Psalms – Chapter 56

What Happens in Gath Stays in Gath

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

The introductory note says that this Psalm was to be accompanied on an instrument called the “yonas eilem rechokim,” although some of the commentators say this refers to David himself, a “silenced dove,” who was driven far away. This Psalm refers directly to David’s flight to Gath, as described in I Samuel 21.

David asks G-d to grant him favor and to protect him from those who are trying to destroy him. Wherever he goes, his enemies are waiting for him and they attack him daily. His foes are many, but G-d is higher than all of them. Whenever he feels fear, David will turn to G-d. Even when G-d judges him with the attribute of strict justice, rather than that of mercy, David praises Him for it. He trusts in G-d; what can mere humans do to harm him?

The constant stream of attacks has made David’s life miserable. His enemies gather against him and lay traps for him, just waiting for him to be vulnerable. Can they ever hope to be exonerated for their heinous acts? David asks G-d to cast down the Philistines, who are among his detractors. G-d sees how David must flee from place to place seeking refuge; may He also count the many tears David has shed because of his troubles. When He does, David’s antagonists will no doubt be driven back, as G-d will take up David’s cause.

Again David thanks G-d, even when He judges David strictly. Similarly, he praises G-d when He treats David mercifully. David trusts in G-d’s justice and fears no man. While he was on the run, David made promises to G-d and he will make good on them because G-d has saved him from both death and sin. G-d has given David the ability to walk before Him, in the World to Come.

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