THE BOOK OF PSALMS

BY

JOHN CALVIN

Translated From The Original Latin, And Collated With The Author’s French Version,

BY THE REV. JAMES ANDERSON

VOLUME FIRST

INTRODUCTORY NOTICE

 


PSALM 61

This psalm begins with prayer, or, at any rate, with the brief record of a prayer, which David had preferred to God in a season of deep distress. It is chiefly occupied, however, with the praises of God, expressing his thankfulness for a miraculous deliverance which he had experienced from some imminent danger, and for his establishment upon the throne.

To the chief musician upon Neginoth, A Psalm of David.

<196101>Psalm 61:1-4

1. Hear my cry, O God! attend unto my prayer. 2. Prom the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is vexed: thou shalt lead me to the rock which is too high for me. fb402 3. For thou hast been my hope, a tower of strength from the face of the enemy. 4. I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever; I will be safe under the covert of thy wings. Selah.

 

1. Hear my cry, O God! It is not exactly ascertained at what time this psalm was composed; but there seems to be some probability in the conjecture, that David had been for a considerable period in possession of the throne before he fell into the circumstances of distress which are here mentioned. I agree with those who refer it to the time of the conspiracy of Absalom; fb403 for, had he not been an exile, he could not speak, as in the second verse, of crying from the ends of the earth. By using the term cry, he would intimate the vehemency of his desire; and it is a word which expresses inward fervency of spirit, without reference to the fact whether he may have prayed aloud, or in a low and subdued tone. The repetition which is employed denotes his diligence and perseverance in prayer, and teaches us that we should not faint and become discouraged in this exercise, because God may not have immediately and openly testified his acceptance of our petitions. There can be no question that, by the ends of the earth, he refers to the place of his banishment, as being cut off from access to the temple and the royal city. By some, indeed, the words have been understood figuratively, as meaning, that he prayed from the lowest deeps of distress; but I can see no foundation for this. In a subsequent part of the psalm, he calls himself King, a title never assumed by him before the death of Saul, and from this circumstance we may at once infer, that the time referred to was that when he fled in trepidation from the fury of his son Absalom, and hid himself in the wilderness of Mahanaim, and places of a similarly solitary description. Mount Zion was the place where the ark of the covenant had been deposited, and it was the seat of royalty; and David, when banished from this, which was the principal and most eligible locality, speaks as if he had been driven to the uttermost parts of the earth. Living, though he did, under the shadows of a legal dispensation, he did not cease to pray, because removed to a distance from the temple; and how inexcusable must our conduct be, privileged as we are of God, and called to draw near by the way which has been opened through the blood of Christ, if we break not through every hinderance which Satan presents to our communications with heaven? Let those who may have been deprived of the hearing of the word, and the dispensation of the sacraments, so as, in a manner, to be banished out of the Church, learn from the example of David to persevere in crying to God, even under these solitary circumstances. He adverts, in what follows, to his grief and anguish. He adds the fact of his being shut up from every method of escape, that the grace of God might be made more apparent in his deliverance. The Hebrew word f[, ataph, which I have translated vexed, means occasionally to cover, or involve, which has led some to render the clause, while my heart is turned about; that is, tossed hither and thither, or agitated. This is a harsh translation. Others read with more propriety, while my heart is involved in cares and troubles, or overwhelmed. fb404 I have adopted a simpler rendering, although I would not be understood as denying the metaphor, to which they suppose that there is an allusion. The clause, there can be no question, is inserted to intimate that he was not prevented by trouble from having recourse to God. Notice was taken already of the outward trial to which he was subjected, in distance from the sanctuary, and of his rising above this, so as to direct his cry to God; and in the words before us, we have his confession that he was far from being stoically insensible, being conscious of a severe inward struggle with grief and perplexity of mind. It is the duty, then, of believers, when oppressed with heaviness and spiritual distress, to make only the more strenuous efforts for breaking through these obstacles in their approaches to God. His prayer is, that God would bring him to that safety from which he seems to be excluded. By a rock or citadel, he means, in general, secure protection, from which he complains of being shut out, as it was impossible to reach it unless he were raised by the hand of God. In looking round him, it seemed as if every place of shelter and safety were lifted up above his head and rendered inaccessible. He was cut off from all help, and yet, hopeless as deliverance appeared, he had no doubt of his safety, should God only extend his hand for interposition. This is the plain meaning of the passage, when divested of figure, that God was able to rescue him from danger, though all other help should be withdrawn, and the whole world should stand between him and deliverance; a truth which we would do well to consider seriously. In looking for deliverance from God, we must beware of yielding to the suggestions of sense; we should remember that he does not always work by apparent means, but delivers us when he chooses by methods inscrutable to reason. If we attempt to prescribe any one particular line of procedure, we do no less than wilfully limit his almighty power.

3. For thou hast been my hope. Here we may suppose, either that he calls to his remembrance such benefits as he had formerly received, or that he congratulates himself upon deliverance which he had presently experienced. There is much probability in either supposition. Nothing animates our hopes more than the recollection of the past goodness of God, and, in the midst of his prayers, we frequently find David indulging in reflections of this kind. On the other hand, the remainder of the psalm is occupied with returning praise to God for his present goodness; and there is no reason why we should not suppose, that these words before us form the commencement of the thanksgiving. In that case, the Hebrew particle, which we have rendered for or because, may be understood rather in an affirmative sense, surely or certainly.

In the verse which follows, he expresses the confidence which he had that he would dwell from this time forth in the sanctuary of the Lord. I cannot altogether agree with those who think that David was still in his state of exile from his native country when this was written, and is merely to be understood as promising to himself the certainty of his return. He would seem rather to be rejoicing in restoration already obtained, than assuaging his grief by anticipation of it in the future; and this will be still more apparent, when we come to consider the immediate context. It is noticeable, that now when he was returned from his banishment, and established within his own palace, his heart was set more upon the worship of God than all the wealth, splendor, and pleasures of royalty. We have his testimony in other parts of his writings, that in the worst calamities which he endured, he experienced nothing which could be compared to the bitterness of being shut out from the ordinances of religion; and now he accounts it a higher pleasure to lie as a suppliant before the altar, than to sit upon the throne of a king. By the words which immediately follow, he shows that he did not, like too many uninformed persons, attach a superstitious importance to the mere externals of religion, adding, that he found his safety under the shadow of God’s wings. Ignorant persons might conceive of God as necessarily confined to the outward tabernacle, but David only improved this symbol of the Divine presence as a means of elevating the spiritual exercises of his faith. I would not deny that there may be an allusion to the cherubim when he speaks of the shadow of God’s wings. Only we must remember, that David did not rest in carnal ordinances, the elements of the world, fb405 but rose by them and above them to the spiritual worship of God.

<196105>Psalm 61:5-8

5. For thou, O God! hast heard my vows: thou hast given inheritance to those fb406 fearing thy name. 6. Thou shalt add days upon days to the king, and his years as generation upon generation. 7. He shalt abide before the face of God for ever: prepare mercy and truth; let them keep him. 8. So will I sing unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows.

 

5. For thou, O God! hast heard my vows. He here shows the grounds upon which he had spoken of his abiding under the wings of God. The sudden joy which he experienced arose from the circumstance of God’s having heard his prayers, and made light to spring out of darkness. By his vows we must understand his prayers, according to a common figure of speech by which the part is taken for the whole, having made vows when he prayed. In general, he would acknowledge himself indebted for his restoration entirely to an interposition of Divine power, and not to any dexterity which he had shown in gaining time for the collection of his forces, fb407 nor to any assistance which he had derived, either from the favor of the priests or the exertions of his soldiers. Had the letter l, lamed, been prefixed to the Hebrew word yary, yirey, which is rendered fearing, there would have been no reason left to doubt that the words which follow were of the nature of a general assertion, to the effect, that God has given the inheritance to those who fear him. As it is, they may be construed to mean, that God had given David the inheritance of those who fear him. Still I prefer attaching the more general sense to the words, and understand them as intimating that God never disappoints his servants, but crowns with everlasting happiness the struggles and the distresses which may have exercised their faith. They convey an implied censure of that unwarrantable confidence which is indulged in by the wicked, when favored, through the divine forbearance, with any interval of prosperity. The success which flatters them is merely imaginary, and speedily vanishes. But inheritance — the word here employed by David — suggests that the people of God enjoy a species of prosperity more solid and enduring; their momentary and short-lived troubles having only the effect of promoting their eternal welfare. He praises God that those who fear his name are not left to the poor privilege of rejoicing for a few days, but secured in a permanent heritage of happiness. The truth is one which cannot be questioned. The wicked, having no possession by faith of the divine benefits which they may happen to share, live on from day to day, as it were, upon plunder. It is only such as fear the Lord who have the true and legitimate enjoyment of their blessings.

6. Thou shalt add days upon days to the king etc. fb408 David cannot be considered as using these words of gratulation with an exclusive reference to himself. It is true that he lived to an extreme old age, and died full of days, leaving the kingdom in a settled condition, and in the hands of his son, who succeeded him; but he did not exceed the period of one man’s life, and the greater part of it was spent in continued dangers and anxieties. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the series of years, and even ages, of which he speaks, extends prospectively to the coming of Christ, it being the very condition of the kingdom, as I have often remarked, that God maintained them as one people under one head, or, when scattered, united them again. The same succession still subsists in reference to ourselves. Christ must be viewed as living in his members to the end of the world. To this Isaiah alludes, when he says, “Who shall declare his generation or age?” — words in which he predicts that the Church would survive through all ages, notwithstanding the incessant danger of destruction to which it is exposed through the attacks of its enemies, and the many storms assailing it. So here David foretells the uninterrupted succession of the kingdom down to the time of Christ.

7. He shall abide before the face of God for ever. This is only a simpler way of expressing what he had said before, I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever. He refers to the security and peace which he would enjoy under the protection of God, who would effectually preserve his life. By the face of God, must be meant the fatherly care and providence which he extends to his people. So numerous are the dangers which surround us, that we could not stand a single moment, if his eye did not watch over our preservation. But the true security for a happy life lies in being persuaded that we are under divine government. There follows a prayer that God would appoint mercy and truth for preserving the king. And this admits of two meanings. As clemency and truth are the best safeguards of a kingdom, it would not be altogether unreasonable to suppose that David prays here to be endued with these dispositions, as a means of establishing his throne. But the other meaning is perhaps preferable, that God would gird himself with clemency and truth in order to the preservation of the king. The Hebrew term hnm, manah, signifies not only to prepare, but to set over, or appoint; and he speaks as if the true defense of the kingdom was only to be found in the mercy and faithfulness of God. He uses the expression prepare, or command, to intimate how easily God can provide the means necessary for preserving his people. In the concluding words, he expresses his resolution to persevere in the constant celebration of the praises of God, with a view to fulfilling the vows which he had contracted — and this again may lead us to remark the agreement which ought ever to subsist between the two parts of invocation: for David, while he applied to God for help, under the pressure of calamity, showed himself uniformly grateful when he had experienced deliverance.


PSALM 62

The greater part of this psalm is occupied with meditations, in which David encourages himself and others to hope in God, and fortifies his mind against the assaults of temptation. And as we are ever prone to be drawn away from God by the influence which worldly objects exert over our senses, perishing and evanescent as these are, occasion is taken to show the folly of this, and bring us to a single and entire dependence upon God.

To the chief musician upon Jeduthun, A Psalm of David.

The fact being ascertained that there was one of the chief singers who bore the name of Jeduthun, some have thought that this psalm was committed into his hands to be sung, (<130916>1 Chronicles 9:16; 16:38, 41; and 25:1.) In the title to Psalm 39, it is sufficiently probable that the allusion is to some musician of that family. But this would not seem to be the case here; for the psalm is not said to be given to, but upon Jeduthun. This has led to the opinion that it formed the beginning of some song commonly known at that time. Still the Hebrew particle l[, al, which we have rendered upon, means frequently for, to, or before; and it will consist with the words to suppose, that this psalm was put into the hands of the posterity of Jeduthun. fb409

<196201>Psalm 62:1-2

1. Nevertheless, my soul is silent towards God: from him is my salvation. 2. Nevertheless, he himself is my rock and my salvation, my high tower: I shall not be greatly moved.

 

1. Nevertheless, my soul is silent towards God. Should the translation I have followed be adopted, the psalm is to be considered as beginning abruptly, in the usual style of compositions of an impassioned kind. fb410 Of this we have an instance in Psalm 73, where the prophet, who had been agitated with doubts, as we shall see more particularly afterwards, suddenly brings his mind to a fixed decision, and, in the way of cutting off all further subject of debate, exclaims, “Yet God is good to Israel.” And so it is, I conceive, in the psalm before us. We know that the Lord’s people cannot always reach such a measure of composure as to be wholly exempt from distraction. They would wish to receive the word of the Lord with submission, and to be dumb under his correcting hand; but inordinate affections will take possession of their minds, and break in upon that peace which they might otherwise attain to in the exercise of faith and resignation. Hence the impatience we find in many; an impatience which they give vent to in the presence of God, and which is an occasion to themselves of much trouble and disquietude. The Hebrew particle ˚a, ach, is often used in an exclusive sense, and has been rendered by some, only; it is also employed in an affirmative sense, and has been rendered truly, or certainly. But in order to arrive at its full meaning, we must suppose that David felt an inward struggle and opposition, which he found it necessary to check. Satan had raised a tumult in his affections, and wrought a degree of impatience in his mind, which he now curbs; and he expresses his resolution to be silent. fb411 The word implies a meek and submissive endurance of the cross. It expresses the opposite of that heat of spirit which would put us into a posture of resistance to God. The silence intended is, in short, that composed submission of the believer, in the exercise of which he acquiesces in the promises of God, gives place to his word, bows to his sovereignty, and suppresses every inward murmur of dissatisfaction. The Hebrew word hymwd, dumiyah, which I have rendered is silent, some consider to be the noun; and it is of little consequence which translation we adopt.

The particle ˚a, ach, in the second verse, I would render in the same way as in the first. The believer triumphs in one encounter with temptation only to enter upon another; and here David, who appeared to have emerged from his distress, shows that he had still to struggle with remaining difficulties. We meet with the same particle no fewer than six times throughout the psalm. This, too, may explain the many titles which he applies to God, each of which is to be considered as a foil by which he would ward off the attacks of the tempter. The expression in the close of the verse, I shall not be greatly moved, implies his persuasion that he might be overtaken with afflictions, (for he was well aware that he could claim no exemption from the common lot of humanity,) but his conviction, at the same time, that these would not overwhelm him, through the good help of God. We shall find him saying afterwards, in so many words, I shall not fall; perhaps because he felt, as he advanced in prayer, that he had greater boldness in despising affliction. Or the expressions may be taken as synonymous in the two places. The truth itself is unquestionable. The believer may be overthrown for a time; but as he is no sooner cast down than he is raised up again by God, he cannot properly be said to fall. He is supported by the Spirit of God, and is not therefore really prostrated and overcome.

<196203>Psalm 62:3-6

3. How long will ye continue mischief against a man? fb412 ye shall be slain all of you: as a bowing wall shall ye be, and a fence which has been struck. 4. Yet they consult to cast him down from his elevations: they delight in lies: they bless with their mouth, and curse inwardly. Selah. 5. Nevertheless, my soul, be thou silent before God: for my expectation is from him. 6. Nevertheless, he is my rock and my salvation: my high tower; I shall not fall.

 

3. How long will ye continue mischief? The Hebrew word wttwht, tehotethu, fb413 which I have translated continue, or lengthen out, mischief, is rendered by some, to meditate, or imagine mischief, while others suppose an allusion to the putting forth of the tongue in sign of mockery. It has been rendered also, to rush upon, or assault. The sense of the passage seems to be, How long will ye meditate evil against a man, and persist in mischievous devices for accomplishing his ruin? He has in view the obstinate malice of his enemies, moving every stone for his destruction, and forming new plans daily for effecting it. The instruction to be learned from his experience is, that we should exercise patience, even when our enemies show unwearied cruelty in their attempts to destroy us, and are instigated by the devil to incessant artifices for our persecution. We may just advert to the meaning of the figure which is subjoined. Some think that the wicked are compared to a bowing wall, because it threatens every moment to fall to the ground, and they, upon every sin which they commit, tend more and more downwards, till they are precipitated into destruction. But it would seem as if the allusion were somewhat different. A wall, when ill built, bulges out in the center, presenting the appearance of nearly twice its actual breadth; but, as it is hollow within, it soon falls to ruins. The wicked, in like manner, are dilated with pride, and assume, in their consultations, a most formidable appearance; but David predicts that they would be brought to unexpected and utter destruction, like a wall badly constructed, and hollow in the interior, which falls with a sudden crash, and is broken by its own weight into a thousand pieces. fb414 The word rdg, gader, which I have rendered, a fence, means, properly, an enclosure built of slight and insufficient materials; fb415 and an epithet is added still more to express the violence and impetuosity of their fall. The Psalmist, then, would teach us that, high as our enemies may appear to stand, and proud and swelling as their denunciations may be, they shall be suddenly and signally overthrown, like a smitten wall.

4. Yet they consult to cast him down from his elevation. I still would interpret the particle ˚a, ach, in an adversative sense. David, on the one hand, encouraged himself by determining to rest stedfastly upon the promise of divine favor; but, upon the other, he had before him the machinations of his enemies, characterised by cruelty, audacity, pride, and deceit. By all their attempts, as if he had said, they do nothing but precipitate their own fall; still such are the frenzy and the fury by which they are actuated, that they persist in their intrigues against me. He insinuates that their attacks were directed, not so much against himself as against God — agreeably to the picture which is given us of impiety by the poets in their fable of the Giants. fb416 Nothing will satisfy the enemies of God but setting themselves above the heavens. David is to be understood as primarily speaking here of himself in the third person, but of himself as elevated expressly by the divine hand. Accordingly, though we might consider that God is the party directly intended, the scope of the words rather intimates that they aimed at the overthrow of one whom God had exalted, and desired to establish in honor. In thus attempting to thwart his purpose, they were really fighting against God. The clause which follows, they delight in lies, has reference to the same thing. Refusing to acknowledge his divine vocation, they persevered in following such corrupt designs, as could only recoil upon them to their own confusion, as the Psalmist exclaims,

“O ye sons of men! how long is my glory made matter of your reproach? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.” — (<190402>Psalm 4:2)

Or the expression may denote the hidden and deceitful measures which they adopted in their persecution of this saint of God; for it is immediately added, that they blessed with their mouth, but cursed inwardly. Whatever may be the meaning, it is evident that David, contemplating all the treachery, intrigues, and wickedness of his enemies, supports himself by the single consideration, that his help was in God, and that every opposing instrumentality was therefore vain.

5. Nevertheless, my soul, be thou silent before God. Here there may appear to be a slight inconsistency, inasmuch as he encourages himself to do what he had already declared himself to have done. His soul was silent before God; and where the necessity of this new silence, as if still under agitation of spirit? Here it is to be remembered, that our minds can never be expected to reach such perfect composure as shall preclude every inward feeling of disquietude, but are, at the best, as the sea before a light breeze, fluctuating sensibly, though not swollen into billows. It is not without a struggle that the saint can compose his mind; and we can very well understand how David should enjoin more perfect submission upon a spirit which was already submissive, urging upon himself farther advancement in this grace of silence, till he had mortified every carnal inclination, and thoroughly subjected himself to the will of God. How often, besides, will Satan renew the disquietudes which seemed to be effectually expelled? Creatures of such instability, and liable to be borne away by a thousand different influences, we need to be confirmed again and again. I repeat, that there is no reason to be surprised though David here calls upon himself a second time to preserve that silence before God, which he might already appear to have attained; for, amidst the disturbing motions of the flesh, perfect composure is what we never reach. The danger is, that when new winds of troubles spring up, we lose that inward tranquillity which we enjoyed, and hence the necessity of improving the example of David, by establishing ourselves in it more and more. He adds the ground of his silence. He had no immediate response from God, but he confidently hoped in him. My expectation, he says, is from God. Never, as if he had said, will he frustrate the patient waiting of his saints; doubtless my silence shall meet with its reward; I shall restrain myself, and not make that false haste which will only retard my deliverance.

<196207>Psalm 62:7-10

7. In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my hope, is in God. 8. Hope in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is our hope. Selah. 9. Nevertheless, the sons of Adam are vanity, and the children of men fb417 a lie fb418 when they ascend in the scales, they are found together lighter than vanity. fb419 10. Trust not in oppression and robbery, and be not vain: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.

 

7. In God is my salvation. One expression is here heaped upon another and this apparently because he wished to rein that infirmity of disposition which makes us so prone to slide into wrong exercise. We may throw out a passing and occasional acknowledgement, that our only help is to be found in God, and yet shortly display our distrust in him by busying ourselves in all directions to supplement what we consider defective in his aid. The various terms which he employs to express the sufficiency of God as a deliverer, may thus be considered as so many arguments to constancy, or so many checks which he would apply to the waywardness of the carnal heart, ever disposed to depend for support upon others rather than God. Such is the manner in which he animates his own spirit; and next, we find him addressing himself to others, calling upon them to enter upon the same conflict, and reap the same victory and triumph. By the people, there seems little doubt that he means the Jews. The Gentiles being yet unvisited by the true religion and divine revelation, it was only in Judea that God could be the object of trust and religious invocation; and it would appear, that by distinguishing the chosen people of the Lord from the surrounding heathen, he insinuates how disgraceful it would be in them not to devote themselves entirely to God, being, as they were, the children of Abraham, favored with the discovery of his grace, and specially taken under his divine protection. The expression, at all times, means both in prosperity and adversity, intimating the blameworthiness of those who waver and succumb under every variation in their outward circumstances. God tries his children with afflictions, but here they are taught by David to abide them with constancy and courage. The hypocrites, who are loud in their praises of God so long as prosperity shines upon their head, while their heart fails them upon the first approach of trial, dishonor his name by placing a most injurious limitation to his power. We are bound to put honor upon his name by remembering, in our greatest extremities, that to Him belong the issues of death. And as we are all too apt at such times to shut up our affliction in our own breast — a circumstance which can only aggravate the trouble and imbitter the mind against God, David could not have suggested a better expedient than that of disburdening our cares to him, and thus, as it were, pouring out our hearts before him. It is always found, that when the heart is pressed under a load of distress, there is no freedom in prayer. fb420 Under trying circumstances, we must comfort ourselves by reflecting that God will extend relief, provided we just freely roll them over upon his consideration. What the Psalmist advises is all the more necessary, considering the mischievous tendency which we have naturally to keep our troubles pent up in our breasts till they drive us to despair. Usually, indeed, men show much anxiety and ingenuity in seeking to escape from the troubles which may happen to press upon them; but so long as they shun coming into the presence of God, they only involve themselves in a labyrinth of difficulties. Not to insist farther upon the words, David is here to be considered as exposing that diseased but deeply-rooted principle in our nature, which leads us to hide our griefs, and ruminate upon them, instead of relieving ourselves at once by pouring out our prayers and complaints before God. The consequence is, that we are distracted more and more with our distresses, and merge into a state of hopeless despondency. In the close of the verse, he says, in reference to the people generally, what he had said of himself individually, that their safety was to be found only under the divine protection.

9. Nevertheless, the sons of Adam are vanity. If we take the particle ˚a, ach, affirmatively, as meaning surely or certainly, then this verse contains a confirmation of the truth expressed in the preceding verse; and David argues by contrast, fb421 that as men are lighter than vanity, we are shut up to the necessity of placing all our expectation upon God. It would agree well, however, with the contrast to suppose, that, under an impression of the little effect which the truth he had announced was calculated to have upon the people, (ever disposed to build upon fallacious hopes,) he exclaims, with a degree of holy fervor, Nevertheless, etc. According to this view, he is here administering a reproof to the blind infidelity so prevalent amongst men, and which leads them to deceive themselves with lying vanities rather than trust in the infallible promises of Jehovah. Having had occasion to discover such a large amount of vanity in the chosen seed of Abraham, he does not scruple to speak of the whole human family in general as being abandoned to lying delusions. The adverb djy, yachad, together, intimates that all, without exception, are ready to find an occasion of turning aside. Such is the sweeping condemnation passed, not upon a few individuals, but upon human nature, declaring men to be lighter than vanity; and may we not ask what in this case becomes of boasted reason, wisdom, and free-will? It is of no avail to object, that believers are delivered from the deceit which is here condemned. If they owe their exemption from lying and vanity to the regeneration of the Spirit, this is to grant that they were subject to these in their natural state. The first man was created by God upright, but drew us by his fall into such a depth of corruption, that any light which was originally bestowed has been totally obscured. Is it alleged that there still remain in man such gifts of God as are not to be despised, and as distinguish him from all the other creatures, this is easily answered, by remembering, that however great these may be, he is tainted by sin, and therefore nothing to be accounted of. It is only when allied with the knowledge of God that any of the endowments conferred upon us from above can be said to have a real excellency; — apart from this, they are vitiated by that contagion of sin which has not left a vestige in man of his original integrity. With too much justice, then, might David say that all men are vanity and nothingness.

10. Trust not in oppression and robbery. We are here taught that there can be no real trusting in God until we put away all those vain confidences which prove so many means of turning us away from him. The Psalmist bids us remove whatsoever would have this tendency, and purge ourselves of every vicious desire that would usurp the place of God in our hearts. One or two kinds of sin only are mentioned, but these are to be understood as representing a part for the whole, all those vain and rival confidences of which we must be divested before we can cleave to God with true purpose and sincerity of heart. By oppression and robbery may be understood the act itself of abstracting by violence, and the thing which has been abstracted. It is obviously the design of the passage to warn us against the presumption and hardihood of sin, which is so apt to blind the hearts of men, and deceive them into the belief that their evil courses are sanctioned by the impunity which is extended to them. Interpreters have differed in their construction of the words of this verse. Some join to each of the nouns its own verb, reading, Trust not in oppression, and be not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them. fb422 Others connect the words oppression and robbery with the first verb, and make the second to stand apart by itself in an indefinite sense. It is of very little consequence which of the constructions we adopt, since both express the main sentiment; and it is evident that the Psalmist, in condemning the infatuated confidence of those who boast in robbery, appropriately terms it a mere illusion of the mind, with which they deceive or amuse themselves. Having denounced, in the first place, those desires which are plainly evil and positively wicked, he proceeds immediately afterwards to guard against an inordinate attachment even to such riches as may have been honestly acquired. To set the heart upon riches, means more than simply to covet the possession of them. It implies being carried away by them into a false confidence, or, to use an expression of Paul, “Being high-minded.” The admonition here given is one which daily observation teaches us to be necessary. It is uniformly seen that prosperity and abundance engender a haughty spirit, leading men at once to be presumptuous in their carriage before God, and reckless in inflicting injury upon their fellow-creatures. But, indeed, the worst effect to be feared from a blind and ungoverned spirit of this kind is, that, in the intoxication of outward greatness, we be left to forget how frail we are, and proudly and contumeliously to exalt ourselves against God.

<196211>Psalm 62:11-12

11. God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this, that power belongeth unto God. 12. Also unto thee, O Lord: belongeth mercy; thou wilt certainly render to every man according to his work.

 

11. God hath spoken once. The Psalmist considered that the only effectual method of abstracting the minds of men from the vain delusions in which they are disposed to trust, was bringing them to acquiesce implicitly and firmly in the judgment of God. Usually they are swayed in different directions, or inclined at least to waver, just as they observe things changing in the world; fb423 but he brings under their notice a surer principle for the regulation of their conduct, when he recommends a deferential regard to God’s Word. God himself “dwells in the light which is inaccessible,” (<540616>1 Timothy 6:16;) and as none can come to him except by faith, the Psalmist calls our attention to his word, in which he testifies the truth of his divine and righteous government of the world. It is of great consequence that we be established in the belief of God’s Word, and we are here directed to the unerring certainty which belongs to it. The passage admits of two interpretations; but the scope of it is plainly this, that God acts consistently with himself, and can never swerve from what he has said. Many understand David to say that God had spoken once and a second time; and that by this explicit and repeated assertion of his power and mercy, he had confirmed the truth beyond all possibility of contradiction. There is a passage much to the same effect in the thirty-third chapter of the book of Job, and fourteenth verse, where the same words are used, only the copulative is interposed. If any should prefer it, however, I have no objections to the other meaning — God has spoken once; twice have I heard this. It agrees with the context, and suggests a practical lesson of great importance; for when God has once issued his word he never retracts: on the other hand, it is our duty to ponder on what he has said, long and deliberately; and the meaning of David will then be, that he considered the Word of God in the light of a decree, stedfast and irreversible, but that, as regarded his exercise in reference to it, he meditated upon it again and again, lest the lapse of time might obliterate it from his memory. But the simpler and preferable reading would seem to be, that God had spoken once and again. There is no force in the ingenious conjecture, that allusion may be made to God’s having spoken once in the Law, and a second time in the Prophets. Nothing more is meant than that the truth referred to had been amply confirmed, it being usual to reckon anything certain and fixed which has been repeatedly announced. Here, however, it must be remembered, that every word which may have issued forth from God is to be received with implicit authority, and no countenance given to the abominable practice of refusing to receive a doctrine, unless it can be supported by two or three texts of Scripture. This has been defended by an unprincipled heretic among ourselves, who has attempted to subvert the doctrine of a free election, and of a secret providence. It was not the intention of David to say that God was tied down to the necessity of repeating what he might choose to announce, but simply to assert the certainty of a truth which had been declared in clear and unambiguous terms. In the context which follows, he exemplifies himself that deferential reverence and regard for the word of God which all should, but which so few actually do, extend to it.

We might just put together, in a connected form, the particular doctrines which he has singled out for special notice. It is essentially necessary, if we would fortify our minds against temptation, to have suitably exalted views of the power and mercy of God, since nothing will more effectually preserve us in a straight and undeviating course, than a firm persuasion that all events are in the hand of God, and that he is as merciful as he is mighty. Accordingly, David follows up what he had said on the subject of the deference to be yielded to the word, by declaring that he had been instructed by it in the power and goodness of God. Some understand him to say, that God is possessed of power to deliver his people, and of clemency imbuing him to exercise it. But he would rather appear to mean, that God is strong to put a restraint upon the wicked, and crush their proud and nefarious designs, but ever mindful of his goodness in protecting and defending his own children. The man who disciplines himself to the contemplation of these two attributes, which ought never to be dissociated in our minds from the idea of God, is certain to stand erect and immovable under the fiercest assaults of temptation; while, on the other hand, by losing sight of the all-sufficiency of God, (which we are too apt to do,) we lay ourselves open to be overwhelmed in the first encounter. The world’s opinion of God is, that he sits in heaven an idle and unconcerned spectator of events which are passing. Need we wonder, that men tremble under every casualty, when they thus believe themselves to be the sport of blind chance? There can be no security felt unless we satisfy ourselves of the truth of a divine superintendence, and can commit our lives and all that we have to the hands of God. The first thing which we must look to is his power, that we may have a thorough conviction of his being a sure refuge to such as cast themselves upon his care. With this there must be conjoined confidence in his mercy, to prevent those anxious thoughts which might otherwise rise in our minds. These may suggest the doubt — What though God govern the world? does it follow that he will concern himself about such unworthy objects as ourselves?

There is an obvious reason, then, for the Psalmist coupling these two things together, his power and his clemency. They are the two wings wherewith we fly upwards to heaven; the two pillars on which we rest, and may defy the surges of temptation. Does danger, in short, spring up from any quarter, then just let us call to remembrance that divine power which can bid away all harms, and as this sentiment prevails in our minds, our troubles cannot fail to fall prostrate before it. Why should we fear — how can we be afraid, when the God who covers us with the shadow of his wings, is the same who rules the universe with his nod, holds in secret chains the devil and all the wicked, and effectually overrules their designs and intrigues?

The Psalmist adds, Thou wilt certainly render to every man according to his work. And here he brings what he said to bear still more closely upon the point which he would establish, declaring that the God who governs the world by his providence will judge it in righteousness. The expectation of this, duly cherished, will have a happy effect in composing our minds, allaying impatience, and checking any disposition to resent and retaliate under our injuries. In resting himself and others before the great bar of God, he would both encourage his heart in the hope of that deliverance which was coming, and teach himself to despise the insolent persecution of his enemies, when he considered that every man’s work was to come into judgment before Him, who can no more cease to be Judge than deny himself. We can therefore rest assured, however severe our wrongs may be, though wicked men should account us the filth and the off-scourings of all things, that God is witness to what we suffer, will interpose in due time, and will not disappoint our patient expectation. From this, and passages of a similar kind, the Papists have argued, in defense of their doctrine, that justification and salvation depend upon good works; but I have already exposed the fallacy of their reasoning. No sooner is mention made of works, than they catch at the expression, as amounting to a statement that God rewards men upon the ground of merit. It is with a very different design than to encourage any such opinion, that the Spirit promises a reward to our works — it is to animate us in the ways of obedience, and not to inflame that impious self-confidence which cuts up salvation by the very roots. According to the judgment which God forms of the works of the believer, their worth and valuation depend, first, upon the free pardon extended to him as a sinner, and by which he becomes reconciled to God; and, next, upon the divine condescension and indulgence which accepts his services, fb424 notwithstanding all their imperfections. We know that there is none of our works which, in the sight of God, can be accounted perfect or pure, and without taint of sin. Any recompense they meet with must therefore be traced entirely to his goodness. Since the Scriptures promise a reward to the saints, with the sole intention of stimulating their minds, and encouraging them in the divine warfare, and not with the remotest design of derogating from the mercy of God, it is absurd in the Papists to allege that they, in any sense, merit what is bestowed upon them. As regards the wicked, none will dispute that the punishment awarded to them, as violators of the law, is strictly deserved.


PSALM 63

The following psalm cannot so properly be said to consist of prayers as of a variety of pious meditations, which comforted the mind of David under dangers, anxieties, and troubles of a severe description. It contains the vows too which he made to God in the distress occasioned by the alarming circumstances in which he was placed.

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. fb425

<196301>Psalm 63:1-4

1. O God! thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul has thirsted for thee, my flesh has longed for thee in fb426 a desert and thirsty fb427 land, where no water is. 2. Thus have I beheld thee in the sanctuary, to see thy power and thy glory. 3. Because thy mercy is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. 4. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.

 

1. O God! thou art my God. The wilderness of Judah, spoken of in the title, can be no other than that of Ziph, where David wandered so long in a state of concealment. We may rely upon the truth of the record he gives us of his exercise when under his trials; and it is apparent that he never allowed himself to be so far overcome by them, as to cease lifting up his prayers to heaven, and even resting, with a firm and constant faith, upon the divine promises. Apt as we are, when assaulted by the very slightest trials, to lose the comfort of any knowledge of God we may previously have possessed, it is necessary that we should notice this, and learn, by his example, to struggle to maintain our confidence under the worst troubles that can befall us. He does more than simply pray; he sets the Lord before him as his God, that he may throw all his cares unhesitatingly upon him, deserted as he was of man, and a poor outcast in the waste and howling wilderness. His faith, shown in this persuasion of the favor and help of God, had the effect of exciting him to constant and vehement prayer for the grace which he expected. In saying that his soul thirsted, and his flesh longed, he alludes to the destitution and poverty which he lay under in the wilderness, and intimates, that though deprived of the ordinary means of subsistence, he looked to God as his meat and his drink, directing all his desires to him. When he represents his soul as thirsting, and his flesh as hungering, we are not to seek for any nice or subtile design in the distinction. He means simply that he desired God, both with soul and body. For although the body, strictly speaking, is not of itself influenced by desire, we know that the feelings of the soul intimately and extensively affect it.

2. Thus in the sanctuary, etc. It is apparent, as already hinted, that God was ever in his thoughts, though wandering in the wilderness under such circumstances of destitution. The particle thus is emphatic. Even when so situated, in a wild and hideous solitude, where the very horrors of the place were enough to have distracted his meditations, he exercised himself in beholding the power and glory of God, just as if he had been in the sanctuary. Formerly, when it was in his power to wait upon the tabernacle, he was far from neglecting that part of the instituted worship of God. He was well aware that he needed such helps to devotion. But now, when shut out, in the providence of God, from any such privilege, he shows, by the delight which he took in spiritual views of God, that his was not a mind engrossed with the symbols, or mere outward ceremonial of religion. He gives evidence how much he had profited by the devotional exercises enjoined under that dispensation. It is noticeable of ignorant and superstitious persons, that they seem full of zeal and fervor so long as they come in contact with the ceremonies of religion, while their seriousness evaporates immediately upon these being withdrawn. David, on the contrary, when these were removed, continued to retain them in his recollection, and rise, through their assistance, to fervent aspirations after God. We may learn by this, when deprived at any time of the outward means of grace, to direct the eye of our faith to God in the worst circumstances, and not to forget him whenever the symbols of holy things are taken out of our sight. The great truth, for example, of our spiritual regeneration, though but once represented to us in baptism, should remain fixed in our minds through our whole life, fb428 (<560305>Titus 3:5; <490526>Ephesians 5:26.) The mystical union subsisting between Christ and his members should be matter of reflection, not only when we sit at the Lord’s table, but at all other times. Or suppose that the Lord’s Supper, and other means of advancing our spiritual welfare, were taken from us by an exercise of tyrannical power, it does not follow that our minds should ever cease to be occupied with the contemplation of God. The expression, So have I beheld thee to see, etc., indicates the earnestness with which he was intent upon the object, directing his whole meditation to this, that he might see the power and glory of God, of which there was a reflection in the sanctuary.

3. Because thy mercy is better than life, etc. I have no objections to read the verse in this connected form, though I think that the first clause would be better separated, and taken in with the verse preceding. David would appear to be giving the reason of his earnestness in desiring God. By life is to be understood, in general, everything which men use for their own maintenance and defense. When we think ourselves well provided otherwise, we feel no disposition to have recourse to the mercy of God. That being (to speak so) which we have of our own, prevents us from seeing that we live through the mere grace of God. fb429 As we are too much disposed to trust in aids of a carnal kind, and to forget God, the Psalmist here affirms that we should have more reliance upon the divine mercy in the midst of death, than upon what we are disposed to call, or what may appear to be, life. Another interpretation has been given of the words of this verse, but a very meagre and feeble one, — That the mercy of God is better than life itself; or, in other words, that the divine favor is preferable to every other possession. But the opposition is evidently between that state of secure prosperity, in which men are so apt to rest with complacency, and the mercy of God, which is the stay of such as are ready to sink and perish, and which is the one effectual remedy for supplying (if one might use that expression) all defects.

The word which I have rendered life, being in the plural number in the Hebrew, has led Augustine to assign a meaning to the sentence which is philosophical and ingenious, but without foundation, as the plural of the word is quite commonly used in the singular signification. He considered that the term lives was here used in reference to the truth, That different men affect different modes of life, some seeking riches, and others pleasure; some desiring the luxuries, and some the honors of this world, while others are given to their sensual appetites. He conceived that there was an opposition stated in the verse between these various kinds of life and eternal life, here by a common figure of speech called mercy, because it is of grace, and not of merit. But it is much more natural to understand the Psalmist as meaning, that it was of no consequence how large a share men possess of prosperity, and of the means which are generally thought to make life secure, the divine mercy being a better foundation of trust than any life fashioned out to ourselves, and than all other supports taken together. fb430 On this account the Lord’s people, however severely they may suffer from poverty, or the violence of human wrongs, or the languor of desire, or hunger and thirst, or the many troubles and anxieties of life, may be happy notwithstanding; for it is well with them, in the best sense of the term, when God is their friend. Unbelievers, on the other hand, must be miserable, even when all the world smiles upon them; for God is their enemy, and a curse necessarily attaches to their lot.

In the words which follow, David expresses his consequent resolution to praise God. When we experience his goodness, we are led to open our lips in thanksgiving. His intention is intimated still more clearly in the succeeding verse, where he says that he will bless God in his life. There is some difficulty, however, in ascertaining the exact sense of the words. When it is said, So will I bless thee, etc., the so may refer to the good reason which he had, as just stated, to praise God, from having felt how much better it is to live by life communicated from God, than to live of and from ourselves. fb431 Or the sense may be, so, that is, even in this calamitous and afflicted condition: for he had already intimated that, amidst the solitude of the wilderness, where he wandered, he would still direct his eye to God. The word life, again, may refer to his life as having been preserved by divine interposition; or the sense of the passage may be, that he would bless God through the course of his life. The former meaning conveys the fullest matter of instruction, and agrees with the context; he would bless God, because, by his goodness, he had been kept alive and in safety. The sentiment is similar to that which we find elsewhere,

“I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord;” — (<19B817>Psalm 118:17)

and again; —

“The dead shall not praise the Lord, neither any that go down into silence, but we who live will bless the Lord,”;
(<19B517>Psalm 115:17, 18.)

In the lifting up of hands, fb432 in the second clause of the verse, allusion is made to praying and vowing; and he intimates, that besides giving thanks to God, he would acquire additional confidence in supplication, and be diligent in the exercise of it. Any experience we may have of the divine goodness, while it stirs us up to gratitude, should, at the same time, strengthen our hopes of the future, and lead us confidently to expect that God will perfect the grace which he has begun. Some understand by the lifting up of his hands, that he refers to praising the Lord. Others, that he speaks of encouraging himself from the divine assistance, and boldly encountering his enemies. But I prefer the interpretation which has been already given.

<196305>Psalm 63:5-8

5. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips. 6. I shall surely fb433 remember thee upon my couch: I will meditate upon thee in the night watches, fb434 7. Because thou hast been my help: and I will rejoice in the shadow of thy wings. 8. My soul has cleaved hard after thee: thy right hand will uphold me.

 

5. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow, etc. In accordance with what was said in the foregoing verse, David expresses his assured persuasion of obtaining a rich and abundant measure of every blessing that could call for thanksgiving and praise. At the period of composing this psalm, he may have been already in the enjoyment of ease and plenty; but there is reason to believe that he cherished the persuasion referred to, even when wandering in the wilderness in a state of poverty and destitution. If we would evidence a strong faith, we must anticipate the divine favor before it has been actually manifested, and when there is no present appearance of its forthcoming. From the instance here set before us, we must learn to be on our guard against despondency, in circumstances when we may see the wicked wallowing and rioting in the abundance of the things of this world, while we ourselves are left to pine under the want of them. David, in the present pressure to which he was exposed, might have given way to despair, but he knew that God was able to fill the hungry soul, and that he could want for nothing so long as he possessed an interest in his favor. It is God’s will to try our patience in this life, by afflictions of various kinds. Let us bear the wrongs which may be done us with meekness, till the time come when all our desires shall be abundantly satisfied. It may be proper to observe, that David, when he speaks in figurative language of being filled with marrow and fatness, does not contemplate that intemperate and excessive indulgence to which ungodly men surrender themselves, and by which they brutify their minds. He looks forward to that moderate measure of enjoyment which would only quicken him to more alacrity in the praises of God.

6. I shall surely remember thee, etc. It may be read also, when, or, as often as I remember thee, I will pray in the night watches. But as the Hebrew particle here used is occasionally taken for an adverb of affirmation, as well as of time, I have adhered to the commonly received translation, In this case, his remembering God is to be understood as the same thing with his meditating upon him; and the one clause contains just a repetition of the sentiment expressed in the other. If the particle be taken in the different sense formerly mentioned, the words intimate, that as often as the name of God recurred to his mind, he would dwell upon it with pleasure, and speak of his goodness. He particularly mentions the night watches, as, when retired from the sight of our fellow-creatures, we not only revert to what may have given us anxiety, but feel our thoughts drawn out more freely to different subjects. We have next the reason assigned for the engagement or declaration he has just made, which is, that he owed to God his preservation. The experience of the divine goodness should dispose us to prayer as well as praise. “I will come into thy house,” says the Psalmist in another place, “in the multitude of thy mercy,” (<190507>Psalm 5:7.) The second part of the seventh verse is expressive of the lively hope with which he was animated. He was resolved to rejoice and triumph under the shadow of God’s wings, as feeling the same peace and satisfaction in reliance upon his protection as he could have done had no danger existed.

8. My soul has cleaved hard after thee. The Hebrew verb means also to apprehend, or follow, especially when in construction with the preposition which is here joined to it, and therefore we might very properly render the words, — My soul shall press or follow after thee. fb435 But even should the other translation be retained, the sense is, that David’s heart was devoted to God with stedfast perseverance. The phrase, after thee, is emphatical, and denotes that he would follow with unwearied constancy, long as the way might be, and full of hardships, and beset with obstacles, and however sovereignly God might himself seem to withdraw his presence. The latter clause of the verse may be taken as referring simply to the deliverance which he had previously mentioned as having been received. He had good reason to persevere, without fainting, in following after God, when he considered that he had been preserved in safety, up to this time, by the divine hand. But I would understand the words as having a more extensive application, and consider that David here speaks of the grace of perseverance, which would be bestowed upon him by the Spirit. To say that he would cleave to God, with an unwavering purpose, at all hazards, might have sounded like the language of vain boasting, had he not qualified the assertion by adding, that he would do this in so far as he was sustained by the hand of God.

<196309>Psalm 63:9-11

9. And they, whilst they seek my soul to destroy it, shall go into the lowest parts of the earth. 10. They shall cast him out fb436 to the edge of the sword: they shall be a portion for foxes. 11. But the king fb437, shall rejoice in God; and every one who swears by him shall glory: for the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.

 

9. And they, whilst they seek, etc. Here we find David rising to a more assured confidence, and triumphing as if he had already obtained the victory. And there is every reason to believe, that though he had escaped his difficulties, and was in circumstances of peace and prosperity when he wrote this psalm, yet he only expresses what he actually felt at the critical period when his life was in such imminent danger. He declares his conviction that the enemies who eagerly sought his life would be cut off; that God would cast them headlong into destruction; and that their very bodies should be left without burial. To be the portion of foxes, fb438 is the same thing with being left to be torn and devoured by the beasts of the field. It is often denounced as one judgment which should befall the wicked, that they would perish by the sword, and become the prey of wolves and of dogs, without privilege of sepulture. This is a fate which the best of men have met with in the world, — for good as well as bad are exposed to the stroke of temporal evil; — but there is this distinction, that God watches over the scattered dust of his own children, gathers it again, and will suffer nothing of them to perish, whereas, when the wicked are slain, and their bones spread on the field, this is only preparatory to their everlasting destruction.

11. But the king will rejoice in God. The deliverance which David received had not been extended to him as a private person, but the welfare of the whole Church was concerned in it, as that of the body in the safety of the head, and there is therefore a propriety in his representing all the people of God as rejoicing with him. Nor can we fail to admire his holy magnanimity in not scrupling to call himself king, overwhelming as the dangers were by which he was surrounded, because he laid claim to that honor by faith, though yet denied him in actual possession. In saying that he would rejoice in God, he refers to the gratitude which he would feel; at the same time, in extolling the divine goodness shown to him, he views it as it affected the common body of the faithful. fb439 As was already remarked, the safety of God’s chosen people, at that time, was inseparably connected with the reign of David and its prosperity — a figure by which it was the divine intention to teach us, that our happiness and glory depend entirely upon Christ. By those who swear in the name of the Lord, he means in general all his genuine servants. The act of solemnly calling upon God to witness and judge what we say, is one part of divine worship: hence an oath, by the figure of speech called synecdoche, is made to signify the profession of religion in general. We are not to imagine from this that God reckons all those to be his servants who make mention of his name. Many take it into their lips only to profane it by the grossest perjury; others outrage or slight it by entering into trifling and unnecessary oaths; and hypocrites are chargeable with wickedly abusing it. But those whom David refers to are such as swear by the Lord, considerately and with reverence, and whose hearts respond to what they declare. This appears more clearly from the contrast which follows in the verse, where he opposes those who swear by the name of God to those who speak lies, understanding by that term, not only treacherous and deceitful men, but men who profane the name of God by falsehoods of a sacrilegious kind.


PSALM 64

This psalm expresses the language of complaint and prayer. David, in order that he may incline God to compassionate his case, dwells upon the injustice and cruelty, the intrigues and deceitfulness of his enemies. At the close, his eyes are directed to God, in the anticipation of a joyful deliverance from their hands.

To the chief musician. A Psalm of David.

<196401>Psalm 64:1-6

1. Hear my voice, O God: in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy. 2. Hide me from the counsel of the wicked; from the assembly of the workers of iniquity. 3. For they have whetted their tongue like a sword; they have directed [or aimed fb440] for their arrow a bitter word, [or report.] 4. To shoot in secret at the perfect; suddenly will they shoot, and not fear. 5. They assure themselves in an evil work, they commune of laying snares privily; they say, Who shall see them? 6. They have searched out iniquities, they have accomplished a diligent search, [lit. a search searched out,] both the inward part of each of them, and the heart, is deep.

 

1. Hear my voice, O God! He begins by saying that he prayed earnestly, and with vehemence, stating, at the same time, what rendered this necessary. The voice is heard in prayer, proportionally to the earnestness and ardor which we feel. He condescends upon the circumstances of distress in which he was presently placed, and takes notice of the dangers to which his life was exposed from enemies, with other points fitted to excite the favorable consideration of God. His praying that God would protect his life, proves that it must have been in danger at this time. In the second verse, he intimates that his enemies were numerous; and that, without divine assistance, he would be unable to sustain their attacks. Some difficulty attaches to the words, from their being susceptible of two meanings. The Hebrew term dws, sod, which signifies a secret, is understood by some to refer here to the secret plots of the wicked, and by others, to denote their meeting together for consultation. In translating it, I have employed a word which admits of either interpretation. The term tgr, rigshath, used in the second part of the verse, may also be rendered in two ways, as meaning either an assembly of men, or noise and uproar. It comes from gr, ragash, a root signifying to make a tumult. This would suggest that the word dws, sod, in the former clause, might refer to the clandestine plots of the wicked, and tgr, rigshath, in the latter, to their open violence; and that David prayed to be protected, on the one hand, from the malicious purposes of his enemies, and, on the other, from the forcible measures by which they proceeded to put them into execution. But the meaning first given, and which I have adopted, seems the most simple and natural, That he solicits the compassion of God, by complaining of the number that were banded against him. Still his language implies that he looked upon the protection of heaven as amply sufficient against the greatest combination of adversaries. I may add, that there is an implied plea for strengthening his cause in prayer, in what he says of the malice and wickedness of those who were opposed to him; for the more cruel and unjust the conduct of our enemies may be, we have proportionally the better ground to believe that God will interpose in our behalf.

3. For they have whetted their tongue like a sword. His enemies, in their rage, aimed at nothing less than his life, and yet what he complains of, more than all beside, is the poison with which their words were imbued. It is probable that he refers to the calumnious reports which he knew to be falsely spread to his discredit, and with a view of damaging his reputation with the people. Their tongues he likens to swords; their bitter and venomous words to arrows. fb441 And when he adds, that, they shoot against the upright and innocent, he is to be considered as contrasting his integrity with their unprincipled conduct. It inspired him with confidence in his religious addresses, to know that he could exonerate his own conscience from guilt, and that he was the object of undeserved attack by worthless and abandoned men. In mentioning that they shoot secretly and suddenly, he refers to the craft which characterised them. They were not only eagerly bent upon mischief, and intent in watching their opportunities, but so expert and quick in their movements, as to smite their victim before he could suspect danger. When we hear that David, who was a man in every respect so much more holy and upright in his conduct than ourselves, suffered from groundless aspersions upon his character, we have no reason to be surprised that we should be exposed to a similar trial. This comfort, at least, we always have, that we can betake ourselves to God, and obtain his defense of the upright cause. He takes particular notice of another circumstance, that they shot their empoisoned arrows from their lips without fear, or shame. This self-secure spirit argued a degree of abandoned presumption, in so far as they could persist in obstinately pursuing the conduct in which they had been repeatedly detected, and renew their desperate attempts, to the disregard of all fear of God or worldly shame.

5. They assure themselves in an evil work. He proceeds to complain of the perverse determination with which they pursued their wickedness, and of their combinations amongst themselves; remarking, at the same time, upon the confidence with which they stirred one another up to the most daring acts of iniquity. In this there can be little doubt that they were encouraged by the present state of weakness to which David was reduced in his circumstances, taking occasion, when they found him in poverty and exile, and without means of resistance, to persecute him with the greater freedom. Having adverted to them as being beyond hope of amendment, and incapable of any impressions of humanity, he speaks of their meeting together to plot his destruction; and, in connection with this, of the unbounded confidence which they were led to display, from a belief that their designs were not seen. It is well known that one circumstance which strengthens the false security of the wicked, and encourages them to triumph in their crafty policy towards the simple and upright in heart, is their thinking that they can cover their crimes by such pretexts as they have always at hand. They say, Who shall see them? The word wml, lamo, them, may refer either to the workers of iniquity themselves, or to the snares spoken of in the preceding clause. The first seems the preferable meaning. They run recklessly, and without restraint, in the ways of sin, blinded by their pride, and influenced neither by the fear of God nor a sense of shame.

In the verse which follows, he animadverts severely upon the deceit which they practiced. He speaks of their having exhausted all the arts of mischief, so as to have left nothing in this department to be discovered. The search referred to has relation to the secret methods of doing evil. He adds, that their malice was deep. By the inward part and the heart, which was deep, he means the hidden devices to which the wicked have recourse for concealment. Some, instead of translating the words, the inward part of each, etc., give a more indefinite sense to ya, ish, and read, the inward part, and deep heart, of every one, is found in them; that is, his enemies contrived to comprise in themselves all that men have ever displayed in the shape of craft and subtilty. Either rendering may be adopted; for it is evidently David’s meaning that his enemies practiced secret stratagem as well as open violence, to compass his ruin, and showed themselves to be possessed of the deepest penetration in discovering dark and unimagined methods of doing mischief.

<196407>Psalm 64:7-10

7. And God shall shoot an arrow at them; suddenly shall they be wounded. 8. And they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves: and all that see them shall flee away. fb442 9. And all men shall see, and shall declare the work of God, and shall understand fb443 what he hath done. 10. The righteous shall be glad in Jehovah, and shall hope in him; and all the upright in heart shall glory.

 

7. And God shall shoot an arrow at them. The Psalmist now congratulates himself in the confident persuasion that his prayers have not been without effect, but already answered. Though there was no appearance of God’s approaching judgment, he declares that it would suddenly be executed; and in this he affords a remarkable proof of his faith. He saw the wicked hardening themselves in their prosperity, and presuming upon impunity from the divine connivance and forbearance; but instead of yielding to discouragement, he was borne up by the belief that God, according to his usual mode of procedure with the wicked, would visit them at an unexpected moment, when they were flattering themselves with having escaped, and indulging in extravagant confidence. It is a consideration which should comfort us, when subjected to long-continued trial, that God, in delaying to punish the ungodly, does so with the express design of afterwards inflicting judgments of a more condign description upon them, and when they shall say, “Peace and safety,” overwhelming them with sudden destruction, (<240811>Jeremiah 8:11. fb444)

8. And they shall make their own tongue to fall upon themselves. Pursuing the same subject, he remarks, that the poison concocted in their secret counsels, and which they revealed with their tongues, would prove to have a deadly effect upon themselves. The sentiment is the same with that expressed elsewhere by another figure, when they are said to be caught in their own snares, and to fall into the pit which they have digged themselves, (<195706>Psalm 57:6.) It is just that Heaven should make the mischiefs which they had devised against innocent and upright men to recoil upon their own heads. The judgment is one which we see repeatedly and daily exemplified before our eyes, and yet we find much difficulty in believing that it can take place. We should feel ourselves bound the more to impress the truth upon our hearts, that God is ever watching, as it were, his opportunity of converting the stratagems of the wicked into means just as completely effective of their destruction, as if they had intentionally employed them for that end. In the close of the verse, to point out the striking severity of their punishment, it is said that all who saw them should flee away. The judgments of God are lifted above out of the sight of an ignorant world, and ere it can be roused to fear and dismay, these must be such as to bear signal marks indeed of a divine hand.

9. And all men shall see, and shall declare the work of God. He insists more fully upon the good effects which would result from the judgment executed in leading such as had formerly overlooked a Divine Providence altogether, to catch a spirit of inquiry from the singularity of the spectacle; and acquaint themselves with, and speak one to another of a subject hitherto entirely new to them. He intimates, that the knowledge of what God had so signally wrought would extend far and wide — for he says, all men, etc. The Hebrew verb lk, shachal, employed, admits either of the neuter signification, they shall understand, or of the active, they shall cause others to understand. But as it is usual with David to repeat the same thing twice, perhaps the latter or transitive sense is preferable. Another desirable consequence which would flow from the deliverance granted is mentioned in the last verse, that it would afford matter of joy, hope, and holy triumph to the saints, who would be confirmed in expecting the same help from God which he had extended to his servant David. Those formerly called the righteous are now styled the upright in heart, to teach us, that the only righteousness which proves acceptable is that which proceeds from inward sincerity. This truth I have insisted upon at large elsewhere.


PSALM 65

This psalm is composed both of petition and thanksgiving. It contains a prediction of the Gentiles being called to the common faith, but is principally occupied with praising God for the fatherly care which he exercises over his Church, and the benefits which flow from it. The Psalmist prays particularly that God would continue his former kindness to the Jewish people. Two instances of the Divine goodness are specified, — the powerful defense extended to their land, and the enriching of it with so many blessings.

To the chief musician, a Psalm of David. fb445

<196501>Psalm 65:1-3

1. Praise waiteth fb446 for thee, O Lord! in Zion; and unto thee shall the vow be performed. 2. O thou that hearest prayer! unto thee shall all flesh come. 3. Words of iniquity have prevailed against me: our transgressions thou shalt purge them away. fb447

 

1. Praise waiteth for thee, O God! in Zion. Literally it runs, Praise is silent to thee, but the verb hymd, dumiyah, has been metaphorically rendered first, to be at rest, then to wait. The meaning of the expression is, that God’s goodness to his people is such as to afford constantly new matter of praise. It is diffused over the whole world, but specially shown to the Church. Besides, others who do not belong to the Church of God, however abundantly benefits may be showered upon them, see not whence they come, and riot in the blessings which they have received without any acknowledgement of them. But the main thing meant to be conveyed by the Psalmist is, that thanksgiving is due to the Lord for his goodness shown to his Church and people. The second clause of the verse is to the same effect, where he says, unto thee shall the vow be performed; for while he engages on the part of the people to render due acknowledgement, his language implies that there would be ever remaining and new grounds of praise.

With the verse which we have been now considering, that which follows stands closely connected, asserting that God hears the prayers of his people. This forms a reason why the vow should be paid to him, since God never disappoints his worshippers, but crowns their prayers with a favorable answer. Thus, what is stated last, is first in the natural order of consideration. The title here given to God carries with it a truth of great importance, That the answer of our prayers is secured by the fact, that in rejecting them he would in a certain sense deny his own nature. The Psalmist does not say, that God has heard prayer in this or that instance, but gives him the name of the hearer of prayer, as what constitutes an abiding part of his glory, so that he might as soon deny himself as shut his ear to our petitions. Could we only impress this upon our minds, that it is something peculiar to God, and inseparable from him, to hear prayer, it would inspire us with unfailing confidence. The power of helping us he can never want, so that nothing can stand in the way of a successful issue of our supplications. What follows in the verse is also well worthy of our attention, that all flesh shall come unto God. None could venture into his presence without a persuasion of his being open to entreaty; but when he anticipates our fears, and comes forward declaring that prayer is never offered to him in vain, the door is thrown wide for the admission of all. The hypocrite and the ungodly, who pray under the constraint of present necessity, are not heard; for they cannot be said to come to God, when they have no faith founded upon his word, but a mere vague expectation of a chance issue. Before we can approach God acceptably in prayer, it is necessary that his promises should be made known to us, without which we can have no access to him, as is evident from the words of the apostle Paul, (<490312>Ephesians 3:12,) where he tells us, that all who would come to God must first be endued with such a faith in Christ as may animate them wig confidence. From this we may infer, that no right rule of prayer is observed in the Papacy, when they pray to God in a state of suspense and doubt. Invaluable is the privilege which we enjoy by the Gospel, of free access unto God. When the Psalmist uses the expression, all flesh, he intimates by these few words that the privilege which was now peculiar to the Jews, would be extended to all nations. It is a prediction of Christ’s future kingdom.

3. Words of iniquity have prevailed against me. fb448 He does not complain of the people being assailed with calumny, but is to be understood as confessing that their sins were the cause of any interruption which had taken place in the communication of the divine favor to the Jews. The passage is parallel with that,

“The ear of the Lord is not heavy that it cannot hear, but our iniquities have separated betwixt us and him.” — <235901>Isaiah 59:1

David imputes it to his own sins and those of the people, that God, who was wont to be liberal in his help, and so gracious and kind in inviting their dependence upon him, had withdrawn for a time his divine countenance. First, he acknowledges his own personal guilt; afterwards, like <270905>Daniel 9:5, he joins the whole nation with himself. And this truth is introduced by the Psalmist with no design to damp confidence in prayer, but rather to remove an obstacle standing in the way of it, as none could draw near to God unless convinced that he would hear the unworthy. It is probable that the Lord’s people were at theft time suffering under some token of the divine displeasure, since David seems here to struggle with some temptation of this kind. He evidently felt that there was a sure remedy at hand, for no sooner has he referred to the subject of guilt, than he recognises the prerogative of God to pardon and expiate it. The verse before us must be viewed in connection with the preceding, and as meaning, that though their iniquities merited their being cast out of God’s sight, yet they would continue to pray, encouraged by his readiness to be reconciled to them. We learn from the passage that God will not be entreated of us, unless we humbly supplicate the pardon of our sins. On the other hand, we are to believe firmly in reconciliation with God being procured through gratuitous remission. Should he at any time withdraw his favor, and frown upon us, we must learn by David’s example to rise to the hope of the expiation of our sins. The reason of his using the singular number, in the confession which he makes of sin, may be, that as king he represented the whole people, or that he intended, like Daniel, to exhort them each to an individual and particular examination and confession of his own guilt. We know how apt hypocrites are to hide their personal sin, under a formal acknowledgement of their share in the general transgression. But David, from no affectation of humility, but from deep inward conviction, begins with himself, and afterwards includes others in the same charge.

<196504>Psalm 65:4-8

4. Blessed is the man whom thou hast chosen, and hast brought near thee; we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of the sanctuary of thy palace. 5. Terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer to us, O God of our salvation! the hope of all the ends of the earth, and the far of places of the sea. fb449 6. By his strength setting fast the mountains, being girded with power. fb450 7. Stilling the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the nations. 8. They also that dwell in the ends of the earth shall fear at thy signs; thou shalt make the outgoings of the evening and morning to rejoice.

 

4. Blessed is the man whom thou hast chosen. Having already acknowledged that the people had separated themselves from God by their sins, and forfeited all right to be heard, he now takes refuge in the free grace of God, which secures the remission of sin amongst other blessings. He thus casts an additional light upon what he had said on the point of guilt being purged away, by pointing to the cause of God, as being favorable to poor sinners, which can only be found in his fatherly love leading him to welcome them into his presence, however undeserving. That pardon which we daily receive flows from our adoption, and on it also are all our prayers founded. How could the sinner venture into the sight of God, to obtain reconciliation with him, were he not persuaded of his being a Father? In the words before us, David does not speak of the grace of God as reaching to the Gentiles, (which he had done in a preceding part of the psalm,) but in terms which apply only to the times in which he wrote. The Church of God was confined to the Jews, and they only were admitted into the sanctuary; whereas now, when the distinction has been abolished, and other nations called to the same privilege, we are all at liberty to approach him with familiarity. Christ is our peace, (<490214>Ephesians 2:14,) who has united in one those who were far off, and those who were nigh.

What has been now said may show at once the scope of the Psalmist. The Church and chosen people of God being in possession of the promise of the remission of sin, he calls those blessed whom God has included within that number, and introduced into the enjoyment of such a distinguished privilege. His language intimates, that the election did not at that time terminate upon all; for he insists upon it as the special prerogative of the Jews, that they had been chosen by God in preference to the other nations. Were it supposed that man could do anything to anticipate the grace of God, the election would cease to be with God himself, although the right and power of it are expressly ascribed to him. fb451 But the Jews had no excellency above others, except in the one point of having enjoyed the distinguishing favor of God. The middle wall of partition is now broken down, that the Gentiles might be called in. It is evident, however, that all are not alike called; and observation proves the ignorance of those who will assert that the grace of God is extended to all in common, without any choice exerted on his part. Can any reason be imagined why God should not call all alike, except it be that his sovereign election distinguishes some from others? Faith and prayer may be means for procuring us an interest in the grace of God; but the source whence it flows is not within but without us. fb452 There is a blessedness in exercising trust upon God, and embracing his promises — a blessedness experienced when, through faith in Christ the Mediator, we apprehend him as our Father, and direct our prayers to him in that character; — but ere this faith and prayer can have any existence, it must be supposed that we who are estranged from God by nature have been brought near by an exercise of his favor. We are near him, not as having anticipated his grace, and come to him of ourselves, but because, in his condescension, he has stretched out his hand as far as hell itself to reach us. To speak more properly, he first elects us, and then testifies his love by calling us. It is noticeable, also, that though God separated the seed of Abraham to be a peculiar people, entitled as the circumcision to a place in his temple, there can be no question that David recognised a distinction even amongst those who were Jews, all not having been the subjects of God’s effectual calling, nor yet properly entitled to a place in his temple. The Psalmist alludes, indeed, to the outward sanctuary, when he speaks of the Jews as chosen to approach God; but we must remember (what was brought under our attention, <191501>Psalm 15:1 and <192403>Psalm 24:3) that all were not real members of the Church who trod the court of the temple, but that the great qualifications necessary were the pure heart and the clean hands. Accordingly, we must understand by those brought near to God, such as present themselves before him in the exercise of genuine faith, and not such as merely occupy a place in his temple as to outward appearance. But, again, the being chosen, and the being called to approach God, are two things mentioned here together, to correct any such vain idea as that the sheep of God’s flock are allowed to wander at will for any length of time, and not brought into the fold. fb453 This is one way by which our gratuitous adoption is evidenced, that we come to the sanctuary under the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The Psalmist insists upon the fruit springing out of the blessed privilege of which he had spoken, when he adds, that believers would be satisfied with the fullness of his temple. Hypocrites may go there, but they return empty and unsatisfied as to any spiritual blessing enjoyed. It is noticeable, that the person is changed in this part of the verse, and that David associates himself with other believers, preferring to speak upon this subject from personal experience. We are not to understand that believers are fully replenished with the goodness of God at any one moment; it is conveyed to them gradually; but while the influences of the Spirit are thus imparted in successive measures, each of them is enriched with a present sufficiency, till all be in due time advanced to perfection. I might remark here, that while it is true, as stated, (<19A305>Psalm 103:5,) that “God satisfieth our mouth with good things,” at the same time it is necessary to remember what is said elsewhere, “Open thy mouth, and I will fill it.” Our contracted desires is the reason why we do not receive a more copious supply of blessings from God; he sees that we are straitened in ourselves, and accommodates the communications of his goodness to the measure of our expectations. By specifying particularly the goodness of the sanctuary, the Psalmist passes an implied commendation upon the outward helps which God has appointed for leading us into the enjoyment of heavenly blessings. In these former times God could have directly stretched out his hand from heaven to supply the wants of his worshippers, but saw fit to satisfy their souls by means of the doctrine of the law, sacrifices, and other rites and external aids to piety. Similar are the means which he employs in the Church still; and though we are not to rest in these, neither must we neglect them.

5. Terrible things fb454 in righteousness wilt thou answer to us. He proceeds to illustrate, although in a somewhat different form, the same point of the blessedness of those who are admitted into the temple of God, and nourished in his house. He declares that God would answer his people by miracles or fearful signs, displaying his power; as if he had said, in deliverances as wonderful as those which he wrought for their fathers when they went out of Egypt. It is in no common or ordinary manner that God has preserved his Church, but with terrible majesty. It is well that this should be known, and the people of God taught to sustain their hopes in the most apparently desperate exigencies. The Psalmist speaks of the deliverances of God as specially enjoyed by the Jewish nation, but adds, that he was the hope of the ends of the earth, even to the world’s remotest extremities. Hence it follows, that the grace of God was to be extended to the Gentiles.

6. By his strength setting fast the mountains. For the sake of illustration, he instances the power of God seen in the general fabric of the world. In these times it sounded as a new and strange truth to say that the Gentiles should be called to the same hope with the Jews. To prove that it was not so incredible as they were apt to conceive, the Psalmist very properly adverts to the Divine power apparent in all parts of the world. He instances the mountains rather than the plains, because the immense masses of earth, and the lofty rocks which they present, convey a more impressive idea of the Godhead. Interpreters are not agreed as to the exact meaning of the verse which follows. Some think that the mark of similitude must be supplied before the first word of the sentence, and that it is meant to be said that God stills the tumults of men when raging in their insolent attempts, as he stills the agitations of the sea. Others understand the first part of the verse to be a metaphorical declaration of what is plainly stated in the close. I would take the words simply as they stand, and consider that in the first member of the verse, David adverts to the illustration of the divine power which we have in the sea, and in the second to that which we have in his operations amongst men. His strength is shown in calming the waves and tempestuous swellings of the ocean. It is put forth also in quelling tumults which may have been raised by the people.

8. They also that dwell, etc. By the signs referred to, we must evidently understand those signal and memorable works of the Lord which bear the impress of his glorious hand. It is true, that the minutest and meanest objects, whether in the heavens or upon the earth, reflect to some extent the glory of God; but the name mentioned emphatically applies to miracles, as affording a better display of the divine majesty. So striking would be the proofs of God’s favor to his Church, that, as the Psalmist here intimates to us, they would constrain the homage and wonder of the most distant and barbarous nations. In the latter part of the verse, if we take the interpretation suggested by some, nothing more is meant, than that when the sun rises in the morning, men are refreshed by its light; and again, that when the moon and stars appear at night, they are relieved from the gloom into which they must otherwise have been sunk. Were this interpretation adopted, a preposition must be understood; as if it had been said, Thou makest men to rejoice on account of, or by the rising of the sun, of the moon, and of the stars. But the words, as they stand, convey a sense which is sufficiently appropriate without having recourse to any addition. It was said, that in consequence of the wonders done by the Lord, fear would spread itself over the uttermost parts of the earth; and the same thing is now asserted of the joy which they would shed abroad: from the rising to the setting sun, men would rejoice in the Lord, as well as fear him.

<196509>Psalm 65:9-13

9. Thou hast visited the earth, and watered it; thou hast greatly enriched it; the river of God is full of waters: thou wilt prepare their corn, for so thou hast provided for it. 10. Thou dost saturate its furrows, thou makest the rain to fall into them; thou moistenest it with showers; thou blessest the buddings forth of it. 11. Thou crownest the year with thy goodness, and thy paths will drop fatness. 12. They drop upon the dwellings fb455 of the wilderness, and the hills shall be girt about with gladness; fb456 13. The pastures are clothed with flocks, the valleys are covered with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.

 

9. Thou hast visited the earth, and watered it. This and the verbs which follow denote action continually going forward, and may therefore be rendered in the present tense. The exact meaning of the second verb in the sentence has been disputed. Some derive it from the verb qw, shuk, signifying to desire; and giving this meaning, that God visits the earth after it has been made dry and thirsty by long drought. fb457 Others derive it from the verb hq, shakah, signifying to give drink. This seems the most natural interpretation — Thou visitest the earth by watering it. It suits the connection better, for it follows, thou plentifully enrichest it, an expression obviously added by way of amplification. Whether the Psalmist speaks of Judea only, or of the world at large, is a point as to which different opinions may be held. I am disposed myself to think, that although what he says applies to the earth generally, he refers more particularly to Judea, as the former part of the psalm has been occupied with recounting the kindness of God to his own Church and people more especially. This view is confirmed by what is added, the stream or river of God is full of water. Some take the river of God to mean a great or mighty river, fb458 but such a rendering is harsh and overstrained, and on that supposition, rivers, in the plural number, would have been the form of expression used. I consider that he singles out the small rivulet of Siloah, fb459 and sets it in opposition to the natural rivers which enrich other countries, intending an allusion to the word of Moses, (<051110>Deuteronomy 11:10,) that the land which the Lord their God should give unto his people would not be as the land of Egypt, fertilized by the overflowings of the Nile, but a land drinking water of the rain of heaven. Or we may suppose that he calls the rain itself metaphorically the river of God. fb460 The words must, at any rate, be restricted to Judea, as by the pastures or dwellings of the wilderness, we are also to understand the more dry and uncultivated districts, called in Scripture “the hill country.” But while it is the kindness of God to his own people which is here more particularly celebrated as being better known, we are bound, in whatever part of the world we live, to acknowledge the riches of the Divine goodness seen in the earth’s fertility and increase. It is not of itself that it brings forth such an inexhaustible variety of fruits, but only in so far as it has been fitted by God for producing the food of man. Accordingly, there is a propriety and force in the form of expression used by the Psalmist when he adds, that corn is provided for man, because the earth has been so prepared by God; fb461 which means, that the reason of that abundance with which the earth teems, is its having been expressly formed by God in his fatherly care of the great household of mankind, to supply the wants of his children.

10. Thou dost saturate its furrows. Some take the verbs as being in the optative mood, and construe the words as a prayer. But there can be little doubt that David still continues the strain of thanksgiving, and praises God for moistening and saturating the earth with rains that it may be fitted for producing fruit. By this he would signify to us, that the whole order of things in nature shows the fatherly love of God, in condescending to care for our daily sustenance. He multiplies his expressions when speaking of a part of the divine goodness, which many have wickedly and impiously disparaged. It would seem as if the more perspicacity men have in observing second causes in nature, they will rest in them the more determinedly, instead of ascending by them to God. Philosophy ought to lead us upwards to him, the more that it penetrates into the mystery of his works; but this is prevented by the corruption and ingratitude of our hearts; and as those who pride themselves in their acuteness, avert their eye from God to find the origin of rain in the air and the elements, it was the more necessary to awaken us out of such a spirit.

11. Thou crownest the year with thy goodness. fb462 Some read — Thou crownest the year of thy goodness; as if the Psalmist meant that the fertile year had a peculiar glory attached to it, and were crowned, so to speak, by God. Thus, if there was a more abundant crop or vintage than usual, this would be the crown of the year. And it must be granted that God does not bless every year alike. Still there is none but what is crowned with some measure of excellency; and for that reason it would seem best to retain the simpler rendering of the words, and view them as meaning that the Divine goodness is apparent in the annual returns of the season. The Psalmist further explains what he intended, when he adds, that the paths of God dropped fatness, — using this as a metaphorical term for the clouds, upon which God rideth, as upon chariots, as we read in <19A403>Psalm 104:3. fb463 The earth derives its fruitfulness from the sap or moisture; this comes from the rain, and the rain from the clouds. With a singular gracefulness of expression, these are therefore represented as dropping fatness, and this because they are the paths or vehicles of God; as if he had said, that, wherever the Deity walked there flowed down from his feet fruits in endless variety and abundance. He amplifies this goodness of God, by adding, that his fatness drops even upon the wilder and more uncultivated districts. The wilderness is not to be taken here for the absolute waste where nothing grows, but for such places as are not so well cultivated, where there are few inhabitants, and where, notwithstanding, the Divine goodness is even more illustrated than elsewhere in dropping down fatness upon the tops of the mountains. fb464 Notice is next taken of the valleys and level grounds, to show that there is no part of the earth overlooked by God, and that the riches of his liberality extend over all the world. The variety of its manifestation is commended when it is added, that the valleys and lower grounds are clothed with flocks, fb465 as well as with corn. He represents inanimate things as rejoicing, which may be said of them in a certain sense, as when we speak of the fields smiling, when they refresh our eye with their beauty. It may seem strange, that he should first tell us, that they shout for joy, and then add the feebler expression, that they sing; interposing, too, the intensative particle, a, aph, they shout for joy, yea, they also sing. The verb, however, admits of being taken in the future tense, they shall sing, and this denotes a continuation of joy, that they would rejoice, not only one year, but through the endless succession of the seasons. I may add, what is well known, that in Hebrew the order of expression is frequently inverted in this way.


PSALM 66

There may have been one deliverance in particular, which the Psalmist celebrates here in the name of the Church, but he includes the many and various mercies which God had all along conferred upon his chosen people. While he takes notice of the divine interposition in their behalf, in a crisis of great mercy and distress, he suggests it as matter of comfort under trial, that their subjection to the tyranny of their enemies had been designed to prove them as silver in the furnace. At the close, he would appear to speak of himself individually, and adduces it as a proof of his integrity, that God had heard him, for God does not grant acceptance to the wicked.

To the chief musician, the Song of a Psalm. fb466

<196601>Psalm 66:1-4

1. Shout unto God, all the earth. 2. Sing the honor of his name: make glorious his praise. fb467 3. Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! in the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies lie [or feign submission] unto thee. 4. All the earth shall worship thee, and they shall sing unto thee; they shall sing thy name. Selah.

 

1. Shout unto God, all the earth. The psalm begins with this general declaration, which is afterwards reduced to particulars. fb468 He addresses himself to the whole world, and from this it would seem evident, that he predicts the extent to which the kingdom of God should reach at the coming of Christ. In the second verse the call is repeated with increasing vehemency, to stir up to the praises of God, such as might otherwise be remiss in the service. To sing the honor of his name, is an expression sufficiently obvious; meaning, that we should extol his sacred name in a manner suitable to its dignity, so that it may obtain its due and deserved adoration. But the clause which follows is rather ambiguous. Some think that it conveys a repetition of the same idea contained in other words, and read, set forth the glory of his praise. fb469 I prefer taking the Hebrew word signifying praise to be in the accusative case; rendering the words literally, make a glory his praise. And by this I understand him to mean, not as some do, that we should glory exclusively in his praises, fb470 but simply, that we highly exalt his praises, that they may be glorious. The Psalmist is not satisfied with our declaring them moderately, and insists that we should celebrate his goodness in some measure proportionably to its excellence.

3. Say unto God, How terrible art thou in thy works! Here he proceeds to state the grounds why he would have us to praise God. Many content themselves with coldly descanting to others of his praises, but with the view of awakening and more deeply impressing our hearts, he directs us to address ourselves immediately to God. It is when we hold converse with him apart, and with no human eye to witness us, that we feel the vanity of hypocrisy, and will be likely to utter only what we have well and seriously meditated in our hearts. Nothing tends more to beget a reverential awe of God upon our spirits than sisting ourselves in his presence. What the Psalmist adds is fitted and designed to produce the same feeling, that through the greatness of God’s power, his enemies feign submission to him. Are they who would perversely and obstinately revolt from his service, forced to humble themselves before him, whether they will it or not, how much more, then, ought his own children to serve him, who are invited into his presence, by the accents of tenderness, instead of being reduced to subjection by terror? There is an implied contrast drawn between the voluntary homage which they yield, as attracted by the sweet influences of grace, and that slavish obedience which is wrung reluctantly from the unbeliever. The Hebrew word here used for to lie, signifies to yield such a submission as is constrained, and not free or cordial, as <191845>Psalm 18:45. Neither the words nor the scope favor the other senses which have been suggested, as, that his enemies would acknowledge themselves to have been deceived in their hopes, or that they would deny having ever intended hostilities against him. There are many ways in which hypocrites may lie, but nothing more is meant by the Psalmist here, than that the power of God is such as to force them into a reluctant subjection.

4. All the earth shall worship thee. The Psalmist had good reason for insisting upon this one point again and again. Though all tongues were tuned to the praise of God, they never could adequately extol it; and yet such are the negligence and the perversity of men, that they will scarcely lift one feeble note in celebration of a theme which should command their united strength and might. We have another prediction here, of a time being to come when God would be worshipped, not only by the Jews, a small section of the human family, but by all the nations which would be eventually brought under his government. And we are not to consider that he refers to such a worship as would be constrained, and only not withheld, because resistance might be dangerous, but to the sincere homage of the heart — they shall sing unto thee! they shall sing unto thy name. Praise is the best of all sacrifices, (as we are told, <195014>Psalm 50:14, 23) and the true evidence of godliness. fb471

<196605>Psalm 66:5-9

5. Come and see the works of God; he is terrible in his dealing towards the children of men. 6. He turned the sea into dry land; they went through the flood on foot; there did we rejoice in him. 7. He ruleth by his power over the world; his eyes behold the nations; rebels fb472 shall not exalt themselves. 8. Bless our God; fb473 O ye people! and resound the voice of his praise. 9. Who hath brought our souls unto life, and hath not suffered our feet to fall.

 

5. Come and see the works of God. An indirect censure is here passed upon that almost universal thoughtlessness which leads men to neglect the praises of God. Why is it that they so blindly overlook the operations of his hand, but just because they never direct their attention seriously to them? We need to be aroused upon this subject. The words before us may receive some explanation by referring to a parallel passage, <194608>Psalm 46:8. But the great scope of them is this, that the Psalmist would withdraw men from the vain or positively sinful and pernicious pursuits in which they are engaged, and direct their thoughts to the works of God. To this he exhorts them, chiding their backwardness and negligence. The expression, Come and see, intimates that what they blindly overlooked was open to observation; for were it otherwise with the works of God, this language would be inappropriate. He next points out what those works of God are to which he would have our attention directed; in general he would have us look to the method in which God governs the human family. This experimental or practical kind of knowledge, if I might so call it, is that which makes the deepest impression. fb474 We find, accordingly, that Paul, (<441727>Acts 17:27) after speaking of the power of God in general, brings his subject to bear upon this one particular point, and calls upon us to descend into ourselves if we would discover the proofs of a present God. The last clause of the fifth verse I would not interpret with some as meaning that God was terrible above the children of men — superior to them in majesty — but rather that he is terrible towards them, evincing an extraordinary providence in their defense and preservation, as we have seen noticed, <194005>Psalm 40:5. Men need look no further, therefore, than themselves, in order to discover the best grounds for reverencing and fearing God. The Psalmist passes next from the more general point of his providence towards mankind at large, to his special care over his own Church, adverting to what he had done for the redemption of his chosen people. What he states here must be considered as only one illustration of many which he might have touched upon, and as intended to remind God’s people of the infinite variety of benefits with which their first and great deliverance had been followed up and confirmed. This appears obvious from what he adds, there we rejoiced in him. It is impossible that the joy of that deliverance could have extended to him or any of the descendants of the ancient Israelites, unless it had partaken the nature of a pledge and illustration of the love of God to the Church generally. Upon that event he showed himself to be the everlasting Savior of his people; so that it proved a common source of joy to all the righteous.

7. He ruleth by his power over the world. The Hebrew word lw[, olam, which I have translated the world, signifies occasionally an age, or eternity; fb475 but the first sense seems to agree best with the context, and the meaning of the words is, that God is endued with the power necessary for wielding the government of the world. What follows agrees with this, that his eyes behold the nations. Under the law, Judea was the proper seat of his kingdom; but his providence always extended to the world at large; and the special favor shown to the posterity of Abraham, in consideration of the covenant, did not prevent him from extending an eye of providential consideration to the surrounding nations. As an evidence of his care reaching to the different countries round, he takes notice of the judgments which God executed upon the wicked and the ungodly. He proves that there was no part of the human family which God overlooked, by referring to the fact of the punishment of evil-doers. There may be much in the Divine administration of the world calculated to perplex our conclusions; but there are always some tokens to be seen of his judgments, and these sufficiently clear to strike the eye of an acute and attentive observer.

8. Bless our God, O ye people! Although calling upon all, without exception, to praise God, he refers particularly to some Divine interposition in behalf of the Church. He would seem to hint that the Gentiles were destined, at a future period, to share the favor now exclusively enjoyed by God’s chosen people. In the meantime, he reminds them of the signal and memorable nature of the deliverance granted, by calling upon them to spread abroad the fame of it. Though he speaks of the Jewish people as having been brought unto life, (an expression intended to denote deliverance of a more than ordinary kind,) this means that they had been preserved from approaching danger rather than recovered from a calamity which had actually overtaken them, It is said that their feet had not been suffered to fall, which implies, that, through seasonable help which they had received, they had not fallen, but stood firm. The Psalmist, however, does not take occasion, from the evil having been anticipated and averted, to undervalue it. As they had been preserved safe by an interposition of Divine goodness, he speaks of this as tantamount to having been brought or restored to life.

<196610>Psalm 66:10-12

10. For thou, O God! hast proved us, thou hast tried us as silver is tried. 11. Thou broughtest us into the net, thou laidest restraint upon our loins. 12. Thou hast made man to ride over our heads, fb476 we have come into fire and water, and thou hast brought us into a fruitful place. fb477

 

10. For thou, O God! hast proved us. We may read, Though thou, O God! etc., and then the passage comes in as a qualification of what went before, and is brought forward by the Psalmist to enhance the goodness of God, who had delivered them from such severe calamities. But there is another object which I consider him to have in view, and this is the alleviation of the grief of God’s people, by setting before them the comfort suggested by the words which follow. When visited with affliction, it is of great importance that we should consider it as coming from God, and as expressly intended for our good. It is in reference to this that the Psalmist speaks of their having been proved and tried. At the same time, while he adverts to God’s trying his children with the view of purging away their sin, as dross is expelled from the silver by fire, he would intimate, also, that trial had been made of their patience. The figure implies that their probation had been severe; for silver is cast repeatedly into the furnace. They express themselves thankful to God, that, while proved with affliction, they had not been destroyed by it; but that their affliction was both varied and very severe, appears not only from the metaphor, but from the whole context, where they speak of having been cast into the net, being reduced to straits, men riding over their heads, and of being brought through shipwreck and conflagration. The expression, laying a restraint [or chain] upon their loins, is introduced as being stronger than the one which goes before. It was not a net of thread which had been thrown over them, but rather they had been bound down with hard and insolvable fetters. The expression which follows refers to men who had shamefully tyrannised over them, and ridden them down as cattle. By fire and water are evidently meant complicated afflictions; and it is intimated that God had exercised his people with every form of calamity. They are the two elements which contribute more than any other to sustain human life, but are equally powerful for the destruction of it. It is noticeable, that the Psalmist speaks of all the cruelties which they had most unjustly suffered from the hands of their enemies, as an infliction of Divine punishment; and would guard the Lord’s people against imagining that God was ignorant of what they had endured, or distracted by other things from giving attention to it. In their condition, as here described, we have that of the Church generally represented to us; and this, that when subjected to vicissitudes, and cast out of the fire into the water, by a succession of trials, there may at last be felt to be nothing new or strange in the event to strike us with alarm. The Hebrew word hywr, revayah, which I have rendered fruitful place, means literally a well-watered land. Here it is taken metaphorically for a condition of prosperity, the people of God being represented as brought into a pleasant and fertile place, where there is abundance of pasturage. The truth conveyed is, that God, although he visit his children with temporary chastisements of a severe description, will ultimately crown them with joy and prosperity. It is a mistake to suppose that the allusion is entirely to their being settled in the land of Canaan, fb479 for the psalm has not merely reference to the troubles which they underwent in the wilderness, but to the whole series of distresses to which they were subjected at the different periods of their history.

<196613>Psalm 66:13-16

13. I will come into thy house with burnt-offerings; I will pay thee my vows, 14. Which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble. 15. I will offer unto thee burnt-sacrifices of fatlings, with the incense of rams; fb480 I will bring bullocks, with goats. Selah. 16. Come, hear, I will tell to all them that fear God, what he hath done for my soul.

 

13. I will come into thy house with burnt offerings. Hitherto the Psalmist has spoken in the name of the people at large. Now he emphatically gives expression to his own private feelings, and calls upon them, by his example, to engage individually in the exercises of religion, it being impossible that there should be any hearty common consent unless each entered seriously upon the service of thanksgiving for himself and apart. We are taught that when God at any time succours us in our adversity, we do an injustice to his name if we forget to celebrate our deliverances with solemn acknowledgements. More is spoken of in this passage than thanksgiving. He speaks of vows having been contracted by him in his affliction, and these evidenced the constancy of his faith. The exhortation of the Apostle James is worthy of our special notice —

“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry?
let him sing psalms.” (<590513>James 5:13)

How many are there who lavish their hypocritical praises upon God in the career of their good fortune, while they are no sooner reduced to straits than the fervor of their love is damped, or gives place to the violence of fretfulness and impatience. The best evidence of true piety is when we sigh to God under the pressure of our afflictions, and show, by our prayers, a holy perseverance in faith and patience; while afterwards we come forward with the expression of our gratitude. The words, which my lips have uttered, are not an unmeaning addition, but imply that he had never allowed himself to be so far overcome by grief as not to throw his desires into the express form of petition, declaring that he cast himself for safety into the hands of God. On the subject of vows, I may just shortly repeat the remarks which have been given at greater length elsewhere. First, the holy fathers never vowed anything to God but what they knew to be sanctioned by his approval. Secondly, their sole end in vowing was to evidence their gratitude. The Papists, therefore, can find no warrant, from their example, for the rash and impious vows which they practice. They obtrude upon God whatever chances to come first into their lips; the end which they propose to themselves is the farthest removed from the right one; and with devilish presumption they engage themselves to things which are not allowed them.

15. I will offer unto thee burnt-sacrifices of fatlings. We must suppose the speaker to be either David or one of the more considerable men of the nation, for none in humbler circumstances could have offered rich sacrifices of this kind. It is probable that David was the author of the psalm, and here he signifies his intention to show a kingly liberality in his offerings. The reason why God ordered victims to be offered as an expression of thanksgiving was, as is well known, to teach the people that their praises were polluted by sin, and needed to be sanctified from without. However we might propose to ourselves to praise the name of God, we could only profane it with our impure lips, had not Christ once offered himself up a sacrifice, to sanctify both us and our services. (<581007>Hebrews 10:7) It is through him, as we learn from the apostle, that our praises are accepted. The Psalmist, by way of commendation of his burnt-offering, speaks of its incense or sweet savor; for although in themselves vile and loathsome, yet the rams and other victims, so far as they were figures of Christ, sent up a sweet savor unto God. fb481 Now that the shadows of the Law have been abolished, attentionis called to the true spiritual service. What this consists in, is more clearly brought under our notice in the verse which follows, where the Psalmist tells us, that he would spread abroad the fame of the benefits which he had received from God. Such was the end designed, even in the outward ceremonies under the Law, apart from which they could only be considered as an empty show. It was this — the fact, that they set forth the praises of the divine goodness — which formed the very season of the sacrifices, preserving them from insipidity. In calling, as he does, upon all the fearers of the Lord, the Psalmist teaches us, that if we duly feel the goodness of God, we will be inflamed with a desire to publish it abroad, that others may have their faith and hope confirmed, by what they hear of it, as well as join with us in a united song of praise. He addresses himself to none but such as feared the Lord, for they only could appreciate what he had to say, and it would have been lost labor to communicate it to the hypocritical and ungodly.

<196617>Psalm 66:17-20

17. I cried unto him with my mouth, and have extolled him under [or with] my tongue. fb482 18. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. 19. But truly God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. 20. Blessed be God! who hath not turned away my prayer, and his mercy from me.

 

17. I cried unto him with my mouth. He proves that he owed his safety to Divine interposition, from the circumstance of his having prayed, and in consequence, having sensibly experienced his kindness. Answers to prayer serve in no small degree to illustrate the goodness of God; and confirm our faith in it. In saying that he cried to God with his mouth and tongue, these are terms denoting, as we have seen in a previous part of the psalm, the vehemency and earnestness with which he prayed. Had he not prayed from the heart, he would have been rejected, but he makes mention of the tongue also, in token of the ardor of his supplications. Some absurdly imagine, that because the expression under the tongue is used, the meaning is with the heart. Words are said to come from under the tongue, because they are formed by the flexion of the tongue, as in that passage,

“The poison of asps is under their lips,” (<19E003>Psalm 140:3)

The term extol intimates, that we cannot honor God more in our worship, than by looking upwards to him for deliverance. The Papists rob him of a chief part of his glory, when they direct their prayers to the dead or to images, and make such little account of calling upon the name of the Lord.

The Psalmist next lays down the rule, which must be attended to, if we would pray properly and acceptably; guarding against that presumptuous exercise which overlooks the necessity of faith and penitence. We see with what audacity hypocrites and ungodly men associate themselves with the Lord’s people, in compliance with the general calls of the word to engage in prayer. To check this solemn mockery, the Psalmist mentions integrity of heart as indispensable. I am aware that the words may be considered as an assertion of his own personal uprightness of conduct, as we find him frequently vindicating this, by an appeal to the visible and practical proofs which God had shown of his favor to him; but his main object is evidently to enforce by the example of his own exercise the common propriety of drawing near to God with a pure heart. We have a parallel scripture in <430931>John 9:31, “We know that God heareth not sinners.” In one sense, he hears none but sinners; for we must all conform to the great rule of applying to him for the remission of our sins. But while believers make an unreserved confession of guilt before God, by this very thing they cease to be sinners, for God pardons them in answer to their supplications. We are not to forget the words of Paul,

“Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity,” — (<550219>2 Timothy 2:19)

Besides, to regard iniquity in the heart does not mean to be conscious of sin — for all the Lord’s people must see their sins and be grieved for them, and this is rather praiseworthy than condemnable; — but to be bent upon the practice of iniquity. He particularly refers to the heart, intimating that not only were his hands clean, in the sense of his being innocent before men, but that he could appeal to God in proof of his inward integrity. When the heart does not correspond to the outward conduct, and harbours any secret evil intent, the fair exterior appearance may deceive men; but it is an abomination in the sight of God, The Psalmist affirms with emphasis, that his prayers had been answered, and we ought to draw the inference that we shall never be disappointed, if we seek God in sincerity.

20. Blessed be God! who hath not turned away my prayer. He concludes the psalm, as he began it, with thanksgiving, and gives the reason of his not having met with a repulse; or, to take the figurative expression which he employs, of God’s not having turned away his prayer. This was, that he had not withdrawn his mercy. For it is entirely of his free grace that he is propitious, and that our prayers are not wholly ineffectual.


PSALM 67

The following psalm contains a prayer for a blessing upon the Church, that besides being preserved in a state of safety in Judea, it might be enlarged to a new and unprecedented extent. It touches shortly upon the kingdom of God, which was to be erected in the world upon the coming of Christ. fc1

To the chief musician on Neginoth. A psalm or song.

<196701>Psalm 67:1-7

1. God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us. Selah. fc2 2. That they may know thy way upon the earth, thy salvation among all nations. 3. Let the people praise thee, O God! let all the people praise thee. 4. Let the nations be glad, and shout for joy; for he shall judge the people righteously, and thou shalt govern the nations upon earth. Selah. 5. Let the people praise thee, O God: let all the people praise thee. 6. The earth has given its increase; and God, even our own God!, will bless us. 7. God shall bless us, fc3 and all ends of the earth shall fear him.

 

1. God be merciful unto us, and bless us. The psalm contains a prediction of Christ’s kingdom, under which the whole world was to be adopted into a privileged relationship with God; but the Psalmist begins by praying for the Divine blessing, particularly upon the Jews. They were the first-born, (<020422>Exodus 4:22,) and the blessing was to terminate upon them first, and then go out to all the surrounding nations. I have used the imperative mood throughout the psalm, as other translators have done, although the future tense, which is that employed in the Hebrew, would suit sufficiently well, and the passage might be understood as encouraging the minds of the Lord’s people to trust in the continuance and increase of the Divine favor. The words, however, are generally construed in the form of a prayer, and I merely threw out this as a suggestion. Speaking, as the Psalmist does, of those who belonged to the Church of God, and not of those who were without, it is noticeable that yet he traces all the blessings they received to God’s free favor; and from this we may learn, that so long as we are here, we owe our happiness, our success, and prosperity, entirely to the same cause. This being the case, how shall any think to anticipate his goodness by merits of their own? The light of God’s countenance may refer either to the sense of his love shed abroad in our hearts, or to the actual manifestation of it without, as, on the other hand, his face may be said to be clouded, when he strikes terrors into our conscience on account of our sins, or withdraws the outward marks of his favor.

2. That they may know thy way upon the earth. Here we have a clear prophecy of that extension of the grace of God by which the Gentiles were united into one body with the posterity of Abraham. The Psalmist prays for some conspicuous proof of favor to be shown his chosen people, which might attract the Gentiles to seek participation in the same blessed hope. fc4 By the way of God is meant his covenant, which is the source or spring of salvation, and by which he discovered himself in the character of a Father to his ancient people, and afterwards more clearly under the Gospel, when the Spirit of adoption was shed abroad in greater abundance. fc5 Accordingly, we find Christ himself saying,

“This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God,”
(<431703>John 17:3)

3. Let the people praise thee, O God! Having spoken of all nations participating in the saving knowledge of God, he next tells us that they would proclaim his goodness, and exhorts them to the exercise of gratitude. The repetition used clearly shows of itself that he alludes to an event of a new and unprecedented kind. Had the allusion been to some such manifestation of his favor as he ordinarily made to the Jews, we would not have looked for the same vehemency of expression. First he says, Let the people praise thee; then he adds, Let all the people praise thee. Afterwards he repeats the exclamation once more. But he appropriately makes mention, between, of rejoicing, and the occasion there was for it, since it is impossible that we can praise God aright, unless our minds be tranquil and cheerful — unless, as persons reconciled to God, we are animated with the hope of salvation, and “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,” reign in our hearts, (<500407>Philippians 4:7.) The cause assigned for joy plainly in itself points to the event of the calling of the Gentiles. The reference is not to that government of God which is general in its nature, but to that special and spiritual jurisdiction which he exercises over the Church, in which he cannot properly be said to govern any but such as he has gathered under his sway by the doctrine of his law. The word righteousness is inserted in commendation of his government. Language almost identical is used by Isaiah and Micah when they speak of the times in which the word of salvation would be diffused throughout all the earth, (<231104>Isaiah 11:4; <330403>Micah 4:3.)

6. The earth has given its increase. Mention having been made of the principal act of the Divine favor, notice is next taken of the temporal blessings which he confers upon his children, that they may have everything necessary to complete their happiness. And here it is to be remembered, that every benefit which God bestowed upon his ancient people was, as it were, a light held out before the eyes of the world, to attract the attention of the nations to him. From this the Psalmist argues, that should God liberally supply the wants of his people, the consequence would be, to increase the fear of his name, since all ends of the earth would, by what they saw of his fatherly regard to his own, submit themselves with greater cheerfulness to his government.


PSALM 68

In this psalm it was David’s design to celebrate the victories which, through the blessing of God, he had gained over his enemies; fc6 but, in the opening verses, he commends the power and goodness of God generally, as seen in the government of the world at large. From this he passes to the consideration of what God had done in redeeming his chosen people, and of the continued proofs of fatherly care which he had manifested to the posterity of Abraham. He then proceeds to the subject which he had more particularly in view, prosecuting it at length, and in terms of the most exalted description; praising the signal display of Divine power which he, and the whole nation with him, had experienced. Now that he had been made king, he infers that the Church was brought to a settled condition, and that God, who seemed to have departed, would now at length erect his throne, as it were, in the midst of it, and reign. In this it would evidently appear, that he designed, typically, to represent the glory of God afterwards to be manifested in Christ.

To the chief musician. A psalm or song of David.

<196801>Psalm 68:1-6

1. God shall arise: his enemies shall be scattered; and they who hate him shall flee before him. 2. As smoke is driven away, thou shalt drive them away; as wax melteth before the fire, the wicked shall perish from the presence of God. 3. But the righteous shall be glad; they shall rejoice before God, and leap for exultation. 4. Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: exalt him that rideth upon the clouds in Jah fc7 his name, [or, in his name Jah,] and rejoice before him. 5. A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in the habitation of his holiness. 6. God who setteth the solitary in families, who bringeth, out those who are bound with chains; fc8 but the rebellious shall dwell in a dry land.

 

1. God shall arise: his enemies shall be scattered. In this verse the Psalmist intimates, as it were by way of preface, the subject which he proposed to treat in the psalm, and which related to the truth that God, however long he may seem to connive at the audacity and cruelty of the enemies of his Church, will eventually arise to avenge it, and will prove himself able to protect it by the mere forth-putting of his hand. I agree with other interpreters in thinking that the sentiment is borrowed from Moses, (<041035>Numbers 10:35) fc9 There can be little doubt that in dictating the form of prayer there referred to, he had an eye to the instruction and comfort of all succeeding ages, and would teach the Lord’s people confidently to rely for safety upon the ark of the covenant, which was the visible symbol of the Divine presence. We may notice this difference, however, that Moses addressed the words to God as a prayer, while David rather expresses his satisfaction and delight in what he saw daily fulfilling before his own eyes. Some indeed read, Let God arise; but they appear to misapprehend the scope of the Psalmist. He means to say that observation attested the truth which Moses had declared of God’s needing only to rise up that all his enemies might be scattered before his irresistible power. Yet I see no objections to the other reading, provided the idea now mentioned be retained, and the words be considered as intimating that God needs no array of preparation in overthrowing his enemies, and can dissipate them with a breath. We are left to infer, that when his enemies at any time obtain an ascendancy, it is owing to an exercise of Divine forbearance, and that rage as they may, it is only with his permission; the time being not yet come for his rising. There is much comfort to be derived from the circumstance, that those who persecute the Church are here spoken of as God’s enemies. When he undertakes our defense, he looks upon the injuries done to us as dishonors cast upon his Divine Majesty. The Psalmist adds a striking figure to illustrate how easily God can overthrow the machinations of our enemies, comparing them to smoke which vanishes when blown upon by the wind, or wax which melts before the fire. fc10 We consider it utterly incredible that such a formidable array of opposition should be made to disappear in a moment. But the Spirit takes this method of chiding the fearfulness of our carnal minds, and teaching us that there is no such strength in our enemies as we suppose, — that we allow the smoke of them to blind our eyes, and the solid mass of resistance which they present to deceive us into a forgetfulness of the truth, that the mountains themselves flow down at the presence of the Lord. fc11

3. But the righteous shall be glad. It is here intimated by David, that when God shows himself formidable to the wicked, this is with the design of securing the deliverance of his Church. He would seem indirectly to contrast the joy of which he now speaks with the depression and grief felt by well affected men under the reign of Saul — suggesting, that God succeeds a season of temporary trouble with returns of comfort, to prevent his people from being overwhelmed by despondency. He leaves us also to infer, that one reason of that joy which they experience is derived from knowing that God is propitious to them, and interests himself in their safety. The Hebrew words, ynpm, mipne, and ynpl, liphne, admit of the same meaning; but I think that the Psalmist intended to note a distinction. The wicked flee from the presence of God, as what inspires them with terror; the righteous again rejoice in it, because nothing delights them more than to think that God is near them. When commenting upon the passage, <191826>Psalm 18:26, we saw why the Divine presence terrifies some and comforts others; for “with the pure he will show himself pure, and with the froward he will show himself froward.” One expression is heaped by the Psalmist upon another, to show how great the joy of the Lord’s people is, and how entirely it possesses and occupies their affections.

4. Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: exalt him fc12 that rideth, etc. He now proceeds to call upon the Lord’s people to praise God. And he begins by pointing out the grounds in general, as I have already hinted, which they have for this exercise, because he comprehends the whole world under his power and government, adding, that he condescends to take the poorest and the most wretched of our family under his protection. His infinite power is commended, when it is said that he rides upon the clouds, or the heavens, fc13 for this proves that he sits superior over all things. The Holy Spirit may signify by the expression, that we should exclude from our minds every thing gross and earthly in the conceptions we form of him; but he would, doubtless, impress us chiefly with an idea of his great power, to produce in us a due reverence, and make us feel how far short all our praises must come of his glory. We would attempt in vain to comprehend heaven and earth; but his glory is greater than both. As to the expression which follows, in Jah, his name, there has been some difference of opinion. The Hebrew preposition b, beth, may here, as sometimes it is, be a mere expletive, and we may read, Jah is his name. fc14 Others read, in Jah is his name; fc15 and I have no objection to this, though I prefer the translation which I have adopted. It is of less consequence how we construe the words, as the meaning of the Psalmist is obvious. The whole world was at that time filled with the vain idols of superstition, and he would assert the claim of God, and set them aside when he brought forward the God of Israel. But it is not enough that the Lord’s people should bow before him with suppliant spirits. Even the wicked, while they fear and tremble before him, are forced to yield him reverence. David would have them draw near to him with cheerfulness and alacrity; and, accordingly, proceeds to insist upon his transcendent goodness shown in condescending to the orphans and widows. The incomprehensible glory of God does not induce him to remove himself to a distance from us, or prevent him from stooping to us in our lowest depths of wretchedness. There can be no doubt that orphans and widows are named to indicate in general all such as the world are disposed to overlook as unworthy of their regard. Generally we distribute our attentions where we expect some return. We give the preference to rank and splendor, and despise or neglect the poor. When it is said, God is in the habitation of his holiness, this may refer either to heaven or to the temple, for either sense will suit the connection. God does not dwell in heaven to indulge his own ease, but heaven is, as it were, his throne, from which he judges the world. On the other hand, the fact of his having chosen to take up his residence with men, and inviting them familiarly to himself there, is one well fitted to encourage the poor, who are cheered to think that he is not far off from them. In the next verse, other instances of the Divine goodness are mentioned — that he gives the bereaved and solitary a numerous offspring, and releases the bonds of the captive. In the last clause of the verse, he denounces the judgment of God against those who impiously despise him, and this that he might show the Lord’s people the folly of envying their lot as well as strike terror into their minds. The sense of the words is, That we ought to comfort ourselves under the worst afflictions, by reflecting that we are in God’s hand, who can mitigate all our griefs and remove all our burdens. The wicked, on the other hand, may congratulate themselves for a time upon their prosperity, but eventually it will fare ill with them. By dwelling in a dry land, is meant being banished, as it were, to a wilderness, and deprived of the benefits of that fatherly kindness which they had so criminally abused.

<196807>Psalm 68:7-10

7. O God! when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness; Selah: 8. The earth was moved, the heavens also dropped at the presence of this God: Sinai at the presence of God, the God of Israel. fc16 9. Thou, O God! shalt make a liberal fc17 rain to fall upon thine inheritance, and thou refreshest it when it is weary. 10. Thy congregation fc18 shall dwell therein; thou, O God! wilt prepare in thy goodness for the poor.

 

7. O God! when thou wentest forth before thy people, etc. The Psalmist now proceeds to show that the Divine goodness is principally displayed in the Church, which God has selected as the great theater where his fatherly care may be manifested. What follows is evidently added with the view of leading the posterity of Abraham, as the Lord’s chosen people, to apply the observations which had been just made to themselves. The deliverance from Egypt having been the chief and lasting pledge of the Divine favor, which practically ratified their adoption under the patriarch, he briefly adverts to that event. He would intimate that in that remarkable exodus, proof had been given to all succeeding ages of the love which God entertained for his Church. Why were so many miracles wrought? why were heaven and earth put into commotion? why were the mountains made to tremble? but that all might recognize the power of God as allied with the deliverance of his people. He represents God as having been their leader in conducting them forth. And this not merely in reference to their passage of the Red Sea, but their journeys so long as they wandered in the wilderness. When he speaks of the earth being moved, he would not seem to allude entirely to what occurred upon the promulgation of the law, but to the fact that, throughout all their progress, the course of nature was repeatedly altered, as if the very elements had trembled at the presence of the Lord. It was upon Mount Sinai, however, that God issued the chief displays of his awful power; it was there that thunders were heard in heaven, and the air was filled with lightnings; and, accordingly, it is mentioned here by name as having presented the most glorious spectacle of the Divine majesty which was ever beheld. Some read, This Sinai, etc., connecting the pronoun hz, zeh, with the mountain here named; but it is much more emphatical to join it with the preceding clause, and to read, the heavens dropped at the presence of This God; David meaning to commend the excellency of the God of Israel. The expression is one frequently used by the prophets to denote that the God worshipped by the posterity of Abraham was the true God, and the religion delivered in his law no delusion, as in <232509>Isaiah 25:9, “This, this is our God, and he will save us.” To establish the Lord’s people in their faith, David leads them, as it were, into the very presence of God; indicates that they were left to no such vague uncertainties as the heathen; and indirectly censures the folly of the world in forsaking the knowledge of the true God, and fashioning imaginary deities of its own, of wood and stone, of gold and silver.

9. Thou, O God! shalt make a liberal rain to fall fc19 upon thine inheritance. Mention is made here of the continued course of favor which had been extended to the people from the time when they first entered the promised land. It is called the inheritance of God, as having been assigned over to his own children. Others understand by the inheritance spoken of in the verse, the Church, but this is not correct, for it is afterwards stated as being the place where the Church dwelt. The title is appropriately given to the land of Canaan, which God made over to them by right of inheritance. David takes notice of the fact, that, from the first settlement of the seed of Abraham in it, God had never ceased to make the kindest fatherly provision for them, sending his rain in due season to prepare their food. The words translated a liberal rain, read literally in the Hebrew a rain of freenesses, and I agree with interpreters in thinking that he alludes to the blessing as having come in the exercise of free favor, fc20 and to God, as having of his own unprompted goodness provided for all the wants of his people. Some read a desirable rain; others, a rain flowing without violence, or gentle; but neither of these renderings seems eligible. Others read a copious or plentiful rain; but I have already stated what appears to me to be the preferable sense. It was a proof, then, of his Divine liberality, that God watered the land seasonably with showers. There is clearly a reference to the site of Judea, which owed its fertility to dews and the rains of heaven. In allusion to the same circumstance, he speaks of its being refreshed when weary. The reason is assigned — because it had been given to his chosen people to dwell in. On no other account was it blessed, than as being the habitation of God’s Church and people. The more to impress upon the minds of the Jews their obligations to Divine goodness, he represents them as pensioners depending upon God for their daily food. He fed them upon the finest of the wheat, giving them wine, and honey, and oil in abundance — still he proportioned the communication of his kindness so as to keep them always dependent in expectation upon himself. Some, instead of reading, Thou wilt prepare with thy goodness, etc., render it, Thou wilt prepare with rich food; but, without absolutely objecting to this translation, I rather think that he adverts to the circumstance of God’s being led to provide for his people entirely by his own good pleasure.

<196811>Psalm 68:11-14

11. The fc21 Lord shall give the word to the women who announce the great army. fc22 12. Kings of armies shall flee — shall flee; and she that tarries at home shall divide the spoil. 13. Though you should lie among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and which behind is of the paleness of gold. fc23 14. When the Almighty scattered kings in it, thou shalt make it white fc24 in Salmon.

 

11. The Lord shall give the word, etc. David now adverts to the victories by which God had signally displayed his power in behalf of his people. He had himself been the instrument of restoring peace to the country, by putting down its foes, and he had extended the boundaries of the kingdom; but he ascribes the praise of all that had been done in stratagems and counsels of war to God. In representing God as issuing orders for the song of triumph, he intimates, figuratively, that it is he who determines the successful issue of battles. Notice is taken of the women who announce the army, for it was the custom anciently for women to sing the song of triumph, as Miriam, the sister of Moses, with her companions, sounded the praises of God upon the timbrel, and the women celebrated David’s victory upon the harp, when he slew Goliath, and routed the Philistines, (<021520>Exodus 15:20; <071203>Judges 12:34; <091806>1 Samuel 18:6.) In making this reference to a song of praise, the Psalmist, as I have already said, intended to impress the truth upon the people, that the victories gained were entirely owing to God; though, at the same time, he tacitly reminds them of its being their duty to proclaim his benefits with due gratitude.

From the verse which succeeds, we are taught that the mightiest preparations which the enemies of the Church may make for its destruction shall be overthrown. We may consider the words as spoken in the person of the Psalmist himself, or as forming the song of the women mentioned above. It was a circumstance illustrative of the Divine favor, that the most formidable kings, before whom the Jews could never have stood in their own strength, had been put to flight. That princes, who could easily have overrun the world with their forces, should have not only departed without obtaining their purpose, but been forced to fly to a distance, could be accounted for on no other supposition than God’s having stood forward signally as their defender. In the Hebrew the verb is repeated, they shall flee, they shall flee, signifying that the attacks of the enemy had been repelled by Divine assistance once and again. The greatness of the spoil taken is intimated by the circumstance stated, that a share of it would come even to the women who remained at home. While the soldiers would return from battle clothed with the spoils, such would be the quantity of booty taken, that the females, who took no part in war, would partake of it.

13. Though ye should lie among the pots. fc25 Having spoken of God as fighting the battles of his people, he adds, by way of qualification, that they may lie for a time under darkness, though eventually God will appear for their deliverance; There can be little doubt that he hints at the state of wretchedness and distress to which the nation had been reduced under the government of Saul, for the interposition was the more remarkable, considering the misery from which it had emerged. The words, however, convey a further instruction than this. They teach us the general truth, that believers are, by the hidden and mysterious power of God, preserved unhurt in the midst of their afflictions, or suddenly recovered so as to exhibit no marks of them. The language admits of being interpreted to mean either that they shine even when lying under filth and darkness, or that, when freed from their troubles, they shake off any defilement which they may have contracted. Let either sense be adopted, and it remains true that the believer is never consumed or overwhelmed by his afflictions, but comes out safe. An elegant figure is drawn from the dove, which, though it lie amongst the pots, retains the beauty which naturally belongs to it, and contracts no defilement on its wings. From this we learn that the Church does not always present a fair or peaceable aspect, but rather emerges occasionally from the darkness that envelops it, and recovers its beauty as perfectly as if it had never been subjected to calamity.

14. When the Almighty scattered kings in it. We might read extended, or divided kings, etc., and then the allusion would be to his leading them in triumph. But the other reading is preferable, and corresponds better with what was said above of their being put to flight. There is more difficulty in the second part of the verse, some reading, it was white in Salmon; that is, the Church of God presented a fair and beautiful appearance. Or the verb may be viewed as in the second person — Thou, O God! Didst make it fair and white as mount Salmon fc26 with snows. The reader may adopt either construction, for the meaning is the same. It is evident that David insists still upon the figure of the whiteness of silver, which he had previously introduced. The country had, as it were, been blackened or sullied by the hostile confusions into which it was thrown, and he says that it had now recovered its fair appearance, and resembled Salmon, which is well known to have been ordinarily covered with snows. fc27 Others think that Salmon is not the name of a place, but an appellative, meaning a dark shade. fc28 I would retain the commonly received reading. At the same time, I think that there may have been an allusion to the etymology. It comes from the word lx, tselem, signifying a shade, and mount Salmon had been so called on account of its blackness. fc29 This makes the comparison more striking; for it intimates, that as the snows whitened this black mountain, so the country had resumed its former beauty, and put on an aspect of joy, when God dispelled the darkness which had lain upon it during the oppression of enemies. fc30

<196815>Psalm 68:15-17

15. The hill of God, the hill of Bashan, a high hill, fc31 the hill of Bashan. 16. Why leap ye, ye high hills? the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, Jehovah will dwell in it for ever. 17. The chariots of God are twenty thousand thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.

 

15. The hill of God, the hill of Bashan. Here he adverts to the spring and source of all the kindness which God had shown, this being the circumstance that he had chosen mount Zion as the place of his palace and temple, whence all blessings should go out to the nation. A Divine declaration to that effect had been made to David, and this pre-eminence and dignity conferred upon mount Zion is very properly adduced as a proof of his being king, lawfully and by Divine appointment; for there was an inseparable connection between God’s dwelling upon that mountain, and David’s sitting upon the throne to govern the people. The words of the verse admit of two senses. We may suppose that the mountain of God is compared to mount Bashan as being like it, or we may understand that it is opposed to it. The first is the sense adopted almost by all interpreters, that while Bashan was famed for its fertility, Zion excelled it. It is of little importance which we prefer; but perhaps the distinction would be brought out as well were we to construe the words the hill of God by themselves, and consider that Bashan with its boasted height is afterwards ordered to yield precedence, as if David would say, that there was but one mountain which God had consecrated to himself by an irrevocable decree, and that though Bashan was renowned for height and fertility, it must rank with other mountains, which might in vain exalt themselves to an equality with Zion, honored as the chosen residence of God. If we read the verse differently, and consider it as applying to mount Zion throughout, then the Psalmist extols it as high and illustrious, and this because there emanated from it the Divine favor, which distinguished the Jews from every other nation.

16. Why leap ye, fc32 ye high hills? In this verse there is no obscurity or ambiguity. David having said that there was only one mountain in all the world which God had chosen, calls upon the highest hills to yield it the pre-eminency. As he repeats in the plural number what had been said immediately before of Bashan, this leads me to think that he intended first to oppose that mountain, and then all other high mountains generally, to Zion. fc33 Mountains are here to be understood figuratively, and the great truth conveyed is, that the kingdom of Christ, which God had begun to shadow forth in the person of David, far excels all that is reckoned glorious by the world. The reproof which the Psalmist administers, in order to humble the proud boasting of the world, is justified by that contempt which we know that carnal and ungodly persons entertain of Christ’s kingdom, devoted as they are to their own pleasures or wealth, and unable to appreciate spiritual blessings. The lesson will be felt to be the more useful and necessary, if we consider that this vain pride of man rises to an additional height, when the slightest occasion is afforded for its exercise. When we see those indulging it who have no grounds to do so, we need not wonder at the arrogance of such as are possessed of wealth and influence. But the Lord’s people may afford to leave them to their self-complacency, resting satisfied with the privilege of knowing that God has chosen to take up his habitation in the midst of them. They have no reason to repine at their lot so long as they have union with God, the only and the sufficient source of their happiness.

17.The chariots of God are twenty thousand thousands of angels. fc34 For the most part, we are apt to undervalue the Divine presence, and therefore David presents us with a description fitted to exalt our thoughts of it. Owing to our unbelieving hearts, the least danger which occurs in the world weighs more with us than the power of God. We tremble under the slightest trials; for we forget or cherish low views of his omnipotence. To preserve us from this error, David directs us to the countless myriads of angels which are at his command, — a circumstance, the consideration of which may well enable us to defy the evils which beset us. Twenty thousand are spoken of; but it is a number designed to intimate to us that the armies of the living God, which he commissions for our help, are innumerable; and surely this should comfort us under the deadliest afflictions of this life. In adding that the Lord is among them, the Psalmist is still to be considered as designing to give us an exalted view of what is included in God’s presence; for the words suggest that he can no more divest himself of his existence than not have this power whereby angels are subordinated to his will. Another idea suggested is, that one God is better than a universe of angels. The great distance to which we are apt to conceive God as removed from us is one circumstance which tries our faith, and in order to obviate this, the Psalmist reminds us of Sinai, where there was a display of his majesty. The inference was conclusive that he still abode in the sanctuary. For why did God appear upon that occasion in such a glorious manner? Evidently to show that his covenant formed a sacred bond of union between him and the posterity of Abraham. Hence the words of Moses —

“Say not in thine heart, Who shall go up into heaven? or who shall descend into the deep? or who shall go over the sea? For the word is nigh unto thee,” etc. (<053012>Deuteronomy 30:12.)

Sinai accordingly is mentioned by David, to teach us that if we would fortify our minds with a firm faith in the Divine presence, we must derive it from the Law and the Prophets.

<196818>Psalm 68:18-24

18. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: fc35 thou hast received gifts among men; fc36 even the rebellious, that the Lord Jehovah fc37 might dwell amongst his people. 19 Blessed be the Lord daily: this Lord will load us with deliverances. Selah. 20. He that is our God is the God of salvations; and to the Lord Jehovah fc38 belong the issues from death. 21. Surely God shall wound the head of his enemies, the crown of the hair of him who walketh on in his wickedness. 22. The Lord said, I will bring back from Bashan; I will bring again from the depths of the sea: 23. That thy foot may be stained with blood, the tongue of thy dogs even in that of thine enemies. 24. They have seen thy goings, O God! even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary.

 

18. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive. There can be little doubt that these words are intended to magnify the proofs of Divine favor granted upon the elevation of David to the throne, by contrasting the state of matters with that under Saul. The ascending on high implies the being previously low, and intimates, that under the melancholy confusions which had prevailed in the kingdom, there was no longer the same conspicuous display of the Divine glory as formerly. The government of Saul, which, from the first, had originated in a way that was condemnable, was doomed to fall under the displeasure of God, while his favor, on the other hand, was to be restored under David; and the undeniable appearances of this left no room for doubt that one who began his reign under such auspices was the object of the Divine choice. David, although he had acquitted himself with courage in the battles which were fought, ascribes all the glory of them to God, saying, that it was he who had taken captive the enemy, and forced them to pay tribute, and reduced the more fierce and rebellious to subjection. By the term yrrws sorerim, rebellious, contumacious, or revolters, he would evidently seem to mean a distinct class of persons from the other enemies, whom he mentions as having been taken captive; and it intimates, that while those who did not venture to resist, and who surrendered, had been brought under the yoke, the more proud and unyielding had been forced into submission. The end designed by this is stated in the words which follow, that God might dwell in the midst of his people; and that he might demonstrate himself to be an all-sufficient protector to those who put their trust in him.

As the passage which we have now been considering is applied by Paul in a more spiritual sense to Christ, (<490408>Ephesians 4:8,) it may be necessary to show how this agrees with the meaning and scope of the Psalmist. It may be laid down as an incontrovertible truth, that David, in reigning over God’s ancient people, shadowed forth the beginning of Christ’s eternal kingdom. This must appear evident to every one who remembers the promise made to him of a never-failing succession, and which received its verification in the person of Christ. As God illustrated his power in David, by exalting him with the view of delivering his people, so has he magnified his name in his only begotten Son. But let us consider more particularly how the parallel holds. Christ, before he was exalted, emptied himself of his glory, having not merely assumed the form of a servant, but humbled himself to the death of the cross. To show how exactly the figure was fulfilled, Paul notices, that what David had foretold was accomplished in the person of Christ, by his being cast down to the lowest parts of the earth in the reproach and ignominy to which he was subjected, before he ascended to the right hand of his Father, (<192207>Psalm 22:7.) That in thinking upon the ascension, we might not confine our views to the body of Christ, our attention is called to the result and fruit of it, in his subjecting heaven and earth to his government. Those who were formerly his inveterate enemies he compelled to submission and made tributary — this being the effect of the word of the Gospel, to lead men to renounce their pride and their obstinacy, to bring down every high thought which exalteth itself, and reduce the senses and the affections of men to obedience unto Christ. As to the devils and reprobate men who are instigated to rebellion and revolt by obstinate malice, he holds them bound by a secret control, and prevents them from executing intended destruction. So far the parallel is complete. Nor when Paul speaks of Christ having given gifts to men, is there any real inconsistency with what is here stated, although he has altered the words, having followed the Greek version in accommodation to the unlearned reader. fc39 It was not himself that God enriched with the spoils of the enemy, but his people; and neither did Christ seek or need to seek his own advancement, but made his enemies tributary, that he might adorn his Church with the spoil. From the close union subsisting between the head and members, to say that God manifest in the flesh received gifts from the captives, is one and the same thing with saying that he distributed them to his Church. What is said in the close of the verse is no less applicable to Christ — that he obtained his victories that as God he might dwell among us. Although he departed, it was not that he might remove to a distance from us, but, as Paul says, “that he might fill all things,” (<490410>Ephesians 4:10.) By his ascension to heaven, the glory of his divinity has been only more illustriously displayed, and though no longer present with us in the flesh, our souls receive spiritual nourishment from his body and blood, and we find, notwithstanding distance of place, that his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood drink indeed.

19. Blessed be the Lord, etc. David would have us to understand, that in recounting the more particular deliverances which God had wrought, he did not mean to draw our minds away from the fact, that the Church is constantly and at all times indebted for its safety to the Divine care and protection. He adds, Blessed be God daily. And he intimates, that deliverances might be expected from him with great abundance of every blessing. Some read, he will load, others, he will carry; fc40 but it is of little importance which reading we adopt. He points at the fact, that God extends continued proofs of his kindness to his people, and is unwearied in renewing the instances of it. I read this Lord in the second part of the verse, for the letter h, he, prefixed in the Hebrew, has often the force of a demonstrative pronoun; and he would point out, as it were with the finger, that God in whom their confidence ought to be placed. So in the next verse, which may be read, this our God is the God of salvation. What is here said coincides with the scope of what immediately precedes, and is meant to convey the truth that God protects his Church and people constantly. In saying this God, he administers a check to the tendency in men to have their minds diverted from the one living and true God. The salvation of God is set before the view of all men without exception, but is very properly represented here as something peculiar to the elect, that they may recognize themselves as continually indebted to his preserving care, unlike the wicked, who pervert that which might have proved life into destruction, through their unthankfulness. The Hebrew word in the 20th verse is salvations, in the plural number, to convince us that when death may threaten us in ever so many various forms, God can easily devise the necessary means of preservation, and that we should trust to experience the same mercy again which has been extended to us once. The latter clause of the verse bears the same meaning, where it is said, that to the Lord belong the issues of death. Some read, the issues unto death, fc41 supposing that the reference is to the ease with which God can avenge and destroy his enemies; but this appears a constrained interpretation. The more natural meaning obviously is, that God has very singular ways, unknown to us, of delivering his people from destruction. fc42 He points at a peculiarity in the manner of the Divine deliverances, that God does not generally avert death from his people altogether, but allows them to fall in some measure under its power, and afterwards unexpectedly rescues them from it. This is a truth particularly worthy of our notice, as teaching us to beware of judging by sense in the matter of Divine deliverances. However deep we may have sunk in trouble, it becomes us to trust the power of God, who claims it as his peculiar work to open up a way where man can see none.

21. Surely God shall wound, etc. The enemies of the Church are fierce and formidable, and it is impossible that she can be preserved from their continued assaults, without a vigorous protection being extended. To persuade us that she enjoys such a defense, David represents God as armed with dreadful power for the overthrow of the ungodly. The verse stands connected as to scope with the preceding, and we might render the Hebrew particle ˚a, ach, by wherefore, or on which account; but it seems better to consider it as expressing simple affirmation. We are to notice the circumstance, that God counts all those his enemies who unjustly persecute the righteous, and thus assures us of his being always ready to interpose for our defense. The concern he feels in our preservation is forcibly conveyed by the expressions which follow, that he will wound the head of his enemies, and the crown of their hair; fc43 intimating, that he will inflict a deadly and incurable wound upon such as harass his Church. This is still more strikingly brought out in what is added immediately afterwards, when God is described as wading through destruction.

22. The Lord said, I will bring back from Bashan. That the Israelites might not be led to take an irreligious and self-glorious view of their victories; that they might look to God as the author of them; and rest assured of his protection in time to come, David sends them back to the first periods of their history, and reminds them how their fathers had been originally brought by the victorious hand of God out of the lowest depths of trouble. He would have them argue that if God rescued his people at first from giants, and from the depths of the Red Sea, it was not to be imagined that he would desert them in similar dangers, but certain that he would defend them upon every emergency which might occur. The prophets are in the constant habit, as is well known, of illustrating the mercy of God by reference to the history of Israel’s redemption, that the Lord’s people, by looking back to their great original deliverance, might find an argument for expecting interpositions of a future kind. To make the deeper impression, God is introduced speaking himself. In what he says he may be considered as asserting his Divine prerogative of raising the dead to life again, for his people’s passage through the Red Sea, and victory over warlike giants, was a species of resurrection. fc44 Some read, I will cause the enemy to fly from Bashan; fc45 but this cannot be received, and does not agree with the context, as it follows, I will bring back from the depths of the sea. In representing God as bedewed or stained with blood, David does not ascribe to him anything like cruelty, but designs to show the Lord’s people how dear and precious they are in his sight, considering the zeal which he manifests in their defense. We know that David himself was far from being a man of cruel disposition, and that he rejoiced in the destruction of the wicked from the purest and most upright motives, as affording a display of the Divine judgments. That is here ascribed to God which may be asserted equally of his Church or people, for the vengeance with which the wicked are visited is inflicted by their hands. Some read the close of the verse, the tongue of thy dogs in thine enemies, even in him, i.e., the king and chief of them all. This is not the meaning of the Psalmist, which simply is, that the tongues of the dogs would be red with licking blood, such would be the number of dead bodies scattered round.

24. They have seen thy goings, O God! This verse may refer to processions of a warlike kind, or to such as are made in times of peace by those who give thanks for victory. It is customary for the people of God, on occasions of the latter description, to go forth and present peace-offerings in the temple. This has led some to understand by the goings of God, fc46 the crowds of his people when they proceed to the temple. But I am disposed to think that God himself is here represented as a king leading and marshalling forth his armies. Accordingly, it is added, in the sanctuary, under which expression there is an apt allusion to the visible symbol of the Divine presence. The great reason why God undertakes the guardianship of his people, and goes before them to repel the attacks of the enemy, is his having promised that he will hear their prayers in the sanctuary. He is therefore described as if he were seen coming out of his holy habitation, that he might conduct his people to victory. David calls him his King, to divert the attention of the people from himself, and lead them to view a name which belonged to a frail mortal man such as he was, in its higher application to the supreme Head of all. He speaks, it is true, in the name of the people, but not to the exclusion of himself.

<196825>Psalm 68:25-27

25. The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; in the midst were the damsels playing with timbrels. fc47 26. Bless ye God in the congregations, even the Lord, O ye who are of the fountain of Israel! 27. There is little Benjamin their ruler, the princes of Judah in their assembly, the princes of Zebulun, and the princes of Naphtali.

 

25. The singers went before. It is evident that he does not now speak of an army in battle array, but of a solemn assembly held for offering up thanksgivings to God for victory. God had openly shown that he was their leader in war, and to him the song of triumph is with propriety addressed. Mention is made of distinct choirs employed in his service, and particularly of such as played upon the timbrel; for, absurd as the practice may appear to us, it was then customary for the women to play upon that instrument. By the fountain fc48 from which they are called upon to bless God, some understand the heart, as it is known that those praises which proceed from the lips merely, and are hypocritical, meet with the Divine reprobation. But I conceive the true meaning to be, that all are summoned to praise the Lord who could deduce their origin from the patriarch Jacob. Many might not sustain the character which answered to their high vocation; but, as the whole race had been chosen of God, the Psalmist very properly invites them to engage in this devotional exercise. At the same time, I see nothing objectionable in the opinion, if any persist in preferring it, that the term is here used to distinguish the true saints of God from those who vainly boasted of being the posterity of Abraham, while they had degenerated from his spirit. Those only who walk in the footsteps of his faith are reckoned to be his children. It has caused some surprise that, in a general description of the sacred assemblies of the people, precedence should have been given to the tribe of Benjamin. According to certain interpreters, this is owing to the position which it occupied, as being next to David; and honor is put upon the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, fc49 which, though they lay at a great distance, were in a particular manner friendly and attached to him. Others think that the whole nation is represented under the tribes specified, which were at once the nearest and most distant. fc50 These conjectures fc51 are probable enough, but the point is one which may be left in uncertainty, as there may have been some other reason, which it is impossible for us to discover. It has been suggested that Benjamin is called little on account of the smallness of its numbers, the tribe having been nearly exterminated for the crime of the men of Gibeah, (<071920>Judges 19:20;) but David would not probably have adverted to any reproach of this kind in calling them to take so prominent a part in the praises of God. fc52 The inspired writers, in speaking of the tribes, often allude to the patriarchs from whom they respectively took their origin; nor is it surprising that the posterity of Benjamin, who was the youngest of Jacob’s children, fc53 should receive the designation here given to them; and the truth is, that even antecedently to the heavy stroke which befell them, they were not numerous. Interpreters, by general consent, have considered that Benjamin is called ruler, as Saul, who was first made king in Israel, belonged to this tribe; but I cannot bring myself to think it probable that David would have made such an unseasonable allusion to Saul’s memory, whose government is everywhere represented in Scripture as pregnant with disaster, and which was to be buried in that of his successor, whose reign is so prominently brought forward in this psalm. The more likely conjecture is, that this title of dignity is applied in order to put honor upon a tribe, which some might despise for its smallness, and to intimate that the Benjamites, though few in numbers, and not possessed of great influence, formed one head in Israel as well as the rest. fc54 Others may be disposed to think that there must have been some illustrious individual in this and the two tribes mentioned along with it, or that the whole tribe had signalised itself in a recent battle. Though honorable mention is made of these tribes, yet the chief place in the numbers assembled together at this time is assigned to the princes of Judah. Some think that the copulative is understood, and read, the princes of Judah and their congregation. The Hebrew word which we translate congregation is by others translated stoning. fc55 But it seems preferable to construe the words as implying that this tribe presided over the assembly which marched under its auspices in war. The power of summoning the people together is thus asserted as belonging to Judah, and it is represented as honored with the government and primacy of the kingdom.

<196828>Psalm 68:28-30

28. Thy God hath commanded thy strength; strengthen, O God! that which thou hast wrought in us. 29. From thy temple upon Jerusalem kings shall bring presents unto thee. 30. Destroy the company of spearmen, (literally, of the reed,) the multitude of bulls with the calves of the people, treading with their feet upon pieces of silver: scatter thou the people that delight in war.

 

28. Thy God hath commanded thy strength. Men are always disposed to arrogate to themselves the glory of what they may have done instead of tracing their success to God, and David reminds the people once more that they had not triumphed by their own strength, but by power communicated from above. If they had acquitted themselves with energy on the field, he would have them consider that it was God who inspired them with this valor, and would guard them against the pride which overlooks and disparages the Divine goodness. As a consideration which might farther tend to promote humility in their minds, he adverts to the dependence in which they stood of the future continuance of the same favor and protection; this being the great cause of presumptuous confidence, that we do not feel our own helplessness, and are not led under a sense of it to resort humbly to God for the supply of our wants. Another lesson which the passage teaches us is, that more is required than that God should visit us at first with his preventing grace; that we stand constantly in need of his assistance throughout our whole lives. If this be true in the literal warfare, where our conflict is with flesh and blood, it must be still more so in matters of the soul. It is impossible that we could stand one moment in the contest with such enemies as Satan, sin, and the world, did we not receive from God the grace which secures our perseverance.

What is said of the temple in the following verse is intended to carry out the same strain of sentiment which has been already expressed. It gives the reason why God had exerted his power in behalf of the Israelites rather than others; which was, that it might be displayed as coming forth from the sanctuary and the ark of the covenant. Hence the emphasis with which David calls him in a previous part of the psalm — the God of Israel. It was not in vain that God had erected his sanctuary, or promised his presence in connection with it; and his power is here represented as issuing from the temple, to denote that the only security for his favor was to be found in his gracious covenant and promises. Some read, From thy temple in Jerusalem — a frigid interpretation, and one which does not express the meaning of the Psalmist. His prayer is to the effect that the Divine power might be commanded from the sanctuary upon his chosen people, here denoted by a common figure of speech by Jerusalem. It may be asked how he speaks of the temple, when it had not been yet built. The word temple or palace may have been used to express the tabernacle. This, at least, I think more probable than that he should speak of the temple by anticipation, as some suppose; and there can be no doubt that the ark had already been placed in Zion. Having already traced all the honor of the recent victories to God, he next proceeds to vindicate his claim to reap the fruits of them, by asserting that the kings who had been subdued would acknowledge God to have been their conqueror, as well as yield themselves tributary to David and his successors, — a circumstance which should lay the people of God under an additional obligation to present him with their free-will offerings of praise.

30. Destroy the company of spearmen. Some read rebuke, but I approve of the distinction which has been noticed by those who are most skilled in the Hebrew language, that while the verb r[g, gear, has this meaning when the letter b beth, is interposed, it signifies without it to destroy. The word, tyj, chayath, which I have rendered company, has been translated beast, fc56 but no such sense can apply to it here. David evidently prays in this passage that God would deliver his chosen people by destroying their cruel and bloody enemies. In calling these the company of the reed or cane, fc57 he does not mean to say that they are weak, but alludes to the kind of armor which they wore, and which were lances or spears. The reed grows in some countries to a tree, or at least has all the consistency of wood, and the people are in the habit of making darts from it. In the East missile weapons are commonly used in war. He compares them for their fierceness to bulls, so I have rendered the word yryba, abbirim; for though it may be translated strong or stout persons — the congregation of the strong — it occasionally bears the other meaning; and as David adds, calves of the people, fc58 it would seem evident that he uses a figure to represent the rage and fury of the enemy, and perhaps their strength, which the Israelites were wholly unequal to combat except with Divine assistance. It is not so easy to discover the meaning of the next clause in the verse, treading upon pieces of silver. The Hebrew verb spr, raphas, signifies to tread, or literally, (for it, is here in the hithpael conjugations) causing themselves to tread; and some consider that the allusion is to the arrogance and vain-glorious boasting of the enemy. Others attach exactly the opposite sense to the words, holding that they denote submission, and that the enemy would bring pieces of silver in token of subjection. fc59 But how could we suppose that David would pray for the destruction of enemies who were already subdued, and paying tribute in the character of suppliants? To this it has been said in reply, that enemies may retain their animosity in all its force within their own breasts, ready to vent itself in rebellion upon the first opportunity, although when deprived of arms they cannot display it openly, and that this is especially true of the enemies of the Church, whose antipathies are virulent, ever breaking forth afresh so soon as an occasion offers. But I see no necessity for doing violence to the words of the Psalmist, and would take them in their plain acceptation, as meaning that the enemy in their pride trampled upon pieces of silver. The reference may be to attachments of silver upon their sandals, as the Eastern nations were always proverbial for their luxury. fc60 What immediately follows by no means favors the sense we have formerly adverted to, scatter the people who delight in war, where he hints that they sought groundless occasions for quarrel and tumult, and gratuitously attacked such as were disposed for peace. When we find David, after all the victories he had gained, still commending himself and his people to the protection of God, it should teach us to abandon the hope of ever seeing the Church placed in a state of perfect tranquillity in this world, exposed, as it is, to a succession of enemies raised up by the malice of Satan, and designed by God for the trial and exercise of our patience. In comparing their enemies to the beasts here mentioned, and taking notice that they delighted in war, it was no doubt his intention to influence the minds of the people of God to the contrary dispositions of clemency and mercy, as being that frame of spirit in the exercise of which they might expect to receive the Divine assistance. The more violently their enemies raged, and the more lawless their attempts might prove, they had only the more reason to expect the interposition of God, who humbles the proud and the mighty ones of this world. Such being the character of God, let us learn from this prayer of David to resort to him with confidence when the objects at any time of unmerited persecution, and to believe that he is able to deliver us at once from all our enemies.

<196831>Psalm 68:31-35

31. Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out [or, shall hasten to stretch out] her hands unto God. 32. Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth: sing praises to the Lord. Selah. 33. To him that rideth upon the heaven of heavens, which were of old, [literally the heavens of ancientness;] lo! he shall send forth in his voice a mighty voice. 34. Give strength unto God over Israel; his excellency and his strength are in the clouds. 35. O God! thou art terrible out of thy holy places: the God of Israel himself shall give strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God!

 

31. Princes shall come out of Egypt. He resumes the strain of thanksgiving, and confirms what he had previously asserted, that kings would come and pay tribute unto God. The examples which he brings forward are those of the Egyptians and Ethiopians. This sufficiently proves that the prediction must be extended to Christ, by whom the Egyptians and Ethiopians were brought under the sway of God. The word ≈yrt, tarits, translated, shall soon stretch out, might have been rendered, shall cause to run. fc61 But it seemed necessary to soften the harshness of the figure. It is doubtful whether the allusion be to the promptness with which they should yield subjection, or whether he means that they would stretch out their hands to entreat pardon, this being an attitude common to suppliants. According to either interpretation, it is their submission which is intended, and it is enough to know that David asserts that Ethiopia and Egypt would come under the power of God, and not they only, but the most distant parts of the world.

In the next verse he goes farther than before, and calls upon the kingdoms of the earth to praise God, language which implies that those who had once been distinguished by their hostility to him would be ranked amongst his willing worshippers. There must be the knowledge of God, as I have remarked elsewhere, before men can celebrate the praises of his name; and we have a proof of the calling of the Gentiles, in the fact that Moses and the prophets invite them to offer sacrifices of praise. That it might not seem a strange and incredible thing to speak of the extension of the worship of God from one land, within which it had been hitherto confined, to the whole world, David insists upon God’s rightful dominion over all parts of the earth. He rideth upon the heaven of heavens; that is, as we have observed at the beginning of the psalm, he has supreme power over all creatures, and governs the universe at his will. This truth is one which, even in its general application, is well fitted to beget a reverential consideration of the majesty of God; but we must not overlook the more particular reason for which it is here introduced. Mention having been made of the Gentiles, who lay as yet without the pale of the Church, he proves them to be embraced in the government of God by virtue of his sovereignty as Creator, and intimates that there was nothing wonderful in the fact, that he who sits upon the heavens should comprehend the whole inhabitants of the earth under his sway. By the heavens of ancient times, it is meant to intimate that the whole human family were under his power from the very beginning. We have a signal proof of the glorious power of God in the fact, that, notwithstanding the immensity of the fabric of the heavens, the rapidity of their motion, and the conflicting revolutions which take place in them, the most perfect subordination and harmony are preserved; and that this fair and beautiful order has been uninterruptedly maintained for ages. It is apparent then how the ancientness of the heavens may commend to us the singular excellency of the handiwork of God. Having touched upon the work of creation, he particularises thunder, for this is what he intends by a mighty voice, as in <192904>Psalm 29:4. There are two constructions which we may put upon the words used, either that by his voice of command he calls forth the thunders which shake heaven and earth with the loudness of their sound, or that he sends forth his mighty voice in the thunder. I have already shown, at some length, in commenting upon the other passage just quoted, that there is a propriety in God’s being represented as thundering; for the phenomenon is one which, more than any other, impresses an awe upon the spirits of men. And the words are introduced with the exclamation lo! or behold! the better to arrest our wandering thoughts, or rather to reprehend our security.

34. Give strength unto God over Israel. The expression is in allusion to the sentence which went before, and in which God was said to send forth a strong or mighty voice. Not that, properly speaking, we can give anything to Him, but, disposed as we are to withhold that honor which is his due, David subjoins to what he had said of his thundering with a mighty voice, an injunction that we should, on our part, be ready to sound forth his praises. To guard the Gentile nations against those false ideas upon religion in which they were accustomed to indulge, he brings them back to the doctrine of the Law, in which God had specially revealed himself, and intimates that, if they would not lose themselves in error, they must advance by necessary steps from the creation and government of the world, to that doctrine in which God had condescended to make a familiar revelation of himself to men. So much is included when God is spoken of here as the God of Israel. But he does not satisfy himself with enjoining them to celebrate the power of God with praises of the voice. He exhorts them to the exercise of faith, for in reality we cannot better ascribe strength unto God, than by reposing in his protection as all-sufficient. Thus, after having said that his strength is in the clouds; fc62 he adds, that he is terrible out of his holy places, by which is meant, that he exerts a power in his temple which is sufficient to confound his enemies. Some understand heaven and earth to be the holy places intended, but this does not agree with the context, for it is immediately added, that the God of Israel would give strength unto his people. It is evident, therefore, that the Psalmist speaks of God’s protection of his Church. The plural number is used in speaking of the sanctuary, here as in other places, because the tabernacle was divided into three parts. He points, in short, to the ark of the covenant, as that which the believing people of God should recognize as a symbol of confidence, remembering the promise, “I will dwell in the midst of you,” and thus resting with security under the wings of the Divine protection, and confidently calling upon his name. Any right which Israel might have in distinction from others to trust in the guardianship of God, rested entirely upon that covenant of free grace by which they had been chosen to be God’s peculiar heritage. Let it be remembered, however, that God continues to exert in behalf of his Church still these terrible displays of his power of which the Psalmist speaks.


PSALM 69

There is a close resemblance between this psalm and the twenty-second. In the opening verses, David complains of the barbarous cruelty of his enemies, and of the grievous wrongs which they had inflicted upon him. fc63 But his mind, he affirms, was not hereby reduced to such a state of distress as to prevent him from patiently relying on the protection of God, or to discourage him from continuing in the undeviating course of a holy and an upright life. He rather testifies that his piety, and the courage and activity which he had manifested in maintaining the interests of the divine glory, were the cause of the hostility borne to him by the generality of men. After having again complained of being not less shamefully than cruelly oppressed by his enemies, he invokes God to visit them with deserved punishment. In the close, exulting as if he had obtained his highest wishes, he engages to yield to God a solemn sacrifice of praise.

To the chief musician upon Shoshannim of David.

We have already spoken elsewhere of the word Shoshannim. Its proper meaning is uncertain and obscure; but the most probable conjecture is, that it was the commencement of some song. If, however, any would prefer considering it as the name of some musical instrument, I have no objections. But the opinion held by some that this psalm was composed at the season of spring, when the lilies begin to blossom, is altogether unfounded and frivolous. fc64 Before proceeding farther, we would have you to observe that David wrote this inspired ode not so much in his own name, as in the name of the whole Church, of whose Head he was an eminent type, as will be more dearly brought out in the sequel. This is highly worthy of our notice, that from this consideration we may be led to contemplate with the greater attention the representation which is here given of the common condition of all the people of God. Besides, it is highly probable that David did not here comprehend only one kind of persecution, but all the evils which he had suffered during the course of many years.

<196901>Psalm 69:1-5

1. Save me, O God! for the waters have entered in unto my soul. 2. I am sunk in deep mire, where there is no footing, [or standing place:] I am come into deep waters, and the flood fc65 of the water overfloweth me. 3. I am weary of crying; my throat has become hoarse therewith: my eyes have failed with [or in] waiting for my God. 4. They who hate me without cause are more in number than the hairs of my head: my lying adversaries, who eagerly desire to destroy me, are increased; fc66 that which I took not by spoil, then fc67 I restored it. 5. O God! thou knowest my foolishness; and my faults are not hidden from thee.

 

1. Save me, O God! for the waters, etc. Under the figure of waters, the Psalmist represents his condition as so extremely distressing that it brought him even to the brink of despair; and yet we know that, so far from being a soft and an effeminate person, he was one who encountered and overcame dreadful temptations with extraordinary courage. Whence we may infer the bitterness of the distress with which he was at that time afflicted. Some understand the word soul as denoting life; fc68 but this gives a very cold and unsatisfactory meaning. It rather signifies the heart. A man when he falls into an abyss of waters, may prevent for some time the water from entering his body, by stopping his mouth and his nostrils, but at length, from its being impossible for a human being to live without respiration, suffocation will compel him to let in the waters, and they will penetrate even to the heart. David by this metaphor would intimate, not only that the waters had covered and overwhelmed him, but also that he had been forced to draw them into his body.

2. I am sunk in deep mire, where there is no standing place. Here he compares his afflictions to a deep sink of mire, where there is still greater danger; for if a man fixes his feet upon a solid bottom, he may raise himself up, there having been many instances in which persons, placing their feet on the bottom, have by a sudden spring emerged and escaped the peril of the waters; but when a man finds himself once sunk in some slough or muddy river, it is all over with him, he has no means of saving himself. fc69 The Psalmist adduces additional circumstances in illustration of his afflicted condition. He declares that he was inundated by the flowing of the waters; an expression indicating the disorder and confusion which his distresses and persecutions produced.

3. I am weary of crying. David, in seeking and calling upon God, when his affairs were in such a confused and desperate condition, exhibited an instance of rare and wonderful patience. He complains of having continued crying until he was exhausted and became hoarse, and all to no purpose. By the word weary, he does not mean that he gave up with prayer, as if he had cast from him all love to and delight in that exercise upon finding that it proved unavailing as a means of deliverance. He rather describes his untiring perseverance; and the same idea is expressed by his hoarse throat and failing eyes. fc70 He certainly did not cry out before men from mere affectation, nor was this hoarseness contracted in the course of one day. We perceive, then, that although his bodily senses failed him, the vigor of his faith was by no means extinguished. When we reflect that David has spoken, as it were, out of the mouth of Christ, and, as it were, out of the mouth of all true saints who are the members of Christ, we ought not to think that any strange thing happens to us, if at any time we are so overwhelmed with death, as to be unable to discern the slightest hope of life. Yea, rather let us learn betimes, while God spares us, to meditate on this truth, and derive the aid which it is fitted to impart under calamity, that even in the most profound depths of adversity faith may hold us up, and, what is more, may elevate us to God; there being, as Paul testifies, (<450839>Romans 8:39) no height nor depth which can separate us from the infinite love of Him who swallows up all depths, yea, even hell itself.

4. They who hate me without cause are more in number than the hairs of my head. The Psalmist now expresses without figure what he had said under the metaphors of the mire and of the impetuous rushing of the waters. Persecuted as he was by so great a multitude of enemies, he had too good reason to be afraid of death in innumerable ways. Nor is his language hyperbolical, when he represents his enemies as more in number than the hairs of his head, since he was mortally hated and detested by the whole kingdom, it being the universal belief that he was a base and wicked traitor to his country. Farther, we know from the sacred history how numerous and powerful the armies were which Saul sent forth to pursue him. He expresses the mortal hatred which they bore to him, when he tells us that they were intently set upon his destruction, being eagerly desirous to have him cut off by a violent death; and yet he avows that he had done nothing to merit such unrelenting persecution. The Hebrew word nj, chinnam, which we have rendered, without cause, and which some translate, for nothing, intimates that they were impelled by a strong desire to do him injury, although he had not done them even the slightest wrong, nor given them the smallest provocation by ill usage of any kind. For this reason he applies to his enemies the appellation rq, sheker, that is, liars, because they had no just ground to make war upon him, although they pretended the contrary. Let us, therefore, after his example, if at any time we are subjected to persecution, study to have the support arising from the testimony of a good conscience, and to be able freely to protest before God, that the hatred which our enemies cherish against us is altogether causeless. This implies a self-control to which it is very difficult for a man to inure himself; but the more difficult it is, the more strenuous ought to be his efforts to attain it. It is mere effeminacy to regard it as an intolerable evil to be unrighteously afflicted; and the folly of this is very happily exposed by that noble answer of Socrates to his wife, who, having one day lamented, in prison, that he was condemned wrongfully, received from him this reply, “What then — would you rather that I should have suffered death for my offenses?” Farther, David adds, that he not only had to suffer the wrongs of violence, but had also to bear much reviling and contumely, as if he had been convicted of many crimes; a trial which, to an ingenuous mind, is more bitter and hard to bear than a hundred deaths. Many are to be found resolutely prepared to encounter death, who are by no means prepared to exhibit equal fortitude in the endurance of shame. Farther, David was not only despoiled of his goods by the violence of robbers, but he had been also mangled in his person, as if he had been a thief and a robber: That which I took not by spoil, then I restored it. fc71 When his enemies thus plundered and maltreated him, they doubtless boasted that they were acting as the judges of a perverse and wicked man; and we know that they were held in honorable estimation as judges. Let us therefore learn from this example to prepare ourselves not only to bear patiently all losses and troubles, yea, even death itself; but also shame and reproach, if at any time we are loaded with unfounded accusations. Christ himself, the fountain of all righteousness and holiness, was not exempted from foul calumny, why then should we be dismayed when we meet with a similar trial? It may well fortify our minds against it when we consider, that to persevere stedfastly in the practice of righteousness, although such is the reward which we receive from the world, is the genuine test of our integrity.

5. O God! thou knowest my foolishness. Augustine has labored to little purpose to show in what way these words are applicable to Christ; and at length he transfers to his members that which could not properly be said of the Head. fc72 David here uses the language of irony; and by this mode of expressing himself he meant to intimate, that, overwhelmed with the unrighteous judgments of men, he betakes himself to God, and implores him to appear as the defender of his cause. This is much more emphatic than if he had affirmed plainly, and without figure, that his integrity was known to God. In this way he administers a sharp rebuke to his enemies, and as it were looks down with a noble contempt upon the calumnious speeches which they uttered against him; as Jeremiah does when he says,

“O Lord! thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived.”
(<192007>Psalm 20:7)

Some ignorant people put a violent construction on these words of Jeremiah, as if they implied that he was actually deceived; whereas he is rather to be understood as deriding with bitter sarcasm his calumniators, who, in speaking evil of him, were chargeable with reproaching and blaspheming God himself. David in like manner, in the passage before us, as a means of preserving himself from succumbing under the perverse judgments of men, appeals to God as the judge of his cause; and possessing as he did the approving testimony of a good conscience, he regards in a great measure with indifference the unjust estimate which men might form of his character. It were indeed desirable that our integrity should also be acknowledged and approved of by men, and that not so much on our own account as for the edification of our brethren. But if, after we have done all in our power to make men form a favorable opinion respecting us, they misconstruct and pervert every good word which we utter, and every good action which we perform, we ought to maintain such greatness of mind as boldly to despise the world and all false accusers, resting contented with the judgment of God and with that alone; for those who are over anxious about maintaining their good name cannot but often experience fainting of heart. Let us be always ready to satisfy men; but if they refuse to listen to what we have to say in self-vindication, let us proceed in our course through evil report as well as good report, following the example of Paul  where he fearlessly appeals to the judgment of God,

“who will bring to light the hidden things of dark,”
(<460405>1 Corinthians 4:5)

<196906>Psalm 69:6-9

6. O Jehovah, Lord of Hosts! let not them that wait for thee be ashamed in me: let not them who seek thee be put to shame in me, O God of Israel! 7. For on thy account I have suffered reproach: shame hath covered my face. 8. I have been a stranger to my brethren, and am become an alien to the children of my mother. fc73 9. For the zeal of thy house hath eaten me up; and the reproach of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.

 

6. O Jehovah, Lord of Hosts! let not them that wait for thee be ashamed in me. David declares that he is set forth as an example from which all the people of God may derive matter either of hope or despair. Although he was held in detestation and execrated by the great body of the people, there yet remained a few who were ready to bear just and impartial testimony to his innocence; knowing as they did that he was unrighteously afflicted by his persecutors, that he constantly reposed on the grace and goodness of God, and that no temptations could discourage or prevent him from continuing stedfast in the practice of true godliness. But when they observed the distresses and calamities to which he was notwithstanding subjected, the only conclusion to which they were able to arrive was, that all the pains and labor which he had taken in devoutly serving God were entirely thrown away. As all the instances in which God extends his succor to his servants are so many seals, by which he confirms and gives us assurance of his goodness and grace towards us, the faithful must have been exceedingly discouraged had David been forsaken in the extremity of his distress. The danger of their being thus discouraged he now lays before God; not that God has ever need of being put in mind of any thing, but because he allows us to deal familiarly with him at the throne of grace. The word wait is properly to be understood of hope, and the expression to seek God, of prayer. The connecting of the two together teaches us the profitable lesson, that faith is not all inactive principle, since it is the means of stirring us up to seek God.

7. For on thy account I have suffered reproach. He now expresses more distinctly what he had stated ironically in the fifth verse, where he asserts that his faults were not hidden from God. Nay, he proceeds farther, declaring not only that the evil treatment which he met with from his enemies was unjust and altogether unmerited, but also that his cause was really God’s cause, since whatever he had undertaken and engaged in was expressly in obedience to the command of God. Saul no doubt had other reasons, or at least other pretences, for persecuting David; but as the hatred which he entertained against him most unquestionably proceeded from God’s having called and anointed him to be king, David here justly protests that it was not for any wickedness which he had committed, but because he had obeyed God, that men in general disapproved of and rashly condemned him. It is a source of great consolation to true believers when they can protest that they have the warrant and call of God for whatever they undertake or engage in. If we are hated by the world for making a public confession of the faith, a thing which we are to expect, it being evident from observation that the wicked ordinarily are never more fierce than when they assault the truth of God and the true religion, we have ground to entertain double confidence. fc74 We also learn from this passage how monstrous is the malice of men, who convert into a ground for reproach and reprehension the zeal for the Divine glory by which true believers are animated. fc75 But it is well for us that God not only wipes away the reproaches with which the wicked load us, but also so ennobles them, that they surpass all the honors and triumphs of the world. The Psalmist farther aggravates his complaint by the additional circumstance, that he was cruelly cast off by his own relations and friends; from which we are taught, that when by our devotedness to the cause of religion we cannot avoid exciting the displeasure of our brethren against us, it is our duty simply to follow God, and not to confer with flesh and blood.

9. For the zeal of thy house hath eaten me up. fc76 David’s enemies, no doubt, professed that nothing was farther from their mind than to touch the sacred name of God; but he reproves their hypocritical pretences, and affirms that he is fighting in God’s quarrel. The manner in which he did this, he shows, was by the zeal for the Church of God with which his soul was inflamed. He not only assigns the cause of the evil treatment which he received — his zeal for the house of God — but also declares that whatever evil treatment he was undeservedly made the object of, yet, as it were, forgetting himself, he burned with a holy zeal to maintain the Church, and at the same time the glory of God, with which it is inseparably connected. To make this the more obvious, let it be observed, that although all boast in words of allowing to God the glory which belongs to him; yet when the law, the rule of virtuous and holy living, presents its claims to them, men only mock him, and not only so, but they furiously rush against him by the opposition which they make to his Word. They do this as if he willed to be honored and served merely with the breath of the lip, and had not rather erected a throne among men, from which to govern them by laws. David, therefore, here places the Church in the room of God; not that it was his intention to transfer to the Church what is proper to God, but to show the vanity of the pretensions which men make of being the people of God, when they shake themselves loose from the control of God’s holy law, of which the Church is the faithful guardian. Besides, David had to deal with a class of men who, although a hypocritical and bastard race, professed to be the people of God; for all who adhered to Saul boasted of having a place in the Church, and stigmatised David as an apostate or a rotten member. With this unworthy treatment David was so far from being discouraged, that he willingly sustained all assaults for the defense of the true Church. He declares that he is unmoved by all the wrongs and revilings which he personally suffered at the hands of his enemies. Laying aside all concern about himself, he is disquieted and distressed only for the oppressed condition of the Church, or rather burns with anguish, and is consumed with the vehemence of his grief.

The second clause of the verse is to the same effect, denoting that he has nothing separate from God. Some explain it in a different sense, understanding it to mean that the wicked and proud, with the view of making an assault upon David, directed their fury and violence against God himself, and in this way indirectly pierced the heart of this holy man with their blasphemies, knowing as they did that nothing would be more grievous to him to bear than this. But this interpretation is too forced. Equally forced is that of those who consider David as intimating that he did not less prostrate himself in humble supplication at the mercy-seat whenever he heard the name of God torn by reproaches and blasphemy, than if he himself had been guilty of treason against the Divine Majesty. I therefore adhere to the opinion which I have already expressed, That David forgot what concerned himself, and that all the grief which he felt proceeded from the holy zeal with which he burned when he saw the sacred name of God insulted and outraged with horrible blasphemies. By this example we are taught, that whereas we are naturally so tender and delicate as to be unable to bear ignominy and reproach, we must endeavor to get quit of this unhappy state of mind, and ought rather to be grieved and agonised with the reproaches which are poured forth against God. On account of these, it becomes us to feel deep indignation, and even to give expression to this in strong language; but we ought to bear the wrongs and reproaches which we personally suffer without complaining. Until we have learned to set very little value upon our own reputation, we will never be inflamed with true zeal in contending for the preservation and advancement of the interests of the Divine glory. Besides, as David speaks in the name of the whole Church, whatever he says concerning himself behoved to be fulfilled in the supreme Head. It is, therefore, not surprising to find the Evangelists applying this passage to Christ, (<430217>John 2:17.) In like manner, Paul, in <451503>Romans 15:3, 5, 6, exhorting the faithful to imitate Christ, applies the second member to them all, and there also teaches us that the doctrine contained in it is very comprehensive, requiring them to devote themselves wholly to the advancement of the Divine glory, to endeavor in all their words and actions to preserve it unimpaired, and to be carefully on their guard that it may not be obscured by any fault of theirs. Since Christ, in whom there shines forth all the majesty of Deity, did not hesitate to expose himself to every species of reproach for the maintenance of his Father’s glory, how base and shameful will it be for us to shrink from a similar lot.

<196910>Psalm 69:10-13

10. And I wept, my soul fasted; and that was laid to me as a reproach. 11. I also made sackcloth my clothing: and I became a proverb to them. 12. They who sit in the gate defame me: and I am the song of those who drink intoxicating liquor. 13. But as for me, my prayer is to thee, O Jehovah! in a time of thy favor, [or good-will,] O God: answer me in the multitude of thy mercy, in the truth of thy salvation.

 

10. And I wept, my soul fasted. David here proves, by the signs or effects, that his efforts to promote the Divine glory proceeded from a pure and well-regulated zeal, inasmuch as he was not impelled or inflamed by the impetuosity of the flesh, but rather humbly abased himself before God, choosing him to be the witness of his sorrow. By this he shows the more evidently the incorrigible perversity of his enemies. It frequently happens, that those who set themselves boldly for the vindication of the glory of God, provoke and exasperate the wicked to a higher pitch by opposing them contentiously and without moderation. But David’s zeal was so tempered that it ought to have softened even the hardness of steel. By this circumstance he, however, intended to show that he was oppressed with such violence by the frowardness of his enemies, that he dared not even open his mouth to speak a single word in defense of the cause of God, and no other means were left him of defending it but tears and mourning. He was deprived, as we know, of the liberty of giving utterance to the sentiments of his heart, or rather his words, as being those of a condemned person, would have been repelled with cruel reproaches. It was a proof of the greater constancy when in such circumstances he continued to burn with a zeal as unabated as ever, and persevered in the voluntary sorrow which he had engaged to exercise with the view of maintaining the honor and glory of God. He accordingly declares, that he wept and that his soul fasted, and that he was clothed with sackcloth; which were the tokens of mourning among the Jews. But his enemies turned all these things into mockery and jesting; fc77 from which it is manifest that they were carried away with the fury of demons. It is of importance for us to be fortified with such an example, that in the present day we may not be discouraged when we meet with the same perversity by which the enemies of the Gospel prove themselves to be rather devils than men. We must, however, beware of pouring oil upon the fire which is already burning too fiercely, and should rather imitate David and Lot, who, although they had not liberty to rebuke the wicked, were yet deeply grieved in their hearts. And even when the wicked are constrained to hear us, mildness and humility will be a powerful means, or rather will be the best seasoning, for tempering holy zeal. Those who conceive of David as intimating that he resigned himself to suffer punishment in the room or stead of his enemies, attempt to confirm their opinion from his having clothed himself in sackcloth. But I take it more simply as meaning, that when he saw things in such a state of confusion, he voluntarily engaged in this sorrowful exercise to testify that nothing was more grievous to him than to witness the sacred name of God exposed to contumely.

12. They who sit in the gate defame me. Had David been molested only by vulgar buffoons and the refuse of the people, it would have been more easily endured; for it is not surprising that mean persons, who have no regard to what is becoming and honorable, degrade themselves by indulging in defamation without shame. But when the very judges, forgetful of what is demanded by the dignity of their office, abandon themselves to the same audacious conduct, the iniquity and baseness of it is greatly aggravated. Accordingly, David expressly complains that he was made a by-word and a proverb by those in the highest ranks of life. The opinion of some who, by the expression, they who sit in the gate, understand the whole people, fc78 is both frigid and inconsistent with the words of the text; for although men of every rank and condition assembled at the gates, yet none but the judges and counsellors sat there. fc79 This is confirmed by the second clause of the verse; for by those who drink strong drink, fc80 is doubtless meant the rulers who were elevated by their wealth and dignity. It was, indeed, very cruel treatment, that this holy man was not only harassed by the lower classes of the people, but that the very persons who presided in the cause of justice, and the dignitaries of the Church, were in this ringleaders to others. As the same thing happens in our own day, it is not without cause that the Holy Spirit has set this example before our eyes. In the Papacy we find that the higher a man is exalted in honor, he is proportionally the more violent and outrageous in his opposition to the Gospel and its ministers, that he may exhibit himself a more valiant defender of the Catholic faith. Yea, this is a malady with which almost all kings and princes are smitten; which arises from their not regarding true dignity and excellence as consisting in virtue, and from their thinking that they are entitled to act without restraint as they please. And what is the estimation in which they hold the faithful servants of Christ? It is a fact which cannot be denied, that one of the principal things about which they are concerned is, to scoff at and defame them, not only at their tables, but also on their thrones, in order, if possible, to shame them into a renunciation of their faith. In general, also, they sneer at all the people of God, and enjoy themselves in descanting upon their simplicity, as if they were fools in wearying and wasting themselves in the service of God.

13. But as for me, my prayer is to thee, O Jehovah! It was a sign of uncommon virtue in David, that even this hard treatment could not shake his mind, and sink him into despondency. He informs us of the means by which he fortified himself against that terrible stumbling-block. When the wicked directed against him their witty and scoffing remarks, as if engines of war, to overthrow his faith, the means to which he had recourse for repelling all their assaults was pouring out his heart in prayer to God. He was constrained to keep silence before men, and, being thus driven out from the world, he betook himself to God. In like manner, although the faithful in the present day may be unable to make any impression upon the wicked, yet they will ultimately triumph, provided they retire from the world, and go directly to God to present their prayers before him. The meaning, in short, is, that David, having tried every means in his power, and finding that his labor was to no purpose, left off dealing with men, and dealt with God only. What follows, a time of thy favor, O God! is explained otherwise by many interpreters, who read the two clauses of the verse in one sentence, thus: But as for me, I prayed to God in a time of his favor; corresponding to that passage in <235506>Isaiah 55:6, “Call ye upon him while he is near.” Others resolve it thus: I prayed that the time of favor might come, and that God would begin to be merciful to me. But David is rather speaking of the consolation which he then received by reflecting with himself, that although it was now a time of trouble with him, and although his prayers seemed to be altogether unavailing, yet God’s favor would have its turn also. Thus the Prophet Habakkuk says,

“I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will
watch to see what he will say unto me.” (<350201>Habakkuk 2:1)

In like manner, Isaiah says,

“I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob;” (<230817>Isaiah 8:17)

and <241422>Jeremiah 14:22,) “We will wait upon thee.” The only means by which, in our affliction, we can obtain the victory, is by our having hope shining in us in the midst of darkness, and by our having the sustaining influence which arises from waiting for the favor of God. After David has thus fortified himself for continued perseverance in the attitude of waiting, he immediately adds, Answer me in the multitude of thy goodness; and to goodness he joins the truth of salvation, fc81 intimating that God’s mercy is proved by indubitable effect when he succours his servants who are reduced to the very depths of despair. What prompted him to present this prayer was, the full persuasion which he had, that the darkness in which he was now involved would in due time be dispelled, and that a serene and unclouded season of God’s favor would succeed; a persuasion which arose from his recalling all his thoughts to God, lest he should faint by reason of the harassing treatment which he met with from the wicked.

<196914>Psalm 69:14-18

14. Deliver me from the mire, that I may not sink: let me be delivered from my adversaries, and from the deep waters. 15. Let not the flood of waters overflow me; and let not the deep swallow me up; and let not the pit fc82 close its mouth upon me. 16. Answer me, O Jehovah! for thy mercy fc83 is good: in the multitude of thy compassions fc84 look upon me. 17. And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hasten! answer me! 18. Draw near to my soul, redeem it; deliver me, on account of my enemies.

 

14. Deliver me from the mire, that I may not sink. The Psalmist repeats the same similitude which he had used before, but in a different manner. He had previously said that he was sunk in the mire, and now he prays that he may not sink in it. In short, he now prays that those things may not now befall him which he had formerly complained of as having befallen him. But it is very easy to reconcile this diversity of statement; for in the opening of the psalm he spake according to his actual feeling and experience; but now, looking to the issue, although living in the midst of death, he cherishes the hope of deliverance. This is expressed still more clearly in the last clause of the 15th verse, where he prays, Let not the pit close its mouth upon me; which is as if he had said, Let not the great multitude and weight of my afflictions overwhelm me, and let not sorrow swallow me up.

16. Answer me, O Jehovah! for thy mercy is good. The appeal which he here makes to the mercy and compassion of God is an evidence of the distressed condition into which he was brought. There can be no doubt that he sustained a dreadful conflict, when he had recourse to these as the only means of his safety. It is a very difficult matter to believe that God is merciful to us when he is angry with us, and that he is near us when he has withdrawn himself from us. David, aware of this, brings to his view a subject which he may oppose to this distrust, and by pleading for the exercise of the mercy and great compassions of God towards him, shows, that the only consideration which inspired him with hope was the benignant and merciful character of God. When he says, a little after, Look upon me, it is a prayer that God would make it manifest in very deed that he had heard him by granting him succor. In the following verse he utters a similar prayer. And by repeating so often the same things, he declares both the bitterness of his grief and the ardor of his desires. When he beseeches God not to hide his face, it is not from any apprehension which he entertained of being rejected, but because those who are oppressed with calamities cannot avoid being agitated and distracted with mental disquietude. But as God, in a peculiar manner, invites his servants to him, David avows that he is one of their number. In thus speaking, as I have already shown, and will afterwards have occasion to state at greater length, he does not boast of services on account of which he could prefer any claim to a divine reward, but rather depends on the gratuitous election of God; although, at the same time, he is to be understood as adducing the service which he had faithfully yielded to God by whom he was called, as an evidence of his godliness.

18. Draw near to my soul, redeem it. David was doubtless fully persuaded by faith that God was near him; but as we are accustomed to measure the presence or absence of God by the effects, David here tacitly complains, judging according to the flesh, that he is far from him. By the expression, Draw near, he means, that in so far as could be gathered from his actual condition, God appeared to have no regard to his welfare. Again, by calling upon God to draw near to his life, which he seemed to have forsaken, he exhibits a striking proof of the strength of his faith. The more cruelly he is molested by the wicked and proud, the more does he trust that God will appear to deliver him. As has been elsewhere observed, it is always to be held as an undoubted truth, that since “God resisteth the proud” (<590406>James 4:6,) he must at length repress the insolence and pride of those who obstinately resist him, although he may seem to connive at them for a time.

<196919>Psalm 69:19-21

19. Thou knowest my reproach, and my confusion, and my ignominy: all my adversaries are before thee. 20. Reproach hath broken my heart, and I am afflicted: and I looked for one to take pity upon me, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. 21. And they put gall into my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

 

19. Thou knowest my reproach, and my confusion. This is a confirmation of the preceding sentence. Whence is it that the greater part of men become dispirited when they see the wicked outrageously rushing upon them, and their wickedness, like a water-flood, carrying all before it, but because they think that heaven is so obscured and overcast with clouds as to prevent God from beholding what is done upon the earth? It becomes us, therefore, in this matter, to call to our remembrance the doctrine of a Divine Providence, that contemplating it we may be assured beyond all doubt, that God will appear for our succor in due season; for he cannot, on the one hand, shut his eyes to our miseries, and it is impossible for him, on the other, to allow the license which the wicked take in doing evil to pass with impunity, without denying himself. David, therefore, takes comfort from the consideration that God is the witness of his grief, fear, sorrows, and cares; nothing being hidden from the eye of Him who is the judge and governor of the world. Nor is it a vain repetition when he speaks so frequently of his reproach and shame. As he was subjected to such dreadful assaults of temptations as might have made the stoutest heart to tremble, it was indispensably necessary for his own defense to oppose to them a strong barrier for resistance. Nothing is more bitter to men of an ingenuous and noble spirit than reproach; but when this is repeated, or rather when shame and reproach are heaped upon us, how needful is it then for us to possess more than ordinary strength, that we may not thereby be overwhelmed? for when succor is delayed, our patience is very apt to give way, and despair very easily creeps in upon us. This shame and reproach may very properly be referred both to the outward appearance and to the actual feelings of the mind. It is well known that he was everywhere held in open derision; and the mockeries which he experienced could not but strike into him both shame and sorrow. For the same reason he subjoins that his enemies are before God, or known to him; as if he had said, Lord, thou knowest how, like a poor sheep, I am surrounded by thousands of wolves.

20. Reproach hath broken my heart, and I am afflicted. He expresses more distinctly not only that he was confounded, or ashamed at the sad aspect which he presented of having been deserted, but that he was well nigh overwhelmed with sorrow by lying so long under reproach and shame. Whence it is evident that he did not overcome this sorrow without a struggle; and that the reason why he so firmly withstood the waves of temptations was, not because they did not reach his heart, but because, being sorely smitten, he made resistance with a corresponding degree of intrepidity. He states, as an additional aggravation of his distress, that every office of humanity was withheld from him: that there was nobody who had compassion upon him, or to whom he could disburden his griefs. Some take the word dwn, nud, for to tell or recount; and undoubtedly when we pour out our complaints to our friends, it affords some alleviation to our distress. Thus he employs as an argument for obtaining mercy from God, the consideration that he was deprived of all aid and comfort from his fellow-men.

21. And they put gall into my meat. Here he again repeats that his enemies carry their cruelty towards him to the utmost extent in their power. He speaks metaphorically when he describes them as mingling gall or poison with his meat, fc85 and vinegar with his drink; even as it is said in Jeremiah,

“Behold, I will feed them, even this people, with wormwood,
and give them water of gall to drink.” (<240915>Jeremiah 9:15)

But still the Apostle John justly declares that this Scripture was fulfilled when the soldiers gave Christ vinegar to drink upon the cross, (<431928>John 19:28-30;) for it was requisite that whatever cruelty the reprobate exercise towards the members of Christ, should by a visible sign be represented in Christ himself. We have stated on the same principle, in our remarks upon <192218>Psalm 22:18, that when the soldiers parted the garments of Christ among them, that verse was appropriately quoted, “They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots;” although David’s object was to express by figurative language that he was robbed, and that all his goods were violently taken from him, and made a prey of by his enemies. The natural sense must, however, be retained; which is, that the holy prophet had no relief afforded him; and that he was in a condition similar to that of a man who, already too much afflicted, found, as an additional aggravation of his distress, that his meat was poisoned, and his drink rendered nauseous by the bitter ingredients with which it had been mingled.

<196922>Psalm 69:22-29

22. Let fc86 their table before them be for a snare; and their prosperity  fc87 [or things for peace] for a net. 23. Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see; and make their loins continually to tremble. 24. Pour out thy wrath upon them; and let thy hot displeasure seize them. 25. Let their habitation be desolate; let none dwell in their tent;  fc88 26. For they have persecuted him whom thou hast smitten; and they have added to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded, [literally of thy wounded ones.] 27. Add iniquity to their iniquity; and let them not enter into thy righteousness. 28. Let them be blotted out from the book of the living; and let them not be written among the righteous. 29. As for me, I am poor and sorrowful; thy salutation shall exalt me.

 

22. Let their table before them be for a snare. Here we have a series of dire imprecations, with respect to which we must bear in mind, what we have elsewhere observed, that David did not allow himself recklessly to pour out his wrath, even as the greater part of men, when they feel themselves wronged, intemperately give way to their own passion; but, being under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he was kept from going beyond the bounds of duty, fc89 and simply called upon God to exercise just judgment against the reprobate. Farther, it was not on his own account that he pleaded in this manner; but it was a holy zeal for the divine glory which impelled him to summon the wicked to God’s judgment-seat. It was also owing to this: that he was not carried away by violence of passion, like those who are actuated by a desire of taking revenge. Since, then, the Spirit of wisdom, uprightness, and moderation, put these imprecations into the mouth of David, his example cannot justly be pleaded in self-vindication by those who pour forth their wrath and spite upon every one that comes in their way, or who are carried away by a foolish impatience to take revenge; never allowing themselves to reflect for a moment what good purpose this can serve, nor making any efforts to keep their passion within due bounds. We need wisdom by which to distinguish between those who are wholly reprobate and those of whose amendment there is still some hope; we have also need of uprightness, that none may devote himself exclusively to his own private interests; and of moderation too, to dispose our minds to calm endurance. It being evident, then, that David was distinguished by these three qualities, whoever would follow him aright, must not allow himself to break forth with reckless and blind impetuosity into the language of imprecation; he must, moreover, repress the turbulent passions of his mind, and, instead of confining his thoughts exclusively to his own private interests, should rather employ his desires and affections in seeking to advance the glory of God. In short, if we would be true imitators of David, we must first clothe ourselves with the character of Christ, that he may not administer to us at the present day the same rebuke which he gave to two of his disciples of old,

“Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of,”
(<420955>Luke 9:55.)

David had complained that his enemies mingled his meat with gall; and now he prays that their table may be turned into a snare for them, and that the things which are for peace may be turned into a net for them. These expressions are metaphorical, and they imply a desire that whatever things had been allotted to them in providence for the preservation of life, and for their welfare and convenience, might be turned by God into the occasion or instrument of their destruction. From this we gather that as things which naturally and of themselves are hurtful, become the means of furthering our welfare when we are in favor with God; so, when his anger is kindled against us, all those things which have a native tendency to produce our happiness are cursed, and become so many causes of our destruction. It is an instance of the Divine justice, which ought deeply to impress our minds with awe, when the Holy Spirit declares that all the means of preserving life are deadly to the reprobate, (<560115>Titus 1:15;) so that the very sun, which carries healing under his wings, (<390402>Malachi 4:2,) breathes only a deadly exhalation for them.

23. Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see. The Psalmist here refers chiefly to two powers of the body, those of the eyes and of the loins; and I have no hesitation in considering his language as a prayer that God would deprive his enemies of reason and understanding, and at the same time enfeeble their strength, that they might be altogether unfitted for exerting themselves in any way. We know how indispensable it is, in order to the doing of any thing aright, that counsel go before to give light, and that there should also be added the power of putting what is purposed into execution. The curse here expressed impends over the heads of all the enemies of the Church; and, therefore, we have no reason to be terrified at the malice or fury of the wicked. God, whenever he pleases, can strike them suddenly with blindness, that they may see nothing, and by breaking their loins, fc90 lay them prostrate in shame and confusion.

24. Pour out thy fury upon them. It is not surprising that David utters a lengthened series of imprecations; for we know well that the frantic enemies of the Church, into whom it was his object to inspire terror, are not easily moved. He therefore lifts up his voice against them in tones of greater vehemence, that they might be led to desist from their wrongful and insolent conduct. He, however, had principally an eye to true believers, who, being oppressed with calamities, have no other stay to lean upon, but such as arises from the voice which they hear proceeding from the mouth of God, declaring the terrible vengeance which is prepared for their enemies, if, indeed, they are among the reprobate. As to those of whose repentance and amendment there was some hope, David would have had them to be corrected by chastisements; but as to those whose repentance and reformation were hopeless, he prays that destruction may fall upon their heads, that thus they might not escape the punishment which was appointed for them, and which they had deserved.

25. Let their habitation be desolate. Here he proceeds farther than in the preceding verse, praying that God would cause his wrath to descend to their posterity; and it is no new thing for the sins of the fathers to be cast into the bosom of the children. As David uttered these imprecations by the inspiration and influence of the Holy Spirit, so he took them out of the law itself, in which God threatens that he will

“visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate him,” (<022005>Exodus 20:5)

In this way he desires that the memorial of them may be cursed, and that thus God would not spare them even after their death.

26. For they have persecuted him whom thou hast smitten. He brings forward the crime with which they were chargeable, to make it manifest that they richly deserved such dreadful punishments. Some explain the verse in this way: “These enemies, O Lord! not content with the strokes which thou hast inflicted, have exercised their cruelty upon a wretched man, who had already been wounded by thy hand.” And as it is the dictate of humanity to succor the afflicted, he who treads down the oppressed most assuredly betrays the brutal cruelty of his disposition. Others reject this exposition, whether upon sufficient ground I know not, observing that David, properly speaking, was not stricken or wounded by the hand of God, it being of the violent rage of his enemies that he complains through the whole of the psalm. Accordingly, they have recourse to a subtle interpretation, and view David as meaning that his enemies wickedly pretended that they had just cause against him, and boasted of being the ministers of God, whose office it was to execute punishment upon him as a wicked person. This is a pretext under which the wicked generally shield themselves, and by which they are led to think that they may lawfully do what they please against those who are in misery, without ever being called to account for it. Thus we find this purpose of the wicked expressed in another place,

“Come let us persecute him, for God hath forsaken him;
for there is none to deliver him,” (<197111>Psalm 71:11.)

But I am rather of opinion that the Psalmist applies the term smitten to the man whom God intended to humble as one of his own children; so that in the very chastisement or correction, there was engraven a mark of God’s paternal love. And he employs the expression, the wounded of God, almost in the same sense in which <232602>Isaiah 26:29 speaks of the dead of God, the prophet thereby denoting those who continue under the Divine guardianship, even in death itself. This cannot be extended to all men in general, but is exclusively applicable to true believers, whose obedience God puts to the test by means of afflictions. If from this the wicked take occasion to persecute the righteous with greater severity, it is not to be wondered at if they involve themselves in heavier damnation. Upon seeing such examples set before them, the manner in which they should have reasoned with themselves is this,

“If these things are done in a green tree,
what shall be done in the dry?” (<422331>Luke 23:31.)

But from their becoming more and more hardened, it is evident that the pride and insolence which they manifest against the children of God proceed from contempt and hatred of true religion. The Hebrew word wrpsy, yesapperu, which is usually translated they will recount, I would interpret differently. It properly signifies to number, and may, therefore, be properly enough translated to add to or increase, fc91 giving here the meaning, That the persons spoken of, by adding misery to misery, raised grief to its utmost height.

27. Add iniquity to their iniquity. As the Hebrew word ˆwa, avon, signifies at times guilt as well as iniquity, some translate the verse thus, Add thou, that is, thou, O God! punishment to their punishment. Others extend it yet further, regarding it as a prayer that wicked men might punish them for their wickedness. But it is abundantly evident, from the second clause, that what David prays for rather is, as is almost universally admitted, that God, taking his Spirit altogether from the wicked, would give them over to a reprobate mind, that they might never seek or have any desire to be brought to genuine repentance and amendment. Some interpret the phrase to come into righteousness as meaning to be absolved or acquitted; fc92 but it seems to want the spirit of the language here used, by which David intends to express much more. Accordingly, the words ought to be expounded thus: Let their wickedness increase more and more, and let them turn away with abhorrence from all thought of amendment, to make it manifest that they are utterly alienated from God. fc93 As this form of expression is familiar to the Sacred Writings, and every where to be met with, we ought not to think it harsh; and to wrest it, as some do, for the sake of avoiding what may have the appearance of absurdity, is ridiculous. The explanation they give of it is, That God adds sins to sins by permitting them; fc94 and they defend such an exposition by asserting that this is an idiom of the Hebrew language, an assertion, the accuracy of which no Hebrew scholar will admit. Nor is it necessary to bring forward any such quibbles to excuse God; for, when he blinds the reprobate, it is sufficient for us to know that he has good and just causes for doing so; and it is in vain for men to murmur and to dispute with him, as if they sinned only by his impulse. Although the causes why they are blinded sometimes lie hidden in the secret purpose of Deity, there is not a man who is not reproved by his own conscience; and it is our duty to adore and admire the high mysteries of God, which surpass our understanding. It is justly said that “God’s judgments are a great deep,” (<193606>Psalm 36:6.) It would certainly be highly perverse to involve God in a part of the guilt of the wicked, whenever he executes his judgments upon them; as, for example, when he executes the judgment threatened in the passage before us. The amount is, that the wicked are plunged into a deep gulf of wickedness by the just vengeance of Heaven, that they may never return to a sound understanding, and that he who is filthy may become still more filthy, fc95 (<662211>Revelation 22:11.) Let it further be observed, that I do not explain the righteousness of God as denoting the righteousness which he bestows upon his chosen ones in regenerating them by his Holy Spirit, but the holiness manifested in the life which is so well-pleasing to him.

28. Let them be blotted out from the book of the living. fc96 This is the last imprecation, and it is the most dreadful of the whole; but it nevertheless uniformly follows the persevered in impenitence and incorrigible obduracy of which the Psalmist has spoken above. After having taken away from them all hope of repentance, he denounces against them eternal destruction, which is the obvious meaning of the prayer, that they might be blotted out of the book of the living; for all those must inevitably perish who are not found written or enrolled in the book of life. This is indeed an improper manner of speaking; but it is one well adapted to our limited capacity, the book of life being nothing else than the eternal purpose of God, by which he has predestinated his own people to salvation. God, it is certain, is absolutely immutable; and, further, we know that those who are adopted to the hope of salvation were written before the foundation of the world, (<490104>Ephesians 1:4;) but as God’s eternal purpose of election is incomprehensible, it is said, in accommodation to the imperfection of the human understanding, that those whom God openly, and by manifest signs, enrols among his people, are written. On the other hand, those whom God openly rejects and casts out of his Church are, for the same reason, said to be blotted out. As then David desires that the vengeance of God may be manifested, he very properly speaks of the reprobation of his enemies in language accommodated to our understanding; as if he had said, O God! reckon them not among the number or ranks of thy people, and let them not be gathered together with thy Church; but rather show by destroying them that thou hast rejected them; and although they occupy a place for a time among thy faithful ones, do thou at length cut them off, to make it manifest that they were aliens, though they were mingled with the members of thy family. Ezekiel uses language of similar import when he says,

“And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel.”
(<261309>Ezekiel 13:9)

That, however, continues true which is spoken by the Apostle John, (<600219>1 John 2:19,) that none who have been once really the children of God will ever finally fall away or be wholly cut off. fc97 But as hypocrites presumptuously boast that they are the chief members of the Church, the Holy Spirit well expresses their rejection, by the figure of their being blotted out of the book of life. Moreover, it is to be observed that, in the second clause, all the elect of God are called the righteous; for, as Paul says in <520403>1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4, 7,

“This is the will of God, even our sanctification, that every one of us should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor: for God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.” (<520403>1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4, 7)

And the climax which the same Apostle uses in the 8th chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, at the 30th verse, is well known:

“Whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom
he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified,
them he also glorified.” (<450830>Romans 8:30)

29. As for me, I am poor and sorrowful. fc98 From this verse we perceive more distinctly how David cast away from him the swelling and raging passion of those who, with ungovernable fury, pour forth imprecation and vengeance. He here, without doubt, offers himself to God with the sacrifice of a broken and humble heart, that by this meekness of spirit he may obtain favor with him. He therefore adds immediately after, Thy salvation shall exalt me. Those assuredly who are impelled to avenge themselves by their own ungovernable spirits are so far from being humbled, that they exalt themselves to a position to which they are not entitled. There is here a mutual relation stated between the sorrow with which he was oppressed, and the help of God by which he hoped to be lifted up. At the same time, he assures himself that the very thing which others considered as a ground for despair, would prove to him the cause of his salvation. This sentence might also be explained adversatively thus: Although I now mourn under the pressure of affliction, yet shall thy salvation, O Lord! exalt me. But for my part, I consider it certain that David brings forward his own affliction as a plea for obtaining mercy at the hand of God. Nor does he say simply that he will be raised up, but he expressly speaks of being exalted; and in this he alludes to fortresses which are set upon high places; for this is the proper signification of the Hebrew word bg, sagab, here employed.

<196930>Psalm 69:30-33

30. I will celebrate the name of God in a song, and I will magnify him in praise.  fc99 31. And this will please Jehovah more than a young bullock that hath horns and hoofs. 32. The afflicted have seen it, and those who seek God shall rejoice at it; and your heart shall live. 33. For Jehovah hath hearkened to the afflicted; and hath not despised his prisoners.

 

30. I will celebrate the name of God in a song. The Psalmist now elevated with joy, and sustained by the confident hope of deliverance, sings the triumphant strains of victory. This psalm, there is every reason to believe, was composed after he had been delivered from all apprehension of dangers; but there can be no doubt that the very topics with which it concludes were the matter of his meditation, when trembling with anxiety in the midst of his troubles; for he laid hold upon the grace of God by assured faith, although that grace was then hidden from him, and only the matter of his hope. God is here said to be magnified by our praises; not because any addition can be made to his dignity and glory, which are infinite, but because by our praises his name is exalted among men.

31. And this will please Jehovah more than a young bullock. The more effectually to strengthen himself for this exercise, David affirms that the thanksgiving which he is about to tender, will be to God a sacrifice of a sweet and an acceptable savor. There cannot be a more powerful incitement to thanksgiving than the certain conviction that this religious service is highly pleasing to God; even as the only recompense which he requires for all the benefits which he lavishes upon us is, that we honor and praise his name. This sets in a stronger light the inexcusableness of those who are so sluggish as, by their silence or forgetfulness, to suppress the praises of God. David neither omitted nor despised the outward sacrifices which the law enjoined; but he very justly preferred the spiritual service, which was the end of all the Levitical ceremonies. This subject I have treated at greater length on <190101>Psalm 1:10, 14. By the way, the humility of David is worthy of being noticed, who, although he rose so high as to be a heavenly pattern, yet disdained not to humble himself for the common benefit of the Church, as if he had belonged to the common class of the people, that by the figures of the law he might learn the truth which has since been more clearly manifested in the gospel; namely, that the praises of God, in so far as they proceed from our mouths, are impure, until they are sanctified by Christ. But how gross and stupid is the superstition of those who would again bring into use the outward pomp of ceremonies which were abolished by the one sacrifice of Christ’s death, and think that God is truly pacified when they have wearied themselves with doing nothing! What does this amount to, but to obscure or cover, by the intervention of thick veils, this legitimate service of thanksgiving, which David had no hesitation in greatly preferring to the Mosaic ceremonies, although these were of divine appointment? By a young bullock, he means one of the most choice or select and the idea which he intends to convey is, that there was no sacrifice or victim, however valuable or precious, that he could offer, in which God would take so great delight as in thanksgiving.

32. The afflicted have seen it. He here shows that the blessed effects of his deliverance will extend to others as well as to himself, a point which he frequently insists on in the Psalms, as we have seen in <192223>Psalm 22:23, 26, and in many other places. And his object in doing this is, partly to commend the goodness and grace of God to true believers, and partly that by this as an argument he may prevail with God to succor him. Besides, he does not mean that God’s people would rejoice at this spectacle merely on the ground of brotherly friendship, but because, in the deliverance of one man, a pledge would be given to others, affording them also assurance of salvation. For this very reason he terms them the afflicted. Whoever seek God, (says he,) although they may be subjected to afflictions, will nevertheless take courage from my example. The first and the second clauses of the verse must be read together; for a connected sense would not be preserved were we not to understand the meaning to be this, That the example of David would afford a ground of rejoicing to all the faithful servants of God when they should seek a remedy for their afflictions. He very properly conjoins the desire of seeking God with affliction; for all men do not so profit under the chastening hand of God as to seek salvation from him in the exercise of a sincere and ardent faith. In the concluding part of this verse there is a change of person: And your heart shall live. But this apostrophe is so far from rendering the sense obscure, that, on the contrary, it expresses it the more forcibly, as if a thing present were described. In addressing those who were so much under the pressure of affliction as to be laid prostrate like dead men, he exhibits to their view a kind of image of the resurrection; as if he had said, O ye who are dead! unto you new vigor shall be restored. It is not meant that faith perishes in the children of God, and remains entirely dead until it is quickened into life again by the example of the deliverance of others; but that the light which was quenched is rekindled, and thus, so to speak, recovers life anew. The Psalmist immediately after (verse 33) describes the means by which this will be brought about in the children of God, which is, that believing the deliverance of David to be a common token or pledge of the grace of God presented before them, they will confidently come to the conclusion, that God regards the needy, and does not despise the prisoners. We thus see that he considers what was done to one man, as a clear indication on the part of God that he will be ready to succor all who are in adversity.  fc100

<196934>Psalm 69:34-36

34. Let the heavens and the earth praise him; the seas, and whatever creepeth in them. 35. For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah; and they shall dwell there, and possess it by inheritance. 36. And the seed of his servants shall inherit it; and they who love his name shall dwell in it.

 

34. Let the heavens and the earth praise him. From this we may conclude with the greater certainty, that, as I have touched upon above, David in the whole of this psalm spake in the name of the whole Church; for he now transfers to the Church what he had spoken in particular concerning himself. In calling upon the elements, which are destitute of thought or understanding, to praise God, he speaks hyperbolically, and by this manner of expression, he would teach us that we are not animated with sufficient earnestness of heart in celebrating the praises of God, the infinitude of which overpasses the whole world, unless we rise above our own understandings. But what above all kindled this ardor in the heart of David was his concern for the preservation of the Church. Moreover, there is no doubt that by the Spirit of prophecy he comprehended the whole of that period during which God would have the kingdom and priesthood continued among the ancient people of Israel. Yet he begins at the restoration of a new state of things, which by his means was suddenly brought about upon the death of Saul, when a melancholy devastation threatened at once the utter destruction of the worship of God, and the desolation of the whole country. He says, in the first place, that Zion shall be saved, because God would defend the place where he had chosen to be called upon, and would not suffer the worship which he himself had appointed to be abolished. In the next place, from the ark of the covenant and the sanctuary, he represents the divine blessing as extending to the whole land; for religion was the foundation upon which the happiness of the people rested. He farther teaches, that this change to the better would not be of short continuance; but that the people would be always preserved safe through the constant and enduring protection of God: And they shall dwell there, and possess it by inheritance. He therefore intimates, that the promise which God had so often made in the law, That they should inherit that land forever, was truly confirmed by the commencement of his reign. He contrasts tranquil and settled abode with a mere temporary residence; as if he had said, Now that the sacred throne is erected, the time is come in which the children of Abraham will enjoy the rest which has been promised to them, without fear of being removed from it.

36. And the seed of his servants shall inherit it. In this verse he declares that the blessing now mentioned would extend through a continued succession of ages — that, the fathers would transmit to their children the possession which they had received, as from hand to hand, and the children to their children; and the enduring possession of all good things depends upon Christ, of whom David was a type. Yet the Psalmist at the same time briefly intimates, that such only as are the legitimate children of Abraham shall inherit the land: They who love his name shall dwell in it. It was needful to take away all grounds for self-gloriation from hypocrites, who, looking to and depending solely upon the circumstances connected with the origin of their race, foolishly boasted that the land belonged to them by right of inheritance, notwithstanding of their having apostatised from the faith of their ancestors. Although that land was given to the chosen people to be possessed until the advent of Christ, we should remember that it was a type of the heavenly inheritance, and that, therefore, what is here written concerning the protection of the Church, has received a more true and substantial fulfillment in our own day. There is no reason to fear that the building of the spiritual temple, in which the celestial power of God has been manifested, will ever fall into ruins.


PSALM 70

This psalm is merely a part of the fortieth, and the inscription, To call to remembrance, is perhaps designed to indicate this; David having taken these five verses out of that other psalm, and accommodated them for being used on some particular occasion. I shall only here repeat the words of the text; and would refer the reader for the interpretation to the proper place.

To the chief musician of David, to call to remembrance.

<197001>Psalm 70:1-5

1. O God! make haste to deliver me: O Jehovah! hasten to my help. 2. Let those who seek my life be ashamed and confounded; let those who desire my hurt be turned backward, and put to confusion 3. Let those who say to me, Aha! aha! perish as a reward of their shame. 4. Let all those who seek thee rejoice and exult in thee: let those who love thy salvation say, Let God be magnified for evermore! 5. As for me, I am poor and needy: O God! hasten to me: thou art my help and my deliverer: O Jehovah! make no delay.


PSALM 71 fc101

David, having spoken at the outset of his confidence in God, partly calls upon him for deliverance, and partly complains of the pride of his enemies. At length, to confirm his faith, he prepares himself for yielding a grateful ascription of praise for the benefits which God had conferred upon him.

<197101>Psalm 71:1-4

1. In thee, O Jehovah! do I put my trust; let me not be put to confusion for ever. 2. Deliver me in thy righteousness, and rescue me: incline thy ear to me, and save me. 3. Be thou to me for a rock of strength, fc102 [or for a strong rock,] into which I may at all times enter: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my tower and my fortress. 4. O my God! deliver me from the hand of the wicked man; from the hand of the perverse and violent man.

 

1. In thee, O Jehovah! do I put my trust. It has been thought that the occasion of the composition of this psalm was the conspiracy of Absalom; and the particular reference which David makes to his old age renders this conjecture not improbable. As when we approach God, it is faith alone which opens the way for us, David, in order to obtain what he sought, protests, according to his usual manner, that he does not pour forth at the throne of grace hypocritical prayers, but betakes himself to God with sincerity of heart, fully persuaded that his salvation is laid up in the Divine hand. The man whose mind is in a state of constant fluctuation, and whose hope is divided by being turned in different directions, in each of which he is looking for deliverance, or who, under the influence of fear, disputes with himself, or who obstinately refuses the Divine assistance, or who frets and gives way to restless impatience, is unworthy of being succoured by God. The particle lw[l, leolam, in the end of the first verse, which we have translated for ever, admits of a twofold sense, as I have shown on <193101>Psalm 31:1. It either tacitly implies a contrast between the present calamities of David and the happy issue which he anticipated; as if he had said, Lord, I lie in the dust at present as one confounded; but the time will come when thou wilt grant me deliverance. Or not to be ashamed for ever, means never to be ashamed. As these verses almost correspond with the beginning of the 31st psalm, I would refer to that place for those explanatory remarks which I here purposely omit, not wishing to tax the patience of my readers by unnecessary repetition.

In these words of the third verse, Into which I may at all times enter, which are not to be found in the other psalm, David briefly prays that he may have so ready and easy access to God for succor, as to find in him a secure refuge whenever threatened by any immediate danger. Lord! as if he had said, let me always find ready succor in thee, and do thou meet me with a smile of benignity and grace, when I betake myself to thee. The expression which follows, Thou hast given commandment to save me, is resolved by some interpreters into the optative mood; as if David requested that he might be committed to the guardianship of angels. But it is better to retain the past tense of the verb, and to understand him as encouraging himself, from his experience in times past, to hope for a happy issue to his present calamities. Nor is there any necessity for limiting to the angels the verb, thou hast given commandment. God, no doubt, employs them in defending his people; but as he is possessed of innumerable ways of saving them, the expression, I conceive, is used indefinitely, to teach us that he gives commandment concerning the salvation of his servants, according as he has purposed, whenever he gives some manifest token of his favor toward them in his providence; and what he has determined in his own mind, he executes sometimes by his nod alone, and sometimes by the instrumentality of men or other creatures. Meanwhile, David would intimate that such is the all-sufficient power of God intrinsically considered, that without having recourse to any foreign aid, his commandment alone is abundantly adequate for effecting our salvation.

4. O my God! deliver me from the hand of the wicked man. Here he uses the singular number; but he is not to be understood as indicating one man only. fc103 It is highly probable that he comprehends the whole host of the enemies who assaulted him. We have elsewhere had occasion to observe how greatly it contributes to inspire us with the confidence of obtaining our requests, when we are so assured of our own integrity, as to be able freely to complain before God that we are unjustly and wickedly assaulted by our enemies; for we ought not to doubt that God, who has promised to become the defender of those who are unjustly oppressed, will, in that case, undertake our cause.

<197105>Psalm 71:5-8

5. For thou art my expectation, [or hope,] O Lord Jehovah! My trust from my youth. 6. Upon thee have I leaned [or have I been sustained] from the womb: fc104 thou art he that took me out of my mother’s bowels: my praise is continually of thee. 7. I have been as a prodigy to the great ones, fc105 and yet fc106 thou art my strong confidence. 8. My mouth shall be filled with thy praise and with thy glory daily.

 

5. For thou art my expectation, O Lord Jehovah! The Psalmist here repeats what he had said a little before concerning his trust or confidence. But some, perhaps, may be inclined to refer this sentence rather to the matter or ground afforded him for hope and confidence than to the emotions of his heart; supposing him to mean, that by the benefits which God had conferred upon him, he was furnished with well-grounded hope. And certainly he does not here simply declare that he hoped in God, but with this he conjoins experience, and acknowledges that even from his youth he had received tokens of the Divine favor, from which he might learn, that confidence is to be reposed in God alone. By adverting to what God had done for him, fc107 he expresses the real cause of faith, (if I may so speak;) and from this we may easily perceive the powerful influence which the remembrance of God’s benefits had in nourishing his hope.

6. Upon thee have I been sustained from the womb. This verse corresponds with the preceding, except that David proceeds farther. He not only celebrates the goodness of God which he had experienced from his childhood, but also those proofs of it which he had received previous to his birth. An almost similar confession is contained in <192209>Psalm 22:9, 10, by which is magnified the wonderful power and inestimable goodness of God in the generation of men, the way and manner of which would be altogether incredible, were it not a fact with which we are quite familiar. If we are astonished at that part of the history of the flood, in which Moses declares (<010813>Genesis 8:13) that Noah and his household lived ten months amidst the offensive nuisance produced by so many living creatures, when he could not draw the breath of life, have we not equal reason to marvel that the infant, shut up within its mother’s womb, can live in such a condition as would suffocate the strongest man in half an hour? But we thus see how little account we make of the miracles which God works, in consequence of our familiarity with them. The Spirit, therefore, justly rebukes this ingratitude, by commending to our consideration this memorable instance of the grace of God, which is exhibited in our birth and generation. When we are born into the world, although the mother do her office, and the midwife may be present with her, and many others may lend their help, yet did not God, putting, so to speak, his hand under us, receive us into his bosom, what would become of us? and what hope would there be of the continuance of our life? Yea, rather, were it not for this, our very birth would be an entrance into a thousand deaths. God, therefore, is with the highest propriety said to take us out of our mother’s bowels. To this corresponds the concluding part of the verse, My praise is continually of thee; by which the Psalmist means that he had been furnished with matter for praising God without intermission.

7. I have been as a prodigy to the great ones. He now makes a transition to the language of complaint, declaring that he was held in almost universal abhorrence by reason of the great calamities with which he was afflicted. There is an apparent, although only an apparent, discrepancy between these two statements; first, that he had always been crowned with the benefits of God; and, secondly, that he was accounted as a prodigy on account of his great afflictions; but we may draw from thence the very profitable doctrine, that he was not so overwhelmed by his calamities, heavy though they were, as to be insensible to the goodness of God which he had experienced. Although, therefore, he saw that he was an object of detestation, yet the remembrance of the blessings which God had conferred upon him, could not be extinguished by the deepest shades of darkness which surrounded him, but served as a lamp in his heart to direct his faith. By the term prodigy fc108 is expressed no ordinary calamity. Had he not been afflicted in a strange and unusual manner, those to whom the miserable condition of mankind was not unknown would not have shrunk from him with such horror, and regarded him as so repulsive a spectacle. It was, therefore, a higher and more commendable proof of his constancy, that his spirit was neither broken nor enfeebled with sham but reposed in God with the stronger confidence, the more he was cast off by the world. The sentence is to be explained adversatively, implying that, although men abhorred him as a monster, yet, by leaning upon God, he continued in despite of all this unmoved. If it should be thought preferable to translate the word ybr, rabbim, which I have rendered great ones, by the word many, the sense will be, That David’s afflictions were generally known, and had acquired great notoriety, as if he had been brought forth upon a stage and exposed to the view of the whole people. But in my opinion it will be more suitable to understand the word of great men, or the nobles. There is no heart so strong and impervious to outward influences as not to be deeply pierced when those who are considered to excel in wisdom and judgment, and who are invested with authority, treat a suffering and an afflicted man with such indignity, that they shrink with horror from him, as if he were a monster. In the next verse, as if he had obtained the desire of his heart, he expresses it to be his resolution to yield a grateful acknowledgement to God. To encourage himself to hope with the greater confidence for a happy issue to his present troubles, he promises loudly to celebrate the praises of God, and to do this not only on one occasion, but to persevere in the exercise without intermission.

<197109>Psalm 71:9-13

9. Cast me not off in the time of my old age: forsake me not in the declining of my strength. 10. For my enemies have said of me, and those who watch for my life have taken counsel together, 11. Saying, God hath forsaken him; follow after him, and ye shall take him: for there is none to deliver him. 12. O God! be not far from me: my God: hasten to my aid. 13. Let those who are enemies to my life be confounded fc109 and fail: let those who seek my hurt be covered with reproach and shame.

 

9. Cast me not off in the time of my old age. David having just now declared that God had been the protector of his life at his birth, and afterwards his foster-father in his childhood, and the guardian of his welfare during the whole course of his past existence; being now worn out with age, casts himself anew into the fatherly bosom of God. In proportion as our strength fails us — and then necessity itself impels us to seek God — in the same proportion should our hope in the willingness and readiness of God to succor us become strong. David’s prayer, in short, amounts to this: “Do thou, O Lord, who hast sustained me vigorous and strong in the flower of my youth, not forsake me now, when I am decayed and almost withered, but the more I stand in need of thy help, let the decrepitude and infirmities of age move thee to compassionate me the more.” From this verse expositors, not without good reason, conclude that the conspiracy of Absalom is the subject treated of in this psalm. And certainly it was a horrible and tragical spectacle, which tended to lead, not only the common people, but also those who excelled in authority, to turn away their eyes from him, as they would from a detestable monster, when the son, having driven his father from the kingdom, pursued him even through the very deserts to put him to death.

10. For my enemies have said of me, etc. He pleads, as an argument with God to show him mercy, the additional circumstance, that the wicked took greater license in cruelly persecuting him, from the belief which they entertained that he was rejected and abandoned of God. The basest of men, as we all know, become more bold and audacious, when, in tormenting the innocent, they imagine that this is a matter in which they have not to deal with God at all. Not only are they encouraged by the hope of escaping unpunished; but they also boast that all comes to pass according to their wishes, when no obstacle presents itself to restrain their wicked desires. What happened to David at that time is almost the ordinary experience of the children of God; namely, that the wicked, when once they come to believe that it is by the will of God that his people are exposed to them for a prey, give themselves uncontrolled license in doing them mischief. Measuring the favor of God only by what is the present condition of men, they conceive that all whom he suffers to be afflicted are despised, forsaken, and cast off by him. Such being their persuasion, they encourage and stimulate one another to practice every thing harassing and injurious against them, as persons who have none to undertake and avenge their cause. But this wanton and insulting fc110 procedure on their part ought to encourage our hearts, since the glory of God requires that the promises which he has so frequently made of succouring the poor and afflicted should be actually performed. The ungodly may flatter themselves with the hope of obtaining pardon from him; but this foolish imagination does not by any means lessen the criminality of their conduct. On the contrary, they do a double injury to God, by taking away from him that which especially belongs to him.

12. O God! be not far from me. It is scarcely possible to express how severe and hard a temptation it was to David, when he knew that the wicked entertained the persuasion that he was rejected of God. They did not without consideration circulate this report; but after having seemed wisely to weigh all circumstances, they gave their judgment on the point as of a thing which was placed beyond all dispute. It was therefore an evidence of heroic fortitude on the part of David, fc111 thus to rise superior to their perverse judgments, and, in the face of them all, to assure himself that God would be gracious to him, and to betake himself familiarly to him. Nor is it to be doubted that, in calling God his God, he makes use of this as a means of defending himself from this hard and grievous assault.

While invoking the aid of God, he at the same time prays (verse 13) that his enemies may be filled with shame until they be consumed. These words, however, may not improperly be read in the future tense; for it is frequently the practice of David, after having ended his prayer, to rise up against his enemies, and, as it were, to triumph over them. But I have followed that which seems more agreeable to the scope of the passage. Having had occasion elsewhere to explain this imprecation, it is unnecessary for me to repeat, in this place, what I have previously said.

<197114>Psalm 71:14-16

14. But I will hope continually, and will add fc112 to all thy praise. 15. My mouth shall recount thy righteousness and thy salvation daily; for I know not the number thereof. 16. I will go in the strengths of the Lord Jehovah! I will make mention of thy righteousness only.

 

14. But I will hope continually. David again, as having obtained the victory, prepares himself for thanksgiving. There is, however, no doubt, that during the time when the wicked derided his simplicity, he struggled manfully amidst his distresses, as may be gathered from the word hope. Although, to outward appearance, there was no prospect of deliverance from his troubles, and although the wicked ceased not proudly to pour contempt upon his trust in God, he nevertheless determined to persevere in the exercise of hope; even as it is a genuine proof of faith, to look exclusively to the Divine promise, in order to be guided by its light alone amidst the thickest darkness of afflictions. The strength, then, of the hope of which David speaks, is to be estimated by the conflicts which he at that time sustained. In saying, I will add to all thy praises, he shows the confidence with which he anticipated a desirable escape from his troubles. It is as if he had said — Lord, I have been long accustomed to receive benefits from thee, and this fresh accession to them, I doubt not, will furnish me with new matter for celebrating thy grace.

15. My mouth shall recount thy righteousness. Here he expresses more clearly what sacrifice of praise he resolved to present to God, promising to proclaim continually his righteousness and salvation. I have often before had occasion to observe, that the righteousness of God does not mean that property of his nature by which he renders to every man his own, but the faithfulness which he observes towards his own people, when he cherishes, defends, and delivers them. Hence the inestimable consolation which arises from learning that our salvation is so inseparably linked with the righteousness of God, as to have the same stability with this Divine attribute. The salvation of God, it is very evident, is taken in this place actively. The Psalmist connects this salvation with righteousness, as the effect with the cause; for his confident persuasion of obtaining salvation proceeded solely from reflecting that God is righteous, and that he cannot deny himself. As he had been saved so often, and in so many different ways, and so wonderfully, he engages to apply himself continually to the celebration of the grace of God. The particle yk, ki, which we have translated for, is by some rendered adversatively although, and explained in this way: Although the salvation of God is to me incomprehensible, and transcends my capacity, yet I will recount it. But the proper signification of the word is more suitable in this place, there being nothing which ought to be more effectual in kindling and exciting our hearts to sing the praises of God, than the innumerable benefits which he has bestowed upon us. Although our hearts may not be affected from having experienced only one or two of the Divine benefits; although they may remain cold and unmoved by a small number of them, yet our ingratitude is inexcusable, if we are not awakened from our torpor and indifference when an innumerable multitude of them are lavished upon us. Let us learn then not to taste of the goodness of God slightly, and, as it were, with loathing, but to apply all our faculties to it in all its amplitude, that it may ravish us with admiration. It is surprising that the authors of the Greek version ever thought of translating this clause, I have not known learning, fc113 an error unworthy of being noticed, were it not that some fanatics in former times, to flatter themselves in their ignorance, boasted that, after the example of David, all learning and liberal sciences should be despised; even as, in the present day, the Anabaptists have no other pretext for boasting of being spiritual persons, but that they are grossly ignorant fc114 of all science.

16. I will go in the strength of the Lord Jehovah! This may also very properly be translated, I will go into the strengths; and this interpretation is not less probable than the other. As fear and sorrow take possession of our minds in the time of danger, from our not reflecting with that deep and earnest attention which becomes us upon the power of God; so the only remedy for alleviating our sorrow in our afflictions is to enter into God’s strengths, that they may surround and defend us on all sides. But the other reading, which is more generally received, I have thought proper to retain, because it also is very suitable, although interpreters differ as to its meaning. Some explain it, I will go forth to battle depending upon the power of God. But this is too restricted. To go is equivalent to abiding in a steady, settled, and permanent state. True believers, it must indeed be granted, so far from putting forth their energies without difficulty, and flying with alacrity in their heavenly course, rather groan through weariness; but as they surmount with invincible courage all obstacles and difficulties, not drawing back, or declining from the right way, or at least not failing through despair, they are on this account said to go forward until they have arrived at the termination of their course. In short, David boasts that he will never be disappointed of the help of God till he reach the mark. And because nothing is more rare or difficult in the present state of weakness and infirmity than to continue persevering, he collects all his thoughts in order to rely with entire confidence exclusively on the righteousness of God. When he says that he will be mindful of it ONLY, the meaning is, that, forsaking all corrupt confidences with which almost the whole world is driven about, he will depend wholly upon the protection of God, not allowing himself to wander after his own imaginations, or to be drawn hither and thither by surrounding objects.

Augustine quotes this text more than a hundred times as an argument to overthrow the merit of works, and plausibly opposes the righteousness which God gratuitously bestows to the meritorious righteousness of men. It must, however, be confessed that he wrests the words of David, and puts a sense upon them foreign to their genuine meaning, which simply is, that he does not rely upon his own wisdom, nor upon his own skill, nor upon his own strength, nor upon any riches which he possessed, as a ground for entertaining the confident hope of salvation, but that the only ground upon which he rests this hope is, that as God is righteous, it is impossible for God to forsake him. The righteousness of God, as we have just now observed, does not here denote that free gift by which he reconciles men to himself, or by which he regenerates them to newness of life; but his faithfulness in keeping his promises, by which he means to show that he is righteous, upright, and true towards his servants. Now, the Psalmist declares that the righteousness of God alone will be continually before his eyes, and in his memory; for unless we keep our minds fixed upon this alone, Satan, who is possessed of wonderful means by which to allure, will succeed in leading us astray after vanity. As soon as hopes from different quarters begin to insinuate themselves into our minds, there is nothing of which we are more in danger than of falling away. And whoever, not content with the grace of God alone, seeks elsewhere for the least succor, will assuredly fall, and thereby serve as an example to teach others how vain it is to attempt to mingle the stays of the world with the help of God. If David, in regard to his mere external condition in life, could remain stable and secure only by renouncing all other confidences, and casting himself upon the righteousness of God; what stability, I pray you to consider, are we likely to have, when the reference is to the spiritual and everlasting life, if we fall away, let it be never so little, from our dependence upon the grace of God? It is, therefore, undeniable that the doctrine invented by the Papists, which divides the work of perseverance in holiness between man’s free will and God’s grace, fc115 precipitates wretched souls into destruction.

<197117>Psalm 71:17-19

17. O God! thou hast taught me from my youth; and hitherto will I announce thy wondrous works. 18. And still, O God! when I am old and grey-headed, forsake me not, until I declare thy strength to the generation, and thy power to all who are to come. 19. And thy righteousness, O God! Is very high: for thou hast done great things: O God! who is like thee ?

 

17. O God! thou hast taught me from my youth. The Psalmist again declares the great obligations under which he lay to God for his goodness, not only with the view of encouraging himself to gratitude, but also of exciting himself to continue cherishing hope for the time to come: which will appear from the following verse. Besides, since God teaches us both by words and deeds, it is certain that the second species of teaching is here referred to, the idea conveyed being, that David had learned by continual experience, even from his infancy, that nothing is better than to lean exclusively upon the true God. That he may never be deprived of this practical truth, he testifies that he had made great proficiency in it. When he promises to become a publisher of God’s wondrous works, his object in coming under this engagement is, that by his ingratitude he may not interrupt the course of the Divine beneficence.

Upon the truth here stated, he rests the prayer which he presents in the 18th verse, that he may not be forgotten in his old age. His reasoning is this: Since thou, O God! hast from the commencement of my existence given me such abundant proofs of thy goodness, wilt thou not stretch forth thy hand to succor me, when now thou seest me decaying through the influence of old age? And, indeed, the conclusion is altogether inevitable, that as God vouchsafed to love us when we were infants, and embraced us with his favor when we were children, and has continued without intermission to do us good during the whole course of our life, he cannot but persevere in acting toward us in the same way even to the end. Accordingly, the particle g, gam, which we have translated still, here signifies therefore; it being David’s design, from the consideration that the goodness of God can never be exhausted, and that he is not mutable like men, to draw the inference that he will be the same towards his people in their old age, that he was towards them in their childhood. He next supports his prayer by another argument, which is, that if he should fail or faint in his old age, the grace of God, by which he had been hitherto sustained, would at the same time soon be lost sight of. If God were immediately to withdraw his grace from us after we have but just tasted it slightly, it would speedily vanish from our memory. In like manner, were he to forsake us at the close of our life, after having conferred upon us many benefits during the previous part of it, his liberality by this means would be divested of much of its interest and attraction. David therefore beseeches God to assist him even to the end, that he may be able to commend to posterity the unintermitted course of the Divine goodness, and to bear testimony, even at his very death, that God never disappoints the faithful who betake themselves to him. By the generation and those who are to come, he means the children and the children’s children to whom the memorial of the loving-kindness of God cannot be transmitted unless it be perfect in all respects, and has completed its course. He mentions strength and power as the effects of God’s righteousness. He is, however, to be understood by the way as eulogising by these titles the manner of his deliverance, in which he congratulates himself; as if he had said, that God, in the way in which it was accomplished, afforded a manifestation of matchless and all-sufficient power.

19. And thy righteousness, O God! is very high. fc116 Some connect this verse with the preceding, and repeating the verb I will declare, as common to both verses, translate, And I will declare thy righteousness, O God! But this being a matter of small importance, I will not dwell upon it. David prosecutes at greater length the subject of which he had previously spoken. In the first place, he declares that the righteousness of God is very high; secondly, that it wrought mightily; and, finally, he exclaims in admiration, Who is like thee? It is worthy of notice, that the righteousness of God, the effects of which are near to us and conspicuous, is yet placed on high, inasmuch as it cannot be comprehended by our finite understanding. Whilst we measure it according to our own limited standard, we are overwhelmed and swallowed up by the smallest temptation. In order, therefore, to give it free course to save us, it behoves us to take a large and a comprehensive view — to look above and beneath, far and wide, that we may form some due conceptions of its amplitude. The same remarks apply to the second clause, which makes mention of the works of God: For thou hast done great things. If we attribute to his known power the praise which is due to it, we will never want ground for entertaining good hope. Finally, our sense of the goodness of God should extend so far as to ravish us with admiration; for thus it will come to pass that our minds, which are often distracted by an unholy disquietude, will repose upon God alone. If any temptation thrusts itself upon us, we immediately magnify a fly into an elephant; or rather, we rear very high mountains, which keep the hand of God from reaching us; and at the same time we basely limit the power of God. The exclamation of David, then, Who is like thee? tends to teach us the lesson, that we should force our way through every impediment by faith, and regard the power of God, which is well entitled to be so regarded, as superior to all obstacles. All men, indeed, confess with the mouth, that none is like God; but there is scarce one out of a hundred who is truly and fully persuaded that He alone is sufficient to save us.

<197120>Psalm 71:20-24

20. Thou hast made me to see great and sore troubles, but turning, thou wilt quicken me, and turning fc117 thou wilt lift me up from the deep places of the earth. fc118 21. Thou wilt multiply my greatness; and turning, thou wilt comfort me. 22. I will also, O my God: praise thee, for thy truth, with the psaltery; I will sing to thee with the harp, O Holy One of Israel! 23. My lips shall rejoice when I sing to thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed. 24. My tongue also shall daily declare thy righteousness: for they who seek my hurt are confounded and brought to shame.

 

20. Thou hast made me to see great and sore troubles. The verb to see among the Hebrews, as is well known, is applied to the other senses also. Accordingly, when David complains that calamities had been shown to him, he means that he had suffered them. And as he attributes to God the praise of the deliverances which he had obtained, so he, on the other hand, acknowledges that whatever adversities he had endured were inflicted on him according to the counsel and will of God. But we must first consider the object which David has in view, which is to render by comparison the grace of God the more illustrious, in the way of recounting how hardly he had been dealt with. Had he always enjoyed a uniform course of prosperity, he would no doubt have had good reason to rejoice; but in that case he would not have experienced what it is to be delivered from destruction by the stupendous power of God. We must be brought down even to the gates of death before God can be seen to be our deliverer. As we are born without thought and understanding, our minds, during the earlier part of our life, are not sufficiently impressed with a sense of the Author of our existence; but when God comes to our help, as we are lying in a state of despair, this resurrection is to us a bright mirror from which is seen reflected his grace. In this way David amplifies the goodness of God, declaring, that though plunged in a bottomless abyss, he was nevertheless drawn out by the divine hand, and restored to the light. And he boasts not only of having been preserved perfectly safe by the grace of God, but of having also been advanced to higher honor — a change which was, as it were, the crowning of his restoration, and was as if he had been lifted out of hell, even up to heaven. What he repeats the third time, with respect to God’s turning, goes to the commendation of Divine Providence; the idea which he intends to be conveyed being, that no adversity happened to him by chance, as was evident from the fact that his condition was reversed as soon as the favor of God shone upon him.

22. I will also, O my God! praise thee. He again breaks forth into thanksgiving; for he was aware that the design of God, in so liberally succouring his servants, is, that his goodness may be celebrated. In speaking of employing the psaltery and the harp in this exercise, he alludes to the generally prevailing custom of that time. To sing the praises of God upon the harp and psaltery unquestionably formed a part of the training of the law, and of the service of God under that dispensation of shadows and figures; but they are not now to be used in public thanksgiving. We are not, indeed, forbidden to use, in private, musical instruments, but they are banished out of the churches by the plain command of the Holy Spirit, when Paul, in <461413>1 Corinthians 14:13, lays it down as an invariable rule, that we must praise God, and pray to him only in a known tongue. By the word truth, the Psalmist means that the hope which he reposed in God was rewarded, when God preserved him in the midst of dangers. The promises of God, and his truth in performing them, are inseparably joined together. Unless we depend upon the word of God, all the benefits which he confers upon us will be unsavoury or tasteless to us; nor will we ever be stirred up either to prayer or thanksgiving, if we are not previously illuminated by the Divine word. So much the more revolting, then, is the folly of that diabolical man, Servetus, who teaches that the rule of praying is perverted, if faith is fixed upon the promises; as if we could have any access into the presence of God, until he first invited us by his own voice to come to him.

23. My lips shall rejoice fc119 when I sing to thee. In this verse David expresses more distinctly his resolution not to give thanks to God hypocritically, nor in a superficial manner, but to engage with unfeigned earnestness in this religious exercise. By the figures which he introduces, he briefly teaches us, that to praise God would be the source of his greatest pleasure; and thus he indirectly censures the profane mirth of those who, forgetting God, confine their congratulations to themselves in their prosperity. The scope of the last verse is to the same effect, implying that no joy would be sweet and desirable to him, but such as was connected with the praises of God, and that to celebrate his Redeemer’s praises would afford him the greatest satisfaction and delight.


PSALM 72

David in this psalm prays to God, in the name of the whole Church, for the continual prosperity of the kingdom which was promised him, and teaches us at the same time, that the true happiness of the godly consists in their being placed under the government of a king who was raised to the throne by the appointment of heaven.

Of Solomon. fc120

From the inscription of this psalm we cannot determine who was its author. As it is expressly said at the close to be the last of David’s prayers, it is more probable that it was composed by him than by Solomon, his successor. fc121 It may, however, be conjectured that Solomon reduced the prayer of his father into poetical measure, to make it more generally known, and to bring it more extensively into use among the people, — a conjecture which is not improbable. But as the letter l, lamed, has many significations in Hebrew, it may be explained as denoting that this psalm was composed for or in behalf of Solomon. If this is admitted, it is to be observed, that under the person of one man there is comprehended the state of the kingdom through successive ages. After having carefully weighed the whole matter, I am disposed to acquiesce in the conjecture, that the prayers to which David gave utterance on his death-bed were reduced by his son into the form of a psalm, with the view of their being kept in everlasting remembrance. To indicate the great importance of this prayer, and to induce the faithful with the greater earnestness to unite their prayers with the memorable prayer of this holy king, it is expressly added, that this is the last which he poured forth. As Solomon did nothing more than throw into the style of poetry the matter to which his father gave expression, David is to be considered as the principal author of this inspired composition. Those who would interpret it simply as a prophecy of the kingdom of Christ, seem to put a construction upon the words which does violence to them; and then we must always beware of giving the Jews occasion of making an outcry, as if it were our purpose, sophistically, to apply to Christ those things which do not directly refer to him. But as David, who was anointed king by the commandment of God, knew that the terms upon which he and his posterity possessed the kingdom were, that the power and dominion should at length come to Christ; and as he farther knew that the temporal well-being of the people was, for the time, comprehended in this kingdom, as held by him and his posterity, and that from it, which was only a type or shadow, there should at length proceed something far superior — that is, spiritual and everlasting felicity; knowing, as he did, all this, he justly made the perpetual duration of this kingdom the object of his most intense solicitude, and prayed with the deepest earnestness in its behalf, — reiterating his prayer in his last moments, with the view of distinctly testifying, that of all his cares this was the greatest. What is here spoken of everlasting dominion cannot be limited to one man, or to a few, nor even to twenty ages; but there is pointed out the succession which had its end and its complete accomplishment in Christ.

<197201>Psalm 72:1-6

1. O God! give thy judgments to the king, and thy righteousness to the king’s son. 2. He shall judge thy people in righteousness, and thy poor ones in judgment. 3. The mountains shall bring forth peace to the people, and the hills in righteousness. fc122 4. He shall judge the poor of the people; he shall save the children of the afflicted; and shall break in pieces the calumniator. 5. They shall fear thee with the sun; and generation of generations shall fear thee fc123 in the presence of the moon. 6. He shall descend as rain upon the mown grass; as the showers fc124 which water the earth.

 

1. O God! give thy judgments to the king. fc125 While David, to whom the promise had been made, at his death affectionately recommended to God his son, who was to succeed him in his kingdom, he doubtless endited to the Church a common form of prayer, that the faithful, convinced of the impossibility of being prosperous and happy, except under one head, should show all respect, and yield all obedience to this legitimate order of things, and also that from this typical kingdom they might be conducted to Christ. In short, this is a prayer that God would furnish the king whom he had chosen with the spirit of uprightness and wisdom. By the terms righteousness and judgment, the Psalmist means a due and well-regulated administration of government, which he opposes to the tyrannical and unbridled license of heathen kings, who, despising God, rule according to the dictates of their own will; and thus the holy king of Israel, who was anointed to his office by divine appointment, is distinguished from other earthly kings. From the words we learn by the way, that no government in the world can be rightly managed but under the conduct of God, and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If kings possessed in themselves resources sufficiently ample, it would have been to no purpose for David to have sought by prayer from another, that with which they were of themselves already provided. But in requesting that the righteousness and judgment of God may be given to kings, he reminds them that none are fit for occupying that exalted station, except in so far as they are formed for it by the hand of God. Accordingly, in the Proverbs of Solomon, (<200815>Proverbs 8:15,) Wisdom proclaims that kings reign by her. Nor is this to be wondered at, when we consider that civil government is so excellent an institution, that God would have us to acknowledge him as its author, and claims to himself the whole praise of it. But it is proper for us to descend from the general to the particular; for since it is the peculiar work of God to set up and to maintain a rightful government in the world, it was much more necessary for him to communicate the special grace of his Spirit for the maintenance and preservation of that sacred kingdom which he had chosen in preference to all others. By the king’s son David no doubt means his successors. At the same time, he has an eye to this promise:

“Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne,”
(<19D211>Psalm 132:11.)

But no such stability as is indicated in that passage is to be found in the successors of David, till we come to Christ. We know that after the death of Solomon, the dignity of the kingdom decayed, and from that time its wealth became impaired, until, by the carrying of the people into captivity, and the ignominious death inflicted upon their king, the kingdom was involved in total ruin. And even after their return from Babylon, their restoration was not such as to inspire them with any great hope, until at length Christ sprung forth from the withered stock of Jesse. He therefore holds the first rank among the children of David.

2. He shall judge thy people in righteousness. Some read this in the form of a wish — O that he may judge, etc. Others retain the future tense; and thus it is a prophecy. But we will come nearer the correct interpretation by understanding something intermediate, as implied. All that is afterwards spoken, concerning the king, flows from the supposition, that the blessing prayed for in the first verse is conferred upon him — from the supposition that he is adorned with righteousness and judgment. The prayer, then, should be explained thus: Govern our king, O God! that he may judge. Or in this way, When thou shalt have bestowed upon the king thy righteousness, then he will judge uprightly. To govern a nation well, is an endowment far too excellent to grow out of the earth; but the spiritual government of Christ, by which all things are restored to perfect order, ought much more to be considered a gift of heaven. In the first clause of the verse, David speaks of the whole people in general. In the second clause, he expressly mentions the poor, who, on account of their poverty and weakness, have need of the help of others, and for whose sake kings are armed with the sword to grant them redress when unjustly oppressed. Hence, also, proceeds peace, of which mention is made in the third verse. The term peace being employed among the Hebrews to denote not only rest and tranquillity, but also prosperity, David teaches us that the people would enjoy prosperity and happiness, when the affairs of the nation were administered according to the principles of righteousness. The bringing forth of peace is a figurative expression taken from the fertility of the earth.  fc126And when it is said that the mountains and hills shall bring forth peace,  fc127the meaning is, that no corner would be found in the country in which it did not prevail, not even the most unpromising parts, indicated by the mountains, which are commonly barren, or at least do not produce so great an abundance of fruits as the valleys. Besides, both the word peace and the word righteousness are connected with each clause of the verse, and must be twice repeated,  fc128the idea intended to be conveyed being, that peace by righteousness  fc129should be diffused through every part of the world. Some read simply righteousness, instead of In righteousness, supposing the letter b, beth, to be here redundant, which does not, however, appear to be the case. fc130

4. He shall judge the poor of the people. The poet continues his description of the end and fruit of a righteous government, and unfolds at greater length what he had briefly touched upon concerning the afflicted among the people. But it is a truth which ought to be borne in mind, that kings can keep themselves within the bounds of justice and equity only by the grace of God; for when they are not governed by the Spirit of righteousness proceeding from heaven, their government is converted into a system of tyranny and robbery. As God had promised to extend his care to the poor and afflicted among his people, David, as an argument to enforce the prayer which he presents in behalf of the king, shows that the granting of it will tend to the comfort of the poor. God is indeed no respecter of persons; but it is not without cause that God takes a more special care of the poor than of others, since they are most exposed to injuries and violence. Let laws and the administration of justice be taken away, and the consequence will be, that the more powerful a man is, he will be the more able to oppress his poor brethren. David, therefore, particularly mentions that the king will be the defender of those who can only be safe under the protection of the magistrate, and declares that he will be their avenger when they are made the victims of injustice and wrong. The phrase, The children of the afflicted, is put for the afflicted, an idiom quite common in Hebrew, and a similar form of expression is sometimes used by the Greeks, as when they say uiJouv ijatrwn, the sons of physicians, for physicians.  fc131But as the king cannot discharge the duty of succouring and defending the poor which David imposes upon him, unless he curb the wicked by authority and the power of the sword, it is very justly added in the end of the verse, that when righteousness reigns, oppressors or extortioners will be broken in pieces. It would be foolish to wait till they should give place of their own accord. They must be repressed by the sword, that their audacity and wickedness may be prevented from proceeding to greater lengths. It is therefore requisite for a king to be a man of wisdom, and resolutely prepared effectually to restrain the violent and injurious, that the rights of the meek and orderly may be preserved unimpaired. Thus none will be fit for governing a people but he who has learned to be rigorous when the case requires. Licentiousness must necessarily prevail under an effeminate and inactive sovereign, or even under one who is of a disposition too gentle and forbearing. There is much truth in the old saying, that it is worse to live under a prince through whose lenity everything is lawful, than under a tyrant where there is no liberty at all.

5. They shall fear thee with the sun. If this is read as an apostrophe, or change of person, it may be properly and without violence understood of the king; implying, that the ornaments or distinctions which chiefly secure to a sovereign reverence from his subjects are his impartially securing to every man the possession of his own rights, and his manifesting a spirit of humanity ready at all times to succor the poor and miserable, as well as a spirit determined rigorously to subdue the audacity of the wicked. But it will be more appropriate, without changing the person, to explain it of God himself.  fc132The preservation of mutual equity among men is an inestimable blessing; but the service of God is well worthy of being preferred even to this. David, therefore, very properly commends to us the blessed fruits of a holy and righteous government, by telling us that it will draw in its train true religion and the fear of God. And Paul, when enjoining us in <540202>1 Timothy 2:2, to pray for kings, expressly mentions what we ought to have in view in our prayers, which is, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” As there is no small danger, were civil government overthrown, of religion being destroyed, and the worship of God annihilated, David beseeches God to have respect to his own name and glory in preserving the king. By this argument he at once reminds kings of their duty, and stirs up the people to prayer; for we cannot be better employed than in directing all our desires and prayers to the advancement of the service and honor of God. When we come to Christ, this is far more truly applicable to him, true religion being established in his kingdom and nowhere else. And certainly David, in describing the worship or service of God as continuing to the end of the world, intimates by the way that he ascends in thought to that everlasting kingdom which God had promised: They shall fear thee with the sun; and generation of generations shall fear thee in the presence of the moon. fc133

6. He shall descend as the rain upon the mown grass. This comparison may seem at first sight to be somewhat harsh; but it elegantly and appositely expresses the great advantage which is derived by all from the good and equitable constitution of a kingdom. Meadows, we know, are cut in the beginning of summer when the heat prevails; and did not the earth imbibe new moisture by the falling rain, even the very roots of the herbage would wither by reason of the barren and parched state of the soil. David, therefore, teaches us that as God defends the earth from the heat of the sun by watering it, so he in like manner provides for the welfare of his Church, and defends it under the government of the king. But this prediction has received its highest fulfillment in Christ, who, by distilling upon the Church his secret grace, renders her fruitful.

<197207>Psalm 72:7-11

7. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and there shall be abundance of peace, so long as the moon endureth. fc134 8. He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. 9. The inhabitants of the desert shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust. 10. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring a present: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall bring a gift to him. 11. And all kings shall prostrate themselves before him; all nations shall serve him.

 

7. In his days shall the righteous flourish. It is unnecessary for me frequently to repeat what I have once stated, that all these sentences depend upon the first verse. David, therefore, prayed that the king might be adorned with righteousness and judgment, that the just might flourish and the people prosper. This prediction receives its highest fulfillment in Christ. It was, indeed, the duty of Solomon to maintain the righteous; but it is the proper office of Christ to make men righteous. He not only gives to every man his own, but also reforms their hearts through the agency of his Spirit. By this means he brings righteousness back, as it were, from exile, which otherwise would be altogether banished from the world. Upon the return of righteousness there succeeds the blessing of God, by which he causes all his children to rejoice in the way of making them to perceive that under their King, Christ, every provision is made for their enjoying all manner of prosperity and felicity. If any would rather take the word peace in its proper and more restricted signification, I have no objections to it. And, certainly, to the consummation of a happy life, nothing is more desirable than peace; for amidst the turmoils and contentions of war, men derive almost no good from having an abundance of all things, as it is then wasted and destroyed. Moreover, when David represents the life of the king as prolonged to the end of the world, this shows more clearly that he not only comprehends his successors who occupied an earthly throne, but that he ascends even to Christ, who, by rising from the dead, obtained for himself celestial life and glory, that he might govern his Church for ever.

8. He shall have dominion from sea to sea. As the Lord, when he promised his people the land of Canaan for an inheritance, assigned to it these four boundaries, (<011518>Genesis 15:18,) David intimates, that so long as the kingdom shall continue to exist, the possession of the promised land will be entire, to teach the faithful that the blessing of God cannot be fully realised, except whilst this kingdom shall flourish. He therefore declares that he will exercise dominion from the Red Sea, or from that arm of the Egyptian sea to the sea of Syria, which is called the Sea of the Philistines, fc135 and also from the river Euphrates to the great wilderness. If it is objected that such narrow bounds do not correspond with the kingdom of Christ, which was to be extended from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof, we reply, that David obviously accommodates his language to his own time, the amplitude of the kingdom of Christ not having been, as yet, fully unfolded. He has therefore begun his description in phraseology well known, and in familiar use under the law and the prophets; and even Christ himself commenced his reign within the limits here marked out before he penetrated to the uttermost boundaries of the earth; as it is said in <19B002>Psalm 110:2,

“The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion.”

But, soon after, the Psalmist proceeds to speak of the enlarged extent of the empire of this king, declaring that the kings beyond the sea shall also be tributaries to him; and also that the inhabitants of the desert shall receive his yoke. The word yyx, tsiim, fc136 which we have translated inhabitants of the desert, is, I have no doubt, to be understood of those who, dwelling towards the south, were at a great distance from the land of Canaan. The Prophet immediately adds, that the enemies of the king shall lick the dust in token of their reverence. This, as is well known, was in ancient times a customary ceremony among the nations of the East; and Alexander the Great, after he had conquered the East, wished to compel his subjects to practice it, from which arose great dissatisfaction and contentions, the Macedonians disdainfully refusing to yield such a slavish and degrading mark of subjection. fc137 The meaning then is, that the king chosen by God in Judea will obtain so complete a victory over all his enemies, far and wide, that they shall come humbly to pay him homage.

10. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents. The Psalmist still continues, as in the preceding verse, to speak of the extent of the kingdom. The Hebrews apply the appellation of Tarshish to the whole coast, which looks towards Cilicia. By the isles, therefore, is denoted the whole coast of the Mediterranean Sea, from Cilicia to Greece. As the Jews, contenting themselves with the commodities of their own country, did not undertake voyages to distant countries, like other nations; God having expressly required them to confine themselves within the limits of their own country, that they might not be corrupted by the manners of strangers; they were accustomed, in consequence of this, to apply the appellation of isles to those countries which were on the other side of the sea. I indeed admit that Cyprus, Crete, and other islands, are comprehended under this name; but I also maintain that it applies to all the territories which were situated beyond the Mediterranean Sea. By the words hjnm, minchah, a present, and rka, eshcar, a gift, must be understood any tribute or custom, and not voluntary offerings; for it is vanquished enemies, and the mark or token of their subjection, which are spoken of. These terms appear to be used intentionally in this place, in order to mitigate the odium attached to such a mark of subjugation; fc138 as if the inspired writer indirectly reproved subjects, if they defrauded their kings of their revenues. By ab, Sheba, some think Arabia is intended, and by ab, Seba, Ethiopia. Some, however, by the first word understand all that part of the Gulf of Arabia which lies towards Africa; and by the second, which is written with the letter s, samech, the country of Sabea, fc139 the more pleasant and fruitful country. This opinion is probably the more correct of the two. It is unnecessary here to remark how foolishly this passage has been wrested in the Church of Rome. They chant this verse as referring to the philosophers or wise men who came to worship Christ; as if, indeed, it were in their power of philosophers to make kings all upon a sudden; and in addition to this, to change the quarters of the world, to make of the east the south or the west.

11. And all kings shall prostrate themselves before him. This verse contains a more distinct statement of the truth, That the whole world will be brought in subjection to the authority of Christ. The kingdom of Judah was unquestionably never more flourishing than under the reign of Solomon; but even then there were only a small number of kings who paid tribute to him, and what they paid was inconsiderable in amount; and, moreover, it was paid upon condition that they should be allowed to live in the enjoyment of liberty under their own laws. While David then began with his own son, and the posterity of his son, he rose by the Spirit of prophecy to the spiritual kingdom of Christ; a point worthy of our special notice, since it teaches us that we have not been called to the hope of everlasting salvation by chance, but because our heavenly Father had already destined to give us to his Son. From this we also learn, that in the Church and flock of Christ there is a place for kings; whom David does not here disarm of their sword nor despoil of their crown, in order to admit them into the Church, but rather declares that they will come with all the dignity of their station to prostrate themselves at the feet of Christ.

<197212>Psalm 72:12-15

12. For he will deliver the poor when he crieth to him; and the afflicted person who hath none to succor him. 13. He will have pity on the poor and indigent; and will save the souls [or lives] of the poor. 14. He will redeem their souls from fraud and violence: and their blood will be precious in his sight. 15. And he shall live; and there shall be given to him of the gold of Sheba; and prayer shall continually be made for him, and daily shall he be blessed.

 

12. For he will deliver the poor when he crieth to him. The Psalmist again affirms that the kingdom which he magnifies so greatly will not be tyrannical or cruel. The majority of kings, neglecting the well-being of the community, have their minds wholly engrossed with their own private interests. The consequence is, that they unmercifully oppress their miserable subjects; and it even happens that the more formidable any of them is, and the more absorbing his rapacity, he is accounted so much the more eminent and illustrious. But it is far different with the king here described. It has been held as a proverb by all mankind, “That there is nothing in which men approach nearer to God than by their beneficence;” and it would be very inconsistent did not this virtue shine forth in those kings whom God has more nearly linked to himself. Accordingly, David, to render the king beloved who was chosen of God, justly declares, not only that he will be the guardian of justice and equity, but also that he will be so humane and merciful, as to be ready to afford succor to the most despised; qualities too seldom to be found in sovereigns, who, dazzled with their own splendor, withdraw themselves to a distance from the poor and the afflicted, as if it were unworthy of, and far beneath, their royal dignity to make them the objects of their care. David avows that the blood of the common people, which is usually accounted vile and as a thing of nought, will be very precious in the estimation of this heavenly king. Constancy and magnanimity are denoted by the words he will redeem; for it would be far short of the duty of a king merely to hate fraud and extortion, did he not resolutely come forward to punish these crimes and set himself to defend those who are oppressed. fc140 Under the terms fraud and violence is comprehended all kind of wrong-doing; for a man in working mischief is either a lion or a fox. Some rage with open violence, and others proceed to wrong-doing insidiously and by secret arts. Moreover, we know that supreme sovereignty, both in heaven and earth, has been given to Christ, (<402818>Matthew 28:18,) that he may defend his people not only from all temporal dangers, but especially from all the harassing annoyances of Satan, until having delivered them at length from all trouble, he gather them into the everlasting rest of his heavenly kingdom.

15. And he shall live. To refer the word live to the poor, as some do, seems forced. What David affirms is, that this king shall be rewarded with long life, which is not the least of God’s earthly blessings. The words which follow are to be read indefinitely, that is to say, without determining any particular person; fc141 as if it had been said, The gold of Arabia shall be given him, and prayers shall everywhere be made for his prosperity. There is thus again a repetition of what had been previously said concerning his power; for if Arabia shall pay him tribute, how vast an amount of riches will be gathered from so many countries nearer home! Christ, it is true, does not reign to hoard up gold, but David meant to teach by this figure, that even the nations which were most remote would yield such homage to him, as to surrender to him themselves and all that they possessed. It is no uncommon thing for the glory of the spiritual kingdom of Christ to be portrayed under images of outward splendor. David, in conformity with this usual style of Scripture, has here foretold that the kingdom of Christ would be distinguished for its wealth; but this is to be understood as referring to its spiritual character. Whence it appears how wickedly and wantonly the Papists have perverted this passage, and made it subserve their purpose of raking to themselves the perishable riches of the world. Moreover, when he speaks of the common prayers of the people, by which they will commend the prosperity of the king to the care of God, he intimates that so well-pleased will they be with being his subjects, that they will account nothing so desirable as to yield entire submission to his authority. Many, no doubt, reject his yoke, and hypocrites fret and murmur secretly in their hearts, and would gladly extinguish all remembrance of Christ, were it in their power; but the affectionate interest here predicted is what all true believers are careful to cultivate, not only because to pray for earthly kings is a duty enjoined upon them in the Word of God, but also because they ought to feel a special desire and solicitude for the enlargement of the boundaries of this kingdom, in which both the majesty of God shines forth, and their own welfare and happiness are included. Accordingly, in <19B825>Psalm 118:25, we will find a form of prayer dictated for the whole Church, That God would bless this king; not that Christ stands in need of our prayers, but because he justly requires from his servants this manifestation or proof of true piety; and by it they may also exercise themselves in praying for the coming of the kingdom of God.

<197216>Psalm 72:16-20

16. A handful of corn shall be in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall be shaken as of Lebanon: fc142 and they shall go forth from the city as it were a plant of the earth. 17. His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued in the presence of the sun: and all nations shall bless themselves in him, and shall call him blessed. 18. Blessed be Jehovah God! the God of Israel! who alone doeth wonderful things. 19. And blessed be his glorious name [literally, the name of his glory] for ever; and let all the earth be filled with his glory. Amen, and Amen. 20. The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.

 

16. A handful of corn shall be fc143 in the earth upon the top of the mountains. The opinion of those who take a handful fc144 for a small portion appears to be well founded. They think that by the two circumstances here referred to, a rare and uncommon fertility is indicated. Only a very small quantity of wheat, not even more than a man can hold in the palm of his hand, has been sown, and that even upon the tops of the mountains, which generally are far from being fruitful; and yet so very abundant will be the increase, that the ears will wave and rustle in the winds as the trees on Lebanon. I do not, however, know whether so refined a comparison between seed-time and harvest is at all intended by David. His words may be considered more simply as denoting that so great will be the fertility, so abundant the produce of wheat which the mountain tops shall yield, that it may be reaped with full hand. By this figure is portrayed the large abundance of all good things which, through the blessing of God, would be enjoyed under the reign of Christ. To this is added the increase of children. Not only would the earth produce an abundance all kinds of fruits, but the cities and towns also would be fruitful in the production of men: And they shall go out fc145 from the city as the grass of the earth. I have preferred translating the word Lebanon in the genitive case instead of the nominative; for the metonomy of putting the name of the mountain, Lebanon, for the trees upon it, which is renounced by others, is somewhat harsh.

17. His name shall endure for ever. The inspired writer again repeats what he had previously affirmed concerning the perpetual duration of this kingdom. And he doubtless intended carefully to distinguish it from earthly kingdoms, which either suddenly vanish away, or at length, oppressed with their own greatness, fall into ruin, affording by their destruction incontestible evidence that nothing in this world is stable and of long duration. When he says that his name shall endure for ever, it is not to be understood as merely implying that his fame should survive his death, as worldly men are ambitious that their name may not be buried with their body. He is rather speaking of the kingdom when he says that the name of this prince will continue illustrious and glorious for ever. Some explain the words mAynpl, liphney-shemesh, which we have rendered, in the presence of the sun, as if he meant that the glory with which God would invest the kings of Judah would surpass the brightness of the sun; but this is at variance with the context, for he had said above, (verse 5th,) in the same sense, with the sun, and in the presence of the moon.

After having, therefore, made mention of the everlasting duration of the name of this king, he subjoins, by way of explanation, his name shall be continued in the presence of the sun. Literally it is, his name shall have children, fc146 (for the Hebrew verb is derived from the noun for son,) that is to say, it shall be perpetuated from father to son; fc147 and as the sun rises daily to enlighten the world, so shall the strength of this king be continually renewed, and thus will continue from age to age for ever. In like manner, we shall afterwards see that the sun and the moon are called witnesses of the same eternity, (<198938>Psalm 89:38.) Whence it follows that this cannot be understood of the earthly kingdom, which flourished only for a short time in the house of David, and not only lost its vigor in the third successor, but was at length ignominiously extinguished. It properly applies to the kingdom of Christ; and although that kingdom often totters upon the earth when assailed with the furious hatred of the whole world, and battered by the most formidable engines of Satan, it is yet wonderfully upheld and sustained by God, that it may not altogether fail. The words which follow, All nations shall bless themselves in him, admit of a twofold meaning. The Hebrews often use this form of expression when the name of any man is used as an example or formula of prayer for blessings. For instance, a man blesses himself in David, who beseeches God to be as favorable and bountiful to him as he proved himself to be towards David. On the other hand, he is said to curse in Sodom and Gomorrah who employs the names of these cities by which to pronounce some curse. If, then, these two expressions, they shall bless themselves in him, and they shall call him blessed, are used in the same sense; the expression, to bless themselves in the king, will just mean to pray that the same prosperity may be conferred upon us which was conferred upon this highly favored king, whose happy condition will excite universal admiration. But if it is considered preferable to distinguish between these two expressions, (which is not less probable,) to bless one’s self in the king, will denote to seek happiness from him; for the nations will be convinced that nothing is more desirable than to receive from him laws and ordinances.

18. Blessed be Jehovah God! the God of Israel. fc148 David, after having prayed for prosperity to his successors, breaks forth in praising God, because he was assured by the divine oracle that his prayers would not be in vain. Had he not with the eyes of faith beheld those things which we have seen above, his rejoicing would have been less free and lively. When he says that God alone doeth wonderful things, this, no doubt, is spoken in reference to the subject of which he is presently treating, with the view not only of commending the excellence of the kingdom, but also to admonish himself and others of the need which there is that God should display his wonderful and stupendous power for its preservation. And certainly it was not owing to any of David’s successors, a few excepted, that the royal throne did not fall a hundred times, yea, was not even completely ruined. To go no farther, was not Solomon’s most disgraceful apostasy deserving of utter destruction? And as to the rest of his successors, with the exception of Josias, Hezekiah, Jehoshaphat, and a few others, did they not fall from evil to worse, as if each strove to outstrip his predecessor, and thus so provoked the wrath of God, as it were deliberately, that it is wonderful that he did not immediately launch the thunderbolts of his vengeance upon the whole race utterly to destroy them? Moreover, as David, being endued with the Spirit of prophecy, was not ignorant that Satan would always continue to be a cruel enemy of the Church’s welfare, he doubtless knew that the grace of God, of which he presently speaks, would have great and arduous difficulties to overcome in order to continue for ever in his own nation. And the event afterwards unquestionably showed by how many miracles God accomplished his promises, whether we consider the return of his people from the captivity of Babylon, or the astonishing deliverances which followed until Christ as a tender branch sprung out of a dead tree. David, therefore, with good reason prays that the glory of the divine name may fill the whole earth, since that kingdom was to be extended even to the uttermost boundaries of the globe, And that all the godly, with earnest and ardent affection of heart, may unite with him in the same prayers, there is added a confirmation in the words, Amen, and Amen.

20. The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended. We have before observed that this was not without cause added by Solomon, (if we may suppose him to have put the matter of this psalm into the form of poetical compositions) not only that he might avoid defrauding his father of the praise which was due to him, but also to stir up the Church the more earnestly to pour forth before God the same prayers which David had continued to offer even with his last breath. Let us then remember that it is our bounden duty to pray to God, both with unfeigned earnestness, and with unwearied perseverance, that he would be pleased to maintain and defend the Church under the government of his Son. The name of Jesse, the father of David, seems to be here introduced to bring to remembrance David’s origin, that the grace of God may appear the more illustrious in having raised from the sheepfold a man of mean birth, as well as the youngest and the least esteemed among his brethren, and in having advanced him to so high a degree of honor, as to make him king over the chosen people.


PSALM 73

David, or whoever may have been the author of this psalm, contending as it were against the judgment of carnal sense and reason, begins by extolling the righteousness and goodness of God. He next confesses that when he saw the wicked abounding in wealth, and living in the indulgence of every kind of pleasure, yea, even scornfully mocking God, and cruelly harassing the righteous, and that when he saw, on the other hand, how in proportion to the care with which any studied to practice uprightness, was the degree in which they were weighed down by troubles and calamities, and that in general all the children of God were pining away, and oppressed with cares and sorrows, while God, as if sitting in heaven idle and unconcerned, did not interfere to remedy such a disordered state of matters; it gave him so severe a shock, as almost to dispose him to cast off all concern about religion and all fear of God. In the third place, he reproves his own folly in proceeding rashly and hastily to pronounce judgment, merely from a view of the present state of things, and shows the necessity of exercising patience, that our faith may not fail under these troubles and disquietudes. At last he concludes that, provided we leave the providence of God to take its own course, in the way which he has determined in his secret purpose, fc149 in the end, matters will assume a very different aspect, and it will be seen, that, on the one hand, the righteous are not defrauded of their reward, and that, on the other, the wicked do not escape the hand of the judge.

A Psalm of Asaph.

<197301>Psalm 73:1-3

1. Yet God is good to Israel, to those who are right of heart. 2. As for me, my feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipped. 3. For I envied the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

 

As to the author of this psalm, I am not disposed to contend very strongly, although I think it probable that the name of Asaph was prefixed to it because the charge of singing it was committed to him, while the name of David, its author, was omitted, just as it is usual for us, when things are well known of themselves, not to be at the trouble of stating them. How much profit we may derive from meditation upon the doctrine contained in this psalm, it is easy to discover from the example of the prophet, who, although he had been exercised in no ordinary degree in true godliness, yet had great difficulty in keeping his footing, while reeling to and fro on the slippery ground on which he found himself placed. Nay, he acknowledges that, before he returned to such soundness of mind as enabled him to form a just judgment of the things which occasioned his trial, he had fallen into a state of almost brutish stupidity. As to ourselves, experience shows how slight impressions we have of the providence of God. We no doubt all agree in admitting that the world is governed by the hand of God; but were this truth deeply rooted in our hearts, our faith would be distinguished by far greater steadiness and perseverance in surmounting the temptations with which we are assailed in adversity. But when the smallest temptation which we meet with dislodges this doctrine from our minds, it is manifest that we have not yet been truly and in good earnest convinced of its truth.

Besides, Satan has numberless artifices by which he dazzles our eyes and bewilders the mind; and then the confusion of things which prevails in the world produces so thick a mist, as to render it difficult for us to see through it, and to come to the conclusion that God governs and extends his care to things here below. The ungodly for the most part triumph; and although they deliberately stir up God to anger and provoke his vengeance, yet from his sparing them, it seems as if they had done nothing amiss in deriding him, and that they will never be called to account for it. fc150 On the other hand, the righteous, pinched with poverty, oppressed with many troubles, harassed by multiplied wrongs, and covered with shame and reproach, groan and sigh: and in proportion to the earnestness with which they exert themselves in endeavoring to do good to all men, is the liberty which the wicked have the effrontery to take in abusing their patience. When such is the state of matters, where shall we find the person who is not sometimes tempted and importuned by the unholy suggestion, that the affairs of the world roll on at random, and as we say, are governed by chance? fc151 This unhallowed imagination has doubtless obtained complete possession of the minds of the unbelieving, who are not illuminated by the Spirit of God, and thereby led to elevate their thoughts to the contemplation of eternal life. Accordingly, we see the reason why Solomon declares, that since “all things come alike to all, and there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked,” the hearts of the sons of men are full of impiety and contempt of God, (<210902>Ecclesiastes 9:2, 3;) — the reason is, because they do not consider that things apparently so disordered are under the direction and government of God.

Some of the heathen philosophers discoursed upon, and maintained the doctrine of a Divine Providence; but it was evident from experience that they had notwithstanding no real and thorough persuasion of its truth; for when things fell out contrary to their expectation, they openly disavowed what they had previously professed. fc152 Of this we have a memorable example in Brutus. We can hardly conceive of a man surpassing him in courage, and all who intimately knew him bore testimony to his distinguished wisdom. Being of the sect of the Stoic philosophers, he spake many excellent things in commendation of the power and providence of God; and yet when at length vanquished by Antony, he cried out, that whatever he had believed concerning virtue had no foundation in truth, but was the mere invention of men, and that all the pains taken to live honestly and virtuously was only so much lost labor, since fortune rules over all the affairs of mankind. Thus this personage, who was distinguished for heroic courage, and an example of wonderful resolution, in renouncing virtue, and under the name of it cursing God, shamefully fell away. Hence it is manifest, how the sentiments of the ungodly fluctuate with the fluctuation of events. And how can it be expected that the heathen, who are not regenerated by the Spirit of God, should be able to resist such powerful and violent assaults, when even God’s own people have need of the special assistance of his grace to prevent the same temptation from prevailing in their hearts, and when they are sometimes shaken by it and ready to fall; even as David here confesses, that his steps had well nigh slipped? But let us now proceed to the consideration of the words of the psalm.

1. Yet God is good to Israel. The adverb ˚a, fc153 ach, does not here imply a simple affirmation certainly, as it often does in other places, but is taken adversatively for yet, notwithstanding, or some similar word. David opens the psalm abruptly; and from this we learn, what is worthy of particular notice, that before he broke forth into this language, his mind had been agitated with many doubts and conflicting suggestions. As a brave and valiant champion, he had been exercised in very painful struggles and temptations; but, after long and arduous exertion, he at length succeeded in shaking off all perverse imaginations, and came to the conclusion that yet God is gracious to his servants, and the faithful guardian of their welfare. Thus these words contain a tacit contrast between the unhallowed imaginations suggested to him by Satan, and the testimony in favor of true religion with which he now strengthens himself, denouncing, as it were, the judgment of the flesh, in giving place to misgiving thoughts with respect to the providence of God. We see then how emphatic is this exclamation of the Psalmist. He does not ascend into the chair to dispute after the manner of the philosophers, and to deliver his discourse in a style of studied oratory; but, as if he had escaped from hell, he proclaims, with a loud voice, and with impassioned feeling, that he had obtained the victory. To teach us by his own example the difficulty and arduousness of the conflict, he opens, so to speak, his heart and bowels, and would have us to understand something more than is expressed by the words which he employs. The amount of his language is, that although God, to the eye of sense and reason, may seem to neglect his servants, yet he always embraces them with his favor. He celebrates the providence of God, especially as it is extended towards genuine saints; to show them, not only that they are governed by God in common with other creatures, but that he watches over their welfare with special care, even as the master of a family carefully provides for and attends to his own household. God, it is true, governs the whole world; but he is graciously pleased to take a more close and peculiar inspection of his Church, which he has undertaken to maintain and defend.

This is the reason why the prophet speaks expressly of Israel; and why immediately after he limits this name to those who are right of heart; which is a kind of correction of the first sentence; for many proudly lay claim to the name of Israel, as if they constituted the chief members of the Church, while they are but Ishmaelites and Edomites. David, therefore, with the view of blotting out from the catalogue of the godly all the degenerate children of Abraham, fc154 acknowledges none to belong to Israel but such as purely and uprightly worship God; as if he had said, “When I declare that God is good to his Israel, I do not mean all those who, resting contented with a mere external profession, bear the name of Israelites, to which they have no just title; but I speak of the spiritual children of Abraham, who consecrate themselves to God with sincere affection of heart.” Some explain the first clause, God is good to Israel, as referring to his chosen people; and the second clause, to those who are right of heart, as referring to strangers, to whom God would be gracious, provided they walked in true uprightness. But this is a frigid and forced interpretation. It is better to adhere to that which I have stated. David, in commending the goodness of God towards the chosen people and the Church, was under the necessity of cutting off from their number many hypocrites who had apostatised from the service of God, and were, therefore, unworthy of enjoying his fatherly favor. To his words corresponds the language of Christ to Nathanael, (<430147>John 1:47,) “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” As the fear of God among the Jews was at that time well nigh extinguished, and there remained among them almost nothing else but the “circumcision made with hands,” that is to say, outward circumcision, Christ, to discriminate between the true children of Abraham and hypocrites, lays it down as a distinguishing characteristic of the former, that they are free from guile. And assuredly in the service of God, no qualification is more indispensable than uprightness of heart.

2. As for me, etc. Literally, it is, And I: which ought to be read with emphasis; for David means that those temptations, which cast an affront upon the honor of God, and overwhelm faith, not only assail the common class of men, or those who are endued only with some small measure of the fear of God, but that he himself, who ought to have profited above all others in the school of God, had experienced his own share of them. By thus setting himself forth as an example, he designed the more effectually to arouse and incite us to take great heed to ourselves. He did not, it is true, actually succumb under the temptation; but, in declaring that his feet were almost gone, and that his steps had well nigh slipped, he warns us that all are in danger of falling, unless they are upheld by the powerful hand of God.

3. For I envied the foolish. fc155 Here he declares the nature of the temptation with which he was assailed. It consisted in this, that when he saw the present prosperous state of the wicked, and from it judged them to be happy, he had envied their condition. We are certainly under a grievous and a dangerous temptation, when we not only, in our own minds, quarrel with God for not setting matters in due order, but also when we give ourselves loose reins, boldly to commit iniquity, because it seems to us that we may commit it, and yet escape with impunity. The sneering jest of Dionysius the younger, a tyrant of Sicily, when, after having robbed the temple of Syracuse, he had a prosperous voyage with the plunder, is well known. fc156 “See you not,” says he to those who were with him, “how the gods favor the sacrilegious?” In the same way, the prosperity of the wicked is taken as an encouragement to commit sin; for we are ready to imagine, that, since God grants them so much of the good things of this life, they are the objects of his approbation and favor. We see how their prosperous condition wounded David to the heart, leading him almost to think that there was nothing better for him than to join himself to their company, and to follow their course of life. fc157 By applying to the ungodly the appellation of foolish, he does not simply mean that the sins which they commit are committed through ignorance or inadvertence, but he sets their folly in opposition to the fear of God, which is the principal constituent of true wisdom. fc158 The ungodly are, no doubt, crafty; but, being destitute of the fundamental principle of all right judgment, which consists in this, that we must regulate and frame our lives according to the will of God, they are foolish; and this is the effect of their own blindness.

<197304>Psalm 73:4-9

4. For there are no bands to their death, and their strength is vigorous. fc159 5. They are not in the trouble that is common to man; neither are they scourged [or stricken] with other men. 6. Therefore pride compasseth them as a chain; the raiment of violence hath covered them. 7. Their eye goeth out for fatness; they have passed beyond [or exceeded] the thoughts of their heart. 8. They become insolent, and wickedly talk of extortion: fc160 they speak from on high. 9. They have set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. fc161

 

4. For there are no bands to their death. The Psalmist describes the comforts and advantages of the ungodly, which are as it were so many temptations to shake the faith of the people of God. He begins with the good health which they enjoy, telling us, that they are robust and vigorous, and have not to draw their breath with difficulty through continual sicknesses, as will often be the case with regard to true believers. fc162 Some explain bands to death, as meaning delays, viewing the words as implying that the wicked die suddenly, and in a moment, not having to struggle with the pangs of dissolution. In the book of Job it is reckoned among the earthly felicities of the ungodly, That, after having enjoyed to the full their luxurious pleasures, they “in a moment go down to the grave,” (<182113>Job 21:13.) And it is related of Julius Caesar, that, the day before he was put to death, he remarked, that to die suddenly and unexpectedly, seemed to him to be a happy death. Thus, then, according to the opinion of these expositors, David complains that the wicked go to death by a smooth and easy path, without much trouble and anxiety. But I am rather inclined to agree with those who read these two clauses jointly in this way: Their strength is vigorous, and, in respect to them, there are no bands to death; because they are not dragged to death like prisoners. fc163 As diseases lay prostrate our strength, they are so many messengers of death, warning us of the frailty and short duration of our life. They are therefore with propriety compared to bands, with which God binds us to his yoke, lest our strength and rigour should incite us to licentiousness and rebellion.

5. They are not in the trouble that is common to man. Here it is declared that the wicked enjoy a delightful repose, and are as it were by special privilege exempted from the miseries to which mankind in general are subject. They also are no doubt involved in afflictions as well as the good, and God often executes his judgments upon them; but, for the express purpose of trying our faith, he always places some of them as it were upon an elevated stage, who appear to be privileged to live in a state of exemption from calamities, as is here described. Now, when we consider that the life of men is full of labor and miseries, and that this is the law and condition of living appointed for all, it is a sore temptation to behold the despisers of God indulging themselves in their luxurious pleasures and enjoying great ease, as if they were elevated above the rest of the world into a region of pleasure, where they had a nest for themselves apart. fc164

6. Therefore pride compasseth them as a chain. This complaint proceeds farther than the preceding; for we are here told that although God sees the ungodly shamefully and wickedly abusing his kindness and clemency, he notwithstanding bears with their ingratitude and rebellion. The Psalmist employs a similitude taken from the dress and attire of the body, to show that such persons glory in their evil deeds. The verb qn[, anak, which we have rendered, encompasseth them as a chain, comes from a noun which signifies a chain. The language, therefore, implies that the ungodly glory in their audacity and madness, as if they were richly adorned with a chain of gold: fc165 and that violence serves them for raiment, thinking, as they do, that it renders them very stately and honorable. Some translate the Hebrew word ty, shith, which we have rendered raiment, by buttocks; but this is a sense which the scope of the passage will by no means admit. David, I have no doubt, after having commenced at the neck or head — for the Hebrew verb qn[, anak which he uses, signifies also sometimes to crown fc166 — now meant to comprehend, in one word, the whole attire of the person. The amount of what is stated is, that the wicked are so blinded with their prosperity, as to become more and more proud and insolent fc167 The Psalmist has very properly put pride first in order, and then added violence to it as its companion; for what is the reason why the ungodly seize and plunder whatever they can get on all sides, and exercise so much cruelty, but because they account all other men as nothing in comparison of themselves; or rather persuade themselves that mankind are born only for them? The source, then, and, as it were, the mother of all violence, is pride.

7. Their eye goeth out for fatness. fc168 He now adds, that it is not wonderful to see the ungodly breaking forth with such violence and cruelty, since, by reason of fatness and pampering, their eyes are ready to start out of their heads. Some explain the words goeth out as meaning, that their eyes being covered and hidden with fat, were, so to speak, lost, and could not be perceived in their sockets. But as fat causes the eyes to project from the head, I prefer retaining the proper meaning of the words. Let it, however, be observed, that David is not to be understood as speaking of the bodily countenance, but as expressing metaphorically the pride with which the ungodly are inflated on account of the abundance which they possess. They so glut and intoxicate themselves with their prosperity, that afterwards they are ready to burst with pride. The last clause of the verse is also explained in two ways. Some think that by the verb rb[, abar, which we have translated passed beyond, is denoted unbridled presumption; fc169 for the ungodly are not contented to keep themselves within ordinary bounds, but in their wild and extravagant projects mount above the clouds. We know, in fact, that they often deliberate with themselves how they may take possession of the whole world; yea, they would wish God to create new worlds for them. In short, being altogether insatiable, they pass beyond heaven and earth in their wild and unbounded desires. It would certainly not be inappropriate to explain the verb as meaning, that their foolish thoughts can be regulated by no law, nor kept within any bounds. But there is another exposition which is also very suitable, namely, that the prosperity and success which they meet with exceed all the flattering prospects which they had pictured in their imaginations. We certainly see some of them who obtain more than ever they had desired, as if, whilst they were asleep, Fortune laid nets and fished for them, fc170 — the device under which king Demetrius was in old time wittily painted, who had taken so many cities, although otherwise he was neither skillful nor vigilant, nor of great foresight. If we are inclined to take this view of the words, this clause will be added by way of exposition, to teach us what is meant by that fatness, spoken of before — that it means that God heaps upon the wicked, and fills them with, an abundance of all good things, beyond what they had ever either desired or thought of.

8. They become insolent, and wickedly talk of extortion. Some take the verb wqymy, yamicu, in an active transitive sense, and explain it as meaning, that the wicked soften, that is to say, render others pusillanimous, or frighten and intimidate them. fc171 But as the idiom of the language admits also of its being understood in the neuter sense, I have adopted the interpretation which agreed best with the scope of the passage, namely, that the wicked, forgetting themselves to be men, and by their unbounded audacity trampling under foot all shame and honesty, dissemble not their wickedness, but, on the contrary, loudly boast of their extortion. And, indeed, we see that wicked men, after having for some time got every thing to prosper according to their desires, cast off all sham and are at no pains to conceal themselves when about to commit iniquity, but loudly proclaim their own turpitude. “What!” they will say, “is it not in my power to deprive you of all that you possess, and even to cut your throat?” Robbers, it is true, can do the same thing; but then they hide themselves for fear. These giants, or rather inhuman monsters, of whom David speaks, on the contrary not only imagine that they are exempted from subjection to any law, but, unmindful of their own weakness, foam furiously, as if there were no distinction between good and evil, between right and wrong. If, however, the other interpretation should be preferred, That the wicked intimidate the simple and peaceable by boasting of the great oppressions and outrages which they can perpetrate upon them, I do not object to it. When the poor and the afflicted find themselves at the mercy of these wicked men, they cannot but tremble, and, so to speak, melt and dissolve upon seeing them in possession of so much power. With respect to the expression, They speak from on high, fc172 implies, that they pour forth their insolent and abusive speech upon the heads of all others. As proud men, who disdain to look directly at any body, are said, in the Latin tongue, despicere, and in the Greek, Katablepein, that is, to look down; fc173 so David introduces them as speaking from on high, because it seems to them that they have nothing in common with other men, but think themselves a distinct class of beings, and, as it were, little gods. fc174

9. They have set their mouth against the heavens. Here it is declared that they utter their contumelious speeches as well against God as against men; for they imagine that nothing is too arduous for them to attempt, and flatter themselves that heaven and earth are subject to them. If any should endeavor to alarm them by setting before them the power of God, they audaciously break through this barrier; and, with respect to men, they have no idea of any difficulty arising from such a quarter. Thus, there is no obstacle to repress their proud and vaunting speeches, but their tongue walketh through the whole earth. This form of expression seems to be hyperbolical; but when we consider how great and unbounded their presumption is, we will admit that the Psalmist teaches nothing but what experience shows to be matter of fact.

<197310>Psalm 73:10-14

10. On this account his people will return hither, and waters of a full cup will be wrung out to them. 11. And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the Most High? 12. Behold! These are the ungodly, and yet they enjoy repose [or quietness] for ever: they heap up riches. 13. Surely I have purified my heart in vain, and washed my hands daily. fc175 14. And I have been scourged daily, and my chastisement has been every morning.

 

10. On this account his people will return hither. Commentators wrest this sentence into a variety of meanings. In the first place, as the relative his is used, without an antecedent indicating whose people are spoken of, some understand it simply of the ungodly, as if it had been said, That the ungodly always fall back upon this reflection: and they view the word people as denoting a great troop or band; for as soon as a wicked man raises his standard, he always succeeds in drawing a multitude of associates after him. They, therefore, think the meaning to be, that every prosperous ungodly man has people flocking about him, as it were, in troops; and that, when within his palace or magnificent mansion, they are content with getting water to drink; so much does this perverse imagination bewitch them. But there is another sense much more correct, and which is also approved by the majority of commentators; namely, that the people of God fc176 return hither. Some take the word lh, halom, which we have rendered hither, as denoting afflicted; fc177 but this is a forced interpretation.

The meaning is not, however, as yet, sufficiently evident, and therefore we must inquire into it more closely. fc178 Some read the whole verse connectedly, thus: The people of God return hither, that they may drain full cups of the water of sorrow. But, in my opinion, this verse depends upon the preceding statements, and the sense is, That many who had been regarded as belonging to the people of God were carried away by this temptation, and were even shipwrecked and swallowed up by it. The prophet does not seem to speak here of the chosen people of God, but only to point to hypocrites and counterfeit Israelites who occupy a place in the Church. He declares that such persons are overwhelmed in destruction, because, being foolishly led away to envy the wicked, and to desire to follow them, fc179 they bid adieu to God and to all religion. Still, however, this might, without any impropriety, be referred to the chosen seed, many of whom are so violently harassed by this temptation, that they turn aside into crooked by-paths: not that they devote themselves to wickedness, but because they do not firmly persevere in the right path. The sense then will be, that not only the herd of the profane, but even true believers, who have determined to serve God, are tempted with this unlawful and perverse envy and emulation. fc180 What follows, Waters of a full cup are wrung out to them, fc181 seems to be the reason of the statement in the preceding clause, implying that they are tormented with vexation and sorrow, when no advantage appears to be derived from cultivating true religion. To be saturated with waters is put metaphorically for to drink the bitterest distresses, and to be filled with immeasurable sorrows.

11. And they say, How doth God know? Some commentators maintain that the Prophet here returns to the ungodly, and relates the scoffings and blasphemies with which they stimulate and stir up themselves to commit sin; but of this I cannot approve. David rather explains what he had stated in the preceding verse, as to the fact that the faithful fall into evil thoughts and wicked imaginations when the short-lived prosperity of the ungodly dazzles their eyes. He tells us that they begin then to call in question, Whether there is knowledge in God. Among worldly men, this madness is too common. Ovid thus speaks in one of his verses:

“Sollicitor nullos esse putare deos;”
“I am tempted to think that there are no gods.”

It was, indeed, a heathen poet who spake in this manner; but as we know that the poets express the common thoughts of men, and the language which generally predominates in their minds, fc182 it is certain that he spake, as it were, in the person of the great mass of mankind, when he frankly confessed, that as soon as any adversity happens, men forget all knowledge of God. They not only doubt whether there is a God, but they even enter into debate with, and chide him. What else is the meaning of that complaint which we meet with in the ancient Latin Poet-

“Nec Saturnius haec oculis pater adspicit aequis:”

“Nor does the great god, the son of Saturn, regard these things with impartial eyes,” — but that the woman, of whom he there speaks, accuses her god Jupiter of unrighteousness, because she was not dealt with in the way which she desired? It is then too common, among the unbelieving part ofmankind, to deny that God cares for and governs the world, and to maintain that all is the result of chance. fc183 But David here informs us that even true believers stumble in this respect: not that they break forth into this blasphemy, but because they are unable, all at once, to keep their minds under restraint when God seems to cease from executing his office. The expostulation of Jeremiah is well known,

“Righteous art thou, O Lord! when I plead with thee; yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? Wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously ?” (<241201>Jeremiah 12:1)

It appears from that passage that even the godly are tempted to doubt of the Providence of God, but at the same time that doubts on this subject do not go very deep into their hearts; for Jeremiah at the outset protests the contrary; and by doing so, puts, as it were, a bridle upon himself. Yet they do not always so speedily anticipate the snares of Satan, as to avoid asking, under the influence of a doubting spirit, how it can happen, if God really regards the world, that he does not remedy the great confusion which prevails in it? Of those who impiously prate against God by denying his Providence, there are two sorts. Some openly pour out their blasphemies, asserting that God, delighting in ease and pleasure, cares about nothing, but leaves the government of all things to chance. Others, although they keep their thoughts on this subject to themselves, and are silent before men, yet cease not secretly to fret against God, and to accuse him of injustice or of indolence, in conniving at wickedness, neglecting the godly, and allowing all things to be involved in confusion, and to go to wreck. But the people of God, before these perverse and detestable thoughts enter deep into their hearts, disburden themselves into the bosom of God, fc184 and their only desire is to acquiesce in his secret judgments, the reason of which is hidden from them. The meaning of this passage, therefore, is, that not only the wicked, when they see things in the world so full of disorder, conceive only of a blind government, which they attribute to fortune or chance; but that even true believers themselves are shaken, so as to doubt of the Providence of God; and that unless they were wonderfully preserved by his hand, they would be completely swallowed up in this abyss.

12. Behold! these are the ungodly. The Psalmist here shows, as it were by a vivid pictorial representation, the character of that envy which had well nigh overthrown him. Behold! says he, these are wicked men! and yet they happily enjoy their ease and pleasures undisturbed, and are exalted to power and influence; and that not merely for a few days, but their prosperity is of long duration, and has, as it were, an endless course. And is there anything which seems to our judgment less reasonable than that persons whose wickedness is accounted infamous and detestable, even in the eyes of men, should be treated with such liberality and indulgence by God? Some here take the Hebrew word lw[, olam, for the world, but improperly. It rather denotes in this passage an age; fc185 and what David complains of is, that the prosperity of the wicked is stable and of long duration, and that to see it last so long wears out the patience of the righteous. Upon seeing the wicked so tenderly cherished by God, he descends to the consideration of his own case; and as his conscience bore him testimony that he had walked sincerely and uprightly, he reasons with himself as to what advantage he had derived from studiously devoting himself to the practice of righteousness, since he was afflicted and harassed in a very unusual degree. He tells us that he was scourged daily, and that as often as the sun rose, some affliction or other was prepared for him, so that there was no end to his calamities. In short the amount of his reasoning is this, “Truly I have labored in vain to obtain and preserve a pure heart and clean hands, seeing continued afflictions await me, and, so to speak, are on the watch to meet me at break of day. Such a condition surely shows that there is no reward for innocence before God, else he would certainly deal somewhat more compassionately towards those who serve him.” As the true holiness for which the godly are distinguished consists of two parts, first, of purity of heart, and, secondly, of righteousness in the outward conduct, David attributes both to himself. Let us learn, from his example, to join them together: let us, in the first place, begin with purity of heart, and then let us give evidence of this before men by uprightness and integrity in our conduct.

<197315>Psalm 73:15-17

15. If I should say, I will speak thus, Behold! the generation of thy children: I have transgressed. fc186 16. Although I applied my mind to know this, it was a trouble [or, a painful thing] in my sight; 17. Until I entered into the sanctuaries of God, and understood fc187 their latter end.

 

15. If I should say, I will speak thus. David, perceiving the sinfulness of the thoughts with which he was tempted, puts a bridle upon himself, and reproves his inconstancy in allowing his mind to entertain doubts on such a subject. We can be at no loss in discovering his meaning; but there is some difficulty or obscurity in the words. The last Hebrew verb in the verse, dgb, bagad, signifies to transgress, and also to deceive. Some, therefore, translate, I have deceived the generation of thy children, as if David had said, Were I to speak thus, I should defraud thy children of their hope. Others read, I have transgressed against the generation of thy children; that is, Were I to speak thus, I would be guilty of inflicting an injury upon them. But as the words of the prophet stand in this order, Behold! the generation of thy children: I have transgressed; and as a very good meaning may be elicited from them, I would expound them simply in this way: Were I to approve of such wicked thoughts and doubts, I would transgress; for, behold! the righteous are still remaining on the earth, and thou reservest in every age some people for thyself. Thus it will be unnecessary to make any supplement to complete the sense, and the verb ytdgb, bagadti, I have transgressed, will read by itself, and not construed with any other part of the verse. We have elsewhere had occasion to observe, that the Hebrew noun rwd, dor, which we have rendered generation, is properly to be referred to time. The idea which David intends to convey is now perfectly obvious. Whilst worldly men give loose reins to their unhallowed speculations, until at length they become hardened, and, divesting themselves of all fear of God, cast away along with it the hope of salvation, he restrains himself that he may not rush into the like destruction. To speak or to declare fc188 here signifies to utter what had been meditated upon. His meaning, therefore, is, that had he pronounced judgment on this subject as of a thing certain, he would have been chargeable with a very heinous transgression. He found himself before involved in doubt, but now he acknowledges that he had grievously offended; and the reason of this he places between the words in which he expresses these two states of mind: which is, because God always sees to it, that there are some of his own people remaining in the world. He seems to repeat the demonstrative particle, Behold! for the sake of contrast. He had a little before said, Behold! these are the ungodly; and here he says, Behold! the generation of thy children. It is assuredly nothing less than a divine miracle that the Church, which is so furiously assaulted by Satan and innumerable hosts of enemies, continues safe.

16. Although I applied my mind to know this. The first verb bj, chashab, which he employs, properly signifies to reckon or count, and sometimes to consider or weigh. But the words which follow in the sentence require the sense which I have given, That he applied his mind to know the part of Divine Providence referred to. He has already condemned himself for having transgressed; but still he acknowledges, that until he entered into the sanctuaries of God, he was not altogether disentangled from the doubts with which his mind had been perplexed. In short, he intimates that he had reflected on this subject on all sides, and yet, by all his reasoning upon it, could not comprehend how God, amidst so great disorders and confusions, continued to govern the world. Moreover, in speaking thus of himself, he teaches us, that when men are merely under the guidance of their own understandings, the inevitable consequence is, that they sink under their trouble, not being able by their own deliberations and reasonings to arrive at any certain or fixed conclusions; for there is no doubt that he puts the sanctuaries of God in opposition to carnal reason. Hence it follows, that all the knowledge and wisdom which men have of their own is vain and unsubstantial; since all true wisdom among men — all that deserves to be so called — consists in this one point, fc189 That they are docile, and implicitly submit to the teaching of the Word of God. The Psalmist does not speak of unbelievers who are wilfully blind, who involve themselves in errors, and are also very glad to find some color or pretext for taking offense, that they may withdraw to a distance from God. It is of himself that he speaks; and although he applied his mind to the investigation of divine subjects, not only earnestly, but with all humility; and although, at the same time, he contemplated, according to his small measure, the high judgments of God, not only with attention, but also with reverence, yet he confesses that he failed of success; for the word trouble fc190 here implies unprofitable or lost labor. Whoever, therefore, in applying himself to the examination of God’s judgments, expects to become acquainted with them by his natural understanding, will be disappointed, and will find that he is engaged in a task at once painful and profitless; and, therefore, it is indispensably necessary to rise higher, and to seek illumination from heaven.

By the sanctuaries of God some, even among the Hebrews, understand the celestial mansions in which the spirits of the just and angels dwell; as if David had said, This was a painful thing in my sight, until I came to acknowledge in good earnest that men are not created to flourish for a short time in this world, and to luxuriate in pleasures while in it, but that their condition here is that of pilgrims, whose aspirations, during their earthly pilgrimage, should be towards heaven. I readily admit that no man can form a right judgment of the providence of God; but he who elevates his mind above the earth; but it is more simple and natural to understand the word sanctuary as denoting celestial doctrine. As the book of the law was laid up in the sanctuary, from which the oracles of heaven were to be obtained, that is to say, the declaration of the will of God, fc191 and as this was the true way of acquiring profitable instruction, David very properly puts entering into the sanctuaries, fc192 for coming to the school of God, as if his meaning were this, Until God become my schoolmaster, and until I learn by his word what otherwise my mind, when I come to consider the government of the world, cannot comprehend, I stop short all at once, and understand nothing about the subject. When, therefore, we are here told that men are unfit for contemplating the arrangements of Divine Providence until they obtain wisdom elsewhere than from themselves, how can we attain to wisdom but by submissively receiving what God teaches us both by his Word and by his Holy Spirit? David by the word sanctuary alludes to the external manner of teaching, which God had appointed among his ancient people; but along with the Word he comprehends the secret illumination of the Holy Spirit.

By the end of the wicked is not meant their exit from the world, or their departure from the present life, which is seen of all men — for what need was there to enter into the sanctuaries of God to understand that? — but the word end is to be regarded as referring to the judgments of God, by which he makes it manifest that, even when he is commonly thought to be asleep, he only delays to a convenient time the execution of the punishment which the wicked deserve. This must be explained at greater length. If we would learn from God what is the condition of the ungodly, he teaches us, that after having flourished for some short time, they suddenly decay; and that although they may happen to enjoy a continued course of prosperity until death, yet all that is nothing, since their life itself is nothing. As, then, God declares that all the wicked shall miserably perish, if we behold him executing manifest vengeance upon them in this life, let us remember that it is the judgment of God. If, on the contrary, we do not perceive any punishment inflicted on them in this world, let us beware of thinking that they have escaped, or that they are the objects of the Divine favor and approbation; fc193 but let us rather suspend our judgment, since the end or the last day has not yet arrived. In short, if we would profit aright, when we address ourselves to the consideration of the works of God, we must first beseech him to open our eyes, (for these are sheer fools who would of themselves be clear-sighted, and of a penetrating judgment;) and, secondly, we must also give all due respect to his word, by assigning to it that authority to which it is entitled.

<197318>Psalm 73:18-20

18. Surely thou hast set them in slippery places; thou shalt cast them down into destruction. 19. How have they been destroyed, as it were in a moment! they have perished, they have been consumed with terrors. 20. As it were a dream after a man is awakened: O Lord! in awaking, fc194 thou wilt make their image to be despised, [or contemptible.]

 

18. Surely thou hast set them in slippery places. David, having now gone through his conflicts, begins, if we may use the expression, to be a new man; and he speaks with a quiet and composed mind, being, as it were, elevated on a watchtower, from which he obtained a clear and distinct view of things which before were hidden from him. It was the prophet Habakkuk’s resolution to take such a position, and, by his example, he prescribes this to us as a remedy in the midst of troubles — “I will stand upon my watch,” says he, “and set me upon the tower,” (<350201>Habakkuk 2:1.) David, therefore, shows how much advantage is to be derived from approaching God. I now see, says he, how thou proceedest in thy providence; for, although the ungodly continue to stand for a brief season, yet they are, as it were, perched on slippery places, fc195 that they may fall ere long into destruction. Both the verbs of this verse are in the past tense; but the first, to set them in slippery places, is to be understood of the present time, as if it had been said, — God for a short period thus lifts them up on high, that when they fall their fall may be the heavier. This, it is true, seems to be the lot of the righteous as well as of the wicked; for everything in this world is slippery, uncertain, and changeable. But as true believers depend upon heaven, or rather, as the power of God is the foundation on which they rest, it is not said of them that they are set in slippery places, notwithstanding the frailty and uncertainty which characterises their condition in this world. What although they stumble or even fall, the Lord has his hand under them to sustain and strengthen them when they stumble, and to raise them up when they are fallen. The uncertainty of the condition of the ungodly, or, as it is here expressed, their slippery condition, proceeds from this, that they take pleasure in contemplating their own power and greatness, and admire themselves on that account, just like a person who would walk at leisure upon ice; fc196 and thus by their infatuated presumption, they prepare themselves for falling down headlong. We are not to picture to our imaginations a wheel of fortune, which, as it revolves, embroils all things in confusion; but we must admit the truth to which the prophet here adverts, and which he tells us is made known to all the godly in the sanctuary, that there is a secret providence of God which manages all the affairs of the world. On this subject my readers, if they choose, may peruse the beautiful verses of Claudian in his first book against Ruffinus.

19. How have they been destroyed, as it were in a moment! The language of wonder in which the Psalmist breaks forth serves much to confirm the sentiment of the preceding verse. As the consideration of the prosperity of the ungodly induces a torpor upon our minds, yea, even renders them stupid; so their destruction, being sudden and unlooked for, tends the more effectually to awaken us, each being thus constrained to inquire how such an event came to pass, which all men thought could never happen. The prophet, therefore, speaks of it in the way of interrogation, as of a thing incredible. Yet he, at the same time, thus teaches us that God is daily working in such a manner as that, if we would but open our eyes, there would be presented to us just matter for exciting our astonishment. Nay, rather, if by faith we would look from a distance at the judgments of God daily approaching nearer and nearer, nothing would happen which we would regard as strange or difficult to be believed; for the surprise which we feel proceeds from the slowness and carelessness with which we proceed in acquiring the knowledge of Divine truth. fc197 When it is said, They are consumed with terrors, it may be understood in two ways. It either means that God thunders upon them in such an unusual manner, that the very strangeness of it strikes them with dismay; or that God, although he may not lay his hand upon his enemies, nevertheless throws them into consternation, and brings them to nothing, solely by the terror of his breath, at the very time when they are recklessly despising all dangers, as if they were perfectly safe, and had made a covenant with death. fc198 Thus we have before seen David introducing them as encouraging themselves in their forwardness by this boasting language, “Who is lord over us?” (<191204>Psalm 12:4.) I am rather inclined to adopt the first sense; and the reason which leads me to do so is, that when God perceives that we are so slow in considering his judgments, he inflicts upon the ungodly judgments of a very severe kind, and pursues them with unusual tokens of his wrath, as if he would make the earth to tremble, in order thereby to correct our dullness of apprehension.

20. As it were a dream after a man is awakened. This similitude is often to be met with in the Sacred Writings. Thus, Isaiah, (<232907>Isaiah 29:7,) speaking of the enemies of the Church, says, “They shall be as a dream of a night vision.” To quote other texts of a similar kind would be tedious and unnecessary labor. In the passage before us the metaphor is very appropriate. How is it to be accounted for, that the prosperity of the wicked is regarded with so much wonder, but because our minds have been lulled into a deep sleep? and, in short, the pictures which we draw in our imaginations of the happiness of the wicked, and of the desirableness of their condition, are just like the imaginary kingdoms which we construct in our dreams when we are asleep. Those who, being illuminated by the Word of God, are awake, may indeed be in some degree impressed with the splendor with which the wicked are invested; but they are not so dazzled by it as thereby to have their wonder very much excited; for they are prevented from feeling in this manner by a light of an opposite kind far surpassing it in brilliancy and attraction. The prophet, therefore, commands us to awake, that we may perceive that all which we gaze at in this world is nothing else than pure vanity; even as he himself, now returning to his right mind, acknowledges that he had before been only dreaming and raving. The reason is added, because God will make their image to be despised, or render it contemptible. By the word image some understand the soul of man, because it was formed after the image of God. But in my opinion, this exposition is unsuitable; for the prophet simply derides the outward pomp or show fc199 which dazzles the eyes of men, while yet it vanishes away in an instant. We have met with a similar form of expression in <193906>Psalm 39:6, “Surely every man passeth away in an image,” the import of which is, Surely every man flows away like water that has no solidity, or rather like the image reflected in the mirror which has no substance. The word image, then, in this passage means what we commonly term appearance, or outward show; and thus the prophet indirectly rebukes the error into which we fall, when we regard as real and substantial those things which are merely phantoms created out of nothing by our imaginations. The word ry[b, bair, properly signifies in the city. fc200 But as this would be a rigid form of expression, it has been judiciously thought by many that the word is curtailed of a letter, and that it is the same as ry[hb, bahair; an opinion which is also supported from the point kamets being placed under b, beth. According to this view it is to be translated in awakening, that is, after these dreams which deceive us shall have passed away. And that takes place not only when God restores to some measure of order matters which before were involved in confusion, but also when dispelling the darkness he gladdens our minds with a friendly light. We never, it is true, see things so well adjusted in the world as we would desire; for God, with the view of keeping us always in the exercise of hope, delays the perfection of our state to the final day of judgment. But whenever he stretches forth his hand against the wicked, he causes us to see as it were some rays of the break of day, that the darkness, thickening too much, may not lull us asleep, and affect us with dullness of understanding. fc201 Some apply this expression, in awaking, to the last judgment, fc202 as if David intended to say, In this world the wicked abound in riches and power, and this confusion, which is as it were a dark night, will continue until God shall raise the dead. I certainly admit that this is a profitable doctrine; but it is not taught us in this place, the scope of the passage not at all agreeing with such an interpretation. If any prefer reading in the city — in the city thou wilt make their image to be despised, — the meaning will be, that when God is pleased to bring into contempt the transitory beauty and vain show of the wicked, it will not be a secret or hidden vengeance, but will be quite manifest and known to all, as if it were done in the public market place of a city. But the word awaking suits better, as it is put in opposition to dreaming.

<197321>Psalm 73:21-24

21. For my heart was in a ferment, and I was pierced in my reins. 22. And I was foolish and ignorant: I was with thee as a brute beast. 23. Nevertheless I was continually with thee; thou didst hold my right hand. 24. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel; and at length thou shalt take me to [or receive me into] glory.

 

21. For my heart was in a ferment. The Psalmist again returns to the confession which he had previously made, acknowledging that whilst he felt his heart pierced with perverse envy and emulation, he had complained against God, in a peevish or fretful manner. He compares his anger to leaven. Some translate, My heart was steeped in vinegar. But it is more suitable to explain the verb thus, My heart was soured or swollen, as dough is swollen by leaven. Thus Plautus, when speaking of a woman inflamed with anger, says that she is all in a ferment. fc203 Some read the last clause of the verse, My reins were pierced; and they think that a, aleph, in the beginning of the word, ˆnwta, eshtonan, the verb for pierced, is put instead of h, he; fc204 but this makes little difference as to the sense. We know that the word twylk, kelayoth, by which the Hebrews denote the reins, comes from the verb alk, kalah, which signifies to desire, to covet earnestly, this word being put for the reins, because it is said that the desires of man have their seat in that part of the body. David therefore declares that these perplexing and troublesome thoughts had been, as it were, thorns which pierced him. fc205 We have already stated how he came to be affected with this pungent and burning vexation of spirit. We will find many worldly men who, although they deny that the world is governed by the Providence of God, yet do not greatly disquiet themselves, but only laugh at the freaks of Fortune. On the other hand, true believers, the more firmly they are persuaded that God is the judge of the world, are the more afflicted when his procedure does not correspond to their wishes.

22. And I was foolish and ignorant. David here rebuking himself sharply, as it became him to do, in the first place declares that he was foolish; secondly, he charges himself with ignorance; and, thirdly, he affirms that he resembled the brutes. Had he only acknowledged his ignorance, it might have been asked, Whence this vice or fault of ignorance proceeded? He therefore ascribes it to his own folly; and the more emphatically to express his folly, he compares himself to the lower animals. The amount is, that the perverse envy of which he has spoken arose from ignorance and error, and that the blame of having thus erred was to be imputed wholly to himself, inasmuch as he had lost a sound judgment and understanding, and that not after an ordinary manner, but even the length of being reduced to a state of brutish stupidity. What we have previously stated is undoubtedly true, that men never form a right judgment of the works of God; for when they apply their minds to consider them, all their faculties fail, being inadequate to the task; yet David justly lays the blame of failure upon himself, because, having lost the judgment of a man, he had fallen as it were into the rank of the brute creatures. Whenever we are dissatisfied with the manner of God’s providence in governing the world, let us remember that this is to be traced to the perversity of our understanding. The Hebrew word ˚m[, immach, which we have translated with thee, is here to be taken by way of comparison for before thee; as if David had said, — Lord, although I have seemed in this world to be endued with superior judgment and reason, yet in respect of thy celestial wisdom, I have been as one of the lower animals. It is with the highest propriety that he has inserted this particle. To what is it owing, that men are so deceived by their own folly, as we find them to be, if it is not to this, that while they look at each other, they all inwardly flatter themselves? Among the blind, each thinks that he has one eye, in other words, that he excels the rest; or, at least, he pleases himself with the reflection, that his fellows are in no respect superior to himself in wisdom. But when persons come to God, and compare themselves with him, this prevailing error, in which all are fast asleep, can find no place.

23. Nevertheless I was continually with thee. fc206 Here the Psalmist declares, in a different sense, that he was with God. He gives him thanks for having kept him from utterly falling, when he was in so great danger of being precipitated into destruction. The greatness of the favor to which he adverts is the more strikingly manifested from the confession which he made a little before, that he was bereft of judgment, and, as it were, a brute beast; for he richly deserved to be cast off by God, when he dared to murmur against him. Men are said to be with God in two ways; either, first, in respect of apprehension and thought, when they are persuaded that they live in his presence, are governed by his hand, and sustained by his power; or, secondly, when God, unperceived by them, puts upon them a bridle, by which, when they go astray, he secretly restrains them, and prevents them from totally apostatising from him. When a man therefore imagines that God exercises no care about him, he is not with God, as to his own feeling or apprehension; but still that man, if he is not forsaken, abides with God, inasmuch as God’s secret or hidden grace continues with him. In short, God is always near his chosen ones; for although they sometimes turn their backs upon him, he nevertheless has always his fatherly eye turned towards them. When the Psalmist speaks of God as holding him by the right hand, he means that he was, by the wonderful power of God, drawn back from that deep gulf into which the reprobate cast themselves. He then ascribes it wholly to the grace of God that he was enabled to restrain himself from breaking forth into open blasphemies, and from hardening himself in error, and that he was also brought to condemn himself of foolishness; — this he ascribes wholly to the grace of God, who stretched out his hand to hold him up, and prevent him from a fall which would have involved him in destruction. From this we see how precious our salvation is in the sight of God; for when we wander far from him, he yet continues to look upon us with a watchful eye, and to stretch forth his hand to bring us to himself. We must indeed beware of perverting this doctrine by making it a pretext for slothfulness; but experience nevertheless teaches us, that when we are sunk in drowsiness and insensibility, God exercises a care about us, and that even when we are fugitives and wanderers from him, he is still near us. The force of the metaphor contained in the language, which represents God as holding us by the right hand, is to be particularly noticed; for there is no temptation, let it be never so slight, which would not easily overthrow us, were we not upheld and sustained by the power of God. The reason then why we do not succumb, even in the severest conflicts, is nothing else than because we receive the aid of the Holy Spirit. He does not indeed always put forth his power in us in an evident and striking manner, (for he often perfects it in our weakness;) but it is enough that he succours us, although we may be ignorant and unconscious of it, that he upholds us when we stumble, and even lifts us up when we have fallen.

24. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel. As the verbs are put in the future tense, the natural meaning, in my opinion, is, that the Psalmist assured himself that the Lord, since by his leading he had now brought him back into the right way, would continue henceforth to guide him, until at length he received him into His glorious presence in heaven. We know that it is David’s usual way, when he gives thanks to God, to look forward with confidence to the future. Accordingly, after having acknowledged his own infirmities, he celebrated the grace of God, the aid and comfort of which he had experienced; and now he cherishes the hope that the Divine assistance will continue hereafter to be extended to him. Guidance by counsel is put first. Although the foolish and inconsiderate are sometimes very successful in their affairs, (for God remedies our faults and errors, and turns to a prosperous and happy issue things which we had entered upon amiss;) yet the way in which God ordinarily and more abundantly blesses his own people is by giving them wisdom: and we should ask him especially to govern us by the Spirit of counsel and of judgment. Whoever dares, in a spirit of confident reliance on his own wisdom, to engage in any undertaking, will inevitably be involved in confusion and shame for his presumption, since he arrogates to himself what is peculiar to God alone. If David needed to have God for his guide, how much more need have we of being under the Divine guidance? To counsel there is added glory, which, I think, ought not to be limited to eternal life, as some are inclined to do. It comprehends the whole course of our happiness from the commencement, which is seen here upon earth, even to the consummation which we expect to realize in heaven. David then assures himself of eternal glory, through the free and unmerited favor of God, and yet he does not exclude the blessings which God bestows upon his people here below, with the view of affording them, even in this life, some foretaste of that felicity.

<197325>Psalm 73:25-28

25. Who is there to me in heaven? fc207 And I have desired none other with thee fc208 upon the earth. 26. My flesh and my heart have failed: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. 27. For, lo: they who depart from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all those who go a whoring from thee. fc209 28. As for me, it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord Jehovah, that I may recount all thy works. fc210

 

25. Whom have I in heaven but thee? The Psalmist shows more distinctly how much he had profited in the sanctuary of God; for being satisfied with him alone, he rejects every other object, except God, which presented itself to him. The form of expression which he employs, when he joins together an interrogation and an affirmation, is quite common in the Hebrew tongue, although harsh in other languages. As to the meaning, there is no ambiguity. David declares that he desires nothing, either in heaven or in earth, except God alone, and that without God, all other objects which usually draw the hearts of men towards them were unattractive to him. And, undoubtedly, God then obtains from us the glory to which he is entitled, when, instead of being carried first to one object, and then to another, we hold exclusively by him, being satisfied with him alone. If we give the smallest portion of our affections to the creatures, we in so far defraud God of the honor which belongs to him. And yet nothing has been more common in all ages than this sacrilege, and it prevails too much at the present day. How small is the number of those who keep their affections fixed on God alone! We see how superstition joins to him many others as rivals for our affections. While the Papists admit in word that all things depend upon God, they are, nevertheless, constantly seeking to obtain help from this and the other quarter independent of him. Others, puffed up with pride, have the effrontery to associate either themselves or other men with God. On this account we ought the more carefully to attend to this doctrine, That it is unlawful for us to desire any other object besides God. By the words heaven and earth the Psalmist denotes every conceivable object; but, at the same time, he seems purposely to point to these two in particular. In saying that he sought none in heaven but God only, he rejects and renounces all the false gods with which, through the common error and folly of mankind, heaven has been filled. When he affirms that he desires none on the earth besides God, he has, I suppose, a reference to the deceits and illusions with which almost the whole world is intoxicated; for those who are not beguiled by the former artifice of Satan, so as to be led to fabricate for themselves false gods, either deceive themselves by arrogance when confiding in their own skill, or strength, or prudence, they usurp the prerogatives which belong to God alone; or else trepan themselves with deceitful allurements when they rely upon the favor of men, or confide in their own riches and other helps which they possess. If, then, we would seek God aright, we must beware of going astray into various by-paths, and divested of all superstition and pride, must betake ourselves directly and exclusively to Him. This is the only way of seeking him. The expression, I have desired none other with thee, amounts to this: I know that thou by thyself, apart from every other object, art sufficient, yea, more than sufficient for me, and therefore I do not suffer myself to be carried away after a variety of desires, but rest in and am fully contented with thee. In short, that we may be satisfied with God alone, it is of importance for us to know the plenitude of the blessings which he offers for our acceptance.

26. My flesh and my heart have failed. Some understand the first part of the verse as meaning that David’s heart and flesh failed him through the ardent desire with which he was actuated; and they think that by it he intends to testify the earnestness with which he applied his mind to God. We meet with a similar form of expression elsewhere; but the clause immediately succeeding, God is the strength of my heart, seems to require that it should be explained differently. I am rather disposed to think that there is here a contrast between the failing which David felt in himself and the strength with which he was divinely supplied; as if he had said, Separated from God I am nothing, and all that I attempt to do ends in nothing; but when I come to him, I find an abundant supply of strength. It is highly necessary for us to consider what we are without God; for no man will cast himself wholly upon God, but he who feels himself in a fainting condition, and who despairs of the sufficiency of his own powers. We will seek nothing from God but what we are conscious of wanting in ourselves. Indeed, all men confess this, and the greater part think that all which is necessary is that God should aid our infirmities, or afford us succor when we have not the means of adequately relieving ourselves. But the confession of David is far more ample than this when he lays, so to speak, his own nothingness before God. He, therefore, very properly adds, that God is his portion. The portion of an individual is a figurative expression, employed in Scripture to denote the condition or lot with which every man is contented. Accordingly, the reason why God is represented as a portion is, because he alone is abundantly sufficient for us, and because in him the perfection of our happiness consists. Whence it follows, that we are chargeable with ingratitude, if we turn away our minds from him and fix them on any other object, as has been stated in <191604>Psalm 16:4, where David explains more clearly the import of the metaphor. Some foolishly assert that God is called our portion, because our soul is taken from him. I know not how such a silly conceit has found its way into their brains; for it is as far from David’s meaning as heaven is from the earth, and it involves in it the wild notion of the Manicheans, with which Servetus was bewitched. But it generally happens that men who are not exercised in the Scriptures, nor imbued with sound theology, although well acquainted with the Hebrew language, yet err and fall into mistakes even in first principles. Under the word heart the Psalmist comprehends the whole soul. He does not, however, mean, when he speaks of the heart failing, that the essence or substance of the soul fails, but that all the powers which God in his goodness has bestowed upon it, and the use of which it retains only so long as he pleases, fall into decay.

27. For, lo! they who depart from thee shall perish. Here he proves, by an argument taken from things contrary, that nothing was better for him than simply to repose himself upon God alone; for no sooner does any one depart from God than he inevitably falls into the most dreadful destruction. All depart from him who divide and scatter their hope among a variety of objects. The phrase to go a whoring fc211 is of similar import; for it is the worst kind of adultery to divide our heart that it may not continue fixed exclusively upon God. This will be more easily understood by defining the spiritual chastity of our minds, which consists in faith, in calling upon God, in integrity of heart, and in obedience to the Word. Whoever then submits not himself to the Word of God, that feeling him to be the sole author of all good things, he may depend upon him, surrender himself to be governed by him, betake himself to him at all times, and devote to him all his affections, such a person is like an adulterous woman who leaves her own husband, and prostitutes herself to strangers. David’s language then is equivalent to his pronouncing all apostates who revolt from God to be adulterers.

28. As for me, it is good for me to draw near to God. Literally the reading is, And I, etc. David speaking expressly of himself, affirms that although he should see all mankind in a state of estrangement from God, and wandering after the ever-changing errors and superstitions of the world, he would nevertheless study to continue always in a state of nearness to God. Let others perish, says he, if their headstrong passions cannot be restrained, and they themselves prevented from running after the deceits of the world; but as for me, I will continue stedfast in the resolution of maintaining a sacred communion with God. In the subsequent clause he informs us that we draw near to God in a right manner when our confidence continues firmly fixed in him. God will not hold us by his right hand unless we are fully persuaded of the impossibility of our continuing stedfast and safe in any other way than by his grace alone. This passage is worthy of notice, that we may not be carried away by evil examples, to join ourselves to the wicked, and to act as they do, although even the whole world should fall into unbelief; but that we may learn to gather in our affections from other objects, and to confine them exclusively to God. In the close, the Psalmist intimates that after he shall have devoted himself to God alone, he shall never want matter for praising him, since God never disappoints the hope which his people repose in him. From this it follows, that none curse God or murmur against him, but those who wilfully shut their eyes and involve themselves in darkness, lest knowing and observing his providence, they should be induced to give themselves up to his faithfulness and protection.


PSALM 74

The people of God in this psalm bewail the desolate condition of the Church, which was such that the very name of Israel was almost annihilated. It appears from their humble supplications that they impute to their own sins all the calamities which they endured; but at the same time they lay before God his own covenant by which he adopted the race of Abraham as his peculiar people. Afterwards they call to remembrance how mightily and gloriously he had in the days of old displayed his power in delivering his Church. Encouraging themselves from this consideration, they beseech Him that he would at length come to their aid, and remedy a state of matters so deplorable and desperate.

An instruction of Asaph.

The inscription lykm, maskil, agrees very well with the subject of the psalm; for although it is sometimes applied to subjects of a joyful description, as we have seen in the forty-fifth psalm, yet it generally indicates that the subject treated of is the divine judgments, by which men are compelled to descend into themselves, and to examine their own sins, that they may humble themselves before God. It is easy to gather from the contents of the psalm, that its composition cannot be ascribed to David; for in his time there was no ground for mourning over such a wasted and calamitous condition of the Church as is here depicted. Those who are of a different opinion allege, that David by the spirit of prophecy foretold what had not yet come to pass. But as it is probable that there are many of the psalms which were composed by different authors after the death of David, this psalm, I have no doubt, is one of their number. What calamity is here spoken of, it is not easy precisely to determine. On this point there are two opinions. Some suppose that the reference is to that period of Jewish history when the city and the temple were destroyed, and when the people were carried away captives to Babylon under king Nebuchadnezzar; fc212 and others, that it relates to the period when the temple was profaned, under Antiochus Epiphanes. There is some plausibility in both these opinions. From the fact that the faithful here complain of being now without signs and prophets, the latter opinion would seem the more probable; for it is well known that many prophets flourished when the people were carried into captivity. On the other hand, when it is said a little before that the sanctuaries were burnt to ashes, the carved works destroyed, and that nothing remained entire, these statements do not apply to the cruelty and tyranny of Antiochus. He indeed shamefully polluted the temple, by introducing into it heathen superstitions; but the building itself continued uninjured, and the timber and stones were not at that time consumed with fire. Some maintain that by sanctuaries we are to understand the synagogues in which the Jews were accustomed to hold their holy assemblies, not only at Jerusalem, but also in the other cities of Judea. It is also a supposable case, that the faithful beholding the awful desecration of the temple by Antiochus, were led from so melancholy a spectacle to carry their thoughts back to the time when it was burnt by the Chaldeans, and that they comprehend the two calamities in one description. Thus the conjecture will be more probable that these complaints belong to the time of Antiochus; fc213 for the Church of God was then without prophets. If, however, any would rather refer it to the Babylonish captivity, it will be an easy matter to solve this difficulty; for although Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, were then alive, yet we know that they were silent for a time, as if they had finished the course of their vocation, until at length Daniel, a little before the day of their deliverance, again came forth for the purpose of inspiring the poor exiles with courage to return to their own country. To this the prophet Isaiah seems to have an eye, when he says in the fortieth chapter (<234001>Isaiah 40:1) of his prophecies at the beginning, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, will your God say.” The verb, which is there in the future tense, shows that the prophets were enjoined to hold their peace for a time.

<197401>Psalm 74:1-8

1. O God! why hast thou cast us off for ever? why doth thy anger smoke against the flock of thy pastures? 2. Remember thy congregation, which thou hast possessed of old, the rod of thy inheritance which thou hast redeemed, this mount Zion on which thou hast dwelt. 3. Lift up thy strokes to destroy for ever every enemy that worketh mischief to thy sanctuary. 4. Thy adversaries have roared fc214 in the midst of thy sanctuaries; they have set up their signs for signs. 5. He who lifted up the axes upon the thick trees was renowned as doing an excellent work. 6. And now they break in pieces the carved work thereof with axes and hammers together. 7. They have set on fire thy sanctuaries; they have polluted the dwelling-place of thy name, levelling it with the ground. 8. They have said in their heart, Let us destroy them all together: they have burned all the tabernacles of God in the land.

 

1. O God! why hast thou east us off for ever? If this complaint was written when the people were captives in Babylon, although Jeremiah had assigned the 70th year of their captivity as the period of their deliverance, it is not wonderful that waiting so long was to them a very bitter affliction, that they daily groaned under it, and that so protracted a period seemed to them like an eternity. As to those who were persecuted by the cruelty of Antiochus, they might, not without reason, complain of the wrath of God being perpetual, from their want of information as to any definite time when this persecution would terminate; and especially when they saw the cruelty of their enemies daily increasing without any hope of relief, and that their condition was constantly proceeding from bad to worse. Having been before this greatly reduced by the many disastrous wars, which their neighbors one after another had waged against them, they were now brought almost to the brink of utter destruction. It is to be observed, that the faithful, when persecuted by the heathen nations, lifted up their eyes to God, as if all the evils which they suffered had been inflicted by his hand alone. They were convinced, that had not God been angry with them, the heathen nations would not have been permitted to take such license in injuring them. Being persuaded, then, that they were not encountering merely the opposition of flesh and blood, but that they were afflicted by the just judgment of God, they direct their thoughts to the true cause of all their calamities, which was, that God, under whose favor they had formerly lived prosperous and happy, had cast them off, and deigned no longer to account them as his flock. The verb hnz, zanach, signifies to reject and detest, and sometimes also to withdraw one’s self to a distance. It is of no great moment in which of these senses it is here taken. We may consider the amount of what is stated as simply this, that whenever we are visited with adversities, these are not the arrows of fortune thrown against us at a venture, but the scourges or rods of God which, in his secret and mysterious providence, he prepares and makes use of for chastising our sins. Casting off and anger must here be referred to the apprehension or judgment of the flesh. Properly speaking, God is not angry with his elect, whose diseases he cures by afflictions as it were by medicines; but as the chastisements which we experience powerfully tend to produce in our minds apprehensions of his wrath, the Holy Spirit, by the word anger, admonishes the faithful to acknowledge their guilt in the presence of infinite purity. When, therefore, God executes his vengeance upon us, it is our duty seriously to reflect on what we have deserved, and to consider, that although He is not subject to the emotions of anger, yet it is not owing to us, who have grievously offended him by our sins, that his anger is not kindled against us. Moreover, his people, as a plea for obtaining mercy, flee to the remembrance of the covenant by which they were adopted to be his children. In calling themselves the flock of God’s pastures, they magnify his free choice of them by which they were separated from the Gentiles. This they express more plainly in the following verse.

2. Remember thy congregation, which thou hast possessed of old. fc215 Here they boast of having been the peculiar people of God, not on account of any merit of their own, but by the grace of adoption. They boast in like manner of their antiquity, — that they are not subjects who have come under the government of God only within a few months ago, but such as had fallen to him by right of inheritance. The longer the period during which he had continued his love towards the seed of Abraham, the more fully was their faith confirmed. They declare, therefore, that they had been God’s people from the beginning, that is, ever since he had entered into an inviolable covenant with Abraham. There is also added the redemption by which the adoption was ratified; for God did not only signify by word, but also showed by deed at the time when this redemption was effected, that he was their King and Protector. These benefits which they had received from God they set before themselves as an encouragement to their trusting in him, and they recount them before him, the benefactor who bestowed them, as an argument with him not to forsake the work of his own hands. Inspired with confidence by the same benefits, they call themselves the rod of his inheritance; that is to say, the heritage which he had measured out for himself. The allusion is to the custom which then prevailed of measuring or marking out the boundaries of grounds with poles as with cords or lines. Some would rather translate the word fb, shebet, which we have rendered rod, by tribe; but I prefer the other translation, taking the meaning to be, that God separated Israel from the other nations to be his own proper ground, by the secret pre-ordination which originated in his own good pleasure, as by a measuring rod. In the last place, the temple in which God had promised to dwell is mentioned; not that his essence was enclosed in that place, — an observation which has already been frequently made, — but because his people experienced that there he was near at hand, and present with them by his power and grace. We now clearly perceive whence the people derived confidence in prayer; it was from God’s free election and promises, and from the sacred worship which had been set up among them.

3. Lift up thy strokes. Here the people of God, on the other hand, beseech him to inflict a deadly wound upon their enemies, corresponding to the cruelty with which they had raged against his sanctuary. They would intimate, that a moderate degree of punishment was not sufficient for such impious and sacrilegious fury; and that, therefore, those who had shown themselves such violent enemies of the temple and of the worshippers of God should be completely destroyed, their impiety being altogether desperate. As the Holy Spirit has dictated this form of prayer, we may infer from it, in the first place, the infinite love which God bears towards us, when he is pleased to punish so severely the wrongs inflicted upon us; and, in the second place, the high estimation in which he holds the worship yielded to his Divine majesty, when he pursues with such rigour those who have violated it. With respect to the words, some translate ym[p, pheamim, which we have rendered strokes, by feet or steps, fc216 and understand the Church as praying that the Lord would lift up his feet, and run swiftly to strike her enemies. Others translate it hammers, fc217 which suits very well. I have, however, no hesitation in following the opinion of those who consider the reference to be to the act of striking, and that the strokes themselves are denoted. The last clause of the verse is explained by some as meaning that the enemy had corrupted all things in the sanctuary. fc218 But as this construction is not to be found elsewhere, I would not depart from the received and approved reading.

4. Thy adversaries have roared in the midst of thy sanctuaries. Here the people of God compare their enemies to lions, (<300308>Amos 3:8,) to point out the cruelty which they exercised even in the very sanctuaries of God. fc219 In this passage we are to understand the temple of Jerusalem as spoken of rather than the Jewish synagogues; nor is it any objection to this interpretation that the temple is here called in the plural number sanctuaries, as is frequently the case in other places, it being so called because it was divided into three parts. If any, however, think it preferable to consider synagogues as intended, I would not dispute the point. Yea, without any impropriety, it may be extended to the whole land, which God had consecrated to himself. But the language is much more emphatic when we consider the temple as meant. It thus intimates, that the rage of the enemy was so unbounded and indiscriminate that they did not even spare the temple of God. When it is said, They have set up their signs, fc220 this serves to show their insulting and contemptuous conduct, that in erecting their standards they proudly triumphed even over God himself. Some explain this of magical divinations, fc221 even as Ezekiel testifies, (<262121>Ezekiel 21:21, 22,) that Nebuchadnezzar sought counsel from the flight and the voice of birds; but this sense is too restricted. The explanation which I have given may be viewed as very suitable. Whoever entered into the Holy Land knew that the worship of God which flourished there was of a special character, and different from that which was performed in any other part of the world: fc222 the temple was a token of the presence of God, and by it he seemed, as if with banners displayed, to hold that people under his authority and dominion. With these symbols, which distinguished the chosen tribes from the heathen nations, the prophet here contrasts the sacrilegious standards which their enemies had brought into the temple. fc223 By repeating the word signs twice, he means to aggravate the abominable nature of their act; for having thrown down the tokens and ensigns of the true service of God, they set up in their stead strange symbols.

5. He who lifted up the axe upon the thick trees was renowned. The prophet again aggravates still more the barbarous and brutal cruelty of the enemies of his countrymen, from the circumstance, that they savagely demolished an edifice which had been built at such vast expense, which was embellished with such beauty and magnificence, and finished with so great labor and art. There is some obscurity in the words; but the sense in which they are almost universally understood is, that when the temple was about to be built, those who cut and prepared the wood required for it were in great reputation and renown. Some take the verb aybm, mebi, in an active sense, and explain the words as meaning that the persons spoken of were illustrious and well known, as if they had offered sacrifices to God. The thickness of the trees is set in opposition to the polished beams, to show the more clearly with what exquisite art the rough and unwrought timber was brought into a form of the greatest beauty and magnificence. Or the prophet means, what I am inclined to think is the more correct interpretation, that in the thick forests, where there was vast abundance of wood, great care was taken in the selection of the trees, that none might be cut down but such as were of the very best quality. May it not perhaps be understood in this sense, That in these thick forests the trees to which the axe was to be applied were well known and marked, as being already of great height, and exposed to the view of beholders? Whatever may be as to this, the prophet, there is no doubt, in this verse commends the excellence of the material which was selected with such care, and was so exquisite, that it attracted the gaze and excited the admiration of all who saw it; even as in the following verse, by the carved or graven work is meant the beauty of the building, which was finished with unequalled art, But now it is declared, that the Chaldeans, with utter recklessness, made havoc with their axes upon this splendid edifice, as if it had been their object to tread under foot the glory of God by destroying so magnificent a structure. fc224

7. They have set fire to thy sanctuaries. The Psalmist now complains that the temple was burned, and thus completely razed and destroyed, whereas it was only half demolished by the instruments of war. Many have supposed that the order of the words has been here inverted, fc225 not being able to perceive how a suitable meaning could be elicited from them, and therefore would resolve them thus, They have put fire into thy sanctuaries. I have, however, no doubt that the sense which I have given, although the accent is against it, is the true and natural one, That the temple was levelled with the ground by being burned. This verse corroborates more fully the statement which I have made, that the temple is called sanctuaries in the plural number, because it consisted of three parts, — the innermost sanctuary, the middle sanctuary, and the outer court; for there immediately follows the expression, The dwelling-place of thy name. The name of God is here employed to teach us that his essence was not confined to or shut up in the temple, but that he dwelt in it by his power and operation, that the people might there call upon him with the greater confidence.

8. They have said in their heart, Let us destroy them all together. To express the more forcibly the atrocious cruelty of the enemies of the Church, the prophet introduces them speaking together, and exciting one another to commit devastation without limit or measure. His language implies, that each of them, as if they had not possessed enough of courage to do mischief, stirred up and stimulated his fellow to waste and destroy the whole of God’s people, without leaving so much as one of them. In the close of the verse he asserts that all the synagogues were burned. I readily take the Hebrew word yd[wm, moadim, in the sense of synagogues, fc226 because he says ALL the sanctuaries, and speaks expressly of the whole land. It is a frigid explanation which is given by some, that these enemies, upon finding that they could not hurt or do violence to the sanctuary of God in heaven, turned their rage against the material temple or synagogues. The prophet simply complains that they were so intent upon blotting out the name of God, that they left not a single corner on which there was not the mark of the hand of violence. The Hebrew word yd[wm, moadim, is commonly taken for the sanctuary; but when we consider its etymology, it is not inappropriately applied to those places where the holy assemblies were wont to be held, not only for reading and expounding the prophets, but also for calling upon the name of God. The wicked, as if the prophet had said, have done all in their power to extinguish and annihilate the worship of God in Judea.

<197409>Psalm 74:9-12

9. We see not our signs: there is no longer a prophet, nor any with us that knoweth how long. 10. How long, O God! shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever? 11. How long wilt thou withdraw thy hand, and thy right hand? in the midst of thy bosom consume them. fc228 12. But God is my King from the beginning, working deliverances in the midst of the earth.

 

9. We see not our signs. Here the pious Jews show that their calamities were aggravated from the circumstance that they had no consolation by which to alleviate them. It is a powerful means of encouraging the children of God, when he enables them to cherish the hope of his being reconciled to them, by promising, that even in the midst of his wrath he will remember his mercy. Some limit the signs here spoken of to the miracles by which God had in the days of old testified, at the very time when he was afflicting his people, that he would, notwithstanding, still continue to be gracious to them. But the faithful rather complain that he had removed from them the tokens of his favor, and had in a manner hidden his face from them. fc227 We are overwhelmed with darkness, as if the prophet had said, because thou, O God! dost not make thy face to shine upon us as thou hast been accustomed to do. Thus it is common for us to speak of persons giving us signs either of their love or of their hatred. In short, God’s people here complain not only that the time was cloudy and dark, but also that they were enveloped in darkness so thick, that there did not appear so much as a single ray of light. As to be assured by the prophets of future deliverance was one of the chief signs of God’s favor, they lament that there is no longer a prophet to foresee the end of their calamities. From this we learn that the office of imparting consolation was committed to the prophets, that they might lift up the hearts which were cast down with sorrow, by inspiring them with the hope of Divine mercy. They were, it is true, heralds and witnesses of the wrath of God to drive the obstinate and rebellious to repentance by threatenings and terrors. But had they merely and without qualification denounced the vengeance of God, their doctrine, which was appointed and intended for the salvation of the people, would have only been the means of their destruction. Accordingly, the foretelling of the issue of calamities while yet hidden in the future, is ascribed to them as a part of their office; for temporary punishments are the fatherly chastisements of God, and the consideration that they are temporary alleviates sorrow; but his continual displeasure causes poor and wretched sinners to sink into utter despair. If, therefore, we also would find matter for patience and consolation, when we are under the chastening hand of God, let us learn to fix our eyes on this moderation on the part of God, by which he encourages us to entertain good hope; and from it let us rest assured, that although he is angry, yet he ceases not to be a father. The correction which brings deliverance does not inflict unmitigated grief: the sadness which it produces is mingled with joy. This end all the prophets endeavored to keep in view in the doctrine which they delivered. They, no doubt, often make use of very hard and severe language in their dealings with the people, in order, by inspiring them with terror, to break and subdue their rebellion; but whenever they see men humbled, they immediately address them in words of consolation, which, however, would be no consolation at all, were they not encouraged to hope for future deliverance.

The question may here be asked, whether God, with the view of assuaging the sadness arising from the chastisement, which he inflicted, always determined the number of years and days during which they would last? To this I answer, that although the prophets have not always marked out and defined a fixed time, yet they frequently gave the people assurance that deliverance was near at hand; and, moreover, all of them spoke of the future restoration of the Church. If it is again objected, that the people in their affliction did wrong in not applying to themselves the general promises, which it is certain were the common property of all ages, I answer, that as it was God’s usual way to send in every affliction a messenger to announce the tidings of deliverance, the people, when at the present time no prophet appeared to be expressly sent for that purpose, not without cause complain that they were deprived of the signs of the Divine favor which they had been accustomed to enjoy. Until the coming of Christ it was highly necessary that the memory of the promised deliverance should be renewed in every age, to show the people of God that to whatever afflictions they might be subjected, he still continued to care for them, and would afford them succor.

10. How long, O God! shall the adversary reproach? Here it is intimated that nothing inflicted upon them greater anguish than when they saw the name of God blasphemed by the ungodly. By this manner of praying, the object of the inspired writer was to kindle in our hearts a zeal for maintaining the Divine glory. We are naturally too delicate and tender for bearing calamities; but it is a decided proof of genuine godliness, when the contumely which is cast upon God grieves and disquiets our minds more than all our own personal sufferings. The poor Jews, there can be no doubt, were assailed with more kinds of reproach than one under a most cruel tyrant, and amongst a barbarous nation. But the prophet, speaking in the person of the whole Church, makes almost no account of the reproaches cast upon the people in comparison of the execrable blasphemies directed against God; according to the statement contained in <196909>Psalm 69:9, “The reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.” The phrase for ever is again added; for when the ungodly continue long unpunished, this has a hardening effect, and renders them more audacious, especially when the revilings which they pour forth against God seem to pass unnoticed by him. It is, therefore, added immediately after in the 11th verse,

11. How long wilt thou withdraw thy hand? It is easy to see what the prophet here intends, and yet interpreters are not agreed as to the words. Some by the word hand, in the first part of the verse, understand the left hand, to distinguish it from the right hand, mentioned in the last clause of the verse. But this is mere trifling; for when he uses the term right hand, he simply repeats the same thing according to his usual manner. Some translate the verb hlk, kalah, the last word of the verse, by hinder or restrain, as if the prophet had said, Do thou at length stretch forth thy hand, which has been kept too long in thy bosom. But this is a forced sense, to which they have recourse without any color of reason. Those who translate it consume understand the midst of God’s bosom, as denoting allegorically his temple, fc229 an interpretation of which I cannot approve. It will be better to continue the interrogation to the last word in this way: “How long wilt thou withdraw thy hand? Yea, wilt thou withdraw it from the midst of thy bosom? Consume, therefore, these ungodly men who so proudly despise thee.” We may also not improperly view the words as a prayer that as God’s enemies persuaded themselves that he was slothful and idle, because he did not bestir himself, nor openly lift up his hand; he would cause them to feel that he was perfectly able to destroy them with his nod alone, although he should not move so much as a finger.

12. But God is my King from the beginning. In this verse, as we have often seen to be the case in other places, the people of God intermingle meditations with their prayers, thereby to acquire renewed vigor to their faith, and to stir up themselves to greater earnestness in the duty of prayer. We know how difficult it is to rise above all doubts, and boldly to persevere in a free and unrestrained course of prayer. Here, then, the faithful call to remembrance the proofs of God’s mercy and working, by which he certified, through a continued series of ages, that he was the King and Protector of the people whom he had chosen. By this example we are taught, that as it is not enough to pray with the lips unless we also pray in faith, we ought always to remember the benefits by which God has given a confirmation of his fatherly love towards us, and should regard them as so many testimonies of his electing love. It is quite clear that the title King, which is here applied to God, ought not to be restricted merely to his sovereignty. He is addressed by this appellation because he had taken upon him the government of the Jewish people, in order to preserve and maintain them in safety. We have already stated what is implied in the words, from the beginning. By the midst of the earth some think that Judea is intended, because it was situated as it were in the midst of the habitable globe. There is no doubt that it is to be understood of a place which stands prominently in view. We find the expression used in this sense in these words which God commanded Moses to speak to Pharaoh,

“And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth,”
(<020822>Exodus 8:22.)

The simple and natural meaning, therefore, is, that God had wrought in behalf of the chosen people many deliverances, which were as open and manifest as if they had been exhibited on a conspicuous theater.

<197413>Psalm 74:13-17

13. Thou hast divided the sea by thy fc230 power: thou hast broken the heads of the dragons fc231 upon the waters. 14. Thou hast broken the head fc232 of Leviathan fc233 in pieces, and hast given him for food to thy people in the wilderness. 15. Thou hast cleaved [or divided] the fountain and the torrent: thou hast dried up mighty rivers. 16. The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast ordained fc234 the light fc235 and the sun. 17. Thou hast set [or fixed] all the boundaries of the earth: thou hast made the summer and the winter.

 

13. Thou hast divided the sea by thy power. The prophet now collects together certain kinds of deliverances highly worthy of remembrance; all of them, however, belonging to the first deliverance by which God emancipated his people from the tyranny of Egypt. We will find him afterwards descending to the general commendation of the goodness of God which is diffused through the whole world. Thus from the special grace which God vouchsafes to his Church, he passes on to speak of the good-will which he displays towards all mankind. In the first place, he says, Thou hast divided, or cleaved, the sea. Some think that the following clause is subjoined as an effect of what is stated in the first clause, — God, by drying up the sea, having caused the whales and other great fishes to die. I am, however, of opinion, that it is to be taken metaphorically for Pharaoh and his army; this mode of expression being very common among the prophets, especially when they speak of the Egyptians, whose country was washed by a sea abounding with fish, and divided by the Nile. Pharaoh is, therefore, not improperly termed Leviathan, fc236 on account of the advantages of the sea possessed by his country, and because, in reigning over that land with great splendor, he might be compared to a whale moving up and down at its ease in the midst of the waters of the mighty ocean. fc237 As God put forth his power at that time for the deliverance of the people, to assure the Church that he would always be her protector and the guardian of her welfare, the encouragement afforded by this example ought not to be limited exclusively to one age. It is, therefore, with good reason applied to the descendants of that ancient race, that they might improve it as a means of confirming and establishing their faith. The prophet does not here recount all the miracles which God had wrought at the departure of the people from the land of Egypt; but in adverting to some of them, he comprehends by the figure synecdoche, all that Moses has narrated concerning them at greater length. When he says that leviathan was given for food to the Israelites, and that even in the wilderness, fc238 there is a beautiful allusion to the destruction of Pharaoh and his host. It is as if he had said, that then a bountiful provision of victuals was laid up for the nourishment of the people; for when their enemies were destroyed, the quiet and security which the people in consequence enjoyed served, so to speak, as food to prolong their life. By the wilderness, is not meant the countries lying on the sea coast, though they are dry and barren, but the deserts at a great distance from the sea. The same subject is prosecuted in the following verse, where it is declared, that the fountain was cleaved or divided, that is, it was so when God caused a stream of water to gush from the rock to supply the wants of the people. fc239 Finally, it is added,  that mighty rivers fc240 were dried up, an event which happened when God caused the waters of the Jordan to turn back to make a way for his people to pass over. Some would have the Hebrew word ˆtya, ethan, which signifies mighty, to be a proper name, as if the correct translation were rivers of Ethan; but this interpretation is altogether without foundation.

16. The day is thine, the night also is thine. The prophet now descends to the consideration of the divine benefits which are extended in common to all mankind. Having commenced with the special blessings by which God manifested himself to be the Father of his chosen people, he now aptly declares that God exercises his beneficence towards the whole human family. He teaches us, that it is not by chance that the days and nights succeed each other in regular succession, but that this order was established by the appointment of God. The secondary cause of these phenomena is added, being that arrangement by which God has invested the sun with the power and office of illuminating the earth; for after having spoken of the light he adds the sun, as the principal means of communicating it, and, so to speak, the chariot in which it is brought when it comes to show itself to men. fc241 As then the incomparable goodness of God towards the human race clearly shines forth in this beautiful arrangement, the prophet justly derives from it an argument for strengthening and establishing his trust in God.

17. Thou hast fixed fc242 all the boundaries of the earth. What is here stated concerning the boundaries or limits assigned to the earth, and concerning the regular and successive recurrence of summer and winter every year, is to the same effect as the preceding verse. It is doubtful whether the prophet means the uttermost ends of the world, or whether he speaks of the particular boundaries by which countries are separate from each other. Although the latter are often disturbed by the violence of men, whose insatiable cupidity and ambition cannot be restrained by any of the lines of demarcation which exist in the world, but are always endeavoring to break through them; fc243 yet God manifests his singular goodness in assigning to each nation its own territory upon which to dwell. I am, however, rather of opinion, that the clause is to be understood of those bounds which cannot be confounded at the will of men, and consider the meaning to be, that God has allotted to men as much space of earth as he has seen to be sufficient for them to dwell upon. Farther, the well regulated successions of summer and winter clearly indicate with what care and benignity God has provided for the necessities of the human family. From this, the prophet justly concludes, that nothing is more improbable than that God should neglect to act the part of a father towards his own flock and household.

<197418>Psalm 74:18-23

18. Remember this: the adversary hath blasphemed Jehovah: and a worthless people hath done despite to thy name. 19. Give not to the beast the soul of thy turtle dove: forget not the congregation of thy poor ones for ever. 20. Have regard to thy covenant: for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of violence. 21. Let not him who is oppressed [or afflicted] return ashamed: let the poor and needy one praise thy name. 22. Arise, O God! Plead thy cause: remember thy reproach, which is done to thee by the foolish man daily. 23. Forget not the voice of thy adversaries: the tumult of those who rise up against thee ascendeth continually.

 

18. Remember this. The prophet having encouraged the hearts of the godly by magnifying the divine power and goodness, now returns to the prosecution of his prayer. He first complains that the enemies of his people revile God, and yet continue unpunished. When he says, Remember this, the manner of expression is emphatic; and the occasion demanded it, for it is not a crime of small magnitude to treat with contumely the sacred name of God. For the sake of contrast, he states that it was a worthless or foolish people who thus presumed insolently to pour forth their reproaches against God. The Hebrew word lbn, nabal, denotes not only a foolish man, but also a wicked and infamous person. The prophet, therefore, justly describes the despisers of God as people who are vile and worthless.

19. Give not to the beast the soul of thy turtle dove. The Hebrew word tyj, chayath, which we translate beast, signifies sometimes the soul or life, and so some explain it in the second clause of this verse, where it again occurs. But it is here unquestionably to be taken either for a wild beast or for a multitude. Understood in either of these ways, this form of expression will contain a very apposite comparison between the life of a weak and timorous bird, and a powerful army of men, or a cruel beast. The Church is compared to a turtle dove fc244 for, although the faithful consisted of a considerable number, yet so far were they from matching their enemies, that, on the contrary, they were exposed to them as a prey. It is next added, Forget not the soul or congregation of thy poor ones. The Hebrew word tyj, chayath, is again employed, and there is an elegance when, on account of its ambiguity, it is used twice in the same verse, but in different senses. I have preferred translating it congregation, rather than soul, because the passage seems to be a prayer that it would please God to watch over and defend his own small flock from the mighty hosts of their enemies. fc245

20. Have regard to thy covenant. That God may be the more inclined to show mercy, the prophet brings to his remembrance the Divine covenant; even as the refuge of the saints, when they have found themselves involved in extreme dangers, has always been to hope for deliverance, because God had promised, in the covenant which he made with them, to be a father to then, From this we learn, that the only firm support on which our prayers can rest is, that God has adopted us to be his people by his free choice. Whence, also, it appears how devilish was the phrensy of that filthy dog Servetus, who was not ashamed to affirm that it is foolish, and gross mockery, to lay before God his own promises when we are engaged in prayer. Farther, the godly Jews again show us how severely they were afflicted, when they declare that violence and oppression were everywhere prevalent; as if all places were the haunts of cut-throats and the dens of robbers. fc246 It is said the dark places of the earth; for, whenever God seems to hide his face, the wicked imagine that whatever wickedness they may commit, they will find, wherever they may be, hiding-places by which to cover it all.

21. Let not him who is oppressed return with shame. The word return, as it has a reference to God, is equivalent to the expression, to go away empty. The faithful, then, beseech Him that they may not be put to shame by suffering a repulse at his hands. They call themselves afflicted, poor, and needy, as an argument to obtain the Divine favor and mercy. It is, however, to be observed, that they do not speak insincerely, nor give an exaggerated representation of their distresses, but intimate, that by so many calamities they were brought to such a low condition, that there no longer remained for them any quarter in the world from which they could expect any help. By this example, we are taught that when we are reduced to the greatest extremity, there is a remedy always ready for our misery, in calling upon God.

22. Arise, O God! plead thy cause. The pious Jews again supplicate God to ascend into his judgment-seat. He is then said to arise, when, after having long exercised forbearance, he shows, in very deed, that he has not forgotten his office as judge. To induce him to undertake this cause the more readily, they call upon him to maintain his own right. Lord, as if they had said, since the matter in hand is what peculiarly concerns thyself; it is not time for thee to remain inactive. They declare, at the same time, how this was, in a special sense, the cause of God. It was so, because the foolish people daily cast reproaches upon him. We may here again translate the word lbn, nabal, the worthless people, instead of the foolish people. The wickedness charged against the persons spoken of is aggravated from the circumstance, that, not content with reproaching God on one occasion, they continued their derision and mockery without intermission. For this reason, the faithful conclude by invoking God that he would not forget such heaven-daring conduct in men who not only had the audacity to reproach his majesty, but who fiercely and outrageously poured forth their blasphemies against him. They seemed, it is true, to do this indirectly; but, as they despised God, it is asserted that they rose up against him with reckless and infatuated presumption, after the manner of the Giants of old, and that their haughtiness was carried to the greatest excess.


PSALM 75

It affords matter of rejoicing and thanksgiving to the whole Church, to reflect that the world is governed exclusively according to the will of God, and that she herself is sustained by his grace and power alone. Encouraged by this consideration, she triumphs over the proud despisers of God, who, by their infatuated presumption, are driven headlong into all manner of excess.

To the chief musician. Destroy not. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song.

<197501>Psalm 75:1-7

1. We will praise thee, O God! we will praise thee: and fc247 thy name is near: they will declare [or recount fc248] thy wondrous works. 2. When I shall have taken the congregation, fc249 I will judge righteously. fc250 3. The earth is dissolved, and all its inhabitants: I will establish fc251 the pillars of it. 4. I said to the fools, Act not foolishly: and to the ungodly, Lift not up the horn. 5. Lift not up your horn on high; and speak not with a stiff neck. 6. For exaltations come neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the wilderness. fc252 7. For God is judge: fc253 he bringeth low, and he setteth up.

 

1. We will praise thee, O God! With respect to the inscription of this psalm, I have sufficiently spoken when explaining the 57th psalm. As to the author of it, this is a point, in the determination of which, I am not inclined to give myself much trouble. Whoever he was, whether David or some other prophet, he breaks forth at the very commencement into the language of joy and thanksgiving: We will praise thee, O God! we will praise thee. The repetition serves the more forcibly to express his strong affection and his ardent zeal in singing the praises of God. The verbs in the Hebrew are in the past tense; but the subject of the psalm requires that they should be translated into the future; which may be done in perfect consistency with the idiom of the Hebrew language. The inspired writer, however, may declare that God had been praised among his people for the benefits which he had bestowed in the times of old, the design being thereby to induce God to persevere in acting in the same manner, that thus continuing like himself, he might from time to time afford his people new matter for celebrating his praises. The change of the person in the concluding part of the verse has led some interpreters to supply the relative pronoun ra, asher, who, as if the reading were, O Lord! we will praise thee; and thy name is near to those who declare thy wondrous works. fc254 But the prophet, I have no doubt, puts the verb they will declare, indefinitely, that is to say, without determining the person; fc255 and he has used the copula and instead of the causal participle for, as is frequently done. His meaning, then, may be brought out very appropriately th We will praise thee, O God! for thy name is near; and, therefore, thy wondrous works shall be declared. He, no doubt, means that the same persons whom he said would celebrate the praise of God, would be the publishers of his wonderful works. And, certainly, God, in displaying his power, opens the mouths of his servants to recount his works. In short, the design is to intimate that there is just ground for praising God, who shows himself to be at hand to afford succor to his people. The name of God, as is well known, is taken for his power; and his presence, or nearness, is judged of by the assistance which he grants to his people in the time of their need.

2. When I shall have taken the congregation. The Hebrew verb d[y, yad, signifies to appoint a place or day, and the noun d[wm, moed, derived from it, which is here used, signifies both holy assemblies, or a congregation of the faithful assembled together in the name of the Lord, and festival, or appointed solemn days. As it is certain that God is here introduced as speaking, either of these senses will agree with the scope of the passage. It may be viewed as denoting either that having gathered his people to himself, he will restore to due order matters which were in a state of distraction and confusion, or else that he will make choice of a fit time for exercising his judgment. In abandoning his people for a season to the will of their enemies, he seems to forsake them and to exercise no care about them; so that they are like a flock of sheep which is scattered, and wanders hither and thither without a shepherd. It being his object, then, to convey in these words a promise that he would remedy such a confused state of things, he very properly commences with the gathering together of his Church. If any choose rather to understand the word d[wm, moed, as referring to time fc256 God is to be understood as admonishing his people, that it is their bounden duty to exercise patience until he actually show that the proper time is come for correcting vices, since he only has the years and days in his own power, and knows best the fit juncture and moment for performing this work. The interpretation to which I most incline is, That, to determine the end and measure of calamities, and the best season of rising up for the deliverance of his people, — matters, the determination of which men would willingly claim for themselves, — is reserved by God in his own hands, and is entirely subject to his own will. At the same time, I am very well satisfied with the former interpretation, which refers the passage to the gathering together of the Church. Nor ought it to seem absurd or harsh that God is here introduced as returning an answer to the prayers of his people. This graphic representation, by which they are made to speak in the first verse, while he is introduced as speaking in the second, is much more forcible than if the prophet had simply said, that God would at length, and at the determined time, show himself to be the protector of his Church, and gather her together again when she should be scattered and rent in pieces. The amount, in short, is, that although God may not succor his own people immediately, yet he never forgets them, but only delays until the fit time arrive, the redress which he has in readiness for them. To judge righteously, is just to restore to a better state matters which are embroiled and disordered. Thus Paul says,

“Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.” (<530106>2 Thessalonians 1:6, 7)

God, therefore, declares that it is his office to set in order and adjust those things which are in confusion, that, entertaining this expectation, we may be sustained and comforted by means of it in all our afflictions.

3. The earth is dissolved, and all its inhabitants. Many commentators are of opinion that these words are properly applicable to Christ, at whose coming it behoved the earth and its inhabitants to be shaken. He reigns, as we know, that he may destroy the old man, and he commences his spiritual kingdom with the destruction of the flesh; but he conducts his administration in such a manner as that afterwards there follows the restoration of the new man. Of the second part of the verse, I will establish the pillars of it, they make the same application, explaining it as if Christ had said, As soon as I come into the world, the earth with its inhabitants shall melt and be dissolved; but immediately after I will establish it upon firm and solid foundations; for my elect ones, renewed by my Spirit, shall no longer be like grass or withered flowers, but shall have conferred upon them new and unwonted stability. I do not, however, think that such a refined interpretation ever entered into the mind of the prophet, whose words I consider as simply meaning, that although the earth may be dissolved, God has the props or supports of it in his own hand. This verse is connected with the preceding; for it confirms the truth that God in due time will manifest himself to be an impartial and righteous judge; it being an easy matter for him, although the whole fabric of the world were fallen into ruins, to rebuild it from its decayed materials. At the same time, I have no doubt that there is a reference to the actual state of things in the natural world. The earth occupies the lowest place in the celestial sphere, and yet instead of having foundations on which it is supported, is it not rather suspended in the midst of the air? Besides, since so many waters penetrate and pass through its veins, would it not be dissolved were it not established by the secret power of God? While, however, the prophet alludes to the natural state of the earth, he, nevertheless, rises higher, teaching us, that were the world even in ruins, it is in the power of God to re-establish it.

4. I said to the fools, Act not foolishly. fc257 After he has set the office of God full in his own view and in the view of the faithful, he now triumphs over all the ungodly, whom he impeaches of madness and blind rage, the effect of their despising God, which leads them to indulge to excess in pride and self-gloriation. This holy boasting to which he gives utterance depends upon the judgment, which in the name of God he denounced to be at hand; for when the people of God expect that he is coming to execute judgment, and are persuaded that he will not long delay his coming, they glory even in the midst of their oppressions. The madness of the wicked may boil over and swell with rage, and pour forth floods to overwhelm them; but it is enough for them to know that their life is protected by the power of God, who can with the most perfect ease humble all pride, and restrain the most daring and presumptuous attempts. The faithful here deride and despise whatever the wicked plot and conspire to execute, and bid them desist from their madness; and in calling upon them to do this, they intimate that they are making all this stir and commotion in vain, resembling madmen, who are drawn hither and thither by their own distempered imaginations. It is to be observed, that the Psalmist represents pride as the cause or mother of all rash and audacious enterprises. The reason why men rush with such recklessness upon unlawful projects most certainly is, that blinded by pride, they form an undue and exaggerated estimate of their own power. This being a malady which is not easily eradicated from the hearts of men, the admonition, Lift not up your horn on high fc258 is repeated once and again. They are next enjoined not to speak with a fat or a stiff neck; by which is meant that they should not speak harshly and injuriously; fc259 for it is usual with proud persons to erect the neck and raise the head when they pour forth their menaces. Others translate the words, Speak not stiffly with your neck; but the other translation is the more correct.

6. For exaltations come neither from the east nor from the west. fc260 The prophet here furnishes an admirable remedy for correcting pride, when he teaches us that promotion or advancement proceeds not from the earth but from God alone. That which most frequently blinds the eyes of men is, their gazing about on the right hand and on the left, and their gathering together from all quarters riches and other resources, that, strengthened with these, they may be able to gratify their desires and lusts. The prophet, therefore, affirms, that in not rising above the world, they are laboring under a great mistake, since it is God alone who has the power to exalt and to abase. “This,” it may be said, “seems to be at variance with common experience, it being the fact, that the majority of men who attain to the highest degrees of honor, owe their elevation either to their own policy and underhand dealing, or to popular favor and partiality, or to other means of an earthly kind. What is brought forward as the reason of this assertion, God is judge, seems also to be unsatisfactory.” I answer, that although many attain to exalted stations either by unlawful arts, or by the aid of worldly instrumentality, yet that does not happen by chance; such persons being advanced to their elevated position by the secret purpose of God, that forthwith he may scatter them like refuse or chaff. The prophet does not simply attribute judgment to God. He also defines what kind of judgment it is, affirming it to consist in this, that, casting down one man and elevating another to dignity, he orders the affairs of the human race as seemeth good in his sight. I have stated that the consideration of this is the means by which haughty spirits are most effectually humbled; for the reason why worldly men have the daring to attempt whatever comes into their minds is, because they conceive of God as shut up in heaven, and think not that they are kept under restraint by his secret providence. In short, they would divest him of all sovereign power, that they might find a free and an unimpeded course for the gratification of their lusts. To teach us then, with all moderation and humility, to remain contented with our own condition, the Psalmist clearly defines in what the judgment of God, or the order which he observes in the government of the world, consists, telling us that it belongs to him alone to exalt or to abase those of mankind whom he pleases.

From this it follows that all those who, spreading the wings of their vanity, aspire after any kind of exaltation, without any regard to or dependence upon God, are chargeable with robbing him as much as in them lies of his prerogative and power. This is very apparent, not only from their frantic counsels, but also from the blasphemous boastings in which they indulge, saying, Who shall hinder me? What shall withstand me? as if, forsooth! it were not an easy matter for God, with his nod alone, suddenly to cast a thousand obstacles in their way, with which to render ineffectual all their efforts. As worldly men by their fool-hardihood and perverse devices are chargeable with endeavoring to despoil God of his royal dignity, so whenever we are dismayed at their threatenings, we are guilty of wickedly setting limits to the sovereignty and power of God. If, whenever we hear the wind blowing with any degree of violence, fc261 we are as much frightened as if we were stricken with a thunderbolt from heaven, such extreme readiness to be thrown into a state of consternation manifestly shows that we do not as yet thoroughly understand the nature of that government which God exercises over the world. We would, no doubt, be ashamed to rob him of the title of judge; yea, there is almost no individual who would not shrink with horror at the thought of so great a blasphemy; and yet, when our natural understanding has extorted from us the confession that he is the judge and the supreme ruler of the world, we conceive of him as holding only a kind of inactive sovereignty, which I know not how to characterise, as if he did not govern mankind by his power and wisdom. But the man who believes it to be an established principle that God disposes of all men as seemeth good in his sight, and shapes to every man his condition in this world, will not stop at earthly means: he will look above and beyond these to God. The improvement which should be made of this doctrine is, that the godly should submit themselves wholly to God, and beware of being lifted up with vain confidence. When they see the impious waxing proud, let them not hesitate to despise their foolish and infatuated presumption. Again, although God has in his own hand sovereign power and authority, so that he can do whatever he pleases, yet he, is styled judge, to teach us that he governs the affairs of mankind with the most perfect equity. Whence it follows, that every man who abstains from inflicting injuries and committing deeds of mischief, may, when he is injured and treated unjustly, betake himself to the judgment-seat of God.

<197508>Psalm 75:8-10

8. For in the hand of Jehovah there is a cup, and the wine is turbid, [or full of dregs: fc262] it is full of mixture, and he shall pour forth of it: surely they shall wring out the dregs of it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drink of it. 9. But I will publish for ever, and will sing praise to the God of Jacob. 10. And I will break all the horns of the wicked: but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.

 

8. For in the hand of Jehovah there is a cup. fc263 The Psalmist here applies more directly to the use of the godly that judgment of which he has just now spoken. He affirms, that the object for which God reigns is, that no iniquity may remain unpunished; but that when wicked men have broken through all restraint and abandoned themselves to wickedness, he may drag them to deserved punishment. From this we again learn what estimate we ought to form of the providence of God — that we ought to regard it as exercising its control by an ever-present energy over every part of our life. It is therefore asserted that God has in his hand a cup with which to make the wicked drunk. The word rmj, chamar, signifies full of dregs, and also red. As red wine among the Jews was the strongest and sharpest, we may suppose that it is here referred to; and the similitude is very appropriate, which represents God as having in his hand wine of a highly intoxicating character, with which to make the ungodly drunk even to death. It is implied, that the swiftness of divine vengeance is incredible, resembling the rapidity and power with which strong wine penetrates to the brain, and either produces madness or kindles a fever. It is on this account said, that the wine in God’s cup is of a red color; as it is said in <202331>Proverbs 23:31,

“Look not upon the wine when it is red in the cup.”

Nor is it any objection to this that it is described a little after as full of mixture. These two things do not ill agree with each other; first, that the wicked are suddenly made drunk with the vengeance of God; and, secondly, that they drink it out even to the dregs, until they perish. Some give a different explanation of the term mixture, considering, but without any just ground, the allusion to be to the custom which prevails in warm climates of diluting wine with water. This expression, it is full of mixture, was rather added to give additional force to the statement of the prophet; his object being to compare the vehemence and fury of God’s wrath to spiced wine. fc264 By these figures he intimates that it will be impossible for the ungodly to escape drinking the cup which God will put into their hands, and that they will be compelled to drain it to the last drop.

9. and 10. But I will publish for ever. This conclusion of the psalm evinces the joy which God’s people felt from having experienced that He was their deliverer in adversity; for it seems to be their own experience which they engage to publish, and on account of which they resolve to sing praise to God. Whence also they gather, that by the divine aid they will overcome all the power of the reprobate; and that being themselves possessed of righteousness and equity, they will be sufficiently armed for their own preservation and defense. The expression, the horns of the righteous shall be exalted, fc265 implies, that the children of God, by a blameless and holy life, acquire greater strength, and more effectually protect themselves than if it were their endeavor to advance their own interests by every species of wickedness.


PSALM 76

There is here celebrated the grace and truth of God in having, according to his promise that he would be the protector of the city of Jerusalem, defended it by his wonderful power against enemies, who were renowned for their warlike valor, and well equipped with everything requisite for war. fc266

To the chief musician upon Neginoth. A Psalm of Asaph. A Song.

This psalm, it is probable, was composed after the death of David; and, accordingly, some think that what is here described is that deliverance of the Jews from the Ammonites which took place in the reign of king Jehoshaphat. But I am rather inclined to adopt a different opinion, and to refer the psalm to that deliverance which they obtained from the Assyrians, recorded in <121901>2 Kings 19. The Assyrians, under the conduct of Sennacherib, not only invaded Judea, but also made a violent assault upon the city of Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom. The result of this is well known. They were compelled to raise the siege by the miraculous interference of God, who in one night destroyed that army with dreadful slaughter by the hand of his angel, (<121935>2 Kings 19:35.) fc267 Hence the prophet, not inappropriately, affirms that God broke the arrows, the swords, and the shields. The point, however, which is chiefly necessary to be known and attended to is, that the continual care of God in defending the Church, which he has chosen, is here celebrated to encourage the faithful without any doubt or hesitation to glory in his protection.

<197601>Psalm 76:1-6

1. God is known in Judah; his name is great in Israel. 2. And his tabernacle was in Salem, and his dwelling-place in Zion. 3. There he broke the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle. Selah. 4. Thou art more glorious and terrible than the mountains of prey. 5. The stout hearted were spoiled, they slept their sleep, fc268 and all the men of might have not found their hands. 6. At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob! the chariot and the horse were cast into a deep sleep.

 

1. God is known in Judah. In the outset, we are taught that it was not by human means that the enemies of Israel were compelled to retire without accomplishing any thing, but by the ever-to-be-remembered aid of Jehovah. Whence came that knowledge of God and the greatness of his name which are spoken of, but because He stretched forth his hand in an extraordinary manner, to make it openly manifest that both the chosen people and the city were under his defense and protection? It is therefore asserted, that the glory of God was conspicuously displayed when the enemies of Israel were discomfited by such a miraculous interposition.

2. And his tabernacle was in Salem. Here the reason is assigned why God, putting the Assyrians to flight, vouchsafed to deliver the city of Jerusalem, and to take it under his protection. The reason is, because he had there chosen for himself a dwelling-place, in which his name was to be called upon. The amount, in short, is, first, that men had no ground to arrogate to themselves any share in the deliverance of the city here portrayed, God having strikingly showed that all the glory was his own, by displaying from heaven his power in the sight of all men; and, secondly, that he was induced to oppose his enemies from no other consideration but that of his free choice of the Jewish nation. God having, by this example, testified that his power is invincible for preserving his Church, it is a call and an encouragement to all the faithful to repose with confidence under his shadow. If his name is precious to himself, it is no ordinary pledge and security which he gives to our faith when he assures us that it is his will that the greatness of his power should be known in the preservation of his Church. Moreover, as the Church is a distinguished theater on which the Divine glory is displayed, we must always take the greatest care not to shroud or bury in forgetfulness, by our ingratitude, the benefits which have been bestowed upon it, and especially those which ought to be held in remembrance in all ages. Farther, although God is not now worshipped in the visible tabernacle, yet as by Christ he still dwells in the midst of us, yea even within us, we will doubtless experience, whenever we are exposed to danger, that under his protection we are in perfect safety. If the earthly sanctuary of Jerusalem afforded to God’s ancient people succor while it stood, we may rest assured that he will have no less care of us who live in the present day, when we consider that he has vouchsafed to choose us as his temples in which he may dwell by his Holy Spirit. Here the prophet, in speaking of Jerusalem, uses merely the name of Salem, which was the simple and uncompounded name of the city, and had been applied to it very anciently, as appears from <011418>Genesis 14:18. Some think that the name in the course of time assumed its compound form, by having Jebus prefixed to Salem; for Jebus was the name by which it was afterwards known in the intervening period, as we learn from the Book of Judges, <071910>Judges 19:10, it being so called because it was inhabited by the Jebusites. But we will be more correct as to the etymology of the word, if we derive it from the verb hary, yereh, which signifies will see, fc269 because Abraham said,

“God will look out for himself a lamb for a burnt-offering,” (<012208>Genesis 22:8.)

3. There he broke the arrows of the bow. We have here stated the particular way in which God was known in Judah. He was known by the wonderful proofs of his power, which he exhibited in preserving the city. Under these figures is described the destruction of the enemies of the chosen people. fc270 They could not otherwise have been overthrown than by being despoiled of their armor and weapons of war. It is therefore said, that the arrows, the swords, and the shields, were broken, yea, all the implements of war; implying that these impious enemies of the Church were deprived of the power of doing harm. The fact indeed is, that they were wounded and slain, while their weapons remained uninjured; but this metonymy, by which what befell themselves is represented as happening to their implements of war, is not improper. Some translate the word ypr, reshaphim, points of weapons! Properly, it should be rendered fires; fc271 but it is more accurate to take it for arrows. Even birds are sometimes metaphorically so called, on account of their swiftness; and flying is attributed to arrows in <199106>Psalm 91:6.

It is farther added, (verse 4th,) that God is more glorious and terrible than the mountains of prey. By the mountains of prey, is meant kingdoms distinguished for their violence and extortion. We know that from the beginning, he who exercised himself most in robbery and pillage, was the man who most enlarged his borders and became greatest. The Psalmist, therefore, here compares those great kings, who had acquired large dominions by violence and the shedding of human blood, to savage beasts, who live only upon prey, and their kingdoms to mountains covered with forests, which are inhabited by beasts inured to live by the destruction of other animals. The enemies of God’s ancient people had been accustomed to make violent and furious assaults upon Jerusalem; but it is affirmed that God greatly surpassed them all in power that the faithful might not be overwhelmed with terror.

5. The stout-hearted were spoiled, The power of God in destroying his enemies is here exalted by another form of expression. The verb wllwta, eshtolelu, which we translate were spoiled, is derived from ll, shalal, and the letter a, aleph, is put instead of the letter h, he. fc272 Some translate, were made fools; fc273 but this is too forced. I, however, admit that it is of the same import, as if it had been said, that they were deprived of wisdom and courage; but we must adhere to the proper signification of the word. What is added in the second clause is to the same purpose, All the men of might have not found their hands. fc274 that is to say, they were as incapable of fighting as if their hands had been maimed or cut off. In short, their strength, of which they boasted, was utterly overthrown. The words, they slept their sleep, fc275 refer to the same subject; implying that whereas before they were active and resolute, their hearts now failed them, and they were sunk asleep in sloth and listlessness. The meaning, therefore, is, that the enemies of the chosen people were deprived of that heroic courage of which they boasted, and which inspired them with such audacity; and that, in consequence, neither mind, nor heart, nor hands, none either of their mental or bodily faculties, could perform their office. We are thus taught that all the gifts and power which men seem to possess are in the hand of God, so that he can, at any instant of time, deprive them of the wisdom which he has given them, make their hearts effeminate, render their hands unfit for war, and annihilate their whole strength. It is not without reason that both the courage and power of these enemies are magnified; the design of this being, that the faithful might be led, from the contrast, to extol the power and working of God. The same subject is farther confirmed from the statement, that the chariot and the horse were cast into a deep sleep at the rebuke of God. fc276 This implies, that whatever activity characterised these enemies, it was rendered powerless, simply by the nod of God. Although, therefore, we may be deprived of all created means of help, let us rest contented with the favor of God alone, accounting it all-sufficient, since he has no need of great armies to repel the assaults of the whole world, but is able, by the mere breath of his mouth, to subdue and dissipate all assailants.

<197607>Psalm 76:7-12

7. Thou, even thou, art terrible, and who shall stand before thy face when thou art angry? 8. From heaven thou hast made thy judgment to be heard: the earth was afraid, fc277 and was still, 9. When God arose to judgment, fc278 to save all the meek fc279 of the earth. Selah. 10. Surely the wrath of men shall praise thee, and the remainder of wrath thou wilt restrain. 11. Vow and pay fc280 to Jehovah your God: let all those who are round about him bring presents to him who is worthy to be feared, fc281 [literally to the terrible one.] 12. He will cut off the spirit of princes: he is terrible to the kings of the earth.

 

7. Thou, even thou, art terrible. The repetition of the pronoun Thou, is intended to exclude all others from what is here predicated of God, as if it had been said, Whatever power there is in the world, it at once vanishes away, and is reduced to nothing, when He comes forth and manifests himself; and, therefore, He alone is terrible. This is confirmed by the comparison added immediately after, which intimates that, although the wicked are so filled with pride as to be ready to burst with it, yet they are unable to abide the look and presence of God. But as he sometimes keeps silence, and seems merely to look on as an idle spectator, it is expressly asserted, that as soon as he begins to be angry, ruin will be near all the wicked. Although they may then for a time not only stand, but also rise above the clouds by their fury, we are here, notwithstanding, admonished that we ought to wait for the time of wrath. Let us also mark that this terror is denounced against the wicked in such a manner as that it sweetly draws all true believers to God.

8. From heaven thou hast made thy judgment to be heard. By the name of heaven, the Psalmist forcibly intimates that the judgment of God was too manifest to admit of the possibility of its being ascribed either to fortune or to the policy of men. Sometimes God executes his judgments obscurely, so that they seem to proceed out of the earth. For example, when he raises up a godly and courageous prince, the holy and lawful administration which will flourish under the reign of such a prince will be the judgment of God, but it will not be vividly seen to proceed from heaven. As, therefore, the assistance spoken of was of an extraordinary kind, it is distinguished by special commendation. The same remarks apply to the hearing of God’s judgment, of which the Psalmist speaks. It is more for the divine judgments to sound aloud like a peal of thunder, and to stun the ears of all men with their noise, than if they were merely seen with the eyes. There is here, I have no doubt, an allusion to those mighty thunder-claps by which men are stricken with fear. fc282 When it is said, the earth was still, it is properly to be referred to the ungodly, who, being panic-struck, yield the victory to God, and dare no longer to rage as they had been accustomed to do. It is only fear which has the effect of bringing them to subjection; and, accordingly, fear is justly represented as the cause of this stillness. It is not meant that they restrain themselves willingly, but that God compels them whether they will or no. The amount is, that whenever God thunders from heaven, the tumults which the insolence of the ungodly stir up, when things are in a state of confusion, come to an end. We are, at the same time, warned of what men may expect to gain by their rebellion; for, whoever despise the paternal voice of God which is loudly uttered, must be destroyed by the bolts of his wrath.

9. When God arose to judgment. The great object which God had in view in executing this judgment is now declared; which was, that he might furnish a proof of his fatherly love towards all his people. He is, therefore, introduced as speaking, not with his mouth, but with his hand, that he may show to all how precious in his sight is the salvation of all who fear and love him. Under the word arise, there is a reference to the inactivity and indolency ascribed by wicked men to God, an opinion which had led them to take so much liberty to themselves. God is then said to ascend into his judgment-seat, when he plainly indicates that he exercises a special care over his Church. The design of the passage is to show that it is as impossible for God to forsake the afflicted and innocent, as it is impossible for him to deny himself. It is to be observed that he is termed Judge, because he affords succor to the poor who are unrighteously oppressed. The appellation of the meek or humble of the earth is applied to the faithful, who, subdued by afflictions, seek not high things, but, with humble groaning, patiently bear the burden of the cross. The best fruit of afflictions is, when thereby we are brought to purge our minds from all arrogance, and to bend them to meekness and modesty. When such is the effect, we may conclude with certainty that we are under the guardianship and protection of God, and that he is ready to extend his aid and favor towards us.

10. Surely the wrath of men shall praise thee. Some understand these words as denoting, that after these enemies shall have submitted to God, they will yield to him the praise of the victory; being constrained to acknowledge that they have been subdued by his mighty hand. Others elicit a more refined sense, That when God stirs up the wicked, and impels their fury, he in this way affords a most illustrious display of his own glory; even as he is said to have stirred up the heart of Pharaoh for this very purpose, (<021404>Exodus 14:4; <450917>Romans 9:17.) Understood in this sense, the text no doubt contains a profitable doctrine, but this being, I am afraid, too refined an explanation, I prefer considering the meaning simply to be, that although at first the rage of the enemies of God and his Church may throw all things into confusion, and, as it were, envelop them in darkness, yet all will at length redound to his praise; for the issue will make it manifest, that, whatever they may contrive and attempt, they cannot in any degree prevail against him. The concluding part of the verse, The remainder of wrath thou wilt restrain, may also be interpreted in two ways. As the word rgj, chagar, signifies to gird, some supply the pronoun thee, and give this sense, All the enemies of the Church are not yet overthrown; but thou, O God! wilt gird thyself to destroy those of them who remain. The other interpretation is, however, the more simple., which is, that although these enemies might not cease to breathe forth their cruelty, yet God would effectually restrain them, and prevent them from succeeding in the accomplishment of their enterprises. fc283 Perhaps, also, it would not be unsuitable to explain the verb thus, Thou wilt gather into a bundle, as we say in French, “Tu trousseras,” i.e., Thou wilt truss or pack up. Let us therefore learn, while the wicked would involve in obscurity and doubt the providence of God, to wait patiently until he glorify himself by bringing about a happier state of things, and trample under foot their infatuated presumption, to their shame and confusion. But if new troubles arise from time to time, let us remember that it is his proper office to restrain the remainder of the wrath of the wicked, that they may not proceed to greater lengths. Meanwhile, let us not be surprised if we observe fresh outrages every now and then springing forth; for, even to the end of the world, Satan will always have partisans or agents, whom he will urge forward to molest the children of God.

11. Vow and pay to Jehovah your God. The faithful are now exhorted to the exercise of gratitude. As under the law the custom prevailed among the Jews of vowing sacrifices for singular blessings which God had conferred upon them, by which they solemnly acknowledged that their safety depended solely upon him, and that to him they were entirely indebted for it, they are called anew to engage in this exercise of religion; and by the word pay it is intended to inculcate stedfastness, — to teach them that they should not make merely a sudden and inconsiderate acknowledgement, but that they should also testify at all times that the remembrance of their deliverance was deeply fixed in their hearts. Their most important business, no doubt, was seriously to reflect with themselves that God was the author of their salvation; but still it is to be observed, that the solemn profession of religion, by which every man stimulates not only himself but also others to the performance of their duty, is far from being superfluous. In the second clause, those addressed seem to be the neighboring nations; as if it had been said, that such a special manifestation of the goodness of God was worthy of being celebrated even by foreign and uncircumcised nations. fc284 But it appears to me, that the sense most agreeable to the context is, that these words are addressed either to the Levites or to all the posterity of Abraham, both of whom are not improperly said to be round about God, both because the tabernacle was pitched in the midst of the camp so long as the Israelites traveled in the wilderness, and also because the resting-place assigned for the ark was mount Zion, whither the people were accustomed to resort from all the surrounding parts of the country. And the Levites had intrusted to them the charge of the temple, and were appointed to keep watch and ward round about it. The word arwml, lammora, is referred to God by the majority of interpreters, and they translate it terrible. The term fear is, however, sometimes taken in a passive sense for God himself. fc285 If it is applied to the Gentiles and to irreligious men, fc286 the sense will be, that they shall be tributaries to God; because, being stricken with fear, they shall no longer dare to offer him any resistance. But it is more probable that this word has a reference to God, whom the prophet justly declares to be worthy of being feared, after having given such a remarkable proof of his power.

12. He will cut off fc287 the spirit of princes. As the Hebrew word rxb, batsar, occasionally signifies to strengthen, some think it should be so translated in this passage. But as in the two clauses of the verse the same sentiment is repeated, I have no doubt that by the first clause is meant that understanding and wisdom are taken away from princes; and that by the second, God is represented in general as terrible to them, because he will cast them down headlong from their loftiness. As the first thing necessary to conduct an enterprise to a prosperous issue is to possess sound foresight, in which the people of God are often deficient from the great perplexity in which they are involved in the midst of their distresses, while, on the other hand, the ungodly are too sharp-sighted in their crafty schemes; it is here declared that it is in the power of God to deprive of understanding, and to inflict blindness on those who seem to surpass others in acuteness and ingenuity. The majority of princes being enemies to the Church of God, it is expressly affirmed, that He is sufficiently terrible to subdue all the kings of the earth. When it is said, that their spirit is cut off, or taken away from them, it is to be limited to tyrants and robbers whom God infatuates, because he sees that they apply all their ingenuity and counsels to do mischief.


PSALM 77

Whoever was the penman of this psalm, the Holy Spirit seems, by his mouth, to have dictated a common form of prayer for the Church in her afflictions, that even under the most cruel persecutions the faithful might not fail to address their prayers to heaven. It is not the private grief of some particular individual which is here expressed, but the lamentations and groanings of the chosen people. The faithful celebrate the deliverance which had been once wrought for them, and which was a testimony of God’s everlasting grace, to animate and strengthen themselves to engage in the exercise of prayer with the greater earnestness.

To the chief musician upon Jeduthun. A Psalm of Asaph.

<197701>Psalm 77:1-6

1. My voice came to God, and I cried: my voice came to God, and he heard me. 2. I sought the: Lord in the day of my trouble: my hand was stretched out in the night, and remitted not my soul refused to be comforted. 3. I will remember God, and will be troubled: I will meditate, and my spirit will be oppressed [or overwhelmed] with sorrow. Selah. 4. Thou hast held the watches of my eyes: I am troubled, and will not speak. 5. I have recounted the days of old, the years of ancient times. 6. I will call to remembrance my song in the night: I will commune with my heart, and my spirit will search diligently.

 

1. My voice came to God, and I cried. This is not a mere complaint, as some interpreters explain it, denoting the surprise which the people of God felt in finding that he who hitherto had been accustomed to grant their requests shut his ears to them, and was called upon in vain. It appears more probable that the prophet either speaks of the present feeling of his mind, or else calls to remembrance how he had experienced that God was inclined and ready to hear his prayers. There can be no doubt that he describes the greatness of the sorrow with which he was afflicted; and, in nay opinion, he denotes a continued act both by the past and the future tenses of the verbs. In the first place, he declares that he did not foolishly rend the air with his cries, like many who pour forth bitter cries without measure and at random under their sorrows; but that he addressed his speech to God when necessity constrained him to cry. The copula and, which is joined to the verb cried, should be resolved into the adverb of time when, in this way, When I cried my voice came to God. At the same time, he also shows, that although he had been constrained often to reiterate his cries, he had not given over persevering in prayer. What is added immediately after is intended for the confirmation of his faith: And he heard me. The copula and, as in many other places, is here put instead of the causal adverb for. The meaning is, that he encouraged himself to cry to God, from the consideration that it was God’s usual manner to show his favor and mercy towards him.

2. I sought the Lord in the day of my trouble. In this verse he expresses more distinctly the grievous and hard oppression to which the Church was at that time subjected. There is, however, some ambiguity in the words. The Hebrew word dy, yad, which I have translated hand, is sometimes taken metaphorically for a wound; and, therefore, many interpreters elicit this sense, My wound ran in the night, and ceased not, fc288 that is to say, My wound was not so purified from ulcerous matter as that the running from it was made to stop. But; I rather take the word in its ordinary signification, which is hand, because the verb hrgn, niggera, which he uses, signifies not only to run as a sore does, but also to be stretched forth or extended. fc289 Now, when he affirms that he sought the Lord in the day of his trouble, and that his hands were stretched out to him in the night season, this denotes that prayer was his continual exercise, — that his heart was so earnestly and unweariedly engaged in that exercise, that he could not desist from it. In the concluding sentence of the verse the adversative particle although is to be supplied; and thus the meaning will be, that although the prophet found no solace and no alleviation of the bitterness of his grief, he still continued to stretch forth his hands to God. In this manner it becomes us to wrestle against despair, in order that our sorrow, although it may seem to be incurable, may not shut our mouths, and keep us from pouring out our prayers before God.

3. I will remember God, and will be troubled. The Psalmist here employs a variety of expressions to set forth the vehemence of his grief, and, at the same time, the greatness of his affliction. He complains that what constituted the only remedy for allaying his sorrow became to him a source of disquietude. It may, indeed, seem strange that the minds of true believers should be troubled by remembering God. But the meaning of the inspired writer simply is, that although he thought upon God his distress of mind was not removed. It no doubt often happens that the remembrance of God in the time of adversity aggravates the anguish and trouble of the godly, as, for example, when they entertain the thought that he is angry with them. The prophet, however, does not mean that his heart was thrown into new distress and disquietude whenever God was brought to his recollection: he only laments that no consolation proceeded from God to afford him relief; and this is a trial which it is very hard to bear. It is not surprising to see the wicked racked with dreadful mental agony; for, since their great object and endeavor is to depart from God, they must suffer the punishment which they deserve, on account of their rebellion against him. But when the remembrance of God, from which we seek to draw consolation for mitigating our calamities, does not afford repose or tranquillity to our minds, we are ready to think that he is sporting with us. We are nevertheless taught from this passage, that however much we may experience of fretting, sorrow, and disquietude, we must persevere in calling upon God even in the midst of all these impediments.

4. Thou hast held the watches of my eyes. fc290 This verse is to the same effect with the preceding. The Psalmist affirms that he spent whole nights in watching, because God granted him no relief. The night in ancient times was usually divided into many watches; and, accordingly, he describes his continued grief, which pre. vented him from sleeping, by the metaphorical term watches. When he stated a little before that he prayed to God with a loud voice, and when he now affirms that he will remain silent, there seems to be some appearance of discrepancy. This difficulty has already been solved in our exposition of <193203>Psalm 32:3, where we have shown that true believers, when overwhelmed with sorrow, do not continue in a state of unvarying uniformity, but sometimes give vent to sighs and complaints, while, at other times, they are silent as if their mouths were stopped. It is, therefore, not wonderful to find the prophet frankly confessing that he was so overwhelmed, and, as it were, choked, with calamities, as to be unable to open his mouth to utter even a single word.

5. I have recounted the days of old. There is no doubt that he endeavored to assuage his grief by the remembrance of his former joy; but he informs us that relief was not so easily nor so speedily obtained. By the days of old, and the years of ancient times, he seems not only to refer to the brief course of his own life, but to comprehend many ages. The people of God, in their afflictions, ought, undoubtedly, to set before their eyes, and to call to their remembrance, not only the Divine blessings which they have individually experienced, but also all the blessings which God in every age has bestowed upon his Church It may, however, be easily gathered from the text, that when the prophet reckoned up in his own mind the mercies which God had bestowed in time past, he began with his own experience.

6. I will call to remembrance my song in the night. By his song he denotes the exercise of thanksgiving in which he had engaged during the time of his prosperity. fc291 There is no remedy better adapted for healing our sorrows, as I have just now observed, than this; but Satan often craftily suggests to our thoughts the benefits of God, that the very feeling of the want of them may inflict upon our minds a deeper wound. It is, therefore, highly probable, that the prophet was pierced with bitter pangs when he compared the joy experienced by him in time past with the calamities which he was presently suffering. He expressly mentions the night; because, when we are then alone by ourselves, and withdrawn from the society and presence of men, it engenders in the mind more cares and thoughts than are experienced during the day. What is added immediately after with respect to communing with his own heart, is to the same effect. Solitude has an influence in leading men to retire within their own minds, to examine themselves thoroughly, and to speak to themselves freely and in good earnest, when no created being is with them to impose a restraint by his presence.

The last clause of the verse, And my spirit will search diligently, admits of a twofold exposition. The word pj, chaphas, for search diligently, fc292 being in the masculine gender, and the word hwr, ruach, for spirit, being sometimes feminine, some commentators suppose that the name of God is to be understood, and explain the sentence as if the Psalmist had said, There is nothing, O Lord! so hidden in my heart into which thou hast not penetrated. And God is with the highest propriety said to search the spirit of the man whom he awakens from his indolence or torpor, and whom he examines by acute afflictions. Then all hiding — places and retreats, however obscure, are explored, and affections before unknown are brought into the light. As, however, the gender of the noun in the Hebrew language is ambiguous, others more freely translate, MY spirit hath searched diligently. This being the sense which is most generally embraced, and being, at the same time, the most natural, I readily adopt it. In that debate, of which the inspired writer makes mention, he searched for the causes on account of which he was so severely afflicted, and also into what. his calamities would ultimately issue. It is surely highly profitable to meditate on these subjects, and it is the design of God to stir us up to do this when any adversity presses upon us. There is nothing more perverse than the stupidity fc293 of those who harden themselves under the scourges of God. Only we must keep within due bounds, in order that we may not be swallowed up of over much sorrow, and that the unfathomable depth of the Divine judgments may not overwhelm us by our attempting to search them out thoroughly. The prophet’s meaning is, that when he sought for comfort in all directions, he could find none to assuage the bitterness of his grief.

<197707>Psalm 77:7-10

7. Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favorable no more? 8. Is his mercy quite gone for ever? Doth his oracle fail from generation to generation? 9. Hath God forgotten, fc294 to be merciful? Hath he shut up his compassions in anger? Selah. 10. And said, My death, fc295 the years fc296 of the right hand of the Most High.

 

7. and 8. Will the Lord cast off for ever? The statements here made undoubtedly form a part of the searchings which engaged the Psalmist’s mind. He intimates that he was almost overwhelmed by a long succession of calamities; for he did not break forth into this language until he had endured affliction for so long a period as hardly to venture to entertain the hope that God would in future be favorable to him. He might well argue with himself whether God would continue to be gracious; for when God embraces us with his favor, it is on the principle that he will continue to extend it towards us even to the end. He does not properly complain or find fault with God, but rather reasoning with himself, concludes, from the nature of God, that it is impossible for him not to continue his free favor towards his people, to whom he has once shown himself to be a father. As he has traced all the blessings which the faithful receive from the Divine hand to the mere good pleasure of God, as to a fountain; so a little after he adds the Divine goodness, as if he had said, How can we suppose it possible for God to break off the course of his fatherly layout, when it is considered that he cannot divest himself of his own nature? We see, then, how by an argument drawn from the goodness of God, he repels the assaults of temptation. When he puts the question, Doth his word or oracle fail? he intimates that he was destitute of all consolation, since he met with no promise to support and strengthen his faith. We are indeed thrown into a gulf of despair when God takes away from us his promises in which our happiness and salvation are included. If it is objected, that such as had the ]Law among their hands could not be without the word of God, I answer, that on account of the imperfection of the former dispensation, when Christ was not yet manifested, fc297 special promises were then necessary. Accordingly, in <197409>Psalm 74:9, we find the faithful complaining that they saw not any longer their wonted signs, and that there was no longer a prophet who had knowledge of the time among them. If David was the penman of this psalm, we know that in matters of doubt and perplexity it was usual with him to ask counsel from God, and that God was accustomed to grant him answers. If he was deprived of this source of alleviation in the midst of his calamities, he had reason to bewail that he found no oracle or word to sustain and strengthen his faith. But if the psalm was composed by some other inspired prophet, this complaint will suit the period which intervened between the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity and the coming of Christ; for, during that time, the course of prophecy was in a manner broken off, and there was none endued with any peculiar gift of the Holy Spirit to raise up the hearts of those who were cast down, or to support and keep them from falling. In addition to this, it sometimes happens that although the word of God is offered to us, it yet does not enter into our minds, in consequence of our being involved in such deep distress, as to prevent us from receiving or admitting the smallest degree of comfort. But I embrace the former sense, which is, that the Church was now without those special announcements of prophecy with which she had formerly been favored, and that as she still depended upon the mere sight of the shadows of that economy, she stood constantly in need of fresh supports. From this we may gather the profitable lesson, that we ought not to be unduly disquieted, if God should at any time withdraw his word from us. It should be borne in mind, that he tries his own people by such wonderful methods, that they imagine the whole of Scripture to be turned from its proper end, and that although they are desirous to hear God speaking, they yet cannot be brought to apply his words to their own particular case. This, as I have said, is a distressing and painful thing; but it ought not to hinder us from engaging in the exercise of prayer.

9. Hath God forgotten to be merciful? The prophet still continues debating with himself the same subject. His object, however, is not to overthrow his faith, but rather to raise it up. He does not put this question, as if the point to which it refers were a doubtful matter. It is as if he had said, Hath God forgotten himself? or, hath he changed his nature? for he cannot be God unless he is merciful. I indeed admit that he did not remain unshaken as if he had had a heart of steel. But the more violently he was assailed, the more firmly did he lean upon the truth, That the goodness of God is so inseparably connected with his essence as to render it impossible for him not to be merciful. Whenever, therefore, doubts enter into our minds upon our being harassed with cares, and oppressed with sorrows, let us learn always to endeavor to arrive at a satisfactory answer to this question, Has God changed his nature so as to be no longer merciful? The last clause, Hath he shut up or restrained his compassions in his anger? is to the same effect. It was a very common and notable observation among the holy patriarchs, That God is long — suffering, slow to wrath, ready to forgive, and easy to be entreated. It was from them that Habakkuk derived the statement which he makes in his song,

“Even in his anger he will be mindful of his mercy.” (<350302>Habakkuk 3:2)

The prophet, then, here comes to the conclusion, that the chastisement which he felt would not prevent God from being again reconciled to him, and returning to his wonted manner of bestowing blessings upon him, since his anger towards his own people endures only for a moment. Yea, although God manifests the tokens of his anger, he does not cease most tenderly to love those whom he chastises. His wrath, it its true, rests continually upon the reprobate; but the prophet, accounting himself among the number of God’s children, and speaking of other genuine believers, justly argues from the impossibility of the thing, that the temporary displeasure of God cannot break off the course of his goodness and mercy.

10. And I said, My death, the years of the right hand, etc. This passage has been explained in various ways. Some deriving the word ytwlj, challothi, from hlj, chalah, which signifies to kill, consider the prophet as meaning, that being overwhelmed with an accumulation of calamities, the only conclusion to which he could come was, that God had appointed him to utter destruction; and that his language is a confession of his having fallen into despair. Others translate it to be sick, to be infirm or enfeebled, which is much more agreeable to the scope of the passage. fc298 But they differ with respect to the meaning. According to some interpreters, the prophet accuses and reproves himself for his effeminacy of mind, and for not setting himself more manfully to resist temptation. fc299 This exposition may be admitted; for the people of God ordinarily gather courage after having for a time wavered under the shock of temptation. I, however, prefer a different interpretation, namely, that this was a disease merely temporary, and on this account, he compares it indirectly to death; even as it is said in <19B818>Psalm 118:18,

“The Lord hath chastised me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death.” Also, “I shall not die, but live.” (<19B818>Psalm 118:18)

He, therefore, I have no doubt, unburdens himself by cherishing the confident persuasion, that although he was at present cast down, it was only for a season, and that therefore it behoved him patiently to endure this sickness or disease, since it was not mortal. Nor are commentators agreed in the explanation of the second clause. Those who connect this verse with the preceding verses, think that the prophet was reduced to such a state of despondency at first, that he looked upon himself as utterly undone; and that afterwards he lifted up his head at times, even as those who are thrown into the deep in a shipwreck repeatedly rise above the water. Besides, they would have this to be understood as a word of encouragement addressed by some one to the prophet, desiring him to call to remembrance the years in which he had experienced that God was merciful to him. But it will be more appropriate to understand it thus :,Thou hast no reason to think that thou art now doomed to death, since thou art not laboring under an incurable disease, and the hand of God is wont to make whole those whom it has stricken. I do not reject the opinion of those who translate twn, shenoth, by changes; fc300 for as the Hebrew verb hn, shanah, signifies to change, or to do a thing again and again, the Hebrews have taken from it the word twn, shenoth, which they employ to denote years, from their revolving character, from their turning round, as it were, in the same orbit. But in whatever way we may understand it, the comfort of which I have spoken will remain firm, which is, that the prophet, assuring himself of a favorable change in his condition, does not look upon himself as doomed to death. Others give a somewhat different interpretation, arriving at it in another way:, as if the prophet had said, Why shouldst thou not patiently endure the severity of God at this time, when hitherto he has cherished thee by his beneficence? even as Job said,

“Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not
also receive evil?” (<180210>Job 2:10)

But it is more probable that the prophet directs his view to the future, and means that it became him to await the years or revolutions of the right hand of the Most High, until lie should afford clear and undisputed evidence of the return of his favor towards him.

<197711>Psalm 77:11-14

11. I will remember the works of God: surely I will remember thy wonderful works from the beginning. 12. I will also meditate on all thy works, and I will muse on thy doings. 13. Thy ways, O God! are in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God? 14. Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast made known thy strength among the peoples.

 

11. I will remember the works of God. The prophet now, inspired with new courage, vigorously resists the temptations, which had so far prevailed against him as well nigh to overwhelm his faith. This remembering of the works of God differs from the remembering of which he had previously spoken. Then he contemplated from a distance the divine benefits, and he found the contemplation of them inadequate to assuage or mitigate his grief. Here he takes hold of them, so to speak, as assured testimonies of God’s everlasting grace. To express the greater earnestness, he repeats the same sentence, interjecting an affirmation; for the word yk, ki, is here used simply to confirm or enhance the statement. Having then, as it were, obtained the victory, he triumphs in the remembrance of the works of God, being assuredly persuaded that God would continue the same as he had shown himself to be from the beginning. In the second clause, he highly extols the power which God had displayed in preserving his servants: I will remember thy wonderful works from the beginning. He employs the singular number, thy secret, or thy wonderful work; but I have not hesitated to correct the obscurity by changing the number. We will find him soon after employing the singular number to denote many miracles. What he means in short is, that the wonderful power of God which he has always put forth for the preservation and salvation of his servants, provided we duly reflect upon it, is sufficient to enable us to overcome all sorrows. Let us learn from this, that, although sometimes the remembrance of the works of God may bring us less comfort than we would desire, and our circumstances would require, we must nevertheless strive, that the weariness produced by grief may not break our courage. This is deserving of our most careful attention. In the time of sorrow, we are always desirous of finding some remedy to mitigate its bitterness; but the only way by which this can be done is, to cast our cares upon God. It, however, often happens, that the nearer he approaches us, the more, to outward appearance, does he aggravate our sorrows. Many, therefore, when they derive no advantage from this course, imagine that they cannot do better than forget him. Thus they loathe his word, by the hearing of which their sorrow is rather embittered than mitigated, and what is worse, they desire that God, who thus aggravates and inflames their grief, would withdraw to a distance. Others, to bury the remembrance of him, devote themselves wholly to worldly business. It was far otherwise with the prophet. Although he did not immediately experience the benefit which he could have desired, yet he still continued to set God. before his view, wisely supporting his faith by the reflection, that as God changes neither his love nor his nature, he cannot but show himself at length merciful to his servants. Let us also learn to open our eyes to behold the works of God; the excellence of which is of little account in our estimation, by reason of the dimness of our eyes, and our inadequate perception of them; but which, if examined attentively, will ravish us with admiration. The Psalmist repeats in the 12th verse, that he will meditate continually upon these works, until, in due time, he receive the full advantage which this meditation is calculated to afford. The reason why so many examples of the grace of God contribute nothing to our profit, and fail in edifying our faith, is, that as soon as we have begun to make them the subjects of our consideration, our inconstancy draws us away to something else, and thus, at the very commencement, our minds soon lose sight of them.

13. Thy ways, O God! are in the sanctuary. Some translate in holiness, and they are led to do this, because it seems to them a cold and meagre form of expression to say, that God’s ways are in his sanctuary. But as the rules of grammar will not easily admit of this, we must inquire whether a profitable truth may not be drawn from the term sanctuary, which is the proper signification of the original word dqb, bakkodesh. Some are of opinion that this is an abrupt exclamation, as if it had been said, O God, who art in the sanctuary! O thy ways! but of this I do not approve; for they do violence to the words of the prophet. The clause should be read in one connected sentence, and the word sanctuary is to be taken either for heaven or for the temple. I am rather inclined to refer it to heaven, conceiving the meaning to be, that the ways of God rise high above the world, so that if we are truly desirous to know them, we must ascend above all heavens. Although the works of God are in part manifest to us, yet all our knowledge of them comes far short of their immeasurable height. Besides, it is to be observed, that none enjoy the least taste of his works but those who by faith rise up to heaven. And yet, the utmost point to which we can ever attain is, to contemplate with admiration and reverence the hidden wisdom and power of God, which, while they shine forth in his works, yet far surpass the limited powers of our understanding. If it is objected, that it is wrong to attempt to confine to heaven the ways of God, which are extended through the whole world, the answer is easy; for although there is not a single corner of the globe in which God does not exhibit some proof of his power and operation, yet the wonderful character of his works escapes the eyes of men. If any would rather understand sanctuary as meaning the temple, it may be noticed, that we have met with an almost similar sentence in <197316>Psalm 73:16, 17,

“When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me,
until I went into the sanctuary of God.”

The temple, indeed, in which God manifested himself was, as it were, a heaven on earth. fc301 It is now obvious that the meaning of the inspired writer is, that as at the commencement he had uttered distressing complaints, so now, having attained to a calm and settled state of mind, he admires and adores the high ways of God, and conscious of his own weakness, quietly and modestly keeps himself within the bounds prescribed to him, not permitting himself to judge or pass sentence upon the secret judgments of God according to the dictates of his carnal understanding. He therefore immediately after exclaims, Who is so great a God as our God? By this comparison, he does not mean that there are many gods, but he indirectly rebukes the deep infatuation of the world who, not contented with the only true God whose glory is so conspicuous, invent for themselves many gods. If men would look upon the works of God with pure eyes, they would be led without much difficulty to rest with satisfaction in him alone.

14. Thou art the God that doest wonders. The Psalmist confirms the preceding sentence, proving the greatness of God from the wonderful character of his works. He does not speak of the hidden and mysterious essence of God which fills heaven and earth, but of the manifestations of his power, wisdom, goodness, and righteousness, which are clearly exhibited, although they are too vast for our limited understandings to comprehend. Literally, the words are, Thou art the God that doest a Wonder; but the singular number is here evidently put for the plural, an instance of which we have seen before. From this we learn that the glory of God is so near us, and that he has so openly and clearly unfolded himself, that we cannot justly pretend any excuse for ignorance. He, indeed, works so wonderfully, that even the heathen nations are inexcusable for their blindness. For this reason it is added, Thou hast made known thy strength among the peoples. This has an immediate reference to the deliverance of the Church; but, at the same time, it shows that the glory of God, which he had clearly and mightily displayed among the nations, could not be despised without the guilt of grievous impiety having been incurred.

<197715>Psalm 77:15-20

15. Thou hast redeemed thy people by thy arm, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. 16. The waters saw thee, O God! the waters saw thee; they were afraid, yea even the deeps trembled. 17. The clouds poured out waters, the heavens [or skies] sent forth a sound: thy arrows also went abroad. 18. The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven; the lightnings illumined the world: the earth trembled and shook. 19. Thy ways are in the sea, and thy paths in the great waters: and thy footsteps are not known. 20. Thou didst lead thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

 

15. Thou hast redeemed thy people by thy arm. The Psalmist here celebrates, above all the other wonderful works of God, the redemption of the chosen people, to which the Holy Spirit everywhere throughout the Scriptures invites the attention of true believers, in order to encourage them to cherish the hope of their salvation. It is well known that the power of God was at that time manifested to the Gentiles. The truth of history, indeed, through the artifice of Satan, was corrupted and falsified by many fables; but this is to be imputed to the wickedness of those in whose sight those wonderful works were wrought, who, although they saw them, chose rather to blind their eyes and disguise the truth of their existence, than to preserve the true knowledge of them. fc302 How can we explain the fact that they made Moses to be I know not what kind of a magician or enchanter, and invented so many strange and monstrous stories, which Josephus has collected together in his work against Apion, but upon the principle that it was their deliberate purpose to bury in forgetfulness the power of God? It is not, however, so much the design of the prophet to condemn the Gentiles of the sin of ingratitude, as to furnish himself and others of the children of God matter of hope as to their own circumstances; for at the time referred to, God openly exhibited for the benefit of all future ages a proof of his love towards his chosen people. The word arm is here put metaphorically for power of an extraordinary character, and which is worthy of remembrance. God did not deliver his ancient people secretly and in an ordinary way, but openly, and, as it were, with his arm stretched forth. The prophet, by calling the chosen tribes the sons of Jacob and Joseph, assigns the reason why God accounted them as his people. The reason is, because of the covenant into which he entered with their godly ancestors. The two tribes which descended from the two sons of Joseph derived their origin from Jacob as well as the rest; but the name of Joseph is expressed to put honor upon him, by whose instrumentality the whole race of Abraham were preserved in safety. fc303

16. The waters saw thee, O God! Some of the miracles in which God had displayed the power of his arm are here briefly adverted to. When it is said that the waters saw God, the language is figurative, implying that they were moved, as it were, by a secret instinct and impulse to obey the divine command in opening up a passage for the chosen people. Neither the sea nor the Jordan would have altered their nature, and by giving place have spontaneously afforded a passage to them, had they not both felt upon them the power of God. fc304 It is not meant that they retired backward because of any judgment and understanding which they possessed, but that in receding as they did, God showed that even the inanimate elements are ready to yield obedience to him. There is here an indirect contrast, it being intended to rebuke the stupidity of men if they do not acknowledge in the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt the presence and hand of God, which were seen even by the waters. What is added concerning the deeps intimates, that not only the surface of the waters were agitated at the sight of God, but that his power penetrated even to the deepest gulfs.

17. The clouds poured out waters. As the noun ym, mayim, cannot be taken in the construct state, the verb, I have no doubt, is put transitively; but it makes little difference as to the sense, whether we take this view, or read as if ym, mayim, were in the construct state and the verb passive; that is, whether we read, The clouds poured out waters, or, The waters of the clouds were poured out. The meaning obviously is, that not only the sea and the river Jordan, but also the waters which were suspended in the clouds, yielded to God the honor to which he is entitled, the air, by the concussion of the thunder, having poured forth copious showers. The object is to show, that, to whatever quarter men turn their eyes, the glory of God is illustriously manifested, that it is so in every part of creation, above and beneath, from the height of heaven to the depths of the sea. What history is here referred to is involved in some degree of uncertainty. fc305 Perhaps it is that which is recorded in <020923>Exodus 9:23; where we are informed, that hail mingled with thunder and lightning was one of the dreadful plagues inflicted upon the Egyptians. The arrows which went abroad are, no doubt, to be taken metaphorically for lightnings. With this verse we are to connect the following, in which it is said, that the voice of the thunder was heard in the air, and that the lightnings illumined the world, so that the earth trembled. The amount is, that at the departure of the people from Egypt, ample testimony was borne to the power of God, both to the eyes and the ears of men; peals of thunder having been heard in every quarter of the heavens, and the whole sky having shone with flashes of lightning, while at the same time the earth was made to tremble.

19. Thy ways are in the sea. The miracle which was wrought in drying up the Red Sea is here again described in different phraseology. What, properly speaking, refers to the Israelites is applied to God, under whose protection and guidance they passed dry-shod through the midst of the Red Sea. It is declared that a path had been opened up for them in a very strange and unusual manner; for the sea was not drained by the skill of man, nor was the river Jordan turned aside from its ordinary course into a different channel, but the people walked through the midst of the waters in which Pharaoh and his whole army were soon after drowned. On this account, it is said, that the footsteps of God were not known, for no sooner had God made the people to pass over than he caused the waters to return to their accustomed course. fc306

The purpose for which this was effected is added in the 20th verse, — the deliverance of the Church: Thou didst lead thy people like a flock. fc307 And this deliverance should be regarded by all the godly as affording them the best encouragement to cherish the hope of safety and salvation. The comparison of the people to sheep, tacitly intimates that they were in themselves entirely destitute of wisdom, power, and courage, and that God, in his great goodness, condescended to perform the office of a shepherd in leading through the sea, and the wilderness, and all other impediments, his poor flock, which were destitute of all things, that he might put them in possession of the promised inheritance. This statement is confirmed, when we are told that Moses and Aaron were the persons employed in conducting the people. Their service was no doubt illustrious and worthy of being remembered; but God displayed in no small degree the greatness of his power in opposing two obscure and despised individuals to the fury and to the great and powerful army of one of the proudest kings who ever sat on a throne. What could the rod of an outlaw and a fugitive, and the voice of a poor slave, have done of themselves, against a formidable tyrant and a warlike nation? The power of God then was the more manifest when it wrought in such earthen vessels. At the same time, I do not deny that it is here intended to commend these servants of God, to whom he had committed such an honorable trust.


PSALM 78

To comprehend many things within small compass, it is to be observed, that in this psalm there are two leading topics. On the one hand, it is declared how God adopted for himself a Church from the posterity of Abraham, how tenderly and graciously he cherished it, how wonderfully he brought it out of Egypt, and how varied were the blessings which he bestowed upon it. On the other hand, the Jews, who were so much indebted to him for the great blessings which he had conferred upon them, are upbraided for having from time to time perversely and treacherously revolted from so liberal a father; so that his inestimable goodness was clearly manifested, not only in his free adoption of them at first, but also in continuing by the uninterrupted course of his goodness to strive against the rebellion of so perfidious and stiff-necked a people. Moreover, mention is made of the renewal of God’s grace, and as it were of a second election which he made when he chose David out of the tribe of Judah to sway the scepter over the kingdom of Israel.

Asaph giving instruction.

<197801>Psalm 78:1-6

1. Hearken, O my people! to my law: fc308 incline your ears to the words of my mouth. 2. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old time: 3. What we have heard and known, and our fathers have related to us. 4. We will not conceal from their children in the generation to come, recounting the praises of Jehovah, and his power, and the wonderful works which he has done. 5. He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel: for he commanded our fathers to make them known to their children: 6. That the generation to come might know them, and that the children to be born should arise and declare them to their children.

 

1. Give ear, O my people! to my law. From the close of the psalm, it may with probability be conjectured, that it was written long after the death of David; for there we have celebrated the kingdom erected by God in the family of David. There also the tribe of Ephraim, which is said to have been rejected, is contrasted with, and set in opposition to, the house of David. From this it is evident, that the ten tribes were at that time in a state of separation from the rest of the chosen people; for there must be some good reason why the kingdom of Ephraim is branded with a mark of dishonor as being illegitimate and bastard. fc309

Whoever was the inspired writer of this psalm, he does not introduce God speaking as is thought by some, but he himself addresses the Jews in the character of a teacher. It is no objection to this that he calls the people his people, and the law his law; it being no uncommon thing for the prophets to borrow the name of Him by whom they were sent, that their doctrine might have the greater authority. And, indeed, the truth which has been committed to their trust may, with propriety, be called theirs. Thus Paul, in <450216>Romans 2:16, glories in the gospel as his gospel, an expression not to be understood as implying that it was a system which owed its origin to him, but that he was a preacher and a witness of it. I am somewhat doubtful whether interpreters are strictly correct in translating the word hrwt, torah, by law. fc310 The meaning of it seems to be somewhat more general, as appears from the following clause, where the Psalmist uses the phrase, the words of my mouth, in the same sense. If we consider with what inattention even those who make great professions of being the disciples of God listen to his voice, we will admit that the prophet had good reason for introducing his lessons of instruction by a solemn call of attention. He does not, it is true, address the unteachable and obstinate, who frowardly refuse to submit themselves to the word of God; but as even true believers themselves are generally too backward to receive instruction, this exhortation, so far from being superfluous, was highly necessary to stir up the sluggish and inactive among them.

To secure for himself the greater attention, he declares it to be his purpose to discuss subjects of a great, high, and difficult character. The word lm, mashal, which I have translated a parable, denotes grave and striking sentences, such as adages, or proverbs, and apophthegms. fc311 As then the matter itself of which we treat, if it is weighty and important, awakens the minds of men, the inspired penman affirms that it is his purpose to utter only striking sentences and notable sayings. The word twdyj, chidoth, which, following others, I have rendered enigmas, is here used, not so much for dark sentences, as for sayings which are pointed and worthy of special notice. fc312 He does not mean to wrap up his song in ambiguous language, but clearly and distinctly to dwell both upon the benefits of God and the ingratitude of the people. Only, as I have said, his design is to stimulate his readers to weigh and consider more attentively the subject propounded. This passage is quoted by Matthew, (<401335>Matthew 13:35,) and applied to the person of Christ, when he held the minds of the people in suspense by parables which they could not understand. Christ’s object in doing so, was to prove that he was a distinguished prophet of God, and that thus he might be received with the greater reverence. Since he then resembled a prophet because he preached sublime mysteries in a style of language above the common kind, that which the sacred writer here affirms concerning himself, is with propriety transferred to him. If in this psalm there shines forth such a majesty as may justly stir up and inflame the readers with a desire to learn, we gather from it with what earnest attention it becomes us to receive the gospel, in which Christ opens and displays to us the treasures of his celestial wisdom.

3. What we have heard and known. There seems to be some discrepancy between what the Psalmist had stated in the commencement, when he said that he would speak of great and hidden matters, and what he now adds, that his subject is a common one, and such as is transmitted from one age to another by the father to the son. If it was incumbent upon the fathers to recount to their children the things here spoken of, these things ought, of course, to have been familiarly known to all the people, yea, even to those who were most illiterate, and had the weakest capacity. Where, then, it may be said, are the enigmas or dark sentences of which he has just now made mention? I answer, that these things can easily be reconciled; for although the psalm contains many things which are generally known, yet he illustrates them with all the splendor and ornaments of diction, that he may the more powerfully affect the hearts of men, and acquire for himself the greater authority. At the same time, it is to be observed, that however high may be the majesty of the Word of God, this does not prevent the benefits or advantages of it from reaching even to the unlearned and to babes. The Holy Spirit does not in vain invite and encourage such to learn from it: — a truth which we ought carefully to mark. If God, accommodating himself to the limited capacity of men, speaks in an humble and lowly style, this manner of teaching is despised as too simple; but if he rise to a higher style, with the view of giving greater authority to his Word, men, to excuse their ignorance, will pretend that it is too obscure. As these two vices are very prevalent in the world, the Holy Spirit so tempers his style as that the sublimity of the truths which he teaches is not hidden even from those of the weakest capacity, provided they are of a submissive and teachable disposition, and bring with them an earnest desire to be instructed. It is the design of the prophet to remove from the mind all doubt respecting his sayings, and for this purpose, he determines to bring forward nothing new, but such subjects as had been long well known, and received without dispute in the Church. He accordingly not only says we have heard, but also we have known. Many things are rashly spread abroad which have no foundation in truth; yea, nothing is more common than for the ears of men to be filled with fables. It is, therefore, not without cause that the prophet, after having spoken of the things which he had heard, at the same time, refers in confirmation of their truth to undoubted testimony. He adds, that the knowledge of these subjects had been communicated to the Jews by their fathers. This does not imply, that what is taught under the domestic roof is always faultless; but it is obvious, that there is afforded a more favorable opportunity of palming upon men forgeries for truth, when things are brought from a distant country. What is to be principally observed is, that all fathers are not here spoken of indiscriminately, but only those who were chosen to be God’s peculiar people, and to whom the care of divine truth was intrusted.

4. We will not conceal them from their children in the generation to come. Some take the verb djkn, nechached, in the nephil conjugation, and translate it, they are not concealed or hidden. But it ought, according to the rules of grammar, to be resolved thus: — We will not conceal them from our posterity, implying, that what we have been taught by our ancestors we should endeavor to transmit to their children. By this means, all pretense of ignorance is removed; for it was the will of God that these things should be published from age to age without interruption; so that being transmitted from father to child in each family, they might reach even the last family of man. The end for which this was to be done is shown — that they might celebrate the praises of Jehovah, in the wonderful works which he hath done.

5. He established a testimony in Jacob. fc313 As the reception or approbation of any doctrine by men would not be a sufficient reason for yielding a firm assent to its truth, the prophet proceeds farther, and represents God as the author of what he brings forward. He declares, that the father’s were not led to instruct their children in these truths under the mere impulse of their own minds, but by the commandment of God. Some understand the words, He hath established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, as implying that God had established a decree in Jacob, to be observed as an inviolable rule, which was, that the deliverance divinely wrought for the people should be at all times in the mouth of every Israelite; but this seems to give too restricted a sense. I therefore consider statute, or testimony, and law, fc314 as referring to the written law, which, however, was partly given for this end, that by the remembrance of their deliverance, the people, after having been once gathered into one body, might be kept in their allegiance to God. The meaning then is, that God not only acquired a right to the Jews as his people by his mighty power, but that he also sealed up his grace, that the knowledge of it might never be obliterated. And, undoubtedly, it was then registered as it were in public records, when the covenant was ratified by the written law, in order to assure the posterity of Abraham that they had been separated from all other nations. It would have been a matter of very small importance to have been acquainted with, or to have remembered the bare history of what had been done, had their eyes not been, at the same time, directed to the free adoption and the fruit of it. The decree then is this, That the fathers being instructed in the doctrine of the law themselves, should recount, as it were, from the mouth of God, to their children, that they had been not only once delivered, but also gathered into one body as his Church, that throughout all ages they might yield a holy and pure obedience to him as their deliverer. The reading of the beginning of the second clause of the verse properly is, Which he commanded, etc. But the relative ra, asher, which, I have no doubt, is here put by way of exposition for namely, or that is, he commanded, etc. I have translated it for, which amounts to the same thing.

6. That the generation to come might know them. In this verse, the Psalmist confirms what he had said concerning the continued transmission of divine truth. It greatly concerns us to know, that the law was given not for one age only; but that the fathers should transmit it to their children, as if it were their rightful inheritance, in order that it might never be lost, but be preserved to the end of the world. This is the reason why Paul, in <540315>1 Timothy 3:15, asserts that “the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth;” by which he does not mean that the truth of itself is weak, and stands in need of foreign supports, but that God extends and diffuses it by the instrumentality of his ministers, who when they faithfully execute the office of teaching with which they are invested, sustain the truth, as it were, upon their shoulders. Now, the prophet teaches us, that it is our bounden duty to use our endeavors that there may be a continual succession of persons to communicate instruction in divine truth. It is said of Abraham before the law was written, <011819>Genesis 18:19,

“I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment;”

and after his death, this was enjoined upon the patriarchs as a necessary part of their duty. No sooner was the law delivered, than God appointed priests in his Church to be public masters and teachers. He has also testified by the prophet Isaiah, that the same is to be observed under the New Testament dispensation, saying,

“My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, from henceforth and for ever.” (<235921>Isaiah 59:21)

In the passage before us, however, a particular injunction is given to the fathers on this point — each of them is enjoined diligently to instruct his own children, and all without distinction are taught, that their exertions in transmitting the name of God to their posterity will be most acceptable to Him, and receive his highest approbation. By the words, That the children to be born should arise, is not denoted a small number of individuals; but it is intimated, that the preachers of divine truth, by whose efforts pure religion may flourish and prevail for ever, will be as numerous as those who are born into the world.

<197807>Psalm 78:7-11

7. That they might set their hope fc315 in God, and not forget the works of God; but keep his commandments. 8. And that they might not be as their fathers, a rebellious [or an apostatising] and a provoking generation; a generation which directed not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful towards God. 9. The children of Ephraim, being armed and shooting with the bow, turned back in the day of battle. 10. They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law. 11. And they forgat his works, and the wonders which he had shown them.

 

7. That they might set their hope in God. Here the Psalmist points out the use to which the doctrine which he had stated should be applied. In the first place, the fathers, when they find that on the one hand they are instrumental in maintaining the pure worship of God, and that on the other, they are the means of providing for the salvation of their children, should, by such a precious result of their labors, be the more powerfully stirred up to instruct their children. In the second place, the children on their part, being inflamed with greater zeal, should eagerly press forward in the acquisition of divine knowledge, and not suffer their minds to wander in vain speculations, but should aim at, or keep their eyes directed to, the right mark. It is unhappy and wretched toil to be

“ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of
the truth,” (<550307>2 Timothy 3:7.)

When, therefore, we hear for what purpose the law was given, we may easily learn what is the true and most successful method of deriving benefit from it. The inspired writer places trust first, assigning it the highest rank. He then requires the observance of the holy commandments of God; and he puts in the middle the remembrance of the works of God, which serves to confirm and strengthen faith. In short, what he means is, that the sum of heavenly wisdom consists in this, that men, having their hearts fixed on God by a true and unfeigned faith, call upon him, and that, for the purpose of maintaining and cherishing their confidence in him, they exercise themselves in meditating in good earnest upon his benefits; and that then they yield to him an unfeigned and devoted obedience. We may learn from this, that the true service of God begins with faith. If we transfer our trust and confidence to any other object, we defraud him of the chief part of his honor.

8. And that they might not be as their fathers, a rebellious and provoking generation. The Psalmist here shows still more distinctly how necessary this sermon was, from the circumstance that the Jews were exceedingly prone to revolt from God, if they were not kept in subjection by powerful restraints. He takes it as a fact, which could not be questioned, that their hearts were in no respect better than the hearts of their fathers, whom he affirms to have been a treacherous, rebellious, crooked and disobedient race. They would, therefore, immediately backslide from the way of God, unless their hearts were continually sustained by stable supports. The experience of all ages shows that what Horace writes concerning his own nation is true every where: —

tas parenturn, pejor avis, tulit
Nos nequiores, mox daturos

Progeniem vitiosiroem.”
Odes, Book III. Ode vi.

“The age that gave our fathers birth,
Saw them their noble sires disgrace:
We, baser still, shall leave on earth
The still increasing guilt of our degenerate race.”
Boscawen’Translation.

What then would be the consequence, did not God succor the world which thus proceeds from evil to worse? As the prophet teaches the Jews from the wickedness and perverseness of their fathers, that they stood in need of a severe discipline to recall them from the imitation of bad examples, we learn from this, how great the folly of the world is, in persuading itself that the example of the fathers is to be regarded as equivalent to a law, which ought, in every case, to be followed. He does not here speak of all people without distinction, but of the holy and chosen race of Abraham; nor does he rebuke a small number of persons, but almost the whole nation, among whom there prevailed excessive obstinacy, as well as perverse forgetfulness of the grace of God, and perfidious dissimulation. He does not mention merely the fathers of one age, but he comprehends a period stretching back into a remote antiquity, that persons may not take occasion to excuse themselves in committing sin, from the length of time during which it has prevailed. We must therefore make a wise selection from amongst the fathers of those whom it becomes us to imitate. It being a work of great difficulty to remove the disposition to this perverse imitation of the fathers, towards whom the feeling of reverence is naturally impressed on the minds of their successors, the prophet employs a multiplicity of terms to set forth the aggravated wickedness of the fathers, stigmatising them as chargeable with apostasy, provocation, treachery, and hypocrisy. These are very weighty charges; but it will be evident from the sequel that they are not exaggerated. The word ˆykh, hechin, which I have rendered directed, is by some translated established, but in my opinion, the meaning rather is, that God’s ancient people always turned aside from God into crooked by-paths. Also, in what follows, instead of reading whose spirit was not faithful towards God, some read whose spirit leaned not upon God. fc316 But it is better to follow the former interpretation, That they were not faithfully and stedfastly devoted to God, although they had solemnly sworn allegiance to him. The Papists make use of this passage as an argument to prove that man has the power of bending his own heart, and directing it either to good or evil as he pleases; but this is an inference from it which cannot stand examination for a single moment. Although the prophet justly blames those who have not directed their heart aright, his object is not expressly to speak of what men can do of themselves. It is the special work of God to turn to himself the hearts of men by the secret influence of his Holy Spirit. It does not however follow from this, that they will be exempted from blame, when their own lust and depravity draw them away from God. Moreover, from the sins which are here reproved, we should learn in what way he would have us to obey and serve him. In the first place, we must lay aside all obstinacy and take his yoke upon us; fc317 and, secondly, we must clothe ourselves with the spirit of meekness, bring the affections of the heart to the obedience of God, and follow after uprightness, and that not with the fervor of a mere transient impulse, but with unfeigned and unwavering steadfastness.

9. The children of Ephraim being armed, and shooting with the bow. The sacred writer sets before us an example of this unfaithfulness in the children of Ephraim. As those who are pertinaciously set upon doing evil are not easily led to repentance and reformation by simple instruction, the punishments with which God visited the children of Ephraim are brought forward, and by these it is proved that they were reprobates. Since they were a warlike people, it was an evidence of the divine displeasure for them to turn their backs in battle. And it is expressly declared, that they were skillful in shooting with the bow; fc318 for it is an additional stigma to represent such as were armed with weapons to wound their enemies at a distance as fleeing through fear. From this, it is the more abundantly manifest that they had incurred the displeasure of God, who not only deprived them of his aid, but also made their hearts effeminate in the hour of danger.

Here the question may be raised, Why the children of Ephraim only are blamed, when we find a little before, all the tribes in general comprehended in the same sentence of condemnation? Some commentators refer this to the slaughter of the sons of Ephraim by the men of Gath, who came forth against them to recover their cattle of which they had been despoiled, <130720>1 Chronicles 7:20, 21, 22. fc319 But this exposition is too restricted. Perhaps the kingdom of Israel had fallen into decay, and had been almost ruined when this psalm was composed. It is therefore better to follow the opinion of other interpreters, who think, that by the figure synecdoche, the children of Ephraim are put for the whole people. But these interpreters pass over without consideration the fact, which ought not to be overlooked, that the Ephraimites are purposely named because they were the means of leading others into that rebellion which took place when Jeroboam set up the calves, (<111225>1 Kings 12:25-33.) What we have already said must be borne in mind, that towards the close of the psalm, the rejection of the tribe of Ephraim is, not, without cause, contrasted with the election of the tribe of Judah. The children of Ephraim are also here spoken of by way of comparison, to warn the true children of Abraham from the example of those who cut themselves off from the Church, and yet boasted of the title of the Church without exhibiting holy fruits in their life. fc320 As they surpassed all the other tribes in number and wealth, their influence was too powerful in beguiling the simple; but of this the prophet now strips them, showing that they were deprived of the aid of God.

10. They kept not the covenant of God. This is the reason assigned for the Ephraimites turning their backs in the day of battle; and it explains why the divine assistance was withheld from them. Others, it is true, were guilty in this respect as well as they, but the vengeance of God executed on that tribe, which by its influence had corrupted almost the whole kingdom, is purposely brought forward as a general warning. Since then the tribe of Ephraim, in consequence of its splendor and dignity, when it threw off the yoke, encouraged and became as it were a standard of shameful revolt to all the other tribes, the prophet intended to put people on their guard, that they might not suffer themselves in their simplicity to be again deceived in the same manner. It is no light charge which he brings against the sons of Ephraim: he upbraids them on account of their perfidiousness in despising the whole law and in violating the covenant. Although he employs these two words, law and covenant, in the same sense; yet, in placing the covenant first, he clearly shows that he is speaking not only of the moral law, the all-perfect rule of life, but of the whole service of God, of the truth and faithfulness of the divine promises, and of the trust which ought to be reposed in them, fc321 of invocation, and of the doctrine of true religion, the foundation whereof was the adoption. He therefore calls them covenant-breakers, because they had fallen from their trust in the promises, by which God had entered into covenant with them to be their Father. Yet he afterwards very properly adds the law, in which the covenant was sealed up, as it were, in public records. He aggravates the enormity of their guilt by the word refuse, which intimates that they were not simply carried away by a kind of thoughtless or inconsiderate recklessness, and thus sinned through giddiness, want of knowledge or foresight, but that they had purposely, and with deliberate obstinacy, violated the holy covenant of God.

11. And they forgat his works. This shameful impiety is here represented as having originated in ingratitude, inasmuch as they wickedly buried, and made no account of the deliverance wrought for them, which was worthy of everlasting remembrance. Truly it was stupidity more than brutish, or rather, as it were, a monstrous thing, fc322 for the Israelites to depart from God, to whom they were under so many and strong obligations. Nor would it have been possible for them to have been so bewitched by Satan, had they not quite forgotten the many miracles wrought in their behalf, which formed so many bonds to keep them in the fear of God and in obedience to him. That no excuse might be left for extenuating their guilt, the prophet ennobles those works by applying to them the term wonderful, thereby intimating, that God’s manner of acting was not of a common kind, so as easily to account for their gradually forgetting his works, but that the Israelites had perversely and wickedly shut their eyes, that they might not be restrained in their sinful course, by beholding the glory of God.

<197812>Psalm 78:12-16

12. He wrought marvellously [or he did wondrous things] in the sight of their fathers; in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan. fc323 13. He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through, and made the waters to stand as an heap. 14. And he led them by a cloud in the day; and all the night by the light of fire. 15. He clave the rocks in the wilderness: and made them to drink in great deeps. 16. And he brought forth streams from the rock, and made the waters to run down like rivers.

 

12. He wrought marvellously in the sight of their fathers. The Psalmist is still to be regarded as condemning the posterity of the Israelites for their guilt; but he very properly, at the same time, begins to speak of the first ancestors of the nation, intimating, that the whole race of them, even from their first original, were of a perverse and rebellious disposition. But having remarked that the children of Ephraim had fallen into apostasy, because they had forgotten the wonderful works of God, he continues to prosecute the same subject. Meanwhile, as I have said, he makes a very happy transition to speak of the fathers, whom it was his object to include in the same condemnation. In the first place, he adverts to the miracles which were wrought in the midst of the land of Egypt, previous to the departure of the people from it. To recall these the more vividly to the mind, he names a place which was highly celebrated — the field of Zoan. He next comes to speak of the passage through the sea, where he repeats what was brought under our notice in the previous psalm, that the order of nature was reversed when the waters stopped in their course, and were even raised up into solid heaps like mountains. In the third place, he declares, that after the people had passed through the Red Sea, God still continued to be their guide in their journey; and that this might not be a mere temporary deliverance, he graciously continued to stretch forth his hand to bestow upon them new testimonies of his goodness. It being a difficult and wearisome thing for them to pursue their journey through dry and sandy regions, it was no ordinary blessing to be protected from the heat of the sun by the intervention of a cloud. This, however, was to them a pledge of more distinguished grace. God hereby testified, that this people were under his protection, until they should reach the heavenly inheritance. Accordingly, Paul teaches in <461002>1 Corinthians 10:2, that there was a kind of baptism administered to the people in that cloud, as also in their passing through the sea; the fruit of which is not limited to this frail and transitory life, but extends even to everlasting salvation.

15. He clave the rocks in the wilderness. The Psalmist produces another evidence of the fatherly love by which God testified the greatness of the care which he exercised about the welfare of this people. It is not simply said that God gave them drink, but that he did this in a miraculous manner. Streams, it is true, sometimes issue from rocks, but the rock which Moses smote was completely dry. Whence it is evident, that the water was not brought forth from any spring, but that it was made to flow from the profoundest deeps, as if it had been said, from the very center of the earth. Those, therefore, who have interpreted this passage as meaning, that the Israelites drank in the bottomless deeps, because the waters flowed in great abundance, have failed in giving the true explanation. Moses, in his history of the miracle, rather enhances its greatness, by intimating, that God commanded those waters to come gushing from the remotest veins.

The same truth is confirmed in the following verse, in which it is stated, that where there had not been a single drop of water before there was a large and mighty river. Had there only sprung out of the rock a small rivulet, ungodly men might have had some apparent ground for cavilling at, and underrating the goodness of God, but when the water gushed out in such copious abundance all on a sudden, who does not see that the ordinary course of nature was changed, rather than that some vein or spring which lay hidden in the earth was opened?

<197817>Psalm 78:17-22

17. Yet they continued still to sin against him, to provoke the Most High in the wilderness. 18. And they tempted God in their heart, by asking food for their soul. fc324 19. And they spake against God: they said, Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? 20. Behold! he smote the rock, and the waters gushed out; and streams overflowed. Can he give bread also? Can he prepare flesh for his people? 21. Therefore Jehovah heard, and was wroth: and a fire was kindled in Jacob: and wrath also ascended against Israel? fc325 22. Because they believed not in God, nor trusted in his salvation.

 

17. Yet they continued still to sin against him. The prophet, having briefly declared how God, by a continual succession of benefits, had clearly manifested the greatness of his love towards the children of Abraham, now adds, that after having been laid under such deep and solemn obligations to him, they, as was natural to them, and according to their customary way, wickedly rebelled against him. In the first place, he accuses them of having provoked him grievously, by pertinaciously adding iniquity to iniquity; and then he points out the particular kind of the provocation with which they were chargeable. By the word provoke, he intimates, that it was no light offense which they had committed, but wickedness so heinous and aggravated as not to be endured. From the place in which it was committed, he aggravates the enormity of the sin. It was in the very wilderness, whilst the remembrance of their deliverance was yet fresh in their memory, and where they had every day full in their view tokens of the presence of God, and where even necessity itself should have constrained them to yield a true and holy obedience — it was in that place, and under these circumstances, that they repressed not their insolence and unbridled appetite. fc326 It was then, certainly, a proof of monstrous infatuation for them to act in such a wanton and disgraceful manner as they did, at the very time when their want of all things should have proved the best remedy for keeping them under restraint, and to do this even in the presence of God, who presented before them such manifestations of his glory as filled them with terror, and who allured them so kindly and tenderly to himself.

18. And they tempted God in their heart. This is the provocation of which mention is made in the preceding verse. Not that it was unlawful for them simply to ask food, when constrained to do so by the cravings of hunger. Who can impute blame to persons, when being hungry, they implore God to supply their necessities? The sin with which the Israelites were chargeable consisted in this, that not content with the food which He had appointed them, they gave loose reins to their lusts. He, at that time, had begun to feed them with manna, as we shall again see by and by. It was their loathing of that sustenance which impelled them eagerly to desire new food, as if they disdained the allowance assigned them by their heavenly Father. This is what is meant when it is said that they asked food for their soul. fc327 They were not reduced to the necessity of asking it by hunger; but their lust was not satisfied with living on the provision which God had appointed for them. On this account, it is declared, that they tempted God, overpassing, as they did, the bounds within which he had limited them. Whoever, undervaluing and despising the permission or license which He grants, gives full scope to his own intemperate lust, and desires more than is lawful, is said to tempt God. He acts as if he would subject Him to his own caprice, or questioned whether He could do more than he is pleased really to do. God has power to accomplish whatever he wills; and assuredly, the person who would separate the power of God from his will, or represent him as unable to do what he wills, does all he can to rend him in pieces. Those are chargeable with doing this, who are set upon trying whether he will grant more than he has given them permission to ask. That, therefore, the lust of the flesh may not stir us up to tempt him, let us learn to impose a restraint upon our desires, and humbly to rest contented within the limits which are prescribed to us. If the flesh is allowed to indulge itself without control, we will not be satisfied with ordinary bread, but will often, and in many ways, murmur against God.

19. And they spake against God. The prophet had said that they tempted God in their heart; fc328 and now he adds, that they were not ashamed openly to utter with their impure and blasphemous tongues, the impiety which they had inwardly conceived. From this, it is the more abundantly manifest that malignity and wickedness had taken entire possession of their hearts. Thus we see how lust conceives sin, when it is admitted into the soul with unhallowed consent. Afterwards the sin develops itself farther, even as we see the Israelites proceeding to such a length of profane wantonness, as to call in question the power of God, as if they made no account of it, any farther than as it ministered to their lust. By the table prepared which is spoken of, is to be understood the dainty food, which was their ordinary fare in Egypt. A single dish did not satisfy their appetite. They were not contented unless they could gratify themselves with great abundance and variety. When it is said in the following verse, Behold! God smote the rock, and the waters gushed out, etc., this, I have no doubt, is the language of bitter irony, with which the prophet taunts their unblushing insolence. It is not very likely that they spake in this manner; but he relates, as it were, with their mouth, or in their person, the things which took place before their eyes.

21. Therefore Jehovah heard, and was wroth. This hearing of God implies full and perfect knowledge; and it is a figure taken from earthly judges, who cannot punish criminals until they have become thoroughly acquainted with the cause. He is said to hear his own people, when he shows his favor and mercy towards them by granting their requests; and, on the other hand, he is said to hear those blasphemies which he does not allow to pass unpunished. To remove all ground for thinking that the divine wrath was unduly severe, the enormity of the guilt of the Israelites is again described as manifested in this, that they believed not God, nor trusted in his salvation. It is here taken as an indisputable point, that promises were made to them to which they ought to have yielded an assent, which, however, they were prevented from yielding by the extreme infatuation with which they were carried away. To trust in the salvation of God, is to lean upon his fatherly providence, and to regard him as sufficient for the supply of all our wants. From this we learn not only how hateful unbelief is in the sight of God, but also, what is the true nature of faith, and what are the fruits which it produces. Whence is it that men quietly submit themselves to Him, but because they are persuaded that their salvation is singularly precious in his sight, and are fully assured that he will give them whatever is needful for them? It is thus that they are led to surrender themselves to him, to be governed according to his good pleasure. Faith, then, is the root of true piety. It teaches us to hope for, and to desire every blessing from God, and it frames us to yield obedience to him; while those who distrust him must necessarily be always murmuring and rebelling against him. The scope of the prophet is this, that the pretences to faith which are made by those who do not hope for salvation from God, rest upon false grounds; for when God is believed in, the hope of salvation is speedily produced in the mind, and this hope renders to him the praise of every blessing.

<197823>Psalm 78:23-25

23. But he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven, 24. And had rained down manna fc329 upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven. 25. Man had eaten the bread of the mighty: he had sent them meat to the full.

 

23. But he had commanded the clouds from above. It is a mistake to suppose that this miracle is related merely in the way of history. The prophet rather censures the Israelites the more severely from the consideration, that although fed to the full with manna, they ceased not to lust after the dainties which they knew God had denied them. It was the basest ingratitude to scorn and reject the heavenly food, which, so to speak, associated them with angels. Were a man who dwells in France or Italy to grieve and fret that he has not the bread of Egypt to eat, nor the wine of Asia to drink, would he not make war against God and nature, after the manner of the giants of old? Much less excusable was the inordinate lust of the Israelites, whom God not only furnished with earthly provision in rich abundance, but to whom he also gave the bread of heaven for their support. Had they even endured hunger for a lengthened period, propriety and duty would have required them to ask food with more humility. Had they been supplied with only bran and chaff to eat, it would have been their bounden duty to have acknowledged that in the place where they were — in the wilderness — this was no ordinary boon of Heaven. Had only coarse bread been granted them, they would have had sufficient reason for thanksgiving. But how much stronger were their obligations to God, when he created a new kind of food, with which, by stretching out, as it were, his hand from heaven, he supplied them richly and in great abundance? This is the reason why the manna is called corn of heaven, and bread of the mighty. Some explain the Hebrew word yryba, abbirim, as denoting the heavens, fc330 an opinion which I do not altogether reject. I, however, prefer taking it for angels, as it is understood by the Chaldee interpreter, and some others who have followed him. fc331 The miracle is celebrated in high terms, to present the impiety of the people in a more detestable light; for it was a much more striking display of divine power for manna to be rained down from heaven, than if they had been fed either with herbs or fruits, or with other increase of the earth. Paul, in <461003>1 Corinthians 10:3, calls the manna spiritual meat, in a different sense — because it was a figure and symbol of Christ. But here the design of the prophet is to reprove the twofold ingratitude of the people, who despised not only the common food which was produced from the ground, but also the bread of angels. Some have translated the verbs in the past tense, He commanded the clouds — he opened the doors of heaven — he rained down manna, etc. fc332 But to remove all ambiguity, I have thought it preferable to translate the verbs in the preterpluperfect tense, He had commanded, he had opened, he had rained, to enable my readers the better to understand that the prophet does not here simply relate this history, but recalls it to remembrance for another purpose, as a thing which happened long ago.

<197826>Psalm 78:26-31

26. He caused an east wind to blow in the heavens; and by his power he raised up the south wind. 27. And he rained upon them flesh as dust, and feathered fowl fc333 as the sand of the sea; 28. And he caused it to fall in the midst of his camp, fc334 round about his tabernacles. 29. And they did eat and were filled, and he gave them their desire. 30. They were not estranged from their desire: the meat was still in their mouth, 31. When the wrath of God ascended against them, and slew the fat ones among them, and brought low the chosen of Israel.

 

26. He caused an east wind to blow in the heavens. We have here related how God granted the request of his people. This does not imply that he favourably regarded their fretful desires, but that he showed by the effect that it was in his power to do what they believed it to be impossible for him to accomplish. From this, we may perceive how injudiciously some expositors here join together the flesh and the manna. The reason why the flesh was given was altogether different from that for which the manna was given. God, in giving the manna, performed the office of a father; but by the flesh, he satisfied their gluttonous desires, that their very greediness in devouring it might choke them. It would not have been a difficult matter for God to have created quails in the midst of the wilderness; but he chose rather to bring them by the force of the winds, to teach the Israelites that all the elements are obedient to his command, and that the distance of places cannot prevent his power from immediately penetrating from the east even to the west. fc335 That unbelieving people, therefore, were furnished with an undoubted proof of the power of God, from which they had malignantly detracted, in seeing all the elements of nature ready to obey and promptly to execute whatever he has commanded. Besides, he no doubt raised the winds according to the situation of the camp, although it would have been easy for him, without any means, to have presented flesh before them. It is stated, that they did eat and were filled, not only to intimate that God brought to them a large supply of birds, with which their bellies might be stuffed to the full; but also, that it was ungovernable lust which led them to ask flesh, and not a solicitude for having provision on which to live. It has been said above, that manna had been given them in the greatest abundance, but here it is intended expressly to censure their gluttony, in which they gave manifest proof of their unbridled appetite. God promises, in <19E519>Psalm 145:19, as a peculiar privilege to those who fear him, that “he will fulfill their desire;” but it is in a different way that he is here said to have yielded to the perverse desires of the people, who had cast off all fear of him; for that which his favor and loving-kindness would have led him to refuse, he now granted them in his wrath. This is an example well worthy of our attention, that we may not complain if our desires are frowned upon and crossed by the secret providence of God when they break forth beyond bounds. God then truly hears us, when, instead of yielding to our foolish inclinations, he regulates his beneficence according to the measure of our welfare; even as in lavishing upon the wicked more than is good for them, he cannot, properly speaking, be said to hear them: he rather loads them with a deadly burden, which serves to cast them down headlong into destruction.

The Psalmist expresses this still more clearly, by adding immediately after, (verses 30, 31,) that this pampering proved fatal to them, as if with the meat they had swallowed the flame of the divine wrath. When he says that they were not estranged from their lust, this implies, that they were still burning with their lust. If it is objected that this does not agree with the preceding sentence, where it is said, that “they did eat, and were thoroughly filled,” I would answer, that if, as is well known, the minds of men are not kept within the bounds of reason and temperance, they become insatiable; and, therefore, a great abundance will not extinguish the fire of a depraved appetite. Some translate the clause, They were not disappointed, and others, They did not yet loathe their meat. This last translation brings out the meaning very well; but it is too far removed from the signification of the Hebrew word rwz, zur, which I have rendered estranged. The prophet intended to express in two words a present felt pleasure; for when God executed vengeance upon the people, they still indulged in the excessive gratification of the palate. fc336 The wrath of God is said metaphorically to ascend, when he suddenly rises up to execute judgment; for when he apparently shuts his eyes and takes no notice of our sins, he seems, so to speak, to be asleep. The punishment was felt by persons of every condition among the Israelites; but the fat ones fc337 and the chosen are expressly named, in order to exhibit the judgment of God in a light still more conspicuous. It did not happen by chance that the most robust and vigorous were attacked and cut off by the plague. As the strong are commonly deceived by their strength, and proudly exalt themselves against God, forgetting their own weakness, and thinking that they may do whatever they please, it is not surprising to find that the wrath of God burned more fiercely against such persons than against others.

<197832>Psalm 78:32-37

32. For all this they still sinned, and believed not his wondrous works 33. And he consumed their days in vanity, and their years in haste. fc338 34. When he slew them, then they sought him; they returned, and hastened early to God. 35. And they remembered that God was their Rock, and that the High God was their Redeemer. 36. And they flattered him with their mouth, and lied to him with their tongue. 37. But their heart was not right before him, neither were they faithful in his covenant

 

32. For all this they still sinned. It is a common proverb, that fools become wise when the rod is applied to them. Hence it follows, that those who have often been chastised of God, and yet are not thereby brought to repentance and amendment, are utterly to be despaired of. Such was the obstinacy of the Israelites here described. They could not be reformed by any of the afflictions which were sent upon them. It was a dreadful manifestation of the vengeance of God to see so many bodies of strong and vigorous men stretched dead on the ground. It was therefore a proof of monstrous obduracy, when they were not moved at such an appalling spectacle. By the expression wondrous works, is not only meant the plague just now spoken of: the other miracles, previously mentioned, are comprehended. There is, therefore, laid to the charge of the people a twofold wickedness; — they are accused not only of disbelieving the word of God, but also of despising the miracles which he wrought. For this reason, it is added, that their plagues were increased; even as God denounces and threatens by Moses, that he will deal sevenfold more severely with the obstinate and hardened who persevere in their wickedness.

33. And he consumed their days in vanity. As the Psalmist here speaks of the whole people, as if he had said, that all without exception were speedily consumed, from the least even to the greatest, this might with probability be referred to that most grievous punishment which was confirmed and ratified by the wrath of God — that they should all perish in the wilderness with only two exceptions, Joshua and Caleb; because, when already near the land of Canaan, they had turned back. That vast multitude, therefore, after they had shut against themselves the door of entrance into the Holy Land, died in the wilderness during the course of forty years. Days are put in the first place, and then years; by which it is intimated, that the duration of their life was cut short by the curse of God, and that it was quite apparent that they failed in the midst of their course. Their days then were consumed in vanity; for they vanished away like smoke: and their years in haste, because they passed swiftly away like a stream. The word hlhb, behalah, here translated haste, is by some rendered terror. I would rather prefer reading tumult; for it is undoubtedly meant that their life was taken away, as when in a tumult any thing is taken by force. fc339 But I would not be disposed to change the word haste, which brings out the meaning more perspicuously. It was a display of righteous retribution, on account of their obstinacy, that their strength which made them proud, thus withered and vanished all on a sudden as a shadow.

34. When he slew them, then they sought him. By the circumstance here recorded, it is intended to aggravate their guilt. When under a conviction of their wickedness they acknowledged that they were justly punished, and yet did not with sincerity of heart humble themselves before God, but rather mocked him, intending to put him off with false pretences, their impiety was the less excusable. If a man who has lost his judgment does not feel his own calamities, he is excusable because he is insensible; but he who is forced to acknowledge that he is culpable, and yet always continues the same, or after having lightly sought pardon, in fair but deceitful words, suddenly returns to his former state of mind, manifestly shows by such hollowness of heart that his disease is incurable. It is here tacitly intimated, that the punishments, by which a people so obstinate were constrained to seek God, were of no common or ordinary kind; and we are informed, (verse 35, fc340) not only that they were convinced of wickedness, but also that they were affected with a sense and a remembrance of the redemption from which they were fallen. By this means they are the more effectually deprived of all excuse on the ground of ignorance. The language implies that they were not carried away inadvertently, or deceived through ignorance, but that they had provoked the wrath of God, by dealing treacherously, as it were with deliberate purpose. And, indeed, God opened their eyes with the view of more openly discovering their desperate wickedness, as if, shaking off their hypocrisy and flatteries, he drew them from their lurking-places into the light.

36. And they flattered him with their mouth, and lied to him with their tongue. Here they are charged with perfidiousness, because they neither confessed their guilt with sincerity of heart, nor truly ascribed to God the glory of their deliverance. We are not to suppose that they made no acknowledgement at all; but it is intimated that the confession of the mouth, as it did not proceed from the heart, was constrained and not voluntary. This is well worthy of being noticed; for from it we learn, not only the duty incumbent upon us of guarding against that gross hypocrisy which consists in uttering with the tongue, before men, one thing, while we think a different thing in our hearts, but also that we ought to beware of a species of hypocrisy which is more hidden, and which consists in this, that the sinner, being constrained by fear, flatters God in a slavish manner, while yet, if he could, he would shun the judgment of God. The greater part of men are mortally smitten with this disease; for although the divine majesty extorts from them some kind of awe, yet it would be gratifying to them were the light of divine truth completely extinguished. It is, therefore, not enough to yield an assent to the divine word, unless that assent is accompanied with true and pure affection, so that our hearts may not be double or divided. The Psalmist points out the cause and source of this dissimulation to be, that they were not stedfast and faithful By this he intimates, that whatever does not proceed from unfeigned purity of heart is accounted lying and deceit in the sight of God. Since this uprightness is every where required in the law, he accuses the people with being covenant-breakers, because they had not kept the covenant of God with that fidelity which became them. As I have observed elsewhere, there is always to be presupposed a mutual relation and correspondence between the covenant of God and our faith, in order that the unfeigned consent of the latter may answer to the faithfulness of the former.

<197838>Psalm 78:38-41

38. Yet he, being merciful, expiated their iniquity, fc341 and did not destroy them: and he multiplied to turn away his anger, and did not stir up all his wrath. 39. And he remembered that they were flesh; a spirit fc342 that passeth, and returneth not. 40. How often did they provoke him in the desert, and grieve him in the wilderness! 41. And they returned, and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.

 

38. Yet he, being merciful, expiated their iniquity. To show the more fully that no means had succeeded in bending the Israelites, and causing them to return to a sound state of mind, we are now informed that, although God bare with their multiplied transgressions, and exercised his mercy in forgiving them, they had no less manifested their wickedness in abusing his benignity in every instance in which it was displayed, than they had shown themselves refractory and obstinate when he treated them with severity. At the same time, the reason is assigned why they did not utterly perish. They no doubt deserved to be involved in one common destruction; but it is declared that God mitigated his anger, that some seed of them might remain. That none might infer, from these examples of vengeance which have been mentioned, that God had proceeded to punish them with undue severity, we are told that the punishments inflicted upon them were moderate — yea, mild, when compared with the aggravated nature of their wickedness. God kept back his hand, not looking so much to what they had deserved, as desiring to give place to his mercy. We are not, however, to imagine that he is changeable, when at one time he chastises us with a degree of severity, and at another time gently draws and allures us to himself; for in the exercise of his matchless wisdom, he has recourse to different means by which to try whether there is really any hope of our recovery. But the guilt of men becomes more aggravated, when neither his severity can reform them nor his mercy melt them. It is to be observed, that the mercy of God, which is an essential attribute of his nature, is here assigned as the reason why he spared his people, to teach us that he was not induced by any other cause but this, to show himself so much inclined and ready to pardon. Moreover, as he pardoned them not only in one instance, nor in one respect, it is affirmed that he expiated their iniquity, that he might not destroy them; and again, that although he had been oftentimes provoked, he yet ceased not to turn away his anger; and, finally, that he mitigated his chastisements, lest the people should be overwhelmed with the weight of them.

39. And he remembered that they were flesh. Another reason is now brought forward why God had compassion on the people, which is, his unwillingness to try his strength against men who are so constituted as to live only for a short period in this world, and who then quickly pass away; for the forms of expression here used denote the frailty by which the condition of men is made miserable. Flesh and spirit are frequently contrasted in the Scriptures; not only when flesh means our depraved and sinful nature, and spirit the uprightness to which the children of God are born again; but also when men are called flesh, because there is nothing firm or stable in them: as it is said in Isaiah, (<233103>Isaiah 31:3,) “Egypt is flesh, and not spirit.” In this passage, however, the words flesh and spirit are employed in the same sense — flesh meaning that men are subject to corruption and putrefaction; and spirit, that they are only a breath or a fleeting shadow. As men are brought to death by a continual wasting and decay, the people are compared to a wind which passes away, and which, of its own accord, falls and does not return again. When we have run our race, we do not commence a new life upon the earth; even as it is said in Job,

“For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant. But man dieth and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?” (<181407>Job 14:7)

The meaning, then, as we may now clearly perceive, is, that God, in the exercise of his mercy and goodness, bare with the Jews, not because they deserved this, but because their frail and transitory condition called forth his pity and induced him to pardon them. We shall afterwards meet with an almost similar statement in <19A313>Psalm 103:13-16, where God is represented as being merciful to us, because he sees that we are like grass, and that we soon wither and become dry like hay. Now, if God find in us nothing but misery to move him to compassion, it follows that it is solely his own pure and undeserved goodness which induces him to sustain us. When it is affirmed that men return not, when they have finished the course of their life in this world, it is not meant to exclude the hope of a future resurrection; for men are contemplated only as they are in themselves, and it is merely their state on earth which is spoken of. With respect to the renovation of man to the heavenly life, it is a miracle far surpassing nature. In the same sense it is said, in another place, “His spirit goeth forth, and returneth not,” (Wisdom 16:14;) language which implies that men, when they are born into the world, do not bring with them the hope of future restoration, which must be derived from the grace of regeneration.

40. How often did they provoke him in the desert? Here the preceding sentence is confirmed, it being declared that, as they had in so many instances provoked God in the wilderness, by the vast accumulation of their sins, fc343 they must of necessity have perished a thousand times, had not God as often shown himself favorable and merciful towards them. The interrogatory form of the sentence expresses more significantly that they continued sinning without intermission. The word wilderness includes in it the circumstance both of place and of time. By this it is intended, first, to reprove their ingratitude, in that the memory of God’s benefits, while still so fresh in their minds, and even the sight of them daily before their eyes, were not at least able to check them in their wickedness; and, secondly, to condemn their impetuous and infatuated recklessness, in heaping up such a multitude of sins within so short a period.

In the same sense it is added immediately after, (verse 41,) that they returned to their former ways, and tempted God. The word return does not here signify change, but a continued course of sinning. The heinous indignity which is done to God when men tempt him, is expressed by a beautiful metaphor. The Hebrew word hwt, tavah, signifies to mark out or describe. It is intimated, that when the people dared to limit the operations of God, according to their own pleasure, he was, as it were, shut up within bars of wood or iron, and his infinite power circumscribed within the narrow boundaries to which unbelief would confine it. And assuredly, whenever men do not go beyond their own understandings, it is as if they would measure God by their own small capacity, which is nothing else than to pull him down from his throne; for his Majesty must be brought into subjection to us, if we would have him to be regulated according to our own fancy.

<197842>Psalm 78:42-51

42. They remembered not his hand in the day that he delivered them from the oppressor: fc344 43. When he set his signs in Egypt, and his miracles in the field of Zoan. 44. When he turned their rivers into blood; and their streams, that they could not drink. 45. He sent among them a mixture fc345 which devoured them; and the frog which destroyed them. 46. And he gave their fruit [or produce] to the caterpillar, fc346 and their labor to the grasshopper. fc347 47. And he destroyed their vines with hail, and their wild fig-trees fc348 with hail stones. fc349 48. And he gave up their cattle to the hail; and their flocks to thunderbolts. 49. He sent upon them the fierceness of his wrath, fury, anger, and affliction, and sent evil angels among them. 50. He made a way to his anger: he kept not their soul from death, and shut up their cattle fc350 to the pestilence. 51. And he smote all the first-born in Egypt: the first-fruits of their strength fc351 in the tents of Ham.

 

42. They remembered not his hand. The sacred writer still continues to upbraid the Israelites; for the simple remembrance of God’s benefits might have restrained them, had they not wilfully and perversely forgotten whatever they had experienced. From this impious forgetfulness proceed waywardness and all rebellion. The hand of God, as is well known, is by the figure metonomy taken for his power. In the deliverance of the chosen tribes from Egypt here celebrated, the hand of God was stretched forth in a new and an unusual manner. And their impiety, against which the prophet now inveighs, was rendered the more detestable, from the fact that they accounted as nothing, or soon forgat, that which no length of time ought to have effaced from their memory. Farther, he recounts certain examples of the power of God, which he calls first signs, and then miracles, (verse 43,) that, by the recital of these, he may again rebuke the shameful stupidity of the people. By both these words he expresses the same thing; but in the second clause of the verse, the word miracles gives additional emphasis, implying that, by such strange and unheard-of events, the Egyptians had at that time been stricken with such terror as ought not to have vanished so speedily from the minds of the Israelites.

44. When he turned their rivers into blood. The Psalmist does not enumerate in their order the miracles by which God gave evidence of his power in the deliverance of his people. He considered it enough to bring to their remembrance the well-known histories of these events, which would be sufficient to lay open the wickedness and ingratitude with which they were chargeable; nor is it necessary for us to stay long on these things, since the narrative of Moses gives a more distinct and fuller account of what is here briefly stated. Only I would have my readers to remember that, although God often punished the sins of the heathen by sending upon them hail and other calamities, yet all the plagues which at that time were inflicted upon the Egyptians were of an extraordinary character, and such as were previously unheard-of. A variety of words is therefore employed to enhance these memorable instances of the vengeance of God, as that he sent upon them the fierceness of his wrath, fury, anger, and affliction. This accumulation of words is intended to awaken minds which are asleep to a discovery of so many miracles, of which both the number and the excellence might be perceived even by the blind themselves.

In the last place, it is added that God executed these judgments by angels. Although God has, according as it has pleased him, established certain laws, both in heaven and on earth, and governs the whole order of nature in such a manner as that each creature has assigned to it its own peculiar office; yet whenever it seems good to him he makes use of the ministration of angels for executing his commands, not by ordinary or natural means, but by his secret power, which to us is incomprehensible. Some think that devils are here spoken of, because the epithet evil or hurtful is applied to angel. fc352 This opinion I do not reject; but the ground upon which they rest it has little solidity. They say that as God dispenses his benefits to us by the ministry of elect angels, so he also executes his wrath by the agency of reprobate angels, as if they were his executioners. This I admit is partly true; but I deny that this distinction is always observed. Many passages of Scripture can be quoted to the contrary. When the army of the Assyrians laid siege to the holy city Jerusalem, who was it that made such havoc among them as compelled them to raise the siege, but the angel who was appointed at that time for the defense of the Church? (<121935>2 Kings 19:35.) In like manner, the angel who slew the first-born in Egypt (<021105>Exodus 11:5) was not only a minister and an executor of the wrath of God against the Egyptians, but also the agent employed for preserving the Israelites. On the other hand, although the kings of whom Daniel speaks were avaricious and cruel, or rather robbers, and turned all things upside down, yet the Prophet declares, (chapter 20:13,) that holy angels were appointed to take charge of them. It is probable that the Egyptians were given over and subjected to reprobate angels, as they deserved; but we may simply consider the angels here spoken of as termed evil, on account of the work in which they were employed, — because they inflicted upon the enemies of the people of God terrible plagues to repress their tyranny and cruelty. In this way, both the heavenly and elect angels, and the fallen angels, are justly accounted the ministers or executors of calamity; but they are to be regarded as such in different senses. The former yield a prompt and willing obedience to God; but the latter, as they are always eagerly intent upon doing mischief, and would, if they could, turn the whole world upside down, are fit instruments for inflicting calamities upon men.

50. He made a way to his anger. fc353 To take away all excuse from this ungrateful people, whom the most evident and striking proofs of the goodness of God which were presented before their eyes could not keep in their obedience to him, it is here again repeated that the wrath of God overflowed Egypt like an impetuous torrent. The miracle adverted to is the last which was there wrought, when God, by the powerful hand of his angel, slew, in one night, all the first-born of Egypt. According to a common and familiar mode of speaking in the Hebrew language, the first-born are called the beginning, or the first-fruits of strength. Although the old advance to death as they decline in years, yet as they are in a manner renewed in their offspring, and thus may be said to recover their decayed strength, the term strength is applied to their children. And the first-born are called the beginning or the first-fruits of this strength, as I have explained more at large on <014903>Genesis 49:3. The houses of Egypt are called the tents of Ham, because Misraim, who gave the name to the country, was the son of Ham, <011006>Genesis 10:6. Farther, there is here celebrated the free love of God towards the posterity of Shem, as manifested in his preferring them to all the children of Ham, although they were possessed of no intrinsic excellence which might render them worthy of such a distinction.

<197852>Psalm 78:52-58

52. And he made his people to go forth like sheep, and led them in the wilderness like a flock. 53. And he conducted them in safety, and they were not afraid: and the sea covered their enemies. 54. And he brought them to his holy border, [literally to the border of his holiness,] this mountain, fc354 which his right hand acquired. fc355 55. He expelled the heathen from before them; and made them to fall into their part of the inheritance; fc356 and made the children of Israel to dwell in their tents. 56. And they tempted and provoked the Most High God, and kept not his testimonies. 57. And they turned back and dealt treacherously, like their fathers: they turned back, like a deceitful bow. fc357 58. And they provoked him to anger with their high places; and moved him to anger with their graven images.

 

52. And he made his people to go forth like sheep. The Psalmist again celebrates God’s fatherly love towards the chosen people, whom, as we have elsewhere remarked, he compares to a flock of sheep. They had no wisdom or power of their own to preserve and defend themselves; but God graciously condescended to perform towards them the office of a shepherd. It is a singular token of the love which he bore towards them, that he did not disdain to humble himself so far as to feed them as his own sheep. What could a multitude who had never been trained up to the art of war do against powerful and warlike enemies? So far from having learned the art of war, the people, as is well known, had been employed, when in Egypt, in mean and servile occupations, as if they had been condemned to toil under the earth in mines or in quarries.

53. And he conducted them in safety, and they were not afraid. This does not imply that they relied on God confidently, and with tranquil minds, but that, having God for their guide and the guardian of their welfare, they had no just cause to be afraid. When at any time they were thrown into consternation, this was owing to their own unbelief. From this cause proceeded these murmuring questions to which they gave utterance, when Pharaoh pursued them, upon their leaving Egypt, and when they were “sore afraid:” “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness,” (<021411>Exodus 14:11.) This security, then, is not to be referred to the feeling of this in the minds of the people, but to the protection of God, by which it came to pass that, their enemies having been drowned in the Red Sea, they enjoyed quiet and repose in the wilderness. Other benefits which God had bestowed upon them are here recited, and at the same time other transgressions with which they had been chargeable. This shows the more clearly their deep ingratitude. After having obtained possession of the inheritance which was promised them, as if they had been under no obligations to God, their hearts were always rebellious and untractable. The accomplishment, and, as it were, the concluding act of their deliverance, was the putting them in possession of the land of Canaan, from entering which they had precluded themselves, had not God determined, notwithstanding their wickedness, to complete, in all respects, the work which he had commenced. The land itself is called the borders of God’s sanctuary, (verse 54,) because God, in assigning it to his people, had also consecrated it to himself. This, it is manifest, exhibits in a more heinous and aggravated light the iniquity of the people, who brought into that land the same pollutions with which it had been anciently defiled. What madness was it for the people of Israel, who knew that the old inhabitants of the country had been driven from it on account of their abominations, to strive to surpass them in all kinds of wickedness? as if they had been resolved to do all they could to bring down upon their own heads that divine vengeance which they had seen executed upon others. The words this mountain are improperly explained by some as applying to the whole country of Judea; for although it was a mountainous country, there were in it plain and level grounds of large extent, both as to breadth and length. I have, therefore, no doubt, that by way of amplification the Psalmist makes honorable mention of mount Zion, where God had chosen a habitation for himself, and his chief seat. I indeed allow, that under this expression, by the figure synecdoche, a part is put for the whole; only I would have my readers to understand, that this place is expressly named, because from it, as from a source or fountain, flowed the holiness of the whole land. It is asserted that God, by his right hand, possessed or acquired this mountain; for the Hebrew verb hnq, kanah, may be understood in either of these senses: and this assertion is made, that the Israelites might not be lifted up with pride, as if they had achieved the conquest of the land, or had obtained the peaceable possession of it by their own power. As is stated in <194403>Psalm 44:3,

“They got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them, but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favor unto them.” (<194403>Psalm 44:3)

55. He expelled the heathen from before them; and made them to fall into their part of the inheritance. These words are an explanation of the concluding sentence of the preceding verse: they describe the manner in which the land of Canaan was acquired, plainly intimating that the Israelites were not such a warlike race, nor those heathen nations so cowardly, as to render it an easy matter for the former to vanquish the latter, and that it would have been impossible for the former to have expelled the latter from the country, had they not been led on to victory under the conduct of God, and been aided by his power. Besides, it would have been unlawful for them to have taken possession of the country, had it not been the will of God that the first inhabitants should be deprived of it, and that strangers should be established in it in their room.

56. And they tempted and provoked the Most High God. Here they are upbraided for having, notwithstanding the many tokens of the divine favor by which they were distinguished, persevered in acting perfidiously: yea, even although God from time to time conferred upon them new benefits, to recover them to their allegiance to him, they, notwithstanding, by their rebellion, shook off his yoke. With respect to the word tempt, we have already explained its import. But it is added in general, that they provoked God, because they had not kept his covenant. By this last clause, their open and gross rebellion is the more completely demonstrated; for, although they had been plainly taught their duty, they nevertheless refused to submit to the authority of God. The law is called testimonies or agreements, fc358 because, as men enter into contracts upon certain conditions, so God, by his covenant, entered into a contract with this people, and bound them to himself. In speaking of them in this manner, there is pronounced upon them no light censure; but when they are charged in the next verse with apostasy and perfidiousness, that fills up the measure of their guilt. God had adopted them to be his people: they, on the other hand, despising his favor, voluntarily renounce it. He had gathered them together under his wings; and they, by their waywardness, scatter themselves in all directions. He had promised to be a father to them; and they refuse to be his children. He had shown them the way of salvation; and they, by going astray, willingly precipitate themselves into destruction. The prophet, therefore, concludes, that in every age they showed themselves to be an impious and wicked people. It is again to be noticed, that the fault which is most severely condemned in them is, that they too much resembled their fathers. This is particularly mentioned, to prevent any man from deceiving himself by supposing, that in indiscriminately imitating his ancestors he is doing right, and that he may not think of making use of their example as an argument for defending his own conduct. The instability of the people is next expressed by a very apposite figure, which Hosea also employs in <280716>Hosea 7:16. As archers are deceived when they have a bow which is too weak, or ill bent, or crooked and flexible, so it is stated, that this people turned back, and slipped away by their deceitful and tortuous craftiness, that they might not be governed by the hand of God.

58. And they provoked him to anger with their high places. We have here adduced the species of defection by which the Israelites afforded incontestable evidence that they refused to be faithful to God, and to yield allegiance to him. They had been sufficiently, and more than sufficiently warned, that the service of God would be perverted and contaminated, unless they were regulated in every part of it by the Divine Word; and now, disregarding his whole law, they recklessly follow their own inventions. And the fruits which uniformly proceed from the contempt of the law are, that men who choose rather to follow their own understanding than to submit to the authority of God, become wedded to gross superstitions. The Psalmist complains that the service of God was corrupted by them in two ways; in the first place, by their defacing the glory of God, in setting up for themselves idols and graven images; and, secondly, by their inventing strange and forbidden ceremonies to appease the anger of God.

<197859>Psalm 78:59-66

59. God heard it, and was wroth, and exceedingly abhorred Israel. 60. And he forsook the habitation of Shiloh, fc359 the tabernacle where he dwelt among men. 61. And he delivered his strength into captivity, and his beauty into the hand of the enemy. 62. And he shut up his people to the sword, and was wroth with his own inheritance. 63. The fire devoured their chosen; fc360, and their virgins were not applauded. fc361 64. Their priests fell by the sword; and their widows made no lamentation. 65. But the Lord awoke as one asleep, as a mighty man that crieth out by reason of wine. 66. And he smote his enemies behind; he put upon them everlasting disgrace.

 

59. God heard it, and was wroth. The prophet again shows that God, when he found that no good resulted from his long-suffering, which the people abused, yea, even treated with mockery, and perverted as an encouragement to greater excess in sinning, at length proceeded to inflict severe punishments upon them. The metaphor, which he borrows from earthly judges, is frequently to be met with in the Scriptures. When God is said to hear, it is not meant that it is necessary for him to make inquisition, but it is intended to teach us that he does not rush forth inconsiderately to execute his judgments, and thus to prevent any from supposing that he ever acts precipitately. The amount of what is stated is, that the people continued so pertinaciously in their wickedness, that at length the cry of it ascended to heaven; and the very weight of the punishment demonstrated the aggravated nature of the offense.

After it is said that Israel, whom God had loved so much, was become an abomination in his sight, it is added, (verse 60,) that they were bereft of the presence of God, which is the only source of true felicity and comfort under calamities of every kind. God, then, is said to have abhorred Israel, when he permitted the ark of the covenant to be carried into another country, as if he intended by this to indicate that he had departed from Judea, and bidden the people farewell. It is indeed very obvious, that God was not fixed to the outward and visible symbol; but as he had given the ark to be a token or sign of the close union which subsisted between him and the Israelites, in suffering it to be carried away, he testified, that he himself had also departed from them. Shiloh having been for a long time the abode of the ark, and the place where it was captured by the Philistines, (<090411>1 Samuel 4:11,) it is termed the habitation or dwelling-place of God. The manner of his residence, in short, is beautifully expressed in the next sentence, where Shiloh is described as his dwelling-place among men. God, it is true, fills both heaven and earth; but as we cannot attain to that infinite height to which he is exalted, in descending among us by the exercise of his power and grace, he approaches as near to us as is needful, and as our limited capacity will bear. It is a very emphatic manner of speaking to represent God as so incensed by the continual wickedness of his people, that he was constrained to forsake this place, the only one which he had chosen for himself upon the earth.

61. And he delivered his strength into captivity. In this verse, the same subject is prosecuted: it is declared, that the strength of God, by which the Israelites had been shielded and defended, was at that time in captivity. Not that his power could only be exerted in connection with the outward symbol; but instead of opposing their enemies as he had formerly done, it was now his will that the grace by which he had preserved his people should, so to speak, be led captive. This, however, is not to be understood as implying that the Philistines had made God their prisoner. The meaning simply is, that the Israelites were deprived of the protection of God, in consequence of which they fell into the hands of their enemies, even as an army is put to flight when the general is taken prisoner. The ark is also termed the beauty of God; because, being in himself invisible, he made it the symbol of his presence, or, as it were, a mirror in which he might be seen. It is a bold, and at first sight, an absurd hyperbole, to say that the strength of God was taken prisoner by the Philistines; but it is expressly used for the purpose of aggravating the wickedness of the people. As he had been accustomed mightily to display the power of his arm in aiding them, the offenses with which he had been provoked must have been of a very heinous character, when he suffered that symbol of his power to be forcibly carried away by a heathen army. We are taught by the prophet Jeremiah, (<240712>Jeremiah 7:12,) that what is here related of Shiloh, is addressed as a warning to all those who, flattering themselves upon false grounds, that they enjoy the presence of God, are lifted up with vain confidence: “But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel.” If, therefore, when God approaches us familiarly, we do not sincerely receive him with that reverence which becomes us, we have ground to fear that what happened to the people of Shiloh will happen also to us. So much the more disgusting, then, is the boasting of the Pope and his adherents, who support the claims of Rome as the special dwelling-place of God, from the fact, that the Church in former times flourished in that city. It is to be remembered, — what they seem to forget, — that Christ, who is the true temple of the Godhead, was born in Bethlehem, and brought up in Nazareth, and that he dwelt and preached in Capernaum and Jerusalem; and yet the miserable desolation of all these cities affords a dreadful testimony of the wrath of God.

62. And he shut up his people to the sword. Other parts of the calamity which befell Israel in the time of the high priest Eli are here mentioned. God, in permitting the ark to be carried away, showed that he had withdrawn his favor from them. This was also demonstrated from the fact, that all the flower of the people — those who were in the prime and blush of manhood — were consumed by the wrath of God: which is expressed by the fire devouring them. But this language is metaphorical, as is evident from the history of the event referred to, which informs us, that those that perished who were of the chosen of Israel, to the number of thirty thousand men, fell by the sword of the enemy, and not by fire, (<090410>1 Samuel 4:10.) This figure points out the suddenness of the dreadful calamity. It is as if it had been said, They were destroyed in a moment, even as fire quickly consumes chaff and the dry leaves of trees. fc362

The great extent of this slaughter is heightened by another figure, which is, that for want of men, the maidens continued unmarried. This is the meaning of the clause, Their virgins were not applauded; the reference being to the nuptial songs which were wont to be sung at marriages in praise of the bride. To aggravate still more the unwonted and appalling nature of the calamity, it is added, that even the priests, whom God had taken under his special protection, perished indiscriminately with others. When it is said, that the widows made no lamentation, I would explain it as denoting, either that they themselves died first for sorrow, so that they had no opportunity of mourning for others, or else, that when led captive by their enemies, they were prohibited to mourn. By all these expressions, the object is to show, in a few words, that all kinds of calamities were heaped upon them. fc363

65. But the Lord awoke as one asleep. Some understand this as spoken of the Israelites, implying that the Lord awoke against them; and others, as spoken of their enemies. If the first sense is adopted, it need not excite our surprise, that the Israelites are termed, in the 66th verse, the enemies of God, even as they are so designated in <230124>Isaiah 1:24,

“Therefore, saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah! I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies.” (<230124>Isaiah 1:24)

And thus the meaning will be, that the Israelites paid dearly for abusing the patience of God, by taking encouragement from it to indulge to greater excess in the commission of sin; for awaking suddenly, he rushed upon them with so much the greater fury. But as we find the prophets drawing their doctrine from Moses, and also framing their language according to his as a standard, the opinion of those who understand this and the following verse, as referring to the Philistines, is no less probable. The prophet here appears to have borrowed this order, from the song of Moses, (<053227>Deuteronomy 32:27,) where God declares, that while he punished his own people, he, at the same time, did not forget to repress their enemies. Since it is a common proverb, that the issue of wars is uncertain, if, after the enemies of the chosen tribes had obtained the victory, no change had happened to them, it would not have been so manifest, that what befell his own people was a punishment inflicted upon them by God. But when God, after having afflicted and humbled the Israelites, made his judgments to fall on their conquerors, without the instrumentality of man, beyond all human expectation, and contrary to what happens in the ordinary course of events; — from this it is the more plainly manifest, that when the Israelites were laid in the dust, it was the work of God, who intended thus to punish them. The prophet, however, at the same time, gives us to understand, that God was constrained, as it were, by necessity, to punish them with greater severity; because, in afterwards inflicting his judgments upon the Philistines, he gave abundant evidence of his regard to his covenant, which the Israelites might be very apt to think he had quite forgotten. Although he had, so to speak, taken the side of the Philistines for a time, it was not his intention utterly to withdraw his love from the children of Abraham, lest the truth of his promise should become void.

The figure of a drunken man may seem somewhat harsh; but the propriety of using it will appear, when we consider that it is employed in accommodation to the stupidity of the people. Had they been of a pure and clear understanding, fc364 God would not have thus transformed himself, and assumed a character foreign to his own. When he, therefore, compares himself to a drunken man, it was the drunkenness of the people; that is to say, their insensibility that constrained him to speak thus: which was so much the greater shame to them. With respect to God, the metaphor derogates nothing from his glory. If he does not immediately remedy our calamities, we are ready to think that he is sunk into a profound sleep. But how can God, it may be said, be thus asleep, when he is superior in strength to all the giants, and yet they can easily watch for a long time, and are satisfied with little sleep? I answer, when he exercises forbearance, and does not promptly execute his judgments, the interpretation which ignorant people put upon his conduct is, that he loiters in this manner like a man who is stupified, and knows not how to proceed. fc365 The prophet, on the contrary, declares, that this sudden awaking of God will be more alarming and terrible than if he had at the first lifted up his hand to execute judgment; and that it will be as if a giant, drunken with wine, should start up suddenly out of his sleep, while as yet he had not slept off his surfeit. Many restrict the statement in the 66th verse, concerning God’s smiting his enemies behind, to the plague which he sent upon the Philistines, recorded in <090512>1 Samuel 5:12. The phrase, everlasting disgrace, agrees very well with this interpretation; for it was a shameful disease to be afflicted with haemorrhoids in their hinder parts. But as the words, They were smitten behind, admit of a more simple sense, I leave the matter undecided.

<197867>Psalm 78:67-72

67. And he rejected the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim: 68. But he chose the tribe of Judah, the mountain of Zion, which he loved: fc366 69. And built his sanctuary like high places, and like the earth which he has established for ever. 70. And he chose David his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: 71. He took him froth following the suckling ewes, to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance: 72. And he fed them in the uprightness of his heart, and guided them by the prudence of his hands.

 

67. And he rejected the tabernacle of Joseph. Those who suppose that the word enemies, in the 66th verse, applies to the Israelites, connect these verses with the preceding, and suppose the meaning to be, that the wound which God had inflicted upon them was incurable. But, preferring the other opinion, which regards the Philistines as spoken of, and the scope to be, that God, in punishing them so severely, evidently showed that the covenant which he had made with his people was not disannulled, since he had avenged himself in such an awful manner upon their enemies, the explanation which I would rather give is, that this is added by way of correction, as if it had been said, That God was not yet fully reconciled towards his people who had wickedly revolted from him, and that, as an evidence of this, there remained among them some traces of the punishment with which he had visited them. The meaning of the text, therefore, is, that when the ark was taken by the Philistines, God was, so to speak, asleep, having been made drunk by the sins of his people, so that he could no longer keep watch for their defense as he had been accustomed to do; and yet, that he did not continue long sunk in sleep, but that, whenever he saw the ungodly Philistines treating with mockery the glory of his majesty, this heinous insult awoke and provoked him, just as if a giant, having well supped, had awoke from his first sleep before he had recovered from the exciting effects of his wine; and that, at the same time, his anger had not been so provoked against this heathen and uncircumcised nation as to prevent him from exhibiting some signs of the chastisement which he had inflicted upon the wicked and ungrateful Israelites even to the end. The rejection spoken of amounts to this, that when God permitted his ark to be carried away to another place, the Israelites were thereby deprived of the honor with which, by special privilege, they had been previously distinguished.

There are two principal points which should here be particularly attended to; in the first place, when the Philistines were smitten with unseemly ulcers, the plainest evidence was afforded that when the Israelites were conquered by them, this happened solely because God willed it to be so. He did not recover new strength, or gather together a new army for the purpose of invading, some short time after, the Philistines who had been victorious, nor did he have recourse, in doing this, to foreign aid. The other point is, that although God stretched forth his hand against the Philistines, to show that he had still some remembrance of his covenant, and some care of the people whom he had chosen, yet in restoring the Israelites in some measure to their former state, he made the rejection of Shiloh a perpetual monument of his wrath. He, therefore, rejected the tribe of Ephraim; fc367 not that he cast them off for ever, or completely severed them from the rest of the body of the Church, but he would not have the ark of his covenant to reside any longer within the boundaries of that tribe. To the tribe of Ephraim is here opposed the tribe of Judah, in which God afterwards chose for himself a dwelling-place.

Thus the prophet proceeds to show, that when the ark of the covenant had a resting-place assigned to it on mount Zion, the people were in a manner renewed; and this symbol of reconciliation being restored to them, they were recovered to the favor of God from which they had fallen. As God had, so to speak, been banished from the kingdom, and his strength led into captivity through the sins of the Israelites, they had need to be taught, by this memorial, that God had been so highly displeased with their wickedness, that he could not bear to look upon the place in which he had formerly dwelt. After this separation, although to teach the people to be more on their guard in time to come, there was not a full and perfect restitution, yet God again chose a fixed residence for his ark, which was a manifestation of wonderful goodness and mercy on his part. The ark, after its return, was carried from one place to another, as to Gath, Ekron, and other places, until mount Zion was pointed out by an oracle as its fixed abode; but this intervening period is not taken notice of by the prophet, because his design went no farther than to impress upon the memory, both the example of the punishment, and the grace of God, which was greater than any could have ventured to hope for. fc368 That which is often repeated by Moses should also be remembered:

“But unto the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come,” etc., (<051205>Deuteronomy 12:5.)

Shiloh having acquired this renown, because the ark had dwelt there for a long time, when the ark was carried away into the country of the enemies of Israel, the minds of men were strangely perplexed, until they knew the place which God had chosen for its future residence. The ten tribes were not at that time rejected, and they had an equal interest in the kingdom and the priesthood with the tribe of Judah; but in process of time their own rebellion cut them off. This is the reason why the prophet says, in scorn, that the tribe of Ephraim was rejected, and that the tribe of Joseph, from whom it sprung, was not chosen.

68. But he chose the tribe of Judah. The meaning is, that God preferred the tribe of Judah to all the rest of the people, and chose from it a king, whom he might set over all the Israelites as well as the Jews. And he chose the mountain of Zion, appointing a certain spot upon it to be the seat of his sanctuary. That the cause of this choice might not be sought any where else but in God, it is particularly stated that the preferring of mount Zion to all other places, and the enriching of it in such a distinguished manner, proceeded entirely from the free and unmerited love of God. The relative which is here put instead of the causal adverb for; the meaning being, that the sanctuary of God was established there, not for any worthiness of the place, but solely because it was the good pleasure of God. It was proper that this second restitution of the people should be no less free than their first adoption was, when God made his covenant with Abraham, or when he delivered them from the land of Egypt. God’s love to the place had a respect to men. From this it follows, that the Church has been gathered together from the beginning, and in all ages, by the pure grace and goodness of God; for never have men been found to possess any intrinsic meritorious claims to his regard, and the Church is too precious to be left to depend upon the power of men.

69. And built his sanctuary like high places. fc369 In this verse, what is intimated is simply this, that Mount Zion was singularly beautified; which, however, ought to be referred to the heavenly pattern. It was not the will of God that the minds of his people should be entirely engrossed with the magnificence of the building, or with the pomp of outward ceremonies; but that they should be elevated to Christ, in whom the truth of the figures of the former economy was exhibited. It is, therefore affirmed, that the sanctuary was built like high places; that is to say, it was conspicuous among all the high mountains: even as Isaiah (<230202>Isaiah 2:2,) and Micah, (<330401>Micah 4:1,) prophesying of the building of the new and spiritual temple, declare that it “shall be established in the tops of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills.” And it is well known that fortresses were in those days erected upon high places. Zion is next compared to the entire mass of the globe: He hath built his sanctuary like the earth, fc370 which he has established for ever. Some regions of the globe are visited by earthquakes, or perish by the opening of the earth, or are agitated by some violent commotion, or undergo some alteration; but the body of the earth itself continues always stable and unchanged, because it rests upon deep foundations. It is, therefore, here taught that the building spoken of was not temporary, like the sumptuous palaces of kings, which fall into ruins during the lapse of time, or are in danger of being destroyed by other means; but that it was founded to stand entire, even to the end of the world. If it is objected that the temple was destroyed by the Chaldeans and Assyrians, the answer is obvious, That the stability celebrated consists in Christ alone; for, if the ancient sanctuary, which was only a figure, is considered merely in itself, without any regard to that which it typified, it will be only an empty shadow. But as God intended it to be a pledge to show that Christ was to come, perpetuity is justly attributed to it. In like manner it is said, in another place, (<198701>Psalm 87:1,) “His foundation is in the holy mountains;” and in Isaiah, (<231432>Isaiah 14:32,) “The Lord hath founded Zion;” and again, in <197402>Psalm 74:2, God is said “to dwell in mount Zion,” so that it should never be moved.

70. And he chose David his servant. After having made mention of the temple, the prophet now proceeds to speak of the kingdom; for these two things were the chief signs of God’s choice of his ancient people, and of his favor towards them; and Christ also hath appeared as our king and priest to bring a full and perfect salvation to us. He proves that David was made king by God, who elevated him from the sheepfold, and from the keeping of cattle, to the royal throne. It serves in no small degree to magnify the grace of God, that a peasant was taken from his mean shepherd’s cot, and exalted to the dignity of a king. Nor is this grace limited to the person of David. We are taught that whatever worth there was in the children of Abraham, flowed from the fountain of God’s mercy. The whole glory and felicity of the people consisted in the kingdom and priesthood; and both these are attributed to the pure grace and good pleasure of God. And it was requisite that the commencement of the kingdom of Christ should be lowly and contemptible, that it might correspond with its type, and that God might clearly show that he did not make use of external aids in order to accomplish our salvation.

71. He took him from following the suckling ewes, etc. The grace of God is farther commended from the circumstance, that David, who was a keeper of sheep, was made the shepherd of the chosen people and heritage of God. There is an allusion to David’s original condition; but the Spirit of God, at the same time, shows us the difference between good and lawful kings, and tyrants, robbers, and insatiable extortioners, by telling us that whoever would aspire to the character of the former must be like shepherds.

It is afterwards added, (verse 72,) that David had faithfully performed the duties of the trust committed to him. By this the prophet indirectly rebukes the ingratitude and perverseness of the people, who not only overturned the holy and inviolable order which God had established, but who had also, in shaking off his salutary yoke, thrown themselves into a state of miserable dispersion. What follows concerning the prudence of David’s hands seems to be an improper form of expression. But it is intended forcibly to express, that he not only was successful in what he had undertaken, but that he was governed by the Spirit of God, which prevented him from putting his hand at random to any work which might come in his way, and led him prudently and skilfully to do that to which faith and duty called him; and thus, in the success of his undertakings, his wisdom appears more conspicuous than his good fortune.


Footnotes

Psalm 61

ftb402 He represents himself as like a man climbing to get up into a place of safety, but who wants strength to get to it.

ftb403 It is generally agreed that this psalm refers to the history recorded in <101722>2 Samuel 17:22, 24.

ftb404 This last translation is omitted in the French version, perhaps through inadvertency.

ftb405 “Non fuisse retentum in mundi elementis.” — Lat. “David ne s’est point arret, aux elemens du monde, (comme Sainct Paul appelle les ceremonies prises charnellement et quant a l’exterieur,”) etc. — Fr.

ftb406 “Ou, l’heritage de ceux.” — Fr. marg. “Or, the inheritance of those.”

ftb407 “Quamvis prudenter colligendis viribus tempus sumpsisset,” etc. — Lat. “Combien qu’il eust use de prudence a donner ordre a son affaire, et prendre temps pour amasser forces,” etc. — Fr.

ftb408 In the Chaldee it is: “Thou shalt add days to the days of the King Messiah; his years shall be as the generation of this world, and of the world to come.”

Psalm 62

ftb409 Jeduthun was first chosen to be one of the chief musicians in conducting the praises of the Jewish sanctuary when the ark was brought from Obed-edom to mount Zion. His sons were also appointed to preside over different departments of the vocal and instrumental worship in the tabernacle. He had six sons who were thus employed. Jeduthun and his family appear to have been eminent for their piety, and to have been endued with the spirit of prophecy.

ftb410 “Sicuti patheticae sententiae ut plurimum defectivae sunt.” — Lat. “Comme nous scavons que les propos dits de quelque affection vehemente, le plus souvent sont imparfaits.” — Fr.

ftb411 The import of the Hebrew word is “patient silence.” The Septuagint reads, “Ouci tw~ Qew~ uJpotagh>setai hJ yuch> mou? “Shall not my soul be subject to God?” And doubtless the Psalmist intended to say that his soul was quiet, submissive, and subject; the rebellious affections being tamed and subdued. With respect to the translation of our English Bible, “Truly my soul waiteth upon God,” Dr Adam Clarke remarks, “I do not think that the original will warrant this translation.” He reads, “Surely to God only is my soul dumb;” which he thus explains: “I am subject to God Almighty. He has a right to lay on me what He pleases; and what He lays on me is much less than I deserve; therefore am I dumb before God. The Vulgate, and, almost all the versions, have understood it in this sense: ‘Nonne Deo subjecta erit anima mea? Shall not my soul be subject to God?’” With this agree the version and interpretation of Calvin.

ftb412 “Ou, courrez-vous sus l’homme?” — Fr. marg. “Or, will ye make assaults upon a man?”

ftb413 Hammond observes, that this verb “is but once used in the Scriptures, and so will not be easily interpreted but either by the notion which we find put upon it by the ancient interpreters, or else by the Arabic use of it.” The Chaldee renders it, raise tumults; the Syriac, stir up, instigate, incite, or provoke; the Septuagint and Vulgate, assail, or rush upon; and the Arabic, use violence or injustice. Gesenius gives the sense of the Septuagint. Kimchi and Aben Ezra read, pravitatis cogitabitis. “Abu Walid compares wttwht with the Arabic wththt, with t, not with th, which signifies to multiply words; and so he would have it, according to the use of it in that tongue, to signify speaking much against, backbiting, defaming, spreading evil reports of, lashing out with your tongues against, for hurt. What he thus observes of wttwht, with t, not th, may have place also with the word, as we have it; for the root with t, th also in Arabic signifies mentiri, to lie, and confusion, injustice, violence; which as well agree to his sense as that of the root with t.” When David says, against a man, and uses also the third person in the fourth verse, it is of himself that he speaks. “Against a man; i.e., against me, a man like yourselves, whom common hmnanity obliges you to pity; a single man, who is no fit match for you.” — Pooles Annotations.

ftb414 Isaiah has also made use of this image to express sudden and utter destruction, (chapter 30:13.)

ftb415 In the East it is common for the inhabitants to enclose their vineyards and gardens with hedges, consisting of various kinds of shrubs, and particularly such as are armed with spines. They have also mounds of earth-walls about their gardens. Rawwolff describes the gardens about Jerusalem as surrounded by mud-walls, not above four feet high, easily climbed over, and washed down by rain in a very little time. Stone-walls are also frequently used. Thus Egmont or Heyman, describing the country about Saphet, a celebrated city of Galilee, tells us, “The country round it is finely improved, the declivity being covered with vines, supported by low walls. — Harmers Observations, volume 2, pp. 216-219. Doubdan describes some of these in the Holy Land as built of loose stones, without any cement to join them. The original word probably means some such “fence” as this. Indeed, it always appears to denote a wall of stones: sometimes in express contradistinction to the hedge, or thorny fence. — See Parkhursts Lexicon, on rdg.

ftb416 “Les Poetes profanes ont dit que les Geans delibererent de prendre les plus hautes montagnes et les mettans l’une sur l’autre, monter jusques au ciel, pour arracher Jupiter de son siege.” — Fr. marg. “It was said by the profane poets that the Giants formed a design of taking the highest mountains which they could find piling them one above another, scaling the heavens, and taking Jupiter by storm.”

ftb417 ra ynk, beney Adam, the sons of Adam.ya ynk, beney ish, the sons of substance, or children of substantial men, as Dr Adam Clarke renders the phrase. “Adam,” says he, “was the name of the first man when formed out of the earth: Ish was his name when united to his wife, and they became one flesh. Before, he was the incomplete man; after, he was the complete man.” The phrases are rendered in our English version, men of low degree, and men of high degree.See note, p. 236, of this volume; and volume1, note 1, p. 100.

ftb418 “Because they promise much, and rouse men’s expectations upon consideration of their great power and dignity, but are not able to perform, and generally deceive those who trust in them. In which respect lying is ascribed to a fountain, <241518>Jeremiah 15:18; to wine, <280902>Hosea 9:2; to the olive, <350317>Habakkuk 3:17; when they do not give what they promise.” — Pooles Annotations.

ftb419 lkhhebel. The radical meaning of the term is, a breath. The same word occurs in the first clause, intimating, that men of low degree are as unsubstantial as a breath; and here men of low degree, and men of high degree, when both are united, are described as lighter than a breath. See p. 78 of this volume, note 1. “Taking the infinitive with l, lamed, to stand for the future, as it often does, the latter part may be literally translated, ‘They will ascend together in the balance more than vanity.’” — Arch. Secker. This strongly expresses how unavailing it is to trust in man. If men of low degree and men of high degree are put both together in one scale, and vanity in the other, the scale of vanity will preponderate.

ftb420 “Cependant que nostre coeur est enserre et comme estouppd de douleur, jamais il n’en sort de prieres naifves et franchement faites.” — Fr.

ftb421 “A repugnantibus ostendet David.” — Lat. Explained in the French version thus — “Montrera par un argument prins des choses repugnantes.”

ftb422 The words are thus connected in our English version.

ftb423 “Ad varias mundi inclinationes.” — Lat. “Selon les divers changements qu’on voit au monde.” — Fr.

ftb424 “D’une pure douceur et support debonnaire dont il use, il fait qu’icelles soyent acceptees de lui,” etc. — Fr.

Psalm 63

ftb425 David was often compelled to flee into the remote deserts which lay in the tribe of Judah, to escape the fury of Saul. In tracing his steps, when eagerly sought after by this relentless persecutor, we find him in the forest of Hareth, and in the wildernesses of Ziph, Maon, and Engedi, all in the tribe of Judah. See <092205>1 Samuel 22:5; 23:14, 24, 25; 24:1; and <061555>Joshua 15:55, 62. The only objection which can be made to referring the occasion of the composition of this psalm to David’s persecution by Saul is, that in the 11th verse, David is called king; whereas Saul still swayed the scepter over Israel. But, as Calvin observes on that verse, David may have called himself by this title to express his confident persuasion that God would raise him to the throne in fulfillment of his promise; and his followers might call him king even during Saul’s lifetime, though he was not acknowledged to be sovereign by any tribe till after Saul fell at Gilboa. It is, however, supposed by some that the psalm was written during the rebellion of his son Absalom, when he was under the necessity of quitting Jerusalem, and escaping into the wilderness, <101523>2 Samuel 15:23; 16:2; and 17:29.

ftb426 The Syriac, and several MSS., read ≈rak, ke-erets, as a land, instead of ≈rak, be-erets, in a land, like the parallel text of <19E306>Psalm 143:6. The two letters, k, caph, and b, beth, may be easily mistaken for each other, differing less than the Roman letters c and g.

ftb427 The Hebrew word y[, ayeph, here rendered thirsty, is literally weary; “that is,” says Horsley, “a land that creates weariness by the roughness of the ways, the steepness of the hills, and the want of all accommodations.” He reads, “dry and inhospitable.”

ftb428 Suivant cela, nous devons toute notre vie porter engrave en notre entendement le lavement spirituel, lequel Christ nous a une fois represente au baptesme.” — Fr.

ftb429 “Denique nostrum esse, ut ita loquar, perstringit nobis oculos, ne cernamus sola Dei gratia nos subsistere.” — Lat. “Brief, notre Etre, si ainsi faut parler, nous eblouit les yeux, tellement que nous ne voyons pas que c’est par la seule grace de Dieu que nous subsistons.” — Fr.

ftb430 “Thy loving-kindness, ˚dsj, chasdeca, thy effusive mercy is better, yyjm, me-chayim than Lives: it is better, or good beyond, countless ages of human existence.” — Dr Adam Clarke.

ftb431 “Melius esse nobis vivificari ab ipso quam apud nos vivere.”

ftb432 “The practice of lifting up the hands in prayer towards heaven, the supposed residence of the object to which prayer is addressed, was anciently used, both by believers, as appears from various passages in the Old Testament, and by the heathen, agreeably to numerous instances in the classical writers. Parkhurst, considering the ‘hand’ to be the chief organ or instrument of man’s power and operations, and properly supposing the word to be thence used very extensively by the Hebrews for power, agency, dominion, assistance, and the like, regards the lifting up of men’s hands in prayer as an emblematical acknowledging of the power, and imploring of the assistance of their respective gods. Is it not, however, rather the natural and unstudied gesture of earnest supplication?” — Mant.

ftb433 “Ou, quand,” etc. — Fr. marg. “Or, when I shall remember thee.”

ftb434 Among the Hebrews the night was divided into portions of three or four hours each, which were denominated vigils or watches.

ftb435 Dr Adam Clarke renders, “My soul cleaves, or is glued after thee.” “This phrase,” says he, “not only shows the diligence of the pursuit, and the nearness of the attainment, but also the fast hold he had got of the mercy of his God.”

ftb436whrygy,” here rendered, they shall cast him out, “from rgn, signifies in Hiphil, they shall cause to be poured out, or shall pour out. The word is ordinarily applied to water, <101414>2 Samuel 14:14; <250349>Lamentations 3:49. But here, by the immediate mention of the sword, it is restrained to the effusion of blood; and being in the third person plural, in the active sense, it is, after the Hebrew idiom, to be interpreted in the passive sense, ‘They shall pour out by the hand of the sword;’ i.e. ‘They shall be poured out by the sword,’ the hand of the sword being no more than the edge of the sword.” — Hammond. Dr Adam Clarke gives the same version: “They shall be poured out by the hand of the sword. Heb. That is, their life’s blood shall be shed either in war, or by the hand of justice.” But rgn, nagar, also signifies metaphorically to give over into ones hands, to give up, as in the phrase, brj yry l[ rygh, “to deliver any one up to the sword.” See <263505>Ezekiel 35:5; <241821>Jeremiah 18:21. And the Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, Aethiopic, and Arabic versions, Gesenius and Hare here read, “They shall be delivered to the sword.” Horsley translates, “They would shed it;” and observes, that it signifies “my life; for pn, which is of the doubtful gender, is the antecedent of the masculine suffix wh.”

ftb437 “I, who am king by God’s anointing, <091512>1 Samuel 15:12, 13.” — Ainsworth.

ftb438 Under the Hebrew word l[w, shual, here rendered fox, was comprehended, in common language, the jackal, or Vulpes aureus, golden wolf, so called in Latin because its color is a bright yellow; and in this sense l[w, shual, has been generally interpreted here, because the jackal is found in Palestine, and feeds on carrion. Both of these circumstances are, however, also applicable to the fox, and, moreover, Bochart has made it probable that the specific name of the jackal (the qw~v of the Greeks) in Hebrew was ya, aye, the howler, being so called from the howling cry which he makes particularly at night. The term occurs in <231322>Isaiah 13:22; 34:14; and <245039>Jeremiah 50:39; where yya, ayim, is rendered, in our version, “the wild beasts of the islands,” an appellation very vague and indeterminate. At the same time, it is highly probable that shual generally refers to the jackal. Several of the modern oriental names of this animal, as the Turkish chical, and the Persian sciagal, sciachal, or schachal — whence the English jackal — from their resemblance to the Hebrew word shual, favor this supposition; and Dr Shaw, and other travelers, inform us, that while jackals are very numerous in Palestine, the common fox is rarely to be met with. We shall, therefore, be more correct, under these circumstances, in admitting that the jackal of the East is the Hebrew shual. These animals never go alone, but always associate in packs of from fifty to two hundred. They are known to prey on dead bodies; and so greedy are they of human carcases, that they dig them out of their graves, and devour them, however putrescent They have been seen waiting near the grave at the time of a funeral eagerly watching their opportunity of digging up the body almost as soon as it was buried. “I have known several instances,” says a traveler quoted by Merrick, “of their attacking and devouring drunken men, whom they have found lying on the road, and have heard that they will do the same to men that are sick and helpless. I have seen many graves that have been opened by the jackals, and parts of the bodies pulled out by them.” They visit the field of battle to prey upon the dying and the dead, and they follow caravans for the same purpose. It is usual with the barbarous nations of the East to leave the bodies of their enemies, killed in battle, in the field, to be devoured by jackals and other animals. When the Psalmist, therefore, says that his enemies would become a portion for foxes, the meaning is, that they would be denied the rites of sepulture, which was deemed a great calamity, — that they should be left unburied, for jackals and other wild beasts to prey upon and devour.

ftb439 “Sed extollit Dei gratiam, quia ad piorum omnium conservationem pertineat.” — Lat. “Mais il exalte et magnifie la grace de Dieu envers in d’autant qu’elle s’etendoit a la conservation de tous les fideles” — Fr.

Psalm 64

ftb440 The original word ˚rd, darach, signifies to go, to send out, direct, and is used in different senses, according to the objects to which it is applied. “But most especially it is used of a bow or arrows. If of tq, a bow, then it is to bend it; if of yxj, arrows, then it is not so properly to shoot as to prepare, or direct them. So <195807>Psalm 58:7, ‘He directeth or prepareth his arrows;’ so here, ‘they direct, or aim, or make ready their arrows.’ Parallel to which is that of <240903>Jeremiah 9:3, where being applied to the tongue, as to a bow that shoots out lying words, as arrows, it must be rendered bend; but here applied to words as arrows, direct, and not bend.” — Hammond.

ftb441 They have directed for their arrow a bitter word. There may be, in these words, an allusion to the practice of fixing letters on arrows, and shooting or directing them where it was designed they should fall and be taken up. Thus the Jews say, Shebna and Joab sent letters to Sennacherib, acquainting him that all Israel were willing to make peace with him; but Hezekiah would not suffer them. Timoxenus and Artabazus sent letters to one another in this way at the siege of Potidaea. See Gill, in loco. The word which they are said to direct as their arrow is called rm, mar, bitter, and this probably contains an allusion to poisoned arrows. The Chaldee paraphrast has “bending the bow and anointing the arrows,” plainly intimating a conviction that such an allusion is implied. Poisoned arrows appear, from <180604>Job 6:4, to have been of very ancient use in Arabia. They were also used by many other nations in different parts of the world. Homer says of Ulysses, that he went to Ephyre, a city of Thessaly, in order to procure deadly poison for smearing his deadly-pointed arrows, Odyssey, Lib. 1, 50, 335-345. Virgil describes one of his heroes as eminently skillful in anointing the dart, and arming its steel with poison, Aen. Lib. 9, 50, 771. And Horace mentions the venenatoe sagittoe, the poisoned arrows of the ancient Moors in Africa, Lib. 1, Ode 22, 50, 3. Wherever this practice has prevailed, the poison employed has been of the most deadly kind, the slightest wound being followed by certain and almost instant death. This makes the language here strikingly expressive. David compares the calumnies his enemies launched against him to poisoned arrows.

ftb442 “Ou, trembleront.” — Fr. marg. “Or, shall tremble.”

ftb443 “Ou, feront entendre.” — Fr. marg. “Or, shall cause to understand.”

ftb444 In the French version the reference is changed to <520503>1 Thessalonians 5:3.

Psalm 65

ftb445 The title of this psalm does not inform us on what particular occasion it was written. Mudge is of opinion that it was “composed by a person just come to Jerusalem from some very distant parts, where, upon his prayers and vows, he had been signally delivered from the fury of the sea, and uproar of the natives; which leads him into a general acknowledgement of the Divine Providence which extended itself to the end of the earth.” It is thought by others to be a thanksgiving to God for having graciously sent to the land of Judea a copious rain, after it had been previously suffering from the effects of a long-continued drought; and that it probably relates to the three years of famine that followed some time after the rebellion of Absalom, (2 Samuel 21) which, being alleviated by some plenteous showers of rain, called forth this hymn of thanksgiving. Dr Morrison supposes that David wrote it for the feast of tabernacles, as it seems to contain an expression of public thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth, which had been safely gathered in. All these, however, are only conjectures. Nor is it material for us to know the occasion of its composition, embracing, as it does, such general topics as may form a suitable theme for contemplation at all times and in all circumstances.

ftb446 In our English version it is also waiteth, and in the margin is silent. “Waiteth as a servant, whose duty it is to do what thou commandest.” — Boothroyd. “The allusion in this verse is beautiful, when we remember that Eastern servants wait in silence, watching their lords, waiting for the signs of their will.” — Edwards.

ftb447 The Hebrew word here rendered, “Thou shalt purge them away,” is rpkt, techapperem; properly, “thou wilt make atonement for them.” It is from the verb rpk, kaphar, which signifies to cover, to draw over; and which in the conjugation pihel, acquired the signification to forgive, (as it were to cover an offense,) and to do any act which shall be the cause or occasion of forgiveness; and thence, by a further process in the flow of ideas, to compensate, to expiate, to propitiate, and to accept an expiation.” See Dr Pye Smith on The Sacrifice of Christ, pp. 339, 340. The covering of the ark was called trpk, kapporeth, <022517>Exodus 25:17; in Greek iJlasth>rion, that is, the propitiatory or mercy-seat; for upon it the blood of expiation, typical of the blood of Christ, was sprinkled on the great day of atonement; and from it God revealed his grace and will to his ancient people. The name iJlasth>rion, is in <450325>Romans 3:25, given by Paul to Christ, who was the true propitiation for our sins, <620202>1 John 2:2. The words of the Psalmist then, without doubt, have a reference to the expiatory sacrifices under the law, and consequently to Him who, “in the end of the ages, hath appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”

ftb448 In our English Bible it is, “Iniquities prevail against me;” and on the margin, “Words or matters of iniquity,” etc. Calvin gives the same meaning which is naturally suggested by our English version, although from his translating the Hebrew text by words of iniquity, we would at first view be apt, to suppose that he would explain them as referring to the evil reports, the calumnies and slanders, which David’s enemies propagated against him to ruin his reputation. Dr Adam Clarke understands the words in this sense, and gives a translation equivalent to Calvin’s “Iniquitous words have prevailed against me,” or, “The words of iniquity are strong against me.” — He thinks the reading of our English Bible “Is no just rendering of the original;” observing, that “this verse has been abused to favor Antinomian licentiousness;” and that “the true and correct translation of the former clause will prevent this.” But we cannot see how the verse, as it stands in our English Bible, can with justice be viewed as tending to give encouragement to sin, it being no more than the confession of a repentant sinner, accompanied with hope in the mercy of God, founded on the glad tidings announced in the Gospel, that God is willing to pardon the most guilty who believe in his Son, and repent of their sins. The old Scottish, version of this verse —

“Iniquities, I must confess,
Prevail against me do:
And as for our transgressions.
Them purge away wilt thou,”

which this learned author terms “most execrable” and “abominable doggerel” — and at hearing which he supposes David would feel chagrin, if such a feeling could affect the inhabitants of heaven — is, it must be admitted, ill expressed, feeble, and easily susceptible of an Antinomian sense. But not so, we think, the revised version, now in very general use in Scotland, which, by the alteration of a single word in the beginning of the third line, has made the verse at the same time more correct and more nervous: —

But as for our transgressions,
Them purge away shalt thou:”

thus implying at once a deep sense of the evil of sin, and a confident reliance on the forgiving mercy of God — two subjects on which it is of the highest importance for us to entertain just views in drawing near to God in prayer.

Dr Morrison gives the following rendering: —

Our iniquities prevail against us;
But thou art he who blotteth out our transgressions.”

Horsley’s version is: —

“The account of iniquities is too great for me:
Thou shalt expiate our crimes.”

ftb449 y, yam, the sea, is frequently employed to denote the islands which are encompassed by the sea, and being here set in opposition to “the ends or extreme parts of the earth,” that is, the continent, it signifies the most remote islands of the world. Accordingly, the Chaldee paraphrase is, “And of the islands of the sea which are remote from the continent.” The concluding part of this verse is evidently prophetical of that period when all mankind, when people of every tribe and color and clime, shall be blessed with the knowledge of the gospel, and worship the only true God.

ftb450 From the length and looseness of the garments of the inhabitants of the East, in ancient times, it was necessary to bind them close with a girdle, when they intended to exert their strength. Hence the expression, “girded with strength.” Dr Lowth thinks the allusion is to the vesture of the Aaronical priesthood. — Lectures on Sacred Poetry, volume 1, pp. 173-175.

ftb451 “Nam si anteverterent homines Dei gratiam, non resideret penes ipsum electio, eujus potestas et jus ei tribuitur.” — Lat.

ftb452 “Fides quidem et invocatio media sunt, quae nobis concilient Dei gratiam, sed fons extra nos quaerendus est.” — Lat. “Sont los moyens pour nous faire trouver grace envers Dieu.” etc. — Fr.

ftb453 “Jam hic vocatio adjungitur electioni, ne quis somniet oves perpetuo vagari, neque unquam colligi in ovile. Nam hoc effectu se ostendit,” etc. — Lat. “Or la vocation exterieure est yci adjointe a l’election, afin que nul n’imagine que les brebis soyent tousjours errantes sans estre recueillies en la bergerie: car l’adoption gratuite de Dieu se declare,” etc. — Fr.

ftb454 The original word for terrible things “signifies sometimes terrible. sometimes wonderful things, anything that exceeds in greatness or quality. In the latter sense we have it, <051021>Deuteronomy 10:21, when speaking of God, it is said, ‘He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things,’ — great, exceeding, wonderful things; and those acts of mercy, and not of justice or punishment; and so here it appears to signify, being joined with answering us, or granting us, in answer to our prayers, (so tn[ signifies to answer a request, to hear a prayer,) and with in righteousness, which frequently imports mercy. The LXX. accordingly read it qaumasto<v, wonderful.” — Hammond.

ftb455 “Ou, pasturages,” — Fr. marg. “Or, pastures.”

ftb456 “Curiously wrought or embroidered girdles are still, as they were of old, an essential part of Eastern finery both to men and women. It is in allusion probably to such sumptuous girdles worn particularly on joyful occasions, that the Psalmist here represents the hills as ‘girded with joy.’” — Mant.

ftb457 This is the sense preferred by Aben Ezra and Kimchi. Thou hast visited in mercy; i.e., blessed the earth or land, after thou hast made it dry or thirsty; thou hast or dost enrich it greatly; i.e., thou, the same God, who hast punished and made thirsty dost again return in mercy, enriching the land and restoring plenty to it. Thus it was after the three years’ famine recorded in <102101>2 Samuel 21:1. But the Septuagint, Arabic, Chaldee, and Syriac versions, interpret the word in the sense of watering.

ftb458 Some think reference is made to the overflowing of the Jordan after a long drought.

ftb459 This river ran through Jerusalem, the city of God. Bishop Hare, following Simeon de Muis, is of opinion that this river is meant.

ftb460The stream of God, i.e., copious rain, according to the Oriental idiom.” — Dr Geddes. See p. 7, note 1, of this volume. And without supposing this Hebraism, the treasures of water which descend from the clouds may, with great poetical beauty, be termed the river of God. He collects them there by the wonderful process of evaporation, and he pours them down. They are entirely in his hand, and absolutely beyond the. control of man. “The keys of the clouds,” say the Jews, “are peculiarly kept in God’s hand, as the keys of life and resurrection.” He can employ them as the instruments of his mercy, by pouring down from them upon the earth copious and refreshing showers, to promote vegetation and produce fruitful seasons; and he can also make them when he pleases the instruments of judgment, either by bottling them up, or by pouring from them floods of rain, as in the deluge, and when the harvest is made a heap in the day of grief and desperate sorrow, <231711>Isaiah 17:11. Horsley, instead of glp, peleg, in the singular, proposes to read twglp, pelagoth, in the plural, and translates, “God is he who filleth the rivulets with water.” “The word glp,” says he, “as remarked by “Archbishop Secker, is very rarely used as a noun in the singular number. Mr Bates, indeed, takes it to be a noun in <195509>Psalm 55:9; but his interpretation of that text is very doubtful. In the plural it never signifies large rivers, but small brooks and rivulets. We have the authority of the Syriac for reading it in the plural.”

ftb461 In the Septuagint the last clause reads, “Oti ou[tw~v hJ eJtoimasi>a,” “For thus is the preparation;” that is, the earth was thus prepared. In the Syriac it is, “When thou didst found or establish it;” and in the Chaldee, “Seeing thou hast so founded it.”

ftb462 This, say some, was probably the year which followed the three years of famine, after Absalom’s rebellion.

ftb463 Some have imagined that instead of paths we should render cloud; but the former reading is more poetical. The original word ˚lg[m, paths, is derived from lg[, round, circular, smooth, because paths are made by cart-wheels turning round upon them. Accordingly, Horsley renders it, “thy chariot-wheels,” and French and Skinner, “the tracts of thy chariot-wheels.” God is here represented as driving round the earth, and from the clouds the paths of his chariot everywhere scattering blessings upon mankind. This is an instance of the bold and sublime imagery for which the Hebrew poetry is so remarkably distinguished. God is elsewhere described as riding on the clouds during a storm of rain or thunder, <191809>Psalm 18:9, 10, 11. Some read, “thy orbits,” and understand all the circling seasons of the year, as ruled by the courses of the heavenly bodies.

ftb464 “By desert or wilderness,” observes Dr Shaw, “the reader is not always to understand a country altogether barren and unfruitful, but such only as is rarely or never sown or cultivated; which, though it yields no crops of corn or fruit, yet affords herbage, more or less, for the grazing of cattle, with fountains or rills of water, though more sparingly interspersed than in other places.”

ftb465 The phrase, “the pastures are clothed with flocks,” cannot be regarded as the vulgar language of poetry. It appears peculiarly beautiful and appropriate, when we consider the numerous flocks which whitened the plains of Syria and Canaan. In the Eastern countries, sheep are much more prolific than with us, and they derive their name from their great fruitfulness; bringing forth, as they are said to do, “thousands and ten thousands in their streets,” <19E413>Psalm 144:13. They, therefore, formed no mean part of the wealth of the East.

Psalm 66

ftb466 “This psalm is anonymous; nor can we, with certainty, determine to what time it relates. Venema refers it to the reign of Hezekiah, and supposes it to celebrate the deliverance which was effected by the destruction of Sennacherib’s army. Rudinger is of opinion, that it celebrates the opening of the sacred temple, after the return from Babylon. It must be owned, that we have nothing but conjecture to offer on this subject; yet it appears to me that the latter of these opinions is the most probable.” — Walford.

ftb467 “Ou, mettez gloire a sa louan” — Fr. marg. “Or, put glory to his praise.”

ftb468 “Generalis est praefatio, quam mox sequentur hypotheses.” — Lat. “C’est une preface generale, dont les applications speciales suivent incontinent apres.” – Fr.

ftb469 Hammond’s objection to this is, that if rwbk, glory, were in the construct state, governing the noun which follows, and giving this reading, the glory of his, praise, the vowel should be changed from, , kamets, to, segol.

ftb470 This is Aben Ezra’s view. He would read, “Make your glory his praise;” that is, let it be your glory to praise him.

ftb471 “Est enim hoc praecipuum laudis sacrificium, ut habetur, Psalmo 50:14, 23, ac verum etiam testimonium pietatis. — Lat. “Car c’est le principal sacrifice, que le sacrifice de louange, etc., et aussi le vray tesmoignage de piete.” — Fr.

ftb472 Defectores. — Lat. Apostats. — Fr. The original word is yrrwsh, hassorerim, from rws, sur, to turn aside.

ftb473 “On this Theodoret remarks, that when men bless God they offer him words only; but when God blesses man, it is not in word only, but in deed; an abundance of good things always accompanying the benediction.” — Cresswell

ftb474 “Haec enim experimentalis (ut ita loquar) notitia magis afficit.” — Lat. “Car ceste cognoissance d’experience et de prattique esmeut d’avantage.” — Fr.

ftb475 Our English version renders the word in this last sense. Hammond, with Calvin, prefers reading, “over the world.” “That lw[,” says he, “a]iw<n, as the English age, signifies not only time and duration, but also the men that live in any time, there is no question. And then lw[ lwm, must here most properly be rendered ruling the world, or over the world; and so the Chaldee certainly understood, who read, ‘who exerciseth dominion over the world;’ and so I suppose the LXX. their ‘despo>xouti tou~ ajiw~nov,’ ‘having dominion over the world,’ doth import.” The Vulgate, in this instance not following the Septuagint, has “in aeternum,” “for ever.”

ftb476 To ride over; signifies to insult or tyrannise over. But here the image may be taken from the trampling of war-horses in the day of battle. The cavalry, in the field of battle, pay no regard to the fallen, the dying, and the dead, but tread promiscuously upon all that come in their way, “Thou hast permitted us,” says Dr Adam Clarke, “to fall under the dominion of our enemies, who have treated us as broken infantry are when the cavalry dashes among their disordered ranks, treading all under their horses’ feet.”

ftb477 “In planitiem.” — Lat. “En lieu plantureux.” — Fr.

ftb478 “Per naufragium et incendium transiisse.” The French version reads, “Par l’eau et par le feu;” but it is important to retain the original more closely, as giving what Calvin considered to be the sense of the words in the text. Fire and water, the one of which elements consumes, while the other suffocates, is a proverbial expression, signifying, as our author afterwards states, extreme danger and complicated calamities. “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt,” <234302>Isaiah 43:2. See also <193206>Psalm 32:6; <261606>Ezekiel 16:6, 7; <043123>Numbers 31:23. Those things are said to come into or to pass through the fire, which abide the same, without being consumed; and which, like metals, lose only thereby their dross.

ftb479 Cresswell takes this view. His note on the place is, “‘Into a wealthy place,’ literally into an irriguous region, (comp. <070115>Judges 1:15,) i.e., into a fertile country, a land of abundance, the promised land: comp. <020308>Exodus 3:8.”

ftb480 Here Calvin, as well as our English Bible, joins incense with rams, appearing to mean by incense, offering by fire, the smoke produced by the sacrifice. But the burning of incense was a distinct offering from that of animal sacrifices; and therefore many critics read the verse so as to make incense a distinct offering. Thus Horsley, altering the punctuation, translates,

“Offerings of fatlings I will offer unto thee, with incense;
“I will sacrifice rams, bullocks, and full-grown goats.”

This, we think, gives an improved view of the passage. It may be here observed, that the Hebrews were not allowed to sacrifice other animals than these three kinds, rams, bullocks, and goats.

ftb481 “Le Prophere loue yci le perfum de son holocauste, combien qu’il n’en peust monter au ciel qu’ une odeur puante et infecte: mais il faut noter que les beliers et autres bestes qu’on sacrifioit flairoyent bon devant Dieu, entant que c’estoyent figures de Iesus Christ.” — Fr.

ftb482 In the original, the prefix b, beth, for with is omitted, but it is evidently understood. The reading is simply yp, my mouth, for ypb, bephi, with my mouth. It is not uncommon in Hebrew for some word or phrase to be omitted, which must be supplied by the reader, in order to complete the regular or full construction. Thus in Psalm 114: 8, to the words ymAga, agam-main, a pool of waters, the letter l, lamed, is to be supplied, gal, laagam, into a pool of, etc.

psalm 67

ftc1 With this agrees the opinion of the ancient Jews, who apply this psalm to future times, to the world to come, the times of the Messiah. The particular time and occasion of its composition can only be conjectured. Bishop Patrick thinks that it was probably composed by David, when, having brought the ark to Jerusalem and offered sacrifices, as promised in the psalm foregoing, verse 15, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of Hosts, (<100617>2 Samuel 6:17, 18.) Horsley views it as “a hymn for the feast of tabernacles, prophetic of a general conversion of the world to the worship of God.” Calmet is of opinion that the composition of this, as well as of the two preceding psalms, was posterior to the return of the Jews from Babylon; and that the particular occasion was the restoration of fertility to the soil after the protracted drought and scarcity recorded by the prophet Haggai, (<370110>Haggai 1:10,11; 2:17-19.) But though the particular time and occasion on which it was written cannot with certainty be determined, it is evidently a prayer of the ancient Church for the appearance of the Messiah, and the universal diffusion of his gospel.

ftc2 This verse contains a manifest allusion to the blessings which the priests were taught to pronounce upon the people of Israel, (<040624>Numbers 6:24-26.)

ftc3 God, even our own God, will bless us, God shall bless us. There is here again clearly an allusion to the formula of blessing in <040624>Numbers 6:24-26, where the name of God is, as here, repeated three times in succession.

ftc4 “A fin que par la clarte d’icelle les Gentils soyent amenez a la participation de la mesme esperance.” — Fr.

ftc5 “The petition here offered is, that the Gospel, God’s ‘way,’ might be universally spread; — a prayer that is not yet accomplished, but is in progress towards completion. The mention of nations and peoples, all of them, intimates, that the time which is the object of supplication is the time when God will no longer be the God of the Jews, but of the Gentiles also.” — Walford.

psalm 68

ftc6 As to the time and occasion of the composition of this psalm, the majority of interpreters refer it to the translation of the ark from the house of Obed-Edom to Mount Zion, and with this every part of it would, no doubt, harmonize. But other critics, as Drs Geddes, Boothroyd, and Morrison, think (and Calvin’s opinion seems to be the same) that it was penned after some great victory; probably after David’s signal victory over the Ammonites and Syrians, when the ark was brought back in triumph to Jerusalem, (<131910>1 Chronicles 19:10-19.) That the ark accompanied the army in those ways we learn from the words of Uriah to David, in <101111>2 Samuel 11:11, compared with <101231>2 Samuel 12:31. As every thing under that dispensation was typical or prophetical, it is very natural to regard the triumphant manner in which the ark ascended the holy mountain, as an emblem of the far more triumphant and glorious ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ (of whom the ark, and the tabernacle, and the temple itself, were all figures) to the highest heavens, after he had overcome his own and his people’s enemies; and in this application the 18th verse of this psalm is quoted by the Apostle Paul, (<490408>Ephesians 4:8, 9.)

This inspired composition, though highly sublime and beautiful, is universally acknowledged by critics to be of very difficult interpretation. Dr Adam Clarke pronounces it “the most difficult psalm in the whole Psalter;” and, after quoting the words of Simon de Muis, — who observes, that “it may not be improperly termed the torture of critics, and the reproach of commentators,” — he says, “There are customs here referred to, which I do not fully understand: there are words whose meaning I cannot, to my own satisfaction, ascertain; and allusions which are to me inexplicable. Yet of the composition itself I have the highest opinion: — it is sublime beyond all comparison; — it is constructed with an art truly admirable; — it possesses all the dignity of the sacred language; — none but David could have composed it; and, at this lapse of time, it would require no small influence of the Spirit that was upon him to give its true interpretations.”

ftc7 “C’est, Qui est Jah, ou l’Eternel? “ — Fr. marg. “That is, Who is Jah, or Jehovah?” Jah seems simply a contraction of the word Jehovah, the name which expresses, as far as can be expressed by words, the essence, self-existence, and eternity of the Supreme Being.

ftc8 The original word twrwkb, bakosharoth, which Calvin renders, with chains, is rendered by Dathe, ad abundantiam; and by Berlin, ad opimitates; and is explained by Simeon, in his Lexicon, as “loca omnibus affluentia proprie abundantiae.” According to Gesenius, hrwk denotes “happiness, abundance, prosperity.” The LXX. render it ejn ajndre>ia, in strength, i.e., bound firmly. Fry reads, “Bringing forth prisoners into scenes of plenty.”

ftc9 That passage contains the words which Moses used when the ark began a procession. Whenever the tabernacle was moved, and the Levites marched onward, bearing upon their shoulders the ark of the covenant, and the whole host of Israel proceeded on their march, “Moses said, Rise up, Lord,” etc. Martin observes, that “the God whom these opening words of the psalm have in view is manifestly the same of whom it is said in verse 18, that he ascended up on high, and led captivity captive. Now he of whom that is said, being, according to the interpretation of the Apostle Paul, (<490408>Ephesians 4:8,) Jesus Christ, the Son of God, it clearly follows that it was the Son of God, the true God, Jehovah the eternal God, whom the Prophet had in his eye in the first verse and in the rest of the psalm.” See Appendix.

ftc10 As wax melteth before the fire, “a proverbial expression, denoting speedy dissolution, consumption, and death.” — Bythner.

ftc11 “Sed quasi fumo hebetari nostros oculos; falli etiam nos in ipsa duritie, quia non reputamus solo Dei conspectu liquefieri montes ipsos.” — Lat. “Mais qu’il y a comme une fumee qu’il nous esblouist les yeux; semblablement que nons nous abusons quant a leur durete et obstination; pource que nous ne venons point a considerer qu’au seul regard de Dieu les montagnes mesmes fondent et s’ecoulent.” Fr.

ftc12 The reading of the Septuagint is, ‘Odopoih>sate, “Make way.” The Hebrew word wls, sollu, has this sense, as well as that of exalt. In two passages in Isaiah, the forms of expression are very like the present passage, (<235714>Isaiah 57:14,) “Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way;” and (<236210>Isaiah 62:10,) “Cast up, cast up the highway.” Jerome has, “Praeparate viam,” “Prepare yea way.” Walford adopts the same translation, — “Prepare a way for him who rideth through the deserts,” — which he explains in the following note: “The imagery is borrowed from the custom of Eastern princes, who sent pioneers before their armies, to reduce the hills, and carry raised roads through the valleys, to facilitate their progress. God is described as riding through the deserts, from his having accompanied Israel through the wilderness, to conduct them to Canaan.”

ftc13 The word twbr[b, baaraboth, here rendered the clouds, or the heavens, is by the LXX. translated the west, as if it were derived from br[, ereb, evening; and by the Vulgate, “Super occasum,” “Upon the going down of the sun.” Others translate it “deserts.” Thus, Jerome reads, “ascendenti per deserta,” “for him that rideth through the deserts.” In this he is followed by Dr Boothroyd, Bishops Lowth and Horsley, Drs Kennicott and Chandler, Fry, and others; but critics of no less note read heavens, as Paginus, Buxtorf, and Hammond. “The feminine hbr[,” says this last critic, “is frequently taken for a plain, and so for the desert; but twbr[, in the plural, is acknowledged by the Hebrews to signify the heavens.” The idea is altogether fanciful which has been put forth by some, that this word, which frequently signifies a plain or desert, is applied to the highest heavens, “either as being plain and void of stars, and so a kind of superior desert, without anything in it, or (as the learned Grotius piously conjectures from <540616>1 Timothy 6:16) because, as a desert, it is ajpro>soiton, not approached or approachable by any.”

ftc14 This is the rendering in all the ancient versions, as the Septuagint, Chaldee, Syriac, Vulgate, etc. Many instances might be produced in which b it is redundant; as, for example, <023222>Exodus 32:22, <200326>Proverbs 3:26.

ftc15 This is the translation given by Horsley, who applies the passage to Christ; and his criticism upon it is excellent. “Upon mature consideration,” says he, “I am inclined to take the text as it stands, and render it literally with Jerome, ‘In Jah is his name;’ i.e., his name, who is riding through the wilderness, is in Jehovah, in the Self-existent One. He who led the armies of Israel through the wilderness, when they first came up from Egypt, was Christ. He who brought the captives home from Babylon was Christ. He who shall finally bring the revolted Jews home to his Church, and, in a literal sense, bring the nation home to its ancient seat, is Christ. Christ, therefore, is intended here, under the image of one riding through the wilderness, (‘ascendenti per deserta,’ Jerome,) not upon the heavens, at the head of the returning captives. ‘His name is in Jah:’ Christ’s name is in Jehovah. , ‘the Name,’ is used, in the Hebrew language, for the thing imperfectly apprehended, to which, however, a name belongs. Thus, for God all languages have a name; and all men have an idea of the Being intended by that name, as the First Cause, the Maker, and Governor of the universe. Yet the human intellect, — we may say, more generally, the created intellect, — comprehends not the nature of this Great Being, nor can it enumerate his attributes. ‘The name of God’ is the incomprehensible Being who is all that the name imports, more than is expressed; more, at least, than any name can express to the finite understanding. Thus, when we are commanded to fear the name of God, the injunction is, that we carry in our minds a constant fear of the Being to whom that name belongs. The name, therefore, of Christ is Christ himself, considered as known by a name, but yet imperfectly understood, or rather incomprehensible in his nature. The sentence, ‘His name is in Jehovah,’ is an emphatical assertion of his divinity, introduced here to justify and enforce the worship enjoined. ‘Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: cast up a way for him that is riding through the wilderness.’ Who is he that is riding through the wilderness, that we should pay him this respect? ‘He,’ says the Psalmist, ‘who cannot be described.’ ‘His name is in Jah.’ His name and his nature are involved in the name and nature of the Godhead. Name him: you name the All-glorious One. Name the All-glorious One: you name him. Name him as distinct from the All-Good and Glorious: you name him not aright.”

ftc16 This verse and the preceding scem to be copied from the Song of Deborah, <070504>Judges 5:4, 5.

ftc17 “C’est, par ta volonte et liberalite.” — Fr. marg. “That is, by thy free will and liberality.”

ftc18 Thy congregations, or company. This is the reading adopted also by Dathe, Berlin, and De Rossi; and it “is a much better exposition than those of the two latest English translators, Bishop Horsley and Mr Fry: —

‘Thy flocks dwelt in the mansion which thou preparedst.’ — Horsley.
‘Thy food settled upon it.’ — Fry.”

Rogers Book of Psalms in Hebrew, etc., volume 2, Page 220.

ftc19 Heb. Shall shake out, i.e., from the clouds, a liberal rain.

ftc20 Ainsworth reads, “a rain of liberalities.” Horsley, “a shower of unmerited kindnesses;” “literally,” says he, “a plentiful rain, rain being used here metaphorically.”

ftc21 Dr Geddes here observes, that “the poet passes rapidly from former times to his own days, and the occasion of composing his psalm, namely, the discomfiture and flight of the combined kings of Syria, Ammon, Moab, and Edom: for with all these David had been engaged in this war.”

ftc22 The original word for “the women who announce” is twrbmh, hamebasseroth. It is from rb, bisser, “to announce joyous tidings;” and, being a participle of the feminine gender, is very properly referred to women, who were wont to celebrate victories, or any kind of good news, with songs and music. But we find it on one occasion used to express melancholy news, (<090417>1 Samuel 4:17.) The women here are represented as announcing the victory by singing congratulatory songs. All the difficulty is, whether twrbmh, hamebasseroth, be in the dative or the genitive case. If in the genitive case, then abx, tsaba, which Calvin renders army, must, as Hammond observes, be rendered company — great was the company of the women who thus sang; and abx, an host, is often taken for the congregation or assembly employed in the service of God. But it, may also be taken in the dative, as the same critic remarks, and as Calvin here renders it. Castellio gives a similar translation. “And thus the LXX. may be understood: O Qeo>v Ku>riov dw>sei rJh~ma toi~v eujaggelisame>noiv (I suppose it should be tai~v eujaggelisamei>aiv) duna>mei pollh~; ‘the Lord shall give the word or matter to the women that evangelise to or for the great army;’ i.e., which supply the office of proecones thereto, in proclaiming their victories; though it is certain the Latin that renders it ‘virtute multa,’ ‘by much virtue,’ did not thus understand it.” — Hammond.

ftc23 “Et posteriora ejus in pallore auri.” — Lat. In the French it is, “Et laquelle par derriere est comme fin or bien jaune;” — “and which behind is as fine yellow gold.”

ftc24 “Ou, elle fust blanche.” — Fr. marg. “Or, it was white.”

ftc25 The interpretation of this verse is attended with great difficulty. Speaking of it and the following verse, Dr Lowth says, “I am not at all satisfied with any explication I have ever met with of these verses, either as to sense or construction, and I must give them up as unintelligible to me. Houbigant helps out the construction in his violent method: ‘Aut invenit viam, aut facit.’” It is pretty generally admitted, that in the first part of this verse a “state of wretchedness and distress,” as Calvin remarks, is indicated; but it is difficult to ascertain the meaning of the word ytp, shephataim, which he renders pots, and, consequently, to ascertain to what the allusion particularly is. None of the old translators have so rendered it; and numerous significations have been given to it. The Chaldee renders it, “bounds in the divisions of the way;” the Syriac and Arabic, “paths” or “ways;” the Septuagint, klh>rwn, “allotments,” “inheritances,” or “portions,” apparently deriving the word from tp, divisit, ordinavit, and perhaps attaching to it a similar idea as in the preceding translations, men’s portions of land or possessions having been divided and distinguished by paths. Jerome, adhering to the Septuagint, makes it “inter medios terminos.” Thus, the word will not be without significance, expressing a forlorn and wretched condition, lying down betwixt the bounds; that is, in the highways. But many modern critics think that it signifies something in relation to pots, and that it may very probably be the same as that which the Arabs call ypata, Athaphi, stones set in a chimney for a pot to rest on, the pots being without legs. “Of these,” says Hammond, “the Arabians had three, and the third being commonly (to them in the desert) some fast piece of a rock, or the like, behind the pot, — as in a chimney the back of the chimney itself, and that not looked on as distinct from the chimney, — the other two at the sides, which were loose, might fitly be here expressed in the dual number ytp; and then the lying between these will betoken a very low, squalid condition, as in the ashes, or amidst the soot and filth of the chimney.” “These two renderings,” he adds, “may seem somewhat distant; and yet, considering that the termini or bounds in divisions of ways were but heaps of stones, or broken bricks, or rubbish, the word ytp, which signifies these, may well signify these supporters of the pots also, in respect of the matter of these being such stones or broken bricks.”

Parkhurst takes a view somewhat similar to this last interpretation. He reads, “among the fire ranges,” or “rows of stones.” “Those,” says he, “on which the caldrons or pots were placed for boiling; somewhat like, I suppose, but of a more structure, than those which Niebuhr says are used by the wandering Arabs. ‘Their fire-place is soon constructed: they only set their pots upon several separate stones, or over a hole digged in the earth.’ Lying among these denotes the most abject slavery; for this seems to have been the place of rest allotted to the vilest slaves. So, old Laertes, grieving for the loss of his son, is described by Homer (in the Eleventh Book of the Odyssey) as, in the winter, sleeping where the slaves did, in the ashes near the fire: —

‘—Oqi dmwev eni oikw
En koni agci purov.’”

See his Lexicon on tp ii.

The Chaldee has “broken bricks,” or “rubbish,” that are thrown away; the word, according to this sense, being derived from hp, shephah, to bruise, to trample on. A similar noun, tpa, ashpoth, derived from the verb hp, is used in <19B307>Psalm 113:7, for a dunghill, or the vilest place, whither all kinds of rubbish are cast out, and where the poor are said to lie. When Job was brought by Satan to the lowest depths of affliction, he sat down among the ashes, and scraped himself with a potsherd, which indicated the state of extreme sadness and debasement to which he was reduced. If this is the sense here, “lying among the broken bricks or rubbish” expresses, in like manner as the preceding translations, the most mean, dejected, and wretched condition.

Harmer’s attempt to explain this passage is at least very ingenious: — As shepherds in the East betake themselves, during the night, for shelter to the caves which they find in their rocky hills, where they can kindle fires to warm themselves, as well as dress their provisions, and as doves, as well as other birds, frequently haunt such places, he conjectures that the afflicted state of Israel in Egypt is here compared to the condition of a dove making its abode in the hollow of a rock which had been smutted by the fires which the shepherds had made in it. He supposes the word here translated pots to mean the little heaps of stones on which the shepherds set their pots, there being a hollow under them to contain the fire. — Harmers Observations, volume 1, pp. 176, 177.

Gesenius thinks the word is equivalent to ytpmh, hammishpethaim, which occurs in <070519>Judges 5:16, and which our English version makes “sheepfolds,” the only difference between the two words being, that the word here wants the formative letter m, mem. Thus, it may refer to the condition of the Israelites when living among their flocks in the wilderness. We have not yet exhausted the different significations affixed by commentators to this word; but, without referring to more, we shall only add, that, according to some, the allusion is to the condition of the Israelites in Egypt, who were doomed to the drudgery of brick-making and pottery, and had probably to sleep among the brick-kilns or earthenware manufactories in which they were employed.

With respect to the second clause of the verse, in which an image taken from the dove is introduced, a difficulty which has been stated is, how her feathers can be said to resemble yellow gold. From the circumstance, that the splendor of gold is here intermingled, Harmer concludes that this is not a description of the animal merely as adorned by the hand of nature, but that the allusion is to white doves that were consecrated to the Syrian deities, and adorned with trinkets of gold, the meaning being, “Israel is to me as a consecrated dove; and though your circumstances have made you rather appear like a poor dove, blackened by taking up its abode in a smoky hole of the rocks, yet shall you become beautiful and glorious as a Syrian silver-coloured pigeon, on which some ornament of gold is put.” — Harmers Observations, volume 1, p. 180. But there are certainly doves which answer to the description here given, some of them having the feathers on the sides of the neck of a shining copper color, which in a bright sun must resemble gold. See Encyc. Brit. Art. Columbia. Besides, the reference is not necessarily to the color of gold, but to its brilliancy. How highly poetical an emblem, to depict the glorious change effected in the condition of the Hebrews by the deliverance which God had granted them over the proud and formidable enemies who had kept them in the degrading condition represented in the first clause of the verse!

ftc26 Salmon is the name of a mountain in Samaria, in the tribe of Ephraim, (<070948>Judges 9:48,) white with perpetual snow.

ftc27 Carrieres, in his paraphrase, has, “You became white as snow on mount Salmon.” “We certainly think,” says the author of the Illustrated Commentary upon the Bible, “that Carrieres has seized the right idea. The intention evidently is, to describe by a figure the honor and prosperity the Hebrews acquired by the defeat of their enemies, and to express this by whiteness, and superlatively by the whiteness of snow. Nothing can be more usual in Persia, for instance, than for a person to say, under an influx of prosperity or honor, or on receiving happy intelligence, ‘My face is made white;’ or gratefully, in return for a favor or compliment, ‘You have made my face white;’ so also, ‘His face is whitened,’ expresses the sense which is entertained of the happiness or favor which has before been received. Such a figurative use of the idea of whiteness does, we imagine, furnish the best explanation of the present and some other texts of Scripture.”

ftc28 Instead of “in Salmon,” the Targum has, “in the shade of death;” and Boothroyd has,

“The Almighty having scattered these kings,
hath by this turned death-shade to splendor.”

Walford gives a similar version, and explains the meaning to be, “Though you have been in bondage and the darkness of a dejected condition, you are now illuminated with the splendor of victory and prosperity.”

ftc29 That is, it was so called from the dark shade produced by its trees.

ftc30 “Que comme les neiges font blanchir ceste montagne, laquelle de soy est obscure et noire, ainsi quand il a pleu a Dieu d’oster l’obscurite qu’apportoit l’affliction des ennemis, lors on a veu la terre reluire d’un lustre naif, et par maniere de dire, porter une face joyeuse.” — Fr.

ftc31 “La montagne des hauteurs,” “the hill of highnesses or eminences.” — Fr. That is, (says Calvin, on the margin,) “treshaute,” “very high.” The literal rendering of the original words is, “a hill of gibbosities,” “a hill with humps,” i.e., projections, eminences. This seems peculiarly applicable to Bashan, which had many tops; and this may explain the origin of the name of that mountain. It has its name from ˆ, a tooth; and ˆb rh, the mountain with teeth, might be given to it, from the appearance of the face of it studded over with small hills. See Street, in loco. What is here rendered “a high hill,” is, in the Septuagint, rendered o]rov teturwme>non, and in the Vulgate, “mons coagulatus,” “cheesey, full of cheeses;” or, as Hammond renders it, “a hill that yielded much butter and cheese,” Bashan being a rich and fertile mountain beyond Jordan. Horsley has, “a hill of lofty brows;” and Fry, “a hill of swelling heights.”

ftc32 The word here rendered leap ye “occurs only here,” observes Hammond, “and is by guess rendered to leap, or lift up, or exalt one’s self; but may best be interpreted, not leap as an expression of joy, but lift up, or exalt yourselves, as an effect of pride;” and he understands the meaning to be, Why do ye lift up or exalt yourselves, ye high hills, God not having chosen any of the highest hills to build his temple on, but the hill of Zion, of a very moderate size, lower than the hill of Hermon, and at the foot of it, (<19D303>Psalm 133:3.) Some Jewish commentators, founding their opinion on the cognate Arabic word rxr, would render it, to look after. This gives the same sense. What look ye for? what expect ye, ye high hills, to be done to you? Ye are not those which God has chosen to beautify with his glorious presence, but mount Zion is the object of his choice. Aquila and Jerome read, “Why contend ye?” Dr Chandler renders it, “Why look askance?” i.e., “with jealous leer malign,” as Milton expresses it. “Why are ye jealous?” Horsley, following Jerome, has, “For what would ye contend?”

ftc33 “The Psalmist,” says Horsley, “having settled the Israelites between their hills, proceeds to the circumstance of God’s choice of a hill for the site of his temple. He poetically imagines the different hills as all ambitious of the honor, anxiously waiting God’s decision, and ready to enter into a jealous contention; watching each other with an anxious eye. The lofty hill of Bashan first puts in his claim, pleading his stately height —

The hill for God is the hill of Bashan;
A hill of lofty brows is the hill of Bashan.

The Psalmist cuts short the contention —

For what would ye contend, ye hills of lofty brows?
This is the hill desired of God for himself to dwell in;
Yea, Jehovah will dwell in it for ever.”

ftc34 The words ˆan ypla, alphey shinan, which Calvin renders “thousands of angels,” are literally “thousands of repetition;” the noun ˆan, shanan, being derived from hn, shanah, he repeated or reiterated. Accordingly, the reading which many prefer is, “The chariots of God are twenty thousand thousands multiplied or reiterated.” Hammond, who adopts this translation, observes, that “though angels are not mentioned, they are to be understood, as Jude 14, muria>dev aJgi>ai, holy myriads.” Horsley reads, “Twenty thousand thousand of thousands is the cavalry of God.” “The cavalry of God,” says he, “is every thing in nature which he employs as the instruments or vehicles of his power. The image, which some would introduce here of God riding in a car drawn by angels, I cannot admire; nor do I think that it is really to be found in any passage of Scripture rightly understood.” But God, though not here represented as riding on a car drawn by angels, is undoubtedly, in the most magnificent style of Eastern poetry, represented as riding on his exalted car, attended by legions of angels, mounted also on cars. Comp. <053203>Deuteronomy 32:3, and <120616>2 Kings 6:16. French and Skinner give a different view of the passage, which brings out a very good sense —

“God hath been to them [the Israelites] twice ten thousand chariots,
Even thousand of thousands.”

Chariots were much used in war by the nations of antiquity; and the chosen people were forbidden to use chariots and horses in war; but God was to them as effectual a safe-guard as innumerable war-chariots would have been. He was “the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof,” <120212>2 Kings 2:12. Comp. <192007>Psalm 20:7. And in his protection and aid they were to trust. “When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” “For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies to save you,” (<052001>Deuteronomy 20:1 and 4.)

ftc35 “That is, a number of prisoners captive. See <070512>Judges 5:12; <170206>Esther 2:6; <232004>Isaiah 20:4.” — Archbishop Secker. See the like phrase in <142805>2 Chronicles 28:5, 11; <042101>Numbers 21:1; <052110>Deuteronomy 21:10. “The allusion may be to public triumphs, when captives were led in chains, even kings and great men, that had captivated others.” — Dr Gill.

ftc36 Hebrews dab baadam, in man, “in human nature,” says Dr Adam Clarke, “and God, manifest in human flesh, dwells among mortals.” “The gifts which Jesus Christ distributes to man he has received in man, in and by virtue of his incarnation, and it is in consequence of his being made man that it may be said, ‘the Lord God dwells among them;’ for Jesus was called Immanuel, ‘God with us,’ in consequence of his incarnation.”

ftc37 The Hebrew here is not hwhy, Jehovah, but hy, Jah.

ftc38 “It is worthy of remark, that whilst yhla occurs twenty-six times, ynda seven times, and la five times in this psalm, hwhy only occurs twice.” — Rogers Book of Psalms in Hebrew, etc. volume 2, p. 221.

ftc39 Paul’s words are not exactly those of the Septuagint, the present reading of which is, e]labev domata ejn ajnqrw>pw, “Thou hast received gifts for man;” while Paul’s words are, e]dwke do>mata toi~v ajnqrw>poiv. But Bloomfield thinks that ejn ajvqrw>pw in the Septuagint is a corruption for ejpj ajnqrw>poiv; and that Paul read in that version e]laqev domata ejpj anqrw>poiv, which is the true sense of the Hebrew words, being no other than this, “Thou hast received gifts on account of men;” i.e., to give to men. Paul, therefore, might say e]dwke instead of e]laqev ejpi, to make the sense plainer; as also does the Chaldee Paraphrast, and the Syriac and Arabic translators. Paul’s words are evidently not intended to be a regular quotation, as appears from his changing the second person into the third.

ftc40 “The word m[, amas, which we translate to load, signifies to lift, bear up, support, or, to bear a burden for another. Hence it would not be going far from the ideal meaning to translate, ‘Blessed be the Lord, day by day, who bears our burthens for us.’” — Dr Adam Clarke. Boothroyd, on the contrary, asserts, that “as an active verb it signifies ‘to load, to lay a burthen on another,’ but in no instance to bear or support one, <111202>1 Kings 12:2.”

ftc41 The Septuagint has, Tou~ Kuri>ou die>xodoi tou~ qana>tou, “To the Lord belong the passages of death,” expressing the ways by which death goes out upon men to destroy them. The Vulgate has, “exitus mortus,” “the goings out of death;” and the Chaldee Paraphrast, “From before the Lord, death, and the going out of the soul to suffocation, do contend or fight against the wicked.” Hammond follows the LXX. He observed, that the original words “must literally be rendered goings forth to death, and must signify the several plagues and judgments inflicted by God on impenitent enemies, the ways of punishing and destroying the Egyptians and Canaanites, drowning in the sea, killing by the sword, infesting by hornets, etc.; and these are properly to be attributed and imputed to God, as the deliverances of the Israelites, his people, in the former part of the verse; and to this sense the consequents incline, verse 21, ‘Even God shall wound.’ Horsley reads the verse,

“He that is our God is a God of salvation,
And for death are the goings forth of the Lord Jehovah;

i.e.,” says he, “When Jehovah takes the field, deadly is the battle to his enemies.”

ftc42 Agreeably to this, Hewlett observes, that the “issues of death mean the many providential escapes and deliverances from death;” and Boothroyd reads,

“For to Jehovah we owe our escapes from death.”

The Syriac version has, —

“The Lord God is the Lord of death and of escaping.”

ftc43 Bishops Hare and Horsley suppose that there is here an allusion to the usage of the people in those Arabian regions, who nourished their hair on the crown of their head, that by their unshorn heads and shaggy hair they might appear more fierce. “The expressions, ‘the head,’ and ‘the hairy crown,’” observes Bishop Horne, “denote the principal part, the strength, the pride, and the glory of the adversary which was to be crushed;” and Roberts, in his Oriental Illustrations, observes, that “this language, ‘wounding the crown of the hair,’ still used in the East, is equivalent to saying, ‘I will kill you.’”

ftc44 Or, “I will bring again from Bashan,” may be thus explained. I will perform for my people the like wonders which I did in the days of old; I will render them victorious over their proud enemies, as I before enabled them to triumph in the conflict with Og king of Bashan, (<050303>Deuteronomy 3:3, 4;) and I will deliver them from the greatest dangers, as I saved them from the Red Sea, by opening up a passage for them through the midst of it.

ftc45 Walford considers the persons here intended, not God’s people, but their enemies. “It is evident,” says he, “from the next verse, that the persons who are here meant are the enemies of God and his people; because the purpose for which they were to be brought was, that his people might completely triumph over them in their utter slaughter and destruction. These, he says, I will bring back from Bashan, and from the abysses of the sea; thus referring to the victories that had been gained over the kings of the Canaanites, and the triumph of Israel at the Red Sea. The design of this declaration is, to express the determination of God to bring forth all his enemies to destruction: be they on the heights of Bashan, or in the profoundest depths of the ocean, they shall not escape; his hand will lay hold upon them, and his power utterly destroy them. In <300902>Amos 9:2, and in Obadiah 4, there are two sublime illustrations of the sentiment that is here delivered.” “Bashan was east of Judea,” says Boothroyd, “and the sea in the west, so that the meaning is, that God would bring his enemies from every quarter to be slain by his people.”

ftc46 “This doubtless refers to the order of the procession then on its march, and to that of religious processions in general. In the religious and festal processions of the Hindoos there is the same order and classes of performers. The singers, men and women, precede, singing songs appropriate to the occasion; and then the players on instruments follow after.” — Illustrated Commentary upon the Bible.

ftc47 “The musical instrument here rendered ‘timbrels’ was a sort of small drum, carried in the hand, (<021520>Exodus 15:20,) and played on by beating with the hand or fingers, as is probable from <340207>Nahum 2:7. It was used both on civil and religious occasions; and is often mentioned, as here, to have been beaten by women, but was sometimes played on by men. It was very like, if not the same kind of instrument as the modern Syrian diff, which is described by Dr Russell as ‘a hoop, (sometimes with bits of brass fixed in it to make a jingling,) over which a piece of parchment is distended. It is beat with the fingers; and is the true tympanum of the ancients, as appears from its figure in several relievos representing the orgies of Bacchus, and the rites of Cybele. It is worth observing, that, according to Juvenal, the Romans had this instrument from Syria.’ Niebuhr also has given us a similar description, and a print of an instrument which, (according to his German spelling,) he says, they call doff: He informs us that they ‘hold it by the bottom, in the air, with one hand, while they play on it with the other.’ The Oriental diff appears to be very like what is known to the French and English by the name of tambourine.” — Mant.

ftc48 “A metaphor denoting the posterity of Israel, springing, as it were, from a common source or fountain.” — Mant. Bishop Hare’s conjectural emendation gives a good sense; but it seems unnecessary. Instead of rwqmm, mimmekor, he proposes to read rwqm, mekor; and then the passage would run thus: —

“The fount whence blessings spring to Israel’s race.”

Horsley reads, “The Lord of the stock of Israel;” and explains it of the Messiah, who was of the stock of Israel according to the flesh. Fry conceives that the reading more strictly may be, “from the quarry of Israel; dug, as it were, from this pit, hewn from this rock. See <235101>Isaiah 51:1.”

“They blessed Elohim in the congregations,
The Lord from the stock of Israel, (or from the quarry of Israel.)”

ftc49 Zebulun and Naphtali were in Galilee, divided from the country of the half-tribe of Manasseh; the former by the Jordan, the latter by the Lake of Gennesareth.

ftc50 Why these tribes in particular? May it be, Judah (having, instead of Reuben, succeeded to the blessing which conveyed the privilege of having the Chief Ruler and Messiah of his line) and Benjamin (ry[x) the youngest? or Judah and Benjamin, as two of the tribes most southern and nearest to Jerusalem; and Zebulun and Naphtali, as two of the most northern and most remote? as another way of expressing ‘from Dan to Beersheba,’ to include them all.” — Dr Lowth.

ftc51 Of other conjectures the following are a specimen: “As for Zebulun and Naphtali, why their names are here added rather than any of the other tribes, the reason may, perhaps, best be taken from what we find prophesied of those two (<014901>Genesis 49 and <053301>Deuteronomy 33 and <070501>Judges 5.) by Jacob and Moses and Deborah, that learning and knowledge should be most eminent in those two tribes. Of Naphtali it is said, (<014921>Genesis 49:21,) ‘Naphtali is a hind let loose; he giveth goodly words;’ and of Zebulun, (<070514>Judges 5:14,) ‘They shall handle the pen of the writer.’” — Hammond. “It then specifies the tribes of Judah, Zebulun, and Naphtali, not as if they were the only tribes present, but as occupying, perhaps, the foremost ranks of the procession, and followed by all the other tribes.” — Walford.

ftc52 “Car David appelant yci ceux qui devoyent faire le plus grand devoir et estre les premiers a annoncer les louanges de Dieu, n’eust pas fait mention de ceste acte qui estoit ignominieux, et tendoit grandement a leur deshonneur.” — Fr.

ftc53 The Septuagint has, “There is Benjamin the younger.” He was the son of Jacob’s old age; and to this there is an allusion in the name, which is compounded of ˆb, ben, a son, and ˆyy, yamin, of days, (according to the Chaldee plural termination,ˆy, yin,) intimating that he was the son of his father’s old age, (<014420>Genesis 44:20,) and not, as is commonly said, the son of my right hand. — Bythner.

ftc54 “Caput tamen unum efficere.” — Lat. “Font toutesfois un chef comme les autres lignees.” — Fr.

ftc55 The word tmgr, rigmatham, here translated congregation or assembly, signifies, according to Parkhurst, a heap of stones for defence, a bulwark of stones; and he considers it to be here applied metaphorically to the princes of Judah, who, so to speak, were the bulwark of Israel. Horsley adopts the same reading: “The princes of Judah their bulwark.” Hammond, after stating that the word signifies a stone, observes, that it “is here used in a metaphorical sense for a ruler or governor, as a foundation-stone which supports the whole building may fitly be applied to a commonwealth, and then signify the prince thereof.” In this sense the LXX., no doubt, understood tmgr, rigmatham, who render it hJgemo>nev aujtwn, “their governors.” “It may mean,” says Pike, in his Hebrew Lexicon, “their supreme authority, signified by stoning, a capital punishment among the Israelites, in the same manner as it was represented among the Romans by the Fasces and Securis, the instruments of punishment carried before the Consuls.” Jerome, however, has taken it for another word nearly similar to it in its letters, signifying purple, — “in purpura sua;” — but this comes to the same thing as the Septuagint translation. Dathe has “agmen,” “a troop;” and according to Gesenius, it signifies “a multitude, crowd, band.”

ftc56 Instead of the company of spearmen, the greater number of modern critics consider the wild beast of the reeds as the most correct translation; and this is understood by many to represent the Egyptian people and government under the emblem of the hippopotamus or river-horse, the behemoth of Scripture. This animal — which is a quadruped of enormous size, of prodigious strength, fierce and cruel in its disposition, and whose skin is so impenetrable that no arrows can pierce it — shelters and reposes itself among the tall reeds which skirt in abundance the banks of the Nile, (<184021>Job 40:21.) It is a very appropriate emblem of the Egyptian power, in the height of its greatness so formidable, and the inveterate enemy of Israel. And that the Psalmist here refers to it has been thought the more probable, from his mentioning, in the clause immediately following, the bulls and calves of the people, these animals having been honored and worshipped as deities by that degenerate and superstitious nation. Or, the wild beast of the reeds may, as is supposed by others, denote the same power under the representation of the crocodile, to which the characteristics of the hippopotamus, now specified, are equally applicable. By this ferocious and truculent animal Pharaoh king of Egypt is represented in <262903>Ezekiel 29:3, 5, and 32:2; and in <197414>Psalm 74:14. This, it would appear, was anciently employed as an emblem of Egypt. On a medal which the Emperor Augustine caused to be struck after he had completely reduced this powerful kingdom, Egypt is represented by the figure of a crocodile bound with a chain to a palm-tree, with the inscription, Nemo antea relegavit. Dathe, however, rejects the opinion, that the crocodile, and under it the King of Egypt, is pointed at; and observes, that David cultivated peace with the King of Egypt, and that, in verse 31st, the Egyptians are commemorated as worshippers of the true God. He supposes that the wild beast of the reeds may be an epithet applied to the lion, who is accustomed to haunt places where reeds grow, and that under this image the King of Syria may be referred to, with whom David carried on lengthened and bloody wars, as is abundantly evident from sacred history. Dr Lowth also supposes that the lion is meant, (see his Lectures on Sacred Poetry, volume 1, p. 135;) and the same view is adopted by Schnurrer, Rosenmuller, and others.

ftc57 The original term is hnq, kane; hence the English word cane.

ftc58 While by the multitude of bulls some understand powerful leaders, by the calves of the people they understand the mass of the people, undistinguished for rank or power, and particularly the young men. But others, as Bishop Horne, suppose, that by the calves of the people is meant the idol-calves of the Egyptians, their Apis, Osiris, etc., whom they made the objects of their religious worship. Horsley reads, “The assembly of those who place their strength in the calves;” that is, as he explains it, “The people of Egypt, who worshipped calves, and trusted in them as their gods.”

ftc59In Bagster’s interlinear version, the rendering is, “shall be each submitting itself with pieces of silver.” Wheatland and Silvester translate,

“Till each submiss, from hostile acts shall cease,
And with the tribute-silver sue for peace.”

ftc60 Various other explanations have been given of the words, skAAyxrb sprtm, mithrappes beratsey-kaseph, rendered by Calvin, treading with their feet upon pieces of silver, and by which critics have been much perplexed. “Berlin translates the words ‘calcantem frusta argenti,’ which he explains by ‘pavimentum argento tessellatum.’ De Rossi explains the words thus, ‘Who advance with laminae of silver under their horses’ hoofs.’ Immanuel Ben Solomon, whose Scholia on select passages of the Psalms were published by De Rossi, gives the following explanation. ‘Dicit [vates scil.] quod Deus disperdit nationes, quae volunt malum inferre Israeli, et coetum taurorum, seu reges illustriores, ut reges Assyriae et Babylonis, quorum quisque conculcat frusta argentea; i.e., incedunt cum lamina aurea sub pedibus suis ob multitudinem divitiarum suarum.’” — Rogers Book of Psalms, volume 2, p. 223. Dr Geddes’ version is:

“The assemblage of the potent lords of nations,
Who tread on tiles of silver;”

and he supposes that the poet alludes to the floors in the palaces of the Oriental kings, which were paved with silver. Dr Jubb renders the phrase, “who excite themselves with fragments of silver;” and considers the allusion to be to the dancing of the Egyptians before their idol-calves, with the tinkling instruments called Sistra. That they were accustomed to dance before these idols is evident from <023206>Exodus 32:6, where we are taught that the people of Israel, in imitation of the Egyptian idolatry, rose up to shout and dance before the golden calf; for such is the meaning of the words, “they rose up to play,” as appears from verses 17, 18, and 19. And that they used the sistrum in religious feasts, Herodotus informs us in the second book of his History. The words, pieces of silver, according to Jubb, signify the little loose pieces of metal with which the sistrum was hung round, which produced the jingling noise when the instrument was played upon. This description fits the Egyptians; and that it really belongs to them may be inferred, with some degree of probability, from the following verse, where it is said, “Princes shall come out of Egypt,” as if the subjugation of this nation, imprecated in the preceding verse, were here supposed complete. Tucker has here a very good remark. “David,” says he, “invokes the Messiah to bring down the power of Egypt; but in his abhorrence of their idolatry, deigns not to designate them except in the most contemptuous terms. He says not, Rebuke the assembly of those who worship bulls and calves, and dance round altars to the sound of instruments of silver, but he classes the people on a par with the idols which they worshipped, — ‘the assembly of bulls and calves, who dance to bits (or pieces) of silver.’”

“The sistrum was of an oval figure, or a dilated semicircle, in the shape of a shoulder-belt, with brass wires across, which played in holes wherein they were stopped by their flat heads. The performer played on it by shaking the sistrum in cadence, and thereby the brass wires made a shrill and loud noise.” — Mant.

ftc61 “The Hebrew is very emphatic: — ‘Cush will cause her hands to run out to God.’ She will with great alacrity and delight surrender her power and influence unto God.” — Dr Adam Clarke.

ftc62 “This refers to the phenomena of thunder and lightning; for all nations have observed that the electric fluid is an irresistible agent — destroying life, tearing towers and castles to pieces, rending the strongest oaks, and cleaving the most solid rocks; and the most enlightened nations have justly considered it as an especial manifestation of the power and Sovereignty of God.” — Greenfield.

psalm 69

ftc63 The particular enemies of whom he speaks are uncertain; some referring the occasion of the composition of the psalm to his persecution by Saul, and others to the rebellion of Absalom. But to whatever part of David’s eventful life the psalm primarily refers, it may be concluded, from the frequency with which it is quoted and applied to Christ in the New Testament, that it was prophetic of him, of whom David, rejected and persecuted, was an eminent type. It is quoted in the New Testament at least seven times; the 4th verse in <431525>John 15:25; the 9th verse in <430217>John 2:17, and <451503>Romans 15:3; the 21st verse in <402734>Matthew 27:34, 48, and <431928>John 19:28, 29; the 22d and 23d verses in <451109>Romans 11:9, 10; and the 25th verse in <440116>Acts 1:16, 20.

ftc64 They rest this opinion upon the meaning which they attach to the word yn, Shoshannim, in the title of the psalm, which they translate lilies.

ftc65 “Ou, la force et le fil.” — Fr. marg. “Or, the force and course.”

ftc66 “Ou, fortifiez.” — Fr. marg. “Or, strengthened.”

ftc67 The Hebrew word za, for then, appears to be emphatic. “za; in ipso articulo, (Schultens in <200722>Proverbs 7:22;) immediately, without any contention, or delay.” Lowth, quoted in Merrick’s Annotations.

ftc68The waters are come in unto my soul; i.e., a flood of overwhelming calamities threaten my life: comp. verse 16.” — Cresswell. Williams thinks the allusion is to a leaky vessel, or to an inundation.

ftc69 “Comme nous en voyons plusieurs qui donnans du pied au fond, de roideur trouvent facon d’eschapper le peril de l’eau: mais depuis qu’on se trouve une fois enfonce en quelque bourbier ou riviere limonneuse, c’est fait, il n’y a nul moyen de se sauver.” — Fr.

ftc70 “‘My sight faileth me,’ etc. This is said metaphorically, the metaphor being taken from the pain occasioned to the eyes when they are long and intently fixed upon the same point.” — Cresswell

ftc71 “There is an apparent impropriety in the language of this verse, though the sense is perfectly clear. It is a proverbial expression, to mark the injustice and extortion of the enemies that are referred to, who compelled the speaker, without any right, to yield up his goods to persons to whom he was not indebted.” — Walford. Horsley observes, that this last clause is a proverbial expression, the meaning of which is, “I have been accountable for the crimes of others.” Dr Adam Clarke also remarks, that this is a sort of proverbial expression like these: “Those who suffered the wrong pay the costs” — “Kings sin and the people are punished.” This pre-eminently applies to Christ, who was perfectly holy, but who, by bearing the punishment due to the guilt of man, made satisfaction to Divine justice for sins which he never committed, and restored those blessings which he never took away.

ftc72 According to Augustine, the Messiah, when he says “my foolishness” and “my iniquities,” speaks of the sins of men which were imputed to him, and for which he suffered and died under the curse of the law, which treated him as if he had been a sinner, in consequence of the sins thus imputed to him. A similar interpretation is given by Bishops Horsley and Horne, as well as many others. “The Messiah,” says the first of these critics, “here, as in many places, may speak of the follies and crimes of men, for which he had made himself answerable as his own.” Admitting, as we are disposed to do, although Calvin takes an opposite view, that the passage is applicable to Christ, it may be doubted whether this is the correct interpretation. The sins of those for whom Christ died, by being imputed to him, no doubt became his in the eye of the law, in such a sense as to make him answerable for them. But the Scriptures, be it observed, while they speak of him as “wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities,” and as “bearing our sins in his own body on the tree,” as if afraid to use any forms of expression which would even seem to derogate from his immaculate purity, never speak of the sins of those for whom he died as his own sins. What Horsley adds, as an additional explanation, is very unguarded. “Perhaps,” says he, “He who, although he was without sin, was yet tempted in all points like up to us, might, in his humility, speak of the incitement of the passions in his own mind as weakness and fault, making confession of it before the Father.” Nothing, doubtless, was farther from the mind of the prelate than to teach any thing inconsistent with the perfect holiness of the Son of God; and he expressly warns that “he was without sin;” but the language which he employs is scarcely consistent with this position, and it can convey no idea on the subject except an erroneous one. “The prince of this world cometh,” said Jesus to his disciples, “and hath nothing in me” — hath nothing in me, that is, to use the words of Dr Doddridge, “no guilt of mine to give him power over me; nor any inward corruption, to take part with his temptations.” The explanation of the text, which appears to be the most natural and consistent, is that which considers the Savior as solemnly appealing to the Father in vindication of his innocence. His enemies falsely charged him with crimes, and made these charges the ground of their cruel and malignant proceedings against him. The Divine Sufferer, therefore, with confidence appeals to God, saying, Thou, who art the omniscient and all-righteous Judge, knowest that I am innocent of the crimes laid to my charge, and I invoke thee to plead my cause. This interpretation, which is adopted by many eminent critics, as Dr Boothroyd, Dr Morrison, Walford, and others, is strongly supported by the context. The preceding verse contains strong assertions of his innocence; and it was very natural to accompany these with an appeal from the falsehood and calumny of men, to the all-seeing and righteous Judge of the universe.

ftc73 In the East, where polygamy prevails, those who are children of the same father, but by different mothers, scarcely look upon each other as brothers and sisters at all, but as strangers or enemies; while those who are children of the same mother regard each other with peculiarly strong affection. Hence said Gibeon to Zebah and Zalmunna, who had put to death his brethren, “They were my brethren, even the sons of my mother; as the Lord liveth, if ye had saved them alive, I would not slay you,” (<070819>Judges 8:19.) It therefore greatly aggravated the affliction of David that he had “become an alien to the children of his mother,” from whom he might have expected affection and sympathy, however much he might have been disregarded by his brethren, who were the children of his father’s other wives. See volume 2, p. 277, note 3.

ftc74 That is, the confidence arising from the reflection that we are, in the first place, suffering unjustly; and, secondly, that we are suffering in the cause of God.

ftc75 “Qui convertissent en diffame et blasme le desir que les fideles ont de sa gloire.” — Fr.

ftc76 The verb means not only ‘to eat up, to devour,’ but ‘to corrode or consume,’ by separating the parts from each other, as fire, (see Parkhurst on lka 2;) and the radical import of the Hebrew word for ‘zeal,’ seems to be ‘to eat into, corrode, as fire.’ The word (says Parkhurst) is, in the Hebrew Bible, generally applied to the fervent or ardent affections of the human frame, the effects of which are well known to be even like those of fire, corroding and consuming; and, accordingly, the poets, both ancient and modern, abound with descriptions of these ardent and consuming affections, taken from fire and its effects. (See on anq.)” — Mant.

ftc77That was turned to my reproach; i.e., it was made a subject of reproach to me.” — Cresswell.

ftc78They that sit in the gate — vain and idle persons who spent their time there, in which there used to be a confluence of people.” — Rosenmuller. “They that sit in the gate; i.e., the elders. The expression may, however, be put for the crowd assembled there to hear the decisions of the magistrates: compare <120701>2 Kings 7:1-18.” — Cresswell.

ftc79 Judges sat there in the exercise of their judicial functions; the gates of cities being anciently the places where courts of judicature were held for trying all causes, and deciding all affairs. See <182907>Job 29:7, compared with verses 12, 16, and 17; <052507>Deuteronomy 25:7; <080401>Ruth 4:1, 2; <112210>1 Kings 22:10; <170219>Esther 2:19.

ftc80 Bibentes siceram.” — Lat. Cresswell has the following note on this clause of the verse: “More literally, I am the subject of the songs of them that drink sicera. Sicera was, according to Chrysostom, an intoxicating liquor, made from the juice of the palm-tree; the fruit of that tree being bruised and fermented, was probably the beverage of the lower orders, like the bouza of thiopia.”

ftc81 Dr Wells explains, the truth of thy salvation, as meaning, “according to the promises thou hast made of saving me.”

ftc82 “The Chaldee interpreter understands by the pit, Gehenna.” — Cresswell.

ftc83 The original word dsj, chesed, here translated mercy, signifies, as Dr Adam Clarke observes, “exuberance of kindness.”

ftc84 ˚ymjr, rachamecha, for compassions, signifies, according to the same author, such affection as mothers bear to their young, and in God there is br, rob, a multitude of these.

ftc85 The word ar, rosh, here denominated gall, is thought by Celsius, Michaelis, Boothroyd, and others, to be hemlock. According to Dr Adam Clarke and Williams, it refers to bitters in general, and particularly those of a deleterious nature. Bochart, from a comparison of this passage with <431929>John 19:29, thinks that ar, rosh, is the same herb as the Evangelist calls uJsswpov, “hyssop;” a species of which growing in Judea, he proves from Isaac Ben Orman, an Arabian writer, to be so bitter, as not to be eatable. Theophylact expressly tells us that the hyssop was added as being deleterious or poisonous; and ‘Nonnus’ paraphrase is, “one gave the deadly acid mixed with hyssop.” See Parkhurst on ar. The word occurs in <052918>Deuteronomy 29:18; 32:33; and is, in the latter place, rendered poison. In <281004>Hosea 10:4, it is rendered hemlock; and in <300612>Amos 6:12, it is put in apposition with a word there translated hemlock, although the same word is also rendered wormwood.

Vinegar, we conceive, here means sour wine, such as was given to slaves or prisoners in the East. Persons in better circumstances used lemons or pomegranates to give their drink a grateful acidity. It was therefore a great insult offered to a royal personage to give him in his thirst the refreshment of a slave or of a wretched prisoner; and David employs this figure to express the insults which were offered to him by his enemies. See Harmers Observations, volume 2, pp. 158, 159.

ftc86 This and the following verses, which are here expressed in the form of imprecations, are translated by many in the future tense, as predictions: “Their table before them shall be for a snare,” etc.

ftc87 The LXX. have rendered the word here translated prosperity by a word which signifies recompense: “Let their table before them be for a snare, kai ei>v ajntapo>dosin, and for a recompense, and for a stumbling-block.” Paul, in quoting this and the verse immediately following, as descriptive of the judgments which befell the Jews after their rejection of the Messiah, quotes with some slight difference the words of the LXX. He has, Eijv ajntapo>oma aujtoi~v, “for a retribution upon them.” The Psalmist’s enemies had given him gall for his meat, and in his thirst vinegar to drink, and he denounces on them evils similar in kind: as if he had said, Would that their own table may be made bitter by misery and misfortune, and the food provided for the nourishment and strengthening of their bodies turned, in the righteous retribution of God, into the means of their injury and destruction. “Michaelis,” says Walford, “shows how exactly these comminations were fulfilled in the history of the final siege of Jerusalem by the Romans. Many thousands of the Jews had assembled in the city to eat the Paschal lamb, when Titus unexpectedly made an assault upon them. In this siege the greater part of the inhabitants of Jerusalem miserably perished.”

ftc89 “Mais estant conduit par le Sainct Esprit, il n’a point passe outre les limites.” — Fr.

ftc90 The loins are the seat of strength in every animal; and hence the prayer, “Make their loins continually to tremble,” is just a prayer that their strength might be impaired, or entirely taken away.

ftc91 This is the translation given by the LXX., who read, prose>qhkan, “they added to;” and similar is that of the Syriac, Vulgate, Arabic, and thiopic versions, and of the learned Castellio, who reads, “Sauciorum tuorum numerum adaugentes,” “increasing the number of thy wounded.” “rps,” says Hammond, “signifies to number, and of that we know addition is one sort.”

ftc92 This is the idea attached to it by Horsley, who translates the verse thus: “Give them punishment upon punishment, and admit them not to thy justification.” Cresswell explains it thus: “Let them not be restored to thy favor, nor experience thy clemency.”

ftc93 “Qu’ils sont alienez et bannis de la presence de Dieu.” — Fr. “That they are alienated and banished from the presence of God.”

ftc94 This is the explanation given by Hammond. The Hebrew word ˆtn, nathan, here rendered add, he translates give or permit, which he supports in the following note. “That tn, to give, signifies also to permit, appears by <170913>Esther 9:13, ˆtny, ‘let it be given to the Jews,’ i.e., permitted them. So <021223>Exodus 12:23, ‘And shall not suffer (the Hebrew hath ˆty, give) the destroyer to come in; the Chaldee reads qby, ‘permit,’ and the LXX. ajqh>sei, to the same sense. So <191610>Psalm 16:10, ‘Thou shalt not suffer (ty, again, give) thy Holy One to see corruption.’ And so ˆw[ hnt, give wickedness, is no more than permit: for so it is ordinary with God, as a punishment of some former great sin or sins, though not to infuse any malignity, yet by withdrawing his grace, and delivering them up to themselves, to permit more sins to follow, one on the heels of the other, and so to be so far from reforming and amending as daily to grow worse and worse, to be more obdurate, and so finally never to enter into God’s righteousness; i.e., into that way of obedience required by him, and which will be accepted by him, or (as qdx, in the notion of mercy, may signify being applied to God) into his mercy, so as to be made partakers of it.” A fuller statement and illustration of Calvin’s views on this point is given in his Institutes, Book I. chapter 18.

ftc95 In the French version, the two last verbs of the sentence are put in the future tense, by which the idea conveyed is somewhat modified: “En sorte qu’ils ne retourneront jamais, a bon sens, et celuy qui est ord, deviendra encore plus ord.” — “So that they shall never return to a sound understanding, and he who is filthy will become still more filthy.”

ftc96 “This phrase,” observes Bishop Mant, “which is not unusual in Scripture, alludes to the custom of well ordered cities, which kept registers, containing all the names of the citizens. Out of these registers the names of apostates, fugitives, and criminals, were erased, as also those of the deceased: whence the expression ‘blotting,’ or ‘erasing names from the book of life.’”

ftc97 “Et se retrancher du tout.” — Fr.

ftc98 Boothroyd reads, “humbled and afflicted!”

ftc99 Venema and others conjecture, that what follows, from this verse to the end of the psalm, was added during the captivity of the Jews in Babylon; while others, from the expressions occurring in these verses, refer the whole psalm to that period; and observe, that the Hebrew letter l, lamed, prefixed to David’s name in the title, does not always signify of; but sometimes, as in <010111>Genesis 1:11, means according to, and so may be intended to describe this psalm as being after the manner of David. But Paul, in <451109>Romans 11:9, ascribes it to David.

ftc100 “Tous ceux qui seront oppressez a tort.” — Fr. “All who shall be wrongfully oppressed.”

psalm 71

ftc101”Although this psalm has no title, it is by general consent ascribed to David, and supposed to have been composed during Absalom’s revolt, as he mentions his old age, and his danger of perishing. It is almost a copy of Psalm 31; and, as the passages in the present psalm, which refer to his advanced age, are wanted in the other, it seems as if the 31st psalm (written probably during the persecution of Saul) was taken and adapted, by a little alteration and addition, to his latter afflictions.” — Illustrated Commentary upon the Bible.

ftc102 In the Hebrew it is, “Be thou to me for a rock of habitation.” But instead of ˆw[m, maon, “habitation,” many of Dr Kennicott’s and De Rossi’s MSS. have zw[m, maoz, “munition,” or “defense.” “Be thou my rock of defence.”

ftc103 At the same time, it may be observed, that if this psalm was written during the rebellion of Absalom, this cruel son or Achitophel may be the person whom David has here in his eye, and describes in the singular number. If he refers to his own son, how deep must have been his agony of soul to be under the necessity of appealing to God in his present distressing circumstances, against an unnatural and wicked child, around whom all the affections of his heart were intwined! What Calvin renders, in the last clause of the verse, “the violent man,” is literally “leavened man.” Leaven seems to be an image for deep and inveterate depravity of any kind. “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees,” said our Lord. — (<401606>Matthew 16:6; see also <460508>1 Corinthians 5:8.)

ftc104 “Des le ventre de ma mere.” — Fr. “From the womb of my mother.”

ftc105 “Ou, a plusieurs.” — Fr. marg. “Or, to many.”

ftc106 “Et toutesfois.” — Fr.

ftc107 In the Latin version it is, “Ab affectu ipso;” which is probably a mistake for “Ab effecto ipso.” In the French version it is, “Par l’effet mesme.”

ftc108 Green reads, “I am become a gazing-stock to the multitude.” Horsley, “‘I am become a prodigious sight to the many.’ A prodigious sight, ‘a sign which shall be spoken against,’ <420234>Luke 2:34.” “‘I am become, as it were, a portentous sign unto many.’ Many are willing to persuade themselves that my trials proceed directly from God’s wrath, and are intended to warn them against pursuing a like course of conduct.” — French and Skinner. “A monster, i.e., the supposed object of God’s signal displeasure. Comp. <232003>Isaiah 20:3; <261206>Ezekiel 12:6; 24:24, 27.” — Cresswell. But others suppose that tpwmk, hemopheth, as a prodigy, implies that the great and many dangers to which he had been exposed, and the extraordinary deliverances from them which he had experienced, marked him out as an object of wonder, so that men looked upon him as if he were exempted from the common lot of mankind, as if he possessed a charmed life, and were invulnerable to all assaults; and the second member of the verse has been viewed as the reason why he was so regarded: “for thou art my strong refuge.”

ftc109 Others read, “Those who are enemies to my life shall be confounded,” etc., understanding the words to be prophetic denunciations.

ftc110 “Atqui proterva haec eorum insultatio.” — Lat. “Mais cest enrage desdain et outrage.” — Fr.

ftc111 “Parquoy c’a este une vertu a David plus qu’humaine.” — Fr. “It was therefore fortitude more than human for David.”

ftc112 Horsley reads, “‘I shall be added,’ or ‘made an addition;’ literally, ‘be-made-to-be-added to the sum of thy praise.’” “The sense is,” says he, “that the mercies to the Psalmist would furnish the servants of God with a new topic of praise and thanksgiving.”

ftc113 The present reading of the Septuagint is, Oujk e]gnwn pragmatei>av, “I know not the affairs of men;” but Nobilius, in his Notes on the Septuagint, observes, that in some Greek copies it is, grammatei>av, “learning,” of which reading Augustine makes mention; and as the Vulgate reads, “literaturam,” “learning,” this makes it more probable that the ancient reading of the LXX. was not pragmatei>av, but grammateia>v. Horsley has followed the LXX. He considers this clause as the commencement of a new sentence, and connects it with the 16th verse thus: —

“Although I am no proficient in learning;
I will enter upon [the subject of] the Lord Jehovah’s great might;
I will commemorate thy righteousness.”

      In a foot-note he refers to <430715>John 7:15, “How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?” and to <401354>Matthew 13:54, 56; and in an additional note he says, “It is strange that Houbigant should treat an interpretation with contempt, which is supported by the versions of the LXX., Jerome, and the Vulgate; which the Hebrew words will naturally bear, and which gives great spirit to the sentiment.” Street reads: —

“Though I am ignorant of books,
I will proceed with strength,” etc.;

and observes, that “The word rpsm signifies number, but rps, signifies an epistle, a book.”

ftc114 “Expertes.” — Lat. “Gros asniers. — Fr.

ftc115 That is, which represents this work as performed, partly by God, and partly by a power which man has in himself underived from God.

ftc116 “Usque in excelsum.” — Lat. “Est eslevee jusques en haut.” — Fr. “wrm da, ad marom — is up to the exalted place, — reaches up to heaven. The mercy of God fills all space and place. It crowns in the heavens what it governed upon earth.” — Dr Adam Clarke.

ftc117 “Et to retournant, estant appaise.” — Fr. “And returning, being appeased.”

ftc118The depths of the earth, expressive of the lowest state of misery and suffering.” — Hewlett.

ftc119 “The original word nr expresses a brisk, vibratory motion, like that of the lips in singing a lively air, or of the feet in dancing. Hence, figuratively, it signifies to rejoice or exult. In this passage, it may be understood literally of the lips, and figuratively of the soul. And the English language having no corresponding verb which may be taken literally in reference to one subject, and figuratively in reference to another, it might be better to express its sense in connection with each, by two different verbs, thus: —

“My lips shall move briskly, when I sing unto thee,
And my soul shall rejoice, which thou, etc.” — Horsley.

psalm 72

ftc120 “Ou, pour Solomon.” — Fr. marg. “Or, for Solomon.” The prefix l, lamed, may be rendered either of or for.

ftc121 To this it may be added, as Dathe observes, that “Solomon could not, without the imputation of vanity, have predicted in such strains the glory of his reign, the admiration with which he would be regarded by other nations, and the happiness of his subjects, arising from his prudence and virtue.” The same writer adds, “But while David, or the inspired author, whoever he was, predicted the prosperity of Solomon’s reign, the promise given (<120701>2 Samuel 7) of that greatest and best of kings, who was afterwards to arise in the family of David, seems to have been brought before his mind. This is the reason that the description given is, in various respects, more suited to the reign of the Messiah than to the reign of Solomon.”

ftc122 In the Septuagint, in righteousness is connected with the following verse — In righteousness he shall judge the poor of the people,” Dr Adam Clarke considers this to be the true division.

ftc123Te craindra,” “shall fear thee,” is a supplement in the French version. There is no supplement in the Latin version.

ftc124 “Comme les pluyes drues et longues.” — Fr. “As the plenteous and prolonged showers.”

ftc125 “In other places, those events which God himself brings to pass in defending the righteous, and in punishing the wicked, are called his judgments, as in <193607>Psalm 36:7; but the statutes promulgated by God for the regulation of human conduct are also styled his judgments. In this sense, the judgments and laws of God may be considered as synonymous terms, Psalm 119. 20, 30, 39, 52, 75. The clause is justly explained by Jarchi: ‘Knowledge of the judgments — to wit, of the particular rules of right — which thou hast commanded in the law.’ The explication given by Kimchi is suitable also: ‘That he may not err in giving forth sentences, give him knowledge and understanding, that he may judge with judgment and justice.’” — Rosenmller on the Messianic Psalms, Biblical Cabinet, volume 32, pp. 232, 233.

ftc126 As the earth brings forth fruits, so shall the mountains bring forth peace. The same figure is used in <198512>Psalm 85:12, where it is said, “Truth shall spring out of the earth.”

ftc127 Dathe and Boothroyd take another view. According to them, the allusion is to the custom which, in ancient times, prevailed in the East, of announcing good or bad news from the tops of mountains, or other eminences; by means of which, acts of justice were speedily communicated to the remotest part of the country. The same image is used in <234009>Isaiah 40:9.

ftc128 That is, we are to read thus: “The mountains shall bring forth peace to the people in righteousness; and the hills shall bring forth peace to the people in righteousness.”

ftc129 “Peace by righteousness.” Calvin considers the Psalmist as representing peace to be the native fruit or effect of righteousness. Such also is the interpretation of Rosenmller: “‘And the hills shall bring forth peace with justice, or because of justice.’ Justice and peace are joined together, as cause and effect. When iniquity or injustice prevails, general misery is the consequence; and, on the contrary, the prevalence of justice is followed by general felicity. The sense of the clause is, — happiness shall reign throughout the land, for the people shall be governed with equity.”

ftc130 Rosenmller, in like manner, objects to this reading. “Some expositors,” says he, “consider the prefix b, beth, as redundant, or as denoting that the noun is in the accusative case; and that the clause may be rendered, And the hills shall bring forth justice. Noldius, in his Concordance, adduces several passages as examples of a similar construction; but they appear, all of them, to be constructed on a different principle.”

ftc131 Many examples of this Hebraism might be quoted. In <211017>Ecclesiastes 10:17, “a son of nobles” is put for “a noble person;” in <191845>Psalm 18:45, children of the stranger, for strangers; and, in many passages, children, or sons of men, for men, simply considered.

ftc132 “The poet in this clause addresses God; not the king, of whom he speaks always in the third person. The sense is, This king shall establish and preserve among his subjects the true religion, — the uncorrupted worship of God. Michaelis, on this passage, justly remarks that this could not, without extreme flattery, be predicated of Solomon.” — Dathe.

ftc133 “With the sun,” and “in the presence of the moon,” are Hebrew idioms, designating the eternity of the Messiah’s kingdom. “‘They shall venerate thee with the sun, and in presence of the moon;’ that is, as long as the sun shines, and is succeeded by the moon, or while the sun and moon continue to give light, — in a word, for ever. Compare verse seventh, where the same idea is expressed, only in a slightly different manner, — until there be no moon. <198937>Psalm 89:37 — ‘His throne shall be as the sun before me, as the moon it shall be established for ever.’ The word ynpl, [translated in presence of,] in this passage, is to be understood in the same sense as in <011128>Genesis 11:28, Mortuus est Haran, ynpAl[, coram facie Terah; ‘And Haran died before the face of Terah,’ that is, while Terah still survived. Hence, in <19A202>Psalm 102:29, where ˚ynpl, coram te, ‘before thee,’ is used in reference to God, — the Alexandrine version gives eijv aijw~nav ‘for ever.’ Here the sense is given in the words immediately following, yrwd rwd, generatio generationum, ‘a generation of generations’ shall venerate thee; — in other words, throughout all generations, or during a continual series of years, men shall celebrate thy happy and glorious reign.” — Rosenmller. Calvin also reads yrwd rwd, “generation of generations,” in the nominative case. The translators of our English Bible supply the preposition l, lamed, thus making it, “throughout all generations.” But in either case the meaning is the same.

ftc134 Literally, “till there be no moon;” till the end of the world — for ever.

ftc135 Or the Mediterranean.

ftc136 yyx, tsiim, is from hyx, tsiyah, a dry and parched country, a desert. Rosenmller translates it, the rude nations. “The word yyx,” says he, “seems to signify rude, barbarous tribes; the inhabitants of desert places, — of vast and unknown regions. This sense appears to be most suitable, both here and in <197414>Psalm 74:14. Hence it is used <231321>Isaiah 13:21; 34:14; <245039>Jeremiah 50:39, for the animals, — the wild beasts that inhabit jungles and deserts.” The LXX. translate it Aiqiopev, “the thiopians;” and in like manner the Vulgate, thiopic, and Arabic versions. Boothroyd is of opinion that the wild Arabs may be intended.

ftc137 The kings of Persia never admitted any into their presence without exacting this act of adoration, and it was the Persian custom which Alexander wished to introduce among the Macedonians. — Rollins Ancient History, volume 4, p. 288. This custom is still extant among the Turks. As soon as an ambassador sees the Sultan, he falls on his knees and kisses the ground.

ftc138 hjnm, minchah, properly signifies a friendly offering; and rka, eshcar, a compensative present made on account of benefits received, — a gift which a person presents as a token of gratitude. — See Appendix.

ftc139 Supposed to be in Arabia Felix. “The Septuagint reads, ‘The kings of the Arabs, and Sabaeans, shall bring gifts.’ So that anciently, perhaps, Sheba was the general name of Arabia; and Seba, or Sabaea, was that particular province of it called Arabia Felix, lying to the South, between the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea.” — Hewlett.

ftc140 “Si d’un grand coeur il ne se presentoit pour les punir et en faire la vengence, et s’opposoit pour defendre ceux qu’on oppresse.” — Fr.

ftc141 “C’est a dire, sans determiner quelque certaine personne.” — Fr. In the Hebrew, the three last verbs of the verse are in the singular number, in the future of kal active, and there is no nominative with which they agree. Calvin translates them literally: “Et dabit ei de auro Seba: et orabit pro eo semper, quotidie benedicit eum;” “And shall give to him of the gold of Sheba, and shall pray for him continually, daily shall bless him.” But, on the margin of the French version, he thus explains the construction: “C’est, on luy donnera, etc., on priera, etc., on benira.” “That is, the gold of Sheba shall be given to him, prayer shall be made for him continually, and daily shall he be blessed.”

ftc142 “Ou, le Leban.” — Fr. marg. “Or, Lebanon.”

ftc143 In the French version, the word semee, i.e., sown, is supplied.

ftc144 The noun hsp, phissah, here translated handful, is found only in this passage. In explaining <111844>1 Kings 18:44, the Chaldee interpreter, for the Hebrew words rendered “as a man’s hand,” has dy tspk, ke-phissath yad, which strictly signify, “as if a part of the hand.” On this authority several expositors, along with Calvin, have understood hsp, phissah, as signifying “a small quantity of corn,” as much as may lie on a man’s hand, or as he may hold within it. And some at the beginning of the verse supply the conditional particle a, im, if. But Rosenmller thinks that “others with more propriety consider the noun hsp as having the same signification as ˆwysp, diffusio, uberitas, ‘spreading abroad, plenty,’ and as derived from the verb asp, which, both in the Chaldee and in the Arabic, means expandit, diffudit se, ‘he spread abroad, he enlarged himself.’ The Syriac interpreter had, no doubt, this sense in view, when he rendered the words multitudinem frumenti, ‘an abundance of corn.’”

ftc145 The word ≈yx, tsits, which Calvin renders shall go out, signifies to spring from, to spring up. It is used, says Rosenmller, with respect to plants or herbs when, sprouting from the seed, they make their appearance above ground in beauty and gracefulness, (<041708>Numbers 17:8, 23.) It is used to denote also the reproduction of mankind in prosperous circumstances, (<232706>Isaiah 27:6.) From the noun ry[m, [from the city,] we are at no loss to supply the proper nominative to the preceding verb; q. d., ex civitatibus singulis cives efflorescent, ‘from the cities severally, the citizens shall spring forth.’ The expression is somewhat similar to that in <196827>Psalm 68:27, where the descendants of Israel are said to be from the fountain of Israel.” The extraordinary fertility and great increase of population here predicted took place in Palestine under the reign of Solomon, as is evident from <110420>1 Kings 4:20, where it is said, that in the time of Solomon “Judah and Israel were many as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry.” But this prophecy is destined to receive its fullest accomplishment under the reign of the Messiah.

ftc146 “Filiabitur nomen ejus.” — Henry. In the margin of our English Bibles it is, “He shall be as a son to continue his father’s name.” Bishop Patrick, therefore, paraphrases it, “His memory and fame shall never die, but be propagated from father to son, so long as the sun shall shine.” Rosenmller reads, “Sobolescet nomen ejus, ‘his name shall increase,’ that is, shall be continued as long as the sun endureth; the government shall continue to his posterity in perpetual succession.” “The verb ˆwn, nun,” he adds, “which occurs only in this passage, is explained from the noun ˆyn, nin, <012123>Genesis 21:23; <181819>Job 18:19; <231422>Isaiah 14:22. In these passages the word has obviously the meaning of offspring, and by the Chaldee interpreters, it is constantly rendered by the word rb, bar, falius, ‘a son.’ It may, therefore, be assumed with certainty, that the verb ˆwn, nun, signifies sobolem procreare, ‘to procreate descendants.’ It may, however, be added, that the Alexandrine has here diamenei~, a rendering in which both the Vulgate and Jerome concur: ‘perseverabit nomen ejus,’ ‘his name shall endure.” Dathe takes this last mentioned view. He supposes, that instead of ˆwny, yinnon, we should read ˆwky, yikon, stabilietur, — permanebit; “shall be established, — shall continue.” “The verb ˆwn, nun,” says he, “is not met with either in the Hebrew or in the cognate tongues, and is explained, — merely by conjecture, — augescere —  sobolescere,‘to increase or multiply,’ because, as a noun in some of the dialects, it signifies a fish. In the Septuagint the word is rendered diamenei~ ; in the Vulgate and by Jerome, perseverabit; in the Chaldee, praeparatum est; in the Syriac, existet nomen ejus. All these, without doubt, read ˆwky, yikon, ‘prepared, — established, — fixed,’ — the word which we find in the parallel passage, <198938>Psalm 89:38. The letters k, caph, and n, nun, it is evident, may very easily be interchanged from their similarity in form.”

ftc147 (“Car c’est un verbe en la langue Hebraique qui vient du nom de Fils,) c’est a dire, sera perpetue de pere en fils.” — Fr.

ftc148 This psalm concludes the second book of the Psalms, and this and the following verse are a doxology similar to that with which the first book and the other three are concluded. See volume 2, p. 126, note.

psalm 73

ftc149 “Pourveu que nous laissions la providence de Dieu tenir sa procedure par les degrez, qu’il a determinez en son conseil secret.” — Fr.

ftc150 “Il semble qu’ils ont bon marche de se mocquer de luy, et qu’il n’en sera autre chose.” — Fr.

ftc151 “Que le monde tourne a l’aventure, et (comme on dit) est gouverne par fortune?” — Fr.

ftc152 “Ce poinct de doctrine, lequel ils avoyent fait mine de tenir bien resoluement.” — Fr. “This doctrine, which they had made a show of holding very resolutely.”

ftc153 This particle here expresses the state of mind of a person meditating a difficult question in which he is much interested, and is hardly come to a conclusion; — a state, in the Psalmist’s case, between hope and despair, though strongly inclining to the former.” — Horsley.

ftc154 “Ceux qui estans descendus d’Abraham n’ensuyvoyent point sa sainctete.” — Fr. “Those who being descended from Abraham did not follow his holiness.”

ftc155 The original word for the foolish signifies “men of no principle, wild, giddy, vain boasters.” Boothroyd renders it “the madly profane,” and Fry, “the vain-glorious.”

ftc156 “On scait assez par les histoires le brocard duquel usa anciennement un tyran de Sicile nomme Denis le jeune, quand apres avoir pille le temple de Syracuses, il se mit sur la mer, et veit qu’il avoit fort bon vent pour naviger.” Fr.

ftc157 “Et suyvre a leur train.” — Fr.

ftc158 “Laquelle est le fondement et le comble de sagesse.” — Fr. “Which is the foundation and the cope-stone of wisdom.

ftc159 Literally, “Their strength is fat.” Jerome renders as if, for lwa, his MSS. had hymlwa, ‘et firma sunt vestibula eorum;’ ‘their stately mansions are firm.’ The stability of a dwelling is a significant image of general prosperity. — Horsley.

ftc160 “Oppression. Dr Boothroyd joins this word to the latter clause, thus: Concerning oppression they talk loftily. This we think preferable.” — Williams.

ftc161 “The powerful effects of the tongue are expressed by a like figure in a Greek proverb preserved by Suidas. Tlw~ssa poi~ poreu>n; po>lin ajnorqw>sousa kai< po>lin katastre>yousa. ‘Tongue, whither goest thou? To build up a city, and to destroy a city.’ Garrulity is called ‘the walk of the tongue’ in a line quoted by Stobaeus (Serm. 36) from Astydamas —

Tlw>sshv peri>pato>v ejstin ajdolesci>a.””

Merrick’Annotations.

ftc162 “Comme souvent il en prendra aux fideles.” — Fr.

ftc163 “They are not dragged to death,” says Poole, “either by the hand or sentence of the magistrate, which yet they deserve, nor by any lingering or grievous torments of mind or body, which is the case with many good men; but they enjoy a sweet and quiet death, dropping into the grave like ripe fruit from the tree, without any violence used to them, (compare <180526>Job 5:26 and 31:13.”) The word translated bands occurs in only one other place of Scripture, <235806>Isaiah 58:6, where in all the ancient versions it is rendered bands. But bands will bear various significations. In the Hebrew style it often signifies the pangs of child-birth; and therefore the meaning here may be, they have no pangs in their death; i.e., they die an easy death, being suffered to live on to extreme old age, when the flame of life gradually and quietly becomes extinct. It was also used by the Hebrews to express diseases of any kind, and this is the sense, in which Calvin understands it. Thus Jesus says of the “woman who had a spirit of infirmity,” a sore disease inflicted upon her by an evil spirit, “eighteen years,” “Thou art loosed from thine infirmity,” (and loosing, we know, applies to bands:) he again describes her as “this daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years;” and farther says, “Ought she not to be loosed from this bond?” that is, cured of this sickness? <421311>Luke 13:11, 12, 16. According to this view, the meaning will be, they have no violent diseases in their death. Horsley reads, “There is no fatality in their death.” After observing that the word twbxrj, translated bands, occurs but in one other place in the whole Bible, <235806>Isaiah 58:6; where the LXX. have rendered it sundesmon, and the Vulgate colligationes, he says, “From its sense there, and from its seeming affinity with the roots ≈rj and hbx, I should guess that in a secondary and figurative sense, the word may denote the strongest of all bands or knots, physical necessity, or fate; and in that sense it may be taken here. The complaint is, that the ordinary constitution of the world is supposed to contain no certain provision for the extermination of the impious; that there is no necessary and immediate connection between moral evil and physical, wickedness and death.” The Septuagint reads, o[ti ou<k e]stin ajna>neusiv ejn tw~ Qana>tw aujtw~n: “For there is no sign of reluctance in their death.” The Vulgate, “Quia non est respectus morti eorum;” “For they do not think of dying,” or, “For they take no notice of their death.” The Chaldee, “They are not terrified or troubled on account of the day of their death.”

ftc164 “En un lieu de plaisance, et comme pour avoir leur nid a part.” — Fr.

ftc165 There is here a metaphorical allusion to the rich collars or chains worn about the necks of great personages for ornament. Compare <200109>Proverbs 1:9, and Cant. 4, 9. Pride compassed these prosperous wicked men about as a chain; they wore it for an ornament as gold chains or collars were worn about the neck; discovering it by their stately carriage. See <230316>Isaiah 3:16. Or there may be an allusion to the office which some of them bore; for chains of gold were among the ensigns of magistracy and civil power.

ftc166 Accordingly, the Chaldee, instead of “compasseth them as a chain.” has “crowneth them as a crown or diadem does the head.”

ftc167Violence covereth them as a garment. Wicked men that are prosperous and proud, are generally oppressive to others; and are very often open in their acts of violence, which are as openly done, and to be seen of all men, as the clothes they wear upon their backs; and frequently the clothes they wear are got by rapine and oppression, so that they may properly be called garments of violence. See <235906>Isaiah 59:6.” — Dr Gill.

ftc168 “Their eyes are starting out for fatness.” — Horsley. “Their eyes swell with fatness — this is a proverbial expression, used to designate the opulent, who are very commonly given to sensuality: comp. <181527>Job 15:27: <191710>Psalm 17:10.” — Cresswell.

ftc169The fantasies of their minds run into excess; i.e., they suffer their imaginations to sway them.” — Cresswell.

ftc170 “Et pesche pour eux.” Fr.

ftc171 “Exposans que les meschans amolissent, c’est a dire, rendent lasches les autres, c’est a dire, les espouantent et intimident.” — Fr. wqymy, yamicu, is rendered by Vatablus, Cocceius, Gejer, and Michaelis, “They cause to consume or melt away.” “They melt or dissolve others,” says Dr Gill, “they consume them, and waste their estates by their oppression and violence; they make their hearts to melt with their threatening and terrifying words; or they make them dissolute in their lives by keeping them company.” Mudge reads, “They behave corruptly;” and Horsley, “They are in the last stage of degeneracy.”

ftc172 The original word, wrmm, memmarom, for from on high, is translated by our English version loftily. But Musculus, Junius, Tremellius, Piscator, Mudge, Horsley, and others read with Calvin, from on high. They speak from on high, “as if they were in heaven and above all creatures, and even God himself; and as if what they said were oracles, and to be received as such without any scruple and hesitation. Thus Pharaoh, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadnezzar spake, <020502>Exodus 5:2; <233620>Isaiah 36:20; <270315>Daniel 3:15.” — Dr Gill.

ftc173 “Car comme les Latins et aussi les Grecs, quand ils descrivent la contenance des gens enyvrez d’orgueil, ont des verbes qui signifient Regarder en bas, d’autant que telles gens ne daignent pas regarder droit les personnes.” — Fr. “As the Romans, and also the Greeks, when they describe the countenance of persons intoxicated with pride, have words which mean to look down, because such persons deign not to look directly at other people.”

ftc174 “Pource qu’il ne leur semble point avis qu’ils ayent rien de commun avec les autres hommes, mais pensent estre quelque chose a part, et comme des petis dieux.” — Fr.

ftc175 “Et lave mes mains en nettete.” — Fr. “And washed my hands in innocency.” The Psalmist may allude to the rite of ablution which was in use among the Jews. See <052106>Deuteronomy 21:6, and <192606>Psalm 26:6. Or he may be understood as signifying by the metaphor of washing the hands in general, the pains which he took to be blameless in the whole of his outward conduct. “Opposite to the phrase, to wash in innocence,” says Merrick, “is the scelere imbuere of Cicero, (Philipp. v.) ‘Cum autem semel gladium scelere imbuisset,’” etc. See <180930>Job 9:30.

ftc176 The Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, Arabic, and thiopic versions read, “my people.”

ftc177 “Abu Walid,” says Hammond, “hath a peculiar way of rendering lh, as if it were lh, the infinitive, with breaking of spirit.” A similar interpretation is adopted by Horsley. “For lh,” says he, “many MSS. read wlh, which I take as the participle Pual of the verb lh, ‘Contusus miseria,’ scilicet.” He reads,

“Therefore his [God’s] people sit woebegone.”

To make out this translation, he adopts another of the various readings of MSS. “For byy,” says he, “many MSS. have bwy: I would transpose the vau, and read bwy. The third person future, Hophal, signifies is made to sit, is settled, attended with grief and consternation at the unpunished audacity of the profane.”

ftc178 “Et pourtant il nous y faut aviser de plus pres.” — Fr.

ftc179 “Stulta aemulatione decepti.” — Lat. “Se abusans par leur folie a porter envie aux meschans, et les vouloir ensuyvre.” — Fr

ftc180 While Calvin admits that the words, his people, may refer to true believers, he conceives that carnal and hypocritical Israelites are rather intended. One great objection to the opinion, that true believers are at all intended is, that stumbled though they often are at the unequal distributions of the present state, and chargeable though they may be with entertaining murmuring thoughts in reference to this matter, we can scarcely suppose that they would so far depart from every principle of truth and propriety, as to break forth into such language as is ascribed in verse 11th to the persons here spoken of, “How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the Most High?” Neither David nor Jeremiah, though much perplexed in reconciling the prosperity of the wicked and the afflicted state of God’s people, with the righteousness and goodness of Divine Providence, ever gave utterance to any such language. See Psalm 38 and Jeremiah 12. Walford thinks that “it is far more agreeable to the design of the entire passage, to interpret the words, his people, of the friends and connections of the wicked, who imitate their actions.” In support of this it may be observed, that the description of the condition, conduct, and words, of these prosperous ungodly men, commences at the 4th verse, and seems to be continued to the 13th verse, where the Psalmist’s reflections upon the subject begin, and are continued to the close of the psalm.

ftc181 This has also been understood as denoting the prosperity, the abundance of all outward good things bestowed upon the persons referred to.

ftc182 “Et les discours qui regnent communeement en leur cerveaux.” — Fr.

ftc183 “Que tout vient a l’aventure.” — Fr.

ftc184 “En la presence de Dieu.” — Fr. “In the presence of God.”

ftc185 “Plustost il signifie yci un siecle,” – Fr.

ftc186 “Ou, J’ay transgresse contre la generation de tes enfans.” — Fr. marg. “Or, I have transgressed against the generation of thy children”

ftc187 “Aye considere.” — Fr. “Considered.”

ftc188 The word in the Hebrew text is rps, saphar. Horsley translates it “to argue” —

“If I resolve to argue thus,
I should be a traitor to the generation of thy children.”

“The verb rps,” says he, “which literally signifies to count or reckon, may easily signify ‘to reason within one’s self, to syllogise,’ as is indeed the case with the corresponding words of many languages; as logizesqai, ratiocinari, putare, reckon, count.”

ftc189 “D’autant que toute la vraye sagesse qui doit estre ainsi nommee es hommes, consiste en un seul poinct.” — Fr.

ftc190 Green translates the Hebrew word for this, “hard;” Horsley, “perplexing;” and Boothroyd, “difficult.”

ftc191 “C’est a dire, la declaration de la volonte de Dieu.” — Fr.

ftc192 “It is remarkable,” observes Horsley, “that the original word for ‘sanctuary,’ in this place, is plural, which is unexampled when the sanctuary is literally meant.” He considers the expression, “Until I went into the sanctuary of God,” as meaning, “Till I entered into the secret grounds of God’s dealings with mankind.” Cresswell explains it — “Until I entered into the grounds of God’s dealings with men, as explained by the sacred writings, which are laid up in the place dedicated to his worship.”

ftc193 “Gardons-nous de penser qu’ils soyent eschappez, ou que Dieu leur favorise.” — Fr.

ftc194 Martin thinks that there is here an allusion to the time at which judicial sentences were pronounced, which was in the morning, when men awoke from the sleep of night.

ftc195 “Comme junchez en lieux glissans.” — Fr.

ftc196 “Qu’ils prenent plaisir a contempler leur puissance et grandeur, et sy mirent, comme qui voudroit se pourmener a loisir sur la glace.” — Fr.

ftc197 “De nostre tardivete et nonchalance a profiter en la doctrine.” — Fr.

ftc198They are utterly consumed with terrors; their destruction is not only sudden, but entire; it is like the breaking in pieces of a potter’s vessel, a sherd of which cannot be gathered up and used; or like the casting of a millstone into the sea, which will never rise more: and this is done with terrors, — either by terrible judgments inflicted on them from without, or with terrors inwardly seizing upon their minds and consciences, as at the time of temporal calamities, or at death, and certainly at the judgment, when the awful sentence will be pronounced upon them. See <182720>Job 27:20.” — Dr. Gill.

ftc199 With this agree Bishop Horsley and Dr Adam Clarke. The former translates: —

“Like the dream of a man beginning to wake publicly,
O Lord! thou renderest their vain show contemptible.”

The latter: —

“Like to a dream after one awaketh,
So wilt thou, O Jehovah! when thou risest up,
Destroy their shadowy grandeur.”

The original word, lx tselem, for image, means likeness, corporeal or incorporeal; and it agrees with lx, tsel, a shade, because an image is, as if the shade or shadow of the body. See Bythner on <193906>Psalm 39:6. “It seems to be taken here,” says Hammond, “for that which hath a fantastical only in opposition to a real substantial being.” “The Hebrew term,” says Walford, “means an unsubstantial appearance, splendid while it continues, but which in an instant disappears.” The prosperity which wicked men for a time enjoy, their greatness, riches, honor, and happiness, however dazzling and imposing, is thus nothing more than an image or shadow of prosperity, an empty phantom; and within a short period it ceases to be even so much as a shadow, it absolutely vanishes and comes to nothing, convincing the good but afflicted man, to whom it seemed to involve in doubt the rectitude of the Divine government, what is its real character, and that it should never occasion any perplexity to the student of Divine Providence.

ftc200 The LXX. read, ejn th po>lei sou, “in thy city,” deriving the original word from ry[ ir, a city. Such, also, is the reading of the Vulgate, Arabic, and thiopic versions. But the word comes from rw[, ur, to awahe, and is in the infinitive hiph. b, beth, excluding h, he, characteristic of the conjugation.

ftc201 “As a dream of one who awaketh. The thought here is, as a pleasing dream vanishes instantly on awaking, so the pleasures of these men will vanish, and show their unsubstantial nature, when God shall effect his righteous judgement.” — Walford. Then the prosperity of the wicked is seen to be fantastic, and to consist only of “such stuff as dreams are made of.”

ftc202 “The Chaldee in their paraphrase refer it to the day of judgment, when wicked men shall rise out of their graves, and God proceed in wrath against them, (ˆwhtwmd zgrb rsbt, ‘in fury shalt thou scorn or despise them,’) according to that expression of <271202>Daniel 12:2, ‘Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to shame and everlasting contempt.’” — Hammond.

ftc203 Plautus’ words are, “Mea uxor tota in fermento jacet;” “My wife lies all in a ferment.” In like manner he says, “Ecquid habet acetum in pectore?” “Has he any vinegar in his breast?”

ftc204 This is Kimchi’s and Houbigant’s opinion.

ftc205 “The Hebrew verb [for pierced] indicates the acute pain felt from a sharp weapon. (See Parkhurst, on ˆn, iv.) Common experience shows that the workings of the mind, particularly the passions of joy, grief, and fear, have a very remarkable effect on the reins or kidneys.” — Mant.

ftc206 “Notwithstanding these foolish thoughts, I am under the care of thy good providence.” — Patrick.

ftc207 Calvin here gives the literal rendering of the original Hebrew. The question appears elliptical; and accordingly, in the French version he has introduced the supplement, “si non toy?” “but thee?” — “Who is there to me in heaven but thee?”

ftc208 “C’est, outre toy.” — Fr. marg. “That is, beyond or besides thee.”

ftc209 “Ascavoir, en te delaissant.” — Fr. marg. “Namely, in forsaking thee.”

ftc210 The Septuagint here adds, eju tai~v pu>laiv thv qugatro<v Siw>n; “in the gates of the daughter of Zion.” The Vulgate, Arabic, and thiopic versions have the same addition. This seems to make a better conclusion; but these words are not in our present copies of the Hebrew Bible, nor are they supported by any of the MSS. yet collated.

ftc211Go a whoring, etc.; i.e., forsake God for false gods, which is spiritual adultery.” — Sutcliffe. When God is said to have destroyed such as do this, some think there is an allusion to that part of the Mosaic law which doomed idolaters to be punished with death, as guilty of high treason against Jehovah the King of Israel.

psalm 74

ftc212 This is the opinion of Calmet, Poole, Wells, Mant, Walford, and others. “A melancholy occasion,” says Mant, “commemorated by an elegy of corresponding tenderness and plaintiveness. It would be difficult to name a finer specimen of elegiac poetry than this pathetic psalm of Asaph.” If it was composed during the Babylonish captivity, and if Asaph, whose name is in the title, was the author of it, he must have been a different person from David’s contemporary, previously noticed, (volume 2, page 257, note,) — probably a descendant of the same name and family. Dr Gill thinks that he was the Asaph of the time of David, and supposes that under the influence of the spirit of prophecy, he might speak of the sufferings of the Church in after ages, just as David and others testified before-hand of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.

ftc213 Rosenmller is of opinion that this is the period referred to. “For my part,” says Dr Geddes, “I think it must have been composed during the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes; and the best commentary on it is the first chapter of the first book of Maccabees. The author may have been Mattathias.”

ftc214 “Ont rugi comme lions.” — Fr. “Have roared like lions.”

ftc215 Archbishop Secker thinks that this verse may be read thus: “Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased, hast redeemed of old; the tribe of thine inheritance; this mount Zion,” etc.

ftc216 “That ym[p means feet or steps is evident from <191705>Psalms 17:5 <195706>57:6; and <195810>58:10. Lift up thy feet, advance not slowly or by stealth, but with large and stately steps, full in the view of all; come to thy sanctuary, so long suffered to lie waste; examine what has been done there, and let thy grace and aid, hitherto so much withheld, be extended to us.” — Gejer. To lift up the feet is a Hebraism for “to put one’s self in motion;” “to set out on a journey,” as may be learned from <012901>Genesis 29:1, where of Jacob it is said, “He lifted up his feet, and went into the east country.” Lifting up the feet is used for going, in the same way as opening the mouth is for speaking.

ftc217 “There is another notion of [p, for a mallet or hammer, <234107>Isaiah 41:7 and Kimchi would have that to be the meaning here,[p rwh, ‘lift up thy mallet,’ in opposition to the ‘axes and hammers,’ verse 6; and thus also Abu Walid, ‘lift up thy dashing instruments.’ And the LXX., who read, e]paron ta>v cei~rav, ‘lift up thy hands,’ come near this.” — Hammond.

ftc218 This is the sense put upon the words by some Jewish interpreters. Thus Abu Walid reads, “Lift up thy dashing instruments, because of the utter destructions which the enemy hath made, and because of all the evil that he hath done in or on the sanctuary.” Aben Ezra has, “because of the perpetual desolations,” that is, because of thy inheritance which is laid waste. Piscator takes the same view: “Betake thyself to Jerusalem, that thou mayest see these perpetual desolations which the Babylonians have wrought.” In like manner, Gejer, who observes that this sense is preferable to that which considers the words as a prayer, that God would lift up his feet for the perpetual ruin of the enemy, because the Psalmist has been hitherto occupied with a mere description of misery, and has used nothing of the language of imprecation. But the Chaldee has, “Lift up thy goings or footsteps, to make desolate the nations for ever;” that is, Come and spread desolation among those enemies who have invaded and so cruelly reduced thy sanctuary to ruins.

ftc219 Instead of songs of praise and other acts of devotion, nothing was now heard in the Jewish places of worship but profane vociferation, and the tumultuous noise of a heathen army. This is with great beauty and effect compared to the roaring of a lion.

ftc220 Hammond reads, “They set up their ensigns for trophies.” The original word both for ensigns and trophies is twa, oth. But he observes that it requires here to be differently translated. twa, oth, signifies a sign, and thence a military standard or ensign. The setting up of this in any place which has been taken by arms, is a token or sign of the victory achieved; and, accordingly, an ensign or standard thus set up becomes a trophy. To convey, therefore, the distinctive meaning, he contends that it is necessary in this passage to give different renderings to the same word.

ftc221 That is, they understand signs to mean such signs as diviners or soothsayers were wont to give, by which to foretell things to come. Jarchi, who adopts this interpretation, gives this sense: That the enemies of God’s people having completed their conquest according to the auspices or signs of soothsayers, were fully convinced that these signs were real signs; in other words, that the art of divination was true.

ftc222 “Qu’il y avoit un service divine special et different de ce qui se faisoit ailleurs.” — Fr.

ftc223Their own symbols they have set for signs. Profane representations, no doubt, agreeable to their own worship. See 1 Maccabees 1:47.” — Dr Geddes.

ftc224 In the English Common Prayer-Book the 5th and 6th verses are translated thus: — “He that hewed timber afore out of the thick trees was known to bring it to an excellent work. But now they break down all the carved work thereof with axes and hammers.” Dr Nicholls’ paraphrase of this is as follows: “It is well known from the sacred records of our nation to what admirable beauty the skillful hand of the artificers brought the rough cedar trees, which were cut down by the hatchets of Hiram’s woodmen in the thick Tyrian forests. But now they tear down all the curious carvings, that cost so much time and exquisite labor, with axes and hammers, and other rude instruments of iron.” “This is a clear and consistent sense of the passages” says Mant, “and affords a striking and well imagined contrast.”

ftc225 The order of the words is this, ˚dqm ab wjl shilchu baesh mikdashecha, literally, “They have sent into fire thy sanctuary.”

ftc226 It has been objected, that if this psalm was composed at the time of the captivity of the Jews by Nebuchadnezzar, and the desolation of the Holy Land by the Chaldeans, yd[wm, moadey, cannot signify synagogues, because the Jews had no synagogues for public worship or public instruction till after the Babylonish captivity. Accordingly, Dr Prideaux thinks that the Proseuchae are meant. These were courts resembling those in which the people prayed at the tabernacle, and afterwards at the temple, built by those who lived at a distance from Jerusalem, and who were unable at all times to resort thither. They were erected as places in which the Jews might offer up their daily prayers. “They differed,” says Prideaux, “from synagogues in several particulars. For, first, In synagogues the prayers were offered up in public forms in common for the whole congregation; but in the Proseuchae they prayed as in the temple, every one apart for himself. Secondly, The synagogues were covered houses; but the Proseuchae were open courts, built in the manner of forums, which were open enclosures. Thirdly, Synagogues were all built within the cities to which they did belong; but the Proseuchae without.” — Connection of the History, etc., Part 1, Book 6, pages 139-141. Synagogues were afterwards used for the same purpose as the Proseuchae, and hence both come to be designated by the same name. The same author supposes that those places in the cities of the Levites, and the schools of the prophets, whither the people resorted for instruction, having been called, as well as the Proseuchae, laAyd[wm, moadey-el, are also here intended. “The word yd[wm, moadey,” says Dr Adam Clarke, “which we translate synagogues, may be taken in a more general sense, and mean any places where religious assemblies were held; and that such places and assemblies did exist long before the Babylonish captivity is pretty evident from different parts of Scripture.” See <120423>2 Kings 4:23; <263331>Ezekiel 33:31; <441521>Acts 15:21. All such places were consumed to ashes by the hostile invaders whose ravages are bewailed, it having been their purpose to extinguish for ever the Jewish religion, and, as the most likely means of effecting their object, to destroy every memorial of it.

ftc227 The verb, which is ,hlk, kalleh, in Pihel conjugation, is from hlk, kalah, consumptus est. In <195913>Psalm 59:13, it is twice used, hlk hmjb hlk, kalleh bechemah kalleh, “consume them in wrath, consume them.” Consume, therefore, appears to be a preferable translation to pluck, which is that of our English version.

ftc228 “We see not any token of thy Divine presence with us.” — Tremellius.

ftc229 “The Jewish Arab reads, ‘Turn not from them thy hand, even thy right hand, but consume them out of the midst of thy house,’ giving a note, that the house of God is called qyj.” — Hammond.

ftc230 There is here a change of person, and a transition from the narrative form of speech to the apostrophe, which give animation to the composition, and enhances its poetical beauty.

ftc231 The word ynynt, thanninim, for dragons, is used by the sacred writers somewhat indeterminately, and translators render it variously, as by whales, serpents, dragons, crocodiles, and other sea-monsters. (See <010121>Genesis 1:21; <020712>Exodus 7:12; <053233>Deuteronomy 32:33; and <19E807>Psalm 148:7.) We cannot now ascertain what particular animal is in each case denoted, and it may very probably be merely a general term equivalent to our word “monster,” for any strange and prodigious creature. ynynt, thanninim, is here explained by Williams as denoting “sea-monsters or large serpents.” “What animal is meant by this name,” says Mant, “is not well ascertained. But it seems to have been some aquatic or amphibious creature commonly known in the neighborhood of Egypt, but not the crocodile, as that is noticed under a different name in the following verse.” By the dragons the Egyptian people may be intended.

ftc232 In the Hebrew it is “the heads.”

ftc233 “C’est, le plus grand monstre marin qui soit.” — Fr. marg. “That is, the greatest sea-monster which exists.”

ftc234 “Ou, establi.” — Fr. marg. “Or, established.”

ftc235 rwam, maor, here rendered the light, from rwa, or, to shine, signifies in general any luminary or receptacle of light; the sun or the moon indiscriminately. See <010116>Genesis 1:16. But being here joined with and opposed to the sun, as the night is to the day in the preceding clause, it has been supposed to signify the moon, the luminary of the night, as the sun is that of the day. The Chaldee, the LXX., the Syriac, and Arabic, render it the moon. The Vulgate has “auroram,” “the morning.”

ftc236 Calvin supposes that the whale is the animal here referred to, and this was the opinion for a long time universally held. But from a comparison of the description given by Job of the Leviathan (Job 41) with what is known of the natural history of the crocodile, there can be little doubt that the crocodile is the Leviathan of Scripture. This is now very generally agreed upon. “Almost all the oldest commentators,” says Dr Good, “I may say unconditionally all of them concurred in regarding the whale as the animal” intended by the Leviathan. “Beza and Diodati were among the first to interpret it ‘the crocodile.’ And Bochart has since supported this last rendering with a train of argument, which has nearly overwhelmed all opposition, and has brought almost every commentator over to his opinion.” — Dr Goods New Translation of Job. “With respect to the Leviathan,” says Fry, “all are now pretty well agreed that it can apply only to the crocodile, and probably it was nothing but a defective knowledge of the language of the book of Job, or of the natural history of this stupendous animal, which led former commentators to imagine the description applicable to any other.” — Frys New Translation and Exposition of the Book of Job. This Egyptian animal, the crocodile of the Nile, as we have formerly observed, (p. 38, note,) was anciently employed as a symbol of the Egyptian power, or of their king. Parkhurst remarks that in Scheuchzer’s Physica Sacra may be seen a medal with Julius Caesar’s head on one side, and on the reverse a crocodile with this inscription, — gypte Capta, Egypt Taken. This strengthens the conclusion that the crocodile is the animal intended by the name Leviathan. Both the etymology of the name Leviathan, and to what language it belongs, according to Simonis, are unknown. But according to Gesenius it signifies “properly the twisted animal.” It is affirmed by the Arabic lexicographers quoted by Bochart, (Phaleg. Lib. 1, cap. 15,) that Pharaoh in the Egyptian language signified a crocodile; and if so, there may be some such allusion to his name in this passage, and in <262903>Ezekiel 29:3, and 32:2, where the king of Egypt is represented by the same animal, as was made to the name of Draco, when Herodicus (in a sarcasm recorded by Aristotle, Rhet. Lib. 2, cap. 23) said that his laws, — which were very severe, — were the laws oujk ajnqrw>pou ajlla< dra>kontov, non hominis sed draconis. — Merricks Annotations. “The heads of Leviathan” may denote the princes of Egypt, or the leaders of the Egyptian armies.

ftc237 “Regnoit en grand triomphe, comme la balene se pourmene a sou aise au milieu de ce grande amas d’eaux.” — Fr.

ftc238 Calvin reads, “thy people in the wilderness.” But thy has nothing to represent it in the original, which literally is, “to a people, to those of the wilderness.” Those who adopt this rendering are not agreed as to what is to be understood by the expression. Some think it means the birds and beasts of prey, who devoured the dead bodies of Pharaoh and the Egyptian army, when cast upon the coast of the Red Sea by the tides. See <021430>Exodus 14:30. If such is the meaning, these birds and beasts of prey are called “the people of wilderness,” as being its principal inhabitants. That [, am, people, is sometimes to be thus interpreted in Scripture is evident from <203025>Proverbs 30:25, 26, where both the ants and the conies are styled a people. But as the desert on the coast of which the Egyptians were thrown up was inhabited by tribes of people who lived on fishes — even on those of the largest kind, which they found cast upon the shore by the tides — and were from thence called Icquofa>goi, or fish-eaters; some interpreters suppose that these are “the people of the wilderness” here mentioned; and that as Pharaoh and his host are represented under the figure of the Leviathan and other monsters of the deep, so these people, in allusion to their common way of living, are figuratively said to have preyed on their dead bodies, by which is understood their enriching themselves with their spoils.

ftc239 “Quand Dieu feit que de la roche saillit un cours d’eau pour la necessite du peuple.” — Fr.

ftc240 It is rivers in the plural, from which it would appear that the Jordan was not the only river which was dried up, to give an easy passage to the Israelites. The Chaldee specifies the Arnon, the Jabbok, and the Jordan, as the rivers here referred to. With respect to the Jordan, see <060316>Joshua 3:16. As to the miraculous drying up either of the Arnon or the Jabbok, we have no distinct account in Scripture. But in Numbers 21, after it is mentioned, verse 13, that the Israelites “pitched on the other side of Arnon,” it follows, verses 14, 15, “Wherefore, it is said in the book of the wars of the Lord, What he did in the Red Sea, and in the brooks of Arnon, and at the stream of the brooks that goeth down to the dwelling of Ar, and lieth upon the border of Moab.” From this it would appear that God wrought at “the brooks of Arnon, and at the stream of the brooks that goeth down to the dwelling of Ar,” miracles similar to that which was wrought at the Red Sea, when it was divided to open up a passage for the chosen tribes.

ftc241 “Comme le principal instrument d’icelle, et par maniere de dire, le chariot auquel elle est apportee, quand elle se vient monstrer aux hommes.” — Fr.

ftc242 The original word implies “to settle, to place steadily in a certain situation or place.” See Parkhursts Lexicon on bxy.

ftc243 “Entant que leur cupidite et ambition insatiable ne pent estre retenue par quelque separation qu’il y ait, mais tasche tousjours d’enjamber par dessus.” — Fr.

ftc244 As none of the ancient versions have “turtle dove,” and as the reading of the LXX. is , ejxomologoume>nhn soi , confessing thee, it has been thought by some in a high degree probable that the word ˚rwt, torecha, thy turtle dove in our present Hebrew copies, should be ˚dwt, todecha, confessing thee; an error which transcribers might easily have committed, by writing r, resh, instead of d, daleth. Houbigant, who approves of this opinion, boldly pronounces the other, which represents the people of God under the figure of a turtle dove, to be “putidum et aliunde conquisitum.” But, says Archbishop Secker, “Turtle dove, which Houbigant calls putidum, should not be called so, considering that ,ytnwy, Cant. 2, 14, is the same thing.” The passage, as it now stands, agrees with other texts of Scripture which represent the people of God under the image of a bird, <042421>Numbers 24:21; <242223>Jeremiah 22:23; 48:28. The turtle dove is a defenceless, solitary, timid, and mournful creature, equally destitute of skill and courage to defend itself from the rapacious birds of prey which thirst for its blood. And this gives a very apt and affecting representation of the state of the Church when this psalm was written. She was in a weak, helpless, and sorrowful condition, in danger of being speedily devoured by the inveterate and implacable enemies, who, like birds of prey, were besetting her on all sides, eagerly intent upon her destruction. “With the most plaintive earnestness she pleads her cause with the Almighty, through this and the following verses; continually growing more importunate in her petitions as the danger increases. While speaking, she seems in the last verse to hear the tumultuous clamours of the approaching enemy growing every minute louder as they advance; and we leave the ‘turtle dove’ without the Divine assistance, ready to sink under the talons of the rapacious eagle.” — Mant.

“The Psalmist’s expression, thy turtle dove, may perhaps be farther illustrated from the custom, ancient and modern, of keeping doves as favourite birds, (see Theocritus, 5. 96; and Virgil, Eclog. 3, 5, 68, 69,) and from the care taken to secure them from such animals as are dangerous to them.” — Merricks Annotations.

ftc245 “The caves, dens, woods, etc., of the land, are full of robbers, cut-throats, and murderers, who are continually destroying thy people; so that the holy seed seems as if it would be entirely cut off, and the covenant promise thus rendered void.” — Dr Adam Clarke. “For the dark places of the earth, i.e., the caverns of Judea, are full of the habitations of violence, i.e., of men who live by rapine. Some, however, by the dark places of the earth, understand the seat of the captivity of the Jews.” — Cresswell.

psalm 75

ftc246 “C’est, car.” — Fr. marg. “That is, for.”

ftc247Par ainsi on racontera.” — Fr. “Therefore they will recount.”

ftc248 “Quand j’auray prins assignation.” — Fr. “When I shall have received the appointment.” “Ou, assemble la congregation.” — Fr. marg “Or, assembled the congregation.”

ftc249 “C’est, je remettray les choses en leur estat.” — Fr. marg. “That is, I will restore things to order.”

ftc250 “Mais j’affermiray.” — Fr. “But I will support or sustain.”

ftc251 “C’est, du Midi.” — Fr. marg. “That is, from the South.”

ftc252 “C’est, gouverne le monde.” — Fr. marg. “That is, governs the world.”

ftc253 This is the reading adopted by Hammond; but instead of making it out by supplying the pronoun ra, asher, as is done by some, he renders, wrps, sipperu, as a participle plural in the sense of the dative case. “Thy name is near, wrps, sipperu, to them that declare thy wondrous works.” He supports this view from the Chaldee, and from the translation of the learned Castellio.

ftc254 “C’est a dire, sans determiner personne.” — Fr.

ftc255 The reading adopted by the most eminent critics is, “When I shall have gotten an appointed or fit time or season, I will judge uprightly.” This is supported by all the ancient versions.

ftc256 “Or, Be not mad.” The verb is wlwht, tahollu, from llh, halal, he was mad, boasting. — Bythner.

ftc257 Lift not up your horn on high, that is, bear not yourselves insolently, from a false notion of your power, (comp. <300613>Amos 6:13.) It has been supposed that the metaphor is taken from the manner in which horned animals carry themselves when they are in an excited state. A practice among the Abyssinians, described by Mr Bruce, has been also adduced as throwing light upon this verse. He observes, that the governors of the provinces in Abyssinia wear a broad fillet round their heads, which is tied behind the head. In the middle of this fillet is a horn, or a conical piece of silver, gilded with gold; and shaped like our candle-extinguishers. This is called kirn or horn; and is only used in reviews or processions after victory. The way in which they throw back the head when wearing this ornament (lest it should fall forward) gives a stiffness to the position of the head; and this seems to explain the language of the Psalmist, when he mentions speaking with a stiff neck. Instead of with a stiff neck, Parkhurst translates with a retorted neck; observing, that “this is a well-known gesture of pride, contempt, or disdain.”

ftc258Praefracte.” — Lat. “Rigoureusement et outrageusement.” — Fr.

ftc259For promotion, etc. The meaning is, the fortunes of men are not governed by planetary influences, but by God’s overruling Providence. The Eastern nations of the world always were, and are at this day, much addicted to judicial astrology.” — Warner.

ftc260 “Si tost que nous oyons le vent de quelque esmotion.” — Fr.

ftc261 “Ou, rouge.” — Fr. marg. “Or, red.”

ftc262 “Here there seems to be an allusion to the cup of malediction, as the Jews called that ‘mixed cup of wine’ and frankincense, which used to be given to condemned criminals before their execution, in order to take away their senses. So the Chaldee Targum paraphrases the passage; ‘Because a cup of malediction is in the hand of the Lord, and strong wine full of a mixture of bitterness, to take away the understanding of the wicked.’” — Parkhurst quoted by Mant.

ftc263 Mixed wine, naturally suggests to us the idea of wine weaker than in its pure state. Accordingly, Green, instead of “full of mixture,” translates “unmixed,” by which he means wine unmixed with water. He perceived, what is evident at first sight, that wine of the strongest quality is intended, and having apparently no idea of any other mixture than that of water, which would weaken the wine, he took the liberty of rendering the words, ˚sm alm, male mesech, by “unmixed.” The Greeks and Latins, in like manner by “mixed wine,” understood wine diluted and weakened with water. But the phrase among the Hebrews generally denotes wine made stronger, by the addition of higher and more powerful ingredients. In the East, wines are much mixed with drugs of a stimulating and intoxicating kind; so that commonly when drawn from the vessels in which they are preserved, they are strained for use. What remains is the thick sediment of the strong and stimulating ingredients with which they had been mixed. This the wicked are doomed to drink. “The introduction of this circumstance,” says Mant, “forms a fine climax, and carries the idea of God’s indignation to the highest point.” Some interpreters have explained the passage as meaning that God would pour out the pure and clear wine for his friends, while he would compel his enemies to drink the dregs. But the reference is entirely to his enemies, who were wholly to exhaust this cup of his fury. This, with the prophets, is a very common image of divine wrath. See volume 2, page 399, note.

ftc264 “By the horns of the wicked is signified pride; by the horns of the righteous, on the other hand, is meant their power. Basil has remarked, that the horn is more exalted and more solid than any other part of the body to which it belongs; and that, at the same time, it supplies ornament to the head, and is also a weapon of defense. Hence it is put metaphorically both for strength and power, and also for pride.” — Cresswell. Here it is threatened that the power and honor of the wicked, which had been employed as the instruments of cruel wrong and oppression, would be destroyed, and their pride effectually humbled; while the righteous would be exalted to power and dignity.

psalm 76

ftc265 “Et bien equippez de toutes choses requises a la guerre.” — Fr.

ftc266 The inscription prefixed to the psalm in the Septuagint expressly mentions this as the occasion of its composition, Wdh< pro<v to<n Assu>rion; “An ode against the Assyrian.” If in this the version of the LXX. is correct, and if Asaph, to whom the psalm is ascribed, was the person of that name who lived in the time of David, one of his compositions must have been adopted as suitably descriptive of this remarkable deliverance. He may, however, have been a different person of the same name, and was probably one of his descendants, as has been before observed, (page 159,) who lived in the time of Hezekiah. Bishop Patrick and Calmet are of this last opinion. Those who adopt the former suppose that the original reference of the psalm was to the victory obtained by David over the Philistines in the valley of Rephaim.

ftc267 “N’ont peu trouver leurs mains.” — Fr. “Have not been able to find their hands.”

ftc268 From har, rah, he saw, or beheld.

ftc269 “This seems to allude to the miraculous destruction of the Assyrian army, as recorded in <232703>Isaiah 27:36.” — Warner.

ftc270 “The Hebrew r, [here rendered arrows,] signifies fire, <180507>Job 5:7, where ‘sparks that fly upward’ are poetically expressed by r ynb, ‘the sons of the fire.’ . .By metaphor it is applies to an ‘arrow’ or ‘dart’ shot out of a bow, and, by the swiftness of the motion, supposed to be inflamed. See Cant. 8, 6, where of love it is said, (not the coals, but) ‘the arrows thereof are arrows of fire,’ it shoots, and wounds, and burns a man’s heart, inflames it vehemently by wounding it. The poetical expression will best be preserved by retaining some trace of the primary sense in the rendering of it — ‘fires or lightnings of the bow,’ i.e., those hostile weapons which are most furious and formidable, as fire shot out from a bow.” — Hammond. Parkhurst renders “glittering flashing arrows,” or rather, “fiery, or fire-bearing arrows;” such as, it is certain, were used in after times in sieges and in battles; the belh pepurwmena of the Greeks, to which Paul alludes in <490616>Ephesians 6:16, and the phalarica of the Romans, which Servius (on Virgil, n. lib. 9, 5, 705) describes as a dart or javelin with a spherical leaden head, to which combustible matter was attached, which being set on fire, the weapon was darted against the enemy; and when thrown by a powerful hand, it killed those whom it hit, and set fire to buildings. Walford has, “fiery arrows.” “The arrows,” says he, “are described as fiery, to denote either the rapidity of their motion, or that they were tinged with some poisonous drugs to render them more deadly.”

ftc271 The verb is in the praet. hithpahel; and it has a, aleph, instead of h, he, according to the Chaldaic language, which changes h, the Hebrew characteristic of hiphil and hithpahel into a.

ftc272 As the verb signifies, has plundered, spoiled; and as it is here in the praet. hithpahel, which generally denotes reciprocal action, that is, acting on one’s self, it has been here rendered by some, despoiled themselves of mind, were mad, furious. Hammond reads, “The stout-hearted have despoiled or disarmed themselves.” The Chaldee paraphrase is, “They have cast away their weapons.”

ftc273waxm al hydy, may be rendered have not found their hands, i.e., have not been able to use them for resistance, for the offending others, or even for their own defense.” — Hammond. The Chaldee paraphrase is, “They could not take their weapons in their hands,” i.e., they could not use their hands to manage their weapons. In the Septuagint, the reading is, eu[ron oujde<n tai~v cersin aujtw~n; “they found nothing with their hands,” i.e., they were able to do nothing with them: the vast army of Assyrians, the most warlike and victorious then in the world, achieved nothing, but “returned with shame to face to their own land,” (<143221>2 Chronicles 32:21.)

ftc274They slept their sleep.” “They slept, but never waked again.” — Hammond. There may be here a direct allusion to the catastrophe which befell the Assyrian army during the night, when, as they were fast asleep in their tents, a hundred and eighty-five thousand of them were at once slain, <233736>Isaiah 37:36.

ftc275 The chariot and horse may be put poetically for charioteers and horsemen. Chariots formed a most important part of the array in the battles of the ancients. See <070403>Judges 4:3. Instead of “both the chariot and the horse,” Horsley reads, “both the rider and the horse.” “It is not improbable,” says he, “that the pestilence in Sennacherib’s army might seize the horses as well as the men, although the death of the beasts is not mentioned by the sacred historian.”

ftc276Dont la terre a eu frayeur.” — Fr. “With which the earth was afraid.”

ftc277Pour faire jugement.” — Fr. “To execute judgment.”

ftc278 “Tous les humbles.” — Fr. “All the humble.”

ftc279 “Rendez vos voeus.” — Fr. “Pay your vows.”

ftc280 “Ou, a cause de la frayeur.” — Fr. marg. “Or, on account of fear.”

ftc281 When an angel of the Lord descended to perform some mighty work with which he had been commissioned, thunders and earthquakes frequently accompanied the execution of his commission; and it is highly probable that both these phenomena accompanied such a stupendous display of power, as that which was afforded by the slaughter of one hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the army of Sennacherib. By Gods judgment being heard, may accordingly be understood the thunder which was heard; and what follows, “The earth was afraid,” may signify the earthquake which then took place.

ftc282 Hammond’s statement of these two interpretations is clear and full. It is as follows: — “What rwgjt [which Calvin renders, thou wilt restrain] signifies here, is not agreed among the interpreters, the word signifying 1. to gird, and, 2. to restrain. In the notion of restraining, it will have a very commodious sense, applied to Sennacherib, to whom this psalm belongs. For, as by the slaughter of the one hundred and eighty-five thousand in his army he was forced to depart, and dwell at Nineveh, <121936>2 Kings 19:36; so, after his return thither, there are some remainders of his wrath on the Jews that dwelt there. We may see it, Tobit 1:18, ‘If the king Sennacherib had slain any, when he was come and fled from Judea, I buried them privily, (for in his wrath he killed many,’) etc. This was the gleanings of his wrath, and this was ‘restrained’ by God; for he soon falls by the hands of his sons, Adrammelech and Sharezer, ‘as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god,’ <121937>2 Kings 19:37. And to this sense Kimchi interprets it, ‘Thou shalt so repress the malice of our enemies, that the other nations shall not dare to fight against us;’ so likewise Aben Ezra. And thus it must be, if ‘the remainder of wrath’ be ‘man’s wrath,’ as the former part of the verse inclines it, ‘Surely the wrath of man,’ etc. But rgj, in the primary notion, signifies girding or putting on, arraying oneself. Girding, we know, signifies putting on, and is applied to garments, ornaments, arms: rwgj, ‘Gird thy sword upon thy thigh,’ <194503>Psalm 45:3, and frequently elsewhere; and so ‘girding with gladness,’ is putting on festival ornaments. And in like manner here, in a poetical phrase, ‘Thou shalt gird on the remainder of wrath,’ parallel to ‘putting on the garments of vengeance for clothing,’ <235917>Isaiah 59:17, will signify God’s adorning and setting out himself by the exercise of his vengeance, vulgarly expressed by his wrath, and the word tmj, wrath, most fitly used with reference on tmj, the wrath of man, in the beginning of the verse. Mans wrath is the violence, and rage, and blasphemy of the oppressor, upon the meek or poor man foregoing. This begins, goes foremost, in provoking God; and then tyra, the remnant, or second part of wrath, is still behind for God; and with that he girds himself, i.e., sets himself out illustriously and dreadfully, as with an ornament, and as with an hostile preparation in the eyes of men. And so in this sense also it is agreeable to the context... In either sense, the parts of this verse are perfectly answerable the one to the other. To this latter rendering of rwgjt, the Chaldee inclines us, paraphrasing it by, ‘Thou hast girded on, or prepared, or made ready, the remainder of fury, (meaning by God’s fury,) for the destroying of the nations.’”

ftc283 This is Kimchi’s interpretation: He understands by “those round about God,” the nations near the land of Israel, and so near God.

ftc284 In this sense it is employed in <013153>Genesis 31:53, “And Jacob sware by the Fear of his father Isaac.”

ftc285 If it is thus applied, the reading will be, “Let all those who are round about him bring presents on account of fear.”

ftc286 The word employed by Calvin is “Vindemiabit,” which expresses the precise idea of the original verb, rwxby, yebtstor. It is from rxb, he cut off, brake off, referring properly to grapes and other fruits. The reading of the LXX. is, “takes away.”

psalm 77

ftc287 This is the rendering in our English Bible, which Dr Adam Clarke pronounces to be “a most unaccountable translation.” The reading of the margin, however, “my hand,” favours the sense given by our Author.

ftc288 This is the translation adopted by many critics, and it appears to be the true signification of the passage. Thus Symmachus’ version is, hJ ceir mou nuktovejktetato dihnekwv, “my hand was stretched out by night continually;” and, in like manner, Jerome, “Manus mea nocte extenditur, et non quiescit.” Parkhurst renders the verse thus: “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out by night and ceased not,” or, “without interruption.” With this agree the versions of Horsley, Mant, Fry, Adam Clarke, Walford, and others. The stretching out of the hand was an usual gesture in prayer. Instead of ydy, the Chaldee reads yny[, “mine eye trickled down,” which Archbishop Secker and Green think likely to be the true reading.

ftc289 Some of the Jewish commentators interpret this clause thus: “Thou holdest the brows of my eyes.” The eyebrows which protect the eyes were held, so that he could not shut them and obtain sleep. Sleep to a person in trouble has the effect of interrupting his sorrow for a time, and of weakening it by refreshing the body. It is, therefore, in such circumstances, a great blessing, and is earnestly desired. But to have this denied, and for the sufferer to have sleepless and wearisome nights appointed to him, is a great aggravation of his distress.

ftc290 “The times were indeed greatly altered; formerly his sleep had been prevented by the joyfulness of his feelings, which prompted the voice of thanksgiving during even the shades of night; now his sleep is taken away by the severity of his disease, and the anguish of his soul, which was augmented by the contrast with his past happiness.” — Walford.

ftc291 “The verb pj, chaphas, signifies such an investigation as a man makes who is obliged to strip himself in order to do it. Or, to lift up coverings, to search fold by fbld; or, in our phrase, to leave no stone unturned. The Vulgate translates, et scopebam spiritum meum. As scopebam is no pure Latin word, it may probably be taken from the Greek, skopew, scopeo, ‘to look about, to consider attentively.’ It is, however, used by no author but St Jerome, and by him only here, and in <231423>Isaiah 14:23, ‘And I will sweep it with the besom of destruction;’ ‘scopabo eam in scopa terens.’ Hence we see that he has formed a verb from the noun scopae; a sweeping brush or besom.” — Dr Adam Clarke.

ftc292 “La stupidite brutale.” — Fr. “The brutish stupidity.”

ftc293 “Ou, sera-il eslongne.” — Fr. marg. “Or, will he be at a distance.”

ftc294 “C’est, ma maladie.” — Fr. marg. “That is, my disease or sickness.”

ftc295 “Ou, changemens.” — Fr. marg. “Or, changes.”

ftc296 “Qu’a cause de l’infirmite du temps, (ascavoir avant la manifestation de Christ.”) — Fr.

ftc297 Walford translates, “Then I said, My disease is this. “Such,” he observes, “is the exact rendering of the text. Some painful disease had befallen him, which was heightened by the depression of his spirits, which deprived him of mental vigor and energy, and clothed every object in the blackest colours. . . . . ‘I said, This is my disease.’ My mind is oppressed by the mortified feelings of my corporeal frame, and on this account, the changes by which the hand of God has affected me appear in the darkest colours, and I am ready to give up every hope that he will ever display his goodness to me as he formerly did.”

ftc298 According to this view, he refers to what he had said in the 7th, 8th, and 9th verses, in which he seemed to arrive at the conclusion, that there would never be an end to his present afflictions, as if the decree had gone forth, and God had pronounced a final and irreversible sentence. But here he checks and corrects himself for having given utterance to such language, and recalls his thoughts to more just and encouraging sentiments respecting God. He acknowledges his sin in questioning or yielding to a feeling of suspicion in reference to the divine love, and the truth of the divine promises; and confesses that this flowed from the corruption of his nature, and the weakness of his faith; that he had spoken rashly and in haste; and that taking shame and confusion of face to himself, he would now desist and proceed no farther.

ftc299Walford translates the verse thus: —

“Then I said, My disease is this,
The change of the right hand of the High God.”

“There is no authority,” he observes, “for the version, ‘I will remember the years;’ his meaning is, the power of God has changed and altered my condition; from a state of health and peace, he has brought me into disease, and pain, and sorrow. This, he says, he will remember, so as to inspire some hope that the power which had brought low would again raise him up.”

ftc300 Our Author seems to refer to those interpreters who, as in our English version, make the supplement, But I will remember, before the words, “the years of the right hand of the Most High.”

ftc301Thy way, O God! is in the sanctuary; the temple, the Church of God, where he takes his walks and manifests himself, and where the reasons of his providence and dealings with his people are opened and made known unto them.” — Dr Gill.

ftc302 “Neantmoins il faut imputer cela a la malice de ceux qui ayans veu la chose eux-mesmes de leurs yeux, ont mieux aime s’esblouir la veue et desguiser le faict, que d’en entretenir la pure cognoissance.” — Fr.

ftc303 “The reason of Joseph’s being coupled with Jacob is, that as the Israelites derived their birth from Jacob, so they were sustained by Joseph in Egypt, who became to them a second parent.” — Walford.

ftc304 “‘The waters of the Red Sea,’ says Bishop Horne, ‘are here beautifully represented as endued with sensibility; as seeing, feeling, and being confounded, even to the lowest depths, at the presence and power of their great Creator, when he commanded them to open a way, and to form a wall on each side of it, until his people were passed over.’ This, in fact, is true poetry; and in this attributing of life, spirit, feeling, action, and suffering, to inanimate objects, there are no poets who can vie with those of the Hebrew nation.” — Mant.

ftc305 As in the three preceding verses the deliverance of the chosen people from Egypt, and the drying up of the Red Sea, to make a way for them to pass through, are the subjects celebrated, it is very natural to suppose that the 17th and 18th verses refer to the tempestuous rain, the thunder, lightning, and earthquake, by which God testified his wrath against the Egyptians, and by which that ruthless host were filled with dismay, when they went into the midst of the Red Sea after the Israelites. Of these particular circumstances, we have indeed no distinct information in the narrative of Moses; but from a comparison of what is here stated, with what is said in <021424>Exodus 14:24, “And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians,” it seems highly probable that they took place on that occasion. With this corresponds the representation given by Josephus of this part of Jewish History. “As soon as ever the whole Egyptian army was within it, the sea flowed to its own place, and came down with a torrent raised by storms of wind, and encompassed the Egyptians. Showers of rain also came down from the sky, and dreadful thunders and lightning, with flashes of fire. Thunder-bolts also were darted upon them; nor was there any thing which used to be sent by God upon men, as indications of his wrath, which did not happen at that time; for a dark and dismal night oppressed them.” — Antiquities of the Jews, Book II. chapter 16, section 3.

ftc306Thy footsteps are not known; not by the Egyptians, who essayed to follow after the people of Israel, with the Lord at the head of them, nor by any since; for the waters returned and covered the place on which the Israelites went as on dry ground; so that no footsteps or traces were to be seen at all ever since; and such are the ways of God, many of them in providence as well as in grace, <451133>Romans 11:33.” — Dr Gill.

ftc307 “After the sublime and awful imagery of the four preceding verses, in which thunders and lightnings, storms and tempests, rain, hail, and earthquakes, the ministers of the Almighty’s displeasure, are brought together and exhibited in the most impressive colours; nothing can be, more exquisite than the calmness and tranquillity of this concluding verse, on which the mind reposes with sensations of refreshment and delight.” — Mant.

psalm 78

ftc308 “Ou, ma doctrine.” — Fr. marg. “Or, my doctrine, or instruction.”

ftc309 Calmet refers the composition of this psalm to the days of Asa, who, aided by the Syrians, obtained a signal victory over the Israelites, and brought back to the pure worship of God many out of the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon. See <141501>2 Chronicles 15 and 16. Schnurrer supposes, that the special purpose for which it was composed was, to celebrate a decisive victory which had been gained over the kingdom of Ephraim or Israel by Abijah, the king of Judah during the reign of Jeroboam. Walford thinks this opinion highly probable. “There is,” say’s he, “an eulogy passed upon David at the conclusion of the psalm, which makes it likely that the author of it wished to conciliate the favor of the whole people towards David’s successors, from whom Jeroboam had revolted: and in verse 9th, there is a reference to Ephraim which affords some degree of evidence in support of Schnurrer’s hypothesis. Whatever may be thought of this hypothesis, we cannot hesitate to admit that the psalm itself is clear, pungent, and persuasive, and must have been felt to be so by the persons for whose use it was written.”

ftc310 We have seen that Calvin, on the margin of the French version, reads instruction, and this reading is adopted by Street, Fry, Morison, and Walford.

ftc311 See volume 2, page 238, note 2.

ftc312 Walford translates twdyj, chidoth, “all impressive record.” His version of the first and second verses is,

“Hear, O my people! my instruction:
Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with an instructive speech,
I will utter an impressive record of ancient times.”

      “The words law, parable, and dark sayings,” he observes, “which are found in the English translation of verses 1st and 2d, are not appropriate to the recitals which are contained in the psalm. They are here altered for others, which are in agreement with the subjects which follow, and may be supported by the usage of the original words which are employed.” Similar is Street’s note on this place. He translates twdyj, chidoth, “pointed truths,” and objects to its being translated dark sayings. “There is nothing obscure in the psalm,” says he, “it contains instructive historical truth, but no enigma. Therefore, the rendering of the English Bible, dark sayings, does not seem to be right. The Septuagint renders the word dihghma, <261702>Ezekiel 17:2, and that rendering would suit this place better than proqlhmata I have endeavored to express the relation of the word to ddj, acutum est.” See volume 2 of this work, page 238, note 3. But as Dimock observes, “The several transactions of the Mosaical covenant hereafter recited, might be well called parables and dark speeches, or, as Arabic, mysteries, considered as types or figures of the Christian; and viewed in this light, afford ample matter of contemplation, serving not only as a schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, but to keep us stedfast in faith and obedience to David our king.”

ftc313 Horsley considers this verse as a parenthesis.

ftc314 Dr Adam Clarke, by a testimony understands the various ordinances, rites, and ceremonies prescribed by the laws and by the word law, the moral law.

ftc315lsk, kislam, their hope, or their constancy. lsk, folly, by antiphrasis, constancy.” — Bythner.

ftc316 “The Syriac version reads, ‘And confided not in the God of its spirit,’ translating hnman, [the word which Calvin renders ‘was faithful,’] by a masculine verb; and this indeed the sense will very well bear, and the change of genders is not unusual, and God is frequently known by that title, ‘the God of the spirits of all flesh.’ See <041622>Numbers 16:22.” — Hammond.

ftc317 “Premierement il faut que nous ostions toute obstination, avant que nous puissions avoir les cols propres pour recevoir son joug.” — Fr. In the first place, we must lay aside all obstinacy before we can bend our necks to receive his yoke.

ftc318 Of the Ephraimites shooting with the bow, or being archers, we have an intimation in <014924>Genesis 49:24, where, in Jacob’s blessing on Joseph, the father of Ephraim, it is said, “His bow abode in strength.”

ftc319 Dr Morison supposes, that the history here referred to, is that of the Israelites going up contrary to the divine command to take possession of the promised land, when, for their temerity, they were smitten and humbled before their enemies. (<050142>Deuteronomy 1:42.) “The tribe of Ephraim,” he observes, “is doubtless specially singled out, because they were the most warlike of all the chosen tribes, and because, perhaps, they led on the other tribes to the fatal act of rebellion against the expressed will of the God of Israel.” This, perhaps, may be considered as receiving some support from comparing the number of the tribe of Ephraim (<040219>Numbers 2:19) when they came out of Egypt, with their number when taken in the plains of Moab, at the termination of their wanderings in the wilderness, (<042637>Numbers 26:37.) At the former period, they amounted to 40,500, at the latter, to 32,500, eight thousand less; whereas, during those forty years the other tribes had considerably increased.

ftc320 “Sans en monstrer les fruicts en leur vie.” — Fr.

ftc321 “De la verite et fidelite des promesses, et de la foy qu’on y doit adjouster.” — Fr.

ftc322 “A la verite une telle stupidite estoit plusque brutale, ou plustost comme une chose monstrueuse.” — Fr.

ftc323 Zoan was the ancient capital of Egypt where the Pharaohs resided. Its great antiquity appears from the expression used respecting Hebron, in <041322>Numbers 13:22, where, to set forth the antiquity of that city, in which Abraham the tenth from Noah dwelt, it is said, that it “was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.” Zoan is twice specified in this psalm, here and in verse 43d, (though not mentioned in the history of the plagues in the book of Exodus,) as the scene of the wonderful works wrought on Pharaoh and the land of Egypt by Moses. This may mean, that these miracles were performed there in the sight of Pharaoh. Or the field or country of Zoan, may be put poetically for Egypt in general. Thus, in other poetical parts of Scripture, Zoan is sometimes used instead of Egypt, as in <231911>Isaiah 19:11, 13, where “the princes of Zoan” just mean the counsellors of Pharaoh; and in <233004>Isaiah 30:4, where, when God’s ancient people are represented as sending to Egypt for relief, it is said, that their “princes were at Zoan.” Zoan is rendered by the Chaldee ynaf, by the LXX. Taniv , by the Vulgate Tanis, and by the Coptic Tane, from the Coptic ten, plain, flat, level; being situated on the low ground of the Delta, on one of the Eastern branches of the Nile, bearing its own name, near a large lake, now called the Lake of Menzala, 44 miles west of Pelusium, 169 miles east of Alexandria, and three miles from the Mediterranean. There are ruins still remaining to mark the site of Zoan or Tanis, called San by the Arabs, comprising broken obelisks, capitals of the Corinthian order, a granite monument, etc. These ruins, however, are not thought to be of the highest antiquity.

ftc324 “Ou, a leur cupidite.” — Fr. marg. “Or, for their lust.”

ftc325 “The term ascended is figurative, derived from the ascending of the breath, in vehement gusts of agitation and anger.” — Walford.

ftc326 “Qu’ils n’ont point reprime leur insolence et appetit desordonne.” — Fr.

ftc327 The word pn, nephesh, for soul, has great latitude of signification. It sometimes signifies the sensitive or animal appetites, as in this passage. The people had their wants abundantly supplied, and yet they remained unsatisfied and querulous. It is therefore said, that they demanded meat pnl, for their souls; i.e., not for their real wants, which they might rationally and lawfully desire to have supplied, but to gratify their sensitive and carnal appetites. Our English Bible, and Calvin on the margin of the French version, give a very happy translation, They tempted God, by asking meat for their lust.

ftc328 “‘They tempted God with their heart,’ that is, heartily, or with all their soul.” — Walford.

ftc329 The manna received its name, either from hnm, manah, he prepared, appointed, distributed, to intimate that this food was prepared by God for the Israelites, and was their appointed portion which was daily distributed to them by measure; or, it is from the words ˆm hwh, huh man, What is this? <021516>Exodus 15:16, ˆ being used for h in euphony. This was the question which they asked when they first saw this species of food, not knowing what it was.

ftc330 Abu Walid and Kimchi read, “the bread of heaven.”

ftc331 The Chaldee paraphrase of the expression, the bread of the mighty, is, “the food that descends from the dwelling of angels;” so that, according to this view, it signifies no more than , “corn of heaven,” by which the manna is described in the preceding verse. Dr Geddes and Williams observe, that the Hebrew word yryba, abbirim, never signifies angels, but persons of the higher classes, the rich, the great, the noble; and that the meaning of the Psalmist is, that the Israelites found in the manna a dainty, delicate food, such as might suit the palates of the great; that it was bread fit for princes; the best, the choicest of bread. This agrees with Simonis’ rendering of the phrase, “cibus nobilium, scilicet principum; hoc est, cibus exquisitus, delicatus, eximius.” Such also is the view taken by Fry, Walford, and others. If by yryba, abbirim, the mighty, angels should be understood, as it is rendered in all the ancient versions, the meaning will be substantially the same; for the manna, by an obvious poetical figure, may be called the bread of angels, to denote food of the most exquisite kind; just as Paul speaks of the tongues of angels, (<461301>1 Corinthians 13:1,) to indicate eloquence of the highest order.

ftc332 “Les autres ont traduit les verbes par un temps passe, Il a commande aux nuees, Il a ouvert les portes du ciel, Il a fait pluvoir la Manne,” etc. — Fr.

ftc333 “Heb. ‘fowl of wing;’ i.e., flying fowls, in distinction from domestic poultry.” — Williams.

ftc334 “Heb. Of his camp; either Israel’s camp or God’s camp; for seeing Israel was God’s people, and he dwelt among them, their camp was his camp.” — Poole.

ftc335 The Israelites were miraculously supplied with quails in the wilderness on two different occasions. The first occasion was upon the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from Egypt, and before they came to mount Sinai, <021601>Exodus 16:1, 12, 13. The second, which is the one here referred to, was at Kibroth-hattaavah, a place three days’ journey beyond the desert of Sinai, in the beginning of the second year after their departure from Egypt, <041011>Numbers 10:11; and 11:31-35. In both instances, the quails were sent in consequence of the murmuring of the Israelites. But in the first instance, they came up and covered the camp of Israel only one evening, while in the second, they came up from the sea for a whole month. No token of the divine displeasure accompanied the first miracle, God having, in his compassion, forgiven their murmuring; but the second miracle was wrought in wrath, and attended with the infliction of the divine vengeance on that rebellious people, (<041133>Numbers 11:33.)

ftc336While their meat was yet in their mouth; the meat of the quails, while it was between their teeth, ere it was chewed, and before it was swallowed down, while they were rolling this sweet morsel under their tongues, and were gorging themselves with it, destruction came upon them; just as Belshazzar, while he was feasting with his nobles, in the midst of his mirth and jollity, was slain by the Persians, <270501>Daniel 5:1, 30.” — Dr Gill.

ftc337 Mr Mudge observes, that this clause should be translated, “Slew them amidst their fatnesses or indulgences.” This is approved of by Lowth. Cocceius and Michaelis give a similar version.

ftc338 “This alludes to their appointed wanderings for forty years in the wilderness, as the punishment of their disobedience and rebellion; that all those who had left Egypt, and were grown to man’s estate, were dead, with the exceptions of Caleb and Joshua.” — Warner.

ftc339 “Que leur vie a este emportee comme quand en tumulte on ravit quelque chose.” — Fr.

ftc340 In the Hebrew Bible, a masoretic note is inserted after the 35th verse, rpsh yxj, chatsi ha-sepher, the middle of the book, that is, with respect to verses.

ftc341rpky, yecapher, made an atonement for their iniquity.” — Dr Adam Clarke.

ftc342 “C’est a dire, souffle.” — Fr. marg. “That is to say, a breath.” Dr Adam Clarke translates, “the spirit goeth away, and it doth not return.” “The present life,” he observes, “is the state of probation; when, therefore, the flesh, the body, fails, the spirit goeth away into the eternal world, and returneth not hither again.” He considers the translation in our English Bible, “a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again,” to be a bad one, and that it may be productive of error; as if when a man dies, his being were ended, and death were an eternal sleep.

ftc343 “They provoked God at least ten times, (<041422>Numbers 14:22,) during the first two years of their journey through the wilderness. 1. at the Red Sea, (<021411>Exodus 14:11, 12;) 2. at the waters of Marah, (<021524>Exodus 15:24;) 3. in the wilderness of Sin, (<021502>Exodus 15:2;) 4. when they kept the manna until the following day, (<021610>Exodus 16:10;) 5, when the manna was collected on the Sabbath, (<021627>Exodus 16:27;) 6. in Rephidim, where there was no water, (<042002>Numbers 20:2, 13;) 7. at Horeb, when a molten calf was made, (<023201>Exodus 32:1, etc.;) 8. at Taberah, (<041101>Numbers 11:1, 2, 3;) 9. when they lusted for flesh, (<041104>Numbers 11:4;) 10. when they murmured at the news brought by the men, who had been sent to search the land, (<041401>Numbers 14:1, etc.”) — Cresswell.

ftc344 That is, Pharaoh, as the next verse shows. See <19A702>Psalm 107:2.

ftc345 This is the literal rendering of the original word br[, arob, which is derived from the verb br[, arab, he mingled. It is not agreed among interpreters what is meant by this name given here, and in <020821>Exodus 8:21, and in <19A531>Psalm 105:31, to one of the plagues which fell upon the Egyptians. The Chaldee has “a mixture of living creatures of the wood.” “A mixture; a mixed collection of beasts,” says Bythner. In our English Bible, it is “divers sorts of flies.” Others read, “swarms of flies.” Bishop Mant reads, “the ravening fly;” Fry, simply “the fly;” and Walford, “the horse-fly.” “The Seventy,” says Mant, “have rendered the original word translated ‘fly,’ when spoken of the Egyptian plague, constantly by kunomui>a , ‘the dog-fly;’ whence it is plain those translators thought it meant some particular species of fly, in opposition to those who are of opinion that it meant ‘all sorts of flies.’ (See Parkhurst on br[.) What particular species was intended has been much doubted. Bruce, however, seems to have decided the question, and fixed the insect to be the Ethiopian fly, called Zimb, of which he has given a particular description. Some of its effects are thus represented by him. ‘As soon as this plague appears, and their buzzing is heard, all the cattle forsake their food, and run wildly about the plain, till they die, worn out with fatigue, fright, and hunger. No remedy remains but to leave the black earth, and hasten down to the sands of Atbara; and there they remain, while the rains last, this cruel enemy not daring to pursue them further. Though his size be immense, as is his strength, and his body covered with a thick skin, defended with strong hair, yet even the camel is not capable of sustaining the violent punctures the fly makes with his pointed proboscis. When once attacked by this fly, his body, head, and legs, break out into large bosses, which swell, break, and putrefy, to the certain destruction of the creature. Even the elephant and rhinoceros, which, by reason of their enormous bulk, and the vast quantity of food and water they daily need, cannot shift to desert and dry places, as the season may require, are obliged to roll themselves in mud and mire; which, when dry, coats them over like armor, and enables them to stand their ground against this winged assassin.’” — Mant.

ftc346 lysj, chasil, which is derived from lsj, chasal, to consume, eat up, denotes a species of insect, so called from its devouring the fruits of the earth. But we are so little acquainted with the various kinds of destructive insects that ravage the Eastern countries, that it is somewhat difficult to determine the particular species meant by this term. It is distinguished from the locust in Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple, <140628>2 Chronicles 6:28, and in <290104>Joel 1:4, where it is mentioned as eating up what the locusts had left. Harmer is of opinion that it is the species of insects now called sim in Persia, referred to in the following extract from Sir John Chardin’s Travels: — “Persia is subject to have its harvests spoiled by hail, by drought, or by insects, either locusts or small insects which they call sim, which are small white lice, which fix themselves on the foot of the stalk of corn, gnaw it, and make it die. It is rare for a year to be exempt from one or other of these scourges, which affect the ploughed lands and the gardens,” etc. On this Harmer observes, “The enumeration by Solomon and that of this modern writer, though not exactly alike, yet so nearly resemble each other, that one would be inclined to believe these small insects are what Solomon meant by the word [lysj, chasil] translated ‘caterpillars’ in our English version.” — Harmers Observations, volume 3, page 316. lysj, chasil, is rendered broucov by the LXX., in <140628>2 Chronicles 6:28, and by Aquila here, and also by the Vulgate in Chronicles and in <233304>Isaiah 33:4, and it is rendered by Jerome here, bruchus, “the chaffer,” which every one knows to be a great devourer of the leaves of trees. The Syriac in <290104>Joel 1:4, 2:25, renders it ,arwxrx, tzartzooro, which Michaelis, (Supplem. ad Lex. Heb., page 865,) from the Arabic rxrx, tsartzar, a cricket, interprets the mole-cricket, which, in its grub state, is also very destructive to corn, grass, and other vegetables, by cankering the roots on which it feeds. — See Parkhursts Lexicon on laj.

ftc347 The Hebrew word here translated “grasshopper” is ,hbra, arbeh, which properly means “locust.” The locust receives no fewer than ten different names in Scripture, each of which indicates something characteristic. It is called hbra, arbeh, from its extraordinary fecundity. No animal is more prolific; nor has Providence ever employed an agency more effective in destroying the fruits of the earth. Dr Russell, in his Natural History of Aleppo, observes that locusts “sometimes arrive in such incredible multitudes as it would appear fabulous to relate, destroying the whole of the verdure wherever they pass.” A Traveller in Syria says, “That country, together with Egypt, Persia, and almost all the whole middle part of Asia, partakes in another scourge besides volcanoes and earthquakes, and that no less terrible; I mean those clouds of locusts of which travelers have spoken: the quantity of these insects is incredible to any man who has not seen it: the earth is covered by them for several leagues round. One may hear at a distance the noise they make in brousing the plants and trees, like an army plundering in secret. It would be better to be concerned with Tartars than these little destructive animals: one might say that fire follows their tract.” — See Parkhursts Lexicon on hbr,4.

ftc348 The original word twmq, shikmotham, does not properly signify the fig-tree, but the sycamore, a tree which grows in Palestine, Arabia, and Egypt. It is different from the English sycamore, which is a species of maple. It bears fruit resembling the fig, whilst its leaves are like those of the mulberry-tree; whence its name, sukov , (sycos,) a fig-tree, and , mwrov, (moros,) a mulberry-tree. The sycamore was highly valued by the ancient Egyptians. It furnished them with wood for various purposes; it afforded a grateful shade by its wide-spreading branches; and the figs which it produced, it is not improbable, formed a principal part of the food of the common people. “Norden tells us the people for the greater part live upon these figs; thinking themselves well regaled when they have a piece of bread, a couple of sycamore-figs, and a pitcher filled with water from the Nile.” — Harmers Observations, volume 4, pages 4, 5. From this it is easy to conceive how severe and distressing the loss must have been which the Egyptians sustained “when their vines were destroyed with hail, and their sycamore-trees with frost or hailstones.”

ftc349lmnjb, ba-chana-mal, in frost. A noun of four letters prefixed with b; lmnj is read here only in Scripture. And what it may be is unknown. Severe frost, according to some; a kind of hail, according to others.” — Bythner.

ftc350The original word tyj, chayatham, here rendered their cattle, is translated in our English Bible their life. But in all the ancient versions it is their cattle. The reference is to the plague which destroyed all the first-born in the land of Egypt. The first-born both of cattle, and of the Egyptians themselves, were involved in one common destruction. <021229>Exodus 12:29.

ftc351 “Ar. reads ,hynb, ‘the first-fruits of their children.’ See <021229>Exodus 12:29.” — Dimock.

ftc352 Aben Ezra supposes y[r ykalm, malachey raim, to be Moses and Aaron, as messengers of evil to Pharaoh, who are so called because they previously warned him, and denounced the judgments of God against him, just as the Prophet Abijah makes use of a similar expression when the wife of Jeroboam came to him to inquire concerning her son: “I am a messenger to thee of hard things,” <111406>1 Kings 14:6. Fry also reads “messengers of evil,” and has the following note: “Such is the literal meaning and exact rendering of y[r ykalm, and not evil angels, which would be regularly y[r ykalm. By these messengers of evil, I make no doubt, no more is meant than Moses and Aaron, who were charged with denunciations of wrath to Pharaoh, previously to the infliction of all the several plagues.” Archbishop Secker, however, observes, that although y[r ykalm would be the proper expression for evil angels, yet the plural of kal is sometimes written defectively ykalm. The LXX. has, ajpostolh~n dij ajggelwn ponhrw~n, “a message by evil angels.”

ftc353He levelled a path to his anger. slp [the word for levelled] signifies to direct by a line or level; and when applied to a way, is understood to denote that the way is made straight and smooth, so as to leave no impediment to the passenger. See Poole’s Synopsis and Le Clerc. The sense will be much the same whether we thus interpret the phrase, or suppose the anger of God to have taken its direction, para< sta>qmhn, in a straight line, and by a level; that is, in the shortest way, without delay or deviation.” — Merricks Annotations.

ftc354 “This mountain, i.e., Zion; which the Psalmist might point to with his finger.” — Dimock.

ftc355 “Ou, possedee.” — Fr. marg. “Or, possessed.”

ftc356 “Perhaps for hljn, we should read ljn, ‘and he made them fall in the lot of their inheritance.’ For it has been by some learned men conjectured, that the land of Canaan was originally the allotment of Heber and his descendants, and that the Canaanites had obtained it by force and violence; for which reason amongst others, they were expelled from it, and the Hebrews reinstated. See <011115>Genesis 11:15; 13:15; <130124>1 Chronicles 1:24-27; and Bryant’s Obs. But see <19A511>Psalm 105:11, 12, 44, and <19B107>Psalm 111:7.” — Dimock.

ftc357hymr tqk, like a deceitful bow. This comparison does not seem to convey a suitable idea either here or <280716>Hosea 7:16. Might we then venture to read in both places