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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the Bible

Psalms 64

Psalms 64:0


Prayer for Deliverance From Secret Enemies MT Intro For the choir director. A Psalm of David. Oppressed by the Wicked but Rejoicing in the Lord A Prayer for Protection From Personal Enemies A Prayer For Protection Punishment For Slanderers
Psalms 64:1-6 Psalms 64:1-4 Psalms 64:1-6 Psalms 64:1-6 Psalms 64:1-2
Psalms 64:3-4
Psalms 64:5-6 Psalms 64:5-6
Psalms 64:7-10 Psalms 64:7-9 Psalms 64:7-9 Psalms 64:7-10 Psalms 64:7-8
Psalms 64:9
Psalms 64:10 Psalms 64:10 Psalms 64:10

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. The psalmist is distressed by secret adversaries. This implies fellow Israelites.

They are called

1. the enemy, Psalms 64:1 (BDB 33, KB 38, Qal participle)

2. evildoers, Psalms 64:2 (BDB 949, KB 1269, Hiphil participle)

3. those who do iniquity, Psalms 64:2 (BDB 821, KB 950, Qal participle)

For notes on the names of the adversaries, see Psalms 1:5; Psalms 5:10

B. Their actions are (Psalms 64:2-6) listed.

1. they cause dread (BDB 808), cf. Psalms 91:5

2. they conduct secret councils

3. they do iniquity

4. they have sharpened tongues like a sword

5. they aim their speech as arrows

6. they attack from ambush

7. they do not fear (i.e., God)

8. they are firm in their evil plans

9. they plan to lay snares secretly

10. they think they are hidden (i.e., from God)

11. they devise injustices

12. they have a well-conceived plot

13. they are evil in thought and heart

C. God's actions against them are delineated (Psalms 64:7-10).

1. He will wound them with an arrow

2. He will make them stumble

3. He will use their own words against them in judgment

4. He will cause them to be ashamed

5. His actions toward them will cause all men to

a. fear/revere

b. declare His work

c. consider His actions

6. His actions will cause the righteous man to

a. be glad in His actions

b. take refuge (i.e., trust) in Him

c. glory in their hearts

D. Human Speech can be a blessing or a curse (see SPECIAL TOPIC: HUMAN SPEECH).

E. Although it is impossible to ascertain the historical setting or identity of the psalmist, it is interesting how many military images are used.

1. sword

2. arrow

3. ambush

Verses 1-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 64:1-6 1Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; Preserve my life from dread of the enemy. 2Hide me from the secret counsel of evildoers, From the tumult of those who do iniquity, 3Who have sharpened their tongue like a sword. They aimed bitter speech as their arrow, 4To shoot from concealment at the blameless; Suddenly they shoot at him, and do not fear. 5They hold fast to themselves an evil purpose; They talk of laying snares secretly; They say, “Who can see them?” 6They devise injustices, saying, “We are ready with a well-conceived plot”; For the inward thought and the heart of a man are deep.

Psalms 64:1 “Hear” Many strophes in the Psalms are introduced with the imperative (cf. Psalms 17:1; Psalms 27:7; Psalms 28:2; Psalms 30:10; Psalms 39:12; Psalms 54:2; Psalms 61:1; Psalms 64:1; Psalms 84:8; Psalms 102:1; Psalms 119:149; Psalms 130:2; Psalms 143:1). The Psalms are often prayers to God beseeching Him to act for His people or a righteous follower.

Prayer is a wonderful privilege to the people of God. It releases a power into the world that was not present before. See the three Special Topics below.




NASB, NRSV“complaint” NKJV“meditation” LXX“petition”

The noun (BDB 967) is used often in poetry for a “complaint.”

Psalms 64:1. Job 7:11; Job 9:27; Job 10:1; Job 21:4; Job 23:2

Psalms 64:2. Psalms 55:2; Psalms 142:2

Psalms 64:3. Proverbs 23:29

The psalmist is addressing God about the unfairness of life related to the attacks of fellow covenant people.

“preserve my life from dread of the enemy” The verb (BDB 665 I, KB 718, Qal imperfect) is used with the preposition “from” in Psalms 12:7; Psalms 32:7; Psalms 140:1, Psalms 140:4. It is used of God keeping, guarding, or preserving in Deuteronomy 32:10; Psalms 25:20; Psalms 31:23; Psalms 40:11; Isaiah 26:3; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:8. God's people can trust that He is protecting them. This is not meant to imply a life without problems, but the sure presence of God and His gracious mercy toward those who seek Him.

“the enemy” The word is singular but used in a collective sense (cf. Psalms 64:2-6).

Psalms 64:2 The verb “hide” (BDB 711, KB 771, Hiphil imperfect) is parallel to “preserve” in Psalms 64:1. The psalmist feels threatened by other covenant partners who secretly plan his demise.

Notice the psalmist asks YHWH to hide him but the wicked hide their secret plans to destroy him (cf. Psalms 64:5).

NASB“tumult” NKJV“insurrection” NRSV“scheming” TEV, REB“mobs” NJB“gangs” JPSOA“crown”

This root occurs only three times in the OT. It is translated in the NIV as

Psalms 64:1. Psalms 2:1 “conspire”

Psalms 64:2. Psalms 55:14 “throng”

Psalms 64:3. Psalms 64:2 “noisy crown”

Psalms 64:4 “blameless” The term (BDB 1070) denotes a moral innocense, not a sinless person (i.e., no known, intentional sin). It was used of Job (cf. Job 1:1, Job 1:8; Job 2:3; Job 8:20; Job 9:20-22; Psalms 37:37). See SPECIAL TOPIC: BLAMELESS, INNOCENT, GUILTLESS, WITHOUT REPROACH.

Psalms 64:5

NASB“who hold fast to themselves an evil purpose” NKJV“they encourage themselves in an evil matter” NRSV“they hold fast to their evil purpose” TEV“they encourage each other in their evil plots” NJB“they support each other in their evil designs” JPSOA“they are themselves with an evil word” REV“they confirm their wicked resolves”

The NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 72, lists several possible meanings/connotations for the Piel form of the verb (BDB 304, KB 302).

1. hold fast

2. they strengthen for themselves (i.e., mutual support)

3. they make firm for themselves (i.e., confirm their evil intents)

“Who can see them” This phrase refers to

1. the secret plans to snare the psalmist

2. the disbelief that God knows and will act on the psalmist's behalf (cf. Job 22:13; Psalms 10:11; Psalms 59:7; Psalms 94:7; Isaiah 29:15; Ezekiel 8:12)

Psalms 64:6 In Psalms 64:6 there are three words that share the Hebrew letters, חפש (BDB 344).

1. search out (NASB, “devise”)

2. well conceived

3. plot

“the inward thought and the heart of a man are deep” In context this refers to the evil motives of the psalmist's enemies. BDB defines “deep” (BDB 771) as “unsearchable” (cf. Job 12:22; Ecclesiastes 7:24 [twice]) or mysterious. The NJB and the Anchor Bible translate it so as to describe YHWH's knowledge of their actions. However, it seems Psalms 64:1-6 is about the enemies' activities andPs. Psalms 64:7-9 is about YHWH's response.

The UBS Text Project (pp. 282-284) shows a number of textual issues and possibilities in these two verses. Most of them have a “C” rating (considerable doubt).

Verses 7-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 64:7-10 7But God will shoot at them with an arrow; Suddenly they will be wounded. 8So they will make him stumble; Their own tongue is against them; All who see them will shake the head. 9Then all men will fear, And they will declare the work of God, And will consider what He has done. 10The righteous man will be glad in the Lord and will take refuge in Him; And all the upright in heart will glory.

Psalms 64:7 This is a typical role reversal imagery. What the wicked did to the righteous (cf. Psalms 64:3-4) is now done to them.

This same type of imagery may explain Psalms 64:8. The evil planners who used hateful words against the psalmist now have their own words used against themselves.

Psalms 64:8 “shake the head” This is an idiom of surprise and rejection (cf. Psalms 22:7; Psalms 44:14; Jeremiah 18:16; Jeremiah 48:27; Lamentations 2:15).

Psalms 64:9 Notice the ultimate purpose f YHWH's actions in the world (i.e., blessing or judgment, cf. Psalms 58:11; Psalms 65:8) is for all men to know Him (see SPECIAL TOPIC: YHWH's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN).

Psalms 64:9 is surely hyperbolic and reflects what will happen to those in Israel but, like so many verses, it states a larger truth (cf. Psalms 46:10).

Psalms 64:10 This verse is a unique concluding statement. Usually the concluding statement in the Psalms is

1. a praise to God

2. a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

“righteous man” See Special Topic: Righteousness.

“will be glad” There may be a word play between

1. hear, Psalms 64:1 שׁמע (BDB 1033)

2. be glad, Psalms 64:10 שמח (BDB 970)

This would be a form of inclusio.

“refuge” See notes at Psalms 64:2 and 5:11-12.

“will glory” The NRSV sees the verbs “will be glad” (BDB 970, KB 1333) and “will glory” (BDB 237, KB 248) as imperfects used in a jussive sense. Most English translations have them as ongoing statements.


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. Why are there so many individual laments recorded in the Psalter?

2. Explain in your own words the last line of Psalms 64:6.

3. Explain the literary concept of “reversal,” which is so common in the OT.

4. Does Psalms 64:9 refer to Israel or the world?

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Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 64". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". 2021.