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Bible Commentaries

Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 64

Verses 1-4


‘For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.’

Once again the Psalm is dedicated to the Chief Musician, but we are told nothing about it except that it is a Psalm of David.

The Psalm can be divided into four sections as follows:

1) David Prays For Deliverance From Those Who Plot Against Him And Attack Him Verbally Behind His Back (Psalms 64:1-4).

2) The Psalmists Description Of The Whisperers Who Think That Their Schemes Are Undetected (64-5-6).

3) But God Has Taken Note And Will Turn Their Schemes Back On Their Own Heads So That All Will See Their Folly And Recognise In Their Demise The Hand Of God (Psalms 64:7-9).

4) What Happens In Respect Of David Will Encourage The Righteous Who As A Consequence Will Rejoice In YHWH And Take Refuge In Him (Psalms 64:10).

David Prays For Deliverance From Those Who Plot Against Him And Attack Him Verbally Behind His Back (Psalms 64:1-4 ).

We are given no clue as to what situation in life caused the Psalm to be composed, but the words are from one who is facing verbal assault, albeit indirectly. They snipe at him secretly behind his back. They ‘shoot at him in secret places’. They lay ‘secret snares’ saying “Who will see them?” Whenever we find ourselves the subjects of innuendoes hurled at us behind our backs, we can find comfort in this Psalm. Such a situation has been the lot of God’s people throughout all centuries.

Psalms 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 evildoers,

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 blameless,

Suddenly do they shoot at him, and are not afraid.’

The Psalm opens with a prayer that God will hear the complaint that the Psalmist makes against the whisperers who whisper behind his back, and calls on God to enable him not to be afraid of them, ‘preserve my life from the fear of the enemy’. They are not out to attack him physically, but by whispered innuendo, and secret plots behind his back. David experienced such behaviour when he was a Commander under Saul. He experienced it at the time of Absalom’s rebellion. And anyone who is in a position of authority is liable to be subject to such treatment, especially those who are faithful to God. It is a reminder that we can bring such matters to God and leave then there.

So he calls on God to hide him from the ‘secret counsel of evildoers’, from the consequences of their secret planning; to protect him from the vicious disturbing harsh whispers and innuendoes (‘tumult’) of ‘workers of iniquity’. Note God’s verdict on whisperers. They are ‘evildoers’ and ‘workers of iniquity’, as are all whisperers. Whisperers in churches should take note of this. If they have complaints they should bring them out openly, not seek to undermine the authority of those in positions of responsibility by surreptitious means, otherwise they too are doing evil and working iniquity.

There was nothing haphazard about these whispers. Those who whispered behind closed doors took a great deal of trouble about it. They sharpened their tongues as they would a sword. Their words were carefully aimed and let loose in order to cause the most damage. They shot from secret places where they could not be seen and identified. And it was all aimed at one who was blameless of what they accused him of. They spoke innuendoes and lies.

‘They shoot at him, and are not afraid.’ They are brazen in their efforts, and confident that they will not be identified. Thus they have no fear. But they are clearly afraid to come out into the open.

Verses 5-6

The Psalmists Description Of The Whisperers (64-5-6).

Here we have a description of ‘things done by them in secret’ (Ephesians 5:12). They carefully prepare an evil scheme, seeking to ensure that it is strong enough for the purpose. They discuss together, laying secret snares to trap the unwary and undiscerning. They are confident that no one will know what they are doing. No one will take note. They are constantly on the look for weaknesses in David’s position, and search them out thoroughly. And they are all deep schemers. All is a carefully planned attempt to undermine David’s authority and position. They have left no stone unturned in their attempt to do so. Those who follow God wholly are often subject to such attacks.

Psalms 64:5-6

‘They make strong for themselves (carefully prepare) an evil scheme,

They commune together of laying snares secretly,

They say, “Who will take note of them?”

They search out iniquities,

“We have accomplished,” (they say), “a diligent search,”

And the inward thought and the heart of each one is deep.’

‘They make strong for themselves (carefully prepare and ensure the strength of) an evil scheme.’ Theirs is no off-the-cuff reaction. It is deep seated and determined. They want to bring David down from his exalted position. And they secretly scheme accordingly.

‘They commune together of laying snares secretly.’ They discuss together ways in which they can win over the mass of the people by their schemes. They lay traps for them so that they will be deceived by them. They possibly also invent schemes by which David can be made to look foolish and incapable and uncaring. In the days of Absalom he had become careless of the sensitivities of the people. In the days of Saul he had not watched his back, trusting his compatriots.

‘They say, “Who will take note of them?” They are confident that they are unobserved as they go about their schemes. They forget that God knows them through and through, and is aware of all that they are doing. In a way they are unconsciously challenging God.

‘They search out iniquities.’ This either means that they had sought to obtain details of all the ways in which David has failed, or that they search out different ways of carrying forward their evil.

Their claim is that “We have accomplished a diligent search.” They are either proud of their ability to sink to the depths of iniquity (they are ‘workers of iniquity’ - Psalms 64:2), or alternatively have researched in depths David’s failures and his coming short in his responsibilities, ignoring, of course, his successes.

Verses 7-9

But God Has Taken Note And Will Turn Their Schemes Back On Their Own Heads So That All Will See Their Folly And Recognise In Their Demise The Hand Of God (Psalms 64:7-9 ).

His adversaries thought that no one noted what they were doing (Psalms 64:5), but they will soon find out that they were wrong. For God in turn will shoot His arrows at them, and ‘suddenly’ they will be wounded. He will return what they have been whispering on their own heads through the triumph of David. Thus their own tongue will be against them, for it will have brought them into disrepute. In view of David’s continual triumphs over apparent disaster his adversaries continually found their harsh words returning on their heads, and regretted that they had spoken them.

And all who see the retribution that David’s adversaries have brought on themselves, will shake their head at their folly. And they themselves will fear, and declare the work of God, taking notice of what He does. So the folly of David’s adversaries will be a lesson to the world.

Psalms 64:7-9

‘But God will shoot at them,

With an arrow will they suddenly be wounded,

So they will they make them stumble,

Their own tongue being against them,

All who see them will wag the head,

And all men will fear,

And they will declare the work of God,

And will wisely consider of his doing.’

‘God will shoot at them, with an arrow will they suddenly be wounded’ or possibly, ‘God will shoot at them with an arrow, suddenly will they be wounded’. Either way the stress is on the fact that they who have aimed their arrows (‘even bitter words’) at David ‘suddenly and without fear’ behind his back (Psalms 64:5), will themselves find that David’s God will shoot His arrows at them equally suddenly. His powerful word will go forward to do His will (compare Isaiah 55:10-13). God’s mysterious instruments of justice, ‘they’ (compare Psalms 63:10), will make them stumble. With unexpected suddenness they will find themselves wounded. Their own tongues, with which they had been surreptitiously attacking David, will react against them. They had acted without fear. But if they had known David’s God, and the forces at His disposal, they would have been afraid indeed.

Indeed all who see what happens to them will ‘wag their heads’ with amazement at their folly, and they will be afraid, for they will have seen what God can do. And they will declare what God has done, and wisely think about and consider it. Thus will David’s tribulations bring glory to God.

Verse 10

What Happens In Respect Of David Will Encourage The Righteous Who As A Consequence Will Rejoice In YHWH And Take Refuge In Him (Psalms 64:10 ).

And the righteous (those who are faithful to God’s covenant) especially will see what God has done, and will gain confidence from it. They will be glad in YHWH (note the covenant name), will gain new confidence in the refuge that He provides. Indeed, all the upright in heart will glory (compare Psalms 63:11).

Psalms 64:10

‘The righteous will be glad in YHWH,

And will take refuge in him,

And all the upright in heart will glory.’

There is nothing like seeing God’s activity on behalf of His own for making the righteous glad. They see, and wonder, and rejoice, and have their confidence renewed in His protecting hand. Filled with glory at what He does for His own, they take refuge in Him, with a new confidence in how secure it is. Thus will what has happened to David not only make the world wonder and fear, but will also encourage His true people.

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Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 64". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.