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Psalm 85


Prayer for God's Mercy Upon the Nation
MT Intro
For the choir director. A Psalm of the sons of Korah
Prayer That The Lord Will Restore Favor to The Land Prayer For Deliverance From National Adversary A Prayer For the Nation's Welfare Prayer For Peace and Justice
85:1-3 85:1-3 85:1-3 85:1-3 85:1-2
85:4-7 85:4-7 85:4-7 85:4-7 85:4-5
85:8-13 85:8-9 85:8-9 85:8-9 85:8-9
  85:10-13 85:10-13 85:10-13 85:10-11

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


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. Etc.



A. Notice that

1. Ps. 85:1-3 has all perfects (i.e., completed action, usually past)

2. while Ps. 85:4-7 has all imperfects (i.e., ongoing action, the current state of YHWH's anger toward Israel)

3. Ps. 85:5-6 contain a series of three questions).

B. Several major theological terms are personified in Ps. 85:10-13 (cf. positive in Isa. 58:8; negative in Isa. 59:14-15).

1. lovingkindness, Ps. 85:10 - Special Topic: Lovingkindness (hesed)

2. truth/faithfulness, Ps. 85:10,11 - Special Topic: Believe, Trust, Faith and Faithfulness in the OT

3. righteousness, Ps. 85:10,11,13 - Special Topic: Righteousness

4. peace, Ps. 85:10 (cf. Ps. 85:8) - Special Topic: Peace (OT)

C. The land is affected in both positive and negative ways by how God's people live (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30). Human choices have consequences, but so do YHWH's grace and mercy!



 1O Lord, You showed favor to Your land;
 You restored the captivity of Jacob.
 2You forgave the iniquity of Your people;
 You covered all their sin.  Selah.
 3You withdrew all Your fury;
 You turned away from Your burning anger.

85:1-3 Notice the powerful parallelism which denotes the character and redemptive actions of YHWH.

1. You showed favor - BDB 953, KB 1280, Qal perfect

2. You restored the fortunes - BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal perfect, cf. Ps. 14:7

a. forgiveness

b. restoration to Canaan

3. You forgave the iniquity - BDB 669, KB 724, Qal perfect

4. You covered all their sin - BDB 491, KB 487, Piel perfect

5. You withdrew all Your fury - BDB 62, KB 74, Qal perfect

6. You turned away Your burning anger - BDB 996, KB 1427, Hiphil perfect; notice

a. this same verb in #2

b. the imperative form in Ps. 85:4

c. the Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense in Ps. 85:8

YHWH has kept His covenant promises even when His covenant people did not deserve it. Sin has consequences (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30), but grace also has lasting effects because of the character of God (cf. Exod. 34:6; Num. 14:18; Deut. 4:31; Neh. 9:27; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8)!

85:1 "Your land" Notice the different ways to refer to God's people.

1. Your land, Ps. 85:1a

2. Jacob, Ps. 85:1b

3. Your people, Ps. 85:2a


85:2 "Selah" See note at Psalm 3:2.

85:3-4 "all" The use of "all" (BDB 481) is significant. All their sin is covered and all God's fury is withdrawn. What inclusive good news!

85:3 "Your fury" Notice the different words that refer to YHWH's reaction to human disobedience (cf. Ps. 78:49).

1. fury, Ps. 85:3a - BDB 720

2. burning anger, Ps. 85:3b - BDB 354 construct BDB 60 I

3. indignation, Ps. 85:4b - BDB 495

4. angry, Ps. 85:5a - BDB 60, verb

5. anger, Ps. 85:5b - BDB 60, noun

How different these expression of God's character are with

1. Ps. 85:1-2


 4Restore us, O God of our salvation,
 And cause Your indignation toward us to cease.
 5Will You be angry with us forever?
 Will You prolong Your anger to all generations?
 6Will You not Yourself revive us again,
 That Your people may rejoice in You?
 7Show us Your lovingkindness, O Lord,
 And grant us Your salvation.

85:4-7 This strophe starts out with two prayer requests ("restore" - BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal imperative; "put away" - BDB 830, KB 974, Hiphil imperative) and ends with a prayer request ("show" - BDB 906, KB 1157, Hiphil imperative).

It then follows with a series of questions related to that call for restoration.

1. Will You be angry with us forever? cf. Ps. 74:1; 79:5; 80:4

2. Will You prolong Your anger to all generations?

3. Will You not Yourself revive us again? cf. Ps. 71:20; 80:18

Israel could not understand how YHWH allowed them to be invaded and exiled (cf. Habakkuk 1)! They were His people and His witness in this world. The problem was covenant disobedience. The wrong message was being communicated to the nations (cf. Ezek. 36:22-36).

85:7 "lovingkindness" See note at Contextual Insights, B.

▣ "Your salvation" In Ps. 85:4 the psalmist calls YHWH "O God (Eloah) of our salvation" (BDB 447). See SPECIAL TOPIC: SALVATION (OLD TESTAMENT TERM) (OT).

 8I will hear what God the Lord will say;
 For He will speak peace to His people, to His godly ones;
 But let them not turn back to folly.
 9Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him,
 That glory may dwell in our land.
 10Lovingkindness and truth have met together;
 Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
 11Truth springs from the earth,
 And righteousness looks down from heaven.
 12Indeed, the Lord will give what is good,
 And our land will yield its produce.
 13Righteousness will go before Him
 And will make His footsteps into a way.

85:8-12 This strophe is the answer to the psalmist's prayers. He wants God to speak to him ("Let me hear," BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal cohortative). He will pass on the message/vision.

1. peace to

a. His people

b. His godly ones (BDB 339)

2. His salvation is near

3. glory will dwell in their land (i.e., YHWH's personal presence, like the Shekinah cloud, but here in the temple, cf. Ps. 63:2; 102:15-16)

4. lovingkindness and faithfulness have met together

5. righteousness and peace have kissed each other

6. faithfulness springs from the earth

7. righteousness looks down from heaven

8. YHWH will give what is good

9. righteousness will go before

But notice the conditions.

1. let them not turn back to folly (BDB 493) - BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. to those who fear/revere Him (Special Topic: Fear)

It is even possible the "to His godly ones" of Ps. 85:8b is also a condition for peace. There is no peace apart from a right relationship with God and then others.

Also Ps. 85:11 speaks of faithfulness as a condition for God's righteousness (i.e., God Himself) to look from heaven.

Psalm 85:10-11 is such powerful imagery of God's person. These attributes are personified as coming together to accomplish His purposes.

1. restoration from exile

2. breaking a drought

3. eschatological culmination (Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan)


85:8 "God the Lord" This is El plus YHWH. Usually it is YHWH Elohim, as in Gen. 2:4 (YHWH Elohim). The NJB sees these two names for God as introducing parallel lines.

"What is God's message?"

"Yahweh's message is peace."

This same approach is followed by AB (p. 285).

▣ "But let them not turn back to folly" This reflects the MT. The LXX understands the phrase as "and to those who turn to him their hearts." The UBS Text Project (p. 345) gives the MT a "C" rating (i.e., considerable doubt).

85:12 The promise of agricultural abundance was tied to covenant obedience (i.e., Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30). AB sees the Psalm as a pre-exilic call for rain amidst a drought. The Jewish Study Bible (p. 1377) sees the Psalm as a plea for restoration of God's people to Canaan. This is based on

1. "land" in Ps. 85:1, 9-12

2. "restore the fortunes," as used in Jer. 30:3,18; Amos 9:14

3. Ps. 85:7, referring to a restored temple


▣ "good thing" To what does this refer?

1. deliverance - Exod. 18:9

2. blessings - Ps. 34:10

3. Canaan - Exod. 3:8; Deut. 1:35; 3:25; 4:21-22; 8:7,10; Jos. 23:13

4. unspecified goodness from YHWH to those who obey His covenant - Ps. 84:11

Maybe it is purposeful ambiguity that means God's provision in every needed area. Here, agricultural abundance (cf. Ps. 67:6).

85:13 The OT often uses the imagery of a "way," "road," "highway" to denote the actions of God and humans (i.e., Ps. 25:4,8,9,10,12,15). The spiritual life was characterized as "a way"!

Righteousness is again personified (cf. Ps. 85:10-11) as a herald (cf. Ps. 85:8) who goes before Israel shouting the good news of YHWH's love, care, protection, and presence with His people after exile or drought. The Jerome Bible Commentary (p. 591) sees it as possibly an eschatological reference.


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. Is it possible to detect the historical setting? If so, list the three options.

2. How do the verbs of Ps. 85:1-2 relate to the verbs of Ps. 85:3?

3. Does Ps. 85:8 refer to the psalmist or a prophet?

4. Why is Ps. 85:10-11 such powerful, moving, encouraging imagery?

5. How does Ps. 85:11 deal with both divine sovereignty and human free will?

6. Define "good" in Ps. 85:12.

7. Explain the imagery of a "path" or "way."