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To the chief Musician, Al-taschith, Michtam of David; when Saul sent, and they watched the house to kill him.
David is herein represented as surrounded by personal enemies, who, without cause, watch and wait for his life. Innocent, he is as a lamb in the midst of wolves. He is in a city; his enemies keep a strong night watch, patrolling the streets to prevent his escape, while they seek to arrest him privately. Their cruelty is terrible. The psalm is set to the melody of Al-taschith the sign of great peril and hairbreadth escape. (See note on title.) There is no occasion for doubting the historic correctness of the title; and we must assign the psalm to the perilous days and nights at Gibeah, when Saul sought to kill David, especially the memorable night mentioned in 1 Samuel 19:11. Topically, the psalm may be thus divided: Psalms 59:1-2, an earnest cry to God for help; Psalms 59:3-7, a description of the character and methods of his enemies; Psalms 59:8-10, an expression of trust in God for timely interference and rescue. A double refrain occurs, Psalms 59:6, answering to Psalms 59:14, and both following the “selah;” Psalms 59:9 answering to Psalms 59:17.
TITLE: Al-taschith Destroy not. Chronologically, this is the first appearance of these words in the titles of the Davidic psalms, though it occurs in the two preceding, and in Psalms 75:0. Their meaning as a musical designation is not clear, further than that they occur only in the titles of psalms which describe great perils and wonderful deliverances. Hengstenberg’s suggestion, that they were a watchword of David’s, based on Deuteronomy 9:26, “I said, O Lord God, destroy not thy people,” is plausible, and it is also not improbable that they were a constant reminder to David not to take vengeance into his own hands. See on Psalms 57:0, title.
Michtam Commonly rendered golden psalm.
When Saul sent See 1 Samuel 19:11, and introduction.
1. Defend me Literally, set me on high, as in a strong tower, or upon a rocky cliff. The first two verses are an earnest cry for help.
2. Workers of iniquity Whom God abhors, Psalms 5:5
3. They lie in wait It would seem that Saul had sent spies through the city to watch for David, in hopes of assassinating him privately, and that this had been going on for some time before the night when they finally surrounded his house, 1 Samuel 19:11. David, in simplicity, tells God all the movements of the enemy.
The mighty The strong ones; the chiefs of the nation. There is no appeal to any human power above them, therefore he carries his cause directly to God.
Not… for my sin I have committed no offence to cause this.
4. They run and prepare themselves Military terms to denote the rapidity and order of their movements, and their eagerness for the combat.
Awake to help me Hebrew, to meet me. He prays that God’s movement to meet him as a protector may be more expeditious than theirs to destroy him.
5. O Lord God of hosts Jehovah God of armies. A term denoting his boundless power.
God of Israel A title denoting his covenant relation to his people, and his consequent special care of them, implying that David’s cause was the cause of Israel.
Awake to visit all the heathen Awake to punish the nations, that is, the heathen or Gentile nations. From this it would appear the issue lay between the “God of Israel,” and the “heathen nations.” We know that Doeg, the Edomite, (1 Samuel 22:22,) was influential in Saul’s court, and instigated him to desperate measures, and it is not improbable that behind Doeg, an Edomitish policy, through the leading men of his nation, operated to make this venal man a political tool for the weakening and overthrow of the new kingly government of Israel. This intrigue brought Edom into direct conflict with Jehovah’s designs concerning David. See on Psalms 59:8. In the same way, Haman the Agagite, a descendant of the royal family of Amalek, sought to revenge his nation upon the Jews. Esther 3:0
6. They return at evening The poetical account, which here gives a deeper insight than the narrative in 1 Samuel 19:11-16, speaks of a succession of nights. They not only patrolled the city, (see Psalms 59:3,) but had now closely beset his house.
They make a noise like a dog The half wild, gaunt, starved dogs of the East are scarcely less ferocious, and more disgusting, than wolves. They go in packs, and at night their howling, barking, yelping, and growling are as frightful as they are discordant. See on Psalms 22:16
7. They belch out with their mouth A continuation of the figure, Psalms 59:6. As applied to David’s enemies it is an expression of the lowest contempt.
8. But thou… shalt laugh at them Indicating with what infinite ease God will frustrate them. See on Psalms 2:4.
All the heathen This recurrence to the Gentile nations suggests how strongly David’s mind is impressed that, back of Saul and the mercenary Doeg, there was a heathen plot, or intrigue, which had worked its way into Saul’s court and threatened evil to the Hebrew people. See note on Psalms 59:5. The preceding verses describe David’s enemies. The adversative sense of the particle ve, but, at the beginning of Psalms 59:8, changes the subject to the contemplation of the power, mercy and judgment of God.
9. Because of his strength Rather, O my strength, I will watch for thee, or, wait for thee. David fully understood the strength and temper of his enemies and the power and faithfulness of God, and he chooses to wait the vindications of Providence.
God is my defence My high place, or tower.
10. God… shall prevent me Shall go before me.
Shall let me see my desire upon mine enemies God will cause me to look upon their overthrow. The word “enemies,” here, signifies those who lie in wait, my spies, my watchers.
11. Slay them not Probably an allusion to the punishment of Cain, and of the Israelites in the desert. Genesis 4:12; Genesis 4:14; Numbers 32:13. He would have their punishment exemplary, to deter others from sin.
Scatter them Cause them to wander. The word means to stagger, reel, and is applied to an irregular, objectless moving from place to place as a wanderer. The participle is translated fugitive in Genesis 4:12; Genesis 4:14. This was David’s condition in his exile, 2 Samuel 15:20. It was considered more terrible than death. Psalms 109:10
12. For the sin of their mouth Hebrew, the sin of their mouth, the word of their lips; that is, every word of their lips is sin. Hammond: “So many words, so many sins.” And this continuous falsehood, slander, and perjury, should be cause of divine procedure to judgment.
13. Consume them… that they may not be He speaks of them as a conspiracy, a combination of wicked men. In this sense they would lose their power and fall to pieces when they should become divided in counsel.
This literally took place afterwards, on another occasion, when Ahithophel’s counsel was rejected, and consummated when Absalom was slain. See note on Psalms 55:9.
Unto the ends of the earth Again the intrigues of heathen enmity to Israel are referred to, as in Psalms 59:5; Psalms 59:8, which see. The sense is, “They shall know to the ends of the earth that God ruleth.” Compare 1 Samuel 17:46
14. And at evening let them return Or, they shall return. A recurrence of the refrain, Psalms 59:6, and an expression of the last degree of contempt, which must have produced inimitable effect in the musical performance.
15. Let them wander Or, they shall wander. The metaphor of hungry dogs prowling about the city for some offal to alleviate their hunger, but finding nothing, is here carried out to illustrate that God would punish these conspirators through their own bloodthirsty passions, by withholding the object of their desire and defeating their deadly schemes. Thus sin becomes an instrument of its own punishment.
Grudge The Hebrew word should here take its more usual sense of to tarry, lodge, continue. The sense is: “If these hungry dogs, prowling for food, be not satisfied, they will continue all night, even to exhaustion, in their fruitless search.” This completes the metaphor, and finishes the picture of their wretchedness.
16. But I will sing of thy power The antithesis is here brought out between David’s enemies and himself. They shall wander up and down like hungry dogs for food and find nothing; but I, fully rescued, will “sing of thy power,” etc.
In the morning Contrasted with the night work of his enemies. They continue all night in fruitless attempts to destroy me, but I, in the morning, will sing… of thy mercy.
17. God is my defence A repetition of the refrain of Psalms 59:9. The first double refrain (Psalms 59:6; Psalms 59:14) sets forth the vileness and impotence of his enemies; the second, (Psalms 59:9; Psalms 59:17,) the majesty, power, and mercy of God.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 59". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30