There is uncertainty about the significance of the Hebrew term that is often transliterated as Shiggaion. In the Septuagint, the word is rendered psalmós (psalm or song).
This composition is attributed to David, with the indication that he sang it to YHWH regarding the words of the Benjamite Cush. Perhaps Cush designates King Saul or one of his supporters. The specific mention of “words” could point to Shimei who cursed David when in flight from his son Absalom. (2 Samuel 16:5-8)
The content of the psalm indicates that David found himself in difficult circumstances, which could fit either the time of his living as a fugitive on account of King Saul or during the period of Absalom’s revolt. In other psalms linked to Absalom’s time, however, David commonly mentions his sin. The absence of this aspect would seem to point to the earlier period in his life.
In the face of grave danger, David appealed to YHWH as the One in whom he had taken refuge or, according to the Septuagint, in whom he hoped (evidently for assistance). In referring to him as “my God,” David gave evidence of his intimate relationship with YHWH. He pleaded for his God to rescue him from all his persecutors or pursuers, delivering him from the existing distressing circumstances.
Without forthcoming divine help, he feared that his antagonists would rip him (his soul) to pieces as does a lion its prey and drag him away without anyone’s coming to his rescue.
David acknowledged that, if he were guilty of serious wrong (as if having defiled his hands with unjust dealings), he should not expect deliverance. If guilty of repaying evil to a person at peace with him or, without cause, despoiling his antagonist, he knew that he (his “soul”) would deserve being pursued by an enemy and overtaken, with the enemy then trampling his life to the ground and causing his glory, dignity, or honor to lie in the dust. He would thus be deprived of his former dignity and debased.
David pleaded for YHWH to arise, as if lifting himself up from a seated position, and to direct his anger against the fury of David’s antagonists. His prayer was that God would awake for him, becoming fully aware of his desperate situation and acting for him in a judicial capacity. Apparently with reference to a judgment on a larger scale, he mentioned an assembly of peoples being gathered before YHWH and God’s return from on high over that assembly, evidently to execute judgment. As YHWH would be judging the peoples, David asked to be judged favorably on the basis of his uprightness and his integrity, honesty, or innocence. In view of the judgment, his prayer was that the evil of the wicked would end and that the righteous be established or secured.
When referring to God’s examining hearts (representative of the deep inner self of individuals) and the kidneys (representative of feelings or emotions associated with the inner life), David indicated the thoroughness of divine judgment. As judge, YHWH, the righteous God, could penetrate to the very core of those submitted to his judicial examination.
David looked to God as a protective shield who delivered those of upright heart or who were righteous in their inmost selves (and not just appearing to be upright outwardly).
Because he knew YHWH to be a righteous judge, he also regarded him as acting in that capacity. According to the Masoretic Text, YHWH expresses indignation each day (evidently against lawless ones). The Septuagint, however, conveys a different thought. “God [is] a righteous judge, and strong and forbearing, not bringing on his anger each day.”
The “returning” is apparently to be understood of a repentant returning to YHWH. If, however, an individual refused to return, he would experience adverse judgment. According to the Septuagint, the verb for returning is the second person plural form of epistrépho (you return), and the verbs that follow are third person singular, suggesting that God is the one who acts. Because the Masoretic Text does not make this distinction, the passage could be understood as describing the actions of the unrepentant one. This is the sense conveyed in the main text of the Tanakh: “If one does not turn back, but whets his sword, bends his bow and aims it, then against himself he readies deadly weapons, and makes his arrows sharp.” In the footnote, however, the alternate meaning is given, with God being the subject. In the capacity of a warrior, YHWH would whet or sharpen (“polish,” LXX) his sword, bend and string his bow, preparing lethal weapons against the unrepentant one. Among the weapons he would ready are burning arrows.
The psalm continues with a portrayal of the lawless one. He conceives evil, becomes pregnant with mischief, and then gives birth to falsehood, something that will come to nothingness (unlike truth that endures). Such a corrupt person would seek to bring about the ruin of others, digging a pit for them. Yet, in retribution, he would find himself falling into his own pit, entangled by his own devices. Upon his own head, the consequences of the mischief he devised for others would return. The violence directed against others would descend upon his own scalp.
David would praise YHWH for his justice and lift his voice in song to the name of YHWH (that is, YHWH himself, the one represented by the name), yes, to the Most High.
Regarding YHWH, see Psalm 1.
In verse 4(5), the Septuagint reads, “If I have recompensed those recompensing me with evils, may I thus fall empty from my enemies.”
There is uncertainty about the meaning of the Hebrew expression “selah.” The Septuagint rendering diápsalma may denote a pause or a musical interlude.
The Septuagint, in verse 11(12), makes no reference to a shield but reads, “righteous [is] my help from God.”
In verse 14(15), the Hebrew word chavál may mean “conceive,” “be pregnant,” or “be in labor,” whereas the Septuagint reading (a form of odíno) conveys the sense of being in labor or experiencing labor pains. While the Hebrew word haráh can mean either “conceive” or “be pregnant,” the Greek term syllambáno basically signifies to “lay hold of” and can also mean “conceive.” Based on the order in the Septuagint, “being pregnant” would precede “conceiving.”
In the concluding verse, the term in the Masoretic Text (yadáh) may be defined as “praise” or “confess.” The Septuagint rendering is a form of exomologéomai, meaning “confess,” “acknowledge,” or “profess.”