Psalm 56

Psalm 56[a]

Boundless Trust in God

1 For the director.[b] According to Yonath elem rehoqim. A miktam of David. When the Philistines seized him at Gath.

2 Be merciful to me, O God,
for people are trampling upon me;
all day long they keep up their attack.
3 My foes pursue me all day long,
with their forces too many to number.
4 When I am terrified,
I place my trust in you.
5 In God, whose word[c] I praise,
in God I place my trust and know no fear;
what can people do to me?
6 All day long they slander me;
their one thought is to bring evil upon me.
7 In groups they hide in ambush
and spy on my every step,
determined to take my life.
8 Shall they escape in their iniquity?
Strike down the nations, O God, in your anger.
9 You have kept count of my wanderings
and stored my tears in your flask,
recording all these in your book.[d]
10 My foes will turn back
when I call out to you.
Of this I am confident:
that God is on my side.
11 In God, whose word I praise—
in the Lord, whose word I praise—
12 in God I place my trust and know no fear;
what can people do to me?
13 I am bound, O God, by vows[e] to you,
and I will pay you my debt of gratitude.
14 For you have delivered my life from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk in the presence of God[f]
in the light of the living.


  1. Psalm 56:1 A psalmist subjected to harassment appeals to the Lord to take note of the injustice he is undergoing. He calls for the judgment of God to come upon his persecutors; but, more importantly, a profound religious sense enables him to divine that the prayer and tears of human beings are precious in God’s eyes. The spirit of this psalm resides in the refrain: a firm protestation of trust in the word of the Lord (vv. 5, 11-12) despite all the plots of humans. So strong is the psalmist’s certitude on this point that it transforms his fervent prayer from a lament into a thanksgiving.
    It is easy to place this psalm on the lips of Christ, for its themes are all found in the Passion: a plea for the Father’s mercy, assaults of pagan tyrants, calumnies, plots and snares on the part of enemies, tears, cries of confidence, and a vow of thanksgiving. The psalm also provides Christians with a beautiful prayer of supplication in time of adversity, whether external or internal.
  2. Psalm 56:1 For the director: these words are thought to be a musical or liturgical notation. According to Yonath elem rehoqim: nothing is known about this phrase. Miktam: see note on Ps 16:1. For the event referred to, see 1 Sam 21:10-15.
  3. Psalm 56:5 Word: as in verse 11, God’s “word” is the promise by which he committed himself to his faithful; this is a very familiar theme in the Psalter (see Pss 105:8-11; 119:42, 65; 130:5). People: (also in v. 12); literally, “flesh,” representative of human frailty with respect to the divine power. People can indeed inflict pain, suffering, and death upon us, but they cannot rob us of our souls or our eternal future (see Ps 118:6; Heb 13:6). Jesus said: “Have no fear of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Mt 10:28); thus, we are to fear no one but God alone, who is also our helper.
  4. Psalm 56:9 God cares for his faithful and keeps a careful record of everything about them (see note on Ps 51:3)—even the tears they shed when they are in trouble. The theme of God’s record is frequent (see, e.g., Ps 139:16; Job 19:23; Mal 3:16). Each tear of the righteous will be compensated (see 2 Ki 20:5; Isa 25:8; Rev 7:17). Indeed, Jesus indicated that God has such concern for us that he knows the number of hairs on our head (Mt 10:30).
  5. Psalm 56:13 I am bound . . . by vows: the psalmist is certain of being delivered and vows to make thanksgiving for it (see note on Ps 7:18).
  6. Psalm 56:14 Walk in the presence of God: an expression that indicates access to the heavenly King, with reference to his presence at the temple (God’s royal house on earth). It is legitimate for us to see in this text an allusion to ultimate access to the heavenly temple (see Pss 16:11; 17:15; 23:6; 140:14). Light of the living: a happy life on earth (see note on Ps 36:9).

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