Psalm 86 – “Petition”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist praises God and asks to be saved from his enemies.

II. Photo
The psalmist asks for strength: “Grant your strength to your servant and deliver the son of your maidservant!” (v. 16b)

III. Select Verses    
2-5: Preserve my life, for I am steadfast; O You, my God, deliver Your servant who trusts in You. Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I call to You all day long;  bring joy to Your servant’s life, for on You, LORD, I set my hope. For You, LORD, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on You.
8-10: There is none like You among the gods, O LORD, and there are no deeds like Yours. All the nations You have made will come to bow down before You, O LORD, and they will pay honor to Your name. For You are great and perform wonders; You alone are God.
11-12:  Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; let my heart be undivided in reverence for Your name. I will praise You, O LORD, my God, with all my heart and pay honor to Your name forever.
14: O God, arrogant men have risen against me; a band of ruthless men seek my life; they are not mindful of You.
16-17: Turn to me and have mercy on me; grant Your strength to Your servant and deliver the son of Your maidservant. Show me a sign of Your favor, that my enemies may see and be frustrated because You, O LORD, have given me aid and comfort.

IV. Outline
1a. Superscription
1b-7. Invocation, petitions
8-10. Hymnic praise/wish/rationale
11a. Theophoric petition
11b-12. Vow to obey/praise
13. Rationale = account of past salvation
14. Complaint
15. Affirmation of confidence
16-17. Petition, imprecation

V. Comment
Psalm 86, which belongs to the petition/complaint genre, exhibits a great degree of righteousness: “I am righteous, I trust in you” (v. 2), “I call to you all day” (v. 3), “bring joy to Your servant’s life, for on You, Lord, I set my hope” (v. 4), “Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; let my heart be undivided in reverence for Your name,” (v. 11) etc. The phrase “But You, O Lord, are a God compassionate and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” in v. 15 appears in similar forms throughout the Bible:

  • Ex. 34:6  – The LORD passed before him and proclaimed: “The LORD! the LORD! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness,
  • Num. 14:18 – ‘The LORD! slow to anger and abounding in kindness; forgiving iniquity and transgression; yet not remitting all punishment, but visiting the iniquity of fathers upon children, upon the third and fourth generations.’
  • Neh. 9:17  – Refusing to obey, unmindful of Your wonders that You did for them, they stiffened their necks, and in their defiance resolved to return to their slavery. But You, being a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, long-suffering and abounding in faithfulness, did not abandon them.
  • Psa. 103:8 – The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.
  • Psa. 145:8 – The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
  • Jonah 4:2 – He prayed to the LORD, saying, “O LORD! Isn’t this just what I said when I was still in my own country? That is why I fled beforehand to Tarshish. For I know that You are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in kindness, renouncing punishment.

Gerstenberger notes that the relative stability of this phrase might indicate its liturgical use.

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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