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Psalm 4

Confident Plea for Deliverance from Enemies

To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.


Answer me when I call, O God of my right!

You gave me room when I was in distress.

Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.



How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?

How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? Selah


But know that the L ord has set apart the faithful for himself;

the L ord hears when I call to him.



When you are disturbed, do not sin;

ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Selah


Offer right sacrifices,

and put your trust in the L ord.



There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!

Let the light of your face shine on us, O L ord!”


You have put gladness in my heart

more than when their grain and wine abound.



I will both lie down and sleep in peace;

for you alone, O L ord, make me lie down in safety.

In these words there is shown the faith of David, who, although brought to the uttermost distress, and indeed almost consumed by a long series of calamities, did not sink under his sorrow; nor was he so broken in heart as to be prevented from betaking himself to God his deliverer. By his praying, he testified, that when utterly deprived of all earthly succor, there yet remained for him hope in God. Moreover, he calls him the God of his righteousness, which is the same thing as if he had called him the vindicator of his right; 5050     “Mon protecteur, celuy qui maintient mon droit.” — Fr. My protector, he who maintains my right. and he appeals to God, because all men everywhere condemned him, and his innocence was borne down by the slanderous reports of his enemies and the perverse judgments of the common people. And this cruel and unjust treatment which David met with, ought to be carefully marked. For while nothing is more painful to us than to be falsely condemned, and to endure, at one and the same time, wrongful violence and slander; yet to be ill spoken of for doing well, is an affliction which daily befalls the saints. And it becomes them to be so exercised under it as to turn away from all the enticements of the world, and to depend wholly upon God alone. Righteousness, therefore, is here to be understood of a good cause, of which David makes God the witness, while he complains of the malicious and wrongful conduct of men towards him; and, by his example, he teaches us, that if at any time our uprightness is not seen and acknowledged by the world, we ought not on that account to despond, inasmuch as we have one in heaven to vindicate our cause. Even the heathen have said there is no better stage for virtue than a man’s own conscience. But it is a consolation far surpassing this, to know when men vaunt themselves over us wrongfully, that we are standing in the view of God and of the angels. Paul, we know, was endued with courage arising from this source, (1 Corinthians 4:5) for when many evil reports were spread abroad concerning him among the Corinthians, he appeals to the judgment-seat of God. Isaiah also, fortified by the same confidence, (Isaiah 50:6 and following verse) despises all the slanders by which his enemies calumniated him. If, therefore, we cannot find justice anywhere in the world the only support of our patience is to look to God, and to rest contented with the equity of his judgment. It may, however, be asked by way of objection, Since all the purity of men is mere pollution in the sight of God, how can the godly dare to bring forward their own righteousness before him? With respect to David, it is easy to answer this question. He did not boast of his own righteousness except in reference to his enemies, from whose calumnies he vindicated himself. He had the testimony of a good conscience that he had attempted nothing without the call and commandment of God, and therefore he does not speak rashly when he calls God the protector and defender of his right. Hence we learn that David honored God with this title of praise, in order the more readily to set him in contrast with the whole world. And as he asks twice to be heard, in this there is expressed to us both the vehemence of his grief and the earnestness of his prayers. In the last clause of the verse, he also shows whence he expected to obtain what he needed, namely, from the mercy of God. And certainly, as often as we ask anything from God, it becomes us to begin with this, and to beseech him, according to his free goodness, to relieve our miseries.

Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress. Some think that David here promises himself what he had not yet experienced; and in the exercise of hope anticipates the manifestations of God’s grace with which he should afterwards be favored. But, in my opinion, he rather mentions the benefits which he formerly received from God, and by these strengthens himself against the time to come. Thus the faithful are accustomed to call to their remembrance those things which tend to strengthen their faith. We shall, hereafter meet with many passages similar to this, where David, in order to give energy to his faith against terrors and dangers, 5151     “Contre les effrois et dangers qui se presentoyent.” — Fr. Against the terrors and dangers which presented themselves. brings together the many experiences from which he had learned that God is always present with his own people and will never disappoint their desires. The mode of expression which he here employs is metaphorical, and by it he intimates that a way of escape was opened up to him even when he was besieged and enclosed on every side. The distress of which he speaks, in my opinion, refers not less to the state of his mind than to circumstances of outward affliction; for David’s heart was not of such an iron mould as to prevent him from being cast into deeper mental anguish by adversity.

Psalm 4:2-3

2. O ye sons of men, how long will ye try to turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seeking after lying? Selah 3. But know that Jehovah hath chosen for himself one who is merciful: Jehovah will hear when I call upon him.


2. O ye sons of men. The happy result of the prayer of David was, that resuming courage, he was able not only to repel the fury of his enemies, but also to challenge them on his part, and fearlessly to despise all their machinations. That our confidence, therefore, may remain unshaken, we ought not, when assailed by the wicked, to enter into conflict without being furnished like David with the same armor. The sum is, that since God was determined to defend David by his own power, it was in vain for all the men in the world to endeavor to destroy him; however great the power which they otherwise might have of doing him injury. By calling those whom he addresses the sons, not of Adam, or of some common persons but of men, he seems by the way to reprove their pride. 5252     “Le mot Hebrieu ne signifie pas simplement Homme, mais homme viril at robuste; en quoy il semble taxer, en passant, leur arrogance.” — Fr. The Hebrew word signifies not simply man, but a strong and robust man; and by this word he seems, in passing, to rebuke their arrogance. I do not agree with certain Jewish expositors who think that nobles or men of rank are meant. It is rather an ironical concession of what they claimed to themselves, by which he ridicules their presumption, in esteeming themselves to be noble and wise, whereas it was only blind rage which impelled them to wicked enterprises. In the words how long, he condemns their perverse obstinacy; for what he means, is not that they were stirred up against him merely by some sudden impulses, but that the stubborn purpose of injuring him was deeply fixed in their hearts. Had not their maliciousness deprived them of their understanding, the many instances in which God had proved himself to be David’s defender would have compelled them to desist from their attempts against him. But as they were fully determined to disgrace him whom God had exalted to the royal throne he asks them, How long they will persevere in their endeavors to turn his glory into shame And it is to be observed that although loaded with every kind of reproach, both among the high and the low he yet courageously keeps fast hold of the glory or the honor of royalty which God had graciously promised him, or had conferred upon him, and is fully persuaded that God will at length vindicate his right to it, however much his enemies might wickedly endeavor to blot and obscure it by treating his pretensions with derision and scorn.

How long will ye love vanity? In these words, he partly reproaches his enemies for the wicked and perverse passions with which he saw them to be impelled, although they falsely pretended to be actuated by a godly zeal; and he partly derides their folly in flattering themselves with the hope of success while fighting against God. And it is a most pointed rebuke. Even when the ungodly rush headlong into all manner of wickedness with the grossest 5353     “D’une malice si evidente qu’on la pourroit toucher au doigt.” — Fr. With a malice so evident that one could touch it with the finger. malice, they soothe themselves with deceitful flatteries in order not to be disturbed with the feelings of remorse. David, therefore, cries out, that wilfully to shut their eyes and varnish their unrighteousness with deceitful colors, would avail them nothing. The ungodly may indeed flatter and delude themselves, but when they are brought in good earnest to the trial, it will be always manifest that the reason why they are deceived is, because from the beginning they were determined to deal deceitfully. Now, from this place, we ought to take a shield of invincible steadfastness as often as we see ourselves overmatched in prudence and subtlety by the wicked. For with whatever engines they assault us, yet if we have the testimony of a good conscience, God will remain on our side, and against him they shall not prevail. They may greatly excel in ingenuity, and possess much power of hurting us, and have their plans and subsidiary aid in the greatest readiness, and be very shrewd in discernment, yet whatever they may invent, it will be but lying and vanity.

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