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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

PSALM 64

EVIL SLANDERERS JUDGED BY THE LORD

SUPERSCRIPTION: FOR THE CHIEF MUSICIAN. A PSALM.

A SONG OF DAVID.

Again, there is no legitimate objection to receiving the superscription as correct. It is an older opinion, by many centuries, than those hypothetical ascriptions which represent it as "reflecting the situation between Mordecai and Haman,"F1 or as concerning the conflict "Between Daniel and his enemies in Babylon which found its climax in the lion's den."F2

Not only are the words of this psalm applicable to both Mordecai and Daniel, but to many other persons and situations also.

David's life was troubled by many situations in which the words of this psalm might have been inspired; but very few scholars have even hazarded a guess as to what, exactly, the real occasion was. We respect the words of Rawlinson who named it.

"The author is probably David, as asserted in the title; and the occasion or time was that period a little preceding the open revolt of Absalom."F3

The frequent mention of the "secrecy" of the enemies in the first part of the Psalm might indicate that the revolt of Absalom was in its formative stages. It is also true that there could have been many other occasions in the psalmists reign when similar opposition was manifested.

Seemingly, the most natural divisions of the psalm are (1) Ps. 64:1-4; (2) Ps. 64:5-6; and (3) Ps. 64:7-10.

Ps. 64:1-4

Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint:

Preserve my life from fear of the enemy.

Hide me from the secret counsel of evil-doers,

From the tumult of the workers of iniquity;

Who have whet their tongues like a sword,

And have aimed their arrows, even bitter words,

That they may shoot in secret places at the perfect:

Suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not."


 
Verses 1-4
Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint: Preserve my life from fear of the enemy. Hide me from the secret counsel of evil-doers, From the tumult of the workers of iniquity; Who have whet their tongue like a sword, And have aimed their arrows, even bitter words, That they may shoot in secret places at the perfect: Suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not.
(Psalms 64:1). The interest in this verse is that the psalmist does not pray for protection against the enemy, but that he may be delivered from the fear that might be caused by the situation. This makes good sense, because such deliverance would put an end to all impediments to clear thinking and firm resistance.F4

Secret counsel. secret places
(Psalms 64:1,4). A prominent feature of the activity of the evil-doers here is their secrecy. They did not come out openly against David, but contrived many devices by which they hoped to undermine his authority and eventually destroy him.

They whet their tongues. aim their arrows ... even bitter words
(Psalms 64:3). A second prominent feature of this conspiracy was simple enough. It was a campaign of secret slander. Spurgeon has a priceless little paragraph about that type of campaign.

"Is it possible for justice to invent a punishment sufficiently severe to meet the case of the dastard who defiles my good name and remains himself in concealment? An open liar is an angel compared with this demon. Vipers and cobras are harmless and lovable creatures compared with such a reptile. The devil himself might blush at being the father of so base an offspring."F5

"In this situation, the psalmist knows of his enemies but not when they may strike."F6 That is why he prays to be hidden (Psalms 64:2).

Speaking of all that activity of the enemies mentioned in Ps. 64:3, Matthew Henry observed: "If they spent half that much energy in the pursuit of righteousness, it might serve to save them."F7

They encourage themselves in an evil purpose;

They commune of laying snares privily;

They say, Who will see them?

They search out iniquities;

We have accomplished, say they, a diligent search:

And the inward thought and the heart of every one is deep."

The theme of these verses is the traps which the enemies have set to destroy the perfect man and the snares and pitfalls they have secretly deployed in the hope of overcoming him. Their conversation with each other continually turns upon the discussion of such things.


 
Verses 5, 6
They encourage themselves in an evil purpose; They commune of laying snares privily; They say, Who will see them? They search out iniquities; We have accomplished, [say they], a diligent search: And the inward thought and the heart of every one is deep.
(Psalms 64:6). Dummelow rendered this, We have perfected, say they, a careful device.F8 The plans made by Absalom and his advisers were very brilliant. Rawlinson thought that it might have been due to some carefully laid trap that David was induced to leave the city of Jerusalem during that revolt.

They say, Who will see them?
(Psalms 64:6). These wicked men did not believe in God and were foolish enough to think that their wickedness and devilish plans were not only hidden from men but from God also.

But God will shoot at them;

With an arrow suddenly shall they be wounded.

So they shall be made to stumble, their own tongue being against them;

All that see them shall wag the head.

And all men shall fear;

And they shall declare the work of God,

And shall wisely consider of his doing.

The righteous shall be glad in Jehovah, and shall take refuge in him;

And all the upright in heart shall glory."


 
Verses 7-10
But God will shoot at them; With an arrow suddenly shall they be wounded. So they shall be made to stumble, their own tongue being against them: All that see them shall wag the head. And all men shall fear; And they shall declare the work of God, And shall wisely consider of his doing. The righteous shall be glad in Jehovah, and shall take refuge in him; And all the upright in heart shall glory.
(Psalms 64:7). In a verse and one half here (Ps. 64:7-8a), the tables are completely reversed. It is God who does the wounding. All of the cunningly-laid plots and baited traps and snares of the enemies utterly fail to harm the perfect man in God's protection.

It is of particular interest that Leupold translated Ps. 64:7-8 thus:

"But God shot an arrow at them;

Suddenly blows came upon them.

Each one was ruined; their tongues overcame them;

All that saw them shuddered."F9

Whether or not this is accurate, such an idea is most certainly in the passage. It was not David who was destroyed by the partisans of Absalom but themselves.

But God
(Psalms 64:7). How often in the history of God's work among men have we encountered a thought like this. Acts 12 has a terrible record of the murder of the apostle James, the imprisonment of Peter, and the scattering of God's people from Jerusalem, But the word of God grew and multiplied (Acts 12:24).

Yates entitled these last four verses, "The Certainty of Judgment,"F10 leaving the way open for much wider interpretation than a restricted application of it to the enemies of a perfect man in a given situation. There is a sense in which "the certainty of judgment," like the sword of Damocles hangs over the head of all mankind. The judgment is an appointment that no man may cancel, ignore, or escape.

All that see them shall wag the head
(Psalms 64:8). These words refer either to `derision,' or to `shocked concern.'F11

It seems to us that the latter would be most appropriate here.

All the upright in heart shall glory
(Psalms 64:10). However this might be applied to the enemies of the psalmist, these words have an eternal significance. It is true of all men that the wicked shall be punished with everlasting destruction, but that the righteous shall be welcomed into the home of the soul, into the eternal habitations, where they shall share the glory of the redeemed throughout eternity.


Footnotes for Psalms 64
1: Charles Haddon Spurgeon, p. 278.
2: F. Delitzsch, Vol. V-B, p. 220.
3: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 8-B, p. 26.
4: Derek Kidner, Vol. 1, p. 228.
5: Charles Haddon Spurgeon, p. 279.
6: Anthony L. Ash, p. 213.
7: Matthew Henry, Vol. III, p. 473.
8: J. R. Dummelow, p. 354.
9: H. C. Leupold, p. 470.
10: Wycliffe Bible Commentary of the Old Testament, p. 518.
11: Anthony L. Ash, p. 215.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalm 64". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=ps&chapter=064>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.