What does Psalm chapter 56 mean?David wrote this psalm in response to his experiences in Gath. He had fled there to escape Saul (1 Samuel 19:1–2, 18; 21:10–15). David pretended to be insane when captured by the Philistines so they would not see him as a threat. The song echoes themes common in Psalms, such as trust in the Lord despite danger and a commitment to praise God for His provision. The song is probably meant to be set to a tune called "The Dove on Far-Off Terebinths."
Opening phrases set the tone for the rest of the song. David prays for rescue from the constant threat of his enemies. Despite this, he resolves to respond with trust in the Lord. David asks, rhetorically, what possible danger could earthly men be compared to the power of God (Psalm 56:1–4).
David's enemies act with hate and malice. They have driven him into the wilderness (1 Samuel 19:1–2, 18; 20:1; 23:15). Yet David is confident that God is aware of these struggles. Even further, God is depicted as treasuring David's suffering: symbolically saving all of David's tears. This highlights the biblical teaching that no suffering is purposeless. God sees, knows, and will account for everything in the end. This assurance once again leads David to trust the Lord, giving Him praise (Psalm 56:5–11).
The psalm ends with David's commitment to publicly thank God for His deliverance. As he does in other songs (Psalm 3:7–8; 9:5–6; 52:9), David speaks of rescue as if it has already happened. Faith leads David to trust, being fully confident he will once again praise the Lord in safety (Psalm 56:12–13).