Introduction to Psalm 5

To the chief Musician upon Nehiloth, a Psalm of David. This psalm, being written by David under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is inscribed and sent to him who had the direction and management of the musical instruments used in religious worship in David's time, and afterwards in the temple service, called "nehiloth"; as the preceding psalm is inscribed to him who presided over those called "neginoth", Psalms 4:1; and as they seem to be such instruments as were played upon with the hand, stringed instruments, so these seem to be wind instruments, such as were blown with the mouth; as the flute, cornet, pipe, trumpet, and hautboy; the word being derived from the same root as "chalil", the pipe, is, and signifies hollow, and so designs such hollow instruments as above: Rabbenu Hai {x} thinks the instrument intended was so called from the humming of bees, which its sound resembled; "nechil shel deborim", with the Rabbins {y}, signifying a swarm of bees; and a word from the same root in the Arabic language is used for a bee {z}; though others have thought it might be so called from the murmuring noise of a brook or river, to which the sound of it might be like; because a word from the same root this is thought to come in the Hebrew language signifies a brook or river. The Septuagint version, which is followed by the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions, renders it, "for that which obtained the inheritance"; and the Arabic version, "concerning the inheritance"; and to this agrees the old Midrash {a} of the Jews; but what is the meaning is left to everyone to conjecture; the reason of these versions is because the root from whence this word is supposed to be derived signifies to "inherit": the Targum renders the whole inscription thus, "to sing upon the dances a song of David", as it does the title of the preceding psalm; Aben Ezra takes the word, as he does "neginoth", to be the first word of some song, to the tune of which this psalm was to be sung; and Jarchi interprets it "troops" or "armies", and says it is a prayer on account of the troops of enemies that came against Israel; and that the singer said this psalm on the behalf of all Israel. The Syriac interpreter calls it a prayer in the person of the church, when it went in the morning to the house of the Lord. The occasion of it seems to be the same with that of the two former: and certain it is that the psalmist was in distress by reason of wicked men when he wrote it, as appears from several passages in it; the ancient Jewish doctors {b} understood by them Doeg and Ahithophel; some think it was penned, as the preceding psalm, on account of the rebellion of Sheba, 2 Samuel 20:1.

{x} Apud Kimchi & Ben Melech in loc. So David de Pomis, Lexic. fol. 93. 1.
{y} Maimon. in Misn. Bava Kama, c. 10. s. 2.
{z} Alnachal, "apes", Arab. vers. Deut. i. 44.
{a} Midrash Tillim apud Viccars. in loc.
{b} Apud Kimchi & Arama in loc.