Psalm 86. Praying in the Day of Trouble

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (28:15)

James J. Tissot (1836-1902, French artist and illustrator), 'David Praying in the Night,'
James J. Tissot (1836-1902, French artist and illustrator), 'David Praying in the Night,' gouache on board, Jewish Museum, New York.

"A Prayer of David

1  Incline your ear, O LORD,
and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

2  Preserve my life, for I am godly;
save your servant, who trusts in you --
you are my God.

3  Be gracious to me, O Lord,
for to you do I cry all the day.

4  Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

5  For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.

6  Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace.

7  In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
for you answer me.

8  There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.

9  All the nations 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,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.

12  I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.

13  For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

14  O God, insolent men have risen up against me;
a band of ruthless men seeks my life,
and they do not set you before them.

15  But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16  Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant,
and save the son of your maidservant.

17  Show me a sign of your favor,
that those who hate me may see and be put to shame
because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me."
(Psalm 86:1-17, ESV)

The psalmist is in trouble. You know the feeling. Fear and a sense of dis-ease seem to grip your stomach. Things are happening around you that you can't control. Scary things. And so you call out to God.

We're told that this is a "prayer of David,"1 either written by David himself or in the manner of David's psalms.2 David saw a lot of trouble in his life, so if he wrote it, it's hard to pinpoint which period of his troubles he is speaking of.

An Overview of Psalm 86

As we read between the lines of this psalm we can get a picture of what's going on. The psalmist's life is in danger from a violent band sent to kill him (verses 2, 14), and he is on edge, depressed (verse 4). Even at the conclusion of the psalm the danger is still present. This is a prayer in the midst of a long-term crisis, the cry of a godly man to his God for help.

In verses 1-7 the psalmist calls out for help. Then in verses 8-10 he turns to view God's greatness and offers praise. His prayer resumes in verses 14-17. It's a back-and-forth rhythm of prayer and praise, a faith that sees God's greatness and calls on him for help in time of need.

You've been there. Maybe you're there now -- in the middle of a crisis that goes on and on. Perhaps the example of the psalmist's mixture of prayer combined with praise can help you find a pattern for conversing with God in the midst of your own struggle.

Listen to My Prayer (Psalm 86:1-4)

The psalmist begins by calling upon God3 with five distinct petitions. Notice in each verse he offers a petition, followed by a reason that God should answer his prayer.

Petition 1: "Incline your ear, O LORD and answer me."4
Reason: "For I am poor and needy." (verse 1)

Petition 2: "Preserve my life."5
Reason: "For I am godly." (verse 2a)

Petition 3: "Save your servant."6
Reason: "Who trusts in you -- you are my God." (verse 2b)

Petition 4: "Be gracious to me, O Lord."7
Reason: "For to you do I cry all the day." (verse 3)

Petition 5: "Gladden the soul of your servant."
Reason: "For to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. (verse 4)

The psalmist is hurting, harried, pursued. "Save me," he prays. "Be gracious to me," he pleads. Let your mercy and grace flow over me.

"Gladden"8 my soul, Lord, for I am struggling. I'm sad. I'm worried. I'm depressed. Give me some hope. He asks for this again in the closing words of the psalm: "Show me a sign of your favor" to lift me from my gloom (verse 17).

Notice that the word "soul" is mentioned three times in this psalm (in verse 4 twice, and in verse 13). Though Greek thought tended to separate the personality into body and soul, the Hebrew word here (nepesh) expresses the psalmist's essential being, his life.9 He calls out with his whole heart, his whole being!

Asking with Humility (Psalm 86:1-4)

Notice how the psalmist positions himself before God -- with humility and yet a persistent faith that will not let go. He is "poor and needy" (verse 1b). He's not speaking so much of financial poverty here, but of being poor in the sense of weakness -- "afflicted, humble."10 He continually refers to himself in a submissive role as Yahweh's "servant" (verses 2, 4, and 16), "the son of your maidservant" (verse 16). And he knows that Yahweh looks out for his own servants.

When he says in verse 2a, "I am godly" (ESV), "I am holy" (KJV), "I am devoted to you" (NIV, NRSV), this isn't a claim to being perfect or without sin. Nor is it a boast, but a statement of fact. As one of God's attributes is hesed, "steadfast, loyal love" (verses 5, 13, 15), the ḥāsîd or "devoted one" returns that steadfast, loyal love with loyalty to God.11 The psalmists trusts12 in God (verse 2a), even though he is in deep trouble.

Our status with God isn't dependent upon us being without sin, but is dependent only upon God's amazing steadfast love for us that gave his Son on the cross to redeem us. We are holy (verse 2a) because he has made us holy, to which we respond with faith, with trust. That doesn't mean sin is unimportant. Sin tends to erode our faith and confidence in God, cloud our discernment of God's voice, and tear down the building blocks God is seeking to build in our life. We are saints, God's set-apart people. Now we need to learn obedience to begin to act like and look like saints.

The psalmist is unrelenting -- "to you do I cry all the day" (verse 3). Jesus encouraged this kind of persistent prayer in both the Parable of the Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:5-8) and the Parable of the Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8). Paul tells us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

The psalmist "lifts up his soul," his very being, to God.13 This Hebrew idiom "to lift up one's soul" seems to imply praying earnestly with faith, with trust.14 You can see this in the parallel lines of two other psalms.

"To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust...." (Psalm 25:1-2a)

"Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul." (Psalm 143:8)

Praise and Petition (Psalm 86:5-7)

In verse 5 we see a shift of focus from the psalmist's prayer to a spotlight on the psalmist's God. We see this focus again in verses 8-10. He recalls God's character and then bases his prayers on his confidence in that character.

"5  For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
6  Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;
listen to my plea for grace." (Psalm 86:5-6)

Sometimes we doubt God's goodness.15 We may doubt his desire to give us the good things of life. We may even doubt his moral goodness. God allowed my grandmother to die. He allowed Hitler to ravage Europe and Idi Amin to massacre hundreds of thousands in Uganda. How can Yahweh be a "good" God? When we begin to question God's goodness we put ourselves in the place of judging God, even though our knowledge of the big picture is severely limited and our view thus greatly distorted. As we read the Scriptures again and again, we see that God is a God who is just and requires justice from us. And he is a Giver; he gives abundantly. Our God is "good," even though we might not understand what he is doing at the time. That requires faith.

God is also forgiving.16 Sometimes we are overwhelmed by our sins and lose hope. God forgives! That's what the cross is all about. Forgiveness is part of Yahweh's essential nature, as we'll see in verse 15. He not only forgives us; he never cuts off his continuous "steadfast love" towards us. He is "abounding in steadfast love" (ESV, NRSV, NIV). He is "plenteous in mercy" (KJV). The Hebrew word is hesed. We'll explore its rich meaning in greater detail in verse 15.

The psalmist has reviewed God's character, now he renews his prayer on the basis of what he knows about God.

"Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;17
listen18 to my plea for grace." (Psalm 86:6)

The noun translated "plea for grace" (ESV), "cry for mercy" (NIV), "voice of my supplication" (KJV) comes from the verb ḥānan, "be gracious, pity."19 So this is not just any kind of request. It is a plea for grace, a cry for mercy based on God's character of steadfast love that he has just declared in verse 5.

Notice the psalmist's confidence.

"In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
for you answer me."20 (Psalm 86:7)

He's had experience with God. He knows that when he calls upon God he isn't ignored. God actually hears his prayer and answers him!

I like the phrase "the day of my trouble," perhaps because I've had some of those days. The word "trouble" comes from a root meaning, "to bind, to be narrow, to be in distress."21 Life seems to be going along without any major problems, but then comes the day of trouble, when circumstances press us and constrict our options. The day when the trash-compactor of life seems to increase the pressure on us more and more. Those days come, but whenever that day comes for you, know that God is there. When you call on him he will answer you. Praise God!

The Greatness of Our God (Psalm 86:8-10)

The psalmist is still in distress, but his thoughts turn again to the greatness of his God.

"8  There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.

9  All the nations 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." (Psalm 86:8-10)

The psalmist lived in a day when the nations round about Israel each worshipped its own national gods (ʾelōhîm, verse 8) -- Baal, Asherah, Bel, Dagon, etc. These so-called gods are nothing compared to the true God; none of their supposed works22 are anything like Yahweh's deeds -- opening the Red Sea to liberate an entire slave-people from the most powerful nation on earth, for example. It is possible, however, that the psalmist was referring to angels or "heavenly beings" rather than foreign gods.23 Whatever he means, our God has no peers, he is literally "incomparable."

Now the psalmist declares that all the nations24 that once served these false gods will come to worship25 before the true God and bring him glory.26 We see this theme of the salvation of the nations mentioned in many passages in the Old and New Testaments.27 Isaiah prophesies, for example:

"It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it." (Isaiah 2:2)

Now, I am from one of these "nations," those gôyim whom the Lord has called to worship and glorify him. Praise God!

Just to make sure we understand, the psalmist affirms an absolute monotheism:

"For you are great28 and do wondrous things;29
you alone30 are God." (Psalm 86:10)

God's greatness stands alone!

The Path of Truth (Psalm 86:11-12)

The psalmist is in trouble, but as he thinks on God's greatness, he is distracted from his immediate struggles. God's marvelous power and grace draw him. He calls on God to help him walk more surely and draw ever closer.

"11  Teach31 me your way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
12  I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever." (Psalm 86:11-12)

Following God is compared to walking a road, a path, a way -- "your way, O Yahweh." So the psalmist calls on God to teach him this way, this path of truth,32 this path of reality. The world we live in teaches so many false values as truth. It entices us to travel roads that promise much, but result in dead-ends of sin and an inner emptiness. In Jeremiah we're told:

"Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is;
and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls." (Jeremiah 6:16)

Our world system rejects any absolute truth. "Everything is relative," they say. And this lie enables them to justify any thought, any action, any sin. But the Bible teaches that there is a "right way," a "true path." The broad way leads to destruction. But the Teacher is there to guide us with his still small voice --

"'This is the way, walk in it,'
when you turn to the right
or when you turn to the left." (Isaiah 30:21)

Jesus says:

"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life;
No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

As we follow him day by day, he will lead us to our destination. And so we pray with the psalmist:

"Teach me your way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth...." (Psalm 86:11)

The United Heart (Psalm 86:11-12)

There's one more piece of this -- a whole heart!

"Unite my heart to fear your name.
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever." (Psalm 86:11c-12)

So often we come to this Christian life with all sorts of mixed motives and desires pulling us opposite directions. When people see this they cry: "Hypocrite!" And rightly so, for they see us say one thing and do another. We have a divided heart.

Thus the psalmist prays earnestly:

"Unite my heart to fear your name." (Psalm 86:11c)

It is variously translated:

"Unite my heart" (ESV, KJV, NASB).
"Give me an undivided heart" (NIV, NRSV).
"Let my heart's one aim be to fear your name" (New Jerusalem Bible).33

"Fear" here is better "revere" (NRSV).34 One who fears the Lord is one who believes in him and follows him. "Name" is used here to refer to God's own person. As a result of this unified heart, we can praise God with purity.

"I give thanks35 to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify36 your name forever." (Psalm 86:12)

Steadfast Love -- Hesed (Psalm 86:12)

Why do I praise him? Verse 13 gives the answer:

"For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol." (Psalm 86:13)

It is possible to manipulate people through fear. There was a time when Christian preaching specialized in dangling people over the fires of hell in order to get them to obey. But the psalmist knows -- as we Christians know -- that love is a much more powerful motivator than fear.

One of the key words of this psalm is the Hebrew noun hesed, translated variously "steadfast love," "love," "goodness," "lovingkindness." It is found three times in these few verses:

"You, O Lord, are ... abounding in steadfast love...." (verse 5)

"Great is your steadfast love toward me." (verse 13a)

"You, O Lord, are a God ... abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness." (verse 15)

As we'll see in verse 15, hesed, "steadfast love," is one of God's self-descriptions of his character. No one English word encompasses the full meaning of hesed. Essentially, hesed is unremitting love within a covenant relationship, even when one party fails or is unfaithful to the covenant.37 When you consider hesed, you think of a word developed by Paul in the New Testament, "grace" (Greek charis) -- favor that is extended to a person unilaterally, not on the basis of how well one performs or behaves or reciprocates that love. Grace is God's favor that is neither earned nor deserved.

Notice that each time "steadfast love" is mentioned in Psalm 86, it is modified by the word "great" or "abounding." God's love is firm, solid. It isn't average love, but great, abounding, unmeasured love poured out for us in Jesus Christ on the cross -- with all that it cost the Father and Son to do that.

As a sign of that, the psalmist notes that God has delivered38 him from the "depths of Sheol" (ESV, NRSV), "depths of the grave" (NIV), "lowest hell" (KJV). Sheol is the Hebrew word for the place of the dead, so the psalmist is thanking God that he is still alive. But since Jesus has delivered us from the "lowest hell" by forgiving us and making us holy, we too can join the psalmist in giving thanks and glorifying him with a whole heart (verse 12).

Enemies (Psalm 86:14)

The psalmist has been lost in God's greatness, but his earthly reality intrudes once more. His thoughts turn to his enemies -- still there -- and brings them to God in prayer.

"O God, insolent men have risen up against me;
a band of ruthless men seeks my life,
and they do not set you before them." (Psalm 86:14)

His enemies have dispatched a band of violent men to kill him.39

Turning to the Character of God (Psalm 86:15)

It is remarkable, however, that the psalmist's thoughts don't linger on his enemies. His heart turns again to the Lord, the character of his God.

"But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness." (Psalm 86:15)

The psalmist is quoting the words of Yahweh when Moses had asked: "Please show me your glory" (Exodus 33:18). God tucked Moses in the cleft of the rock to protect him from the full glory of his face. Then he revealed himself, his glory with these very words.

"The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin...." (Exodus 34:6-7a)

God's amazing character is his glory!

This statement of God's mercy and compassion is repeated in one form or another many times throughout the Old and New Testaments.40 Some people imagine that the "angry God" of the Old Testament is vastly different from the "loving Father" of the New. They are wrong. God shows his anger against sin in both the Old Testament and the New. But, above all, he is known for his mercy to his children. Let's look at these words in Psalm 86:15.

"Merciful" refers to his compassion, the Father's deep love for his children.41

"Gracious" depicts a heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to one who has a need.42 The New Testament word "grace" is similar -- God's favor, unmerited and undeserved.

"Slow to anger." As I mentioned, some imagine the God of the Old Testament to be an angry God. But when you consider the history of Israel, Yahweh shows tremendous restraint when dealing with his wayward people. He doesn't "fly off the handle" and lose his temper, but he does discipline his children when they need it.

"Steadfast love" (hesed) we considered in verse 13 above in some detail. It is that firm, stable, covenant love that continues even though we may fail him. Beyond whatever discipline we receive at God's hand, his love continues steadfast and true.

"Faithfulness" carries the idea of firmness, certainty, hence rock-solid truth and trustworthiness.43 Paul writes to Timothy:

"If we are faithless, he remains faithful --
for he cannot deny himself." (2 Timothy 2:13)

Compare Yahweh to the dumb idols of the Philistines or the capricious gods and goddesses of Greek mythology and you begin to understand how blessed we are. Our God is solid. He is loving. He is holy. And he will never let us go.

Concluding Petition (Psalm 86:16-17)

Throughout the psalm we turn from prayer to praise, back and forth. The psalm concludes with prayer, the psalmist's situation still unresolved.

"16  Turn to me and be gracious to me;
give your strength to your servant,
and save the son of your maidservant.
17  Show me a sign of your favor,44
that those who hate me may see and be put to shame45
because you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me."
(Psalm 86:16-17)

The psalmist has recalled that Yahweh is merciful and gracious (ḥannûn) in verse 15. Now he asks the Lord for some of that grace (paraphrasing verse 16):

Turn to me!
Be gracious (ḥānan) to me!46
Give me strength!
Show me that power and deliverance that you've promised!
Save me!47

He asks for a sign of God's favor powerful enough that his enemies will see it, be ashamed, and realize that it is Yahweh himself who has come to the psalmist's rescue and stands with him. That is his prayer.

He concludes his prayer with thanks:

"You ... have helped me and comforted me." 48 (Psalm 86:17c)

He had asked God to hear and answer him in verse 1. Thank you, God, for hearing me and answering me. Now at the end of his prayer, he acknowledges that God has indeed helped him and comforted him. Though our enemies may not be immediately vanquished, there is something about the Lord's presence that strengthens and sustains us as we call upon him.

Discipleship Lessons in Prayer from the Psalmist

If you're a disciple seeking to find what the Lord is teaching you, consider these lessons from Psalm 86.

  1. Come before the Lord with humility, as might a servant before his master.
  2. Come before the Lord with a united heart, having confessed your sins and your less-than-worthy motives.
  3. Pray continually as you walk with him through the day.
  4. Mix your petitions with praise and thanksgiving, for that strengthens and vocalizes your faith as you are praying.
  5. Remember the miracles your Lord has done so that you might mix faith in the limitless God with your petitions, so as not insult him with tiny-faith requests.
  6. Know God's character so that you can pray with confidence according to what you have learned of his Person and values.
  7. As you talk to the Lord and praise him he strengthens you even in the midst of the struggle.

For me, two verses stand out:

A declaration of faith:

"In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
for you answer me" (Psalm 86:7)

A prayer of heart surrender:

"Teach me your way, O LORD,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name." (Psalm 86:11)


Father, strengthen my faith so that when I am in trouble I do not panic, but turn to you in confidence. And in my prayers, please don't let me just say words that sound good, but don't truly reflect my heart. Work deep within me so that my heart, my thoughts, my words, and my deeds may be in line with each other. Integrate every part of my being and behavior, no matter how painful. I am your humble servant. Work your way deep within me. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.


References and Abbreviations

[1] "Prayer" is tepillâ, "prayer," from pālal, "intervene, interpose, pray," one of a dozen Hebrew words for prayer, but the most common. Five psalms are called "prayers" in their superscription: Psalm 17, 86, 90, 102, and 142 (Victor P. Hamilton, TWOT #1776a).

[2] See my "Introduction to the Psalms" ( for more on the titles and inscriptions to individual psalms. At the end of the "Book Two" of the five divisions of the Psalms, we're told: "The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended" (Psalm 72:20). This is the only psalm attributed to David in "Book Three" of the Psalms. It also includes lines and elements of previous psalms (Beth Tanner, in Nancy deClaissé-Walford, Rolf A. Jacobson, and Beth LaNeel Tanner, The Book of Psalms (New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT); Eerdmans, 2014), p. 659).

[3] The Psalmist calls on God with various titles: (1) LORD, Yahweh (YHWH, verses 1a, 6a, 6a, 11a, 17c); (2) "God" (ʾelōhîm; verses 2b, 10b, 14a); (3) "God" (ʾēl, verse 15a); (4) Lord (ʾādôn, verses 3a, 4b, 5a, 8a, 9b, 15a); and (5) "Lord my God" (ʾādôn ʾelōhîm, verse 12a).

[4] "Incline your ear" (ESV, NRSV), "bow down thine ear" (KJV), "hear" (NIV) is "ear" with the Hiphil imperative of nāṭâ. The root meaning of "extend," "stretch out," is especially common in the Qal stem (Marvin R. Wilson, TWOT #1352). "Incline, bend down" ear = "listen" (Holladay, pp. 235-236). "Answer" is the Qal imperative of ʿānâ, "answer, respond" (TWOT #1650).

[5] "Preserve" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "guard" (NIV) is the Qal imperative of shāmar, "keep, guard." The basic idea of the root is "to exercise great care over." Here the idea is "take care of, guard" (Psalm 34:20; 121:3-4, 7; etc.) (TWOT #2414).

[6] "Save" is the Hiphil imperative of yāshaʿ, "save, deliver, give victory, help" (TWOT #929). "Help, save, rescue" someone in trouble (Holladay, 147, Hiphil 2).

[7] "Be gracious" (ESV, KJV, NRSV), "have mercy" (NIV) is the Qal imperative of ḥānan, "be gracious; pity." "The verb ḥānan depicts a heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to one who has a need" (Edwin Yamauchi, TWOT #694).

[8] "Gladden" (ESV, NRSV), "bring joy" (NIV), "rejoice" (KJV) is the Piel imperative of śāmaḥ, "rejoice." The root śmḥ denotes being glad or joyful with the whole disposition as indicated by its association with the heart (Bruce K. Waltke, TWOT #2268). "Make glad" (Holladay, pp. 352, Piel 1).

[9] "Life" (ESV, NIV, NRSV), "soul" (KJV) is nepesh, "life, soul" (TWOT #1395a), here, "life" (Holladay, p. 243, 7).

[10] "Poor" is ʿānî, "Poor, weak, afflicted, humble." "The ʿānî is primarily a person suffering some kind of disability or distress." From the verb ʿānâ, "afflict, oppress, humble" (Leonard J. Coppes, TWOT #1652d). "Needy" is ʾebyôn, "one in the state of wanting, a needy or poor person." The ʾebyôn is poor in a material sense. ʾEbyôn emphasizes "need" and thus is to be distinguished from ʿonî "afflicted," dal "poor," and rāsh "weak" (Leonard J. Coppes, TWOT #3a).

[11] Hāsîd, "one who is faithful, devout" (Holladay, p. 111). "Holy one, godly, saint" (R. Laird Harris, TWOT #698b).

[12] "Trusts" is the Qal participle of bāṭaḥ, "trust in, feel safe, be confident" (John N. Oswalt, TWOT #233).

[13] "Lift up" is Qal imperfect of nāśāʾ, "to lift up" (TWOT #1421).

[14] You can see the relationship with faith in the negative use of this idiom also: "... [He] who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully" (Psalm 24:4).

[15] "Good" is the adjective and noun ṭôb, from the root verb ṭôb that refers to "good" or "goodness" in its broadest senses. Five general areas of meaning can be noted: 1) practical, economic, or material good, 2) abstract goodness such as desirability, pleasantness, and beauty, 3) quality or expense, 4) moral goodness, and 5) technical philosophical good (Andrew Bowling, TWOT #793a).

[16] "Forgiving" (ESV, NRSV, NIV), "ready to forgive" (KJV) is the adjective sallāḥ, "ready to forgive, forgiving" (unique in this passage in the OT), from sālaḥ, "forgive, pardon" (Walter C. Kaiser, TWOT #1505a).

[17] "Give ear" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "hear" (NIV) is the Hiphil imperative of ʾāzan, "listen, give ear;" denominative from the noun ʾōzen, "ear" (Herbert Wolf, TWOT #57). "Prayer" is tepillâ, as in the inscription.

[18] "Listen to" is the Hiphil imperative of qāshab, "hear, be attentive, heed." This root denotes the activity of hearing, emphasizing either paying close attention or obeying (heeding) (Leonard J. Coppes, TWOT #2084).

[19] The phrase consists of two words: qôl, "voice, sound, noise;" and taḥanûn, "supplications" (always in the plural) from ḥānan, "be gracious, pity," Hithpael, "to beseech, implore" (Edwin Yamauchi, TWOT #694g).

[20] "Call" is the Qal imperfect of qārāʾ, "call, call out". The root qrʾ denotes primarily the enunciation of a specific vocable or message (Leonard J. Coppes, TWOT #2063). "Answer" is the Qal imperfect of ʿānâ, "to answer, respond" (TWOT #1650).

[21] "Trouble" (ESV) is ṣārâ, "straits, distress," from ṣārar, "bind, be narrow, be in distress." It indicates intense inner turmoil. It describes the anguish of a people besieged by an enemy (TWOT #1973).

[22] "Works" or "deeds" is maʿaśeh, "deed, work, acts, business, workmanship, purpose" (Thomas E. McComiskey, TWOT #1708a).

[23] We see this possibility in Genesis 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1; Psalm 29:1; 89:6. In Psalm 8:5, for example, the Hebrew text is ʾelōhîm but the Greek Septuagint translation is the Greek word for "angels."

[24] "Nations" is gôyim, the plural of gôy, "nation, people, Gentile, heathen" (Gerard van Groningen, TWOT #326e).

[25] "Worship" (ḥāwā) means "bow down deeply, do obeisance" in worship. The Hishtafal stem of ḥāwā (Holladay, 97a).

[26] "Shall glorify" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "bring glory to" (NIV) is the Piel imperfect of kābēd, "be heavy, grievous, hard, rich, honorable, glorious." In this case the idea is of that which is weighty in the sense of being noteworthy or impressive. Common translations are "honorable, honored, glorious, glorified" (John N. Oswalt, TWOT #943).

[27] Psalm 22:27; 71:11; 102:15; Isaiah 45:23; 59:19; 66:18, 23; Malachi 1:11; Romans 15:8-9; Revelation 15:4; etc.

[28] "Great" is gādôl, "great" an adjective with somewhat the same range of meanings as the verb meaning "many" in number and other intensified concepts like "loudness," in sound, being old in years, great in importance (Elmer B. Smick, TWOT #315d).

[29] "Wondrous things" is the Niphal participle of pālāʾ, "be marvelous, wonderful." Denominative verb. The basic meaning of the verb is "to be wonderful" (Victor P. Hamilton, TWOT #1768). (1) "Be too hard, difficult," (2) "be extraordinary, marvelous" (Holladay, p. 291).

[30] "Alone" is the preposition le with the adjective bad, "solitude," "be alone" (Holladay, p. 33). "Alone, by itself" (Louis Goldberg, TWOT #201a).

[31] "Teach" is the Hiphil imperative of yārâ, in the Hiphil: "instruct, teach." A related word is tôrâ, "Torah, law" (Holladay, p. 144, III; John E. Hartley, TWOT #910).

[32] "Truth" is ʾemet, "firmness, truth, verity." The word carries underlying sense of certainty, dependability. The root verb is ʾāman (from which derive the name of the capital of the Kingdom of Jordan -- Amman -- and our word: "Amen"). The basic root idea is firmness or certainty, from which comes the concept of "faith, belief" (Jack B. Scott, TWOT #116k).

[33] These phrases translate the Piel imperative of yāḥad, "be united, be joined" (TWOT #858). "Determine exclusively, concentrate" (Holladay, p. 132).

[34] "Fear" (NIV, ESV, KJV), "revere" (NRSV) is the infinitive construct of yārēʾ, "fear, be afraid, revere" (TWOT 907).

[35] "Give thanks" (ESV, NRSV, NASB), "praise" (NIV, KJV) is the Hiphil imperfect of yādâ, "confess, praise, give thanks, thank" (Holladay, p. 128; Ralph H. Alexander, TWOT #847).

[36] "Glorify" is the Piel imperfect of kābēd, which we saw in verse 9.

[37] In his landmark study, Gordon Clark concludes: "Hesed is not merely an attitude or an emotion; it is an emotion that leads to an activity beneficial to the recipient. The relative status of the participants is never a feature of the hesed act, which may be described as a beneficent action performed, in the context of a deep and enduring commitment between two persons or parties, by one who is able to render assistance to the needy party who, in the circumstances, is unable to help him or herself" (Gordon R. Clark, The Word Hesed in the Hebrew Bible (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), p. 267. See also Robin Routledge, "Hesed as Obligation: A Re-Examination," Tyndale Bulletin, Vol. 46, No. 1 (1995), pp. 179-196. See also R. Laird Harris, hesed, TWOT #698).

[38] "Delivered" is the Hiphil perfect of nāṣal, "deliver, rescue, save" The predominant occurrence of this verb is in the various aspects and moods of the Hiphil (causative: "make separate") and that generally with the sense of "deliver" or "rescue" (Milton C. Fisher, TWOT #1404).

[39] "Band" (ESV, NRSV, NIV), "assemblies" (KJV) is ʿēdâ, "assembly, congregation, multitude, people, swarm," from yāʿad, "to assemble, meet" (Jack P. Lewis, TWOT #878a). "Insolent men" (ESV, NRSV), "arrogant men" (NIV, NASB), "the proud" (KJV) is zēd, "proud, arrogant, presumptuous," from zîd, "act proudly, presumptuously, rebelliously." Frequently used to refer to three specific aspects of pride: (1) presumption, (2) rebellion or disobedience, and (3) the additional element of willful decision, intentionality (Leon J. Wood, TWOT #547a). "Ruthless men" (ESV, NIV), "ruffians" (NRSV), "violent men" (KJV) is ʿārîṣ, "mighty, oppressor, in great power, strong, terrible, violent." from ʿāraṣ, "fear, dread, oppress" (Ronald B. Allen, TWOT #1702).

[40] See for example: Psalm 86:15; 103:8-10; 111:4; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 4:11; Nehemiah 9:17; Micah 7:18; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:3; 2 Chronicles 30:9; Romans 2:4.

[41] "Merciful" is raḥûm, "compassionate." This root refers to deep love (usually of a "superior" for an "inferior") rooted in some "natural" bond. It can refer to a mother's or father's love, as well as the feeling of mercy people have for each other by virtue of the fact that they are human beings (Leonard J. Coppes, TWOT #2146c).

[42] "Gracious" is ḥannûn, "gracious," from the root ḥānan, "be gracious, pity," cognate with Akkadian enēnu, h̠anānu, "to grant a favor," Ugaritic ḥnn "to be gracious, to favor," and Arabic ḥanna "to feel sympathy, compassion." The verb ḥānan depicts a heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to one who has a need (Edwin Yamauchi, TWOT #694d).

[43] "Faithfulness" is ʾemet. It comes from the root ʾāman, "to confirm, support, uphold (Qal); to be established, be faithful (Niphal); to be certain, i.e. to believe in (Hiphil)." At the heart of the meaning of the root is the idea of "firmness, certainty," hence, "truth, trustworthiness, faithfulness." The noun carries underlying sense of certainty, dependability (Jack B. Scott, TWOT #116k).

[44] "Show me" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "give me" (NIV) is the Qal imperative of ʿāśâ, "do, fashion, accomplish" (TWOT #1708). "Sign" is ʾôt, "sign, mark, token, ensign, standard, miracle, miraculous sign, proof, warning," similar to the range of the Greek equivalent semeion (Robert L. Alden, TWOT #41a). "Favor" (ESV, NRSV), "good/goodness" (KJV, NIV, NASB), "kindness" (NJB) is ṭôb, "good, goodness" in its broadest senses, as in verse 5.

[45] "Those who hate me" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "my enemies" (NIV) is the Qal participle of śānēʾ, "hate, to be hateful" (Gerhard Von Groningen, TWOT #2272). "Put to shame" (ESV, NIV, NRSV), "be ashamed" (KJV) is the Qal imperfect of bôsh, "be ashamed, put to shame, disconcerted, disappointed" (John N. Oswalt, TWOT #222).

[46] "Be gracious" (ESV, NRSV, NASB), "have mercy" (NIV, KJV) is the Qal imperative of ḥānan, "be gracious, grant a favor." The verb ḥānan depicts a heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to one who has a need (Edwin Yamauchi, TWOT #694).

[47] "Save" is the Hiphil imperative of yāshaʿ, "save, deliver, give victory, help" (TWOT #929) that we saw in verse 2.

[48] "Helped me" (ESV, NRSV, NIV), "holpen" (KJV) is the Qal perfect of ʿāzar, "help, support," and generally indicates military assistance (Carl Schultz, TWOT #1598). "Comforted" is the Piel perfect of nāḥam, "comfort, reassure" (Holladay, p. 234). "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people" (Isaiah 40:1). The same word occurs in Psalm 23:4, where David says of his heavenly Shepherd, "Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me" (Marvin R. Wilson, TWOT #1344).

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