Psalm 69

Submitted by admin on Sun, 2007-06-17 11:29.

Posted in | printer-friendly version »

The Hebrew expression natsách (preceded by the preposition meaning “to”) is commonly thought to denote “to the musical director” or “leader.” An ancient Latin translation of the Hebrew Psalter reads victori (“to the victor”), probably because of linking the Hebrew expression to a root meaning “to defeat.” In the Septuagint, the rendering is “to the end.” This indicates that there is considerable uncertainty about the significance of the Hebrew expression.

The meaning of the Hebrew designation “Lilies” is not known. In the Contemporary English Version, the expression is interpretively represented as the melody for this composition. (“To the tune ‘Lilies.’”) The Septuagint rendering is a form of the verb alloióo, basically meaning “to change.”

Psalm 69 is attributed to David. The contents reflect an extremely distressing time and may relate to the period of Absalom’s revolt. When quoting from this psalm, the apostle Paul attributed it to David. (Romans 11:9, 10)

In his dire plight, the psalmist prayed to be delivered. With his troubles closing in on him, he felt as if his “soul” or he himself was being completely engulfed by water.

He likened his perilous situation to being on unstable ground, sinking in deep mire. His distressing circumstances were comparable to his being in deep, turbulent water, with the waves crashing over him.

Repeatedly the psalmist had cried out to God for help and had become exhausted and hoarse from doing so. He had waited for the Most High to come to his aid, straining to look for any sign of relief and reaching the point where his eyes failed him. According to the Masoretic Text and the extant reading of the Septuagint, he expressed his relationship to God in a very personal way when saying “my God.” (On verse 3[4], see the Notes section.)

The number of those who hated him without cause had become as numerous as the hairs on his head. Might was on the side of those who were bent on destroying him, reducing him to silence in death. (See the Notes section on verse 4[5] for additional comments.)

The Hebrew word ‘atsám means “to be mighty” or “to be numerous.” Therefore, the psalmist either referred to his many treacherous enemies or to their superior strength. His words about giving back what he had not seized could signify that he was under intense enemy pressure to give up that to which he was entitled. Another possibility would be that unreasonable demands were made of the psalmist, comparable to his being required to return what he had not stolen. (See the Notes section for additional comments on verse 4([5].)

The psalmist acknowledged God’s full awareness of his folly. His wrongs had not been concealed from the Most High. This may mean that, in view of his complete record (including his sin), he did not feel he merited undergoing the kind of trouble that had come to be his lot.

Concerned about those who hoped in or put their trust in YHWH of hosts (the designation “hosts” referring to the angelic forces under his direction), the psalmist prayed that they would not be put to shame on his account. This may mean that, if he continued to appear as one abandoned by YHWH, the godly might wrongly conclude that the Almighty would not help them in their time of need. Another possibility is that upright persons, because of the psalmist’s plight, might think that he had no right to claim to be God’s servant and, therefore, would be ashamed of his representing himself as such or his being regarded by others as in their company. He pleaded that those seeking the God of Israel, endeavoring to do his will and wanting his approval, would not come to dishonor because of him. This dishonor or humiliation would be if he, as one viewed as belonging to their company, remained in severe distress.

According to the psalmist, his dire situation could not be attributed to wrongdoing. For God’s sake, he had become an object of reproach, and his face had been covered with shame. The troubles that had befallen him resulted from his seeking to live uprightly.

To his own full brothers, the sons of his mother, he had become estranged, considered like a foreigner and not a member of the family. The strongest blood ties no longer mattered.


After establishing Zion as his capital, David transferred the ark of the covenant (the symbol of the divine presence) to a specially erected tent in the city. (2 Samuel 6:17) Until the completion of the temple during Solomon’s reign, this tent proved to be the sanctuary. For the sanctuary, where the ark of the covenant was located, the psalmist had intense zeal as one wholly devoted to true worship. This zeal or ardor had totally taken possession of his whole being and desire so that he could speak of it as having consumed him. (See the Notes section on verse 9[10] for additional comments.)

Those disloyal to the Most High in attitude, word, or action reproached him, refusing to accord him the honor that was his rightful due. The psalmist, as one devoted to YHWH, was subjected to the reproach that would have been directed against his God.

Fasting and weeping accompanied the psalmist’s fervent prayer for help. His dire straights occasioned intense grief. Godless ones seized upon his fasting and weeping as a basis for reproaching or taunting him. (See the Notes section for additional comments on verse 10[11].)

Like one in mourning, he put on sackcloth on account of his distress and desperately desiring God’s help. This led to his becoming an object of ridicule in a taunting proverbial saying.

Repeatedly those sitting in the open area near the city gate talked unfavorably about the psalmist. People often congregated there, and city elders handled legal cases. Among those to be found sitting near the city gate would also be the basest elements of society, the idle drinkers. These men would make the psalmist the butt of their insulting songs.

Despite his difficult circumstances, he would continue praying to YHWH. The “acceptable time” denoted a time when he could expect to receive a favorable response to his supplication. On the basis of God’s abundant steadfast love, compassionate concern, or “mercy” (LXX), the psalmist appealed to be heard. The expression “truth of your salvation” may be understood as denoting God’s dependability or trustworthiness in effecting salvation or deliverance. Accordingly, the psalmist would have been praying for YHWH to manifest his dependability by rescuing him from grave danger. (Regarding verse 13[14], see the Notes section.)

The psalmist likened his situation to being stuck in mire, and so prayed to be delivered from sinking. He wanted to be rescued from those who hated him and sought to bring about his downfall. It seemed to him that the threat facing him was like that of a person in danger of drowning in deep water. (See the Notes section for additional information about verse 14[15].)

He prayed that God would not permit him to come to his end like one swept away by a raging torrent, swallowed or drowned in the deep, or descending into the pit and having it close over him.

“Answer me, O YHWH,” pleaded the psalmist and then acknowledged God’s steadfast love, compassionate concern, or “mercy” (LXX) as being good. He prayed that YHWH, in keeping with his abundant mercies, would turn his favorable attention to him. According to the reading of a Dead Sea Scroll, the psalmist based his petition on the “goodness” of God’s compassionate care and on his abundant mercies.

For the Most High to hide (“turn away,” LXX) his face would signify his not granting favorable attention. Referring to himself as God’s servant, the psalmist pleaded that God’s face not be concealed from him. Because of finding himself in distress or imminent danger, he prayed that he would quickly receive a favorable response.

The petition for God to draw near to his soul constituted an appeal for the Most High to come to his aid, not being like a person who remained at a distance but who acted to redeem or deliver him. With his enemies surrounding him, he felt trapped and desired to be ransomed or set free. (See the Notes section on verse 18[19] for additional comments.)

God knew fully the reproach, shame, and dishonor the psalmist had been forced to bear. He also had all the psalmist’s enemies before him or in full view, with none being able to hide, even temporarily, their hostile intent.

The reproach or insult heaped upon the psalmist had broken his heart. Within himself, he felt crushed and sick. In vain, he looked for others to take pity on him. As for comforters, he found none. (See the Notes section for the Septuagint rendering of verse 20[21], which does not include mention of the psalmist’s heart.)

Instead of giving him something desirable or suitable, they handed him something comparable to gall or poison for food and vinegar to drink. (See the Notes section for parallels in Jesus’ life with those described in verse 21[22].)


In retribution, their own table (whatever they regarded as desirable for food and drink) should become a snare to them. Whatever would be intended for their well-being or security should become a trap for them.

Their eyes should be darkened, preventing them from seeing. Their “loins” should be made to shake continually. This could mean that their hips would become unstable or that their lower backs would be feeble or prone to spasms. Like the quotation in the book of Romans, the extant Septuagint rendering refers to bending their back. (See the Notes section on verses 22[23] and 23[24].)

The psalmist prayed that God would pour out his indignation upon the godless enemies and that they be overtaken by his burning anger. They should become the object of severe judgment for their hateful course.

For their camp to become a desolation and no dweller to be in their tents would denote complete annihilation. There would be no offspring to take up residence in their former habitation. The scene is that of a completely abandoned nomadic encampment. (See the Notes section on verse 25[26] for additional comments.)

Whatever God may permit to befall an individual is represented in the Scriptures as his action. The person whom God struck or allowed to experience pain the godless ones would relentlessly pursue, intending to harm him. With malicious glee, they would then tell about the suffering of God’s wounded ones or persons whose affliction he had permitted.

For God to add guilt upon the guilt of the godless ones could mean that he would take note of their crimes and then punish them according to the complete record of their sins. They were not to come into God’s “righteousness.” This could mean that they would not benefit from God’s righteousness, receiving no reward, or that their would be no acquittal for them.

They should be blotted out from the “book of the living,” their names being completely obliterated. They should not be numbered among the upright or those whom the Most High approves.

With reference to himself, the psalmist spoke of being afflicted and in pain. He prayed for God’s salvation or deliverance to set him on high or in a secure position.

Doubtless on account of his deliverance, the psalmist would praise the name of God (God himself, the bearer of the name) with song, and magnify him with thanksgiving.

He believed that his sincere expressions of praise and thanksgiving would be more pleasing to YHWH than sacrificing a bull, an unblemished animal with horns and hoofs.

The psalmist did not specify what the humble, meek, or lowly would see. Possibly he meant that they would witness his experiencing God’s assistance and thus being provided with assurance that the Most High would also come to their aid. This would prompt them to rejoice. The prayerful desire that the heart of those seeking God would live may be understood to mean that they would be filled with courage upon seeing the evidence of divine deliverance. The Septuagint reads, “Seek God, and your soul will live.”

The psalmist did not doubt that YHWH would hear or grant a favorable response to the needy. Never would the Most High despise his servants who may find themselves in bonds or in other unfavorable circumstances.

God’s saving acts provide the occasion for universal praise to resound. Heaven, earth or land, and seas, and everything moving or alive in them should all praise YHWH.

God would save Zion, safeguarding it from falling into enemy hands. The cities of Judah would be built, which could mean that they would grow and flourish. The ones who would possess the land would be the godly whom the psalmist mentioned earlier as the afflicted and needy. They were God’s servants, and their offspring would inherit the land. Those who loved God’s name or had deep affection for him, as evident from their upright conduct and compassion for others, would dwell there. (For additional comments, see the Notes section on verse 35[36].)


In verse 3(4), a Dead Sea Scroll reads, “God of Israel” (not “my God”).

The words (verse 4[5]) about being hated without cause found their fulfillment or full meaning in Jesus Christ, as he incurred hatred on account of doing good. (John 15:24, 25)

In verse 4(5), translators have rendered the concluding phrase either as a statement or a question. “I am forced to restore what I did not steal.” (NIV) “What I did not steal must I now restore?” (NRSV) The Septuagint reads, “What I had not taken I then restored.” This could mean that the psalmist gave up what he had not taken, providing additional evidence that his enemies hated him without having any valid reason. During Absalom’s revolt, David, with his loyal supporters, fled from Jerusalem. Nothing of all that he left behind had he obtained through improper means. Absalom then took possession of everything, including the concubines who had been left behind, violating them in keeping with Ahithophel’s counsel. (2 Samuel 15:14-16; 16:15, 21, 22)

After witnessing Jesus clearing out those engaged in commercial activities in the courtyard of the temple, his disciples recalled the words of the psalmist, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” With the exception of a different form of the verb for “consume,” the reading of Psalm 69:9(10) in the Septuagint (Psalm 68:9[10]) is the same as the quotation in John 2:17. The Septuagint has the aorist tense (“consumed”) and the quotation in John contains the future tense (“will consume”).

In his letter to the Romans (15:3), the apostle Paul quoted from Psalm 69:9(10) to show that Christ did not please himself but was willing to bear insults. “The reproaches of those reproaching you fell upon me.” The wording of the quotation and the extant Septuagint text are the same.

The reading of verse 10(11) is obscure in the Masoretic Text (“and I wept, with fasting my soul”). The Septuagint rendering is, “With fasting, I bent my soul,” possibly meaning that he humbled his “soul” or himself by fasting. A Dead Sea Scroll reads, “I struck my soul with fasting.” (The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible)

In verse 13(14), the wording of a Dead Sea Scroll indicates that the psalmist’s prayer is acceptable to YHWH.

A Dead Sea Scroll contains an expanded text for verse 14(15). “Deliver me from the mire, and do not let me sink, and do not let the one who seizes me conquer me. Deliver me from those who hate me, from the depths of the waters.” (The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible)

In verse 18(19), the feminine suffix forming part of the verb for “redeem” refers to the psalmist’s “soul,” which may be understood to mean he himself or his life.

The extant Septuagint rendering of verse 20(21) differs somewhat from the Masoretic Text. “My soul expected reproach and distress, and I waited for one to sympathize, and there was none, and for comforters, and I found none.”

The experiences of the psalmist (verse 21[22]) find a parallel in what happened to Jesus Christ shortly before his death. Before the soldiers pounded the nails into his hands and feet, he was offered wine mixed with gall, evidently to stupefy him, but he refused to drink it. Shortly before his death, he experienced intense thirst. In response to his words, “I am thirsty,” likely a Roman soldier, to give him a drink, reached up with a reed to which a sponge filled with sour wine or vinegar was attached. (Matthew 27:34, 48; John 19:28-30)

As part of his development regarding the failure of many of his own people to put faith in Christ, Paul (in Romans 11:9, 10) quoted from Psalm 69:22, 23(23, 24), “Let their table become a snare and a trap and a stumbling block and a retribution for them. Let their eyes be darkened that they may not see, and always bend down their back.” With some exceptions, the extant Septuagint reading (68:22[23]) is basically the same, “Let their table before them become a trap, a retribution, and a stumbling block.” Verse 23(24) reads the same as the quotation in Romans.

At the time a replacement was sought for Judas, Peter quoted from Psalm 69:25(26), establishing that Judas’ place had been permanently vacated. (Acts 1:20) “Let his residence become desolate, and let there be no dweller in it.” The extant Septuagint text (68:25[26]) differs somewhat. “Let their residence become desolate, and in their tents let there be no dweller.”

In verse 35(36), numerous translations render the Hebrew word for “build” as “rebuild,” suggesting that the cities of Judah had been desolated. This would not fit the period of David’s reign. If “rebuild” is the correct sense, this could mean that, although reflecting experiences from David’s life, the psalm may have been edited to fit events from a much later period. During Hezekiah’s reign, for example, the Assyrians desolated many cities of Judah, and Jerusalem was threatened but then saved through divine intervention.