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Psalms 69 Summary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

This plaintive cry for help falls into two divisions, each of which may be subdivided into three stanzas.

i. The Psalmist entreats God to rescue him from the deadly foes who beset him (Psa 69:1-6). He urges as the ground of his prayer that it is for God’s sake that he is being persecuted (Psa 69:7-12); and then with more strenuous insistence repeats his cry for help (Psa 69:13-18).

ii. Once more he lays before God all the inhumanity of his persecutors (Psa 69:19-21); and, goaded by the recollection of their behaviour, imprecates upon them the judgement they deserve (Psa 69:22-28). Regaining his calmness, he looks forward with confidence to his deliverance and consequent thanksgiving; and concludes with a call to universal praise for the redemption and restoration of Zion which God will assuredly accomplish (Psa 69:29-36).

The name of David stands in the title, but though the Psalm may have been taken from a collection bearing his name, it is impossible to suppose that it was written by him. To what period of his life could Psa 69:8 ff. refer, or how can Psa 69:33 ff. be connected with his reign? These latter verses, which cannot be detached from the Psalm as a later liturgical addition, point decidedly to the Exile, or to the closing years of the kingdom, when Jehoiachin and the flower of the population of Judah had already been carried into captivity (b.c. 597), and the final downfall of the state was imminent. The latter alternative is the most probable; and the circumstances, ideas, and language of the Psalmist so remarkably resemble those of Jeremiah, that it has been conjectured with much plausibility that he was the author of the Psalm. It is not indeed to be supposed that the metaphorical expressions of Psa 69:1-2 ; Psa 69:14-15 are a literal description of his sufferings in the dungeon of Malchiah, (ch. Psa 38:6 ff.), or that the Psalm was composed as he lay there, though the language may have been partly suggested by his treatment upon that occasion; and it is of course impossible positively to affirm that it was written by him; but it is certainly to the Book of Jeremiah that we must turn for the most vivid illustration of the circumstances and the feelings of the Psalmist. If Jeremiah was not the author, it must have been some prophet of a kindred temper of mind under very similar circumstances.

(1) The general situation of the Psalmist corresponds remarkably to that of Jeremiah as he describes it himself in chaps. Jer 11:18 ff., Jer 12:1 ff., Jer 15:10 ff., Jer 17:12 ff., Jer 18:18 ff., Jer 20:7 ff., and elsewhere. His words, “Know that for thy sake I bear reproach” (Jer 15:15), might be taken as the motto of the Psalm. Like Jeremiah, the Psalmist is the victim of contempt which crushes his spirits and hostility which threatens his life. His persecutors are not heathen foreigners, but godless fellow-countrymen; and even his own relations have deserted him.

(2) The Psalmist’s imprecations of judgement on his enemies find a close parallel in the passages already referred to: and the prediction of the restoration of Judah with which the Psalm closes is a brief summary of Jeremiah’s prophecies collected in chaps. 30 33. The Psalmist’s intense depression of spirit and sudden changes of feeling are very characteristic of Jeremiah. Cp. e.g., Jer 20:13.

(3) The language of the Psalm is full of coincidences with the language of Jeremiah, which will be pointed out in the notes.

In such a case proof is impossible, but it will give point and reality to the Psalm, if we hear in it the voice of the martyr-prophet to whom was assigned the bitter task of delivering God’s message to a hardened and impenitent people, by whom it was received with indifference or open contempt: who, while divinely strengthened to deliver that message with unflinching courage, and inspired to look forward with unshaken faith to the rise of a nobler order out of the ruins of the old, yet in moments of human weakness almost lost his own personal trust in God, and became the prey of impatience and despair [33] .

[33] The writer would refer to his Doctrine of the Prophets, Lect. XI., for a sketch of the life and work of Jeremiah.

No Psalm, with the exception of Psalms 22, is so frequently quoted in the N.T. The experience of the Psalmist ( Psa 69:4) was ‘fulfilled’ in the causeless hatred of the Jews for the Son of God (Joh 15:25). The consuming zeal of Jesus for the honour of His Father’s desecrated house brought the words of Psa 69:9 to the minds of His disciples (Joh 2:17): and the rest of the same verse is applied by St Paul to Christ, Who pleased not Himself, but voluntarily bore the reproaches intended for God (Rom 15:3). The words of Psa 69:25 are combined with those of Psa 109:8 in Act 1:20, to describe the doom of the traitor; and Psa 69:22-23 are applied in Rom 11:9 ff. to the rejection of apostate Israel. The physical sufferings of the Psalmist ( Psa 69:21) foreshadowed those of Christ (St Joh 19:28 f.); and though he does not expressly quote it, the passage seems to have been in the mind of St Matthew (Mat 27:34; Mat 27:48) in his description of the Passion. Psa 69:12 ; Psa 69:20 point forward to the mockery (Mat 27:27 ff.); and as we read Psa 69:26. in the light of Isaiah 53 and Zec 13:7, its typical significance is obvious.

Yet the Psalm is not prediction but description, and much of it is plainly not applicable to Christ. The confession of sin in Psa 69:5, and the imprecations of vengeance ( Psa 69:22 ff.), are wholly unsuited to the meek and sinless Jesus. It is prophetic only inasmuch as the experience of each suffering servant of God who endured reproach and persecution for God’s sake under the old covenant was in some measure a type and foreshadowing of the experience of the true and perfect Servant of the Lord. Even the details of their lives were shaped so as to correspond to details in the life of Christ: and these details serve to attract attention and to point to the inner correspondence by which He gathered up and ‘fulfilled’ the experience of the saints and servants of God who had gone before. Jeremiah was a type of Christ: but he and others like him were but partial and imperfect types: there was much in their lives and characters which shewed that they were men compassed with infirmity: but in the antitype the imperfections disappear, and the true Son of Man, the perfect Servant of the Lord, stands revealed. On the ‘Passion Psalms’ in general see Introd. pp. lxxix f.

For a discussion of the imprecations of Psa 69:21 ff., which startle and shock the Christian reader, see Introd. pp. lxxxviii ff. Here it may suffice to remark that if the reader would be fair to Jeremiah (or the unknown author) he must endeavour to realise the intense provocation to which Jeremiah was subjected. He must remember that they are to be judged by the standard of the Law, and not by the spirit of the Gospel. He must bear in mind that they are not merely or mainly the utterance of personal vindictiveness, but the expression of a burning desire for the manifestation of the righteous judgement of God upon those who resisted His will and persecuted His servants.

This Psalm should be compared with Psalms 22, 40; it has also points of connexion with Psalms 31, 38, 44; and in its imprecations it stands midway between Psalms 35, 109.

Its typical character explains its selection as a Proper Psalm for Good Friday.

On the title For the Chief Musician; set to Shoshannim, i.e. lilies, see note on the title of Psalms 45.

Consult other comments:

Psalms 69:0 - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Psalms 69:0 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Psalms 69:0 - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Old and New Testaments)

Psalms 69:0 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Psalms 69:0 - Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary

Psalms 69:0 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Psalms 69:0 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Psalms 69:0 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Psalms 69:0 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges