Psalm 3

Psalm 3 is the third Psalm of the Bible. It is a personal thanksgiving to God, who answered the prayer of an afflicted soul. Psalm 3 is attributed to David, in particular, when he fled from Absalom his son. David, deserted by his subjects, derided by Shimei, pursued for his crown and life by his ungracious son, turns to his God, makes his supplications, and confesses his faith. The story of Absalom is found in the 2 Samuel, Chapters 13-18.


Commentary by Matthew Henry[1]

In Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, verse 1-3 represents David complaining to God of his enemies, and confiding in God. Verses 4-8 represents his triumphs over his fears, and giving God the glory, while taking to himself the comfort.

Commentary by Adam Clark[2]

In Adam Clark's Commentary, verses 1-2 represent David's complaint, in great distress, of the number of his enemies, and the reproaches they cast on him, as one forsaken of God. Verse 3 represents as confidence, notwithstanding, that God will be his protector. Verse 4-5 mention David's prayers and supplications, and how God heard him. Verses 6-7 deride the impotent malice of his adversaries, and foretell their destruction. The final verse ascribes salvation to God.

Verse 1: Lord, how are they increased that trouble me? - We are told that the hearts of all Israel went after Absalom, 2 Samuel 15:13; and David is astonished to find such a sudden and general revolt. Not only the common people, but his counsellors also, and many of his chief captains. . . .
Verse 2: No help for him in God - These were some of the reproaches of his enemies, Shimei and others: "He is now down, and he shall never be able to rise. God alone can save him from these his enemies; but God has visibly cast him off." These reproaches deeply affected his heart; and he mentions them with that note which so frequently occurs in the Psalms, and which occurs here for the first time, סלה selah . Much has been said on the meaning of this word; and we have nothing but conjecture to guide us. The Septuagint always translate it by Διαψαλμα diapsalma, "a pause in the Psalm." The Chaldee sometimes translates it by לעלמין lealmin, "for ever." The rest of the versions leave it unnoticed. It either comes from סל sal, to raise or elevate, and may denote a particular elevation in the voices of the performers, which is very observable in the Jewish singing to the present day; or it may come from סלה salah, to strew or spread out, intimating that the subject to which the word is attached should be spread out, meditated on, and attentively considered by the reader. . . .
Verse 3. Thou, O Lord art a shield - As a shield covers and defends the body from the strokes of an adversary, so wilt thou cover and defend me from them that rise up against me.
The lifter up of mine head - Thou wilt restore me to the state from which my enemies have cast me down. This is the meaning of the phrase; and this he speaks prophetically. He was satisfied that the deliverance would take place, hence his confidence in prayer; so that we find him, with comparative unconcern, laying himself down in his bed, expecting the sure protection of the Almighty.
Verse 4. I cried unto the Lord with my voice - He was exposed to much danger, and therefore he had need of fervor.
He heard me - Notwithstanding my enemies said, and my friends feared, that there was no help for me in my God; yet he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah: mark this, and take encouragement from it. God never forsakes those who trust in him. He never shuts out the prayer of the distressed.
Verse 5. I laid me down and slept - He who knows that he has God for his Protector may go quietly and confidently to his bed, not fearing the violence of the fire, the edge of the sword, the designs of wicked men, nor the influence of malevolent spirits.
I awaked - Though humanly speaking there was reason to fear I should have been murdered in my bed, as my most confidential servants had been corrupted by my rebellious son; yet God, my shield, protected me. I both slept and awaked; and my life is still whole in me.
Verse 6. I will not be afraid of ten thousands: Strength and numbers are nothing against the omnipotence of God. He who has made God his refuge certainly has no cause to fear.
Verse 7. Arise, O Lord: Though he knew that God had undertaken his defense, yet he knew that his continued protection depended on his continual prayer and faith. God never ceases to help as long as we pray. Thou hast smitten: That is, Thou wilt smite. David speaks in full confidence of God's interference; and knows as surely that he shall have the victory, as if he had it already. Breaking the jaws and the teeth are expressions which imply, confounding and destroying an adversary; treating him with extreme contempt; using him like a dog, &c.
Verse 8. Salvation belongeth unto the Lord - It is God alone who saves. He is the fountain whence help and salvation come; and to him alone the praise of all saved souls is due. His blessing is upon his people. Those who are saved from the power and the guilt of sin are his people. His mercy saved them; and it is by his blessing being continually upon them, that they continue to be saved. David adds his selah here also: mark this!

Martin Luther

Writers like Martin Luther [3]felt that, overall, the goal in this Psalm is to impart the confidence of those who consider themselves followers of YHWH to call on him. "But you, Yahweh, are a shield around me, my glory, and uplifts my head." (Verse 4): This is the emphatic prayer of the oppressed who turn aside to YHWH. Although written in the mouth of David (verse 1)[4] The reader is encouraged to consider how God rescues someone like David, who was at that time very in distress, saved and later raised to be king over all Israel.

Commentary by St. Augustine of Hippo

New Advent: St. Augustine, Exposition on Psalm 3

Musical settings

Psalm 3 has been scored in music by many artists, including "Thou Art A Shield For Me",[5] by Byron Cage, "Christian Karaoke Praise Song Psalm 3 worship",[6] by Andrew Bain. In 1691,Michel-Richard Delalande composed his grand motet Domine quid sunt Multiplicati (S.37) for the offices of the Chapel of Versailles, and Henry Purcell set a variant version of the Latin text, "Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes mei," for five voices and continuo.



Eastern Orthodox Church

  • Psalm 3 is the first Psalm, of "The Six Psalms", which are read as part of every Orthros (Matins) service. During the reading of the Six Psalms, movement and noise are strongly discouraged, as it is regarded as one of the most holy moments of the Orthros service.[10]

Catholic Church

About 530 in the Rule of St. Benedict, Benedict of Nursia chose this Psalm for the beginning of the office of matins, namely as the first psalm in the liturgy of the Benedictine during the year.[11] In the abbeys that preserve the tradition, it is currently the first Psalm Sunday for the office of vigils.[12]

Given the current Liturgy of the Hours, 3 Psalm is sung or recited the first Office of Readings on Sunday semaine, after the first two psalms.[13]


  1. Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on Psalm 3
  2. Clark's Commentary on Psalm 3
  3. Martin Luther: Dr. Martin Luthers Sämmtliche Schriften, (St. Louis 1880), p 1375.
  4. Siehe: Howard N. Wallace, Psalms. Readings. A New Biblical Commentary, (Sheffield 2009).
  5. Thou Art A Shield For Me Psalm 3 lyrics Archived 2009-02-26 at the Wayback Machine., by Byron Cage.
  6. Christian Karaoke Praise Song Psalm 3 worship, by Andrew Bain.
  7. The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 291
  8. The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 63
  9. The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 619
  10. Dykstra, Tyler. "The Six Psalms". Saint George Antiochian Orthodox Church. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  11. Prosper Guéranger, La règle de Saint Benopit, p. 37 & 38.
  12. D’après le Complete Artscroll Siddur, compilation des prières juives.
  13. Le cycle principal des prières liturgiques se déroule sur quatre semaines.
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