Several verses in Psalm 4 are in the first person, for example in verse 1:

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! ESV

At first sight it seems obvious that "I" refers to David, especially as the author is indicated:

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.

However I'm worried I might be misunderstanding the genre - in a modern-day song, for example "Here I Am To Worship", "I" refers both to the author and the singer - it isn't sung solely in the sense of "Here Tim Hughes Is To Worship"!

Given the rest of the introduction to the psalm, should we consider David's intention to be for his people to understand themselves individually as the "I" they sing?

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.


2 Answers 2


This is an interesting question, and one I never reflected upon.

Here's just a thought: According to notes in the Swedish Bible translation from 2000, the wording "To the choirmaster" is uncertain and another way to interpret the Hebrew word would be "For invocation". I have not managed to find other references to this.

The word in question is למנצח, which is a noun with a prefix. Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh discuss this word in depth and make cross-references, comparing the meaning. They write:

Hence מנצּח is not the director of the Temple-music but in general the master of song, and למנצח addresses the Psalm to him whose duty it is to arrange it and to train the Levite choristers; it therefore defines the Psalm as belonging to the songs of the Temple worship that require musical accompaniment.

While I'm no expert on the subject, I believe the proposed usage of the Psalm implies that it is directed from the singer (regardless of whether it's David or someone else) to the Lord, as with any prayer, although I can't be certain. Also, maybe David never actually intended that the Psalm would be sung by anyone else than him, but it was still written down by others who immediately used as if they were referring to themselves in the first person. In that case, we need to decide which question we are trying to answer (i.e. "What did David intend?" versus "How was it used in the beginning?"). Maybe someone else, who knows Biblical Hebrew or how they performed worship in the Temple, can expand on these things?


In the literal it is David. The Psalms are an expression of his heart. In application, it may be the singer as he joins with David.

The idea that all the Psalms are messianic is not limited to SP (http://www.prca.org/resources/publications/cr-news/item/1409-the-messianic-psalms) but Sp allows us to dig into details rather than just have a general feeling about it.

In SP it is Christ:

1 ¶ « To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm of David. » Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.

Certainly Christ called in his distress. Lu 22:42

2 O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.

He bore our shame: Heb 12:2

3 But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him.

He taught us to believe in prayer because he did: Mr 11:24

8 I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.

This expresses his confidence in facing death (sleep). Ps 16:10

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