Sefer Tehillim
Tehillim Three

3:1 A psalm of David, when he fled from his son Avshalom. 2 Hashem, how many are my adversaries! Many are they that rise up against me. 3 Many are there that say of my soul: There is no deliverance for him in G-d. Selah. 4 But You, O Hashem, are a shield about me; my glory, and who lifts my head. 5 My voice is to Hashem, I call out; and He answers me out of the mountain of His sanctuary. Selah. 6 I have lain down, and I slept, and I awoke; for Hashem sustains me. 7 I do not fear the tens of thousands of people that have set themselves against me round about. 8 Arise, O Hashem; save me, my G-d; for You have smitten all my enemies upon the cheek; You have broken the teeth of the wicked. 9 Deliverance is Hashem's; Your blessing be [is] upon Your people. Selah.

The previous psalm affirmed the eternal continuation of the royal House of David - "I have set My king on Tziyon, the mountain of My sanctuary" (2:6). It is followed by this psalm, which speaks of David's trust in G-d. His faith remained steadfast even when his son Avshalom drove him from his throne and pursued him. This reveals the intent of this psalm, which is to instill hope in every heart. Just as G-d saved David "when he fled from his son Avshalom," who almost took his life, so would He save his descendants after him and also bring delverance to the Jewish people.

The Scripture relates that when David fled from Avshalom, he "went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went" (2Shmuel 15:30).

Says the Midrash:

David was weeping and chanting this psalm. He was asked, "If you are weeping, why are you chanting, and if you are chanting, why are you weeping?"

To what can this be compared?

A king was angry at his son and sent him away. He then sent his teacher after him, who found him weeping and singing. "If you are weeping, why are you singing?" asked the teacher. The son replied, "I weep because I angered my father. But I sing because he did not have me executed. Not only did he not kill me, but he sent me away to be among dukes and princes."

The righteous are glad when they are rebuked by the Attribute of Justice whereby they are cleansed of their sins. See the proof in David! When he was stricken by the Attribute of Justice through the rebellion of his son, he began to rejoice and sing by composing this psalm.

All the psalms that David composed in times of trouble were later sung by the Leviim in the Holy Temple. They stood on the raised platform and exalted G-d in song and psalm.

My enemies speak against me, "there is no deliverance for him in G-d" (Elokim): They say that I am at all times subject to the stern rule of divine judgment (the name Elokim). But they do not know that "You, O Hashem (YKVK), are a shield about me" (3:4). You shield me at all times through Your attribute of compassion (the name YKVK). However I also call out to the attribute of judgment to answer me - "Save me, my G-d" (hoshi'eni Elokai - 3:8).

Through the attribute of judgment - my suffering - You are a shield about me. Thereby You cleanse me of all sin.

David was most anguished because his adversaries came against him in the name of G-d. They proclaimed that he cannot hope to be saved by G-d in this world, and his soul will not be bound to the Bundle of Life in the Hereafter (1Shmuel 25:29). (This corresponds to the two meanings of nafshi - "my life" and "my soul.")

In another interpretation, David says: They say that my deliverance in the past was not by G-d's special intervention on my behalf, but was due to chance. To this I say: Not so! The proof is that "You, O Hashem, are my glory, and the One who lifts my head" (3:4). My deliverance (e.g. from Goliat) came about in open display before the people, and it came about instantly - "He answers me out of the mountain of His sanctuary" (3:5).

To what can this be compared?

A father comes to help save his son from an attacker. If the son is beloved, the father acts openly and in front of his son. But if he is a bad son, the father acts only for his own honor, and not in front of his son. Here, likewise, G-d performed miracles on David's behalf in public, making it clear that He acted out of His love for him.

The Midrash says:

"You are a shield about me" in the merit of my forefathers, but it is to my glory that You returned me to my throne. Instead of removing my head, which I deserved (in the matter of Bat-sheva), You lifted up my head through the prophet Natan (cf 2Shmuel 12:13).

"But You, O Hashem, are a shield about me"... My adversaries say about me that I am not worthy of G-d's nearness because of my descent from the Moavim. But in this very thing "You are a shield about me," for You are at my side in all my wars. Thereby you lift up my head against my enemies.

There is an allusion to David's six-pointed shield. The six points correspond to Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Aharon and Yosef.

The Scripture says, "Hashem is... my shield and my horn of salvation" (18:3). It is "my shield," different than all other shields; and it is "my horn of salvation," an allusion to David's anointment with oil from a horn (1Shmuel 16:13). Therefore his kingship endures.

"My voice is to Hashem; I call out"... Whenever I call out to Hashem in prayer, "He answers me out of the mountain of His sanctuary. Selah." I am so certain of His deliverance, that it is as if He already answers me "out of the mountain of His sanctuary" - Mount Moriya.

This refers to the tradition that the Beit HaMikdash would be built on this site, which explains why, when David fled before Avshalom, he fled to "the ascent of the mount of olives" (2Shmuel 15:30) and there prostrated himself before G-d.

"I have lain down, and I slept, and I awoke; for Hashem sustains me"... A subtle reading of the verse relates it to other information about King David. The Talmud says that David had a harp which would rouse him from his sleep at midnight. He did not have his harp during the time he was fleeing Avshalom, so he roused himself - "I awoke." How? "For Hashem sustains me." He woke me in time to compose this psalm under the influence of the Ruach HaKodesh that rested upon me. Generally, whenever any psalm begins with Mizmor l'David - as it does here - it means the Ruach HaKodesh had first rested upon him.

"I awoke, for Hashem sustains me"... The moment I wake up from my sleep, I offer thanks to G-d for having returned my soul to me -(Modeh ani. The Torah teaches that coming awake is not merely a matter of nature, but happens by the grace of G-d.

Thus we pray in the evening:

"Lay us down to sleep in shalom, Hashem, our G-d; raise us erect, our King, to life, and spread over us the shelter of Your shalom."
Upon rising we say:
"I gratefully thank you, O living and eternal King, for You have returned my soul within me with compassion - abundant is Your faithfulness!"

A person is thus reminded that G-d stands over him (cf. Bereishit 28:13).

"Deliverance is Hashem's"... deliverance is in the hand of G-d and He knows how to bring it about; but

"Your blessing is upon Your people, forever"... Man's sole task is to bless G-d; it is not for him to ask for deliverance in some definite way. For the person who prays for some specific thing of his own, makes it appear as if he calls in question G-d's knowledge and power. He seems to be saying that no other ways to help him are open before G-d.

Although the Divine Presence is exiled to all the places where the Jewish people are exiled, "deliverance is Hashem's" Deliverance is Hashem's even though the Shechinah is in exile. Then, too, "Your blessing is upon Your people, forever." The Jewish people acknowledge that deliverance is Hashem's every time, and they bless Him for His help.

G-d alone knows when deliverance is for the good, not so the man who asks for deliverance. Accordingly, "Your blessing is upon Your people." Men should offer a blessing to G-d for what appears as the bad, just as they bless Him for the good.

The expression selah means forever. Thus Targum Yonatan renders the verse mehar-paran selah (Chavakkuk 3:3), as "from Mount Paran forever." Also, Selah is a notation at the close of a thought, directing one to reflect upon its enduring significance.

Tehillim Four

Return to Sefer Tehillim Index