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Psalm 59

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Prayer for the Deliverance From Enemies
MT Intro
For the choir director; set to Al-tashheth, when Saul sent men, and they watched the house in order to kill him.
The Assured Judgment of the Wicked Prayer for Deliverance From Enemies A Prayer for Safety Against the Wicked
59:1-8 59:1-2 59:1-2 59:1-2 59:1-2
  59:3-4 59:3-4 59:3-4 59:3-4b
        59:4c-5
  59:5 59:5 59:5  
  59:6-7 59:6-7 59:6-7 59:6
        59:7
  59:8-9 59:8-10 59:8-10 59:8-9a
59:9-15       59:9b-10
  59:10      
  59:11-13 59:11-13 59:11-15 59:11
        59:12
        59:13
  59:14-15 59:14-15 59:14-15 59:14
        59:15
59:16-17 59:16-17 59:16-17 59:16-17 59:16
        59:17

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Again the question of who are the "enemies" recurs. In this Psalm it seems to refer to Gentile invaders (cf. Ps. 59:5,6,7,8,11,13,14,15). Verse 8 reminds one of Psalm 2:4.

 

B. The psalmist states clearly that he is attacked, but not because of anything he has done (cf. Ps. 59:3c, 4a). The attack seems to come because he/they are YHWH's people.

 

C. Notice the titles for the Covenant Deity.

1. O my God, Ps. 59:1 — probably Elohim, like verse 8 with final letter in the next word

2. O YHWH, Ps. 59:3,5,8 — BDB 217

3. God of hosts (Elohim Sabaoth), Ps. 59:5 — BDB 43 and 838; military connotations

4. God of Israel, Ps. 59:5 — BDB 43 construct BDB 975

5. O my strength — BDB 738

6. God is my fortress/stronghold, Ps. 59:9 — BDB 43 and BDB 960 I

7. God is my lovingkindness, Ps. 59:10,17 — BDB 43 and BDB 338

8. O Lord, our shield or Adon is our shield, Ps. 59:11 — BDB 10 and BDB 171

9. God (Elohim), Ps. 59:13 — BDB 43 (Elohim)

10. O my strength, Ps. 59:16 — BDB 738

11. O God my fortress, Ps. 59:17 — same as #5

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 59:1-8
 1Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
 Set me securely on high away from those who rise up against me.
 2Deliver me from those who do iniquity
 And save me from men of bloodshed.
 3For behold, they have set an ambush for my life;
 Fierce men launch an attack against me,
 Not for my transgression nor for my sin, O Lord,
 4For no guilt of mine, they run and set themselves against me.
 Arouse Yourself to help me, and see!
 5You, O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel,
 Awake to punish all the nations;
 Do not be gracious to any who are treacherous in iniquity.  Selah.
 6They return at evening, they howl like a dog,
 And go around the city.
 7Behold, they belch forth with their mouth;
 Swords are in their lips,
 For, they say, " Who hears?"
 8But You, O Lord, laugh at them;
 You scoff at all the nations.

59:1-2 Notice the Psalm starts with three imperatives (prayer requests for deliverance from enemies).

1. deliver, Ps. 59:1 — BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil imperative

2. deliver, Ps. 59:2 — same as #1

3. save — BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil imperative, cf. Ps. 28:9; 31:16; 71:2; 86:2,16

Both are used in Ps. 7:1; 22:20-21; 31:2-3,15-16; 33:16-17; 34:17-18, etc. It is a recurrent prayer for help!

Notice how the enemies are characterized.

1. those who rise up against me

2. those who do iniquity

3. men of bloodshed

The enemies in this Psalm seem to be foreign invaders.

1. punish all the nations, Ps. 59:5

2. go around the city (i.e., siege), Ps. 59:6

3. belch forth. . .swords, Ps. 59:7

4. YHWH scoffs at all the nations, Ps. 59:8

5. do not slay them lest my people forget, Ps. 59:11

6. God rules in Jacob, to the ends of the earth, Ps. 59:13

7. go around the city, Ps. 59:14 (see #2)

8. v. 15 is imagery of a siege

 

59:3-4a In these verses the singular "me" refers to a/the leader of Israel. An attack on him is an attack on the covenant people. One wonders if the foreign invaders had inside help.

Notice the author defends his own righteousness by asserting that he is attacked for no reason (cf. Ps. 59:3c, 4b). The enemies attack because of how he is related to the God of Israel (cf. Psalm 2).

 

59:4b-5 These two verses are linked by the three imperatives calling on Deity to act in deliverance.

1. arouse Yourself, Ps. 59:3b — BDB 734, KB 802, Qal imperative, cf. Ps. 7:6; 35:23; 44:23; 57:8 (thrice); 73:20; 80:2; 108:2

2. see, Ps. 59:4b — BDB 906, KB1157, Qal imperative, cf. Ps. 9:13; 25:18,19; 80:14; 84:9; 119:153,159; 139:24

3. awake, Ps. 59:5 — BDB 884, KB 1098, Hiphil imperative, cf Ps. 35:23; 44:23

 

▣ "help me" This is literally "meet me." This personal aspect is repeated in verse 10a.

▣ "O Lord, God of hosts" See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at Ps. 1:1.

▣ "Do not be gracious" This negated verb (BDB 335, KB 334, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense) is used often in Psalms (cf. Ps. 4:1; 6:2; 9:13; 25:16; 26:11; 27:7; 30:10; 41:4,10; 51:1; 56:1; 57:1, etc.). here the psalmist asks God not to show mercy to his enemies because they are treacherous in iniquity (cf. Ps. 109:14; Isa. 2:9; Jer. 18:23).

59:6-7 There are several modern English translations that have verses 6-7 as a strophe and begin a new strophe at verses 8-10. It is hard to know how to divide this Psalm into its logical divisions.

Verses 6-7 describe the enemies as

1. howling dogs

2. dogs that go around

a. a siege metaphor (cf. Ps. 59:14-15)

b. a metaphor for their constant search for food (59:15)

3. belch. . .swords, Ps. 59:7

4. no fear of God (i.e., they say, "Who hears?" cf. Job 22:13; Ps. 10:4,11,13; 64:5; 73:11; 94:7; Isa. 29:15; Ezek. 8:12). They are either

a. Israelite practical atheists

b. pagans/idolaters

 

59:8 Verse 8 reminds me of

1. Psalm 2:4

2. Psalm 37:13

This verse seems to demand the enemies are Gentile, pagan invaders (cf. Ps. 59:5,6,7,8,11,13,14,15).

The verbs in Ps. 59:8 are both Qal imperfects that speak of ongoing action (i.e., YHWH laughs. . .scoffs at the nations in their disbelief and arrogant assaults on His people).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 59:9-15
 9Because of his strength I will watch for You,
 For God is my stronghold.
 10My God in His lovingkindness will meet me;
 God will let me look triumphantly upon my foes.
 11Do not slay them, or my people will forget;
 Scatter them by Your power, and bring them down,
 O Lord, our shield.
 12On account of the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips,
 Let them even be caught in their pride,
 And on account of curses and lies which they utter.
 13Destroy them in wrath, destroy them that they may be no more;
 That men may know that God rules in Jacob
 To the ends of the earth.  Selah.
 14They return at evening, they howl like a dog,
 And go around the city.
 15They wander about for food
 And growl if they are not satisfied.

59:9-13 There are several titles of Deity. See Contextual Insights, C.

59:9

NASB"his strength"
NKJV"his Strength"
NRSV, NJB,
JPSOA"my strength"
TEV"your strength"

The UBS Text Project (p. 271) gives "my strength" a "D" rating (highly doubtful). This is probably based on the same words in verse 18. It is a title for Deity.

NASB"Because of his strength"
NKJV"O You his Strength"
NRSV, JPSOA"O my strength"
NJB, REB"My strength"
LXX"O my might"

I think this is another title for Deity (cf. Ps. 21:1; 28:7,8; 59:17; 81:1; 118:14). It parallels "God is my stronghold."

▣ "I will watch for You" This verb (BDB 1036, KB 1581) is a Qal cohortative, cf. Ps. 130:6. The psalmist longed to see God and be with him!

59:10 This is another title for God (i.e., "God of my lovingkindness"), NKJV has "My merciful God" and JPSOA has "My faithful God."

▣ "will let me look triumphantly upon my foes" This is another cultural idiom of victory (cf. Ps. 23:5; 54:7; 91:8; 92:11; 112:8; 118:7).

59:11 This verse is surprising to me. It reminds me of how YHWH dwelt with the Hebrew tribes after the conquest of the walled cities by Joshua. Each tribe had to militarily conquer its own territory from the Canaanite tribes. God did not do it for them. They had to act in faith. He left some opposition so that they could grow in faith, in Him, and in themselves.

The verb forms are

1. do not slay, Ps. 59:11 — BDB 246, KB 255, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. scatter them, Ps. 59:11 — BDB 631, KB 681, Hiphil imperative

3. bring them down, Ps. 59:11 — BDB 432, KB 434, Hiphil imperative

4-5. destroy them, Ps. 59:13 — BDB 477, KB 476, Piel imperative (twice)

6. that they may be no more — BDB 34 II (no verb)

These commands must be modified by verse 11a. It is possible that there is confusion between "no" (אל — BDB 39) and "El" (אל, general name for Deity in the ANE — BDB 42 II). This is the suggestion of AB (p. 71).

▣ "lest my people forget" The verb (BDB 1013, KB 1489, Qal imperfect) also occurs in Deut. 8:11-20, where YHWH admonishes His people not to think that their prosperity or victory is because of themselves!

▣ "our shield" This imagery goes back to YHWH's initial encounters with Abraham and the promises He made him and his descendants (cf. Gen. 15:1; Deut. 33:29). It is recurrent in the Psalms (cf. Ps. 3:3; 5:12; 28:7; 115:9-11). It denotes God as protector!

59:12 "Let them even be caught in their pride" — BDB 539, KB 530, Niphal imperfect used in a jussive sense. Human pride and arrogance is

1. the essence of the Fall

2. abhorrent to YHWH

He will not tolerate it (cf. Isa. 2:11-12; 5:15; 10:33; Zeph. 3:11). As a biblical example of human pride, note the SPECIAL TOPIC: BOASTING at Ps. 20:7.

59:13 "That men may know that God rules in Jacob,
 To the ends of the earth"
This universal element is crucial in understanding what God is doing in our world (cf. Ps. 2:8; 58:11; 67:7; 72:8,17; 96:13; 98:9; Isa. 45:22; 49:6; 52:10; Jer. 16:19; Micah 5:4; Matt. 25:32). See Special Topic: YHWH' Eternal Redemptive Plan at Intro. to Psalm 2.

▣ "Selah" See note at Ps. 3:2 and Intro. to Psalms, VII.

59:14-15 These link back to verses 6-7. Verse 6 and verse 14 are duplicate refrains. Verses 7 and 15 are both descriptive phrases about the enemies. They are vicious predators!

59:14

NASB, NRSV,
JPSOA"growl"
NKJV"howl"

This root (BDB 534 II) can mean

1. spend the night — BDB 533 I (this is the MT pointing, cf. Ps. 55:7)

2. growl — BDB 534 II

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 59:16-17
 16But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength;
 Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning,
 For You have been my stronghold 
 And a refuge in the day of my distress.
 17O my strength, I will sing praises to You;
 For God is my stronghold, the God who shows me lovingkindness.

59:16-17 The psalmist contrasts (i.e., "but as for me") his lifestyle and motives with them.

1. I shall sing of Your strength, Ps. 59:16

2. I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness, Ps. 59:16

3. I will sing praises to You, Ps. 59:17

The reason for these songs of praise is YHWH

1. has been his stronghold (BDB 960 I)

2. is his refuge (BDB 631) in the day of distress, cf. Jer. 16:19

3. is his stronghold (BDB 960 I), cf. Ps. 9:9; 59:9; 62:2,6

4. has shown him lovingkindness (BDB 338)

Several of the key theological terms describing YHWH are repeated in this close.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Who are the enemies? Why does it seem there are two groups?

2. Is the psalmist claiming sinlessness in verses 3c, 4a?

3. What is the imagery behind "arouse" and "awake"?

4. List the universal elements in this Psalm. What do they imply?

5. Verse 11 seems confusing. Why?