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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Psalms 64

Verses 1-10

Psalms 64:0

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David

          Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer:
Preserve my life from fear of the enemy.

2     Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked;

From the insurrection of the workers of iniquity:

3     Who whet their tongue like a sword,

And bend their bows-to shoot their arrows, even bitter words:

4     That they may shoot in secret at the perfect:

Suddenly do they shoot at him, and fear not.

5     They encourage themselves in an evil matter:

They commune of laying snares privily;
They say, Who shall see them?

6     They search out iniquities;

They accomplish a diligent search:
Both the inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep.

7     But God shall shoot at them

With an arrow: suddenly shall they be wounded.

8     So they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves:

All that see them shall flee away.

9     And all men shall fear,

And shall declare the work of God;
For they shall wisely consider of his doing.

10     The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and shall trust in him;

And all the upright in heart shall glory.


Its Contents.—Owing to the absence of all historical references, we cannot state any particular time in the life of David for its composition. The Psalms which have corresponding figures and features belong to very different periods. The situation of the Psalmist is one which frequently recurs in the life of David. In lamentation to God he implores protection against a throng of wicked men who threaten his life, (Psalms 64:1-2), who seek to destroy him, especially by ill report and other secret devices (Psalms 64:3; Psalms 64:6). On this account the judgment of God will overtake them (Psalms 64:7-8), the knowledge of which will serve as a warning to all men (Psalms 64:9), but will strengthen the faith of the righteous, rejoicing them and encouraging them.

[Str. I. Psa 64:1. In my lamentation.—Delitzsch: “The infin. nom.שִׂיחַ means lamentation, complaint, not in sounds of pain, but in words of pain.” See Psalms 51:2.

Psalms 64:2. From the secret league of the wicked—from the tumultuous throng of evil doers.—Delitzsch: “סוֹד is the club or clique, רִגְשָׁה the noisy crowd.” Perowne translates סוֹד as conspiracy; this is the sense, but it is better to employ the more general meaning of the word referring to secret converse in the intimacy of friendship on the one hand, and of devising, planning, plotting on the other. See Psalms 25:14.

Psalms 64:3-4. The figures of these Verses are favorite ones with David. For the comparison of the tongue to a sharp sword, see Psalms 52:2; Psalms 57:4; Psalms 59:7; for that of bitter words to fixed arrows, Psalms 58:7. As the robber lurks in his haunts (Psalms 10:8) or the hunter shoots from the thicket at the bird (Psalms 11:2) so they lurk and watch for their opportunity to shoot forth their bitter words. Unseen of men they fear not God and His retributive justice (Psalms 55:19). C. A. B.]

Str. II. Psa 64:5. They strengthen for themselves an evil thing.—Perowne: “They take every means to secure their object, follow it up resolutely.” It is better to understand this of their plan or purpose than of the bitter words which they have spoken. They calculate how to lay snares privily.—They carefully go over each part of the plan, that they make it successful in all its parts. And all this is in secret. None but the conspirators are aware of these snares.—They say, who shall look at them?—The question is interpreted very differently. Some refer the pronoun “them” to the snares laid with so much care and craft that they can confidently ask who shall discover them; but the analogy of Psalms 64:4 cand Psalms 10:11; Psalms 10:13; Psalms 59:8; Psalms 94:7, favors the idea that they think that God does not observe or care for their actions. Some interpreters then regard the question as indirect (Ewald, Delitzsch, Maurer, Olsh., Perowne, et al.), the pronoun “them” referring to the evil doers themselves. But it is better to refer the pronoun to the “snares” as the object of God’s observation. They think that God does not care for them, does not observe them, will not attend to them, or interfere with them.—C. A. B.]

Psalms 64:6. They have completed the contrived plan.—With the lect. rec. תַּמְנוּ which can only be 1. plur. perf., we must in direct discourse think either of the pious: we are finished, it is all over with us, that is to say: we are lost without God’s help (J. H. Mich.), or of the ungodly: we have it ready (Geier, Rosenmüller, De Wette), we are ready (Ewald, Köster, Hitzig), with the contrived plan, or likewise: the plan is contrived! (De Wette), a thought out plan! (Hengst.), thoughts well thought out! (Hitzig). There is nothing, however, to indicate a direct discourse like this, and it would disturb the context. We must therefore either correct by תַּמּוּ the 3. plur. perf. (Aben Ezra, Kimchi), or טָמְגוּ (Isaki, Luther) with many MSS. editions, and interpreters. The latter suits the sense very well=they have hidden, but has not sufficient critical evidence.—[Deep.—The heart, the inner man is deep as “the source of this plan,” as the “invisible work-shop of the evil” which is now prepared. It is like an “abyss of dark mystery and brooding wickedness,” (Hupfeld)].

Str. III. Psa 64:7-8. Yet God will shoot them;an arrowsuddenlythese are their wounds. They are overthrown, over themselvestheir tongue.—In Psalms 64:8 a the present text suffers from insuperable difficulties, which with forced interpretations hardly afford a tolerable sense, leaving now this and now that form unnoticed. It is the easiest to regard the whole manner of expression as broken in both verses, and to render the plural of the verb for the sake of clearness not by “they,” but by an indefinite subject (man stürtzt sie) and for the same reason to change the sing. suffix “him,” which designates the enemy collectively, into “they,” in accordance with the sense. Thus the thought is expressed that their fall is occasioned by powers, left undetermined yet subject to God, whilst at the same time their tongue, the instrument for injuring other men, brings on the judgment to their own ruin. Somewhat thus Ewald, Hengst., Delitzsch.—[All that look upon them shake the head.—Perowne: “For this meaning of the verb comp. Jeremiah 18:16; Jeremiah 48:27; for the gesture, as one of malicious triumph in looking upon suffering, etc. See Psalms 22:7.” So Hupfeld and Delitzsch. But Ewald and Hitzig translate flee away, as A. V.—C. A. B.]

Psalms 64:9. And all men shall fear.—Many codd. and editions read instead of ויִּירְאוּ (shall fear) וַיִּרְאוּ (and shall see it).—[And understand His work.—The וְ is incorrectly rendered “for” in the A. V. The clauses are all parallel, following one upon the other. “They no longer foolishly ascribe it to mere chance or human agency,” (Alexander).

Psalms 64:10. Refuge seek in Him.—This is the usual expression for seeking shelter and protection in God. See Psalms 63:7.—C. A. B.]


1. The wicked are not helped by their craft, power, and wickedness. They may for a time do the pious much harm, cause them great pain, extort lamentation and sighing. But when they have entirely completed their plans among themselves, and flatter themselves that they are near their end, the judgment of God overtakes them and destroys them by means of their own plans. For the Searcher of hearts, since He looks into the depths of the heart, knows what is contrived within the man (Jeremiah 17:9 sq.), and the Holy one of Israel brings the plans of the wicked to naught.

2. God causes His righteous government among men to become known, and thus makes His judgments to become blessings, in that He makes them to be perceived to the terror of the wicked, to the warning of all men, to the joy of all the upright, who are comforted in their afflictions, especially by the experience that God’s judgment over the wicked is the deliverance of the pious. This preserves them from despair in their lamentation, and strengthens them amidst dangers in their faith in God’s assistance, and encourages them to implore it, so that they may glory in their gracious condition in God.


The nearer the wicked seem to be to their ends, the nearer are they to their ruin.—The pious have often occasions to lament, yet never reason for despair, but always cause for prayer, praise, and reflection.—Many a depth of the heart is an abyss of wickedness.—God delivers the pious whilst He judges the wicked.—What God does should be observed and declared.—To bring the slandered to honor, to defeat the plans of the wicked, to destroy the ungodly by their own weapons—this is a matter of Divine righteousness.—The ungodly trust in the secrecy of their plans, the pious in the omniscient and just God.—Judgments are long in coming, but they break forth suddenly and decisively.

Starke: To pray for a gracious hearing is always the beginning of an acceptable prayer.—Let us take more heed to our tongues, our own weal or woe depend upon whether we use it aright or misuse it.—Childlike trust in God, and spiritual joy in God are connected closely together; for both are the results of a justifying faith.

Franke: The fig leaves must be removed that we may know our shame and nakedness before God’s face.—Frisch: God’s arrows have a different effect from those which men shoot.—Tholuck: If we rejoice when God’s hand beats the unrighteous to the ground, we have to take good care lest we mingle unholy fire with the holy.— Taube: The ruin of the innocent would be altogether unavoidable if the only searcher of hearts did not look upon them and interfere.—God’s hand judges the ungodly sometimes by their own hand.—Diedrich: All the battles of spirits are with words; even the wicked fight mostly with their words.

[Matt. Henry: It is bad to do an ill thing, but worse to encourage ourselves and one another in it; that is doing the devil’s work for him.—Half the pains that many take to damn their souls would serve to save them.—Barnes: Judgment, punishment, wrath, are adapted and designed to make a deep impression on mankind. On this principle the final punishment of the wicked will make a deep and salutary impression on the universe forever.—Spurgeon: It is a good thing to conquer malicious foes, but a better thing still to be screened from all conflict with them, by being hidden from the strife.—The righteous need not learn the arts of self-defence or of attack, their avengement is in better hands than their own.—C. A. B.]

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 64". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.