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Psalm 34

Of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelek, who drove him away, and he left.

This superscription precedes the words of the psalm. We should remember that superscriptions, titles, headings, footnotes…etc., are not the inspired portion of the words of Scripture. This is an important point of clarity due to the fact that Psalm 34’s superscription reads, “before Abimelek,” when in 1 Samuel 21:12-13 it says that David was afraid of King Achish.

One argument is that Abimelek was another name for Achish. In Biblical times it was a common occurrence for people to have two names such as Simon/Peter (John 1:42) and Uzziah/Azariah (2 Kings 15:1-7, 32; 1 Chronicles 3:12).

Another argument is that whomever wrote the superscription simply made a mistake. While this does not diminish the unity of Scripture, it does demonstrate the potential for clerical errors in footnotes, headings and other such secondary writings. My personal bent is that of the first argument.

The reason it is important to address this seemingly insignificant detail, is that Scripture does not contradict itself. So while the superscription is not Scripture, it is still an important aspect to the reading and understanding of the psalm. For the purposes of this commentary we will assume the first argument to be correct.

Let us consider the circumstances for a moment. For some reason, David believed feigning insanity would result in something better for him than if he appeared sane. According to 1 Samuel 21:12, David was afraid of the king. It is no surprise since King Achish was a Philistine king and David was the legendary one who had killed Goliath, a Philistine champion. Prior to his encounter with King Achish he had just fled for his life from King Saul and lost his best friend, Jonathan. Things were not going well for him at that present time.

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a complete and utter moment of clarity. One example could be as you are driving down the road. Traffic is light. The sun is out, but the temperature is 75 degrees. Your favorite song blares out over your brand-new Alpine speakers. You are singing along at the top of your lungs. You are so caught up in this blissful moment that you’ve forgotten to pay attention to the posted speed limit signs. Suddenly, you catch a glimpse of a highway patrol vehicle parked just off to the side of the highway. As you pass by, his lights flash as he whips out onto the road. You glance down and see that your speed is nearly 10 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. You try to slow down without tapping the brakes. Your heart rate jumps up – you can feel it pounding inside of your chest. You break out in an instant cold sweat.

You have completely forgotten the blissful joy you were experiencing only seconds ago.

As the highway patrol vehicle speeds past you, a staggered sigh of relief erupts out of you. I totally thought he was going to pull me over. Then the praises come pouring out. Thank you God, thank you, thank you, thank you! I am so sorry! I promise to pay attention from this moment forward.

This is the moment of sobriety when the impending doom, or consequence just barely missed you. You had it coming, but somehow you escaped. As the sobriety consumes your heart and mind, clarity immediately follows. This was one of those moments when everything should have gone wrong but it didn’t. The words spewing out of your mouth are filled with praise, thanksgiving and promises to not let something like this happen again.

David’s words echo this sentiment in Psalm 34.

I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.

To extol is to “praise highly: glorify.[1]” David does not simply state that he will praise God, but that he will do so highly – massively – immensely, and that his pra