Psalm 59


This psalm begins by focusing on the dangers that lie in wait in the night, and then it turns to faith in God as our defence against evil doers and our refuge from wicked attacks.

The historical background to this psalm is the time when David ran away from the court of Saul to his own house, 1 Samuel 19:10-17.


‘For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” Of David. A miktam. When Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding about the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

The heading tells us that this psalm of David for the director of music. Some commentators believe that ‘director or music’ is God Himself and others believe that it is a song leader who led choirs or musicians, 1 Chronicles 6:33 / 1 Chronicles 16:17 / 1 Chronicles 25:6.

The psalm was to be directed to the ‘tune of a do not destroy’, no one knows what this tune was but some suggest it reflects David’s words to Saul, 1 Samuel 26:9.

The word, ‘miktam’ means golden, hence why it’s often referred to as the ‘golden psalm’. However, there are others who believe that the word ‘miktam’ may have some musical meaning.

Still others believe that the word means to cover, when we look at other psalms with the same heading, Psalms 56-60, they all appear to be written in times of distress, which leads some to believe that the word ‘miktam’ has the idea of covering the lips in the sense of secrecy. In other words, these are silent or secret psalms which were whispered during times of distress.

The background to this psalm was when King Saul was intent on killing David, and so, David begins his life as a fugitive, 1 Samuel 19:11-12.

‘Deliver me from my enemies, O God; be my fortress against those who are attacking me. Deliver me from evildoers and save me from those who are after my blood. See how they lie in wait for me! Fierce men conspire against me for no offense or sin of mine, LORD. I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me. Arise to help me; look on my plight! You, LORD God Almighty, you who are the God of Israel, rouse yourself to punish all the nations; show no mercy to wicked traitors.’ Psalm 59:1-5

As David’s life was in real danger from Saul’s men, he asks God to deliver him, Psalm 18:48, and bring judgment upon them, 1 Samuel 19:11-12. He knows he’s done nothing wrong, he’s done which deserves the onslaught which was coming his way from his enemies.

He wants God to be his fortress, that is, his high tower of strength, Psalm 18:2. David asks this of God four times in this psalm, Psalm 59:9 / Psalm 59:16-17. This is understandable because Saul and his men wanted nothing less that David’s blood, that is, they want him dead, Psalm 5:6 / Psalm 26:9 / Psalm 55:23.

His enemies lie in wait, Psalm 10:9, they’re waiting to carry out a surprise attack at David’s house, waiting for an opportunity to grab and kill him, 1 Samuel 19:11-12.

David tells God that his enemies had no real reason to justify what they are trying to do. Despite David not being guilty of any offence and despite not committing any sin, his enemies are still ready to attack him, Psalm 7:8 / Psalm 17:2 / Psalm 35:24 / Psalm 43:1.

It’s no wonder he asks God to arise to help him, that is, he asks God to get actively involved in helping him and see what happening, Psalm 7:6 / Psalm 35:23.

Notice the three names or titles he addresses God with, ‘LORD’, that is, Yahweh, ‘God Almighty’, that is, Elohim Sabaoth, and ‘God of Israel’, that is, Elohi Israel.

Notice also, that David wants God to punish ‘all the nations’, Psalm 2:1, and Saul and his men, that is, the ‘wicked traitors’ who were trying to kill him. This implies that there was also a threat from those who were not of Israel.

You may notice at the end of verse five, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no-one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine David pausing for a breath as he contemplates how God was going to punish his enemies.

‘They return at evening, snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city. See what they spew from their mouths—the words from their lips are sharp as swords, and they think, “Who can hear us?” But you laugh at them, LORD; you scoff at all those nations.’ Psalm 59:6-8

Saul and his men were hunting David down like a dog, they were like a pack of wild dogs prowling around in the city, looking for anything they might eat.

They sought to hunt David down and kill him, their words were sharp and dangerous, Proverbs 15:2 / Proverbs 15:28, just as sharp and dangerous as a sword, Psalm 57:4, and in their minds they thought that God didn’t know what they were doing, Psalm 10:11.

David knows that God can indeed hear them and He laughs at them, Psalm 2:4 / Psalm 37:13, He laughs at the thought of David’s enemies thinking He doesn’t hear them or care about what they are doing.

All who opposed God are scoffed at by God. David has full confidence in God to defend him and protect him from all his enemies.

‘You are my strength, I watch for you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely. God will go before me and will let me gloat over those who slander me. But do not kill them, Lord our shield, or my people will forget. In your might uproot them and bring them down. For the sins of their mouths, for the words of their lips, let them be caught in their pride. For the curses and lies they utter, consume them in your wrath, consume them till they are no more. Then it will be known to the ends of the earth that God rules over Jacob.’ Psalm 59:9-13

Notice how David describes his God, He is his strength, his fortress, He is his God whom he can rely on, He is his shield. David knows how strong his enemies are and he knows he has no chance with God being his strength, fortress and shield, Psalm 5:12 / Psalm 18:2 / Psalm 33:20.

He has full confidence that God will go before him, Psalm 21:3 / Psalm 17:13 / Psalm 18:5, and allow him to gloat over his enemies, that is, God will allow him to see the victory over his enemies, Psalm 54:7.

Notice David wants God to give him the victory, but he doesn’t want the God to kill them, he wants God to bring them down. The reason he wanted them left alive was on order that his people wouldn’t forget, that is, they would be a living testimony that God worked among the people because He delivered David.

Whatever Saul and his men were saying, their words were damaging, they were sinful, proudful words, they cursed him and lied about him to turn the people against David. It’s possible David overheard what they were saying and maybe he heard them boasting about his death.

David wants God to consume them in His wrath, until they are no more, that is, he wants this whole thing to come to an end, he wants it finished with. When God does this, then everyone will know that God rules over Jacob, 1 Samuel 17:46, that is, everyone will know that God is a righteous and just God, Isaiah 40:22 / Isaiah 40:28.

You may notice at the end of verse thirteen, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no-one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine David pausing for a breath as he contemplates how God will be glorified after consuming his enemies.

‘They return at evening, snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city. They wander about for food and howl if not satisfied. But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.’ Psalm 59:14-17

David repeats what he says earlier, Psalm 59:6, for the purpose of emphasis. We can almost imagine him looking out of his window watching his enemies surrounding his house, like a pack of dangerous wild dogs. Saul’s men are like hungry dogs searching for food and they make lots of noise when they don’t get enough.

While his enemies hunt David down like a dog, trying to fulfil their hunger to kill him, David just sings praises to God. God is his strength, his love, his fortress, and his refuge in times of trouble. He is confident that he will survive the night, Psalm 18:1 / Isaiah 21:12. God is the God, he can rely on, Psalm 59:9.


David made it abundantly clear that he could nothing on his own when it comes to dealing with enemies, he totally relied on God to do something about them for him. As Christians it’s important to rely on God for all things.

When we think about Jesus Himself, he was totally reliant on His Father at all times for everything, John 5:19-20 / John 6:38 / John 10:25 / John 12:49. If Jesus totally relied on His Father in all things, surely we have to rely on the Father much more.

When we pray to the Father and ask Him to supply our daily needs and forgive us of our sins, we demonstrate our reliance upon Him, Matthew 6:12-13 / 1 John 1:9.

When we realise we can’t do anything to help ourselves in times of trouble and we give our worries over to Him and leave them with Him, we demonstrate our reliance upon Him, Matthew 6:31–34 / 1 Peter 5:7.

When we pray and ask for wisdom, in order that He guides our thoughts and the direction of our lives, we are demonstrating our reliance upon Him, Proverbs 3:5-6 / James 1:5.

When we read and study His Word, when we seek to know Him, obey Him, and be guided by His Word, we are demonstrating our reliance upon Him, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 / 1 John 5:2.

Go To Psalm 60


"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."

Proverbs 3:5