Psalms 59PSALM LIX The psalmist prays for deliverance from his enemies, whose desperate wickedness he describes, 1-7; professes strong confidence in God, 8-10; speaks of the destruction of his enemies, 11-15; praises God for benefits already received; and determines to trust in him, 16, 17. NOTES ON PSALM LIX The title, "To the chief Musician, Al-taschith, Michtam of David," has already occurred: and perhaps means no more than that the present Psalm is to be sung as Ps 57:1-11, the first which bears this title. But there is here added the supposed occasion on which David made this Psalm: it was, "when Saul sent, and they watched the house to kill him." When the reader considers the whole of this Psalm carefully, he will be convinced that the title does not correspond to the contents. There is scarcely any thing in it that can apply to the circumstances of Saul's sending his guards by night to keep the avenues to the house of David, that when the morning came they might seize and slay him; and of his being saved through the information given him by his wife Michal, in consequence of which he was let down through a window, and so escaped. See 1Sa 19:10, 11. There is not in the whole Psalm any positive allusion to this history; and there are many things in it which show it to be utterly inconsistent with the facts of that history. The Psalm most evidently agrees to the time of Nehemiah, when he was endeavouring to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, when the enterprise was first mocked; then opposed by Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, who watched day and night that they might cause the work to cease; and laid ambuscades for the life of Nehemiah himself. Every part of the Psalm agrees to this: and I am therefore of Calmet's opinion, that the Psalm was composed in that time, and probably by Nehemiah, or by Esdras. Verse 1. Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God] A very proper prayer in the mouth of Nehemiah, when resisted in his attempts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem by Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, who opposed the work, and endeavoured to take away the life of the person whom God had raised up to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. I conceive the Psalm to have been made on this occasion; and on this hypothesis alone I think it capable of consistent explanation. Verse 2. The workers of iniquity] Principally Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian; who were the chief enemies of the poor returned captives. Bloody men.] The above, who sought the destruction of the Israelites; and particularly, that of Nehemiah, whom four several times they endeavoured to bring into an ambush, that they might take away his life. See Ne 6:1-4. Verse 3. For, lo, they lie in wait for my soul] For my life. See the passages referred to above. Verse 4. They run and prepare themselves] They leave no stone unturned that they may effect my destruction and prevent the building. Verse 5. O Lord God of hosts] This was a proper view to take of God. when Israel, a handful of poor distressed captives were surrounded and oppressed by the heathen chiefs above mentioned, and their several tribes. But Jehovah, God of hosts, was the God of Israel; and hence Israel had little to fear. Be not merciful to any wicked transgressors.] Do not favour the cause of these wicked men. They are bogedey aven, "changers of iniquity:" they go through the whole round of evil; find out and exercise themselves in all the varieties of transgression. How exactly does this apply to Nehemiah's foes! They sought, by open attack, wiles, flattery, foul speeches, fair speeches, threats, and ambuscades, to take away his life. Do not show them favour, that they may not succeed in their wicked designs. The prayer here is exactly the same in sentiment with that of Nehemiah, Ne 4:4, 5. Hear, our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach upon their own heads;-cover not their iniquity, "and let not their sin be blotted out." Verse 6. They return at evening] When the beasts of prey leave their dens, and go prowling about the cities and villages to get offal, and entrap domestic animals, these come about the city to see if they may get an entrance, destroy the work, and those engaged in it. Verse 7. They belch out with their mouth] They use the lowest insult, the basest abuse. They deal in sarcasm, ridicule, slander, and lies. Verse 8. Thou, O Lord, shalt laugh at them] They have mocked us; God will turn them and their schemes into ridicule and contempt: "Thou shalt have all these heathenish nations in derision." Verse 9. Because of his strength will I wait upon thee] With this reading, I can make no sense of the passage. But instead of uzzo, "his strength," uzzi, "my strength," is the reading of fourteen of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS., of the Vulgate, Septuagint, Chaldee, and, in effect, of the AEthiopic, Syriac, and Arabic; and also of the Anglo-Saxon. To thee I commit all MY strength; all I have I derive from thee, and all the good I possess I attribute to thee. The old Psalter translates, My strenght I shall kepe till the, for myn uptaker thou art. See on Ps 59:17. Verse 10. The God of my mercy shall prevent me] The mercy of God shall go before me, and thus help me in all my doings. God shall let me see my desire] The sentence is short. God will let me see concerning my enemies, i.e., how he will treat them. Verse 11. Slay them not, lest my people forget] I believe the Chaldee gives the true sense of this verse: "Do not slay them suddenly, lest my people should forget. Drive them from their habitations by thy power, and reduce them to poverty by the loss of their property." Preserve them long in a state of chastisement, that Israel may see thou hast undertaken for them: that thy hand is on the wicked for evil, and on them for good. The Canaanites were not suddenly destroyed; they were left to be pricks in the eyes and thorns in the sides of the Israelites. It is in a sense somewhat similar that the words are used here. Verse 12. For the sin of their mouth] This verse has puzzled all the commentators. If we take chattath for sin-offering instead of sin, we shall get a better sense. Some of Nehemiah's enemies made a profession of the Jewish religion. Tobiah and his son were allied by marriage to the Jews; for Eliashib the priest had married his grandson to the daughter of Sanballat; and this produced a connexion with Tobiah, the fast friend of Sanballat. Besides this very priest had given Tobiah one of the great chambers in the house of the Lord, where formerly the meat-offerings, the frankincense, the vessels, and the tithe of the corn and wine and oil were kept; Ne 13:4, 5, 7-9. And there were children of Tobiah (probably the same family) who professed to be of the Levites, Nethinim, or children of Solomon's servants; but as they could not show their father's house and their seed, whether they were of Israel; these, and others which were children of the priests, were put out of the priesthood, and out of the sacred service, as polluted; as having sprung from intermarriages with heathens. See Ezr 2:59-62. Tobiah was expelled from the house of the Lord by Nehemiah, and all his household stuff thrown out of doors: Ne 13:7, 8. And this was doubtless one ground of the enmity of Tobiah to Nehemiah; and in this verse of the Psalm he may allude particularly to his occupancy of the chamber of offerings, which offerings, instead of being given to the Levites, were consumed by Tobiah and his household. This may be fairly gathered from Ne 13:6, 10, 11. Here then we have the sin of their mouth; their eating the offerings that belonged to the Levites; so that the temple service was deserted, the Levites being obliged to go and till the ground in order to obtain the means of life. And if we take chattath for sin-offering, it may refer to promises of sacrifice and offering which Tobiah and his family made, but never performed. They ate instead of offering them; and here was the sin of their mouth, in connexion with the words of their lips, and their cursing and lying which they spake, for which the psalmist calls upon the Lord to consume them, that they may not be, Ps 59:13. Verse 14. At evening let them return] He had mentioned before, Ps 59:6, that these persons came like beasts of prey round the city striving to get in, that they might take possession. Now, being fully assured of God's protection, and that they shall soon be made a public example, he says, Let them return and make a noise like a dog, &c., like dogs, jackals, and other famished creatures, who come howling about the city-walls for something to eat, and wander up and down for meat, grumbling because they are not satisfied, Ps 59:15. Nehemiah had made up all the breaches; and had the city guarded so well day and night, by watches who continually relieved each other, that there was no longer any fear of being taken by surprise: and now they must feel like the hungry beasts who were disappointed of their prey. Verse 16. I will sing of thy power] For it was because thy hand was upon me for good, that I have thus succeeded in my enterprises. Yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy] I shall publish abroad what thou hast done; and done not for my worthiness, nor for the worthiness of the people; but for thy own mercy's sake. In the day of my trouble.] When I came with small means and feeble help, and had the force and fraud of many enemies to contend with, besides the corruption and unfaithfulness of my own people; thou wast then my defence; and in all attacks, whether open or covered, my sure refuge. I will, therefore, sing of thy mercy in the morning-I will hasten to acquit myself of a duty I owe to thee for such singular interpositions of mercy and power. Verse 17. Unto thee, O my strength] A similar sentiment to that expressed, Ps 59:9. But the words are very emphatic: God is my strength; God is my elevation. My God is my mercy. I have nothing good but what I have from God. And all springs from his dwelling in me. God, therefore, shall have all the glory, both now and for ever. As many persons may still think that the inscription to this Psalm is correct, the following analysis may be applied in that way; or considered as containing a general resolution of the Psalm, without referring it to any particular occasion. ANALYSIS OF THE FIFTY-NINTH PSALM The contents of this Psalm are:- I. The psalmist's prayer for deliverance, Ps 59:1, 2, and against his foes, Ps 59:5. II. He complains of and expresses his enemies' cruelty and improbity, Ps 59:3-8. III. He comforts himself, being confident of his own preservation, Ps 59:8-10. 1. And of their punishment, for which he prays, Ps 59:14. 2. And of their vain endeavours, for which he insults over them, Ps 59:14, 15. IV. He concludes with thanks, Ps 59:16, 17. I. He begins with a petition for deliverance, defence, salvation; and urges it from the qualities of his enemies. 1. "Deliver me, defend me from mine enemies:" 1. "Them that rise up against me." 2. "From the workers of iniquity." 3. "From bloody men." These considerations make him pray, "O my God, deliver," &c. 2. And yet, more particularly, he expresses their cruelty and treachery; to aggravate which he pleads his innocence towards them. II. 1. Their cruelty: "Lo, they lie in wait for my soul." 2. Their treachery: "The mighty are gathered against me." They run and prepare themselves. 3. 1. They are diligent about it: "They return at evening." 2. Mad, and set to do it: "They make a noise like a dog," and threaten boldly. 3. Unwearied and obdurate in their purpose: "They go round about the city." 4. Impudent, and brag what they will do to me: "Behold, they belch out with their mouth." 5. And their words are bloody: "Swords are in their lips." 4. And the cause of this is, that they are proud and atheistical. Who, say they, doth hear? They think themselves secure, supposing they may contemn God and man; neither regarding what is done or becomes of poor David. 5. In the midst of which aggravations he asserts his own innocence: "They gather themselves together, not for my transgression, nor for my sin, O Lord." Then he renews his petition:- 1. Awake to help me, and behold: "Thou, therefore, the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel." 1. The Lord God of hosts; therefore, powerful. 2. The God of Israel; therefore, merciful. 2. "Awake to visit all the heathen," i.e., punish the heathen; and the Israelites, in this no better. 3. And be not merciful to any wicked transgressors, i.e., obstinate nations. III. To this rage and implacable hatred of his enemies he now begins to oppose the comfort he had in God's promises. This I know,- 1. "Thou, O Lord, shalt laugh at them." As it were in sport, destroy them, be their power never so great; "Thou wilt laugh them to scorn." 2. Them and all that are like them: "Thou shalt have all the heathen in derision." 3. I confess that Saul's strength is great; but my Protector is greater: "Because of his strength will I wait upon thee, for God is my defence." 4. This I am assured also, "that the God of my mercy," that hath hitherto showed me mercy, "shall prevent me," come in season to my help. "And God shall let me see my desire upon mine enemies." And to the 16th verse he expresses what his desires were:- 1. Negatively; he would not have them slain and eradicated; and he gives his reason for it: "Slay them not, lest my people forget;" for a dead man is quickly out of mind, and his punishment also, and few the better for it. 2. Positively; the first degree of which is dispersion, vagrancy, banishment. Scatter them, which however severe a judgment, let the Jews witness. 2. Humiliation: "Bring them down, O Lord, our shield." Bring them from their power, command, honour, to a low degree, which is no small heart-breaking to a great spirit. Fuimus Troes, is never remembered without a groan. And now he assigns the cause why he would have them scattered, and brought low; that their blasphemies and lies may never be forgotten, but stand as a terror to all liars and blasphemers. 1. "For the sin of their mouth, and the words of their lips, let them even be taken in their pride;" the Jews cried Beelzebub, nolumus hunc; and they were taken. 2. "And for cursing and lying which they speak." They cursed themselves: "His blood be upon us;" and upon them, indeed, it was. 3. He goes on in his desires. "Consume them, O Lord," emphatically, "consume them in wrath, that they may not be;" which, at first sight, appears contrary to the first desire, "Slay them not:" but he speaks not of their life as if he would have it consumed; but he desires only a consumption of their power, royalty, command. And so these words are a farther explication of his second desire, "Bring them down." He would have them brought down in their strength, dignity, command, wealth, riches, which made them proud; that they might never be able to oppose God any more, hurt his people, trample upon religion and his Church; but he would have them live. 4. And shows the end why he would have them live, and still remain-that they might know by their calamities and miseries, that "it is God that ruleth in Jacob, and unto the ends of the earth;" that he doth wonderfully govern and preserve his Church that is scattered over all the earth. 5. And now by a bitter epitrope, or rather synchoresis, he insults over them. In the sixth verse he showed their double diligence to do mischief. 1. "They return at evening." Well, esto; be it so; "At evening let them return." 2. "They make a noise like a dog." Well; "let them make a noise like a dog." 3. "And go round about the city." Well; "let them go round about the city." They know that they shall be in a miserable poor mean condition:- 1. "Let them wander up and down for meat." Let them find no settled habitation, but seek necessary food in a strange nation. 2. "And grudge if they be not satisfied." Let them be always grudging, if they have not content. If they be not satisfied, they will stay all night; be importunate and unmannerly beggars. IV. The conclusion is a doxology, and contains David's thanks that God is his defence, his refuge, his strength. Of him, therefore, he makes his song. 1. "I will sing of thy power." 2. "I will sing of thy mercy." 1. "Aloud." 2. "In the morning." 3. The reason he gives: "For thou hast been my refuge and defence in the day of my trouble." Both he repeats again:- 1. "Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing." 2. The reason: "For God is my defence, and the God of my mercy." And he joins these two attributes, strength and mercy. Take away strength from him, and he cannot, remove mercy, and he will not, protect. Both must go together; power that he can, mercy that he will; otherwise it is in vain that we hope for help from him. David found God to be both, and for both he extols him.
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