Oh, you know, in case of attack, you might want to have an old idol and a quilt of goat hair lying about to fool the attacker. Forget that. It didn't work anyway.
David had been busy attacking the Philistines all day: it was a slaughter and he won. Then he went back to sit and play the harp for his father-in-law until Saul chucked his spear at him narrowly missing him. When he got back home, his wife Michal might have said, "So how was your day, David?" He might have answered, "Oh, I slew a bunch of Philistines, then I played on the harp until your dad went crazy and tried to pin me to the wall with his javelin, so I ran home and here I am. I hope it's a better day tomorrow, but I think you might need to have your dad checked out for that evil spirit that came upon him." But Michal had to tell him, "They have plans for you, buddy. You are a dead man if you don't escape. They will kill you for sure. If God doesn't open a door, then you'd better climb out the window." And he did. She in the meanwhile found an old idol--now why did a good Hebrew princess have an idol lying around?--and a quilt of goat hair and made it look like David was asleep under the covers. Except that as soon as her daddy's men came in, they knew she had tried to fool them. She told her daddy, King Saul, that David would have killed her if she had not helped him escape. She was her father's daughter.
David escaped Saul, and she escaped her dad's wrath, a good day all around considering things. If you want a little more accurate reading, it's found in I Samuel 19:8-17. Anyway, this was the setting for Psalm 59. David was a busy boy running for his life, but thinking up the lyrics for this song-psalm on the way.
My Bible introduces this Psalm as,
"When Saul sent men, and they watched the house in order to kill him."
Oh, you haven't had that experience? Me, neither.
"For behold, they have set an ambush for my life;
Not for my transgression nor for my sin, O Lord,
...For no guilt of mine, they run and set themselves against me...
They return at evening, they howl like a dog,
(Hmm, didn't we just have a presidential candidate bark like a dog?)
And go around the city...
And they return at evening,
They howl like a dog,
And go around the city.
They wander about for food,
And growl if they are not satisfied."
(verses 3-4,6, 14-15)
David not only had to sneak out of the palace, and sneak out of his house, he had to get out of Dodge, I mean, Jerusalem, and go find Samuel. As he was trying to leave, he probably heard the hubbub of all the king's men trying to find him, howling like dogs on his trail as if he was raw meat.
Adam Clarke has another interpretation saying that it was written about the difficulties Nehemiah had rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Yet, he says he could be useful either way we look at it.
One point that Matthew Henry makes, addresses when we wonder why bad things happen to good people, like David, for instance. Here is one angle.
"The innocency of the godly will not secure them from the malignity of the wicked. Though our innocency will not secure us from troubles, yet it will greatly support and comfort us under our troubles. If we are conscious to ourselves of our innocency, we may with humble confidence appeal to God and beg of him to plead our injured cause."
David's life running from Saul is like T.V. episodes of an action drama, like "Arrow," where it looks like the hero will be killed each time, but survives to live another day. There's blood, there's women, there's, well, you know, just plain good ol' drama. The difference is that David is a bard who sings about it playing on his harp, about the good times and the bad, about the happy times and the scary. Don't you just want to sit down and listen to him in heaven? He is quite the action hero and American Idol winner all rolled into one.
"Because of his strength I will watch for Thee,
For God is my stronghold.
My God in His lovingkindness will meet me;
God will let me look triumphantly upon my foes...
But as for me, I shall sing of Thy strength;
Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Thy lovingkindness in the morning,
For Thou hast been my stronghold,
And a refuge in the day of my distress.
O my strength, I will sing praises to Thee;
For God is my stronghold,
the God who shows me lovingkindness."
(verses 9-10, 16-17)
This is almost the chorus that repeats itself in this psalm, strongholds, lovingkindness.
Matthew Henry calls it power and mercy:
"Power without mercy, is to be dreaded;
mercy, without power, is not what man can expect much benefit from;
but God's power by which he is able to help us,
and his mercy by which he is inclined to help us,
will justly be the everlasting praise of all the saints."
So get rid of the idols and itchy goat-hair quilts. God is the One who delivers. He can even give us a song in our heart along the way that might drown out howling dogs (or if you can't sing purty, might be causing the dogs to howl).
(Ya know, I will like a passage if it talks about dogs, even if they are hunting dogs.
It's not the dogs fault if they have mean masters.)