Psalm 86
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
This Psalm is a mosaic of fragments from other Psalms and scriptures[47]. It claims no poetic originality, yet it possesses a pathetic earnestness and tender grace of its own. It is distinguished by the seven times repeated use of Adonai, ‘Lord,’ in addressing God, a title which expresses the consciousness of specially belonging to God, of standing under His immediate guidance and protection. To this title corresponds the Psalmist’s designation of himself as God’s servant, and the son of His handmaid (Psalm 86:16, cp. Psalm 86:3-4). The Psalm furnishes at least one noble phrase which is unique (Psalm 86:11 b), and in Psalm 86:9 it rises to a height of Messianic hope not surpassed elsewhere. It is the composition of some pious soul whose mind was steeped with the scriptures already in existence, and who recast reminiscences of them into a prayer to suit his own particular needs. Primarily it appears to be an expression of personal devotion, rather than a prayer for the use of the congregation; though sometimes perhaps the Psalmist identifies himself with the community of which he is a member, and speaks of its circumstances and needs as his own (Psalm 86:13-14).

[47] The references are given in the notes. Psalms 25, 26, 27, 40, 54 are quoted almost verbatim. Psalms 5, 6 (?), 9, 17, 22, 28, 31, 50 (?), 55, 56, 57, 72, 77, 116, 130 (?) seem to have been laid under contribution, though where the language is general, it is impossible to say that it is derived from one Ps. rather than another. The use of the two groups 25–28, 54–57 is noticeable.

Of other books, Exodus 34:6 is quoted verbatim: and the Psalmist seems to be further indebted to Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 3:24; Deuteronomy 28:58; Deuteronomy 32:22; Isaiah 24:15 (?); Psalm 49:8; Psalm 49:13; Jeremiah 32:39.

It is the only Psalm in the Third Book which has the name of David prefixed to it. The title A Prayer of David can only mean that it is an imitation of the Prayers of David (Psalm 72:20), and was probably never intended to mean more than this. It cannot have been written till after the Return from the Captivity (to which Psalm 86:13 may be an allusion), but at what period there is nothing to shew. The author apparently had the Elohistic collection in his hands as revised by its editor (Introd. p. lvi), for he quotes Psalm 54:3 in Psalm 86:14 in the Elohistic form.

One thought leads to another and no definite structural arrangement can be traced in the Psalm. It may perhaps be divided as follows.

i. A series of petitions, each followed by some reason which the Psalmist urges for the hearing of his prayer (Psalm 86:1-5).

ii. Renewing his supplication, he finds a ground of confidence in the incomparable nature of God, which suggests the thought of the universal homage which will one day be offered to Him as the only true God (Psalm 86:6-10).

iii. Prayers for guidance and vows of thanksgiving lead on to the description of present dangers. Pleading God’s revealed character as a God of lovingkindness, he prays for further blessing, and such a clear token of God’s favour as may prove to his enemies that he is under God’s protection (Psalm 86:11-17).

A Prayer of David. Bow down thine ear, O LORD, hear me: for I am poor and needy.
1. Bow down &c.] A common form of invocation. Cp. Psalm 17:6; Psalm 31:1; Isaiah 37:17; &c. hear me] Answer me (Psalm 55:2).

for I am poor and needy] Or, afflicted and needy: and therefore one of those whom God has specially promised to help (Psalm 12:5). From Psalm 40:17 (= Psalm 70:5): cp. Psalm 109:22.

1–5. A series of petitions, each supported by the ground on which the Psalmist pleads for a hearing.

Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee.
2. Preserve my soul] = Psalm 25:20.

for I am holy] R.V. godly fails to bring out the connexion of the word with chesed, ‘lovingkindness’ (Psalm 86:5; Psalm 86:13; Psalm 86:15). Cheyne gives duteous in love. But the passive sense beloved, ‘the object of thy loving-kindness,’ is far more suitable. He pleads not his own merits, but the covenant relation into which God has brought him as an Israelite. See on Psalm 50:5; Psalm 85:8.

Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily.
3. Be gracious unto me, O Lord;

For unto thee do I cry all the day long.

See Psalm 57:1-2, and elsewhere (Psalm 3:4; Psalm 4:1; &c.).

Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
4. Rejoice &c.] Cp. Psalm 90:15.

for unto thee &c.] From Psalm 25:1. God alone is the object of his desires, his aspirations, his prayers. Cp. Psalm 143:8; Lamentations 3:41.

For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.
5. ready to forgive] The exact word is found only here, but for the thought see Psalm 130:4; and for the whole verse cp. Exodus 34:6 f.

Give ear, O LORD, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications.
6. Taken from Psalm 55:1-2; Psalm 5:2; Psalm 28:2; cp. Psalm 130:2.

attend] R.V. hearken.

6–10. Renewed supplication for a hearing. The Psalmist is sure of an answer, for Jehovah is the only true God, Whom all nations will one day acknowledge.

In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.
7. From Psalm 77:2; Psalm 17:6.

Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works.
8. There is none like thee among the gods, O Lord;

And there is nought like thy works.

Based upon Exodus 15:11, which is frequently imitated elsewhere; and Deuteronomy 3:24. In Psalm 86:5 the Psalmist dwelt on God’s willingness to answer prayer; here he comforts himself with the thought of His ability. His is the power possessed by none of those who are called gods and worshipped as such.

All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.
9. Apparently a reminiscence of Psalm 22:27, combined possibly with Isaiah 24:15 (‘glorify ye … the name of Jehovah’) and other passages. But the verse is remarkable for the distinctness and fulness of its Messianic hope, and for the thought implied in the words whom thou hast made, that the nations cannot fail ultimately to fulfil the will of their Creator (Revelation 4:11). It is taken up and expanded in Revelation 15:3-4.

For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.
10. Cp. Psalm 77:13-14; Psalm 72:18; Psalm 83:18; and Exodus 15:11; Exodus 34:10.

Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.
11. Teach me thy way, O Lord] Word for word from Psalm 27:11.

I will walk in thy truth] When Thou dost teach me Thy way. From Psalm 26:3.

unite my heart to fear thy name] Let it be no longer divided between Thee and other attractions; let all its powers and affections be concentrated in reverence to Thee as Thou hast revealed Thyself in the works of creation and in acts of redemption. The unity and uniqueness of God demand unity of heart in His worshippers (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Deuteronomy 10:12). Such singleheartedness is frequently expressed by the phrases ‘a whole heart,’ ‘a perfect heart,’ but the verb unite is found here only in this sense. Doubtless it is an allusion to the promise in Jeremiah 32:39, “I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for ever.” Cp. too Deuteronomy 28:58.

The LXX and Syr. read the consonants with different vowels (yichad for yachçd), let my heart rejoice to fear thy name.

I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore.
12, 13. Cp. Psalm 57:9-10; Psalm 9:1; Psalm 50:15; Psalm 50:23.

with all my heart] R.V. with my whole heart; when the prayer of Psalm 86:11 is granted.

thy mercy] Thy lovingkindness.

and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell] From the nethermost Sheol. From Psalm 56:13 (= Psalm 116:8); Deuteronomy 32:22. Deliverance from imminent danger of death may be meant; yet here the Psalmist may identify himself with the nation, and refer to its deliverance from the death of the exile. Cp. Psalm 85:6.

For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.
O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them.
14. Again, though the Psalmist may be referring to personal circumstances, it is not impossible that he is alluding to dangers by which the community was threatened. The verse is taken almost word for word from Psalm 54:3, with perhaps a reminiscence of Psalm 22:16 (‘assembly of evil doers’). The variation proud for strangers may be accidental: the consonants of the two words zçdîm and zarim are easily confused, D (ד) and R (ר) being much alike in Hebrew. It should be noted that Psalms 54. is quoted in its ‘Elohistic’ form, so that apparently the collection had already been made and edited by the Elohistic editor.

assemblies] Assembly, or congregation.

But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.
15. Word for word from Exodus 34:6. With his proud and merciless enemies he contrasts the revealed character of God, as the ground of the prayer which follows. Though he may have deserved punishment, God cannot surely abandon him to them.

longsuffering] Or, slow to anger (R.V.).

O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid.
16. O turn &c.] From Psalm 25:16.

have mercy upon me] Render, be gracious unto me, to shew the connexion with the attribute ‘gracious’ in Psalm 86:15.

thy servant … the son of thine handmaid] Cp. Psalm 116:16. ‘The son of thine handmaid’ is a synonym for ‘thy servant,’ denoting a closer relationship, for servants ‘born in the house’ (Genesis 14:14) were the most trusted dependents. Cp. “of the household of God,” Ephesians 2:19. It has been conjectured that the Psalmist, like Samuel, was early dedicated to the service of God; but the words do not necessarily convey this meaning.

Shew me a token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, LORD, hast holpen me, and comforted me.
17. a token for good] Some visible and unmistakable sign of Thy favour towards me. Cp. Jeremiah 24:6; Ezra 8:22; Nehemiah 5:19; Nehemiah 13:31.

that they &c.] That they which hate me may be ashamed when they see that thou &c. Cp. Psalm 40:3; Psalm 6:10; Psalm 35:4 : and for holpen … comforted, Isaiah 49:8; Isaiah 49:13.

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bible Hub
Psalm 85
Top of Page
Top of Page