Psalm 3 – David’s Confidence in the Unchangeable God & The Psalm Superscripts

A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

1 LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me.

2 Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.

3 But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.

4 I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.

5 I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me.

6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people that have set themselves against me round about.

7 Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.

8 Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.

The Psalms Scroll (with transcription).
This impressive scroll is a collection of psalms and hymns, comprising parts of forty-one biblical psalms (chiefly form chapters 101-50), in non-canonical sequence and with variations in detail.

It also presents previously unknown hymns, as well as a prose passage about the psalms composed by King David.

One of the longer texts to be found at Qumran, the manuscript was found in 1956 in Cave 11 and unrolled in 1961.

Its surface is the thickest of any of the scrolls–it may be of calfskin rather than sheepskin, which was the more common writing material at Qumran.

The script is on the grain side of the skin.

The scroll contains twenty-eight incomplete columns of text, six of which are displayed here (cols. 14-19).

Each of the preserved columns contains fourteen to seventeen lines; it is clear that six to seven lines are lacking at the bottom of each column.

The scroll’s script is of fine quality, with the letters carefully drawn in the Jewish book-hand style of the Herodian period.

The Tetragrammaton (the four-letter divine name), however, is written in the paleo-Hebrew script.

The prophet’s danger and delivery from his son Absalom mystically, the passion and resurrection of Christ.  Christ as our shield, our glory, and the lifter of our head to the midst of fear.

The Psalm Superscripts 

A psalm superscript is the brief informational note that precedes many psalms. 

In Psalm 3, for example, the superscript is “A psalm of David.  When he fled from his son Absalom.” 

Today many scholars disregard the superscripts, considering them untrustworthy, but two factors suggest that we do well to pay attention to them:

Some superscripts refer to incidents about which the books of Samuel and Chronicles say nothing. 

For example, the superscript of Psalm 60 mentions otherwise unknown battles with Aram Naharaim, Aram Zobah, and Edom. 

If a scribe had been inventing superscripts to tie the psalms artificially to historical events, he would probably have linked them to known episodes from the canonical text (such as David’s flight from Absalom, as in Ps 3).

But references to unknown events or persons imply that the superscripts were written by people with specific knowledge of events, many of which are now lost to us.

The superscripts use technical, musical terms.  Examples include song titles (like “The Doe of the Morning” in Ps 22).

References to instruments (such as “stringed instruments” in Ps 4) and special instructions (such as “for the director of music” in Ps 58).

Significantly, however, as early as the third century B.C. the true meanings of many superscripts were lost.

For example, the translators of the Septuagint evidently did not always know what to make of the Hebrew words of the superscripts and at times resorted to guesswork in translating these terms into Greek.

This implies that the superscripts themselves are quite old – perhaps as ancient as the psalms themselves.