The Hebrew expression natsách (preceded by the preposition “to”) is commonly thought to signify “to the musical director” or “leader.” In the Septuagint, the rendering is “to the end.” An ancient Latin translation of the Hebrew Psalter reads victori (“to the victor”), probably because of linking the Hebrew expression to a root meaning “to defeat.” This suggests that considerable uncertainty exists about the significance of natsách.
The musician Jeduthun may have been the same person as the Levite Ethan. (Compare 1 Chronicles 15:17, 19 with 1 Chronicles 16:39-41 and 25:1.) Jeduthun does not appear to have been involved in composing the words of this psalm, for it is ascribed to David. It may be, however, that he shared in establishing the style for the performance or determined the musical instruments to be used. If so, the reference in the superscription may be understood to mean “according to the style of Jeduthun.”
The psalmst’s reference to his “dignity,” exalted state, or “honor” (LXX) in verse 4(5) may point to the time of Absalom’s attempting to despose his father as king. The comments that follow reflect this period in David’s life.
In Hebrew, the opening adverb (’ak can mean either “only” or “truly,” and there are no verbs in this verse (1). The words may be understood to mean that David’s soul or he himself waited in silence for God alone or that he truly did so. It would seem that he remained silent from the standpoint of patiently waiting until such time as God would effect his deliverance. This is suggested by his acknowledging his salvation as being from God. The Septuagint supplies a verb and renders the initial phrase as a question, “Shall not my soul be subjected to God? For from him [is] my salvation.”
David regarded God alone as his security-providing rock (“he [is] my God,” LXX), the source of his salvation or deliverance, and his unassailable height (“my helper,” LXX). Therefore, although subjected to experiences that could shake him, David had confidence he would not totter “greatly” or excessively, reaching a point where recovery would be impossible.
It appears that David’s enemies are being addressed with the question, “How long will you set upon a man to slay, all of you, like a leaning wall, a pushed-in fence?” The Hebrew word huth, considered to mean “attack” or “set upon,” has also been defined as “shout at,” “threaten,” or “be frantic against.” Of these suggested meanings, the Septuagint rendering (a form of epitíthemi) fits “set upon” or “attack.” Seemingly, all of the foes, in their efforts to bring about his downfall, acted against David as if he were a leaning wall or a fence about to topple. Translators have variously made this basic thought explicit. “How long will all of you attack a man, to crush him, as though he were a leaning wall, a tottering fence?” (Tanakh) “How long will you assault a man? Would all of you throw him down—this leaning wall, this tottering fence?” (NIV) “How long willl you assail a person, will you batter your victim, all of you, as you would a leaning wall, a tottering fence?” (NRSV)
Those who had aligned themselves against David plotted to bring about his downfall, depriving him of his dignity. They delighted in falsehood, which could have included misrepresenting David as having no interest in his subjects and the administration of justice. (Compare 2 Samuel 15:1-6.) The Septuagint rendering (according to fourth-century Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus) may be understood to mean that, on account of their plotting against him, he resorted to flight. It reads, “They only took counsel to thrust away my honor. I ran in thirst.” Their hypocrisy revealed itself in their speech. With their mouths, they would bless, pretending to be loyal subjects. Inwardly, however, they were cursing, wanting the worst to befall David.
The next verse (5) conveys basically the same thought as verse 1(2). David (his “soul”) would maintain his silence, patiently waiting on God alone to act, for the Most High was his only hope for deliverance from peril. As in verse 1(2), the Septuagint refers to David’s soul being submitted to God, but the thought is not presented in question form. “To God alone, O my soul, be subjected.”
With the exception of not including the word for “greatly,” verse 6(7) and verse 2(3) are identical, expressing the confidence that, with God being like a secure rock, the source of salvation, and an unassailable height, David would not totter or be shaken. The Septuagint rendering of both verses is also similar.
David acknowledged that his salvation or deliverance and his glory or honor depended on God. Apart from his God, he could not hope for deliverance from adversity nor could he maintain his glory or royal dignity. God was his mighty rock, his place of security (“the God of my help,” LXX), and the one in whom he would find refuge (“my hope [is] in God,” LXX)
Evidently based on his own experience, David admonished the people (possibly the Israelites who had not sided with Absalom) always to trust God, pouring out their hearts or all their concerns to him because he is their refuge (“helper,” LXX). The Septuagint does not include the thought of always or at all times but uses the expression “all [the] synagogue of [the] people.”
As far as “sons of man,” earthlings, or men of low station are concerned, they are merely an exhaled breath or nothing. Even the influential ones or men of high station are a “lie,” persons who cannot be depended upon. The reference to “going up”or “rising” on balances or scales may denote being weighed. With all (men from every station and, perhaps, with specific reference to those aligned against David) placed on scales, they would together amount to nothing more than an exhaled breath.
The means by which corrupt ones attain their ends—extortion and robbery—should also not be trusted. If riches (apparently, in this context, ill-gotten wealth) increase, there was no reason for setting one’s heart on them or beginning to think that base means produced desirable gain. Whatever wealth is attained through lawless means does not abide.
God had spoken or revealed that strength is his. Therefore, the one desiring security must rely on the Almighty. The Most High had also manifested himself to be a God of compassionate concern, steadfast love, or “mercy” (LXX). “Twice” the psalmist had heard this, the repetition serving to provide emphasis. God would repay each person according to his work, assuring upright ones that they would be rewarded for their deeds and that lawless ones would not be left unpunished.
Note: Verses 4(5) and 8(9) end with “selah,” a Hebrew expression of uncertain significance. In the Septuagint, “selah” is rendered diápsalma, thought to mean “pause” or “musical interlude.”