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Psalm chapter 60

What does Psalm chapter 60 mean?

During his military campaigns, David fought the Arameans and Ammonites to the north of Israel. These wars are recorded, in part, in 2 Samuel chapter 8 and 1 Chronicles chapter 18. At one point during the northern campaign, it seems that Edom made a surprise attack from the south. This was a dire threat, as David's response in this psalm proves. The psalm is labelled "for instruction" likely because of the outcome. David prays for rescue, while expressing faithful confidence in the Lord's intent to save Israel. Abishai, sent by David and aided by Joab, was able to counter the Edomites and attain a great victory (1 Chronicles 11:6; 18:12).

The Hebrew phrase susan' 'ēdut' literally means "lily of the testimony." Many Bible versions translate this phrase into English, as they do titles for other melodies associated with various psalms (Psalm 22:1; 56:1). Other scholars transliterate the phrase into variations of "Shushan Eduth." A "miktam" was most likely a musical style (Psalm 16:1; 56:1; 57:1; 58:1; 59:1). The choirmaster would have led corporate worship.

The psalm begins with David expressing grief and horror. Despite this, his words speak only in terms of God's actions. Even in this circumstance, David's instinct is to see the Lord as sovereign over all things. The land is torn and shattered by invaders. The situation is grim, with the spread-out army in a state of shock and confusion almost like being drunk. Yet David knows that the Lord is in control. Even in this situation, He is leading His people (Psalm 60:1–5).

Next, the Lord responds by describing territories within Israel and those in enemy lands. He speaks reassuringly of His chosen people. Gilead and Manasseh, stretching over both sides of the Jordan River, are in His control. The powerful tribe of Ephraim acts as a defensive "helmet" for the nation. The tribe of Judah is the source of legitimate kings. In contrast, God speaks of Moab as a mere tool. Edom—the invading nation—is slated for defeat, as are the Philistines (Psalm 60:6–8).

When Mary was told she would give birth to Jesus, she reacted with wonder at "how," not "if," God would make this occur (Luke 1:34). In a similar way, David saw no evidence that God was—at that moment—aiding Israel. He knows victory is only possible with God's power; yet when this psalm was written he hadn't yet seen the means the Lord would use. Yet David speaks with confidence, repeating his prayer and expressing trust that with God's help, the nation will succeed (Psalm 60:9–12).
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