Summary: How excruciating is the heartbreak from the betrayal of a trusted friend! David expresses his anguish as only David can.
For Sermon Central researchers: I have posted a series of 15 sermons on the Psalms. In recent personal studies I have found the psalms to be richer and more thought-provoking than I had fully appreciated. I had too often swept swiftly through psalms without slowing down to inquire as thoroughly as I might have into the depths of meaning and feeling that are expressed by the psalmists. Upon deeper examination and reflection, I find the psalms to be highly relevant to Christians in every age. My most recent foray into the psalms led me to present a series of studies of selected psalms in a class environment.
In my classes I did not examine every psalm, or every verse of the ones I did. Rather, I presented selected psalms that I believe to be representative of the collection in the book of Psalms. The studies were held in a class environment suitable for pauses for questions and discussion, and to pose “thought questions” where the meanings are not readily apparent, as is often the case in poetry. My notes include suggested points for such pauses, and I have not removed them in Sermon Central posts.
I developed the material with the view in mind that the series may be well used as sermons. There is an introductory sermon that describes what psalms are (whether they are in the 150-chapter book or elsewhere) and explains my approach to the series. The psalms I selected were presented in no particular order in the classes; however, I suggest that anyone using this material as a series begin with the introductory sermon and follow it with Psalms 1 and 2 in that order, as the first two psalms function as a pair. Beyond that, the selected psalms may be presented in any order.
To get as much enjoyment as we could from our study, I did some of the reading from the KJV, which I believe is the most beautiful of the English bible translations. For clarity we also used other versions, mainly ESV, which I have used for several years and the one I have come to prefer.
We cannot fix a certain time and occasion for this Psalm, but the content strongly suggests it is likely a song of the time of Absalom and Ahithophel than when David was a fugitive from Saul.
It was after David had enjoyed peaceful worship (verse 14), when he was or had just been a dweller in a city (9, 10, and 11), and when he remembered his former roamings in the wilderness, lending support to the choice of Absalom’s rebellion as the time of the psalm.
That case fits the content of Psalm 55, which springs from both a clear out-in-the-open enemy - David’s own son - and also from betrayal by a trusted friend.
We will consider the psalm under that assumption.
I’ve chosen to begin the backstory with David’s son, Amnon.
• Amnon violated the sister of Abasalom, another of David’s sons (and Amnon’s half-sister) – 2 Samuel 13:1ff
• 2 years later, Absalom murdered Amnon and fled to Geshur (Syrian province east of the Sea of Chinnereth, which in Jesus’ time was called the Sea of Galilee) 2 Samuel 13:23-39
• There Absalom was self-exiled for 3 years (2 Samuel 13:37-38)
• Joab arranged for David to grant Absalom permission to return to Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 14:21-24)
• Two years passed with Absalom in Jerusalem but not coming into David’s presence (2 Samuel 14:28)
• Joab was again instrumental in securing the king’s permission for Absalom to meet the king (2 Samuel 14:29-33)
• V33 - Came into David’s presence
2 Samuel 14:33 Then Joab went to the king and told him of Absalom’s desire to meet with him, and he summoned Absalom. So he came to the king and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king, and the king kissed Absalom.
The king had not seen Absalom for 5 years.
Seven years had passed since Amnon’s death.
• In the very next verse (2 Samuel 15:1) we see the beginning of Absalom’s conspiracy to topple his father and rule the kingdom of Israel as its king.
• Meanwhile, David was ruling as Israel’s king.
• He was advised by Ahithophel, a man whose council was deemed to be equal to the words of God.
2 Samuel 16:23 Now in those days the counsel that Ahithophel gave was as if one consulted the word of God; so was all the counsel of Ahithophel esteemed, both by David and by Absalom.
• When Absalom mounted a coup against his father, Ahithophel sided with Absalom (2 Samuel 15:31).
• Knowing this, David was approached by Hushai, offering to serve in the place of the faithless counselor (2 Samuel 15:32ff).