The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 69

Psa 69:1


See Lesson, Psalms, "Messianic" sin?

CONTEXT: Absalom's rebellion (many links with 2Sa 15; 16). The LXX adds also a most unusual phrase which prob means: "On behalf of the alienated ones." Can be read either with ref to the rebels, estranged from their king, or re those who shared David's plight and all who continued to give him loyalty -- even in desperately trying circumstances. The rebellion sprang directly, although after an appreciable lapse of time, from the Bathsheba/Uriah episode: esp vv 5,10,19.

Vv 1-3: (NT) Insights into the psychology of Jesus when faced with cynical skepticism, bitter opposition, and the prospect of intense suffering. These vv (and others in this psalm) do not describe what might be called the Lord's normal reaction to these situations, but rather the occasional sense of futility and defeat from which even he was not immune. These words, along with vv 14-20, should be applied to Gethsemane. For the close // between David and Christ, see WGos 730-732.

Psa 69:2

I HAVE COME INTO THE DEEP WATERS: Insurmountable adversities (cp Psa 40:2; 18:4,16; 32:6; 42:7; Jon 2:3). Or an eloquent figure for tears (v 3)?

Psa 69:3

David was a very sick man at this time (cp Psa 41:3,8). So not just another expanded metaphor.

MY EYES FAIL: (NT) The verb, in the LXX, sw Luk 22:32: "But I [Jesus] have prayed for you [Peter], that your faith may not fail." And in v 2 "engulf" is sw (LXX) as in Mat 14:30: "But when he saw the wind, he was afraid: and beginning to sink, cried out, Lord, save me." In both places, Peter! The disciple was being like his Lord.

LOOKING FOR MY GOD: (NT) So there is not utter hopelessness. But there is the problem of this seeming abandonment, as in Psa 22:1n.

Psa 69:4

THOSE WHO HATE ME WITHOUT REASON: True of all but a handful of the rebels. They were his enemies wrongfully.

(NT) This is quoted in Joh 15:25: it is the perfect conclusion to a very somber warning (Joh 15:18-25) by the Lord Jesus to his disciples that they would inherit the hatred and persecution which had followed him. The repeated emphasis in these eight vv must have been a shock to the disciples, turned to more intense reality when within an hour or two they all forsook him and fled.

OUTNUMBER THE HAIRS OF MY HEAD: Describes the rapid and numerous growth of the rebellion: 2Sa 15:12,13. An indirect allusion to Absalom himself, with his seemingly narcissistic regard for his hair (2Sa 14:26)?

MANY ARE MY ENEMIES: David had allowed them to become mighty, by acting the part of a doting father and treating the young Absalom far too lightly, and by giving Ahithophel high honor and nearly as much power as the king himself.

WITHOUT CAUSE: (NT) Lit true of Christ, the one against whom no cause could be rightly brought: Joh 8:46; 4:34; 14:30; 15:10; Heb 4:15; 7:26; 1Pe 2:22; 2Co 5:21.

THOSE WHO SEEK TO DESTROY ME: (NT) This intention began with Herod the Great in Mat 2:13, and it intensified in the persons of Christ's numerous enemies throughout his ministry.

I AM FORCED TO RESTORE WHAT I DID NOT STEAL: An allusion to the sending back of the ark at the time of David's flight from Jerusalem (2Sa 15:24,27)?

(NT) Fellowship with God was lost by the first Adam, but restored by the last Adam: "the just for the unjust" (1Pe 3:18). The LXX uses sw as in Phi 2:6, where four separate phrases allude to Adam. On a moral level, this is the foundation for Christ's teachings -- ie Mat 5:40,41.

Psa 69:5

MY FOLLY... MY GUILT: David, and all the nation also, saw all these afflictions as a direct retribution for his own sins, esp re Bathsheba and Uriah. Certainly, then, these sins were not hidden from God. The words for "guilt" (asham) links with the word for trespass-offering (Lev 5:2-6, etc), and implies the usurping of the rights of others. The Greek for "transgressions" in the LXX implies notes out of tune -- an apt figure for a musician like David to use about his own faults.

(NT) Christ had neither folly nor sins, in the ordinary sense, although "folly" may sig the basic perversity of all human nature -- to which he was heir along with the rest of us. So this v could be read as meaning that his enemies attributed foolishness and sins to him. But this explanation will hardly hold in Psa 38:4,5; 40:12; 41:4; and Mic 7:9. The better explanation is to see such passages as ref to the "sin" of Christ's nature (Psa 6; 38; 40:12n; Psa 41; 51). The LXX for sins means "sounding wrong notes, being out of tune". This might be applied to the ministry of Jesus, at least as it was perceived by the leaders of the nation: for them, certainly, Jesus was "out of tune"! (See Lesson, Psalms, "Messianic" sin?)

Psa 69:6

THOSE WHO HOPE IN YOU... THOSE WHO SEEK YOU: David's godly friends and faithful bodyguard, many of whom were converts to the faith of Israel from pagan origins (2Sa 15:15-21). Hence the allusion to the Lord God of hosts or armies (Heb "tzvaoth", translated "Almighty"). In the inevitable struggle David would surely need the hosts of the Lord on his side. He was concerned lest those who maintained loyalty to the Lord's anointed be engulfed in his ruin. He could have added that the honor of God Himself was being involved (2Sa 12:14).

Psa 69:7

FOR I ENDURE SCORN FOR YOUR SAKE: Cp Jer 15:15. Here is the converse of v 6, which is also true. Was David's great zeal for God one of the reasons Ahithophel set himself against him (v 9; Psa 55:13,14)? The LXX for "endure scorn" is almost identical with Heb 13:13, where "go forth unto him" echoes the action of the faithful Zadok and Abiathar. Also in Heb, "without the camp" hints at (1) Absalom's undermining work outside the gate of the city (2Sa 15:2; cp v 12 here), and (2) Mahanaim (lit, "the two camps"), where David fled (2Sa 17:27).

FOR YOUR SAKE: (NT) See Act 5:41.

SHAME COVERS MY FACE: Alludes to 2Sa 15:30, when "David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered." Was this done because of the leprosy that afflicted David at this time (cp Lev 13:45)?

Psa 69:8

A STRANGER TO MY BROTHERS: So David was ostracized because of his evil disease, or for the reason in v 9a (cp Psa 31:11). Note how v 9 begins with "For". Thus v 8 could also ref to the failure of the tribe of Judah to support him against the rebels (2Sa 19:14,42).

(NT) (1) The failure of Christ's own brethren in the flesh to support him: Mar 3:21,31,32; Mat 4:13; 10:36; Joh 7:3-5; Deu 33:9. (2) Differently, and more generally, the rejection of Christ by the whole nation of his fellow-Jews: Joh 1:11; 8:48; 9:29; 18:40; 19:15; Isa 53:3; Luk 4:23,24,28,29.

MY MOTHER'S CHILDREN: (NT) A remarkable -- and indirect -- hint of the virgin birth of Jesus: for he could not call his brethren his Father's children. And a useful detail to counter Catholic insistence on the perpetual virginity of Mary: the men named in Mat 13:55, and the women alluded to in v 56, were not just foster-brothers and sisters of the Lord -- they were his true half-brothers and sisters!

Psa 69:9

ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE CONSUMES ME: Language of the burnt offering, wholly consumed on the altar. David was wholly involved with the honor of God and the intensive preparations for His temple (1Ch 28:11-19), and was undoubtedly concerned that this rebellion would deal that project a serious setback. (For the same figure of speech in general, cp Jer 20:9 -- a fire in the bones!)

(NT) An apt prophecy of how the Lord's ministry began -- in the enthusiastic cleansing of his Father's house (Joh 2:11,17). The "for", linking with v 8, suggests that this was the reason (or one of the reasons) for Jesus' early alienation from his family. "Consumes me" suggests a burnt offering (Lev 1:9).

"Stick with it! Whatever it is that you want to do, stick with it! Don't just drift, and flutter, and complain. Discipline yourself to keep your mind and effort on the job in hand. That's the only way that anything has ever been accomplished. For this, you must have incentive: powerful driving incentive. The slave's incentive is the task master's lash. It keeps him very attentive to what he is doing. Natural incentives range from terror of that which is bad to strong desire for that which is pleasant and desirable. Our incentive must rise higher than this. Our driving incentive, like a fire in our bones, must be intense love of and zeal for God, developed by long study and meditation upon His glorious Word and works" (GVG).

The words (quoted in Joh 2:17) point to a burnt-offering, the fire of God consuming (and destroying) the sacrifice utterly. Not, of course, these animal sacrifices, but this one all-sufficient offering (Psa 69:31). So the sacrificial animals were driven out of the temple by a Jesus ablaze with a mighty indignation against hypocrites who had turned holy worship into cold formality and base gain.

The leaders of the nation could never forgive Jesus for this first public act of his ministry. From that day on, his own violent death was inevitable. The Passover lamb was to be "roasted with fire, his head with his legs" (Exo 12:9). At this first Passover of his ministry, this Passover lamb, consumed with burning indignation on his Father's behalf, prepared the way for the last Passover, three years later.

THE INSULTS OF THOSE WHO INSULT YOU FALL ON ME: Of which Shimei was prob but one outstanding example (2Sa 16:5-13).

(NT) Cp Psa 109:25. Offending God, they now turn upon His Son likewise. So also in Rom 15:1-7, where the context emphasizes that those who are hostile to Christ will gladly turn against his disciples also. But also, here, those that are an offence to God are an offence to His Son also. Note the lesson of Mat 25:40,45.

"Reproach is a bitter thing to bear, but when suffered for the name of Christ, it has promise of great sweetness for the day that is even now at the door" (RR). In the context of the psalm, behavior which was essentially a reproach against God, or an offence to Him, had the same effect on David and on Christ. As with v 4 (= Joh 15:25), what was valid for the Master is valid also for disciples -- certainly this attitude to fellow-disciples, even when the way of life they follow is not such as to command approval. This is the carryover of the context from Rom 14. This principle applies both ways: Those who took lightly their loyalty to God also took lightly their loyalty to His king; and those whose lack of spirituality was offensive in God's sight, were also a provocation to His Son. How often he must have muzzled his indignation. And so also it must be in the life of sincere disciples: many things which they observe in their fellow-believers which are unpleasing to God, must (contrary to all human nature) be borne patiently for fellowship's sake.

Psa 69:10

WHEN I WEEP AND FAST: Sneers at David's intense repentance for his sins; and sneers at his joy in the Lord also (2Sa 6:20). "The fast of my soul" seems to allude to a recent Day of Atonement (Lev 16:29).

WHEN I WEEP: (NT) The tears of Christ in the Psalms: Psa 6:6; 39:12; 42:3; 56:8; 116:8. When he wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus (Joh 11:35,36), or over the inevitable fate of the city which he loved (Luk 19:41), they laughed at Christ for it. Were there other occasions?

AND FAST: Mat 17:21. The Day of Atonement (Lev 16:31)?

Psa 69:11

WHEN I PUT On SACKCLOTH: David certainly had faults, but he was nonetheless a man without pride. Yet instead of imitation, there was only mockery from his observers.

PEOPLE MAKE SPORT OF ME: As his sin had been a cause for sarcasm and taunts, and even blasphemy -- so also men made jokes about his repentance and the sincerity thereof.

(NT) See Luk 4:23; 23:35. Also, Deu 28:37; Jer 24:9; Psa 44:14.

Psa 69:12

THOSE WHO SIT AT THE GATE: Absalom (2Sa 15:2). The gate -- like the market-place -- was the scene of assembly, where people (often influential people) decided important matters in a public forum: Gen 23:10; 34:20; 1Sa 4:18; Job 29:7; Psa 127:5; Pro 1:21; etc.

(NT) "In the temple, in Solomon's porch" (Joh 10:23). Cp Peter's experience at the "gate" of the high priest's house (Joh 18:15-18,25-27).

THE SONG OF THE DRUNKARDS: The "low life" of the city, boozily singing David's temple psalms in a ribald and demeaning manner.

(NT) This v takes in the highest (Psa 102:8) and the lowest in the Land: the rulers and the scum of the city. What a picture -- the elite of the palaces plotting his eminent demise, and the men of the taverns singing bawdy songs about him! Ct Luk 2:13,18, where mighty angels and lowly shepherds worship him. Isa 28:9 continues the idea with ref to the disciples. (Note how vv 10-12 here add details in the Psalmist's Life of Christ, in addition to what the gospels record.)

Psa 69:13

I PRAY TO YOU, O LORD, IN THE TIME OF YOUR FAVOR: This word ("favor" = Heb "ratzon") sometimes describes an acceptable sacrifice; another allusion to the Day of Atonement? See v 10; cp. 2Sa 17:27-29, with its hints of harvest-time and the Feast of Tabernacles.

YOUR GREAT LOVE: Common ref to God's covenants of promise. The way events were going against David, how could 2Sa 7:12-16 ever be fulfilled? That promise evidently remained the anchor of the king's faith, no matter what trials he found himself in.

Psa 69:14

Vv 14-20: (NT) This is Gethsemane: "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me" (Mat 26:39,42; Mar 14:36; Luk 22:42).

Psa 69:16

TURN TO ME: Implies a consciousness that God's face was turned away: cp vv 17a,18a. Of all David's hardships at this time, this was certainly the worst.

Psa 69:17

FACE (of God): In Psalms, always ref God's presence in ark/tabernacle/temple: see VL, Psalms, God's face.

Psa 69:18

REDEEM: The Heb "ga'al" implies a near kinsman. The true Redeemer must be near kin to David and to God, the other party to the reconciliation!

(NT) Notice Psa 110:1 and the use Jesus makes of it in the NT: the Messiah would be, at one time, both Son of David and Son of God! How could David know that the promised Redeemer would need to have the Almighty as a Goel, a near-kinsman, to redeem him? This is what the language implies.

Psa 69:19

SCORNED, DISGRACED AND SHAMED: (NT) A terrible trio of words. "Of all forms of death devised by perverted humanity, crucifixion is outstanding in its shamefulness. Socrates drank hemlock with dignity. King Charles I was kingly even as he laid his head on the block. Many an aristo[crat] was able to meet 'Madame Guillotine' with customary imperturbability and elegance. But the long lingering humiliation of crucifixion has no parallel" (WGos 720). Cp also Isa 50:6; Heb 6:6; 12:2.

ALL MY ENEMIES ARE BEFORE YOU: God could read their souls even as He knew David's so intimately. Or, more explicitly, this is an allusion to 2Sa 15:2,12 -- the rebels going through the motions of keeping a feast to the Lord.

(NT) Not only in the sense that God knew all about them, but also in the more specific sense that they were priests ministering at Passover in the sanctuary of the Lord!

Psa 69:20

SCORN HAS BROKEN MY HEART: In the Bible "heart" does not describe the emotions, but the mind and the will. This suggests, therefore, that David at this time lacked all spirit of resistance (2Sa 15:14; 16:11).

I LOOKED FOR SYMPATHY... FOR COMFORTERS, BUT I FOUND NONE: He had men who were loyal, but not a comforting optimist among them! David now saw "dark gray" as "black"!

Psa 69:21

Being a sick man, he has no appetite at all for his food and drink; and he sees this as symbolic of how the rebels have turned all the pleasures of life into bitterness.

GALL IN MY FOOD: "Gall for my meat" (AV). "Gall" = rosh (cp Psa 68:21?), lit, "head", ie of the poppy, a stupefying and even poisonous narcotic (Deu 29:18; Hos 10:4). Figuratively, it stands for anything that is extremely bitter -- the sting of a serpent, for example (sw in Deu 32:32,33; Job 20:16). The Talmud says that a group of kind women sought to fulfill Pro 31:6 by providing doped drink to men being crucified. Such a drink was offered to Jesus, but, having tasted it, he refused to drink (Mat 27:34). Why? (a) In Gethsemane he had learned afresh that the "cup" of suffering on behalf of others must not be avoided -- and so the cup that would blot out the pain must be declined; (b) Jer 23:15 says that God would appoint gall and wormwood for false prophets. Eagle eyes watched to see if Jesus drank the gall (poppy) drink, and had he done so his enemies would have been quick to proclaim this Jesus of Nazareth a false prophet, so designated by God!

VINEGAR FOR MY THIRST: This Jesus does drink (Joh 19:29), because it was not narcotic. Thus, this v 21 is not a true //: these are two very different drinks. In its fulfillment this v covers the beginning and the end of the crucifixion.

Psa 69:22

Vv 22-28: It is true that most of these imprecations can be read as futures, declarations of what will happen: "Their table will become a snare... their eyes will be darkened..."; but this does not affect the emphatic imperatives in vv 24a, 27a, or the problem of similar passages in other psalms.

MAY THE TABLE SET BEFORE THEM BECOME A SNARE: Their table is either the altar at which they worship (Mal 1:7,8,12; Eze 44:16; 23:41), or their festive meal at Passover or Tabernacles. The word for "retribution" ("welfare": AV) suggests peace offerings (their holy meal). A man's table is usually his "sanctuary", the safest and most comfortable place he knows. But, in this case, David prays that the place (and the situation) of his enemies where they naturally feel the most protected will prove treacherous to them.

(NT) Now means both altar and Passover meal table, for the two were closely related. Is it coincidence that the AD 70 siege of Jerusalem began at Passover? For the last phrase, RSV mg has: "Let their security (ie that in which they trust) be a trap." Their sacrificial system had now lost its effectiveness (vv 30,31). It trapped them now in an old way that could not give life. All this sounds a stern warning for believers today: For us, the "table" of the Lord can become a "snare" also, if we are lulled into thinking that mere attendance at, and participation in, the memorial feast is sufficient. So Paul warns, "Let a man examine himself, and so (and only so) let him eat" (1Co 11:28,29).

V 22 is quoted in Rom 11:9,10: Paul's application of the psalm's imprecations is more extreme than would be expected. Here he does not comment on the aggressive hostility of Judaists to faith in Jesus, but rather on "the spirit of slumber" -- the sheer lack of spiritual perception -- afflicting the nation of Israel. The consequence is the same as in David's time -- sin meets with corresponding retribution: they are given a spirit of slumber, and their "table" (their altar) becomes "a snare and a trap". Instead of leading them to Christ, the altar and the sacrifices thereon become a hindrance and even a fatal obsession and delusion -- and thus those very sacrifices led them further and further away from the One to whom they pointed.

Psa 69:23

Poss David is, in effect, saying: 'Bring upon them the kind of afflictions which Thou hast brought upon me so deservedly.'

MAY THEIR EYES BE DARKENED: The covering of the head (ie 2Sa 15:30). (NT) Mat 13:13-15; Joh 12:39,40. The judgment of Isa 6:9,10 on a stubborn and rebellious nation.

"Make their loins continually to shake" (AV). This has been true of Israel during the time when "cast off" by God: cp Jer 30:6.

Psa 69:24

POUR OUT YOUR WRATH: (NT) Psa 79:6; Isa 42:25; Jer 10:25; Lam 2:4; 4:11; Eze 7:8; 9:8; Hos 5:10; Zep 3:8. But one day this will be matched by a different sort of outpouring: ie of the Spirit of grace (Zec 12:10) and of cleansing (Zec 13:1).

LET YOUR FIERCE ANGER OVERTAKE THEM: (NT) An anger already foretold (sw Deu 28:15,45).

Psa 69:25

MAY THEIR PLACE BE DESERTED: (NT) Cp the "desolation" of Dan 9:27. Jesus alluded to this place in Mat 23:38 -- "Your house is left unto you desolate" -- soon after his 2nd cleansing of the temple (v 9 here). (Note the eloquent and sarcastic "your" -- not "my" or "our" -- of this verse; and cp it with the two-fold "their" of Psa 69:25!) Christ's invective in the Olivet prophecy matches the imprecations here. So Israel lost its "place" (the Temple) and its "tents" (the scattered synagogues)!

Peter changed the pronoun to "his", and applied the words (along with Psa 109:8) to Judas (Act 1:20) -- as prototype of those bringing about the condemnation of Jesus. If these words apply esp to Judas, they imply that he had ambitions about his own material prosperity, since habitation = palace!

LET THERE BE NO ONE TO DWELL IN THEIR TENTS: The time of the Feast of Tabernacles (cp 2Sa 16:22).

(NT) The emphasis here is on "dwell", with security or permanence. This describes, not Judas, but the awful insecurity of cast-off Israel over the long centuries.

Psa 69:27

"Add iniquity unto their iniquity" (AV). Heb "avon" = 'punishment for iniquity' (see AV mg). This suggests: 'Add deserved punishment to their iniquity', a reading which makes more sense. The punishment duly happened (2Sa 18:14,15). Yet David could hardly have meant these imprecations (and v 28) for his own son, but rather for evil men like Ahithophel and Shimei who sought to make use of his ambition and folly. "Add iniquity to their iniquity" (AV) is either immoral or meaningless. But adding corresponding punishment to their iniquity makes perfect sense. "His blood be upon us, and on our children" (Matt 27:25).

Psa 69:28

MAY THEY BE BLOTTED OUT OF THE BOOK OF LIFE: (NT) Moses' prayer (Exo 32:32) means, in effect: 'If You blot them out of thy book (because of apostasy), then blot me out of it also.' This v looks back to that incident but reverses the prayer: 'Blot them out -- they are utterly unworthy.' Rev 3:5 clearly has both passages in mind. Note there the ct with Exo 32:25: Aaron (representing the Law) exposed their nakedness, or sin. Moses (representing the Saviour) sought their forgiveness. Luk 10:20 is another, less obvious, allusion to this v. For the Lord's "book" in general, see Psa 56:8r.

Psa 69:30

Vv 30-36: This paragraph presents the fewest difficulties when read as an appendage to the psalm added in the time of Hezekiah (cp Psa 68:28-35; 51:18,19; 20:7-9). At v 30 there is a perceptible change in both style and subject. The direct address to God (as in v 29 and earlier) is now abandoned.

V 30: Hezekiah's gladness at being able to worship in the temple after recovery from his leprosy (Isa 38:20).

SONG: Heb "shir"; play on "ox" (v 31) (Heb "showr"). "In the wordplay the psalmist illustrates the interchangeability of the sacrificial animal [v 31] and the offering of s song of thanks. Small wonder that the language of cultic activity is carried over to the offering of prayers and songs, in order to explain their function" (Seybold).

Psa 69:31

MORE THAN AN OX, MORE THAN A BULL: (NT) No comparison can be made between this sacrifice of the Lamb of God and all the temple sacrifices ever offered (Heb 9:11-14; 10:1-14). This is reality; they were all nothing but elaborate "shadows". Cp also Rom 12:1. // Psa 50:13,14; 51:15-17; 141:2; 40:6-10.

A BULL WITH ITS HORNS AND HOOFS: A whole burnt offering: cp Exo 12:9.

Psa 69:32

YOU WHO SEEK GOD: By going to Jerusalem for Passover, where they found safety in the only city not captured by the Assyrians.

Psa 69:33

THE LORD HEARS THE NEEDY: The ready response of God to Hezekiah's prayers, first for his own health (Isa 38:2-19), and then for deliverance from the Assyrian invaders (Isa 37:15-20).

AND DOES NOT DESPISE HIS CAPTIVE PEOPLE: (1) The righteous king Hezekiah shut up because of his evil disease; (2) The people besieged in Jerusalem; and (3) The 200,150 captives (according to the Taylor Prism) taken by Sennacherib (Mic 4:10; Psa 79:11; Psa 137; Isa 5:13; 6:12; Amo 9:9,11).

Psa 69:34

HEAVEN... EARTH... SEAS: (1) The destroying angel (Isa 37:36); (2) The Land saved from the invader; and (3) The surrounding nations who first helped the Assyrians and then humbly marveled at the might of God (2Ch 32:23).

Psa 69:35

FOR GOD WILL SAVE ZION: V 32n. The mighty deliverance of Isa 37:36.

AND REBUILD THE CITIES OF JUDAH: Sennacherib destroyed 46 of the "fenced cities" of Judah (2Ki 18:13; Taylor prism). After this, there would naturally be an era of busy rebuilding -- this seems to have occurred in the astonishing year of Jubilee described by Isaiah in Isa 61:4,5. Every detail of this v is appropriate to Hezekiah's time, and inappropriate to the time of Absalom's rebellion -- when Zion was taken over intact by rebels, and no cities needed to be rebuilt.

Psa 69:36

THE CHILDREN OF HIS SERVANTS: Hezekiah had no son until two to three years after his recovery and the Assyrian overthrow (cp 2Ki 20:6 with 2Ki 21:1).


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