Psalm 9


This psalm and the next one appear to belong together. This psalm deals with the majesty of God and the next psalm deals with the unbelief that existed among God’s people.


‘For the director of music. To the tune of “The Death of the Son.” A psalm of David.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

This psalm was for the director of music. Some commentators believe that the ‘director of music’ is God Himself and others believe that it is a song leader who led choirs or musicians, 1 Chronicles 6:33 / 1 Chronicles 16:17 / 1 Chronicles 25:6.

It was to be sung ‘to the tune of ‘death of the Son’. There are a few ideas as to what the heading means.

1. Some believe that David wrote this Psalm to God Himself to a popularly known tune in his day.

2. Some believe that ‘Muth Labben’ which is the Hebrew heading, was an instrument upon which the song was played.

3. Some associate the title with the phrase ‘The Death of the Son’ and apply that title as the ancient Chaldee version does. ‘Concerning the death of the Champion who went out between the camps,’ referring to Goliath.

4. Some believe that what is meant is that once God has indeed already condemned David’s enemies, Psalms 9:4, their ultimate complete overthrow and destruction are considered as already done, such being the certainty of anything that God promises.

Rawlinson, in his commentary, says the following.

‘David’s victory over Ammon and Syria, 2 Samuel 10:6-14, which was followed by a renewed invasion by the same nations at a later time, 2 Samuel 10:16, is more likely to have drawn forth this composition.’

‘I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High. My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you. For you have upheld my right and my cause, sitting enthroned as the righteous judge. You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have blotted out their name for ever and ever. Endless ruin has overtaken my enemies, you have uprooted their cities; even the memory of them has perished.’ Psalm 9:1-6

David gives thanks to God and reflects on the past, he marvels at God’s works, which He had done in his life. David has confidence in the future because of what God has done in the past, Psalm 106:7 / Psalm 71:17 / Psalm 106:22 / Psalm 119:18.

David calls God, ‘O most High’, Genesis 14:19-20 / Psalm 7:17, and notice the words are passed tense. It appears that God has already revealed to him that he will be victorious over his enemies in the future.

This is the reason why David could give thanks and praise to God, God has already passed judgment on his enemies and so he has no reason to doubt God and His promise.

God is a righteous judge, Genesis 18:25, and He has ‘blotted out their name for ever’. In Old Testament times the preservation of their names was very important and the preservation of a family name continued the inheritance of an Israelite family, as well as guaranteed the posterity of the family throughout history.

Here, David says that the name, that is, the prosperity of the wicked will be removed from history. He has full confidence that God will totally remove his enemies, even any memory of them will be removed.

‘The LORD reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He rules the world in righteousness and judges the peoples with equity. The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. Sing the praises of the LORD, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what he has done. For he who avenges blood remembers; he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.’ Psalm 9:7-12

Because God is a just God and makes just judgments without prejudice, then the righteous have a place of refuge in His care. We must never forget that when we go through difficult times, God will justly deliver us, Psalm 37:28 / Acts 17:31.

The Hebrew word ‘misgab’ is used for ‘refuge’, literally translated as ‘high place’. During the days of Israel, high places were introduced by the Israelites as a place to go and worship their false gods. However, David appears to be speaking metaphorically and says the high place is signifying a place where people can go for protection.

We can’t help but notice how many times David mentioned God’s Name, that is ‘LORD’. This tells us how intimate he knows God and how intimate God knows him, Luke 6:46. Knowing God’s Name is one thing, but knowing God on personal terms is another.

Knowing God’s name also involves having a close personal relationship, in total obedience to Him. It’s those who are obedient to His will and committed their lives to Him who will never be forsaken, Deuteronomy 31:8 / Joshua 1:5 / Hebrews 13:5.

David encourages us to sing praises to the One enthroned in Zion, which isn’t literally of course. Notice that David says that God ‘who avenges blood remembers’, this tells us that God demands an account of every life which has been slain, Genesis 4:9 / Genesis 9:6 / Numbers 35:33-34 / 2 Kings 9:26.

Notice also that God doesn’t ignore the cries of the inflicted, Psalm 10:14 / Psalm 140:12-13 / Luke 7:13. God sees, God cares and God will take action.

‘LORD, see how my enemies persecute me! Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death, that I may declare your praises in the gates of Daughter Zion, and there rejoice in your salvation.’ Psalm 9:13-14

David wants to praise God with peace of mind and so he pleads with God for deliverance from his persecutors. He wants to be lifted up from the gates of death, death is often pictured as a fortified city with gates that open only inward, Matthew 16:18.

Notice that there are two gates mentioned here, the gates of death and the gates of Daughter Zion.

Coffman, in his commentary, gives the following contrasts.

‘The gates of death open for all men, while the gates of Zion open only for the saved.
The gates of death open regardless of our will, while the gates of Zion open only by our choice.
The gates of death are dark with terror, while the gates of Zion are bright with hope and joy.’

The gates of the daughter of Zion are a symbolic representation of the Lord’s church as in Hebrews 12:22.

‘The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug; their feet are caught in the net they have hidden. The LORD is known by his acts of justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands. The wicked go down to the realm of the dead, all the nations that forget God. But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.’ Psalm 9:15-18

As he wrote in Psalm 7:15-16, David reminds us that unbelievers will fall into the very same pit, they dug for others. Those who dig holes, set nets to trap others, in other words, those who devise evil against others are caught in their own traps.

Watkinson, in his commentary, says, ‘the pit of human misery and ruin is dug by man, not by God’. God is known as a just God and He will deal justly with the wicked.

You may notice at the end of verse sixteen, some translations have the word, ‘selah’. Although no one really knows what this word means, it likely means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said, Psalm 92:3. We can imagine David pausing for a breath as he reflects upon the outcome of the wicked.

The realm of the dead is Sheol and here David says those who are wicked who try to ensnare the righteous will be ensnared by death.

There are, in fact, three Biblical words, the meanings of which are often confused because people tend to use them very loosely. Two of the words in the New Testament are Greek words. The Third word is an Old Testament Hebrew word.

For instance, in the New Testament, we have the following.

1. ‘Gehenna’, which occurs 12 times, and, in the Authorised Version, it’s always translated ‘hell’.

2. ‘Hades’, which occurs 10 times, and which is also always translated, as ‘hell’.

3. The third word is the word ‘Sheol’, found in the Old Testament, and which sometimes is erroneously said to be the word that corresponds to ‘Gehenna’.

You clearly see the confusion that has been created about the meaning of this word when you understand that, in the Authorised Version, out of the 65 instances it occurs, 31 times it has been translated ‘hell’ and 34 times it has been translated ‘the grave’!

Now, although the word ‘Sheol’ literally means ‘The Place of the Dead’, you don’t need much intelligence to recognise that ‘Hell’ and the ‘Grave’ aren’t the same place! When a body is placed in the grave, it hasn’t been consigned to ‘Hell’!

But there is a history behind this inconsistent rendering of the word ‘Sheol’. Whilst the translators of the Authorised Version believed ‘Hell’ to be the place of punishment for the wicked, they withdrew from the idea of saying that good people also go to ‘Sheol’, and so in passages that related to the death of good people, they decided to translate ‘Sheol’ as ‘the grave’!

However, in Hebrew theology and, in Old Testament teaching, ‘Sheol’ is described as the place to which all the dead go, both good and bad. It’s defined as ‘the place of departed souls’.

In the account of King Saul’s visit to the medium at Endor, the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel is recorded as saying to Saul, ‘Tomorrow, you and your sons shall be with me’. 1 Samuel 28:19.

Even the Oxford Dictionary is close to the truth as far as the meaning of the word is concerned. It says that ‘Sheol’ is, ‘The abode of the dead’.

Furthermore, in the Old Testament, ‘Sheol’ is described as a gloomy place, in which an individual is farther away from God than he was during his lifetime. We are told that ‘the living know that they will die, but the dead do not to know anything,’ Ecclesiastes 9:5, and, according to Psalm 115:17, ‘The dead do not praise Yahweh, nor any who go down into silence.’

David proceeds to remind us again that ‘God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish’. Psalm 7:15-16. Justice comes to the poor, not because of their poverty, but because they have been exploited by the Wicked, Luke 16:19-31.

God has always cared for the needy and made provision for them even in Old Testament times, Deuteronomy 24:21.

‘Arise, LORD, do not let mortals triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence. Strike them with terror, LORD; let the nations know they are only mortal.’ Psalm 9:19-20

David asks God to ‘arise’, which is a military word used for getting ready to do battle. David has absolute confidence that God will judge the wicked, and he hopes that through God’s judgment the nations around would learn that they are not gods, but they are mere mortals.

You may notice at the end of verse twenty, some translations have the word, ‘selah’. Although no one really knows what this word means, it likely means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said, Psalm 92:3.

We can imagine David pausing for a breath as he contemplates the judgment of God on all the nations.

As mentioned in the introduction of this psalm, the next psalm follows from this one as it focuses on the unbelief that existed among God’s people.


David was confident about what God would do in the future because of what God has done in the past. There are times when we face trials and we question if God will deliver us from them. It’s usually during these difficult times that our faith is stretched and we become spiritually low.

I know there are times, it’s not a good idea to look back, Genesis 19:26 / Luke 9:61-62, but there are times when we should.

God knows that one of our greatest weaknesses is forgetfulness, hence why He remembers people about who He is and what He has done in the past over and over again.

‘I am the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob,’ Exodus 3:15 / Matthew 22:32 / Acts 7:32. ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt’, Deuteronomy 7:8 / Exodus 12:12-14 / Exodus 20:2 / Psalm 81:10.

Even in the New Testament, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper in order that we don’t forget who He is and what He has done. He said we were to partake of the Supper in remembrance of Him, Luke 22:19-20 / 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.

It’s also worth noting that when we partake of the Supper, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He returns, 1 Corinthians 11:26. In other words, when we look back at what Jesus had done on the cross, this gives us the confidence to face the future when He returns.

Whenever we find ourselves in times of doubt or trouble, these are not the times to throw ourselves a pity party, those are the times we need to remind ourselves of all the other times God has delivered us in the past, 1 Corinthians 10:13 / Hebrews 4:15 / 2 Timothy 4:18.

When we remember what God has done in our lives in the past, we too will have the confidence to know that He will help us with anything we may face in the future.

Go To Psalm 10


"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."