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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 86

A.M. 2981. B.C. 1023.

This Psalm, which is entitled a prayer of David, was probably composed by him during his afflictions under Saul. It was afterward, as the Jews inform us, made use of by Hezekiah, when the Assyrians made an attempt upon Jerusalem. The first words of it are the same with Hezekiah’s, 2 Kings 19:16 . and the 8th and 9th verses may be very fitly accommodated to that history; but the rest of the Psalm much better suits the case of David in his troubles, who here prays for the favour and blessing of God, Psalms 86:1-6 . Expresses confidence in him, by praise mingled with prayer, Psalms 86:7-17 . Many consider David as personating, in this Psalm, the man Christ Jesus, his great root and offspring, who, in the days of his flesh, offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him, and was heard in that he feared.

Verse 1

Psalms 86:1. Bow down thine ear, O Lord When God hears our prayers he is fifty said to bow down his ear to them, for it is great condescension in him even to take notice of such mean creatures as we are, and much more to hear our defective and unworthy prayers. For I am poor and needy Forsaken and persecuted by men, and utterly unable to save myself, and therefore a proper object; in behalf of whom thy power and goodness may be exerted. Observe, reader, “All prayer is founded on a sense of our own wants, and God’s ability to supply them. In the sight of his Maker every sinner is poor and needy; and he must become so in his own, that his petitions may be regarded; he must pray with the humility and importunity of a starving beggar, at the gate of heaven, if he expect the great King to bow down his ear and hear him.” Horne.

Verse 2

Psalms 86:2. Preserve my soul, for I am holy Sanctified in some measure by thy grace, and sincerely devoted to thy service. Hebrew, אני חסיד , ani chasid, I am good, merciful, or pious. Show that mercy to me which I am willing and ready to show to others. This David mentions, not in a way of vain ostentation, but as an argument to move God to answer his prayers, because he was one of that sort of men whose prayers God had engaged himself, by his promise and covenant, to hear; and partly by way of just and necessary vindication of himself from the censures of his enemies, who represented him to the world as a dissembler, and secretly a very wicked man; concerning which he here makes a solemn appeal to God, desiring audience and help from him upon no other condition than that he was truly upright and righteous before him. Which, by the way, manifests no more arrogance than when he elsewhere professes his great love to, and longing after, God; his sincere obedience to all God’s commands, and his hatred of every false way, and the like.

Verses 4-5

Psalms 86:4-5. Rejoice the soul of thy servant It is God only that can put gladness into the heart, and make the soul rejoice; and it is the privilege of his servants to have joy, as well as peace, in believing: and they may pray in faith, not only that God would preserve their souls, but that he would rejoice their souls, and then the joy of the Lord will be their strength. For unto thee do I lift up my soul Then we may expect comfort from God, when we take care to keep up our communion with him: prayer is the nurse of spiritual joy. For thou, Lord, art good No less bountiful than I am indigent, which is a great encouragement to me in calling upon thee; and ready to forgive Those that have offended thee; and plenteous in mercy unto all that call upon thee Always prepared to show abundant kindness to them in their distresses, when with sincere desire, and true faith, they call upon thee.

Verses 6-7

Psalms 86:6-7. Give ear, O Lord, &c. He repeats and multiplies his requests, both to ease his own troubled mind, and prevail with God, who is well pleased with his people’s importunity in prayer, Luke 18:1, &c. For thou wilt answer me Whereof I have assurance, both from the benignity of thy nature, and from the truth and certainty of thy promises, and from my own experience, and that of others in former times.

Verse 8

Psalms 86:8. Among the gods The false gods, whom the heathen worship; there is none like unto thee None so wise, so mighty, so good; none so able and willing to hear and answer prayer. I am not now calling on a deaf and impotent idol, for then my prayers, however fervent and importunate, would be in vain, (as those of Baal’s worshippers were, 1 Kings 18:26,) but I am calling on the almighty and most gracious God. Neither are there any works like unto thy works This is an undeniable proof that there is none like thee. Thy own works praise thee, and demonstrate that thou art infinitely superior to, and different from, all other beings.

Verses 9-10

Psalms 86:9-10. All nations whom thou hast made For, as thou hast made them, thou canst easily convince and convert them to thyself; shall come and worship before thee Shall forsake their impotent idols, and shall worship thee alone: being enlightened by thy word and Spirit to see, and induced to own, that there is none like thee. This was, in part, fulfilled in the multitude of proselytes to the Jewish religion, in the days of David and Solomon, but it was to have its full accomplishment in the days of the Messiah, when some out of every kingdom and nation should be effectually brought to praise God, Revelation 7:9. It was by Christ that God made all nations, for without him was not any thing made that was made, and therefore, through Christ, and by the power of his gospel and grace, all nations shall be brought to worship before God, Isaiah 66:23. For thou art great Therefore shall all nations worship before thee, because, as king of all nations, thou art great; thy sovereignty absolute and incontestable; thy majesty terrible and insupportable; thy power universal and irresistible; thy riches vast and inexhaustible; thy dominion boundless and unquestionable; and, as a proof of this, thou doest wondrous things Which all nations admire, and from whence they may easily infer that thou art God alone, and that not only there is none like thee, but none besides thee. They shall see thy wonderful works, and hence shall be led to acknowledge both that thou art infinitely great, and that thou art the only true God. Or, this may be alleged as a reason why it was not incredible, that all nations should be converted from idolatry to the worship of the true God. As if he had said, God doth wondrous things, and he will do this among the rest: The idols he will utterly abolish, and he alone shall be exalted, as king over all the earth. In that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.

Verse 11

Psalms 86:11. Teach me thy way Wherein thou wouldst have me to walk. As thou hast taught me by thy word, so also teach me by thy Spirit, that I may clearly discern thy will and my duty, in all conditions and circumstances. I will walk in thy truth In the way of thy testimonies and precepts, which are true and right in all things; and the only true rule of thy worship and service, and the only true way to happiness. Unite my heart to fear thy name Engage and knit my whole heart to thyself and service, and deliver me from inconstancy and wavering, that I may not, at any time, or in the least degree, be withdrawn from thee, either to any corrupt worship, or to the love and pursuit of the lusts and vanities of this present evil world. Observe, reader, it is the continual subject of the Mediator’s intercession above, and should be the subject of our prayers below, “that we may be taught the way of Jehovah, the way to life eternal, prepared for us, through faith and love, which is in Christ Jesus,” and that we may walk therein “without error in doctrine, or deviation in practice, believing all things which God hath revealed, and doing whatsoever he hath commanded us; that the affections of our hearts may be withdrawn from other objects, and, being no longer divided between God and the world, may become united in the filial fear of his name: as the grand principle of action.”

Verses 12-13

Psalms 86:12-13. I will praise thee, O Lord, &c. Not only as the Lord, but as my God. And I will do it with all my heart That is, with readiness, cheerfulness, and fervency, and with a sincere regard to thy honour; for I will glorify thy name And that not for a time merely, but for evermore I will glorify thee as long as I live, and hope to be glorifying thee to all eternity. For great is thy mercy toward me It is a fountain inexhaustibly full, sending forth streams inestimably rich, and the benefits which I have derived from it are as invaluable as they are innumerable, and lay me under unspeakable obligations to praise and glorify the giver of them. Nor is this more my duty than my interest; for I know that gratitude for mercies already received will be recompensed by a continuance and increase of those mercies. Of the greatness of God’s mercy the psalmist gives this instance. Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell Hebrew, משׁאול תחתיה , mesheol tachtijah, which Green renders, From the grave beneath: “Thou hast often snatched me from extreme dangers, which, like an abyss, or bottomless pit, were ready to swallow me up.” But sheol often means hell, properly so called, or eternal death; and of this even some of the Jewish writers understand the word here. David knew he had deserved to be cast off for ever, and to be doomed to the lowest hell for his sin in the matter of Uriah; but Nathan assured him the Lord hath taken away thy sin: and by that word he was delivered from the lowest hell, and herein God’s mercy was great toward him. Even the best saints, we must remember, owe it, not to their own merit, but to the mercy of God, that they are saved from the lowest hell; and the consideration of that should greatly enlarge their hearts in praising the mercy of God, which they are obliged to glorify for evermore. So glorious, so gracious a rescue from everlasting misery, justly requires the return of everlasting praise.

Verses 14-15

Psalms 86:14-15. O God, the proud are risen against me Behold, O God, a new opportunity to glorify that mercy, for ambitious men have risen up against me in open rebellion, and have not only plotted against me, but endeavoured to put their plots in execution, and both to depose and destroy me. The assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul That is, after my life: to take it away; and have not set thee before them They have no reverence nor regard for thee, neither for thy word, which hath conferred the kingdom upon me, nor for thine all-seeing eye, which beholds all their wicked devices and practices against me, nor for thy justice, which will undoubtedly bring their mischief upon their own heads. But thou art a God full of compassion, &c. Namely, to thy people, and to me in particular, and therefore thou wilt forgive my manifold sins, for which thou mightest justly reject me, and wilt save me from my cruel enemies. Thus, from praises, the psalmist returns again to prayer, as all the people of God are frequently compelled to do. In the opposition he met with he was a type of the Messiah, his seed according to the flesh, and his church. “We know the treatment which Christ met with, when he was upon earth, from proud and violent men, who had not set God before their eyes; from self-righteous Jews, and conceited Gentiles, who rose up, and look counsel together against him. What his church afterward suffered, at the hands of the same enemies, is likewise well known. How much more she is to undergo in the latter days we know not as yet; but this we know, that the spirit of the world stands, now and ever, in opposition to the Spirit of God; its design is always the same, although its methods of working be divers.” Horne. So that, even from without, and from visible enemies, not to mention those within the human heart, and such as are invisible, every one, who is a Christian indeed, shall be sure to find his state on earth a warfare, and to have his portion of tribulation in this life. But, like David, he may, in the midst of all the trials and oppositions he meets with, find a place of sure refuge, and an almighty helper, in that Being who is here said to be full of compassion and gracious, long-suffering, and plenteous in goodness and truth.

Verses 16-17

Psalms 86:16-17. O turn unto me As to one thou lovest, and hast a kind and tender concern for. And have mercy upon me Pity and graciously pardon me, though I have highly offended thee. Give thy strength unto thy servant To assist, support, and deliver me; and save the son of thy handmaid Me, who, by thy gracious providence, was born, not of heathen, but of Israelitish parents, and therefore was in covenant with thee from my birth, and whose mother was thy faithful servant, and did entirely devote me to thy service. Show me a token for good, &c. Vouchsafe me some evident and eminent token of thy good-will to me, for the conviction of mine enemies, and my own comfort; that they who hate me may be ashamed Of their enmity to me, as they will have reason to be when they perceive that thou, Lord, hast holpen me, and comforted me And that therefore they have been striving against thee, in opposing one whom thou ownest; and have been striving, in vain, to vex and ruin one whom thou thyself hast undertaken to help and comfort. The joy of the saints shall hereafter be the shame of their persecutors.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 86". Benson's Commentary. 1857.