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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Psalms 86

Verse 1

Bow down thine ear, O LORD, hear me: for I am poor and needy.

Psalms 86:1-17.-God's grace to His trusting people their ground of expecting deliverance (Psalms 86:1-5); His omnipotence to help, so that all nations shall at last worship Him (Psalms 86:6-10); God's special mercy to the suppliant in saving his soul from hell, for which he will praise God forever (Psalms 86:11-13); special prayer for deliverance from proud assailants (Psalms 86:14-17). The occasion was probably Absalom's revolt.

Title. - A prayer of David. The psalm is throughout a prayer, not meditation, (cf. title, Psalms 90:1-17.)

Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me; for, I am poor and needy - or, 'afflicted and wretched,' Man's needs are a prima facie claim on God's pity. Our misery moves His mercy.

Verse 2

Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee.

Preserve my soul, for I am holy - (cf. Psalms 86:16, end.) "Holy" - rather, 'pious' [ chaaciyd (H2623). So the Septuagint, hosios (G3741)]; as the parallelism favours, 'save thy servant that trusteth in thee;' gracious, and 'godly.' So the same Hebrew is translated, Psalms 4:3. The Vulgate and Ethiopic favour the English version ('sanctus'). In the full sense, "for I am holy" can only apply to the Antitypical David, Messiah, "the Holy One of God" (Psalms 16:10; Acts 2:27; Mark 1:24). The term belongs to Him not so much as being God, the infinitely Holy One [ Hagios (G40)], as it applies to Him as the faultlessly pious [hosios] Son of man, ever 'trusting' in the Father. Thrice in the three verses (Psalms 86:2-4) He speaks of His "soul:" "Preserve my soul ... Rejoice the soul of thy servant ... unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul." So at His agony in Gethsemane, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." The earnest prayers here answer to His "strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death" (Hebrews 5:7).

Verse 3

Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily.

Be merciful unto me, O Lord. The chief ground of hope, not merely my misery, but God's mercy (cf. Psalms 86:15).

Verse 4

Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul - quoted from Psalms 25:1. The small print is used in the English version "Lord" for the Hebrew 'Adonaay (H136) (seven times in this psalm), not exclusively applied to God. LORD in capitals stands for Yahweh (H3068), the exclusive name of God (four times in this psalm).

Verse 5

For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.

For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive. God's forgiving character is one manifestation of His universal goodness.

Verses 6-10

Give ear, O LORD, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications.

-From speaking of God's willingness, the Psalmist passes to God's omnipotent power to help. Verse 6. Attend to the voice of my supplications - `deprecations' [ tachªnuwnowtaay (H8469)]. The Psalmist forms a special Hebrew word, feminine plural, not found elsewhere, to convey more impressively the idea of suppliant weakness.

Verse 7. In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me. His assurance of being 'answered' is the ground of David's 'calling upon' God in trouble.

Verse 8,9.-The foundation of his assurance of being 'answered' (Psalms 86:7) David now states-namely, God's almighty power above all that are called gods; so that "all nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee."

Verse 8. Among the gods there is none like unto thee. Exodus 15:11 is the original (cf. Psalms 86:10).

Neither (are there any works) like unto thy works - (Deuteronomy 3:24: cf. 2 Samuel 7:22).

Verse 9. All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord. Even the pagan nations were made by God, and therefore must at last worship Him that made them, and see that their idols are false gods (Zephaniah 2:11; Zechariah 14:9). The creature must necessarily at a future period return to obedience to its Creator (Hengstenberg). So in Ps. 20:27-28 , the ground for anticipating that 'all the ends of the world shall remember, and turn unto the Lord' is, 'for the kingdom is the Lord's, and He is the Governor among the nations.'

Verse 10. For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone. God's wondrous doings shall in the last days constrain the pagan to worship the great and glorious God (Psalms 86:9); especially the wonders which He will do in behalf of Israel against Antichrist and the confederate nations. Hence, Psalms 72:1-20, which foretells His coming kingdom over all the earth, adds (Ps. 86:18-19 ), "Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things ... and let the whole earth be filled with His glory," (Isaiah 24:1-23; Isaiah 25:1-12.) The hammer of the greatness of God will break the rock of the hearts of the pagan (Hengstenberg).

Verses 11-13

Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.

-The Psalmist's prayer and praise because of the mercy of God in having delivered his soul from the lowest hell, which is the special ground for the personal prayer which follows (Psalms 86:14-17).

Verse 11. Teach me thy way, O Lord - quoted from Psalms 27:11. God's "way" is God's safe guidance of His people; the way of salvation, whereby He leads them.

I will walk in thy truth - i:e., in the continual remembrance of thy truth, or thy faithfulness to thy promises. This also is a quotation (Psalms 25:5; Psalms 26:3).

Unite my heart to fear thy name in reverential gratitude for thy special grace to my soul (Psalms 86:12-13) Unite my heart to fear thy name - in reverential gratitude for thy special grace to my soul (Psalms 86:12-13). The fear of God's name is already in his heart: he prays that it may so fill his heart as to unite him wholly to the Lord in reverential love.

Verse 12. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart -- as contrasted with "a double heart," Psalms 12:2, and James 4:8, "double-minded.' This is the connection of the prayer (Psalms 86:11) with the praise in Psalms 86:12-13. "Unite my heart to fear thy name" - make my will one with thine, that I may not have a heart divided between the fear and love of thee, and the fear and love of the world, but may be led, by thy special mercy to my soul (Psalms 86:13), to 'praise thee with all my heart.'

Verse 13. For great is thy mercy toward me; and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell - quoted in part from Psalms 56:12-13. "Mercy" - thy goodness or 'grace' to me [ checed (H2617)], the same Hebrew of which the adjective, "I am holy," or 'pious,' or 'godly,' occurs in Psalms 86:2. The grace that is in the godly the result of God's grace toward them. As both Psalms 34:1-22; Psalms 56:1-13, in the titles, show that they were composed concerning the narrow escape which God vouchsafed to David out of the imminent danger of death ("the lowest hell") to which he was exposed when he was with Achish the Philistine king at Gath, I prefer considering this to be the special deliverance from death (as "hell," or Sheol, or Hades, often means) intended here, not David's deliverance from Saul (cf. Psalms 34:4; Psalms 34:6; Psalms 34:17; Psalms 34:22); but this reference cannot exhaust the strong language here. The full force of the words applies to the Head of the Church, 'the firstborn from the dead'-Messiah, who praises the Father for having raised His body from the grave and His soul from the unseen abode of disembodied spirits-Hades; as He also said by anticipation (Psalms 16:9). The redeemed shall, at the resurrection of the just, sing the same thanksgiving perfectly. Meanwhile everyone who hath the earnest of the Spirit sings it, though not perfectly, yet at least sincerely, and with the prayerful desire to have his "heart" so 'united' to God in reverential gratitude, as to be able to "praise" the Lord as HIS God 'with ALL his heart' (Psalms 86:11-12).

Verse 14

O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them.

O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul - quoted mainly from Psalms 54:3. Instead of "strangers" there "the proud" stand here [ zeediym (H2086), for zaariym (H2114)]; and instead of 'oppressor,' or "violent men" (the Hebrew is the same in both psalms), there is here 'the assembly (the Hebrew is singular) of violent men.' Compare Psalms 22:16.

And have not set thee before them. So Psalms 54:3.

Verse 15

But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth - quoted mainly from Exodus 34:6. Here the Psalmist reverts to the same ground of hope as in Psalms 86:5 - God's character as "plenteous in mercy unto all that call upon" Him; not unto the impenitent.

Verse 16

O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid.

Give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid. As the servant's duty is to serve his master, so the master's part is to defend the servant. The phrase "the son of thine handmaid" points to the Antitype, Messiah, the Son of that meek servant of God who said (Luke 1:38) "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord."

Verse 17

Shew me a token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, LORD, hast holpen me, and comforted me.

Show me a token for good - do something so decisive in my favour as plainly to indicate that thou art on my side. It is not a miraculous sign that he craves, but an act of deliverance.

That they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed - being disappointed in their hope of my destruction.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 86". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/psalms-86.html. 1871-8.