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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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PSALM 69

PRAYER OF ONE AFFLICTED FOR THE TRUTH

SUPERSCRIPTION: FOR THE CHIEF MUSICIAN; SET TO SHOSHANNIM.

A PSALM OF DAVID.

There is no convincing evidence in the psalm itself that David is not the author, although many scholars assume that David could not have written it. The reasons assigned for such opinions however are unconvincing; and the verses usually cited are capable of other interpretations which we shall note during the study of the text.

Addis thought that, "Maccabean times suit the situation best, but Maccabean origin is incapable of proof."F1 "Kirkpatrick made a sturdy defense of the notion that Jeremiah wrote it,"F2 but as far as we can tell nobody agreed with him.

Leupold wrote, "Despite many other possibilities that have been suggested (regarding the authorship), we still feel that the suggestion offered by the Hebrew (superscription) has the most to commend it -- `of David.'"F3

The most interesting thing about this psalm is that "More than any other in the whole Psalter, except Ps. 22, this psalm is quoted in the New Testament."F4

"They hated me without a cause" (Psalms 69:4) was quoted by Jesus Christ in John 15:25.

"Zeal for thy house shall eat me up" (Psalms 69:9) is quoted in John 2:17.

"The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell upon me" (Ps. 69:9b), is quoted in Rom. 15:3.

"Let their table before them become a snare; and when they are in peace, let it become a trap" (Psalms 69:22) is quoted in Rom. 11:9.

"Let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see" (Psalms 69:23) is quoted in Rom. 11:10, where the apostle Paul applied it to the hardening of Israel.

"Let their habitation be desolate" (Psalms 69:25) is quoted in Acts 1:20, where it is applied to Judas Iscariot.

In Rom. 11:9, the apostle Paul unequivocally recognized David as the author of this psalm; and our own opinion is that a single word from Paul is worth more than a whole library of critical denials that David wrote it.

"They gave me also gall for my food; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (Psalms 69:21). Although this verse is not quoted in the New Testament, it is significant that all four of the gospels recorded the giving of vinegar to Christ on the cross (Matt. 27:48-50; Mark 15:36; Luke 23:36; and John 19:29). It is evident that all of the Gospel writers considered that action of giving Jesus vinegar to drink was a fulfillment in the Anti-Type of what had happened in the Type. Apparently, the motive for giving Christ vinegar on Calvary was different from what seems to be the motive here against David. The action of the Roman soldier who offered Christ vinegar is cited by Dummelow as an act of mercy designed to allay Jesus' sufferings,F5 a view which this writer has often accepted, but Luke seems to deny this, writing that, "The soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, offering him vinegar" (Luke 23:36).

IS THE PSALM MESSIANIC?

In some degree, it most certainly is, but not in its entirety. The psalmist's admission of his own sins means that the total poem cannot be applied to Christ; but David was indeed a type of Christ, and many of the things in the life of David find their echo and fulfillment in David's Greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

THE PSALMIST DESCRIBES HIS SITUATION

Ps. 69:1-4

Save me, O God, for the waters are come in unto my soul.

I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing;

I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.

I am weary with my crying; my throat is dried:

Mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.

They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head;

They that would cut me off, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty:

That which I took not away I have to restore."

The language here, at least in part, is figurative, because deep waters and mire simply do not belong in the same situation. To us, this language seems appropriate to the times of David's fleeing before Saul. It fits that period better than any other with which we are familiar in the life of David. His foes were "mighty," able to compel him to restore things he had not taken, and who were determined to `cut him off.' Even the ribald singing against him in the city gates mentioned a little later fits that period better than any other.


 
Verses 1-4
Save me, O God; For the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is dried: Mine eyes fail while I wait for my God. They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head: They that would cut me off, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: That which I took not away I have to restore.
(Psalms 69:4). Why was David hated without a cause? It all started with Saul's jealous hatred; as the king of Israel, Saul had the ability to marshal all the resources of the kingdom against David; and human nature being what it is, countless people were willing to take sides with Saul against David. Saul's enmity against David was the only motivation that the people needed to hate David.

The situation regarding the countless people who hated Jesus Christ without cause reflected perfectly the conditions that confronted David. The "false shepherds" of Israel (Zechariah 11:1-8), i.e., the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians, were extremely jealous of the meek and humble Jesus, whose life-style they viciously hated; and their position of leadership in Israel enabled them to rally practically the whole nation to their position of hating the Messiah. An outstanding example of that is their maneuvering the Jerusalem mob to cry out for a choice of Barabbas in the crucifixion scene.

A PRAYER FOR DELIVERANCE

O God, thou knowest my foolishness;

And my sins are not hid from thee.

Let not them that wait for thee be put to shame through me, O Lord Jehovah of hosts.

Let not those that seek thee be brought to dishonor,

O God of Israel."


 
Verses 5, 6
O God, thou knowest my foolishness; And my sins are not hid from thee. Let not them that wait for thee be put to shame through me, O Lord Jehovah of hosts: Let not those that seek thee be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel.
(Psalms 69:5). Statements of this kind forbid the application of the psalm in its entirety to the sinless Christ.

Them that wait for thee. those that seek thee
(Psalms 69:6). These were the faithful Israelites, the true seed of Abraham as distinguished from the great majority of the people. Such devout souls, of course, were praying for David's survival, but as the partisans of Saul closed in upon the fugitive, David recognized that, if he were to be destroyed, the faithful of the whole kingdom also would have been hunted down and destroyed by Saul. Therefore, David prayed that God would not allow such a thing to happen.

By the time of David's flight from the presence of King Saul, the evil character of that king had already alienated the true followers of God from his support. He had named a son after the pagan god Baal; and there were not any of the true "seed of Abraham" in Israel at that time who could have been unaware that Saul would have to be removed from the kingship if faith in the true God was to survive in Israel.

THE CAUSE OF DAVID'S SUFFERING

Because for thy sake I have borne reproach;

Shame hath covered my face.

I am become a stranger to my brethren,

And an alien to my mother's children.

For the zeal of thy house hath eaten me up;

And the reproaches of them that reproach thee are fallen upon me.

When I wept and chastened my soul with fasting,

That was to my reproach.

When I made sackcloth my clothing,

I became a byword unto them.

They that sit in the gate talk of me;

And I am the song of the drunkards."


 
Verses 7-12
Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; Shame hath covered my face. I am become a stranger unto my brethren, And an alien unto my mother's children. For the zeal of thy house hath eaten me up; And the reproaches of them that reproach thee are fallen upon me. When I wept, [and chastened] my soul with fasting, That was to my reproach. When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword unto them. They that sit in the gate talk of me; And [I am] the song of the drunkards.
(Psalms 69:7). In all probability, this sheds light upon the reason behind Saul's malignant enmity against David. David's devout life, indicated by the fasting and wearing of sackcloth (Psalms 69:10-11) on appropriate occasions would have been construed by a man of Saul's temperament as an open rebuke of his life-style. Also, in the fight against Goliath, David had refused to wear Saul's armor, thus denying Saul any share in the victory. No wonder Saul hated him.

Stranger unto my brethren. alien unto my mother's children
(Psalms 69:8). This is easily understood. David, was classified by the king as an outlaw, and the object of an all-out hunt, as of a wild animal; and therefore David's brothers would have been mortally afraid either to help him or to be seen in his presence ... This situation, as far as we know, cannot be referred to any other period of the life of David, except that during his flight from Saul's implacable jealousy.

The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up
(Psalms 69:9). Now, upon this verse is laid the burden of declaring some other authorship besides that of David. But why? It fits David perfectly. Of course, house here is not a reference to the temple (constructed in the next generation), as we have repeatedly pointed out. As in many other scriptural references, the reference here is to the tabernacle. Had David been zealous for that? Certainly! Where did he take the sword of Goliath following his God-given victory over the Giant of Gath? He took it to the Lord's house, the tabernacle where Abimelech was the high priest. That action, along with the sackcloth, the fasting, and the other acts of devotion that went along with such things adequately establish the truth that David did indeed exhibit a genuine zeal for God's house.

How had it eaten him up? It had precipitated the murder of the high priest and his entire family (close friends of David), and it had launched Saul's entire army, or some large contingent of it, in their ruthless hunt to seek out and kill David. Now, where is there anything else that suits what is said here any better than that?

Fasting. sackcloth
(Psalms 69:10-11). We have commented on these above.

I am the song of drunkards
(Psalms 69:12). Various readings of these words are: Those sitting in the gate composed a song against me; winebibbers made me a theme for their lyrics; playing on stringed instruments, drunkards and carousers sang of me.F6

AN INTENSIFIED APPEAL TO GOD

But as for me, my prayer is unto thee,

O Jehovah, in an acceptable time:

O God, in the abundance of thy lovingkindness,

Answer me in the truth of thy salvation.

Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink:

Let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.

Let not the waterflood overwhelm me,

Neither let the deep swallow me up;

And let not the pit shut its mouth upon me.

Answer me, O Jehovah, for thy lovingkindness is good:

According to thy tender mercies turn thou unto me.

And hide not thy face from thy servant;

For I am in distress; answer me speedily.

Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it:

Ransom me because of mine enemies."


 
Verses 13-18
But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O Jehovah, in an acceptable time: O God, in the abundance of thy lovingkindness, Answer me in the truth of thy salvation. Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: Let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. Let not the waterflood overwhelm me, Neither let the deep shallow me up; And let not the pit shut its mouth upon me. Answer me, O Jehovah; for thy lovingkindness is good: According to the multitude of thy tender mercies turn thou unto me. And hide not thy face from thy servant; For I am in distress; answer me speedily. Draw nigh unto my soul, and redeem it: Ransom me because of mine enemies.
(Psalms 69:13). This expresses a hope that his prayer may come to God in an acceptable time, rather than an assertion that it was an acceptable time. If it was the latter, then, It may have been revealed to him as other things were.F7

The abundance of thy lovingkindness
(Psalms 69:13,16). This is almost the equivalent of a Davidic signature.

The mire. the deep waters ... the waterflood ... the pit
(Psalms 69:14-15). Those who try to find Jeremiah in this psalm point out that he was indeed cast into a pit, but the pit into which Jeremiah was cast was a literal pit, there was no flood, and the floodwaters were not a danger. Furthermore, that pit was not threatening to shut its mouth upon that prophet. The pit here was in no sense whatever a literal pit. It means Sheol, or the grave, and is a word frequently used with that denotation in the Old Testament. The floodwaters and the deep were also metaphors, just like, the pit. The real trouble is merely represented by all these figures of speech. What was the real trouble? Them that hate me... that would cut me off ... mine enemies (Psalms 69:4). These are also named again in Ps. 69:14,18.

Hide not thy face from me
(Psalms 69:17). David often complained that God was far from him (Ps. 10:1; 22:19; 38:21; 71:12; etc.).F8

A SAD COMPLAINT

Thou knowest my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonor:

Mine adversaries are all before thee.

Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness:

And I looked for some to take pity, but there was none;

And for comforters, but I found none.

They gave me also gall for my food;

And in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink."


 
Verses 19-21
Thou knowest my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonor: Mine adversaries are all before thee. Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: And I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; And for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my food; And in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
(Psalms 69:19). These lines say that God knows all of the circumstances, both those regarding David, and those concerning his enemies. Nothing is hidden from God, hence the psalmist's plea that God will judge the situation and help him.

My heart is broken. none to pity ... no comforters ... gall and vinegar for food and drink
(Psalms 69:20-21). It is difficult to conceive of any time in the life of David when he actually ate gall and drank vinegar. The meaning might be that with all of his sorrows pressing upon him, even his meals became repulsive to him. Also, it may be that these words spoken in the Spirit of God (Matthew 22:43) were a prophecy of what would actually occur in. the life of the Blessed Messiah. At least, all of the Gospel writers seemed to think so.

PRAYER FOR THE OVERTHROW OF UNGODLY ENEMIES

Let their table before them become a snare;

And when they are in peace, let it become a trap.

Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see;

And make their loins continually to shake.

Pour out thine indignation upon them,

And let the fierceness of thine anger overtake them.

Let their habitation be desolate;

Let none dwell in their tents.

For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten;

And they tell of the sorrow of those whom thou hast wounded.

Add iniquity unto their iniquity;

And let them not come into thy righteousness.

Let them be blotted out of the book of life,

And not be written with the righteous."

Up to this point in the psalm, "Christ and his passion have been foreshadowed,"F9 but here the impassable gulf between the Type and the Antitype, between David and Christ, begins to widen before us. Christ prayed for his enemies; David cursed his; Christ was not willing that any should perish, but here David actually prayed for his enemies to be blotted out of the Book of Life.

We should not judge David too harshly. He lived before the Great Atonement was made on Calvary. He could not possibly have known all of the horrible terrors that would be involved in one's being cast out of God's Book of Life; but Jesus knew all things; and from an infinitely higher level he gave his Life that all men might be saved from eternal death.

From the human standpoint, David's enemies fully deserved the imprecations heaped upon them; and the infinitely sad thing is that, as proved by Paul's use of these very words, the wicked persecutors of Jesus indeed suffered the full measure of David's imprecations upon the wicked in this passage.


 
Verses 22-28
Let their table before them become a snare; And when they are in peace, [let it become] a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see; And make their loins continually to shake. Pour out thine indignation upon them, And let the fierceness of thine anger overtake them. Let their habitation be desolate; Let none dwell in their tents. For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; And they tell of the sorrow of those whom thou hast wounded. Add iniquity unto their iniquity; And let them not come into thy righteousness. Let them be blotted out of the book of life, And not be written with the righteous.
(Psalms 69:22). These prophetic words were applied by the apostle Paul to the hardening of Israel in the times of Christ. He added the word stumblingblock; but as John Murray stated it, All three of these words are closely related, and precise distinctions of meaning are not to be pressed.F10

The meaning that Paul assigned to the passage is that, their `table' was such things as the Law of Moses, and the religious institution of Israel, and that such privileges were misused by Israel, not for teaching the Gentiles the knowledge of God, but for the nourishment of Jewish conceit. (See the full discussion of this in Vol. 6 of my New Testament series, pp. 379, 380.)

Exactly what David meant by these words as applied to the enemies of his times is not known. One possibility is that "the table" refers to the privileges of the kingship, which became a trap for Saul and his followers through their abuse of such privileges in the persecutions of David.

Pour out thine indignation upon them. let thine anger overtake them ... let their habitation be desolate ... let them not come into thy righteousness ... let them be blotted out of the book of life
(Psalms 69:24-28). It is impossible to think of a more terrible curse than this one. Rather than meditate upon this line by line, we shall rejoice that Christ has indeed taught us a more wonderful reaction to the resentment one naturally feels against those who hate and persecute us without cause.

Jesus taught us to "go the second mile," to "give the cloak also," to "turn the other cheek," to "pray for them that despitefully use us," and to "overcome evil with good." May God help his children to walk in the way of the Master.

A SIGH FOR HELP

But I am poor and sorrowful:

Let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high."

Here David longed to live on a higher plane than that which had been provided by the reciprocal hatred that brought only sorrow to his broken heart. Instinctively, this great Old Testament saint recognized that Divine help alone could benefit him; and here he did what all men should do, he prayed for God's help. To live on that higher plane all of us desperately need the assistance of the Eternal God.

ASSURANCE OF BEING ANSWERED

I will praise the name of God with a song,

And will magnify him with thanksgiving.

And it will please Jehovah better than an ox,

Or a bullock that hath horns and hoofs.

The meek have seen it, and are glad:

Ye that seek after God, let your heart live.

For Jehovah heareth the needy,

And despiseth not his prisoners."


 
Verses 30-33
I will praise the name of God with a song, And will magnify him with thanksgiving. And it will please Jehovah better than an ox, [Or] a bullock that hath horns and hoofs. The meek have seen it, and are glad: Ye that seek after God, let your heart live. For Jehovah heareth the needy, And despiseth not his prisoners.
(Psalms 69:30-31). As Matthew Henry noted, This is a plain intimation that in the days of Messiah an end should be put to animal sacrifices.F11 There is no disparagement here of the sacrifices which God commanded under the Law of Moses, but a declaration of David's inability to offer any kind of the prescribed sacrifices, due to his being denied access to the tabernacle; he would nevertheless honor God with song and thanksgiving instead of the sacrifices which he was not able to offer.

The most bizarre, unreasonable and fantastic interpretation of this passage which we have encountered is that of Taylor who offered the following:

"Here the psalmist rated an offering of song and thanksgiving higher than one of animal flesh; and perhaps it was such a point of view which had incited so many of his fellows against him ... He did not mean to abolish the temple; he just wanted to put first things first, subordinating traditional rites to the exercise of spiritual worship."F12

The imagination of Hans Christian Andersen was not any better than that! The fantasy indulged by many critics that the more perceptive prophets disapproved of animal sacrifices is totally incorrect. All of the passages that are cited as alleged proof of such a notion, namely, Amos 5:21-24; Jer. 7:21-23; Ps. 40:6; 50:8-14; 51:16-17, are absolutely devoid of any such teaching. See our comments upon all of these passages en loco. What was always disapproved in those passages was animal sacrifice offered without the true devotion, praise and thanksgiving which were intended to accompany them.

It will please Jehovah better than. a bullock that hath horns and hoofs
(Psalms 69:31). The pagans who offered such animals to their gods, frequently decorated them by polishing or gilding their horns and hoofs and by placing garlands of flowers upon their necks as they were led to the slaughter. Adam Clarke believed that the mention of horns and hoofs here actually referred to such gilding. The meaning of these words would then be, A song and thanksgiving would please Jehovah better than a bull all decorated for a sacrifice. Clarke noted that, The horns, etc., of consecrated animals are thus ornamented in the east till the present time.F13

The meek have seen it and are glad... Jehovah heareth the needy
(Psalms 69:32-33). Here the psalmist feels that the most amazing fact of experience is not distress, frustration, conflict, misunderstanding, retribution, or even death itself; it is that, the Lord hears the needy.F14

A HOPEFUL OUTLOOK FOR THE FUTURE

Let heaven and earth praise him,

The seas and everything that moveth therein.

For God will save Zion, and build the cities of Judah;

And they shall abide there, and have it in possession.

The seed also of his servants shall inherit it;

And they that love his name shall dwell therein."


 
Verses 34-36
Let heaven and earth praise him, The seas, and everything that moveth therein. For God will save Zion, and build the cities of Judah; And they shall abide there, and have it in possession. The seed also of his servants shall inherit it; And they that love his name shall dwell therein.
(Psalms 69:34).

EVERYWHERE

"Where myriad waterfowl with thunderous wings

Ascending climb dawn's flaming stair,

The oratorio of all created things

Is heard upon the morning air.

Where velvet footsteps march beneath the shade

Of giant trees, and move along

The resinous forest's colonnade,

God hears this thrilling glory song.

Where countless life-forms teem the ocean floor,

Is sung God's glory in the sea.

A mighty chores shore to shore,

They justify their right to be.

Where Pleiades and Morning Star adorn

The arch of heaven, even there,

From Creation's birthday more,

God's glory sings, and EVERYWHERE."

-- James Burton Coffman, 1962.

For God will save Zion and build the cities of Judah
(Psalms 69:35). This, of course is the verse, which according to Dummelow, Points to a date long after the age of David.F15 Of course, Dummelow was thinking of the times of Zedekiah; but others find that this verse allegedly points to the times of Nehemiah and Ezra,F16 or The times of the Maccabees.F17

We reject such opinions in full confidence of their error. It seems never to have occurred to such scholars that they are misinterpreting the word "build," reading it instead as "rebuild," which is simply not in the Hebrew at all. Even though the RSV, apparently for the purpose of supporting such false views, has without authority changed the word to rebuild, the Douay Version and the Septuagint (LXX) both support the American Standard Version (our version) in rendering the word "build," not "rebuild."

Rawlinson gave the proper meaning of the term as follows: "`Build the cities of Judah' means to maintain them, and to keep them from decay and ruin."F18

At the time David wrote this, many of the "cities of Judah had never been built." It was only after David became king that Jerusalem itself was secured as a bastion of Israel's power; and what David prophesied here was not that the cities of Judah would be rebuilt after having been destroyed, but that they would be constructed for the first time.

The seed of his servants shall inherit it
(Psalms 69:36). This is a reference to God's children, the seed of the kingdom.

And they that love his name shall dwell therein
(Psalms 69:36). This line, according to the genius of Hebrew poetry has the same meaning as the preceding line, enabling us more certainly to determine the meaning of both.


Footnotes for Psalms 69
1: W. E. Addis, p. 385.
2: H. C. Leupold, p. 500.
3: Ibid.
4: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 647.
5: J. R. Dummelow's Commentary, p. 356.
6: Cross-Reference Bible, p. 1003.
7: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 8-B, p. 54.
8: Ibid.
9: Derek Kidner, Vol. 1, p. 248.
10: John Murray, p. 74.
11: Matthew Henry's Commentary, Vol. III, p. 499.
12: The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. IV, p. 367.
13: Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible (London: T. Mason and G. Lane, 1837), Vol. III, p. 439.
14: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 494.
15: J. R. Dummelow's Commentary, p. 356.
16: The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. IV, p. 362.
17: W. E. Addis, p. 385.
18: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 8-B, p. 56.

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 69". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=ps&chapter=069>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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