Psalms 86


The psalmist prays to God for support, from a conviction that

he is merciful, good, ready to forgive, and that there is none

like him, 1-8;

all nations shall bow before him because of his wondrous works,

9, 10;

he prays to be instructed, and promises to praise God for his

great mercy, 11-13;

describes his enemies, and appeals to God, 14-16;

begs a token for God, that his enemies may be confounded, 17.


The title attributes this Psalm to David; and in this all the

Versions agree: but in its structure it is the same with those

attributed to the sons of Korah; and was probably made during the

captivity. It is a very suitable prayer for a person labouring

under affliction from persecution or calumny.

Verse 1. Bow down thine ear] Spoken after the manner of men: I

am so low, and so weak, that, unless thou stoop to me, my voice

cannot reach thee.

Poor and needy.] I am afflicted, and destitute of the

necessaries of life.

Verse 2. Preserve my soul] Keep it as in a strong place.

For I am holy] ki chasid ani, for I am

merciful. The spirit of this prayer is,

"The mercy I to others show,

That mercy show to me!"

Save thy servant] I have long taken thee as my Master and Lord;

I receive the word from thy mouth, and obey thee.

Verse 3. Be merciful unto me] I have no merit; I plead none, but

trust in thee alone.

I cry unto thee daily.] My state deeply affects me; and I

incessantly cry for thy salvation.

Verse 4. Rejoice the soul of thy servant] I want spiritual

blessings; I want such consolations as thou dost impart to them

that love thee; I present that soul to thee which I wish thee to


Verse 5. For thou, Lord, art good] I found my expectations of

help on thy own goodness through which thou art always ready to

forgive. And I found it also on thy well-known character, to which

all thy followers bear testimony, viz., that "thou art plenteous

in mercy unto all them that call upon thee."

Verse 6. Give ear, O Lord] Attend to me. Millions call upon thee

for help and mercy; but who has more need than myself? That the

psalmist was deeply in earnest, his conduct shows. 1. He prayed.

2. His prayer was vehement; he lifted up his voice. 3. He

continued in prayer; he abounded in supplications.

Verse 7. Thou wilt answer me.] Because thou art good, merciful,

and ready to forgive; and I call upon thee fervently, and seek

thee in thy own way.

Verse 8. Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord]

None that trusted in an idol ever had help in time of need; none

that prayed to any of them ever had an answer to his petitions.

Thou savest; they cannot; thou upholdest; they must be upheld

by their foolish worshippers. Thou art my Director, Adonai;

but they cannot direct nor teach; they have mouths, but they speak


Verse 9. All nations] Thy word shall be proclaimed among all the

Gentiles: they shall receive thy testimony, and worship thee as

the only true and living God.

Verse 10. For thou art great] Almighty, infinite, eternal.

And doest wondrous things] veoseh niphlaoth; thou

art the Worker of miracles. This thou hast done in numerous

instances, and thereby showed thy infinite power and wisdom.

This appears to be a prophecy of the calling of the Gentiles to

the faith of Christ, and the evidence to be given to his Divine

mission by the miracles which he should work.

Thou art God alone.] συειοθεοςμονοςομεγας.-Sept.

Thou art the only, THE GREAT God. In this the AEthiopic and

Arabic agree.

Verse 11. Teach me thy way] Instruct me in the steps I should

take; for without thy teaching I must go astray.

Unite my heart] yached lebabi, join all the purposes,

resolutions, and affections of my heart together, to fear and to

glorify thy name. This is a most important prayer. A divided heart

is a great curse; scattered affections are a miserable plague.

When the heart is not at unity with itself, the work of religion

cannot go on. Indecision of mind and division of affections

mar any work. The heart must be one, that the work may be one.

If this be wanting, all is wrong. This is a prayer which becomes

the mouth of every Christian.

Verse 12. I will praise thee-with all my heart] When my heart is

united to fear thy name, then shall I praise thee with my whole


Verse 13. Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.]

This must mean more than the grave; a hell below hell-a place of

perdition for the soul, as the grave is a place of corruption for

the body.

Verse 14. The assemblies of violent men] adath

aritsim, the congregation of the terrible ones. Men of violent

passions, violent counsels, and violent acts; and, because they

have power, terrible to all.

Have not set thee before them.] Who sins that sets God before

his eyes? Who does not sin that has no consciousness of the Divine


Verse 15. But thou, O Lord] What a wonderful character of God is

given in this verse! Adonai, the Director, Judge, and

Support;-but instead of Adonai, thirty-four of Kennicott's

MSS. have Jehovah, the self-existent and eternal Being;-

El, the strong God; rachum, tenderly compassionate;

channun, the Dispenser of grace or favour; erech appayim,

suffering long, not easily provoked; rab chesed, abundant

in blessings; and emeth, faithful and true. Such is the God

who has made himself more particularly known to us in Christ. The

scanty language of our ancestors was not adequate to a full

rendering of the original words: [---Anglo-Saxon---]. "And thu

driht God gemildsiend , and mildheort, gethyldig and mucel

mildheortnysse and sothfaest.-And thou, Lord God, art mild, and

mildhearted, patient, and of much mildheartedness, and

soothfast,"-steady in truth.

In the old Psalter the language is but little improved: And thou

Lorde God mercier, and mercyful, sufferand, and of mykel mercy,

and sothefast.

The word mercier is interpreted, doand dede of mercy.

Verse 16. O turn unto me] He represents himself as following

after God; but he cannot overtake him; and then he plays that he

would turn and meet him through pity; or give him strength that he

might be able to hold on his race.

Give thy strength unto thy servant] The Vulgate renders, Da

imperium tuum puero tuo, "Give thy empire to thy child." The old

Psalter. Gyf empyre to thi barne, and make safe the son of thi

hand mayden. Thi barne-thy tender child. [A. S.] or [A. S.],

Anglo-Saxon; thy knave; signifying either a serving man or a male

child. As many servants were found to be purloiners of their

masters' property, hence the word [A. S.], and [A. S.], and knave,

became the title of an unprincipled servant. The term fur, which

signifies a thief in Latin, for the same reason became the

appellative of a dishonest servant.

Quid domini facient, audent cum talia FURES?

When servants (thieves) do such things, what may not be expected

from the masters? VIRG. Ecl. iii. 16.

So PLAUTUS, speaking of a servant, Aulul. ii. 46, says: Homo es

trium literarum, "Thou art a man of three letters," i.e., FUR, a

thief. The word knave is still in use, but is always taken in a

bad sense. The paraphrase in the old Psalter states the handmaid

to be the kirk, and the son of this handmaid to be a true


Verse 17. Show me a token for good] aseh immi oth,

"Make with me a sign." Fix the honourabie mark of thy name upon

me, that I may be known to be thy servant. There seems to be an

allusion here to the marking of a slave, to ascertain whose

property he was. The Anglo-Saxon, [A. S.] on [A. S.], "do with me

a token in good.' Old Psalter: Do with me signe in gude. From [A.

S.] tacn we have our word token, which signifies a sign, mark,

or remembrancer of something beyond itself; a pledge that

something, then specified, shall be done or given. Give me, from

the influence of thy Spirit in my heart, a pledge that the

blessings which I now ask shall be given in due time. But he

wished for such a sign as his enemies might see; that they might

know God to be his helper, and be confounded when they sought his



This Psalm is a continued prayer, and may be divided into four


I. The first part is a petition for safety, drawn from his own

person, Ps 86:1-4.

II. The second, a quickening of the same petition, drawn from

the person and nature of God, Ps 86:5-13.

III. The third, taken from the quality of his adversaries,

Ps 86:14.

IV. The fourth, a conjunction of all these three; the first,

Ps 86:15; the

second, Ps 86:16; the

third, Ps 86:17.

I. The reasons of his petition, drawn from himself.

1. "Bow down thine ear." Reason: "I am poor and needy,"

Ps 86:1.

2. "Preserve my soul." Reason: "I am holy," or merciful,

Ps 86:2.

3. "Save thy servant." Reason: "He puts his trust in thee,"

Ps 86:3.

4. "Be merciful unto me." Reason: "I cry unto thee daily,"

Ps 86:4.

5. "Rejoice the soul of thy servant." Reason: "For unto thee do

I lift up my soul," Ps 86:4.

II. A quickening of the petition, drawn from the nature of God.

1. "For thou, Lord, art good," &c., Ps 86:5, 6.

2. "I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me," Ps 86:7.

3. "There is none like unto thee," Ps 86:8.

4. "Nor any works like unto thy works," Ps 86:8. This shall be

amply proved: for

5. "All nations," now worshipping idols, "shall be converted to

thee," Ps 86:9.

6. "Because thou art great, and doest wondrous things,"

Ps 86:10.

On this reason, that there is none like God,-

1. He begs to be governed by his word and Spirit, Ps 86:11.

2. Promises to praise him for his great mercy, Ps 86:12, 13.

III. He presses another argument taken from his enemies.

1. They were proud: "The proud are risen against me."

2. They were powerful: "The assemblies of violent men."

3. They were ungodly: "They did not set thee before them,"

Ps 86:14.

IV. He amplifies his former argument.

1. From the nature of God: "Thou art full of compassion," &c.,

Ps 86:15.

2. From his own condition: "Turn unto me and have mercy upon

me," Ps 86:16.

3. From the quality of his adversaries: "Show me a token-that

they which hate me may be ashamed," Ps 86:17.

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