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Psalm 64

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Prayer for Deliverance From Secret Enemies
MT Intro
For the choir director. A Psalm of David.
Oppressed by the Wicked but Rejoicing in the Lord A Prayer for Protection From Personal Enemies A Prayer For Protection Punishment For Slanderers
64:1-6 64:1-4 64:1-6 64:1-6 64:1-2
        64:3-4
  64:5-6     64:5-6
64:7-10 64:7-9 64:7-9 64:7-10 64:7-8
        64:9
  64:10 64:10   64:10

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. The psalmist is distressed by secret adversaries. This implies fellow Israelites.

They are called

1. the enemy, Ps. 64:1 (BDB 33, KB 38, Qal participle)

2. evildoers, Ps. 64:2 (BDB 949, KB 1269, Hiphil participle)

3. those who do iniquity, Ps. 64:2 (BDB 821, KB 950, Qal participle)

For notes on the names of the adversaries, see 1:5; 5:10; 15:2-5.

 

B. Their actions are (Ps. 64:2-6) listed.

1. they cause dread (BDB 808), cf. Ps. 91:5

2. they conduct secret councils

3. they do iniquity 

4. they have sharpened tongues like a sword

5. they aim their speech as arrows

6. they attack from ambush

7. they do not fear (i.e., God)

8. they are firm in their evil plans

9. they plan to lay snares secretly

10. they think they are hidden (i.e., from God)

11. they devise injustices

12. they have a well-conceived plot

13. they are evil in thought and heart

 

C. God's actions against them are delineated (Ps. 64:7-10).

1. He will wound them with an arrow

2. He will make them stumble

3. He will use their own words against them in judgment

4. He will cause them to be ashamed

5. His actions toward them will cause all men to

a. fear/revere

b. declare His work

c. consider His actions

6. His actions will cause the righteous man to

a. be glad in His actions

b. take refuge (i.e., trust) in Him

c. glory in their hearts

 

D. Human Speech can be a blessing or a curse (see Special Topic at Ps. 52:2).

 

E. Although it is impossible to ascertain the historical setting or identity of the psalmist, it is interesting how many military images are used.

1. sword

2. arrow

3. ambush

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 64:1-6
 1Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint;
 Preserve my life from dread of the enemy.
 2Hide me from the secret counsel of evildoers,
 From the tumult of those who do iniquity,
 3Who have sharpened their tongue like a sword.
 They aimed bitter speech as their arrow,
 4To shoot from concealment at the blameless;
 Suddenly they shoot at him, and do not fear.
 5They hold fast to themselves an evil purpose;
 They talk of laying snares secretly;
 They say, "Who can see them?"
 6They devise injustices, saying,
 "We are ready with a well-conceived plot";
 For the inward thought and the heart of a man are deep.

64:1 "Hear" Many strophes in the Psalms are introduced with the imperative (cf. Ps. 17:1; 27:7; 28:2; 30:10; 39:12; 54:2; 61:1; 64:1; 84:8; 102:1; 119:149; 130:2; 143:1). The Psalms are often prayers to God beseeching Him to act for His people or a righteous follower.

Prayer is a wonderful privilege to the people of God. It releases a power into the world that was not present before. I have put three Special Topics below in different aspects of biblical prayer.

SPECIAL TOPIC: EFFECTIVE PRAYER

SPECIAL TOPIC: INTERCESSORY PRAYER

SPECIAL TOPIC: PRAYER, UNLIMITED YET LIMITED

NASB, NRSV"complaint"
NKJV"meditation"
LXX"petition"

The noun (BDB 967) is used often in poetry for a "complaint."

1. Job 7:11; 9:27; 10:1; 21:4; 23:2

2. Psalm 55:2; 142:2

3. Proverbs 23:29

The psalmist is addressing God about the unfairness of life related to the attacks of fellow covenant people.

▣ "preserve my life from dread of the enemy" The verb (BDB 665 I, KB 718, Qal imperfect) is used with the preposition "from" in Ps. 12:7; 32:7; 140:1,4. It is used of God keeping, guarding, or preserving in Deut. 32:10; Ps. 25:20; 31:23; 40:11; Isa. 26:3; 42:6; 49:8. God's people can trust that He is protecting them. This is not meant to imply a life without problems, but the sure presence of the God and His gracious mercy toward those who seek Him.

▣ "the enemy" The word is singular but used in a collective sense (cf. Ps. 64:2-6).

64:2 The verb "hide" (BDB 711, KB 771, Hiphil imperfect) is parallel to "preserve" in verse 1. The psalmist feels threatened by other covenant partners who secretly plan his demise.

Notice the psalmist asks YHWH to hide him but the wicked hide their secret plans to destroy him (cf. Ps. 64:5).

NASB"tumult"
NKJV"insurrection"
NRSV"scheming"
TEV, REB"mobs"
NJB"gangs"
JPSOA"crown"

This root occurs only three times in the OT. It is translated in the NIV as

1. Ps. 2:1 — "conspire"

2. Ps. 55:15 — "throng"

3. Ps. 64:2 — "noisy crown"

 

64:4 "blameless" The term (BDB 1070) denotes a moral innocense, not a sinless person (i.e., no known, intentional sin). It was used of Job (cf. Ps. 1:1,8; 2:3; 8:20; 9:20-22; Ps. 37:37). See Special Topic at Psalm 18:20-24.

64:5

NASB"who hold fast to themselves an evil purpose"
NKJV"they encourage themselves in an evil matter"
NRSV"they hold fast to their evil purpose"
TEV"they encourage each other in their evil plots"
NJB"they support each other in their evil designs"
JPSOA"they are themselves with an evil word"
REV"they confirm their wicked resolves"

The NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 72, lists several possible meanings/connotations for the Piel form of the verb (BDB 304, KB 302).

1. hold fast

2. they strengthen for themselves (i.e., mutual support)

3. they make firm for themselves (i.e., confirm their evil intents)

 

▣ "Who can see them" This phrase refers to

1. the secret plans to snare the psalmist

2. the disbelief that God knows and will act on the psalmist's behalf (cf. Job 22:13; Ps. 10:11; 59:7; 94:7; Isa. 29:15; Ezek. 8:12)

 

64:6 In verse 6 there are three words that share the Hebrew letters, חפש (BDB 344).

1. search out (NASB, "devise")

2. well conceived

3. plot

 

"the inward thought and the heart of a man are deep" In context this refers to the evil motives of the psalmist's enemies. BDB defines "deep" (BDB 771) as "unsearchable" (cf. Job 12:22; Eccl. 7:24 [twice]) or mysterious. The NJB and the Anchor Bible translate it so as to describe YHWH's knowledge of their actions. However, it seems verses 1-6 are about the enemies' activities and verses 7-9 are about YHWH's response.

The UBS Text Project (pp. 282-284) shows a number of textual issues and possibilities in these two verses. Most of them have a "C" rating (considerable doubt).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 64:7-10
 7But God will shoot at them with an arrow;
 Suddenly they will be wounded.
 8So they will make him stumble;
 Their own tongue is against them;
 All who see them will shake the head.
 9Then all men will fear,
 And they will declare the work of God,
 And will consider what He has done.
 10The righteous man will be glad in the Lord and will take refuge in Him;
 And all the upright in heart will glory.

64:7 This is a typical role reversal imagery. What the wicked did to the righteous (cf. Ps. 64:3-4) is now done to them.

This same type of imagery may explain verse 8. The evil planners who used hateful words against the psalmist now have their own words used against themselves.

64:8 "shake the head" This is an idiom of surprise and rejection (cf. Ps. 22:7; 44:14; Jer. 18:16; 48:27; Lam. 2:15).

64:9 Notice the ultimate purpose f YHWH's actions in the world (i.e., blessing or judgment, cf. Ps. 58:11; 65:8) is for all men to know Him (see Special Topic at Psalm 2 Introduction).

Verse 9 is surely hyperbolic and reflects what will happen to those in Israel but, like so many verses, it states a larger truth (cf. Ps. 46:10).

64:10 This verse is a unique concluding statement. Usually the concluding statement in the Psalms is

1. a praise to God

2. a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

 

▣ "righteous man" See Special Topic at Psalm 1:5.

▣ "will be glad" There may be a word play between

1. hear, Ps. 64:1 — שׁמע (BDB 1033)

2. be glad, Ps. 64:10 — שמח (BDB 970)

This would be a form of inclusio.

▣ "refuge" See note at Psalm 5:11.

▣ "will glory" The NRSV sees the verbs "will be glad" (BDB 970, KB 1333) and "will glory" (BDB 237, KB 248) as imperfects used in a jussive sense. Most English translations have them as ongoing statements.

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. Why are there so many individual laments recorded in the Psalter?

2. Explain in your own words the last line of verse 6.

3. Explain the literary concept of "reversal," which is so common in the OT.

4. Does verse 9 refer to Israel or the world?