached to instructions about the use of stringed instruments. The description of this as a maskiyl implies a contemplative, somber song (Psalm 32:1; 53:1; 89:1).
David begins with a prayer for rescue. His enemies inspire deep terror; David describes his fear using a Hebrew term which literally means "trembling" or "shaking." He imagines being able to fly, with actual wings, far from danger and away from trouble. Those who attack him are powerful and make a great "noise," much like a storm (Psalm 55:1–8).
While asking for deliverance, David also prays God would judge his enemies. He describes the chaos and evil they have brought to Jerusalem. He suggests that these opponents deal in lies and brutality. Worse, for David, this opposition also comes from a former ally. This person was once a trusted friend and valued advisor—likely a reference to Ahithophel, the royal counselor-turned-traitor. David asks God to bring swift, immediate justice on these enemies (Psalm 55:9–15).
Near the end of this psalm, David prays directly for God's judgment to come on those who attack him. He makes this request with utmost confidence, sure that the Lord will spare him from defeat. Some of the language in this section echoes a psalm David wrote specifically in response to the rebellion of Absalom (Psalm 3). David's enemies are sure to suffer destruction because they refuse to turn from their evil. Among these are the traitor whose deceptive words disguised ill intent (Psalm 55:16–21).
David ends this psalm with a call for all to rely entirely on the Lord God. David himself knew that faithful service to God does not mean immunity from hardship (John 16:33). Yet he recognized the Lord's eternal perspective (Romans 8:28). Those who love God and are born again are secure in their salvation. In contrast, those who refuse to trust in the Lord are doomed to "the pit of destruction" depicted in the end times (Revelation 20:15) (Psalm 55:22–23).