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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Psalms 69

Verses 1-3

The psalmist likened his desperate condition to that of a drowning man. He also pictured himself hoarse from praying and losing his eyesight as he strained to see God’s deliverance that had not yet appeared.

Verses 1-4

1. The unwarranted hatred of David’s enemies 69:1-4

Verses 1-36

Psalms 69

In this imprecatory psalm of individual lament, David sought God to deliver him from destruction. He was experiencing criticism and rejection from the Israelites because of decisions he had made to do God’s will. He asked God to deal with his oppressors, and he looked forward to relief and the renewal of praise to God. Some scholars have labeled this psalm "indirectly messianic" because, while it does not specifically predict Messiah, Messiah fulfilled what the writer expressed (cf. Psalms 16; Psalms 22; Psalms 34; Psalms 40; Psalms 41; Psalms 109). [Note: Chisholm, "A Theology . . .," pp. 290-91.] After Psalms 110, 22, this is the third most frequently quoted psalm in the New Testament.

Verse 4

David faced numerous critics that he described hyperbolically as innumerable. His enemies were very powerful people. He had to make concessions to them that were unwarranted.

Jesus Christ suffered this type of opposition as well. He referred to His sufferings as a fulfillment of what David had written here and elsewhere (Psalms 35:19) in John 15:25.

Verse 5

David did not pretend to be sinless, but he believed his enemies’ present antagonism was not due to sins he had committed.

Verses 5-12

2. The reason for and the results of David’s condition 69:5-12

Verses 6-7

The psalmist did not want others who trusted in God to feel discouraged by the opposition of his critics. He seems to have had in mind those who stood with him in the decision that had drawn criticism.

Verse 8

Very few people sided with David. Even his closest relatives had turned against him.

Verse 9

Evidently it was David’s preoccupation with building the temple that had turned popular opinion against him. Perhaps the majority of the Israelites considered this an extravagant project. Had he increased taxes to pay for it? We do not know.

The Lord Jesus’ zeal for the temple that led Him to drive the moneychangers out of it brought this verse to His disciples’ minds (John 2:17).

Verses 10-11

David had expressed his mourning over the opposition he faced by weeping internally, by going without meals, and by wearing sackcloth. His sorrow was genuine and deep.

Verse 12

From the most respected city judges who sat in the gate to the least respected drunkards, everyone was criticizing David.

Verses 13-15

David wanted deliverance from a premature death and a word from the Lord that would enable him to know what to do.

Verses 13-28

3. David’s appeal to God in prayer 69:13-28

Verses 16-18

The king based his petition on the loyal love and compassion of God. He asked God to redeem him from his trouble by drawing him out of it. God had done this when He redeemed Israel out of Egyptian bondage.

Verses 19-21

David was confident that God knew his situation, and that because He knew it, He would help him. The opposition of his critics had wounded David’s spirit. None of his friends stood with him when popular opinion turned against him. Instead of sustaining him with a good meal, they gave him poison to eat and vinegar to drink. This is probably a figurative description of their treatment of him. The Hebrew word barut (food) describes a meal that sympathetic friends gave to a mourner. [Note: A. Cohen, The Psalms, p. 219.] David’s use of this particular word highlights the hypocrisy of his friends’ actions.

One of Jesus’ disciples treated Him hypocritically by betraying Him with a kiss (Matthew 26:48), and Jesus’ enemies gave Him real vinegar to drink as He hung on the cross (Matthew 27:48).

Verses 22-28

"Up to this point, Christ and His passion have been so evidently foreshadowed (see on Psalms 69:4; Psalms 69:9; Psalms 69:21) that we are almost prepared now for a plea approximating to ’Father, forgive them’. The curse which comes instead is a powerful reminder of the new thing which our Lord did at Calvary." [Note: Kidner, p. 248.]

Most of these verses call down God’s punishment on those who had opposed God’s anointed who sought to do His will and glorify Him. David was not venting his personal hatred but was asking God to punish those who resisted him. A "snare" was a self-springing trap, and a "trap" may have had bait in it. [Note: VanGemeren, p. 460.]

The Apostle Paul applied Psalms 69:22-23 to the Jews who had opposed the Lord Jesus, in Romans 11:9-10 (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:3).

The reason David wanted God to deal with his adversaries so severely comes through in Psalms 69:26. They had poured salt in a wound that God had given him. Evidently David viewed his suffering as ultimately coming from God in the sense that He had permitted it. His human enemies were adding insult to injury by treating him the way they did.

Likewise, God was behind the crucifixion of His Son, but the human agents of Jesus’ sufferings and death were also responsible and had to bear the punishment for their actions.

David asked that God blot out the names of his enemies from His book of life (Psalms 69:28). This probably refers to the book of the living (cf. Revelation 3:5). The term "book of life" in the Old Testament refers to the record of those who are alive physically (cf. Exodus 32:32-33; Deuteronomy 29:20; Psalms 69:28; Daniel 12:1; cf. Exodus 17:14; Deuteronomy 25:19; Isaiah 4:3). It came to have a more specific meaning in the New Testament. There it usually refers to the list of the names and deeds of the elect (Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Hebrews 12:23; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:19; cf. Revelation 2:11; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 3:12). [Note: See Charles R. Smith, "The Book of Life," Grace Theological Journal 6:2 (Fall 1985):219-30.] In other words, David asked God to cut the lives of his enemies short.

"Many people struggle with the idea of divine retribution against unrepentant sinners. But Jesus’ appeal to forgive one’s enemies must be balanced by His role of Avenger, the One who will judge those who remain in obstinate rebellion against Him (Revelation 19:11-16)." [Note: Merrill, "Psalms," p. 440.]

Verses 29-33

Again David asked God to deliver him (cf. Psalms 69:13). Assured of salvation, he vowed to praise the Lord, confident that that would please Him more than animal sacrifices. Bulls with horns and hoofs (Psalms 69:31) were mature animals that made good offerings.

"There is a note of dry amusement in the glance at horns and hoofs-how useful to God!" [Note: Kidner, p. 248. Cf. Psalms 50:12-15.]

When the poor and needy, who also trusted in God as David did, saw God’s deliverance, they would rejoice. Such salvation would encourage them.

Verses 29-36

4. David’s resolution to praise God 69:29-36

Verses 34-36

Anticipation of personal deliverance encouraged David to expect God to fulfill His promises to Israel as well. He called on the whole creation to praise God who would establish Israel as He had promised.

When the godly purpose to glorify God, many people will oppose their efforts and persecute them. This opposition should not drive us away from God, but to Him, in order to obtain the grace we need to remain faithful. God will reward this type of faithfulness greatly (e.g., James 1:12). We can see the truth of this in David’s life and in the life of His greatest son, Jesus Christ.

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 69". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.