What does Psalms 55 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
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).
Verse Context:
Psalm 55:1–8 focuses on David's prayer for the Lord's help. David describes his trouble and the intense, negative feelings that overwhelm him. He recognizes the pressing danger of his enemies—later verses point out that a close friend has betrayed him. If he could, David would escape somewhere far away and seek shelter.
Psalm 55:9–15 transitions from David asking for rescue into a description of the evil his enemies commit. His foes bring violence, division, fraud, and oppression to the capital city of Jerusalem. Further, a former ally has betrayed David. These descriptions seem to match his experience during the rebellion of Absalom, who was aided by David's prior counselor, Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:13–14, 31). Rather than seeking revenge himself, David prays for the Lord's judgment to come on these ungodly persecutors.
Psalm 55:16–21 includes a prayer for God to judge David's enemies, especially the traitor who was his former friend. David expresses supreme confidence that God will hear his prayer. Likewise, he is sure that those who ignore the Lord will be "humbled" and defeated.
Psalm 55:22–23 concludes the song by advising all men to rely entirely on God. David trusted the Lord to "sustain" him, even in hard times, such as those described in this psalm. David knew that good people could experience violence and persecution, but in the end, their place with God was secure. In contrast, evil men like those attacking David were assured of swift destruction.
Chapter Summary:
David begins this song with a prayer for rescue, likely from his rebelling son, Absalom (2 Samuel 15:1–12). David is pained because of a close ally's betrayal; this would refer to Ahithophel, who sided with the rebels (2 Samuel 15:31). This situation creates intense fear. However, David is confident God will rescue him. He is fully assured that those who attack him will be humbled and judged by the Lord.
Chapter Context:
This is among the psalms recording David's plea for divine help in a time of persecution (Psalms 3; 6; 35). He was betrayed by a close friend, likely Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:31). This was probably written in response to the rebellion of Absalom (2 Samuel 15:1–12). Despite his trouble, David was confident God would protect him and punish his enemies.
Book Summary:
The book of Psalms is composed of individual songs, hymns, or poems, each of which is a ''Psalm'' in and of itself. These works contain a wide variety of themes. Some Psalms focus on praising and worshipping God. Others cry out in anguish over the pain of life. Still other Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah. While some Psalms are related, each has its own historical and biblical context.
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