Psalm 69 – “Petition”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist laments his situation, confesses his innocence, begs for salvation, imprecates his enemies, and praises God.

II. Photo
The psalmist calls out to God: “Rescue me from the mire; let me not sink; let me be rescued from my enemies, and from the watery depths!” (v. 15)

III. Select Verses    
15-16:  Rescue me from the mire; let me not sink; let me be rescued from my enemies, and from the watery depths. Let the floodwaters not sweep me away; let the deep not swallow me; let the mouth of the Pit not close over me.
20-22: You know my reproach, my shame, my disgrace; You are aware of all my foes. Reproach breaks my heart, I am in despair; I hope for consolation, but there is none, for comforters, but find none. They give me gall for food, vinegar to quench my thirst.
23-27: May their table be a trap for them, a snare for their allies. May their eyes grow dim so that they cannot see; may their loins collapse continually. Pour out Your wrath on them; may Your blazing anger overtake them; may their encampments be desolate; may their tents stand empty. For they persecute those You have struck; they talk about the pain of those You have felled.
31-32: I will extol God’s name with song, and exalt Him with praise. That will please the LORD more than oxen, than bulls with horns and hooves.
36-37:  For God will deliver Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah; they shall live there and inherit it; the offspring of His servants shall possess it; those who cherish His name shall dwell there.

IV. Outline
1. Superscription
2a. Invocation, initial petition
2b-5. Complaint
6. Proclamation of innoncence
7. Petition
8-13. Rationale/complaint
14. Initial petition
15-16. Petition
17-19. Closing petition
20-22. Complaint
23-29. Imprecation, rationale
30a. Complaint
30b. Affirmation of confidence
31-32. Vow; Lesson about sacrifice
33-37. Hymnic praise/wish/call to worship

V. Comment
Psalm 69 is a good example of the complaint/petition/imprecation genre. Tate introduces it as follows: “This psalm is easily recognized as having elements characteristic of individual laments, in which a speaker sets forth to God complaints about adverse situations and sufferings, along with strong petitions for divine action to relieve the distress. The speaker prays about a situation in which he/she is desperately in need of help before sinking into the oblivion of the deep waters of the netherworld. As in other individual laments, the speaker has been falsely attacked by foes. Family (v 9) and community (v 13) have turned against the suppliant, who claims to be a faithful servant of God (vv 8, 18), and whose piety (vv 11–12) and zeal for the temple (v 10) have been rejected and made matters of reproach and scorn (vv 11, 13). The status of the speaker is so Job-like (cf Job 19) that it has become the talk of those in the gate and the subject of drunkards’ songs.

“The prayer of the suffering servant in this psalm involves fierce petitions regarding enemies in vv 23–29, petitions which end with the request that those who have so badly mistreated the speaker will be blotted out of the scroll of the living and not be recorded with the righteous (v 29). This is followed, however, by a section with a changed mood. The speaker expresses confidence in God and encourages other oppressed and depressed people to do the same. V 34 seems to be a key verse: “For Yahweh hears the needy / and he does not despise prisoners who belong to him.” The last two verses of the psalm expresses confidence that God will save Zion, rebuild the cities of Judah, and reestablish the community of the offspring of his servants who dwell there.” (192)

The vow in vv. 31-32 contains a lesson about sacrifice: “I will extol God’s name with song, and exalt Him with praise. That will please the LORD more than oxen, than bulls with horns and hooves.” As was pointed out at Psalm 50, the trivialization of sacrifice can be seen in many prophetic works:

  • Amos 5:21-22: I loathe, I spurn your festivals, I am not appeased by your solemn assemblies. If you offer Me burnt offerings — or your meal offerings — I will not accept them; I will pay no heed To your gifts of fatlings.
  • Hos. 6:6 For I desire goodness, not sacrifice; Obedience to God, rather than burnt offerings.
  • Is. 1:11-13: “What need have I of all your sacrifices?” Says the LORD. “I am sated with burnt offerings of rams, And suet of fatlings, And blood of bulls; And I have no delight In lambs and he-goats.  That you come to appear before Me — Who asked that of you? Trample My courts no more; Bringing oblations is futile, Incense is offensive to Me. New moon and sabbath, Proclaiming of solemnities, Assemblies with iniquity, I cannot abide.
  • Jer. 6:20: What need have I of frankincense That comes from Sheba, Or fragrant cane from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable And your sacrifices are not pleasing to Me.
  • Jer. 7:22: For when I freed your fathers from the land of Egypt, I did not speak with them or command them concerning burnt offerings or sacrifice.

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Gerstenberger, Erhard S. “Psalms Part 1 with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” Forms of Old Testament Literature (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1988).
Tate, Marvin. “Psalms 51-100” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 20 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1990).
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