The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 59

Psa 59:1

SUPERSCRIPTION: "OF DAVID. A MIKTAM. WHEN SAUL HAD SENT MEN TO WATCH DAVID'S HOUSE IN ORDER TO KILL HIM". "Michtam" sig "to cut, engrave (Jer 2:22), or write (Exo 17:14)", and hence to remember. The 6 "michtam" psalms are thus "memorial" psalms, of a very personal nature, having the hope of resurrection as a common theme (Psa 16:10,11; 56:13; 57:3; 58:10,11; 59:16; 60:5,12).

"When Saul sent men to David's house" (1Sa 19:8-24). David escaped through the warning of his wife Michal, who was also Saul's daughter. Michal let David down through a window, so that he escaped, and put an image and a goat's hair bolster in the bed, where she said that David lay sick. This was the beginning act in David's long wanderings to elude Saul.

Perhaps vv 5-17 were an addition supplied in the time of Hezekiah.

(NT) The outline of the type traceable in 1Sa 19: As Saul and his men represent the Lord's enemies, so Jonathan fills the role of the believers who strengthened the Beloved with their loyalty. Corresponding to Michal and her work in saving David, there are (perhaps) the angels. As she contrived a rough outline of a man asleep in bed, so there were burial clothes in the tomb after the Lord's resurrection (Joh 20:6-8)! Remarkably, for "image" (1Sa 19:13) the LXX has "kenotaphia" (like our word "cenotaph"), empty tombs! Those lying in wait, yet achieving nothing, are like the guard at the tomb of Jesus (Mat 27:65,66), in a futile endeavor to prevent the resurrection (Mat 28:4). As David fled to the sanctuary of the Lord, so Jesus ascended to heaven. One day, as Saul came to the divine presence and became a changed man (1Sa 19:23,24), so also there will yet come a remarkable conversion of Israel, so that all the world marvels: "Saul also among the prophets!"

Or is the proper antitype Saul/Paul, the Benjamite nemesis of the early church miraculously converted to apostle of Christ?

DELIVER: "Set me on high" (AV mg), poss ref to Christ's ascension.

PROTECT: Heb "sagab", reltd to "misgab" ("fortress" or "defence") in vv 9,16,17. God was David's only true defense; by ct, his own home was a "death-trap", as he himself realized (1Sa 19:12).

Psa 59:3

THEY LIE IN WAIT FOR ME: (NT) Repeated plots against the life of Jesus.

FOR NO OFFENSE OR SIN OF MINE: "Without my fault" (v 4) is further repetition. In other crises David could not say this (eg Psa 6, 39, 41, etc); but in this situation he was without fault. As Jonathan asked Saul, "Why will you sin against innocent blood, to slay David without a cause?" (1Sa 19:5; cp 1Sa 18:14; 24:11; 26:18).

(NT) The Lord's utter sinlessness (Joh 8:46; 1Pe 2:21,22).

Psa 59:4

ARISE TO HELP ME: (NT) Heb "to meet me": "And there [in Gethsemane] appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him" (Luk 22:43).

Psa 59:5

ALL THE NATIONS: (NT) "All the Gentiles": Pilate, the Roman centurions, Herod (the "pseudo-Jew"!), and cast-off Israel, rejecter of God's special covenant.

See Lesson, Selah.

Psa 59:6

If this section (or a part of it) belongs to David too, then this may suggest a watch at night on David's house, and later a loud and frantic search of the whole city. The (Gentile?) messengers sent to arrest David (1Sa 19:11) reminded him (when he heard of it later? or when he watched them from a hiding place?) of a howling pack of disgruntled (v 15) mad dogs.

Re Hezekiah: "Dogs" is a very suitable description for the Gentile army. "And go round the city" could describe a siege!

Psa 59:7

SEE WHAT THEY SPEW FROM THEIR MOUTHS: The verb sig "to gush out" (sw "poureth out": Pro 15:2,28) -- ie as a fountain (cp idea, Jam 3:11). With v 6, it suggests rabid dogs! The whole is a contemptuous description of the Assyrian propaganda: Isa 36; 37. As AV, "mouth", singular, is correct -- Rabshakeh was the sole spokesman.

(NT) The crude and cruel Caiaphas (Joh 11:49-51).

SWORDS: Psa 55:21; 57:4; 64:3-5; 109:2,3; Pro 12:18.

(NT) Luk 20:14,15.

WHO CAN HEAR US?: The adversary is essentially an "atheist", called to give account to nobody (so he thinks): cp Psa 10:4,11,13; 53:4; 64:5; 73:11; 94:7. This was Rabshakeh's main theme: 'As a help, Yahweh is useless.'

Psa 59:8

ALL THOSE NATIONS: The Assyrian army was not just Assyrian but a very "mixed bag", including many Arab armies (Isa 21:13-17; 29:7; 30:28; Mic 4:1; Psa 47:3; 79:6; 118:10; 137:7; Amo 1:11; Oba 1:10,13).

Psa 59:9

"My strength (LXX, RV), I will wait upon thee." Hezekiah's dependence upon God: Isa 37:1,14-20, etc.

FORTRESS: "Misgab" (sw vv 16,17) means a fortress (RSV), like Jerusalem.

Psa 59:10

GO BEFORE: "Be my champion!" (NEB).

Psa 59:11

"Slay them not, lest my people forget" (AV) could be read as a question: Wilt thou not destroy them? And God did (Isa 37:36)! But instead of remembering such a signal deliverance, Israel did forget -- in the very next reign. V 13a is no contradiction, for it really means: 'Have done with them, get rid of them.'

Alternatively, "Swift, sudden destruction might be quickly forgotten. The psalmist wants God's judgment to be prolonged so that it might be a continual reminder of divine justice" (NETn).

MAKE THEM WANDER ABOUT: (NT) "And they... shall be led away captive into all nations" (Luk 21:24; cp Lev 26:33; Deu 4:27; 28:64; 30:3,4; Jer 16:13). Cp the wanderings of Cain, because of his sin in slaying his innocent brother (Gen 4:12-16).

Psa 59:12

All this fits the verbal onslaught of Rabshakeh.

Psa 59:13

See Lesson, Selah.

Psa 59:14

See v 6n.

AT EVENING: (NT) The repetition of v 6 suggests the two nights Jesus was in the tomb.

Psa 59:15

Assyrian soldiers scouring the countryside for provisions.

WANDER: As did Cain, driven out from the presence of God (Gen 4:16).

Psa 59:16

I WILL SING OF YOUR STRENGTH, IN THE MORNING: (NT) The Lord's hymn of praise on the morning of his resurrection (Psa 31:5b; also cp Psa 30:5). And no doubt angels joined in, as at his birth. As the darkness of night belongs to the ungodly (Joh 1:5; 8:12; 12:35; 13:30; Col 1:13; Eph 4:18; 1Jo 1:6; etc), so the light of morning belongs to the godly (1Th 5:4,5; Psa 90:14; 143:8; 2Sa 23:4; Joh 12:36; Eph 5:8; 1Jo 1:7; etc).

Psa 59:17

SUBSCRIPTION: "FOR THE DIRECTOR OF MUSIC. TO THE TUNE OF 'THE LILY OF THE COVENANT'": "Shushan-eduth" (AV). Shushan (Lily) links with Passover (see Psa 44, 68; JWT, Titles 30-48). Also, the lily was an oft-mentioned Temple motif (1Ki 7:22, 26; 2Ch 4:5; it is referred to many times in the Song of Songs, along with other temple symbolism: Song 2:1,2,16; 4:5; 5:13; 6:2,3; 7:2). This might in the context of this Psa suggest Hezekiah's fervent prayers to the God enthroned there, for deliverance from Sennacherib's host.

The Companion Bible suggests, without much evidence, that Shushan-eduth (the "Passover of Testimony") was "the Little Passover", which was permitted a month later than normal for the benefit of those unclean, or those on a journey at the proper date (Num 9:6-11). This concession had been invoked, somewhat inaccurately, for the keeping of Hezekiah's great Passover (2Ch 30:15). It would be necessary also on the later occasion when, in answer to Hezekiah's pleas, the Assyrian army was decimated outside Jerusalem. Siege conditions and also the defilement of many through contact with the dead (when the camp was plundered and then cleaned up) would require such a "Little Passover" (see Isa 31:5 -- cp "passing over" there with Exo 12:13,23,27; Isa 30:29; 26:20,21).

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