1. O Lord, how are my oppressors multiplied! many rise up against me.2. Many say to my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.
Sacred history teaches that David was not only dethroned, but forsaken by almost all men; so that he had well nigh as many enemies as he had subjects. It is true there accompanied him in his flight a few faithful friends; but he escaped in safety, not so much by their aid and protection as by the hiding-places of the wilderness. It is therefore not wonderful though he was affrighted by the great numbers who were opposed to him, for nothing could have taken place more unlooked for, on his part, than so sudden a rebellion. It was a mark of uncommon faith, when smitten with so great consternation, to venture freely to make his complaint to God, and, as it were, to pour out his soul into his bosom. And certainly the only remedy for allaying our fears is this, to cast upon him all the cares which trouble us; as, on the other hand, those who have the conviction that they are not the objects of his regard, must be prostrated and overwhelmed by the calamities which befall them.
In the third verse he expresses more distinctly, and more emphatically, the pride of his enemies in deriding him as a castaway, and as a person whose circumstances were past hope. And he means, that their boldness increased hereupon, because they were confident he had been rejected by God. Perhaps, in these words also, their ungodliness is indirectly referred to, inasmuch as they made no account of the help of God in preserving the king whom he had chosen. And this second view is the more probable, for Absalom did not flatter himself with the hope of the favor of God, but, entirely disregarding him, hoped for victory from his own power. David, therefore, expressly introduces both him and the rest as speaking after this manner, to show that it was by a monstrous and outrageous contempt of God that they were driven to such fury against him, as if they made no account whatever of the fact of his having been often wonderfully delivered from the greatest dangers. The ungodly, when they rise up to destroy us, may not openly break forth into such daring presumption as to maintain it to be impossible for us to derive any advantage from the favor of God; yet, as they either ascribe every thing to fortune, or hold the opinion that a man's success will be in proportion to his strength, and therefore fearlessly rush forward to gain their object, by all means, whether right or wrong, as if it would be equally the same, whether God is angry with or favorable towards them, it is evident that they set no value whatever upon the favor of God, and mock at the faithful as if it would avail them nothing to be under the care and protection of God.
The translation of some, Many say OF my soul, does not give the true meaning of this passage. The letter l lamed is indeed sometimes used as meaning of in Hebrew, but David here intended to express something more, namely, that his heart was in a manner pierced with the mockery of his enemies. The word soul, therefore, in my opinion, here signifies the seat of the affections. And it has a corresponding meaning in a passage which we shall meet with in another Psalm, (Psalm 35:3,) |Say to my soul, I am thy salvation.| David thus teaches us by his own example, that although the whole world, with one voice, should attempt to drive us to despair, instead of listening to it, we ought rather to give ear to God alone, and always cherish within us the hope of the salvation which he hath promised; and as the ungodly use their endeavors to destroy our souls, we ought to defend them by our prayers. With respect to the word Selah, interpreters are not agreed. Some maintain it is a mark of affirmations and has the same signification as truly or amen. Others understand it as meaning for ever. But as sll Selal, from which it is derived, signifies to lift up, we incline to the opinion of those who think it denotes the lifting up of the voice in harmony in the exercise of singing. At the same time, it must be observed, that the music was adapted to the sentiment, and so the harmony was in unison with the character or subject-matter of the song; just as David here, after having complained of his enemies for shamefully laughing to scorn his hope, as if the protection of God would be of no avail to him, fixes the attention on this blasphemy, which severely wounded his heart, by the use of the word Selah; and as a little after, when he has added a new ground of confidence with regard to the safety of his person, he repeats the same word.