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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 86

A Prayer of David.

The inexpressible tenderness and plaintive tone of this psalm appeal directly to the deepest feelings of the heart. The psalmist is in a state of full acceptance and communion with God, (Psalms 86:2,) but is in great affliction, and closely beset by proud, powerful, and tyrannical enemies. Psalms 86:14. He rests his cause upon his own integrity and purity, (Psalms 86:1-2;) upon the abundant goodness of God, (Psalms 86:5; Psalms 86:15;) upon the greatness and supremacy of God, (Psalms 86:8-10;) upon the fact of his own past deliverance from the deepest depths of trouble, (Psalms 86:13;) and upon the consideration of the public effect that should be gained by showing openly that God was on the side of the king, (Psalms 86:17.) The psalm suits best the condition of David at Mahanaim during Absalom’s rebellion. 2 Samuel 17:24; 2 Samuel 18:0. TITLE:

A Prayer of David Tephillah ( prayer) distinguishes it from homiletic, praise, and Maschil psalms. See note on title of Psalms 17:0

Verse 1

1. Poor With the adsignification of lowly, poor in spirit, as Zechariah 9:9; Psalms 9:12; Matthew 5:3.

Needy Afflicted. Humility and suffering appeal to the mercy of God.

Verse 2

2. Preserve David’s prayer for protection points to his danger. (Psalms 86:14; Psalms 86:17.)

For I am holy Dedicated to God, a God-worshipper. But the word חסיד is as often used in the sense of merciful. “Keep my soul, for I am merciful;” as in Psalms 97:10, “He preserveth the souls of his saints” better, of his merciful ones. This suits the connexion and scope. The issue between David and his enemies was, not that he was irreligious, but that he had been unjust to man by superseding the house of Saul in the dynasty, and the tribe of Ephraim in the supremacy, to which slander had added many other false accusations. See 2 Samuel 15:2-6. The word in question is often used to cover the great principle of the second table of the decalogue “Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself.” David pleads that he had been merciful to men as a reason for now obtaining mercy of God. See Matthew 5:7; James 2:13, and notes on Psalms 4:3; Psalms 12:1. כי , ( kee,) “for,” because, in the text, as a causal particle, does not assign as a reason for acceptance good works as a ground of merit, as the papists hold, but as a proof of moral fitness, the promise being to such. He appeals to his works as evidence of the purity and sincerity of his intentions and heart.

Trusteth in thee Another reason of fitness.

Verse 4

4. Thus far the psalmist’s prayer has been urged from personal considerations; he now ascends to a loftier view, and grounds his hope in the character of God.

Verse 5

5. Good, and ready to forgive God’s goodness is an attribute of his nature; his forgiveness is a modification, or special exercise, of his goodness. The first is generic, the second specific.

Plenteous in mercy His “mercy” is an emanation of his goodness, directed to man as a sinful and suffering being, through the abundant or manifold operation of which, forgiveness is bestowed.

Verse 8

8. Among the gods The comparison here is not with the false gods of the heathen, but with kings, potentates, and all created beings of power.

אלוהם , ( eloheem,) should here take its root idea of mighty ones “who among the mighty ones,” etc. The passage is parallel to Psalms 89:6, and is a reiteration of Exodus 15:11

Verse 9

9. All nations… shall come and worship, etc. They shall, whether from constraint or choice, bow before Jehovah and confess him the only true and living God. So Psalms 86:10.

Whom thou hast made Thou hast made them, though they are now ignorant of thee, (compare John 1:10;) but they shall glorify thy name, by confessing thee to be the Creator of all a clear prediction of Revelation 15:4

Verse 11

11. Unite my heart, etc. Concentrate all my faculties upon this one point, to fear thy name. The same thought is expressed in Psalms 86:12, with all my heart. Comp. “double heart,” (Psalms 12:2;) and the New Testament expression, “If thine eye be single,” (Matthew 6:22;) and “doubtful mind,” (Luke 12:29;) and “double-minded man,” James 1:8; James 4:8

Verse 13

13. Lowest hell The lowest grave, or pit. שׁאול , ( sheol,) is generally used in this sense, and the same form of confession as in the text occurs Psalms 30:3, where the common version has grave “Thou hast brought up my soul from the grave.” And in Hosea 13:14, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave… O grave I will be thy destruction.” This deliverance from “the deepest sheol” ( grave) was a rescue from imminent and terrible destruction; it was as a resurrection from the dead. The remembrance of it now comes up to the psalmist, and becomes a ground of hope and pledge of renewed mercy.

Verse 14

14. Proud… violent… have not set thee before them A threefold description of David’s enemies.

Proud The fundamental idea is contempt of all authority, restraint, or obligation.

Violent One who inspires terror by his power and his contempt of the rights of men a tyrant. The word is always translated terrible, terrible ones, in the prophets, in our common version, conformably to its radical sense.

Assemblies Must be understood of the bands or companies of conspirators, as in Psalms 22:16; Numbers 16:6.

And have not set thee before them This clause gives at once their character and the cause of it. Humanity shudders when such men rule. In this verse David repeats himself from Psalms 54:3, which is not a rare practice.

Verse 15

15. But thou, O Lord, art… full of compassion In contrast with the godless characters who had seized the reins of power. This ascription the glory of the divine character is a re-iteration of Exodus 34:6

Verse 16

16. The son of thine handmaid A servant born in the house. See Genesis 17:12; Genesis 17:27, and compare Exodus 23:12; Exodus 20:10. The psalmist takes the lowest place. But it was an honour to his mother to confess her the servant in God’s family before him, and the fact that David was thus descended proved a historic family connexion with the Church and covenant which he pleads as evidence of his sincere and faithful attachment. In the same sense apply Psalms 116:16; compare 2 Timothy 1:5

Verse 17

17. Token for good Such a turn of affairs as shall prove to my enemies, not only that I am successful against all their power and strategy, but that my prosperity is of God. It was not enough to succeed against the conspiracy, but it must appear that God was on his side. This alone could restore public order, give sanction to law, and re-establish his authority.

Comforted me A beautiful instance of David’s deep heart and real piety. The verb denotes such consolation as flows from true sympathy. It was not a demonstration of the divine power simply that he asked, but of the divine sympathy also. Let my enemies see that thou hast consoled me, as one that heartily and lovingly enters into the righteousness of my cause and the depth of my afflictions. The past tense of the verbs is delicately put for the present by the lively anticipations of faith.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 86". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/psalms-86.html. 1874-1909.