Psalm 86

A Prayer of David.

1 Bow down Your ear, O Lord, hear me;
For I am poor and needy.

2 Preserve my life, for I am holy;
You are my God;
Save Your servant who trusts in You!

3 Be merciful to me, O Lord,
For I cry to You all day long.

4 Rejoice the soul of Your servant,
For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

5 For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.

Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
And attend to the voice of my supplications.

7 In the day of my trouble I will call upon You,
For You will answer me.

Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord;
Nor are there any works like Your works.

9 All nations whom You have made
Shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
And shall glorify Your name.

10 For You are great, and do wondrous things;
You alone are God.

11 Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.

12 I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.

13 For great is Your mercy toward me,
And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

14 O God, the proud have risen against me,
And a mob of violent men have sought my life,
And have not set You before them.

15 But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious,
Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.

16 Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me!
Give Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your maidservant.

17 Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

This is the only song in the “Third Book” of the Psalms that is attributed to David.

The psalm’s theme of God’s sovereignty (i.e., lordship) and the psalmist’s corresponding servanthood is further driven home by the seven-fold repetition (signifying perfection/completion) of the word “Lord” (“my Lord/Master/Sovereign” as opposed to “LORD” = Yahweh) and the three-fold repetition (signifying the “utmost” of something) of the expression “They servant.” — Wechsler, page 210.


This psalm is peculiar in many ways. Its first peculiarity is that the name of God which dominates is Adonai, or Lord, which indicates absolute Lordship, and by the use of which the singer shows his sense of submission and loyalty. The name Jehovah is used four times, thus revealing the singer’s sense of God as Helper; and the name God five times, thus revealing his consciousness of the Divine might. The supreme sense however, is that of the Divine authority.

The next matter of special note is that while the psalm is a beautiful and consecutive song, it is largely composed of quotations from other psalms, thus revealing the singer’s familiarity with them.

Finally, the psalm is unique in its method of urging a petition upon the ground of some known fact. This is clearly seen if the use of the word “for” is noticed (vs. 1-5, 7, 10, 13). In the first four verses the facts are those which indicate his attitude toward God. In the last four the facts are those revealing God’s attitude toward him. — Morgan, pages 159-160.


Verses 1-5 — “Prefacing” the notion of God’s perfect sovereignty is the notion of God’s preeminent, or superlative, sovereignty (i.e., that He is the sovereign of all Creation, with no sovereign “over” Him). — Wechsler, page 210.


Verses 6-13 — In this section David emphasizes the uniqueness of his Sovereign—i.e., not only that there is no one above Him, but also that there is no one like Him. There is no other sovereign who can be credited with having made all the nations, and there is no other sovereign whom all those nations shall one day come and worship (v.9)—which statement refers specifically to the nations worship of Christ, to whom this passage is applied in Revelation 15:4. David’s affirmation that God has delivered his soul from Sheol (v.13) is also intended with specific reference to Christ, whose resurrection from Sheol David “looked ahead” and saw—and understood to be the guarantee of his own resurrection therefrom (see Acts 2:31). — Wechsler, page 211.


Verses 14-17 — David concludes by affirming the perfection of his Sovereign—perfect not only in His “essential,” or “incommunicable,” attributes (such as omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence), or in His “shared” attributes (such as His righteousness, holiness, or spiritual life), but also in His expressed attributes—specifically, since they are most meaningful to David, His positive expressed attributes, such as His lovingkindness (v.15), His mercy (v.15), His grace (vs. 15-16), and His imparting of help and comfort (v.17), all of which are subsumed in the biblical notion of “love.” — Wechsler, page 212.

Williams’ take:

The title of the psalm is “A Prayer of David”; that is, an intercession by the Messiah on behalf of His people. The argument of the prayer is that God, having by His mighty power rescued Him from those that sought His life (v.1-7), and also from the dominion of the lowest hell (v.13), will surely deliver His beloved followers from their enemies and from their sufferings (vs 14-17). He appeals to Jehovah’s ear (vs. 1, 6). In His distress He finds all His joy and comfort and hope of deliverance in God. …

The introduction of the virgin Mary in v.16 emphasizes the fact that Christ became truly man; for otherwise He could not be an Advocate for men. It was necessary that as man he should be temped in all points (Hebrews 4:15). It was equally necessary that as an Intercessor He should be sinless; hence He, the true David, could say what David himself could never say, “I am holy” (v.2). — Williams, pages 366-367.

Guthrie’s take on v.16:

The phrase “son of Thy handmaid” implies a relationship akin to that of a slave born into his master’s household and therefore having a double claim upon his master’s protection. — Guthrie, page 505.

I lean toward Williams’ view—that it’s the Messiah speaking.

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