George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 2

Psalm 64

1. Structure

The enemies shoot at the perfect

7, 8.
God shoots at them

The outcome of God’s judgments

2. Historical background

Absalom’s rebellion.

Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer. Compare Psa. 55:1,2, another “Absalom” psalm: “Give ear to my prayer”.

Prayer (Hebrew sichah) is a rather uncommon word, which may be translated “complaint” (s.w. 55:17; Job 15:4).

Preserve my life from fear of the enemy. Not “from the enemy”, but from the paralyzing fear or “dread” provoked by the situation of that enemy’s hostility: i.e. Ahithophel’s words — “I will come upon him while he is weary... and will make him afraid” (2 Sam. 17:2).
Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked; from the insurrection of the workers of iniquity. That is, from their covert plotting, followed by their open rebellion (2 Sam. 15:1-12; 17:1-14).

The workers of iniquity are so described also in another “Absalom” psalm (6:8). They are “those who make sin their labour, their daily employment” (Clarke).
Who whet their tongue like a sword, and bend their bows to shoot their arrows, even bitter words. The campaign of slander against the king (2 Sam. 15:1-6; 16:5-13). Compare similar figures of speech in Psa. 55:21; 57:4; 59:7.
That they may shoot... suddenly do they shoot at him (cp. 10:8,9). Here the Hebrew is yarach, which also means ‘to teach a lesson’. John Thomas has an interesting section on this juxtaposition of ideas, in Eureka, vol. 2, pp. 128-131 — as does Harry Whittaker in Revelation, A Biblical Approach, p. 75.

And fear not. They showed no fear of David because of his dire sickness. Neither did they show any fear of God.
Who shall see them? As in v. 4, not David, nor God (2 Sam. 15:1-12).
They search out iniquities. That is, the iniquities of David, so as to blacken his character. And there were iniquities to make capital of!

Both the inward (thought) of everyone (of them) and the heart, is deep. Notice the italics in this verse. The depths of wickedness in the human heart — particularly one like Absalom’s, so festering with malignity — is unfathomable. In the words of Jeremiah: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (17:9). Also,

“Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?” (Isa. 29:15).
God shall shoot at them with an arrow. God’s unseen angel-marksman intervening on David’s side, bringing divine retribution in kind (contrast vv. 3,4) to his enemies. Here is described the fate of Absalom (2 Sam. 18:9-15). “The godly man will always have at least one friend to avenge the wrongs done him” (Caryl).
All that see them shall flee away. The sudden collapse of support for the revolution: 2 Sam. 18:8,17 (cp. Num. 16:24). Another possible meaning (there being two nearly identical Hebrew verbs) is “shall shake their heads” (NIV), that is, in derision at their failure (Jer. 48:27) or in shocked concern (Jer. 31:18; Job 16:4). Leupold has: “All that saw them shuddered”.
And all men shall fear, and shall declare the work of God; for they shall wisely consider of his doing. The outcome of this revolution and its failure will be beneficial; it will do all the nation good. “When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isa. 26:9).
The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and shall trust in him; and all the upright in heart shall glory. The prayer of v. 1 is now answered. The righteous is singular (David); all the upright is plural (his loyal supporters).

3. Messianic fulfillment

The insurrection against the King of the Jews: Luke 19:14,27. This is the s.w. as the “tumultuous assembly” described in Psa. 2:1 (AV mg.).

The workers of iniquity are summarily dismissed: “Depart from me ... I never knew you” (Matt. 7:23).
They whet their tongue. A vivid figure for diligent unremitting plotting and preparation: John 11:50.
They shoot at him. See earlier note on v. 4, and contrasting v. 7 below. Compare Matt. 22: the leaders of Israel with their clever, entangling questions.
Who shall see them? Although “men of God”, the adversaries of the Lord Jesus were essentially godless. The profession of religion — even the unabashed and insistent profession of religion — is no guarantee of godliness, or even of honesty and integrity.
They search out iniquities. Against Christ his enemies sent forth spies, “laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him” (Luke 11:54). “And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor” (20:20). But even so they could not convict him of even one sin (John 8:46)! And still they exerted every ounce of diligence they possessed to pin guilt upon one they knew to be innocent:

“Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death: but found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none” (Matt. 26:59,60).
But God shall shoot at them. “Joseph, a type of Christ, has been ‘shot at’ by the archers who hated him; but his own bow, held by hands ‘made strong by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob’, has prevailed (Gen. 49:22-24). Jesus Christ, the man whom Yahweh ‘made strong for Himself’, was as a ‘polished arrow’ in Yahweh’s quiver, and he has destroyed the enemy (Isa. 49:1,2)” (Ern Wilson).
So they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves. They had made their tongues so “sharp” (v. 3) that they cut their own throats! “His blood be upon us and upon our children” (Matt. 27:25) were words which, had they believed in Jesus, would have operated with all the blessing of a Passover lamb, delivering them from the wrath to come. But instead, they acted as a terrible curse!
All men has special reference to Gentiles becoming aware of God’s judgments upon Israel, and learning lessons therefrom.

The work of God. What may appear to be mere human contrivance is seen, with the eye of faith, to be God at work (Acts 2:23,24) — “He hath done this” (Psa. 22:31).
The righteous (singular) is Christ; and all the upright are those who trust in him.

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