Psalms 7 Commentary

Psalm 7 Against Cush, a Benjaminite

During the reign of Saul, David won much fame for himself. Saul became jealous and attempted to murder David. When David escaped, Saul pursued him cruelly, being urged on by a group of zealous courtiers (probably from Saul’s tribe of Benjamin), who accused David of plotting to overthrow the king (1 Sam 18:22-26; 22:7; 24:9; 26:19; cf. 2 Sam 16:5; 20:1).

The time was one of considerable suffering and temptation for David, but he remained guiltless throughout. He refused to do anything against Saul, whom he still acknowledged as God’s anointed king. All he wanted was to save his own life (1 Sam 20:1; 24:11; 26:9). Cush, the Benjaminite against whom David wrote this psalm, was probably one of those who falsely accused David and urged Saul to destroy him.

Unjustly pursued by fierce enemies, David turns to God for protection (1-2). In a strongly worded statement he boldly declares his innocence (3-5). He appeals to the judge of heaven and earth also to declare his innocence, and in addition to condemn his enemies (6-9). David’s confidence is that God always acts justly (10-11). Therefore, those who are evil should turn from their sin, otherwise they will be overtaken by God’s judgment (12-13).

Since evil deeds sooner or later bring about the downfall of those who practise them, David need have no fear of his enemies. His confidence in God’s overruling justice strengthens him in his present distress (14-17).

Curses on the wicked

The psalmists frequently request God to destroy the wicked without mercy (e.g. Ps 7:6; 35:8; 139:19). This appears at first to be a display of hate and revenge that should have no place in the hearts of God’s people. Before considering this matter, we should, in fairness to the psalmists, note that the curses and punishments they spoke of were in keeping with the legal penalties and methods of warfare of their day. The Christian today may rightly hesitate to use such language (cf. Ps 58:6; 109:6-15; 137:9).

However, the reason the psalmists called for divine punishment was not necessarily that they wanted personal revenge. This is seen in Psalm 7:3-6, where the psalmist, before praying down divine judgment, emphasizes that he has no desire to return evil for evil personally. The psalmists’ overwhelming desire was to see God’s standards of righteousness established. In fact, it often seems that, in regard to righteousness, they knew God better than we do. For this reason sin appeared worse to them than it does


to us. They saw sin as God sees it and hated evil as God hates it (Ps 139:21-22). They knew that wicked people had to be punished according to their wickedness (Ps 109:16-19).

Cursing in ancient times was not a burst of bad language arising out of a fit of temper or hatred. It was an announcement that people believed could release powerful forces against the evildoer. The psalmists feel something of the divine anger against sin as they call on God to punish the evildoers with the sorrows that they intended to bring upon the innocent (Ps 109:17; cf. Rom 12:9,19; Eph 4:26).

It should also be remembered that the ancient Israelites lived in the era before Jesus Christ came and revealed God’s purposes more fully. They did not have the fuller understanding that Christians have of a future judgment bringing rewards and punishments. For them righteousness was to be rewarded and wickedness punished in this life; and one could not occur without the other. If God was going to establish righteousness on the earth, this would mean punishing the wicked. If he was to deliver his people, this would mean overthrowing their foes.

The psalmists may not have had as clear an understanding as Christians have of the vastness of God’s grace, because the world-changing events of Christ’s life, death and resurrection had not yet taken place. But they were realistic enough to see that most people would not repent. The principle behind their attacks on their enemies was this: ‘God is a righteous judge . . . If people do not change their ways, God will sharpen his sword’ (Ps 7:11-12; cf. 2 Thess 1:6).

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