The English Standard Version Bible (ESV) titles this psalm “A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning the words of Cush, a Benjamite.” It is not altogether clear what the word “Shiggaion” means but Matthew Henry and C.H. Spurgeon both indicate it to mean a song.
It is unclear who exactly “Cush” is, but Cush was associated with Ethiopia so it is odd that “Cush” is a Benjamite. Per Henry, I believe David was saying this Benjamite was not an Israelite in truth (even if he was by blood) and therefore his name was “Cush” If this is a correct interpretation, then I am obliged to point out what appears to be some hypocrisy on David’s part that he is defending himself from slander by slandering his slanderer. Henry indicates “Cush” might be code for Saul (see Henry). What we do know is that this Cush is a Benjamite, which is the tribe of Saul. Given that Saul is David’s enemy it makes sense that one of his people, if not Saul himself, would be looking to bring him down and so would slander him.
O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
lest like a lion they tear my soul apart,
rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.
(Psalm 7:1-2 ESV)
This may be obvious but I think it’s worth pointing out David’s right relationship with God in terms of his prayer. He frequently addresses God as Lord and respects him as such. It is important to kneel at the throne of God when we address him and at the very least bow our heads in honor of him, for he is in heaven and we are on earth (Ecclesiastes 5:2). The imagery of one’s soul being torn in pieces is captivating. The soul never dies so imagine the torment of being ripped apart but still alive and on one to help you.
O Lord my God, if I have done this,
if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have repaid my friend with evil
or plundered my enemy without cause,
let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it,
and let him trample my life to the ground
and lay my glory in the dust.
(Psalm 7:3-4 ESV)
My interpretation of this originally was that David was saying he was without any guilt whatsoever and so I thought it read as hypocrisy, for no man but Jesus Christ is sinless. However, after reviewing some commentary my understanding is that he is saying he was innocent to the matter at hand, that is whatever Cush is accusing him of (see David Guzik commentary), which I believe makes more sense.
Arise, O Lord, in your anger;
lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
awake for me;
you have appointed a judgment.
Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you;
over it return on high.
The Lord judges the peoples;
judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me.
Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
and may you establish the righteous –
you who test the minds and hearts,
O righteous God!
(Psalm 7:6-9 ESV)
Here we see David in the role of a prosecuting attorney trying his case in the heavenly places (C.S. Lewis in his Reflections on the Psalms discusses this concept of civil justice and the psalms in more detail). My interpretation is that the “peoples” mentioned are the company of angels that the Lord presides over. The Lord is the judge of all and David is offering up his defense of righteousness and integrity in the court of God and presenting evidence of the evil of his foes to establish their guilt. He is also arguing that as a matter of policy the Lord should find for him because it will support (i.e. “establish”) the righteous, that is it will show that righteousness pays off and therefore others will want to be righteous and it will be established in the land. David finishes his plea by claiming God’s righteousness, as if to say a righteous God must want to 1) reward righteous people and 2) promote righteousness in the land so he should find in David’s favor.
*Before continuing on I think we should consider using this “policy” approach in our own prayers. So often we pray for ourselves and our needs but we should also add (if we can do so in good faith) that providing for our needs will establish righteousness or mercy and will glorify the Lord. David was always one to tell the people what God had done for him and in this way helped to promote the Lord and his righteousness.
My shield is with God,
who saves the upright in heart.
God is a righteous judge,
and a God who feels indignation every day.
If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and readied his bow;
he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
(Psalm 7:10-13 ESV)
Lest we forget the Lord hates evil (Proverbs 8:13). It is only out of his mercy that the wicked are not punished. We can imagine as they continue to do evil he is little by little sharpening his sword and drawing back the bow. A time will come when they will be stricken down.
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
and is pregnant with mischief
and gives birth to lies
He makes a pit, digging it out,
and falls into the hole that he has made.
His mischief returns upon his own head,
and on his own skull his violence descends.
(Psalm 7:14-6 ESV)
As a man thinks so ultimately he will do. It is interesting to think of evil as some kind of monstrous child, a creature of our imagination that will burst forth from our minds into the world to wreak havoc if we don’t prevent it. It’s important to rip out from the roots all that is evil before it breaks out of the ground and scatters its seeds to the winds. Otherwise you will reap the whirlwind.
I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,
and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.
(Psalm 7:17 ESV)
David is confident that his prayer will be answered and so he will give thanks and praise to the Lord. We should also be confident the Lord will hear our prayer and give thanks and praise to him upon its answering.
Lord Almighty, there are many who encamp against the righteous and we should not expect to be immune from slander because we do what is right, for the wicked hate the godly. I pray that we endure slander with silence and patience, knowing that it is only our reputation in your eyes that matters and that ultimately all will be tried in the courts of God. May we be found blameless in your sight on the day of judgment. Amen.