Exegetical Works

Exegesis of Psalm 4:1-9: Confidence in the Character of the Lord for Deliverance in Times of Trouble: 

heb 2


The book of Psalms is a poetic literature with diverse collection of songs written by different authors in different periods of time. Throughout history individual and corporate worshippers have used Psalms in their worship; “in the history of Israel and the Christian church the Psalms have had extensive use in both public and private worship which is very much a reflection of the original purpose of these sacred poems” (Bullock 2001, 23). The Psalter is divided into five “books”: Ps. 1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106, 107-150 (Longman III and Dillard 2006, 254).

The authorship of the Psalter cannot be easily determined. This is because the written texts in the book of Psalms must have existed many generations before they were compiled and circulated; “it was first prayed, sung, and spoken by many extremely different kinds of people. Only later, at the point where these many voices gathered in worship, did it receive the form that is normative for all and accessible to all” (Westermann 1980 15-160). Furthermore, the preposition לְ that is attached to names in the superscriptions of many psalms remain ambiguous because it has variety of possible meanings. The names associated to the Psalms are: David, Solomon, Moses, Asaph, the sons of Korah, and the two Ezrahites. There are other 28 psalms, mostly in Book 5, have no name(s) attached to them at all (Bullock 2001, 25). Psalm 4 is attributed to David.

Sometimes the historical context of some psalms is indicated; but the context for Psalm 4 is not given. This has led some commentators to suggest that the story of Absalom in 2 Sam. 15:13 is the background of Psalm 4. Other commentators suggest it to have been a prayer of distress due to crop failures. These two opinions could be true but in my opinion, it is good to approach the psalm knowing that the author had more than one enemy and also that the psalm applied to different situations in the lives of God’s people.

Psalm 4 is an individual lament. A lament/complaint is “the petition by individuals as they approach God with their particular needs” (Estes 2005, 165).


An Exegesis of Psalm 4:1-9

As stated above, Psalm 4:1-9 deals with a prayer for deliverance based on confidence in God’s character. The psalmist confidently prays to the righteous God for deliverance from his enemies who have turned his glory to shame; he has seen God answer his petition in the past and now calls on the godly to trust in the Lord to receive inner peace, joy and security. This is developed in nine verses beginning with a superscription that attributes the psalm to David (v. 1). Psalm 4 is divided into five parts. In the first part (v. 2) the psalmist prays to God based on His righteous character and what he had done in the past (hearing and answering his prayers). The second part (v. 3-4) points out what David’s enemies had done; they had turned his glory into shame by accusing him falsely, and he now calls them to know that God has set apart the godly and answers their prayers. In the third section (v. 5-6) the psalmist exhorts in a series of imperatives in anticipation to God’s deliverance: to stand in awe, not to sin, search their hearts, be still, offer sacrifice of righteousness, and trust in the Lord. Further, the fourth section (v. 7) enlarges the scope of this individual lament to include other godly people that are equally anticipating for God’s deliverance and blessings. The fifth section (v. 8-9) ends the psalm not in a lament mood but in a joyful and confident mood. The psalmist confidently states that by trusting in the Lord alone the godly receive inner peace, joy and security.

Superscription (4:1)

“To the chief musician. With stringed instrument. A psalm of David” (v. 1).

The superscription on this psalm gives some literary information and musical terms that relates to the psalm. The word לַמְנַצֵּ֥חַ can be translated “to the chief musician/ choirmaster”. This expression occurs in the title of fifty five psalms and in Habakkuk 3:19. The verb from which this noun is derived (נַצֵּ֥חַ) means “to act as overseer, superintendent, director” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 663).

The noun בִּנְגִינ֗וֹת can be translated “with stringed instrument”; with the preposition בִּ meaning “with”. It also occurs several times in the Psalter (Ps. 6; 54; 55; 67; 76). When the noun is translated as “stringed accompaniment” it indicates that these psalms “were to be recited or sung to the strains of stringed instruments” (Bullock 2001, 29; Purkiser 1967, 150).

The word מִזְמ֥וֹר is used fifty seven times in the Psalter to mean “psalm” or “song” depicting the literary genre of the psalm. In the Septuagint (LXX) it is rendered as psalmos, from which we get the word ‘psalm’ (Bullock 2001, 28).

The phrase לְדָוִֽד occurs seventy three times in Psalms. The preposition לְ can be translated in different ways: “to, for, in regard to” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 510). Thus Psalm 4 can be rendered as, to/for/in regard to David. This makes it hard to authoritatively conclude that David was the author though we also know he was a composer of psalms. Personally, I take names prefixed by the prepositions as the name of the author(s). I concur with Calvin as quoted by Bullock on taking David as the author unless otherwise proven, “we understand the term in the authorial sense unless there are indications to the contrary, whether in the superscription or the content of the poem itself” (Bullock 2001, 25).

  1. The psalmist confidently makes a petition to God based on His righteous character, and based on what He has done in the past in hearing and answering his prayers (4:2)

Verse 2 can be divided into two sections. In the first part (v.2a) the psalmist makes his petition to the righteous God. In the second part (v.2b) the reason the psalmist petitions his case to God is because in the past God has heard and answered his prayers.

A. The psalmist confidently petitions his case to God based on His righteous character (4:2a).

“Hear me when I call O God of my righteousness” (v. 2a).

The psalmist begins the lament by making a petition to God (in vocative), a typical beginning of a lament/complaint psalm. He calls on God, עֲנֵ֤נִי(hear me). The imperative used is an imperative of request (Gesenius 1910, sec. 110a). He implores on God to respond to his prayers with the first-person pronoun “me” referiing to the psalmist. He expects God to hear him (בְּקָרְאִ֡י) “when he calls”. The preposition בּ introduces a temporal clause (Chisholm 1998, 114). David refers to God as אֱלֹ֨הֵ֤י צִדְקִ֗י  (God of my righteousness). Righteousness here is an attribute of God; it can also be rendered as the One “who vindicates me” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 841 2e). He is the God who will vindicate him from his enemies. God has also made the psalmist righteous and that is the basis of him saying “God of my righteousness”. The genitive in this phrase is abstract subjective genitive (Arnold and Choi 2003, 2.2.4). The revelation of God’s character as righteous serves as the first basis of psalmist’s confidence on God.

B. The psalmist confidently makes his petition to God based on what God had done in the past by hearing and answering his prayers (4:2b).

“When I was in distress you relieved me, had mercy upon me and heard my prayer” (v. 2b).

The second part of verse 2 is a reflection of God’s dealings in the past. Apart from trusting in God’s character (righteous), the psalmist also bases his confidence on what God has previously done to him. David remembered God’s deliverance in the past when he was in: “distress, narrowness, dread, want” (בַּ֭צָּר) (Holladay 1971, 310). The preposition (translated as “when”) is a temporal clause; but בַּ֭צָּר is used as accusative of state, describing the condition of the subject (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 10.2.2d).

Specifically, after he had prayed in his distress, God did two things in the past. First, God enlarged him (הִרְחַ֣בְתָּ- hiphil, perfect, 2nd person, masculine, singular). The verb means to “be widened, enlarged, relieved, and expanded with joy” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 931). The use of the perfect is definite past (Joüon and Muraoka 2006, sec. 112c). The second person pronoun “you” refers to God, and David refers himself with the first person pronoun “me”. The focus of the psalmist is God; his deliverance will come not from himself but from the righteous God. The pronoun לִּ֑י is a double accusative (direct object and datival accusative) (Merwe, Naudé, and Kroeze 2002, 243-44). Even in this state of distress the psalmist is not crushed in spirit but confident on God who had formerly intervened in his distress to answer his prayers.

Secondly, God not only heard his prayers but also answered. The two imperative חָ֜נֵּ֗נִי “have mercy upon me” and וּשְׁמַ֥ע “and hear” are imperatives of request (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 34.4b). The psalmist had experienced deliverance from a merciful God in the past distress and now he not petitions for the same to happen again. ‘My prayer’ (תְּפִלָּתִֽי) is a genitive of the thing possessed (Arnold and Choi 2003, sec. 2.2.1). There are other instances in psalms associated with David where he had cried to God and the Lord answered him (Ps. 6:8; 118:5). In these two areas God is revealed as the One who relieves, is merciful, and hears prayers. By answering the prayers of the psalmist again, the Lord will be vindicating him.

2. The Psalmist points out what his enemies had done; they turned his glory into shame and by falsely accusing him; he also calls his opponents to knowledge on what God has done in setting the godly apart and in answering their prayers when they call to Him (4:3-4).

Verse 3 highlights who David’s enemies are, and what they have done in turning his glory into shame and by accusing him falsely. In verse 4 the psalmist calls his opponents to commit to memory what God has done in setting apart the godly and listening to their prayers when they call to Him.

A. The psalmist states what his enemies have done to him; they have turned his glory into shame and have falsely accused him (4:3).

“O you sons of men, how long will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love vanity and seek after falsehood. Selah” (v. 3).

In this verse, there is a shift in the use of pronouns. The psalmist shifts from using the first-person pronoun to refer to himself and the second person to refer to God to the third person pronoun to refer to his enemies.

The expressionבְּנֵ֥י אִ֡ישׁ  can be literally rendered “O you sons of men” (vocative). In Psalms 62:9 the (בְּנֵ֥י אִ֡ישׁ) “men of high degree” are contrasted to (‎  בְּנֵֽי־אָדָם) “men of low degree”. In Psalm 49:2 men of high degree is held synonymously parallel to “the rich” and men of low degree is synonymously parallel to “the poor”. The focus of the previous verse was God, but in this verse the psalmist exposes the nature of his enemies. David shows his enemies as high profile, influential, and rich people in the society. The construct noun בְּנֵ֥י is a genitive of genus (Chisholm 1998, 64). The noun אִ֡ישׁ is a genitive of relation (Arnold and Choi 2003, sec. 2.2.2); and is used contrastively; it is man in opposition to God (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 35).

The expression עַד־מֶ֬ה is (How long?) hints that his distress had taken some extended period of time. But also his confidence shows that during this extended time he must have also been praying. To the psalmist what was at stake was כְבוֹדִ֣י (his glory); this is a possessive genitive (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 9.5.1g). Glory is “honor, reputation, of character, of man” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 458 4). Job, in Job 29, deeply lamented over the loss of his honor. The question then is how special was ones glory or reputation in psalmist’s time,

“In the culture of ancient Israel, honor was of the greatest value; it is in most societies. Honor is the dignity and respect that belongs to a person’s position in relation to family, friends and the community. It is an essential part of the identity that others recognize and regard in dealing with a man or a woman. In Israel, its loss had tragic consequences for self-esteem and social competence. Shaming and humiliating a person was violence against them worse than physical harm” (Mays 1994, 55).

But we also know that David was a king who had been enthroned by God (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 2:6) and any dishonor or disrespect of his legality as a king amount to disrespecting and dishonoring Yahweh. Psalmists glory had been turned לִ֭כְלִמָּה (into shame); a direct object accusative (Williams 2007, 50). It can also be rendered, “reproach, ignominy” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 484 2). The rhetorical question (O you sons of men, how long will you turn my glory into shame?) is focused on his opponents.

Having shown what his enemies are after, turning his reputation into shame, the psalmist then asks his enemies how long they תֶּאֱהָב֣וּן רִ֑יק (will love vanity). The verb תֶּאֱהָב֣וּן (Qal, imperfect, 2nd person, masculine, plural) is habitual non-perfective, they habitually, repeatedly, and continuously love vanity (Merwe, Naudé, and Kroeze 2002, 148). The noun that I have translated “vanity” רִ֑יק can also be rendered as “emptiness,” or “worthlessness” (Holladay 1971, 339). This noun is also a direct object accusative (Joüon and Muraoka 2006, sec. 125a, b). Ironically, his enemies love an empty thing! They love what is worthless. In this verse glory is contrasted with vanity. The attempt to turn the glory of the one whom God has enthrones is worthless. In addition, they are clinging to what is worthless by dishonoring God, the one who has enthroned David. Jerome is quoted by Terrien, “The gods and goddesses of the nations represent projections of the forces of nature or human instincts and passions. To seek and love them is done at the price of their total negation of the living God. ‘Nothingness’ seduces like death” (Terrien 2003, 100).

Psalmists enemies are not only seeking after what is worthless but they also תְּבַקְשׁ֖וּ כָזָ֣ב (seek after falsehood). The verb תְּבַקְשׁ֖וּ (Piel, imperfect, 2nd person, masculine, plural) in time reference is progressive non-perfective denoting an incomplete action still in progress in the time the present (Williams 2007, 167 1). It can also be translated “aim at,” or “practice,” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 134, 1b). The noun כָזָ֣ב (falsehood) is the object of what they are seeking after; it is the direct object accusative. Three things are clear here, psalmist’s enemies are men who: are after turning his glory or reputation to shame, they love what is empty, and they are men who are seeking after falsehood. The psalmist’s reputation is at stake from his false accusers, but the righteous God is his vindicator. He has in the past experienced God’s vindication and he again confidently looks forward for the same against his enemies.

The musical term סֶֽלָה׃ occurs seventy one times in the Psalter and three times in Habakkuk 3. Its precise meaning is uncertain but some possible meanings are: “raising of voice to higher pitch,” “for ever,” “pause (for instrumental interlude),” “an acrostic indicating change of voices or ‘da capo;” (Holladay 1971, 256).

It is observed that,

All the psalms in which it occurs with the exception of two are attributed to by title to David or to one of the Levitical singers such as Asaph, the sons of Korah, Ethan, or Heman. The remaining two have no titles. Most of the psalms in which Selah occurs are also inscribed ‘For the chief musician’ and frequently contain notes concerning the use of accompanying instruments. From these facts, Selah would seem to be a musical term, perhaps indicating a pause in the chanting of the hymn while instruments played. It generally ends a stanza or occurs before the introduction of some new and important thought. For modern readers, profitable interpretation would seem to be ‘Pause- and Meditate’” (Purkiser 1967, 147-148).

B. The psalmist confidently states to his enemies what the Lord has done and will do for the godly (4:4).

“But know that the Lord has set apart for himself him that is godly; the Lord will hear when I call to him” (v. 4).

Verse four is emphatically introduced by adversative clause וּ “but” (Williams 2007, 555). The verb דְע֗וּ “know” (Qal, imperative, masculine, plural) is an imperative of command (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 34.4b). David’s opponents are to know כִּֽי־הִפְלָ֣ה יְ֭הוָה חָסִ֣יד (that the Lord has set apart the godly). This may not be a new knowledge to them but serves as a reminder of the relationship that God has with the godly. The figure of speech in this verse is apostrophe since the enemies addressed by David might not be physically present when he is making this prayer. The consecutive clause introduced by כִּֽ showing purpose (Joüon and Muraoka 2006, sec. 168a). The Lord (יְ֭הוָה) is the nominative subject; and the name יְ֭הוָה is intrinsically definite (Gesenius 1910, sec. 125a, d-h). The verb הִפְלָ֣ה (Hiphil, perfect, 3rd person, masculine, singular) is indefinite perfective showing that the action took place in the past but with present effect (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec 30.5.1b). God has set apart the חָסִ֣יד “godly”; the one who “practices hesed,” “one who is faithful,” devout” (Holladay 1971, 111). The term ‘godly man’ is two-sided, it can either be “a person who demonstrates his love of God in the manner of his life; or a person towards whom God manifests His love and favor” (Cohen 1992, 8-9). The godly ones are all those consecrated, like the tribe of Levi, by God (Deut. 33:8-9; Ps. 50:5.); “in rabbinic literature Hasid means someone who acts beyond the strict letter of the law” (Hakham 2003, 17). God sets apart the godly for himself. The psalmist enlarges this prayer from being a private prayer to a prayer that the godly can associate with. The preposition suffix ל֑וֹ is in apposition to יְ֭הוָה and separated by a phrase (Joüon and Muraoka 2006, sec. 131i).

The second part begins with the subject יְהוָ֥ה; the article is intrinsically definite (Gibson 1994, 29).  The psalmist reiterates that Lord יִ֜שְׁמַ֗ע “will hear” (Qal, imperfect, 3rd person, masculine, singular). In time reference, it is specific future, a type of non-perfective future-time reference presents the action as a certain event in the future time (Gibson 1994, 64 a). Psalmist is full of confidence in God’s intervention. The clause בְּקָרְאִ֥י אֵלָֽיו is introduced by the preposition בּ, a temporal clause (Arnold and Choi 2003, sec. 5.2.4). The verb בְּקָרְאִ֥י (Qal, imperfect, 3rd person, masculine, singular) is a non-perfective of capability (Williams 2007, 170). The psalmist knows his identity as a person set apart by God. And as a godly person he is able to call on the Lord and expect an answer from Him. David knows that the righteous God listens to the godly; and those who seek vanity and falsehood will ultimately be disappointed. The prepositional suffix third person masculine singular אֵלָֽי is in apposition to יְהוָ֥ה for emphasis (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 12.5a).


3. The psalmist exhorts the godly on what they should do; while anticipating God’s deliverance, the godly should stand in awe, not sin, search their hearts, be still, offer sacrifice of righteousness and trust in the Lord (4:5-6)

Verse 5 is a message to the godly to stand in awe, not sin, to search their hearts and be still. Verse 6 continues the admonition to the godly, calling them to offer sacrifice of righteousness to the righteous God and trust in Him.

A. The psalmist gives the godly a wise counsel on what the they should do while awaiting on God’s deliverance; they should stand in awe, not sin, search their hearts and be still (4:5)

“Stand in awe and not sin; commune with your heart upon your bed and be still. Selah” (v. 5).

Having shown his opponents what God has done and will do by setting apart the godly and answering his prayers and the fact that what they are clinging to is worthless, the psalmist now turn to the godly. He gives an admonition to the godly through a series of imperatives. In the first imperative, he calls on the godly to רִגְז֗וּ (stand in awe/tremble); an imperative of command (Williams 2007, 188). The godly should in the presence of God tremble/ stand in awe in anticipation to God’s response of their petitions.  Standing in awe/trembling here means “spiritual contemplation of the fear of God” (Hakham 2003, 18).

Secondly, he calls on the  וְֽאַל־תֶּ֫חֱטָ֥אוּ(and not to sin). This clause is disjunctive, representing an alternate idea (Arnold and Choi 2003, 186). Those set apart by a righteous God are called to avoid sin. It is not elaborated why the righteous should avoid sin but Psalms 66:17-19 helps us understand the importance of this imperative, God hates sin,

I cried out to him with my mouth; his praises was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer (NIV hereafter unless noted otherwise).

Thirdly, toאִמְר֣וּ בִ֭לְבַבְכֶם עַֽל־מִשְׁכַּבְכֶ֗ם  (commune with your heart upon your bed). The phase אִמְר֣וּ בִ֭לְבַבְכֶם “commune with your heart”. This can also be rendered as, “to say in the heart (to oneself)” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 533, 7). The verb אִמְר֣וּ (Qal, imperative, masculine, plural) is an imperative of request (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 34.4b). He calls the godly to search and ponder in their hearts. The noun בִ֭לְבַבְכֶם is a genitive of inalienable possession (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 9.5.1h). The heart is the location/sphere upon which they ponder or meditate; an accusative of place (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 10.2.2b). The phrase עַֽל־מִשְׁכַּבְכֶ֗ם “upon your bed” can also be rendered as, “place of lying, couch, act of lying” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 1012). It can thus be translated when you are on your bed. The genitive used here is of location (Merwe, Naudé, and Kroeze 2002, 199). In the bed,  “the voice of conscience, unheeded in the turmoil and excitement of the day, or silenced by fear of men and evil example, may make itself heard in the calm solitude of the night, and convince you of the truth” (Purkiser 1967, 151).

Fourthly, he calls on the godly to be still דֹ֣מּוּ “be still” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 198 1). The imperative used here is imperative of command (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 34.4b). In our prayers we must stop and be silent to listen to God, “too often our prayer is one-way. We tell God what we want, we think over our problems, and then we complain that the Lord never speaks to us” (Williams and Ogilvie 1989, 49). The godly are to be still in the presence of the Lord (Lev 10: 3; Ps. 37:7; 62:10) to hear Him speak.

B. The psalmist calls on the godly to offer sacrifice of righteousness and trust in the Lord in anticipation of their deliverance (4:6).

“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness and put your trust in the Lord” (v. 6).

‎In the fifth imperative, the psalmist calls on the godly to זִבְח֥וּ זִבְחֵי־צֶ֑דֶק (offer the sacrifices of righteousness). The imperative verb זִבְח֥וּ (offer) is an imperative of command (Chisholm 1998, 105). The phrase זִבְחֵי־צֶ֑דֶק means “sacrifice of righteousness (offered in righteousness by the righteous)” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 257 1). David in Psalm 51: 16-17 states that the sacrifice God desires is a broken spirit,

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

The accusative זִבְחֵי־ is cognate internal accusative, from the same root as the verb זִבְח֥וּ. The syntactical function of the noun צֶ֑דֶק is a genitive of quality (Arnold and Choi 2003, sec. 2.2.1).

The sixth imperative is וּ֜בִטְח֗וּ אֶל־יְהוָֽה (put your trust in the Lord). The verb וּ֜בִטְח֗וּ is an imperative of command (Williams 2007, 188). The preposition אֶל־ introduces the direct object accusative יְהוָֽה (Williams 2007, 50). The proper noun יְהוָֽה is intrinsically proper (Joüon and Muraoka 2006, sec. 137b-j) and so it is translated with a definite article. The enemies of the psalmist trust worthless things, but the godly trust in the Lord (Ps. 20:7; 31:6); for trusting in the Lord involves forsaking worthless idols. The psalmist resolves to rise above his distress by trusting in the Lord.


4. The psalmist enlarges the scope of his distress to encompass the experience of other godly people facing similar situation and petition for God’s blessings (4:7).

“Many are saying, “Who will show us any good?” Lift up the light of your face, O Lord” (v. 7).

Having stated what God has done and will do, and what the godly should do, he then enlarges the scope of the psalm from being an individual psalm to represent the cries of other godly people facing similar experience. He poses a rhetoric question, רַבִּ֥ים אֹמְרִים֘ מִֽי־יַרְאֵ֪נ֫וּ ט֥וֹב “(Many are saying, ‘Who will show us any good?). The adjective “many” refers to the false accusers as explained in verse 3. The exceptions to the rule concerning agreement between a noun and attributive adjective in regard to definiteness apply here because it is about numerals and an adjective (Gibson 1994, 42). The verb אֹמְרִים֘ (Qal, participle, masculine, plural) is durative with present time reference. This is followed by a rhetorical question מִֽי־יַרְאֵ֪נ֫וּ ט֥וֹב (who will show us any good?). This question leads the psalmist to reiterate his petition to God. The pronoun suffix “us” attached to יַרְאֵ֪נ֫וּ refers to the godly. The word translated as “good” also means “welfare, prosperity, happiness” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 375, 1). The psalmist has chosen to trust in God; but many other godly people are thinking, ‘who would show us good by delivering us from our false accusers?’

The second part of the verse is a petition to God beginning with an imperative נְֽסָה־ (lift up). This is an imperative of request (Merwe, Naudé, and Kroeze 2002, 151) from an inferior to a superior. The suffix pronoun (us) in עָ֭לֵינוּ refers to the direct object accusative (Waltke and O’Connor 1990, sec. 10.2.1c). The phrase א֙וֹר פָּנֶ֬יךָ refers to God’s “shining, enlightening, favoring face” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 21, 10). The figure of speech used in this phrase is anthropomorphism, the investment of God with characteristic of humans (face). Light has been used as a metaphor that is compared with God’s favor. The noun פָּנֶ֬יךָ is used as a genitive of quality (Merwe, Naudé, and Kroeze 2002, 198). The pronoun “your” refers to the noun יְהוָֽה which is vocative.

The good that many godly people are seeking is found in the light of God’s countenance. The psalmist quotes two of the blessings from the following priestly blessings in Numbers 6:25-26,

The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

The next two verses shows what happens when the godly trusts in him and what the Lord blesses his people with.


5. The psalmist confidently states what he (and the godly) receive by trusting in the Lord alone; the godly receive inner joy, peace, and security (4:8-9).

In verse 8, God filled the psalmist’s heart with gladness. In verse 9 the psalmist is filled with peace and sense of security.

A. God fills the heart of the psalmist with great joy (4:8)

“You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the time their corn and their wine increased” (v. 8).

The verb נָתַ֣תָּה (Qal, perfect, 2nd person, masculine, singular) pronoun suffix refers to the subject, the Lord. The verb is indefinite perfective, representing a past event in which the speaker does not specify the time of its occurrence (W_O 30.5.1b). The noun שִׂמְחָ֣ה is the direct object accusative (Williams 2007, 50). The “heart” used as synechdoche of the part for the whole. The noun בְלִבִּ֑ is an accusative of place (Williams 2007, sec. 54a-b, 55). The joy that God gives him is inner joy, springing from the heart. The two parts of the verse are base comparison connected by “than”. Even the time the psalmist was waiting and trusting in God to work, the psalmist admits that God filled his heart with gladness. The gladness was more than the gladness of his opponents when their bountiful harvest and wine increase; “Harvestimes for the Hebrews and other ancient peoples were times of great celebration and rejoicing. The gladness of the Lord is greater” (Purkiser 1967, 151).

B. God blesses the psalmist with peace and protection (4:9)

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (v. 9)

Trusting in Yahweh also lead the psalmist to confidently assert, בְּשָׁל֣וֹם יַחְדָּו֘ אֶשְׁכְּבָ֪ה וְאִ֫ישָׁ֥ן (in peace I will lie down and sleep). The word ‘shalom’ here means “peace, quiet, tranquility, contentment” (Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1907, 1022 4). Peace is a fruit of trust,

The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever Isa. 32:17.

There is use of hendiadys in this verse: the two verbs אֶשְׁכְּבָ֪ה and וְאִ֫ישָׁ֥ן express the same idea and they are joined by the conjunction “and”. The two Qal imperfect verbs (אֶשְׁכְּבָ֪ה and וְאִ֫ישָׁ֥ן) are cohortatives of resolve/determination (Williams 2007, 184a-b). The psalmist is confident and determined; he does not end where he began (lamenting); trusting in God changes him and his situation. The clause introduced by כִּֽי־ is an explanatory causality (Gibson 1994, 125). The subject יְהוָ֣ה is in vocative and is emphasized by the independent pronoun אַתָּ֣ה; but can also be a pleonasm, a redundant expression for emphasis. The verb תּוֹשִׁיבֵֽנִי׃ (Hiphil imperfect 2nd person masculine singular; suffix- 1cs) is an iterative non-perfetive (Joüon and Muraoka 2006, sec. 113c). The noun לָ֜בֶ֗טַח is accusative of state (Joüon and Muraoka 2006, sec. 126a-f, 127a). The psalmist will rest assured that God is in control. It is this verse that prompted believers of all ages to use Psalm 4 as an evening prayer of hymn (Mays 1994, 56). The righteous God who is also his peace, He makes him to lie down in safety. In Psalm 127:1-3 God is expressed as a protector,

Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay late, toiling for food to eat- for he grants sleep to those he loves.

The psalm ends not in a sad and lamenting mood but with a calm and joyful praise to God whom he has trusted.


In Psalm 4, the psalmist expresses confidence in the character of the Lord for deliverance in times of trouble. God is revealed as righteous and as God who hears and answers prayer. The psalmist had been falsely accused by his enemies who had turned his glory into shame. But the psalmist chose not to focus on his enemies but on God. His deliverance will only come from the Lord not from himself or other people. Knowing who God is and remembering what he has done in the past to us should change the way we handle hard times and also change our attitude from complaining to trust in God alone for deliverance. David knew the reality of his enemies and their false accusation but he also knew God as revealed through past actions toward him and other godly people. In addition, the psalmist knew his identity as one who has been set apart by God for Himself. David’s opponents cannot shake this glorious identity; they cannot turn it into shame because it is solidly based on God’s declaration. Our Christian identity in Christ is also unshakable. Christians are God’s children (Jn. 1:12; 1 Jn. 3:1), saints (1 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:1), and co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). The knowledge of God and of his identity as a godly person leads the psalmist to: stand in awe, not to sin, search his hearts, be still, offer sacrifice of righteousness, and trust in the Lord. By trusting in the Lord alone the psalmist was changed, his lament changed to a song of praise and confidence on the God who sets apart the godly, gives joy, peace, safety and sleep. Trusting in Jesus yields joy and peace for he promises to gives peace not as the world gives (Jn. 14: 27). Christians today, like David, live in a world full of evil and evil people. From time to time we will have to deal with unanswered prayers, or face life crises and challenges, in which we are tempted to fear, complain, fight, despair, or question God. But this individual psalm reminds us to trust in the Lord with confidence for our deliverance no matter what. The Lord is a righteous God who hears and answers prayers and is able to deliver us from our distress. We should learn from the psalmist who because of the trustworthiness of God and His sustenance he is able to confidently and peacefully lie down sleep and wake up again (Ps. 3:5; 4:8).



Psalm 4 is an individual lament containing nine verses beginning with a superscription that attributes the psalm to David (v. 1). The psalm has five parts. The first part (v. 2) a petition of the psalmist to God based on His righteous character and what he had done in the past (hearing and answering his prayers). The second part (v. 3-4) points out what David’s enemies had done; they had turned his glory into shame by accusing him falsely, and the psalmist calling them to know that God has set apart the godly and answers their prayers. In the third section (v. 5-6) the psalmist exhorts the godly in a series of imperatives on what to do in anticipation to God’s deliverance: to stand in awe, not to sin, search their hearts, be still, offer sacrifice of righteousness, and trust in the Lord. Further, the fourth section (v. 7) enlarges the scope of this individual lament to include other godly people that are equally anticipating for God’s deliverance and blessings. The fifth section (v. 8-9) ends the psalm not in a lament mood but in a joyful and confident mood. The psalmist confidently states that by trusting in the Lord alone the godly receive inner peace, joy and security.

This passage should have challenged not only David but also other worshippers who faced a similar distressful situation to trust in the Lord alone. This is also true to us today. Christians are faced with life challenges, trials, temptations and unanswered prayers in their walk with God. This can be disheartening. But this psalm encourages believers in Christ not to despair but to remember who God is, what he has done and to trust Him to bring deliverance and answer in various situations of life.


Work Cited

Arnold, Bill T., and John H. Choi. A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Brown, Francis, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, eds. A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. Oxford: Clarendon, 1907.

Bullock, C. Hassell. Encountering the Book of Psalms: A Literary and Theological Introduction. Encountering Biblical Studies. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2001.

Chisholm, Robert B. Jr. From Exegesis to Exposition: A Practical Guide to Using Biblical Hebrew. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998.

Cohen, Amnon. The Psalms. Soncino Books of the Bible. Brooklyn: Soncino Press, 1992.

Danhood, Mitchell. Psalms I: 1-50. The Anchor Bible 16. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1965-66.

Gesenius, W. Gesenius. Hebrew Grammar. Edited by E. Kautzsch. 2nd ed. rev. by A. E. Cowley. Oxford: Clarendon, 1910.

Gibson, J. C. L. Davidson’s Introductory Hebrew Grammar: Syntax. 4th ed. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1994.

Holladay, William L. A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1971.

Joüon, Paul, and T. Muraoka. A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew. Subsidia Biblica 27. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute Press, 2006.

Longman III, Tremper and Dillard Raymond B. An Introduction to the Old Testament. 2nd Ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2006.

Mays, James Luther. Psalms. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1994.

Merwe, Van der, Christo H. J., Jackie A. Naudé, and Jan H. Kroeze. A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar. With minor revisions. Biblical Languages: Hebrew 3. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002.

Purkiser, T. W. “Psalms.” The Beacon Bible Commentary. Vol. III. Kansas City, Missouri: Beacon Hill Press, 1967.

Terrien, Samuel. The Psalms: Strophic Structure and Theological Commentary. Eerdmans Critical Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2003.

Waltke, Bruce K., and M. O’Connor. An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax. 9th corrected printing. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990.

Westermann, Claus. The Psalms: Structure, Content & Message. Minneapolis: Augsburg Pub. House, 1980.

Williams, Ronald J. William. Hebrew Syntax. 3rd ed., rev. and exp. by John C. Beckman. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007.

Williams, Don, and Lloyd John Ogilvie. Psalms 73-150. Communicator’s Commentary Series. Old Testament 14. Waco, Tex: Word Books, 1989.

Wilson, Gerald H. Psalms–Volume 1. NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

Promoting God's Kingdom in Africa through Research, News Perspectives, and Publication

%d bloggers like this: