Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

Psalms 59


Psalms 59:0


Prayer for the Deliverance From Enemies MT Intro For the choir director; set to Al-tashheth, when Saul sent men, and they watched the house in order to kill him. The Assured Judgment of the Wicked Prayer for Deliverance From Enemies A Prayer for Safety Against the Wicked
Psalms 59:1-8 Psalms 59:1-2 Psalms 59:1-2 Psalms 59:1-2 Psalms 59:1-2
Psalms 59:3-4 Psalms 59:3-4 Psalms 59:3-4 Psalms 59:3-4b
Psalms 59:4-5
Psalms 59:5 Psalms 59:5 Psalms 59:5
Psalms 59:6-7 Psalms 59:6-7 Psalms 59:6-7 Psalms 59:6
Psalms 59:7
Psalms 59:8-9 Psalms 59:8-10 Psalms 59:8-10 Psalms 59:8-9a
Psalms 59:9-15 Psalms 59:9-10
Psalms 59:10
Psalms 59:11-13 Psalms 59:11-13 Psalms 59:11-13 Psalms 59:11
Psalms 59:12
Psalms 59:13
Psalms 59:14-15 Psalms 59:14-15 Psalms 59:14-15 Psalms 59:14
Psalms 59:15
Psalms 59:16-17 Psalms 59:16-17 Psalms 59:16-17 Psalms 59:16-17 Psalms 59:16
Psalms 59:17

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. Again the question of who are the “enemies” recurs. In this Psalm it seems to refer to Gentile invaders (cf. Psalms 59:5, Psalms 59:6, Psalms 59:7, Psalms 59:8, Psalms 59:11, Psalms 59:13, Psalms 59:14, Psalms 59:15). Psalms 59:8 reminds one of Psalms 2:4.

B. The psalmist states clearly that he is attacked, but not because of anything he has done (cf. Psalms 59:3c, Psalms 59:4a). The attack seems to come because he/they are YHWH's people.

C. Notice the titles for the Covenant Deity.

1. O my God, Psalms 59:1 probably Elohim, like verse Psalms 59:8 with final letter in the next word

2. O YHWH, Psalms 59:3; Psalms 59:3, Psalms 59:5, Psalms 59:8 BDB 217

3. God of hosts (Elohim Sabaoth), Psalms 59:5 BDB 43 and 838; military connotations

4. God of Israel, Psalms 59:5 BDB 43 construct BDB 975

5. O my strength BDB 738

6. God is my fortress/stronghold, Psalms 59:9 BDB 43 and BDB 960 I

7. God is my lovingkindness, Psalms 59:10; Psalms 59:10, Psalms 59:17 BDB 43 and BDB 338

8. O Lord, our shield or Adon is our shield, Psalms 59:11 BDB 10 and BDB 171

9. God (Elohim), Psalms 59:13 BDB 43 (Elohim)

10. O my strength, Psalms 59:16 BDB 738

11. O God my fortress, Psalms 59:17; Psalms 59:17 same as #5

Verses 1-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 59:1-8 1Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; Set me securely on high away from those who rise up against me. 2Deliver me from those who do iniquity And save me from men of bloodshed. 3For behold, they have set an ambush for my life; Fierce men launch an attack against me, Not for my transgression nor for my sin, O Lord, 4For no guilt of mine, they run and set themselves against me. Arouse Yourself to help me, and see! 5You, O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, Awake to punish all the nations; Do not be gracious to any who are treacherous in iniquity. Selah. 6They return at evening, they howl like a dog, And go around the city. 7Behold, they belch forth with their mouth; Swords are in their lips, For, they say, “ Who hears?” 8But You, O Lord, laugh at them; You scoff at all the nations.

Psalms 59:1-2 Notice the Psalm starts with three imperatives (prayer requests for deliverance from enemies).

1. deliver, Psalms 59:1 BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil imperative

2. deliver, Psalms 59:2 same as #1

3. save BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil imperative, cf. Psalms 28:9; Psalms 31:16; Psalms 71:2; Psalms 86:2, Psalms 86:16

Both are used in Psalms 7:1; Psalms 22:20-21; Psalms 31:2-3, Psalms 31:15-16; Psalms 33:16-17; Psalms 34:17-18, etc. It is a recurrent prayer for help!

Notice how the enemies are characterized.

1. those who rise up against me

2. those who do iniquity

3. men of bloodshed

The enemies in this Psalm seem to be foreign invaders.

1. punish all the nations, Psalms 59:5

2. go around the city (i.e., siege), Psalms 59:6

3. belch forth. . .swords, Psalms 59:7

4. YHWH scoffs at all the nations, Psalms 59:8

5. do not slay them lest my people forget, Psalms 59:11

6. God rules in Jacob, to the ends of the earth, Psalms 59:13

7. go around the city, Psalms 59:14 (see #2)

8. Psalms 59:15 is imagery of a siege

Psalms 59:3-4a In these verses the singular “me” refers to a/the leader of Israel. An attack on him is an attack on the covenant people. One wonders if the foreign invaders had inside help.

Notice the author defends his own righteousness by asserting that he is attacked for no reason (cf. Psalms 59:3c, Psalms 59:4a). The enemies attack because of how he is related to the God of Israel (cf. Psalms 2:0).

Psalms 59:4-5 These two verses are linked by the three imperatives calling on Deity to act in deliverance.

1. arouse Yourself, Psalms 59:4b BDB 734, KB 802, Qal imperative, cf. Psalms 7:6; Psalms 35:23; Psalms 44:23; Psalms 57:8 (thrice); Psalms 73:20; Psalms 80:2; Psalms 108:2

2. see, Psalms 59:4b BDB 906, KB1157, Qal imperative, cf. Psalms 9:13; Psalms 25:18, Psalms 25:19; Psalms 80:14; Psalms 84:9; Psalms 119:153, Psalms 119:159; Psalms 139:24

3. awake, Psalms 59:5 BDB 884, KB 1098, Hiphil imperative, cf Psalms 35:23; Psalms 44:23

“help me” This is literally “meet me.” This personal aspect is repeated in verse Psalms 59:10a.

“O Lord, God of hosts” See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

“Do not be gracious” This negated verb (BDB 335, KB 334, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense) is used often in Psalms (cf. Psalms 4:1; Psalms 6:2; Psalms 9:13; Psalms 25:16; Psalms 26:11; Psalms 27:7; Psalms 30:10; Psalms 41:4, Psalms 41:10; Psalms 51:1; Psalms 56:1; Psalms 57:1, etc.). Here the psalmist asks God not to show mercy to his enemies because they are treacherous in iniquity (cf. Psalms 109:14; Isaiah 2:9; Jeremiah 18:23).

Psalms 59:6-7 There are several modern English translations that have Psalms 59:6-7 as a strophe and begin a new strophe at Psalms 59:8-10. It is hard to know how to divide this Psalm into its logical divisions.

Psalms 59:6-7 describes the enemies as

1. howling dogs

2. dogs that go around

a. a siege metaphor (cf. Psalms 59:14-15)

b. a metaphor for their constant search for food (Psalms 59:15)

3. belch. . .swords, cf. Psalms 59:7

4. no fear of God (i.e., they say, “Who hears?” cf. Job 22:13; Psalms 10:4, Psalms 10:11, Psalms 10:13; Psalms 64:5; Psalms 73:11; Psalms 94:7; Isaiah 29:15; Ezekiel 8:12). They are either

a. Israelite practical atheists

b. pagans/idolaters

Psalms 59:8 Psalms 59:8 reminds me of

Psalms 59:1. Psalms 2:4

Psalms 59:2. Psalms 37:13

This verse seems to demand the enemies are Gentile, pagan invaders (cf. Psalms 59:5, Psalms 59:6, Psalms 59:7, Psalms 59:8, Psalms 59:11, Psalms 59:13, Psalms 59:14, Psalms 59:15).

The verbs in Psalms 59:8 are both Qal imperfects that speak of ongoing action (i.e., YHWH laughs. . .scoffs at the nations in their disbelief and arrogant assaults on His people).

Verses 9-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 59:9-15 9Because of his strength I will watch for You, For God is my stronghold. 10My God in His lovingkindness will meet me; God will let me look triumphantly upon my foes. 11Do not slay them, or my people will forget; Scatter them by Your power, and bring them down, O Lord, our shield. 12On account of the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips, Let them even be caught in their pride, And on account of curses and lies which they utter. 13Destroy them in wrath, destroy them that they may be no more; That men may know that God rules in Jacob To the ends of the earth. Selah. 14They return at evening, they howl like a dog, And go around the city. 15They wander about for food And growl if they are not satisfied.

Psalms 59:9-13 There are several titles of Deity. See Contextual Insights, C.

Psalms 59:9

NASB“his strength” NKJV“his Strength” NRSV, NJB, JPSOA“my strength” TEV“your strength”

The UBS Text Project (p. 271) gives “my strength” a “D” rating (highly doubtful). This is probably based on the same words in verse Psalms 59:17. It is a title for Deity.

NASB“Because of his strength” NKJV“O You his Strength” NRSV, JPSOA“O my strength” NJB, REB“My strength” LXX“O my might”

I think this is another title for Deity (cf. Psalms 21:1; Psalms 28:7, Psalms 28:8; Psalms 59:17; Psalms 81:1; Psalms 118:14). It parallels “God is my stronghold.”

“I will watch for You” This verb (BDB 1036, KB 1581) is a Qal cohortative, cf. Psalms 130:6. The psalmist longed to see God and be with him!

Psalms 59:10 This is another title for God (i.e., “God of my lovingkindness”), NKJV has “My merciful God” and JPSOA has “My faithful God.”

“will let me look triumphantly upon my foes” This is another cultural idiom of victory (cf. Psalms 23:5; Psalms 54:7; Psalms 91:8; Psalms 92:11; Psalms 112:8; Psalms 118:7).

Psalms 59:11 This verse is surprising to me. It reminds me of how YHWH dwelt with the Hebrew tribes after the conquest of the walled cities by Joshua. Each tribe had to militarily conquer its own territory from the Canaanite tribes. God did not do it for them. They had to act in faith. He left some opposition so that they could grow in faith, in Him, and in themselves.

The verb forms are

1. do not slay, Psalms 59:11 BDB 246, KB 255, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. scatter them, Psalms 59:11 BDB 631, KB 681, Hiphil imperative

3. bring them down, Psalms 59:11 BDB 432, KB 434, Hiphil imperative

4-5. destroy them, Psalms 59:13 BDB 477, KB 476, Piel imperative (twice)

6. that they may be no more BDB 34 II (no verb)

These commands must be modified by Psalms 59:11a. It is possible that there is confusion between “no” (אל BDB 39) and “El” (אל, general name for Deity in the ANE BDB 42 II). The consonants are the same, but different vowels. This is the suggestion of AB (p. 71).

“lest my people forget” The verb (BDB 1013, KB 1489, Qal imperfect) also occurs in Deuteronomy 8:11-20, where YHWH admonishes His people not to think that their prosperity or victory is because of themselves!

“our shield” This imagery goes back to YHWH's initial encounters with Abraham and the promises He made him and his descendants (cf. Genesis 15:1; Deuteronomy 33:29). It is recurrent in the Psalms (cf. Psalms 3:3; Psalms 5:12; Psalms 28:7; Psalms 115:9-11). It denotes God as protector!

Psalms 59:12 “Let them even be caught in their pride” BDB 539, KB 530, Niphal imperfect used in a jussive sense. Human pride and arrogance is

1. the essence of the Fall

2. abhorrent to YHWH

He will not tolerate it (cf. Isaiah 2:11-12; Isaiah 5:15; Isaiah 10:33; Zephaniah 3:11). As a biblical example of human pride, note the SPECIAL TOPIC: BOASTING.

Psalms 59:13 “That men may know that God rules in Jacob, To the ends of the earth” This universal element is crucial in understanding what God is doing in our world (cf. Psalms 2:8; Psalms 58:11; Psalms 67:7; Psalms 72:8, Psalms 72:17; Psalms 96:13; Psalms 98:9; Isaiah 45:22; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 52:10; Jeremiah 16:19; Micah 5:4; Matthew 25:32). See Special Topic: YHWH' Eternal Redemptive Plan.

“Selah” See note at Psalms 3:2 and Intro. to Psalms, VII.

Psalms 59:14-15 These link back to Psalms 59:6-7. Psalms 59:6 and 14 are duplicate refrains. Psalms 59:7 and 15 are both descriptive phrases about the enemies. They are vicious predators!

Psalms 59:14

NASB, NRSV, JPSOA“growl” NKJV“howl”

This root (BDB 534 II) can mean

1. spend the night BDB 533 I (this is the MT pointing, cf. Psalms 55:7)

2. growl BDB 534 II

Verses 16-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 59:16-17 16But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, For You have been my stronghold And a refuge in the day of my distress. 17O my strength, I will sing praises to You; For God is my stronghold, the God who shows me lovingkindness.

Psalms 59:16-17 The psalmist contrasts (i.e., “but as for me”) his lifestyle and motives with them.

1. I shall sing of Your strength, Psalms 59:16

2. I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness, Psalms 59:16

3. I will sing praises to You, Psalms 59:17

The reason for these songs of praise is YHWH

1. has been his stronghold (BDB 960 I)

2. is his refuge (BDB 631) in the day of distress, cf. Jeremiah 16:19

3. is his stronghold (BDB 960 I), cf. Psalms 9:9; Psalms 59:9; Psalms 62:2, Psalms 62:6

4. has shown him lovingkindness (BDB 338)

Several of the key theological terms describing YHWH are repeated in this close.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Who are the enemies? Why does it seem there are two groups?

2. Is the psalmist claiming sinlessness in Psalms 59:3c, Psalms 59:4a?

3. What is the imagery behind “arouse” and “awake”?

4. List the universal elements in this Psalm. What do they imply?

5. Psalms 59:11 seems confusing. Why?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 59". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". 2021.