What a terribly brutal, scary story. Go ahead and read I Samuel 22 and you will find the context for this Psalm. David, before he was king, fled from Saul, who was the king at the time. Saul absolutely felt threatened by David but David was gathering quite a following. In I Samuel 22 we read that he gathers a whole bunch of people, but all of them were needy in some way. Saul gets word from Doeg, who is an Edomite, of an alliance between the priests of God and David. Now, keep in mind that Doeg is not even one of the God’s chosen people from the branch of Jacob or Israel. Edomites came from Jacob’s brother, Esau. Isn’t it interesting that Saul chose to surround himself with those who were outside of God’s plans and God’s family and gathered his counsel from them? David, on the other hand, was surrounded by his family and by the priests of the Lord. These very priests paid the price for their alliance with David as Doeg slaughters them because of Saul’s fury. Eighty-five priests were killed on that day. Outside of Moscow there is a killing field where during the Soviet times Orthodox priests were killed by communist forces. Here is an article on the spot.
It reminds me of this story in I Samuel of which the title indicates this psalm was written in memory.
There is an anger at the beginning of this psalm which is not difficult to identify. It is a righteous anger, but anger nonetheless. You can imagine David’s state of mind as he is writing this psalm. He feel responsible for the killing of these priests because it was due to their collusion with him that they are killed. If they had not helped him, they would still be alive. You can hear his anger as he states: “But God will break you down forever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living.”
But he also snaps out of this anger and at the very end of this psalm he removes is anger and his discouragement and is able to focus on the fact that God is on his side. As Romans tells us, if God is for us, who can be against us? He ends by giving thanks to God, even in the midst of a terrible tragedy, even in the midst of feeling as if a genocide was your own fault. But God is still good, even in the midst of this.