Psalm 59

A Michtam of David when Saul sent men, and they watched the house in order to kill him.

Here we have another Michtam psalm of David, as we did in Psalms 56, 57, and 58. We have examined multiple times now the suggestion of The Companion Bible in Appendix 65 XII that this word has to do with writing, particularly engraving. Since most writing is not engraving, this indicates its importance. It is “set in stone,” as our figure of speech would have it. The truth of this Psalm is important enough that it deserves to be permanently engraved on our minds and hearts.

The occasion of the writing of this Psalm is now explained. David wrote it when Saul sent men, and they watched the house where he was in order to kill him. This incident is recorded for us in I Samuel 19:11-12, taking place right after Saul cast a spear at David in an attempt to kill him when David was playing his harp in an attempt to sooth Saul’s spirit as he was being troubled by a troublesome spirit from the LORD.

11. Saul also sent messengers to David’s house to watch him and to kill him in the morning. And Michal, David’s wife, told him, saying, “If you do not save your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” 12. So Michal let David down through a window. And he went and fled and escaped.

David finds himself safe in his house for now, but the house is surrounded by enemies sent by King Saul, and his safety cannot last. Soon these enemies will attempt to destroy him. What he can do about it is not immediately clear. Since we know the story we know that Michal, David’s wife though Saul’s daughter, was the means of his deliverance, helping him to escape through a window. Yet before his escape, this is the Psalm that David wrote.

1. Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;

David calls on his God to deliver him from his enemies. Once again he is surrounded by those who wish to kill him, and realizes that his hope lies in the power of his God, Who has promised him a glorious future reigning over His land, a future which David has not yet realized. If he is ever to realize it, God must deliver him now.

Defend me from those who rise up against me.

This same idea is actually repeated four times for the strongest poetic emphasis. Remember that Hebrew poetry had more to do with repetition of ideas than it did with repetition of sounds. This line really carries the same idea as the first. To deliver and defend are equivalent, as are David’s enemies and those who rise up against him.

2. Deliver me from the workers of iniquity,

David calls on God to deliver him once again, using the same word as in verse 1. Again parallel to David’s enemies are the workers of iniquity. The men who have set themselves against him are not neutral when it comes to doing what is right, but rather are those who do what is wrong.

And save me from bloodthirsty men.

David again calls on God, this time to save him, using a new word with the same idea. Here he calls his enemies bloodthirsty men, but of course he has the same people in mind. These men are seeking favor in the royal court from Saul, and they are not afraid to shed the blood of an innocent man like David in order to achieve that favor. Yet David trusts God to rescue him and to save him from the bloodlust of these workers of iniquity.

3. For look, they lie in wait for my life;

He calls on God to look and see what these men are doing against David. They are lying in wait to take his life away. This is exactly what they were doing, as we read in I Samuel 19:11. They were surrounding the house to take him and kill him if he emerged, and otherwise were waiting until the morning to capture him and put him to death. Thus they were truly lying in wait for David’s very life.

The word translated “life” here is the Hebrew word for soul, nephesh. By taking away David’s life they would be taking away his soul as well, for the soul is connected both with the pleasures of life and with the life itself. David will soon lose his life if these men succeed in capturing him out of the house.

The mighty gather against me,

The soldiers Saul sent to secure David certainly must have been mighty men, for David was well known to be a mighty warrior himself. There must have been plenty there to be able to subdue David.

Not for my transgression nor for my sin, O LORD.

A king’s men are supposed to be sent to arrest someone when he is a transgressor or has sinned in some way. Yet David has done no such thing. Saul wanted David because of his own paranoid fears. David had done nothing to deserve arrest and certainly not to deserve death. The force that surrounded his house to take him had no real justification for doing so.

4. They run and prepare themselves through no fault of mine.

These men had run to surround the house and prepared themselves to arrest and execute David through no fault of his own. He had ever been a loyal soldier in Saul’s army. He was the king’s son-in-law, married to his daughter, and had never been disloyal. He had never plotted anything against the king, nor had he done anything unworthy of the position he was given.

Awake to help me, and behold!

David calls on God to stir Himself to go into action on David’s behalf. He calls on Him to behold what is happening and to consider the truth of what David is claiming. David is sure that God will know the right of it, which of course He did. The LORD did do what David asked and rescued him from the unfair arrest and execution Saul and his men had planned. David’s prayer, inspired by God, became actually a prophecy of what did happen, for God did indeed act on David’s behalf and saw to it that he escaped.

5. You therefore, O LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel,

David now calls on Jehovah Elohim Sebaoth, the God of Israel, to act.

Awake to punish all the nations;

He calls on Him to wake up to punish all the nations. It seems there were men of the nations around Israel who had insinuated themselves into Saul’s court. These were now active movers in the attempt to arrest and assassinate David. One such man who comes to mind is Doeg the Edomite, who saw David at the priestly city of Nob after he had become a fugitive, and who then informed on David and the priests to Saul, causing the deaths of the whole priestly family (except for Abiathar, who escaped). Here was a man from a nation surrounding Israel, the nation of Esau named Edom. He was probably a wealthy foreigner who had managed to get into Saul’s good graces. However, he had then used his trusted position with Saul to encourage lies against David, God’s chosen anointed. Moreover, he had dared to carry out Saul’s mad policy and had himself executed Jehovah’s priests. Doeg had no such scruples of honesty and truth as David had, and as any Israelite ought to have had. David is indignant at the high position of a dishonest foreigner like this within God’s nation of Israel. If foreigners were not willing to adopt God’s morality and God’s religion, then they should not have had a high position in God’s court. Any man of the nations who acted in such a way against God’s people and God’s priests ought to be punished, and David calls on God to do it.

Do not be merciful to any wicked transgressors. Selah

David calls on Jehovah to show no grace to any such wicked transgressors who are so eager to encourage and then serve Saul in his godless enterprises. We do not know what ultimately happened to Doeg, but no mention is made of him after the death of Saul, and so perhaps we can conclude that he died along with his master in the last battle against the Philistines. It would have been most appropriate if this schemer died along with the rebellious king whom he had used to gain personal power. Of course, he might have died even earlier.

6. At evening they return,

Perhaps David observed them discover his whereabouts in his house, and then go back to report to their master Saul. At evening they returned, however, and we know that their task was to watch the house to kill him if he attempted escape, and otherwise to capture him in the morning.

They growl like a dog,

David pictures them growling like a dog preparing to spring upon his prey. Perhaps he hears their low murmurings, like the growling of a dog, as they discuss together the guarding of him and the task of arresting him in the morning. Notice the reference to these men of enemy nations as dogs. These are not true Israelites, these are not servants of the living God, yet they are seeking to trap and destroy God’s anointed and God’s servant. They truly did deserve the designation of dogs.

And go all around the city.

These men who are watching for David are not just watching his house, it seems. They are also patrolling around the city in case he slips out somehow so they can attempt to catch him in the streets. As we can tell from the story in I Samuel, Saul very much wanted to capture and kill David!

Perhaps at this point we should imagine the incident mentioned in I Samuel 19:12 taking place.

12. So Michal let David down through a window. And he went and fled and escaped.

This tells us that David was let down through a window to escape the men who were watching the house. Unlike the window Paul was let down through, however, we do not read that the house was in the wall and this window led outside the city. It may well be that Michal and David had to time his descent around the patrols, and that David had to use care in slipping out of the city to avoid these patrols. As we have said about earlier Psalms, though David may have started to write this psalm while he was trapped in the house with the men of Saul watching outside, it would appear that he finished it later after the incident was over.

7. Indeed, they belch with their mouth;

The idea here would seem to be that they are cursing. Perhaps they are swearing to kill David if ever they catch him. Perhaps they have spotted him, a shadowy form in the streets, but on pursuing him have lost him, and so David hears their curses receding in the background as he flees from them.

Swords are in their lips;

They speak their evil intention to destroy David. He pictures their words like swords, sharpened and ready to kill. Perhaps this is not just in reference to their curses as they pursue David, but also to the lying words that they have used to poison the susceptible mind of Saul against David. We do not know for certain how Saul became so dead set against his son-in-law and army commander, but it could well be that it was not through his own paranoia only. Scheming and plotting in king’s courts is commonplace, and ambitious men, such as the men of the nations whom David spoke against earlier, might have seen a way to worm themselves into Saul’s good graces by pretending to know of schemes and plots of David against him. Especially if they knew that Saul already had suspicions about David, such a course might seem obvious to them. Yet the result was that their words were swords prepared to destroy God’s servant.

For they say, “Who hears?”

The men who seek to win favor by David’s blood think that no one hears their violent words. They do not imagine that their conduct will be noted and repaid. Yet we know, as David did, that God did hear their words, and that they will not ultimately get away with their schemes against His chosen.

8. But You, O LORD, shall laugh at them;

The LORD shall laugh at these men who think they are getting away with their violent schemes. We could compare this to Psalms 2:4, where the LORD also laughed, this time at the rebellious nations at the time of the tribulation.

4. He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.

Indeed, this psalm too may have a fuller fulfillment at that time, when David will also be surrounded by enemies and will have to flee from Jerusalem out of his hiding place in the house of God. This is also similar to Psalm 37:13.

13. The Lord laughs at him,
For He sees that his day is coming.

That psalm is all about the wicked and the fate that is coming to them, which they emptily imagine they will escape. These wicked men too, David’s false accusers, shall be laughed at by the LORD, for they will not get away with such conduct forever!

You shall have all the nations in derision.

The LORD shall ridicule all nations who think to strike against Him or His chosen rulers. His plans shall not fail, and all attempts to make them fail will not succeed, any more than these attempts to kill David did. Yet this verse would appear to be a prophetic looking forward by David, beyond the immediate circumstances of him and Saul to that future day when the LORD shall ridicule all those who dare to rebel against His Kingdom.

9. I will wait for You, O You his Strength;

These are David’s words at this time of trouble. He will wait for Jehovah to act and to provide him a means of escape. David is not a man to forget what Israel his nation so often did forget: that Jehovah was his true Strength and his true means of deliverance. If David trusted in Him to deliver him, he would not be disappointed.

“O You his Strength” sounds like it could refer to the Messiah, the Angel of God, yet it could be that this should be “O my Strength,” and refer to David’s reliance on Jehovah as his help, as The Companion Bible suggests.

For God is my defense.

This is why David will wait on God: for He is truly his defense. No other defense would have helped David in the tight corner he was in. Yet God could defend David, and God did defend David, and he escaped from the power of his enemies.

10. My God of mercy shall come to meet me;

David imagines his God, the One Who was so merciful to Him, as coming to meet him as he flees from the house and Saul’s men. No doubt he pictures God escorting him out of the city and to safety, defeating and frustrating the plans of Saul and his men. That is just what happened (in a figure, of course), for David did escape from the city and the trap they had set for him.

God shall let me see my desire on my enemies.

David is confident that he will yet see what he desires happen to his enemies. Of course, what he wants to see is them frustrated by his successful escape.

11. Do not slay them, lest my people forget;

He does not want all his enemies slain. If this happens, he feels that his people might forget all that God did for him to deliver him. If instead they are humbled and put down, then they will remain as a constant reminder to his fellow Israelites that God’s will cannot be thwarted, that His power cannot be bested, and that He will bring about His desire on His Own servants.

Scatter them by Your power,

He calls on God to scatter his enemies by His power. Right at the moment they were banded together to slay him. He instead desires to see them scattered, their bands broken, by their humiliation and defeat.

And bring them down,

He also asks God to bring them down. Here we may actually have a clue as to David’s desire as to how God would bring him to the throne instead of Saul. We can see from his reaction to Saul’s death in II Samuel 1 that David did not really desire Saul’s death. Yet how could David take the throne if Saul was still alive? This would be difficult, but David knows that God can accomplish what He desires. If Saul could be brought down so that David could take the throne and yet remain alive as a reminder to God’s people of the uselessness of opposing His will, then David would have been happy. He truly did not wish to see his king and the father of his best friend slain. Of course, the confederation of men who supported Saul were eventually scattered, and yet Saul himself was slain, so David’s desire here was only partially fulfilled.

O Lord our shield.

He calls on God to do this as Yahweh their shield. He is the true protection for His people, and the One Who will defend them in their hour of peril, even as He was defending David through this perilous time.

Though the current Hebrew text reads “Adonai” here rather than Yahweh, the Sopherim record that this is one of the places they changed the text out of their mistaken sense of propriety, thinking that they knew better how God should refer to Himself than He did. David calls Him “Yahweh our shield,” not Adonai.

12. For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips,

David wants these men to fall because of the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips. He might again have the lying foreigners in mind who had sought to promote themselves in Saul’s sight by feeding his paranoia that David was conspiring against him. They have spoken such sinful lies, and for this reason they should be scattered and brought low rather than be rewarded for their clever conniving.

Let them even be taken in their pride,

David wishes to see them captured even in their pride as to how clever they were being in gaining favor and influence for themselves. Surely these men were taken in their own pride, for when David took the throne they would find themselves without any power or influence at all.

And for the cursing and lying which they speak.

David repeats, in the manner of Hebrew poetry, the crime of these men. They speak cursing and lying against David, claiming things against him that are simply not true.

13. Consume them in wrath, consume them,

David calls on God to bring about the end of these men by consuming them in His wrath. Of course, this is something of a change from verse 11. As I suggested there, he may have had Saul specifically in mind in that verse, and these lying foreigners in mind in this one. Of course, ultimately God’s enemies must be consumed, even if they are allowed to remain for a time as a reminder to His people of the futility of rebellion.

That they may not be;

David considers it that the result of God consuming these men would be that they would not be. Of course, this is not the idea most have today. They would figure that if God consumed anyone, that the next instant that person would find himself in hell and would continue to be there for all eternity, except for a brief interruption in which God brought him out to put him on trial and then return him. Yet David knew of no such idea. In his mind, those who were consumed would cease to be.

And let them know that God rules in Jacob

When His people see the consumption of liars like this they will truly realize that God rules in Jacob. “Jacob,” the Heel-Grabber or Trickster, is the name used for Israel when it is being considered in a negative way. Of course, God rules even over the wicked in Israel, even over men like Saul and his minions. This would be proven when God would bring the path of such wicked men to an end.

To the ends of the earth. Selah

God rules in Jacob to the ends of the earth. This might better be translated “to the remotest parts of the land.” There was not a corner of Israel where God’s authority did not hold sway. Of course, in our day when Israel is scattered into all lands, we can say that God still rules over them even to the remotest parts of the globe. Yet in the context of this way, David more likely had the land in mind here, for that is where the Israelites were concentrated at that time.

14. And at evening they return,

David repeats his refrain from verse 6. He speaks of these men as they were even then plotting against him, reporting to Saul that he was in his house, and then returning to watch the house to kill him if he attempted escape.

They growl like a dog,

David again pictures them growling like a dog preparing to spring upon his prey. Certainly it must have been a frightening thing to have so many armed men set on his destruction and growling together in their determination to capture and slay him!

And go all around the city.

Again this seems to picture these men, not simply watching the house, but also patrolling around the city in case he slips out somehow so they can attempt to catch him in the streets. He did indeed slip out of the house through a window, and yet he still had these men to contend with when he got out.

15. They wander up and down for food,

These men wandered up and down seeking the food they desired. Of course, the “food” they wanted to feast upon in this case is David himself, whom they are seeking in order to put him to death at the order of the wayward king.

And howl if they are not satisfied.

Frustrated by David’s escape, these men will have little choice but to return to Saul to howl and whine about their lack of success. This would be the outcome David desires, and would be what these men deserve: not the praise for a successful campaign, but rather the shame of a failed one.

16. But I will sing of Your power;

David, on the other hand, will be satisfied with deliverance, and will sing of the strength and might of God Who delivered him.

Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning;

David repeats himself again for poetic emphasis. He will sing aloud of God’s mercy in the morning, rising in the early hours to offer Him praise.

For You have been my defense

The reason David offers this praise is that God has been his defense. This verse and the last verse, as is quite common in these psalms written at times of trouble, seem to be added on after the trouble was over. David probably added one last verse to the psalm in order to offer praise to the God Who rescued him for that rescue accomplished.

And refuge in the day of my trouble.

God has been his refuge in the day or time of his trouble. Again, this is poetic repetition, and repeats what was said in the previous line.

17. To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises;

David sings praises again to God, Who is his Strength. This is the same word as “power” in the first line of verse 16. God is the One Who gave David the strength to evade and escape his enemies.

For God is my defense,

God is David’s defense, and the true defense of all His people. This is the same as when David called him a “shield” earlier in the psalm. It means that God is the true protection for His people, and not whatever human means of protection they may seek. There is no protection against Him, and there is no breach in His armor when He determines to defend a man.

My God of mercy.

David calls Him again his God of mercy. God had mercy on David, and thus He kindly rescued him from his enemies. This is what God does and will ever do for His people. He may not rescue us from every danger in this life. Indeed, all of us will die, short of the Kingdom coming in our lifetimes. Yet ultimately He will rescue us from death and from every evil by His mercy and bring us to our final reward at last. He is indeed a merciful God, for none of us have earned or deserved His favor to us, yet He gives it freely by His grace!

To the Chief Musician. Set to “Lily of the Testimony.”

This is another Psalm dedicated to the Chief Musician, and therefore meant for public worship, so dedicated by David after his troubles were over and he was safely settled in his position as king.

The “Lily of the Testimony” refers to a testimony regarding the spring festival or Passover. The Companion Bible suggests that this refers to the testimony regarding the Passover law that says that if a man is on a journey or unclean and cannot keep the Passover in the first month according to the requirement, that he can then keep it instead in the second month. Since David was forced from his home and away from the tabernacle at that time, it could well be that his celebrations of the Passover would be delayed until a more opportune time, just as all in Israel might find it if their land was ever invaded around the time of the great Spring Festival of Passover. Thus David sets this Psalm as one particularly appropriate to such a circumstance when threats from enemies might cause His people to delay their celebrating, even as David’s celebration of God’s anointing was delayed by the opposition of Saul.