Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God: defend me from them that rise up against me. Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody men. — Psalm 59:1-2
John G. Paton (1824-1907) was a Scottish missionary. In 1858, he and his young wife sailed to Tanna, an island in the New Hebrides that was inhabited by cannibals. Surrounded by violence and fierce opposition to his message, Paton found in God the antidote to fear. He had a deep assurance that his life would be preserved until his work on earth was accomplished.
One night around 10:00 o’clock, Paton’s faithful little dog, Clutha, jumped on him and woke him up. Looking out the window, he saw that the mission house was surrounded by cannibals, some with blazing torches and the rest armed with various weapons. As he watched, they set fire to the nearby church and the reed fence which connected the church to their dwelling. Paton realized that in a matter of moments their house, too, would be in flames.
Knowing that infuriated men were poised to kill them as soon as they attempted to escape, the missionaries knelt in prayer and committed themselves to God. Then Paton rushed outside to cut down the reed fence. Instantly he was surrounded by a company of savages who raised their clubs and screamed, “Kill him! Kill him!”
At that very moment, a roaring sound came from the south and a fierce wind began to blow. If the wind had come from the north, the flames from the church would have quickly engulfed the mission house. However, the wind blew from the opposite direction. In seconds, a torrential rain began falling. Terrified, the savages fled, shouting: “This is Jehovah’s rain! Truly their God is fighting for them!”
The fright of the natives was short-lived. The storm abated, and early the next morning, the violent men returned to finish what they had begun the night before. With wild shrieks they approached the mission house. God was still on the scene, though, and suddenly amid the rising crescendo of threatening shrieks, the missionaries heard the natives yell, “Sail O! Sail O!” A vessel was sailing into the harbor just when all hope seemed lost! The missionaries were soon rescued and taken to another island.
Like John Paton and his wife, David knew what it was to suffer from the attacks of ruthless enemies who were determined to take his life. In today’s focus verses, the psalmist cried out for deliverance, urgently imploring God to rescue him from peril. David knew that he was not being assailed because of sin, but because his enemies had hearts full of violence. He was also confident that God would be his defense and would preserve him from the assault of those who rose up against him.
We live in an era in which crime and violence are far too common. Our world is full of trouble, and at times we may feel vulnerable. However, like John Paton and the psalmist David, we can depend upon God for protection and deliverance. We have the assurance of His Word that He never forsakes His own!
Psalm 58 is classified as an imprecatory psalm (psalms that invoke judgment, calamity, or curses, upon one’s enemies or the enemies of God), primarily due to the seven-fold denunciation of unjust judges found in verses 6-9. David’s bold and indignant outcry against judicial corruption was not based upon wrong done to him personally, but upon the fact that those with governing authority were failing to administer justice to the people or serve righteously. The psalm includes a call for a public demonstration of God’s righteous judgment.
The words Al-taschith and Michtam of David could be translated “Destroy not” and “A golden psalm” of David. The setting for this psalm is not identified, but Bible scholars suggest that it relates to some event which occurred during the time of Absalom’s rebellion.
While the opening verse addresses the congregation, the psalmist was alluding to unjust judges. The word “congregation” could also be translated “silent ones,” and may have initially meant “gods” or “mighty ones.” The “sons of men” mentioned in verse 1 was another way of referring to “human beings.” David identified the evildoers as those who purported to speak and judge righteously, while devising wicked plots in their hearts and following through with wicked actions.
In verses 6-9, David revealed the depth of his contempt for the judges in a series of imprecations against them which are presented in vivid, figurative language. The request for God to “break their teeth” (verse 6) was a plea for God to render the wicked judiciary powerless. He continued to call for the wrath of God to be poured out upon them in six further depictions of God’s righteous intervention. The phrase “before your pots can feel the thorns” meant that judgment would be poured out before the evildoers could kindle a fire of green wood beneath their celebratory meal.
The psalmist concluded with an affirmation that the righteous will rejoice when divine justice prevails and the wicked judges are condemned.
Psalm 59 is the final psalm in a trilogy which bear the same title: “To the chief Musician, Al-taschitith, Michtam of David.” Classified as a lament, it recounts David’s prayer during the incident recorded in 1 Samuel 19:11-17, in which King Saul twice sent men to watch his house during the night so they could seize and kill him in the morning.
The theme of this psalm, like many others, is a cry for deliverance. In verse 3, the psalmist expressed his confidence that his oppressors were not instruments of divine judgment, as he knew that he had not transgressed against God. The refrain, “God is my defense” (verses 9 and 17) points to David’s faith — a faith that, though tested, overcame fear.
David compared Saul’s cohorts to the packs of wild dogs who prowled about Eastern cities of that day. The statement that “they belch out with their mouth” (verse 7) indicated that these evil men poured forth words of venom. The psalmist’s unusual request, “Slay them not, lest my people forget” (verse 11), meant that David did not want the wicked to be destroyed immediately; he seemingly feared that their quick destruction might allow the people to forget God’s judgment.
Expressing confidence that God would indeed deliver, David concluded the psalm with a promise to “sing of thy power…of thy mercy in the morning” (verse 16).
Psalm 60 bears the second longest superscription of all the psalms; only that of Psalm 18 is longer. The phrase Shushan-eduth means “Lily of the Testimony” and likely refers to a familiar tune to which the psalm was to be sung. As a Michtam or teaching psalm, the words were intended to be preserved in Israel’s memory. Verses 5-12 of Psalm 60 are repeated in Psalm 108:6-13.
This psalm was written during a time of war; descriptions in 2 Samuel 8:13-14, 1 Kings 11:15-16, and 1 Chronicles 18:12-13 provide the historical setting. These passages reveal that David wrote this psalm as Israel was invaded from the south by the Edomites while he and his army were fighting in the north against the Ammonites and Syrians. While David felt that the calamity Israel faced was the result of God’s displeasure with them, he expressed his desire to rally around God’s banner. The fierce battle with the army of Edom, which occurred near the southern end of the Dead Sea, ended with a decisive victory for Israel, and the Edomites never recovered from their defeat.
Verses 6-8 declare God’s intention toward the nations involved in the conflict. Gilead, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Judah, (mentioned in verse 7), are the areas that together comprised the nation of Israel. Moab, Edom, and Philistia (verse 8) were neighboring countries which were hostile to God’s people. The phrase “Moab is my washpot” refers to the custom of slaves washing the feet of the master, and thus indicated demeaning humiliation. Similarly, the statement “Over Edom will I cast out my shoe,” related to being treated as a slave. The “strong city” of verse 9 was possibly a reference to the hidden stronghold of Sela in Moab, known in modern Jordan as Petra.
The psalm ends with an assertion that alliances with other nations would not ensure success, but God would bring victory to those who put their trust in Him.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Book I (1:1 — 41:13)
II. Book II (42:1 — 72:20)
III. Book III (73:1 — 89:52)
IV. Book IV (90:1 — 106:48)
V. Book V (107:1 — 150:6)
We can have confidence that God is able to protect and deliver us, no matter how troubling our immediate circumstances!