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Verses of Psalms 59

Psalms 59 Summary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

This Psalm is another prayer for deliverance from virulent enemies who are threatening the Psalmist’s life. It consists of two principal divisions (Psa 59:1-17) each ending with a refrain. These are again subdivided; the end of the first stanza in each being marked by a Selah, and the initial verse of the second (Psa 59:6; Psa 59:14) being the same.

i. (1) In peril of his life from truculent enemies the Psalmist cries for help (Psa 59:1-2). Emphasising the fact that their attack is unprovoked, he prays Jehovah to interpose and punish all the antagonists of His people (Psa 59:3-5).

(2) He describes the menacing behaviour and the scornful godlessness of his enemies (Psa 59:6-7), and declares his confidence that Jehovah will treat them with sovereign contempt (Psa 59:8-9).

ii. (1) Starting from the height of this confidence (Psa 59:10) he prays that they may be humbled, yet not utterly destroyed, but left for a warning example, till their own sin proves their ruin (11, 12), and their final disappearance demonstrates the sovereignty of Jacob’s God (Psa 59:13).

(2) Returning to the present, he contrasts the baffled rage of his pursuers (Psa 59:14-15) with his own hymns of thanksgiving for deliverance (Psa 59:16-17).

Thus the Psalm strikes the familiar note of unshaken trust in God under circumstances of danger and difficulty. Its constant recurrence in the Psalter is doubtless intended to provide a large variety of comfort and encouragement for the various circumstances of trial to which the godly are exposed.

But what were the actual circumstances of the Psalmist? According to the title the Psalm refers to the occasion in David’s life “when Saul sent, and they watched the house to kill him.” The narrative in 1Sa 19:8 ff relates that after Saul’s unsuccessful attempt upon his life David fled and escaped. “And it came to pass that night” (so we should read with the LXX) “that Saul sent messengers to David’s house to watch it, that he might slay him in the morning.” Michal however contrived to effect his escape by letting him down through a window.

There is much in the Psalm which suits David’s situation. Not on that particular night only but for some time previously his life had been in danger. Saul had spoken “to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should slay David” (1Sa 19:1); and doubtless there were men ( Psa 59:3) in Saul’s retinue ready to curry favour with their master by secretly despatching him, treacherous ruffians who might well be compared to the hungry and savage dogs which infest oriental towns. David’s enemies had been using the weapons of false and cruel calumny with the view of effecting his ruin. With Psa 59:7 ; Psa 59:12 cp. 1Sa 24:9; 1Sa 26:19. Again and again he protested his innocence and the groundlessness of the persecution he was suffering. With Psa 59:3-4 cp. 1Sa 20:1; 1Sa 24:11; 1Sa 26:18 ff; and Psalms 7.

The connexion of the Psalm with this episode in David’s life is however commonly set aside on the ground that the Psalmist’s foes are described as foreigners ( Psa 59:5 ; Psa 59:8), and ‘my people’ ( Psa 59:11) seems to imply that he is a king or at least in a position of authority.

Ewald supposed that the Psalm was written by Josiah when Jerusalem was threatened by the marauding bands of the Scythians; others have attributed it to Nehemiah, when he was hindered in his work of rebuilding the walls by the Samaritans and their confederates (Neh 4:1 ff, Neh 4:7 ff; Neh 6:1 ff). But neither of these conjectures is satisfactory. The enemies appear to be personal; one of their chief weapons is calumny; it is the Psalmist’s life which is in danger, rather than the city, or the cause which he represents.

It is indeed not quite certain (see the notes) that the ‘heathen’ of Psa 59:5 ; Psa 59:8, are the Psalmist’s own immediate enemies: but if they are, the data do not seem to be entirely consistent. Is it possible that we have here a Psalm written by David, or possibly by some later poet, with reference to the occasion stated in the title, and subsequently adapted for liturgical use by the introduction of prayers for the judgement of the enemies of the nation?

Verses of Psalms 59

Consult other comments:

Psalms 59:0 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Psalms 59:0 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Psalms 59:0 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Psalms 59:0 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Psalms 59:0 - Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary

Psalms 59:0 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Psalms 59:0 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Psalms 59:0 - Commentary Series on the Bible by Peter Pett

Psalms 59:0 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Psalms 59:0 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges