Psalm 54


This is a psalm of lament, probably relating to the time when David was betrayed by the men of Ziph, 1 Samuel 23:19-26 / 1 Samuel 26:1-4.


‘For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A maskil of David. When the Ziphites had gone to Saul and said, “Is not David hiding among us?”

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.

The heading tells us that this psalm of David is 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 used with stringed instruments and one really knows what the word ‘maskil’ means, some believe it’s a musical term or a literary term. The word is used thirteen times throughout the Psalms, Psalm 32 / Psalm 42 / Psalm 44 / Psalm 45 / Psalm 52 / Psalm 53 / Psalm 54 / Psalm 55 / Psalm 74 / Psalm 78 / Psalm 88 / Psalm 89 / Psalm 142. The word is also used in Amos 5:13.

The Ziphites betrayed David not once but twice, first in 1 Samuel 23:19-26 and the second in 1 Samuel 26:1-4. This psalm appears to deal with the first occurrence.

‘Save me, O God, by your name; vindicate me by your might. Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth. Arrogant foes are attacking me; ruthless people are trying to kill me—people, without regard for God.’ Psalm 54:1-3

David begins by asking God to save him, by His name and vindicate him, that is judge him by His might. In other words, David relied on God’s strength and power to save him.

He cries out to God to save him and judge him because of those who were rising up against him, Psalm 7:8 / Psalm 18:20 / Psalm 26:1 / Psalm 43:1 / Acts 16:25.

He asks God to hear his prayer, Psalm 17:6, because he knows that God will not only hear his prayer but also act upon it. These arrogant foes who were attacking David were the Ziphites, 1 Samuel 23:14-24.

The Ziphites were Israelites of the same tribe as David, that is Judah. Despite being of the same tribe, they were trying to kill David, because they had no regard for God or His authority, Psalm 36:1.

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

We can almost imagine David pausing for a breath as he contemplates how his own people could betray him as they were doing.

‘Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me. Let evil recoil on those who slander me; in your faithfulness destroy them. I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, LORD, for it is good. You have delivered me from all my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.’ Psalm 54:4-7

Despite being hunted down like a dog, David has full confidence in God to help and sustain him, that is, to save his life. David asks God to let these evil people, reap what they sow, in other words, he asks God to kill his enemies.

He didn’t pray this because of self-righteousness reasons, he prayed this so that God’s faithfulness could be seen. In other words, David didn’t want to take vengeance against his enemy, he trusted that God would do that for him, 1 Samuel 26:1.

Despite being hunted down like a dog, David still has his thoughts on God. He says he will sacrifice freewill offerings to God after God has removed the threat, which implies this was voluntary, Exodus 35:29 / Exodus 36:3 / Leviticus 7:16 / Leviticus 22:18 / Numbers 15:3 / Numbers 29:39. This was an expression of thankfulness for what God had done.

Despite being hunted down like a dog, he says he will praise the LORD’s name, for it is good, Psalm 52:9. Notice David is confident that God will deliver him because He has delivered him from trouble time and time again.

He’s seen it happen with his own very eyes. He had experienced God’s deliverance in the past, and so, there was no reason to doubt that God would deliver him again.

We know that God did deliver David on both occasions after the Ziphites betrayed him 1 Samuel 23:19 / 1 Samuel 23:27-28.


David was confident that God would deliver him from the hands of his enemies because God had done it before. As God was with him when he defeated Goliath, 1 Samuel 17:41-52, David knew that He was going to be with him through this time of betrayal by the Ziphites.

As Christians, we all face many trials in our lives, but when we look back and remember how many times God has delivered us before, this too should give us the confidence to know that God will deliver us again from our present situation, Psalm 46:1-2.

Paul had absolute confidence in the Lord to deliver him from any situation, 2 Timothy 4:8, even if that meant those who can kill the body but not the soul, Psalm 121:7 / Matthew 10:28 / Philippians 1:21-24 / 2 Timothy 4:6 / 2 Peter 2:9.

He also had absolute confidence that the Lord God would bring him safely into his heavenly kingdom. Because the Lord holds such power to deliver us all and bring us all safely to His heavenly kingdom, then we too should give glory to the Lord, Romans 11:36 / Galatians 1:4 / Hebrews 13:21 / 2 Peter 3:18.

Go To Psalm 55