Psalm 60


This psalm of David speaks of a military defeat suffered by Israel. Although the historical background isn’t clear, 2 Samuel 8:1-8 records David’s victories over Philistia, Moab, and Syria. 2 Samuel 10:1-19 records David’s victories over Ammon and Syria. 1 Chronicles 18:11-13 records David’s victories over Edom, Moab, Ammon, Philistia, and Amalek.


‘For the director of music. To the tune of “The Lily of the Covenant.” A miktam of David. For teaching. When he fought Aram Naharaim and Aram Zobah, and when Joab returned and struck down twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding about 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 for the director of music. Some commentators believe that ‘director or 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.

The psalm was to be directed to the ‘tune of the lily of the Covenant’, no one knows what this tune was but it was to be used for teaching.

The word, ‘miktam’ means golden, hence why it’s often referred to as the ‘golden psalm’. However, there are others who believe that the word ‘miktam’ may have some musical meaning.

Still others believe that the word means to cover, when we look at other psalms with the same heading, Psalms 56-60, they all appear to be written in times of distress, which leads some to believe that the word ‘miktam’ has the idea of covering the lips in the sense of secrecy. In other words, these are silent or secret psalms which were whispered during times of distress.

Some believe the historical background to this psalm was sometime during David’s wars, possibly during his Aramean conflicts, 2 Samuel 8:3-5 / 2 Samuel 10:16-99 / 1 Chronicles 18:3-12.

‘You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us; you have been angry–now restore us! You have shaken the land and torn it open; mend its fractures, for it is quaking. You have shown your people desperate times; you have given us wine that makes us stagger. But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow. Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered.’ Psalm 60:1-5

David begins by reminding us of a time he and is army suffered some kind of defeat. Under normal circumstance victory was always assured because God was with them and the Israelites thought if they lost a battle it was usually a sign that God wants pleased with them.

The military defeat that was experienced here happened because God rejected Israel, but since there’s no confession of sin is made in the psalm, we’re not given any reason why the Lord didn’t go with Israel into this particular battle, 2 Samuel 5:20 / Psalm 2:12 / Psalm 43:2.

Whatever the reason was for God rejecting and being angry with His people, David still felt moved to appeal to God to be restored. Because of the defeat, Israel was shaken and no longer felt secure, but the same God who shakes the land can also mend it’s fractures.

Israel went through desperate times and it appears that David know this is God’s judgment against them but he’s struggling to understand why. In their desperateness they staggered about as if they had been drinking strong wine, Isaiah 51:17 / Isaiah 51:22.

Israel had been set up like a banner before the nations of the world as a nation of those who had committed themselves to the true God, Isaiah 5:26 / Isaiah 11:12 / Isaiah 18:3 / Isaiah 33:23 / Ezekiel 27:7. But in this defeat, they were questioning their relationship with God.

You may notice at the end of verse four, 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 Israel proudly displayed the banner which told the world they belonged to God.

David pleads with God to save and help His people, he wants God to deliver the people He loves.

‘God has spoken from his sanctuary: “In triumph I will parcel out Shechem and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth. Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet, Judah is my sceptre. Moab is my washbasin, on Edom I toss my sandal; over Philistia I shout in triumph.” Psalm 60:6-8

It’s clear David understood the words God, it was God, through Abraham who promised that Israel would take the land of promise and possess it as an inheritance, Genesis 12:7 / Genesis 13:15 / Genesis 17:8 / Psalm 105:8-11. In these verses we read about how God made the land of Israel His special possession.

God would triumph and parcel out Shechem, Joshua 1:6 / Joshua 13:6-7 / Joshua 14:5 / Joshua 18:10 / Joshua 19:51 / Joshua 23:4 / Psalm 78:55 / Acts 13:19. God would measure off the Valley of Sukkoth, Deuteronomy 27:11-13 / Joshua 8:33.

God says Gilead is His, Numbers 32:26 / Numbers 32:29 / Numbers 32:39. Manasseh is His, 2 Samuel 8:3, Ephraim is His helmet, that is, the strength of my head and Judah is His sceptre, that is, symbolic of dominion and governance, Genesis 49:8-12.

God said that He would exalt Himself over the surrounding nations. Both Moab and Edom were noted for their pride, Isaiah 16:6 / Obadiah 3. Here God gives them places of humble service, Isaiah 15:1-9. Tossing the sandal was possibly a symbolic act of claiming possession, Ruth 4:7.

As for the Philistines, let them, if they dare, triumph over him as they had done, he will soon force them to change their note.

Though the Israelites suffered a defeat, God would eventually help them and the nations would be subjected to their control, Isaiah 11:14.

God pronounced His judgment that the nations that were involved in the conflict against Israel were subject to His work among the nations. Moab, Edom and Philistia would be humiliated before God’s people.

‘Who will bring me to the fortified city? Who will lead me to Edom? Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us and no longer go out with our armies? Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless. With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.’ Psalm 60:9-12

David knows that Israel suffered defeat because God wasn’t fighting for them, but he trusts that God will lead Israel to victory over the fortified city, that is the city of Petra, Isaiah 16:1. Petra was the capital city of Edom and it was Joab and Abishai who led David to Edom to be victorious, 2 Samuel 9:1.

David knows that God will take them into the fortified city, despite the fact that He allowed them to be defeated. He knows that any human help isn’t enough, it fact, he knows that any human help is useless, it’s only God’s help that would secure the victory.

Although David begun this psalm speaking about how Israel was defeated by their enemies, David ends the plasm by speaking of God giving them total victory of their enemies, 2 Samuel 8:14 / 1 Chronicles 18:13.


Although we’re not told why, David explains how God allowed the Israelites to be defeated in battle. We can almost feel the disappointment in his words.

Having the feeling of being let down by God isn’t new for Christians. We all go through periods of difficulties when we feel God hasn’t heard our prayers or simply just abandoned us, Proverbs 13:12.

The question is, how do we get through those days when we’re feeling unloved, uncared for and abandoned?

1. Although we may not always understand why things are going the way they are going, we should be thankful for those days of difficulties, Habakkuk 3:17-19.

When we focus on God and what He has done for us in the past, we soon remember that He is still with us. When we pause to thank God, no matter what we’re going through, this actually strengthens our faith in Him, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

2. Although we may not always understand why things are going the way they are going, we should keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, Hebrews 12:2.

When we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, we don’t have time to look around at anything else which is happening in the physical world, Colossians 3:1-2.

3. Although we may not always understand why things are going the way they are going, we must remember that we don’t see the big picture, Jeremiah 29:11.

When we admit that we can’t control tomorrow, when we admit that only God sees the bigger picture, it’s then we start to trust that He will take care of us today and help us through tomorrow, Lamentations 3:22-23.

Go To Psalm 61


"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Isaiah 41:10