Powerful enemies threaten the composer of Psalm 59, but she or he turns to Yahweh in trust and beseeches him to manifest his steadfast love for the psalmist by delivering her or him from these enemies. Psalm 59 has two alternating recurring refrains or choruses:
a. Verses 6 and 14:
"Each evening they come back,
howling like dogs
and prowling about the city."
b. Verses 9-10a and 17:
"O my strength, I will watch for [sing praises to] you;
for you, O God, are my fortress.
My God in his steadfast love will meet me [the God who shows me steadfast love]."
The first section of Psalm 59 is verses 1-10, which falls naturally into two parts. The first part is verses 1-5:
"Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
protect me from those who rise up against me.
Deliver me from those who work evil;
from the bloodthirsty save me.
Even now they lie in wait for my life;
the mighty stir up strife against me.
For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord,
for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.
Rouse yourself, come to my help and see!
You, Lord God of hosts, are God of Israel.
Awake to punish all the nations;
spare none of those who treacherously plot evil."
1. These verses use many terms to describe the psalmist's opponents: my enemies, those who rise up against me, those who work evil, the bloodthirsty, those who lie in wait for my life, the mighty, all the nations, and those who treacherously plot evil. It is impossible to know with certainty who these enemies are, or the historical setting of this psalm. The phrase "all the nations" in verses 5 and 8 suggest the enemies are foreign nations who are about to attack or are in the process of attacking God's people. In this case, the psalmist may be the king of Israel or the commander of the Israelite army.
2. The sin of the psalmist's enemies is a matter of the heart. Their activities express externally what is going on in their heart. This is clear from verse 5: "they treacherously plot evil." Before human beings DO anything ("WORK evil"--verse 2), they PLOT in their hearts what they hope to do. Jesus says in Mark 7:21-23:
"For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."
3. In this case, God is not using the psalmist's enemies to punish the psalmist for sin (verses 3c-4a). Wicked people often oppress, harm, and destroy innocent faithful followers of God. Jesus is the supreme example of this (see 1 Peter 2:21-25).
4. In times of distress and reversal and loss, often it appears to those who are under stress or are suffering that God is asleep, that God is not concerned about the pain his faithful people are enduring, that God is silent, that God is not active and working in his world, as he has promised (see Psalm 44:23-26). Thus, the poet beseeches God: "Rouse yourself!" "Awake!" That is, "Swing into action and deliver your people!"
As "God of hosts" (God of the heavenly angelic armies), our heavenly King is able to protect us and save us from all opponents. May we learn to trust in him to do this in times of oppression and frustration and distress.