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


PSALM 79

This is a complaint and lamentation of the Church when severely afflicted; in which, while the faithful bewail their miserable and, in one sense, undeserved calamities, and accuse their enemies of cruelty, they acknowledge that, in another sense, they have been justly chastised, and humbly betake themselves to the divine mercy. Their confidence of obtaining this, they rest chiefly upon the fact, that they saw God’s dishonor conjoined with their calamities, inasmuch as the ungodly, in oppressing the Church, blasphemed his sacred name.

A Psalm of Asaph.

This psalm, like others, contains internal evidence that it was composed long after the death of David. Some who ascribe it to him allege, in support of this opinion, that the afflictions of the Church have been here predicted by the spirit of prophecy, to encourage the faithful in bearing the cross when these afflictions should arrive. But there does not appear to be any ground for such a supposition. It is not usual with the prophets thus to speak historically in their prophecies. Whoever judiciously reflects upon the scope of the poem will easily perceive that it was composed either when the Assyrians, after having burnt the temple, and destroyed the city, dragged the people into captivity, or when the temple was defiled by Antiochus, after he had slaughtered a vast number of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Its subject agrees very well with either of these periods. Let us then take it as an admitted point, that this complaint was dictated to the people of God at a time when the Church was subjected to oppression, and when matters were reduced to the most hopeless condition. How cruelly the Assyrians conducted themselves is well known. And under the tyranny of Antiochus, if a man dared simply to open his mouth in defense of the pure worship of God, he did it at the risk of immediately forfeiting his life.

<197901>Psalm 79:1-4

1. O God! the heathen [or the nations] have come into thy inheritance; they have defiled the temple of thy holiness; they have laid Jerusalem in heaps. 2. They have given the dead bodies of thy servants for food to the fowls of the heaven; the flesh of thy meek ones to the beasts of the earth. 3. They have shed their blood like water, around Jerusalem: and there was none to bury them. 4. We have been a reproach to our neighbors; a scorn and a derision to them that are around us.

 

1. O God! the heathen have come into thy inheritance. Here the prophet, in the person of the faithful, complains that the temple was defiled, and the city destroyed. In the second and third verses, he complains that the saints were murdered indiscriminately, and that their dead bodies were cast forth upon the face of the earth, and deprived of the honor of burial. Almost every word expresses the cruelty of these enemies of the Church. When it is considered that God had chosen the land of Judea to be a possession to his own people, it seemed inconsistent with this choice to abandon it to the heathen nations, that they might ignominiously trample it under foot, and lay it waste at their pleasure. The prophet, therefore, complains that when the heathen came into the heritage of God, the order of nature was, as it were, inverted. The destruction of the temple, of which he speaks in the second clause, was still less to be endured; for thus the service of God on earth was extinguished, and religion destroyed. He adds, that Jerusalem, which was the royal seat of God, was reduced to heaps. By these words is denoted a hideous overthrow. The profanation of the temple, and the destruction of the holy city, involving, as they did, heaven-daring impiety, which ought justly to have provoked the wrath of God against these enemies — the prophet begins with them, and then comes to speak of the slaughter of the saints. The atrocious cruelty of these persecutions is pointed out from the circumstance that they not only put to death the servants of God, but also exposed their dead bodies to the beasts of the field, and to birds of prey, to be devoured, instead of burying them. Men have always had such a sacred regard to the burial of the dead, as to shrink from depriving even their enemies of the honor of sepulture. fc371 Whence it follows, that those who take a barbarous delight in seeing the bodies of the dead torn to pieces and devoured by beasts, more resemble these savage and cruel animals than human beings. It is also shown that these persecutors acted more atrociously than enemies ordinarily do, inasmuch as they made no more account of shedding human blood than of pouring forth water. From this we learn their insatiable thirst for slaughter. When it is added, there was none to bury them, this is to be understood as applying to the brethren and relatives of the slain. The inhabitants of the city were stricken with such terror by the indiscriminate butchery perpetrated by these ruthless assassins upon all who came in their way, that no one dared to go forth. God having intended that, in the burial of men, there should be some testimony to the resurrection at the last day, it was a double indignity for the saints to be despoiled of this right after their death. But it may be asked, Since God often threatens the reprobate with this kind of punishment, why did he suffer his own people to be devoured of beasts? We must remember, what we have stated elsewhere, that the elect, as well as the reprobate, are subjected to the temporal punishments which pertain only to the flesh. The difference between the two cases lies solely in the issue; for God converts that which in itself is a token of his wrath into the means of the salvation of his own children. The same explanation, then, is to be given of their want of burial which is given of their death. The most eminent of the servants of God may be put to a cruel and ignominious death — a punishment which we know is often executed upon murderers, and other despisers of God; but still the death of the saints does not cease to be precious in his sight: and when he has suffered them to be unrighteously persecuted in the flesh, he shows, by taking vengeance on their enemies, how dear they were to him. In like manner, God, to stamp the marks of his wrath on the reprobate, even after their death, deprives them of burial; and, therefore, he threatens a wicked king, “He shall be buried with the burial of all ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem,” (<242219>Jeremiah 22:19; see also <243630>Jeremiah 36:30.) fc372 When he exposes his own children to the like indignity, he may seem for a time to have forsaken them; but he afterwards converts it into the means of furthering their salvation; for their faith, being subjected to this trial, acquires a fresh triumph. When in ancient times the bodies of the dead were anointed, that ceremony was performed for the sake of the living whom they left behind them, to teach them, when they saw the bodies of the dead carefully preserved, to cherish in their hearts the hope of a better life. The faithful, then, by being deprived of burial, suffer no loss, when they rise by faith above these inferior helps, that they may advance with speedy steps to a blessed immortality.

4. We have been a reproach to our neighbors. Here another complaint is uttered, to excite the mercy of God. The more proudly the ungodly mock and triumph over us, the more confidently may we expect that our deliverance is near; for God will not bear with their insolence when it breaks forth so audaciously; especially when it redounds to the reproach of his holy name: even as it is said in Isaiah,

“This is the word which the Lord hath spoken concerning him, The virgin, the daughter of Zion hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee. Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed; and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.” (<233722>Isaiah 37:22, 23)

And assuredly their neighbors, fc373 who were partly apostates, or the degenerate children of Abraham, and partly the avowed enemies of religion, when they molested and reproached this miserable people, did not refrain from blaspheming God. Let us, therefore, remember that the faithful do not here complain of the derision with which they were treated as individuals, but of that which they saw to be indirectly levelled against God and his law. We shall again meet with a similar complaint in the concluding part of the psalm.

<197905>Psalm 79:5-9

5. How long, O Jehovah! wilt thou be wroth for ever? Shall thy jealousy burn like fire? 6. Pour out thy fury fc374 upon the heathen [or the nations] who have not known thee, and on the kingdoms which call not upon thy name. 7. For they have devoured Jacob, and made desolate his dwelling. fc375 8. Remember not against us the iniquities of former times: make haste, let thy compassions prevent us; for we are exceedingly afflicted. 9. Help us, O God of our salvation! for the glory of thy name; and deliver us, and be merciful to our sins, for thy name’s sake.

 

5. How long, O Jehovah! wilt thou be wroth for ever? I have already observed that these two expressions, how long and for ever, when joined together, denote a lengthened and an uninterrupted continuance of calamities; and that there is no appearance, when looking to the future, of their coming to a termination. We may, therefore, conclude that this complaint was not endited within a month or two after persecution against the Church commenced, but at a time when the hearts of the faithful were almost broken through the weariness produced by prolonged suffering. Here they confess that the great accumulation of calamities with which they are overwhelmed, is to be traced to the wrath of God. Being fully persuaded that the wicked, whatever they may plot, cannot inflict injury, except in so far as God permits them — from this, which they regard as an indubitable principle, they at once conclude, that when he allows such ample scope to their heathen enemies in persecuting them, his anger is greatly provoked. Nor would they, without this persuasion, have looked to God in the hope that he would stretch forth his hand to save them; for it is the work of Him who hath given loose reins to draw in the bridle. Whenever God visits us with the rod, and our own conscience accuses us, it especially becomes us to look to His hand. Here his ancient people do not charge him with being unjustly displeased, but acknowledge the justice of the punishment inflicted upon them. God will always find in his servants just grounds for chastising them. He often, however, in the exercise of his mercy, pardons their sins, and exercises them with the cross for another purpose than to testify his displeasure against their sins, just as it was his will to try the patience of Job, and as he vouchsafed to call the martyrs to an honorable warfare. But here the people, of their own accord, summoning themselves before the Divine tribunal, trace the calamities which they endured to their own sins, as the procuring cause. Hence it may, with probability, be conjectured that this psalm was composed during the time of the Babylonish captivity. Under the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes, they employed, as we have previously seen, a different form of prayer, saying,

“All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant. Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way,”
(<194417>Psalm 44:17, 18.)

We are not to suppose that, in the passage now quoted, the faithful murmured against God, but they employ this language because they knew that he had another end in view than simply to punish their sins; for, by means of these severe conflicts, he prepared them for the prize of their high calling.

6. Pour out thy fury upon the heathen, who have not known thee. This prayer is apparently inconsistent with the rule of charity; for, while we feel anxious about our own calamities, and desire to be delivered from them, we ought to desire that others may be relieved as well as ourselves. It would seem, therefore, that the faithful are to be blamed in here wishing the destruction of unbelievers, for whose salvation they ought rather to have been solicitous. But it becomes us to bear in mind what I have previously stated, that the man who would offer up such a prayer as this in a right manner, must be under the influence of zeal for the public welfare; so that, by the wrongs done to himself personally, he may not suffer his carnal affections to be excited, nor allow himself to be carried away with rage against his enemies; but, forgetting his individual interests, he must have a sole regard to the common salvation of the Church, and to what conduces thereto. Secondly, he must implore God to grant him the spirit of discretion and judgment, that in prayer he may not be impelled by an inconsiderate zeal: a subject which we have treated more at large in another place. Besides, it is to be observed, that the pious Jews here not only lay out of consideration their own particular advantage in order to consult the good of the whole Church, but also chiefly direct their eyes to Christ, beseeching him to devote to destruction his enemies whose repentance is hopeless. They, therefore, do not rashly break forth into this prayer, that God would destroy these or other enemies, nor do they anticipate the judgment of God; but desiring that the reprobate may be involved in the condemnation which they deserve, they, at the same time, patiently wait until the heavenly judge separate the reprobate from the elect. In doing this, they do not cast aside the affection which charity requires; for, although they would desire all to be saved, they yet know that the reformation of some of the enemies of Christ is hopeless, and their perdition absolutely certain.

The question, however, is not yet fully answered; for, when in the seventh verse they arraign the cruelty of their enemies, they seem to desire vengeance. But what I have just now observed must be remembered, that none can pray in this manner but those who have clothed themselves with a public character, and who, laying aside all personal considerations, have espoused, and are deeply interested in, the welfare of the whole Church; or, rather, who have set before their eyes Christ, the Head of the Church; and, lastly, none but those who, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, have elevated their minds to the judgment of God; so that, being ready to forgive, they do not indiscriminately adjudge to death every enemy by whom they are injured, but only the reprobate. With regard to those who make haste in demanding the execution of the Divine vengeance before all hope of repentance is lost, Christ has condemned them as chargeable with inconsiderate and ill-regulated zeal, when he says,

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

Moreover, the faithful do not here simply wish the destruction of those who so wickedly persecuted the Church, but, using that familiarity which God allows them in their dealings with him, they set forth how inconsistent it would be did he not punish their persecutors, fc376 and reason thus: Lord, how is it that thou afflictest us so severely, upon whom thy name is invoked, and sparest the heathen nations who despise thee? In short, they mean to say, that God has sufficient ground for executing his wrath elsewhere, since they were not the only people in the world who had sinned. Although it does not become us to prescribe to God the rule of his conduct, but rather patiently to submit to this ordination,

“That judgment must begin at the house of God”
(<600417>1 Peter 4:17;)

yet he permits his saints to take the liberty of pleading, that at least they may not be worse dealt with than unbelievers, and those who despise him.

These two sentences, who have not known thee, and which call not upon thy name, it is to be observed, are to be taken in the same sense. By these different forms of expression, it is intimated that it is impossible for any to call upon God without a previous knowledge of him, as the Apostle Paul teaches, in <451014>Romans 10:14,

“How, then, shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” (<451014>Romans 10:14)

It belongs not to us to answer, “Thou art our God,” till He has anticipated us by saying, “Thou art my people,” (<280223>Hosea 2:23;) but he opens our mouths to speak to him in this manner, when he invites us to himself. Calling on the name of God is often synonymous with prayer; but it is not here to be exclusively limited to that exercise. The amount is, that unless we are directed by the knowledge of God, it is impossible for us sincerely to profess the true religion. At that time the Gentiles everywhere boasted that they served God; but, being destitute of his word, and as they fabricated to themselves gods of their own corrupt imaginations, all their religious services were detestable; even as in our own day, the human invented religious observances of the blind and deluded votaries of the Man of Sin, who have no right knowledge of the God whom they profess to worship, and who inquire not at his mouth what he approves, are certainly rejected by Him, because they set up idols in his place.

8. Remember not against us the iniquities of former times. The godly Jews here confirm the sentiment which they had before briefly and obscurely touched upon, namely, that they had justly deserved the chastisements which had been inflicted upon them. And they present this prayer, because they could only get relief from their calamities by obtaining reconciliation with God. This is the sovereign remedy for every kind of adversity; for so long as he is angry with even our prosperity turns out to be unproductive of advantage and happiness. By the iniquities of former times, some understand the sins committed by the fathers. Others think that the sins which the suppliants themselves committed in their childhood and youth are intended. But the expression, I presume, has a more extensive signification, containing a confession not only of one offense or two, and these only recently committed, but an acknowledgement that they had for a long time been involved, along with their fathers, in manifold and old transgressions. Thus they acknowledge a long continued stubbornness, in which they had hardened themselves against God. This acknowledgement corresponds with the rebukes which the prophets administered to them; for sacred history bears testimony that the punishment of the captivity was suspended until God had proved from experience that their perversity was incurable. Nor should it excite our surprise to find the children praying that God would not impute to them the iniquity of their fathers, when we consider that the law declares that God casts the sins of the fathers into the bosom of their children, and takes vengeance upon their iniquities unto the third and fourth generation, (<022005>Exodus 20:5.) The contrast between the expressions, make haste, and the iniquities of former times, is worthy of notice. Had God called the Israelites to a strict account for all the sins which they had committed during three or four hundred years before, the time of their deliverance would have been long delayed. The faithful, therefore, beseech him to forget their former offenses, and to make haste to succor them. As their sins proved the great obstacle and cause of delay, we may see the propriety with which they farther implore that the compassions of God might speedily meet them.

9. Help O God of our salvation! They again repeat in this verse, that whatever afflictions they endured were to be traced to the anger of God, and that they could have no comfort under them unless He were reconciled to them. Being deeply sensible that they had committed many transgressions, to strengthen their hope of obtaining pardon, they employ a variety of expressions. In the first place, as an argument to induce God to show them favor, they address him as the God of their salvation. In the second place, they testify that they bring nothing of their own to influence him to have mercy upon them; and that the only plea which they present before him is his own glory. From this we learn, that sinners are not reconciled to God by satisfactions or by the merit of good works, but by a free and an unmerited forgiveness. The observation which I have made a little before, and which I have explained more at length on the sixth psalm, is here to be kept in mind, — That when God visits us with the rod, instead of being merely desirous to be relieved from external chastisements, our chief concern ought to be to have God pacified towards us: nor should we follow the example of foolish sick persons, who are anxious to have merely the symptoms of their disease removed, and make no account of being delivered from the source and cause of it. With respect to the word rpk, chapper, fc377 which expositors translate, Be merciful, or propitious, I have had an opportunity of speaking in another place. It properly signifies to cleanse, or expiate, and is applied to sacrifices. Whenever, therefore, we desire to obtain the favor of God, let us call to remembrance the death of Christ; for “without shedding of blood is no remissions” (<580922>Hebrews 9:22.)

<197910>Psalm 79:10-13

10. Why should the heathen say, where is their God? Let the avenging of the blood of thy servants, which has been shed, be made known among the heathen in our sight. 11. Let the sighing [or groaning] of the prisoner fc378 come before thee, [or into thy presence:] and, according to the greatness of thy arm, reserve the children of death: fc379 12. And recompense our neighbors sevenfold into their bosom fc380 their reproach with which they have reproached thee, O Jehovah! 13. And we thy people, and the sheep of thy pasture, will confess to thee fc381 for ever; declaring thy praise from generation to generation.

 

10. Why should the heathen say, Where is their God? Here the people of God, in urging his name as a plea at the throne of grace: do so in a different sense from that in which they had urged it before. He extends his compassion towards us for his own name’s sake; for, as he is merciful, and will have our mouths stopped, that he alone may be accounted righteous, he freely pardons our sins. But here, the faithful beseech him that he would not allow his sacred name to be exposed to the blasphemies and insults of the wicked. From this we are taught that we do not pray in a right manner, unless a concern about our own salvation, and zeal for the glory of God, are inseparably joined together in our exercise. From the second clause of the verse, the same question may be raised which we have just now answered. Although God declares that he will execute vengeance upon our enemies, we are not warranted to thirst for revenge when we are injured. Let us remember that this form of prayer was not dictated for all men indiscriminately, that they might make use of it whenever impelled by their own passions, but that, under the guidance and instruction of the Holy Spirit, they might plead the cause of the whole Church, in common, against the wicked. If we would, therefore, offer up to God a prayer like this in a right manner, in the first place, our minds must be illuminated by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit; and, secondly, our zeal, which is often corrupted by the turbid affections of the flesh, must be pure and well-regulated; and then, with such a pure and well-tempered zeal, we may lawfully beseech God to show us, by evident examples, how precious, in his sight, is the life of his servants whose blood he avenges. The faithful are not to be understood as expressing any desire to be glutted with the sight of the shedding of human blood, fc382 as if they longed greedily after it: they only desire that God would grant them some confirmation of their faith, in the exercise of his fatherly love which is manifested when he avenges the wrongs done to his own people. fc383 It is farther to be noticed, that the appellation, the servants of God, is given to those who, nevertheless, were justly punished on account of their sins; for although he may chastise us, yet he does not forthwith cast us off, but, on the contrary, testifies thereby that our salvation is the object of his care. Again, we know that when the anger of God is extended over the whole body of the Church, as the good and the bad are mingled together in her, the former are punished in common with the latter, even as Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, and others, were carried into captivity. They were not, it is true, altogether faultless; but it is certain that so great a calamity was not brought upon the Jews on their account. In their person, there was rather set forth a spectacle to the ungodly, that they might be the more deeply affected.

11. Let the sighing of the prisoner come before thee. The people of God, I have no doubt, were in captivity when the Holy Spirit endited this prayer; and, therefore, the name of prisoners is applied to them all in general, because they were so shut up within the bounds of Assyria and Chaldea, that had they stirred one foot thence, they would have incurred the penalty of death. They are called the children of death; by which is meant, that they were appointed or condemned to death in respect of their captivity. This sentence, however, may not improperly be restricted to a small number who were shut up in prison under closer restraint. By this expression, it is intimated that those proud spirits who had before vaunted themselves against God, were now broken and effectually humbled. The greatness of God’s arm, that is to say, the greatness of his power, fc384 is implored; for without a signal and extraordinary interposition on his part, no hope could be entertained of the restoration of the Church.

12. And render to our neighbors sevenfold. We have already said enough on the subject of vengeance; and here the faithful show still more clearly, that they are not so much moved by the injuries done to themselves personally, as inflamed with a holy zeal when they see the sacred name of God blasphemed, and, as it were, torn in pieces by the wicked. If this affection reign in our hearts, it will easily moderate the ungovernableness of our flesh, and if the wisdom of the Spirit is added to it, our prayers will be in strict accordance with the just judgment of God.

In the last verse, the pious Jews declare that the fruit of their deliverance will be, that the name of God will be celebrated; and we ought not to desire our preservation or welfare for any other end. When he freely bestows upon us all things, the design for which he does this is, that his goodness may be made known and exalted. Now, these sufferers engage to make a grateful acknowledgement of their deliverance, and declare that this will not be done merely for a short time, but that the remembrance of it will be transmitted to their posterity, and pass, in continued succession, from age to age to the end of the world. The particular designation here given to them is also worthy of notice: We are thy people, and the sheep of thy pasture. As the posterity of Abraham were chosen to celebrate the name of God, and that his praises might resound in Zion, what would have been the consequence had that people been destroyed, but that the memory of the name of God would have perished? This passage, there is no doubt, corresponds with that prophecy of Isaiah,

“This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise.” (<234321>Isaiah 43:21)


PSALM 80

This is a sorrowful prayer, in which the faithful beseech God that he would be graciously pleased to succor his afflicted Church. To excite him the more readily to grant them relief in their distressing circumstances, they compare these circumstances with the condition of the Church in her beginnings, when the Divine favor was conspicuously manifested towards her.

To the chief musician upon Sosannim Eduth. A Psalm of Asaph.

This psalm is almost similar to the preceding; but, in my apprehension it was composed in behalf of the ten tribes, after that kingdom began to be wasted by various calamities. It is not without reason that mention is expressly made of Joseph, Ephraim, and Manasseh. Some expositors allege, that in this there is an allusion to the situation and order of the camps of the chosen tribes in the wilderness, as described by Moses in <040218>Numbers 2:18-21; for Manasseh and Ephraim marched together on one side. fc385 But it would have been strange to have passed over in silence the tribe of Judah, and also the holy city, and to have brought forward the tribes of Joseph, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Benjamin, had it not been intended to speak especially of the kingdom of Israel. fc386 If it is objected, that the ten tribes from the time when they were cut off from the house of David had become degenerate, and that the worship of God was corrupted among them, I answer, that there dwelt among them, notwithstanding, many devout worshippers of God, who had not bowed the knee before Baal, nor abandoned themselves to the prevailing superstition, (<111918>1 Kings 19:18.) Accordingly, Amos (<300606>Amos 6:6) finds fault with the hard-heartedness which existed in the tribe of Judah, because there was none among them who was “grieved for the affliction of Joseph.” It is also well known, that during the time of this defection, some prophets were sent to them to inspire them with the hope of deliverance. Although, then, the vast proportion of them were apostates, yet God did not cease to exercise his care over the seed which remained in the midst of them. And as formerly he had mitigated coming calamities, by promising beforehand his grace; so now, by dictating to the people a form of prayer, he confirms and encourages them in the hope of obtaining his grace, until they found, from actual experience, that they had not been deceived by vain promises. From this, we perceive in what respect this and the preceding psalm differ from each other. If any one considers what I have now stated unsatisfactory, he is at liberty to adopt a different view. But I flatter myself, that whoever carefully weighs all the circumstances, will readily acquiesce in my opinion. I will not insist upon the words Sosannim and Eduth, having already, in Psalm 45th, stated the opinions of interpreters concerning them; nor is this a matter of so great importance as to render it necessary to expend much labor upon it. Besides, those who are most learned in antiquities adduce nothing but probable conjectures.

<198001>Psalm 80:1-3

1. Hearken, O Shepherd of Israel! who leadest Joseph like a flock: thou who sittest between the cherubim, shine forth. 2. In the sight of Ephraim, and Benjamin, and Manasseh, stir up fc387 thy strength, and come to our deliverance. 3. Turn us again, O God! cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.

 

1. Hearken, O Shepherd of Israel! The prophet, previous to his naming Manasseh and Ephraim, makes mention of Joseph; and why does he speak of Joseph rather than of Judah, but because it was his design to treat separately of the kingdom of Israel, the government of which was in the family and posterity of Joseph? Nor, since God sent special prophets among them, after he had stricken them with his rods, is there any inconsistency when, at the same time, the prayer is added, That God would gather together the remnant to himself. Moreover, that they might not delude themselves by trusting in their spurious worship, the prophet, by applying to God the appellation of Him who sitteth between the Cherubim, calls them back to the pure doctrine of the law. The mercy-seat was a pledge of the presence of God, where he had promised to be near his people to hear their prayers. This divinely instituted form, it was unlawful for men to change at their own pleasure. The Israelites, then, are admonished to return to their original state, if they would expect to find God gracious towards them. Besides, by the title which is here attributed to God, there is expressed his wonderful love towards men in humbling, and, so to speak, lowering himself in order to come down to them, and choose for himself a seat and habitation on the earth, that he might dwell in the midst of them. Properly speaking, God cannot be said to sit; nor is it to be supposed that it is possible for him, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain, to be shut up in a certain place, (<110827>1 Kings 8:27.) But, in accommodation to the infirmity of men, he is represented as placed between the two Cherubim, that the faithful might not imagine him to be far from them; and, consequently, be perplexed with doubt and apprehension in approaching him. At the same time, the remark which I have previously made must be borne in mind, that the Israelites are here furnished with a rule for enabling them to pray in a right manner, that they might be withdrawn from the worship of the god fabricated and set up by themselves at Dan and Bethel, and that, rejecting all superstitions, they might yield themselves to be guided by the true light of faith, and follow the Word of God.

3. Turn us again, O God! The meaning of this prayer is, Restore us to our former state. They had petitioned, in the preceding verse, that God would stir up his strength in the sight of Ephraim and Manasseh; and now they complain that they are but castaways until God succor them, and remedy their miserable dispersion. Some understand the words, turn us again, in a different way; namely, as a prayer that God would bestow upon them the spirit of regeneration. But this interpretation being too refined, it will be better, adhering to the former sense, to view the expression as meaning that the faithful, under the adversity with which they were afflicted, betake themselves to God, whose peculiar work it is to restore life to the dead. They acknowledge, on the one hand, that all their miseries were to be traced to this as their cause, that God, being angry on account of their sins, hid his face from them; and, on the other hand, they expect to obtain complete salvation solely through the Divine favor. It will be to us, they say, a resurrection indeed, if once thy countenance shine upon us. Their language implies, that provided God extended his mercy and favor to them, they would be happy, and all their affairs would prosper.

<198004>Psalm 80:4-7

4. O Jehovah, God of Hosts! how long wilt thou be incensed fc388 against the prayer of thy people? 5. Thou hast fed us with bread of tears; and hast given us tears to drink in great measure. 6. Thou hast made us a strife to our neighbors: and our enemies laugh at us among themselves. 7. Turn us again, O God of Hosts! and cause thy face to shine upon us, and we shall be saved.

 

4. O Jehovah, God of Hosts! God having in the Scriptures freely promised, and so often assured us, that the prayers of his people will not be disappointed, it may excite our surprise to find the faithful here alleging before him, that he continues unpacified, although they betake themselves to him. They complain not only that they are not heard, but also that he is angry, when they call upon him; as if he purposely rejected this religious service. Where, then, it may be said, is that promise recorded in <236524>Isaiah 65:24, “Before they call I will answer?” To this I would answer, That as God, by delaying to succor his people, tries their patience, the prophet, speaking according to the judgment of the flesh, represents him as deaf to their prayers. Not that it is proper for those who pray to rest in this opinion, which would throw an insuperable obstacle in their way to the throne of grace. It rather becomes them to strive to cherish, in opposition to it, the judgment of faith; and to penetrate even into heaven, where they may behold a hidden salvation. But still God permits them, the more effectually to disburden their minds, to tell him of the cares, anxieties, griefs, and fears, with which they are distressed. In the mention here made of the smoke of God’s wrath, there appears to be an implicit allusion to the incense which was used in the sacrifices under the law. The smoke of the incense served to purify the air; but the Israelites complain that the heavens were so obscured by a different smoke, that their sighs could not come up to God.

5. Thou hast fed us with bread of tears, etc. By these forms of expression, they depict the greatness of their grief, and the long continuance of their calamities; as if they had said, We are so filled with sorrow, that we can contain no more. fc389 They add, in the following verse that they were made a strife to their neighbors. This admits of being explained in two ways. It means either that their neighbors had taken up a quarrel against them; or that, having obtained the victory over them, they were contending about the spoil, as is usually the case in such circumstances, each being eager to drag it to himself. The former interpretation, however seems to be the more suitable. The people complain that, whereas neighborhood ought to be a bond of mutual goodwill, they had as many enemies as neighbors. To the same purpose is their language in the second clause, They laugh at us among themselves; that is to say, They talk among themselves by way of sport and mockery at our adversities. To encourage and stir themselves up to repentance, they ascribe all this to the judgment of God, in whose power it is to bend the hearts of men. Since we are all at this day chargeable with the same sins, it is not surprising that our condition is in no degree better than was theirs. But the Holy Spirit having inspired the prophet to write this form of prayer for a people who felt their condition to be almost desperate, it serves to inspire us with hope and boldness, and to prevent us from giving up the exercise of prayer, under a consciousness of the greatness of our guilt. The seventh verse is a repetition of the third; and this repetition is undoubtedly intended as a means of surmounting every obstacle. God did not here intend to endite for his people a vain repetition of words: his object was to encourage them, when bowed down under the load of their calamities, boldly to rise up, heavy though the load might be. This ground of support was often presented to them; and it is repeated the third time in the concluding verse of the psalm.

<198008>Psalm 80:8-13

8. Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast expelled the heathen, and planted it. 9. Thou hast cleansed the ground before it: thou hast rooted its roots, and it hath filled the land. 10. The mountains were covered with its shadow, and its branches were like the cedars of God. fc390 11. It extended its branches to the sea, and its shoots to the river. fc391 12. Why then hast thou broken down its hedges, so that all who pass by the way pluck [or tear] it in pieces? 13. The boar out of the forest fc392 hath wasted it; fc393 and the wild beast of the field hath eaten it up.

 

8. Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt. Under the figure of a vine, the singular grace which God was graciously pleased to exercise towards his people after he had redeemed them is celebrated; and this powerfully contributed to inspire them with the hope of being heard. For which of us can be so presumptuous as to dare to come into the presence of God until he himself has previously invited us? Now, he allures us to himself both by his benefits and by his word. The object in view in now presenting his liberality before him is, that he should not leave unfinished the work of his hands which he had commenced. It is indeed true that, without his word, the benefits which he has conferred upon us would make a faint impression upon our hearts; but when experience is added to the testimony of his word, it greatly encourages us. Now, the redemption of which mention is here made was inseparably connected with the covenant of God; for he had, even four hundred years before, entered into covenant with Abraham, in which he promised the deliverance of his seed. What is stated amounts in short to this, that it is unbecoming that God should now suffer the vine which he had planted and cultivated so carefully with his own hand to be wasted by wild beasts. God’s covenant was not made to last only for a few days, or for a short time: when he adopted the children of Abraham, he took them under his keeping for ever. By the word vine, is intimated the high place which this people held in the estimation of God, who not only was pleased to hold them as his own inheritance, but who also distinguished them by peculiar honor, even as a vine excels all other possessions. When it is said that the land or ground was cleansed, this is a repetition of what had been previously stated, that the heathen were cast out to make room for the chosen people. Perhaps, however, the allusion is to the continual digging which vines require, in order to their being kept clean lest they should degenerate; this allusion being made with the view of showing how God had performed the part of a good husbandman towards his people, since, after having planted them, he did not cease to employ every means to cherish and preserve them. What is added immediately after, Thou hast rooted its roots, is not to be understood of the planting of it at first, but of the pains taken by God to propagate it, fc394 which is a part of the culture of the vine. Whence it follows that the mountains were covered with its shadow; for the whole country, although mountainous, was filled with inhabitants; so much did that people increase in number. The branches of this vine are compared to the cedars of God, that is, to the most beautiful and most excellent cedars; thereby to express still more vividly how eminently the seed of Abraham were blessed of God. The sea and the Euphrates, as is well known, were the divinely appointed boundaries of the land promised them for an inheritance.

12. Why then hast thou broken down its hedges? This is the application of the similitude; for nothing seems more inconsistent than that God should abandon the vine which he had planted with his own hand, to be rooted up by wild beasts. It is true that he often threatened and forewarned the people by his prophets that he would do this; but what constrained him to inflict upon them so strange and dreadful a species of punishment was, that he might render their ingratitude the more detestable. At the same time, it is not without reason that true believers are enjoined to take encouragement from such distinguished liberality on the part of God; that, even in the midst of this rooting up, they might at least hope that He, who never forsakes the work of his own hands, would graciously extend his care towards them, (<19D808>Psalm 138:8.) The people were brought to desolation, on account of their own incurable obstinacy; but God did not fail to save a small number of shoots, by means of which he afterwards restored his vine. This form of supplicating pardon was, indeed, set forth for the use of the whole people, with the view of preventing a horrible destruction. But as very few sought to appease the wrath of God by truly humbling themselves before him, it was enough that these few were delivered from destruction, that from them a new vine might afterwards spring up and flourish. The indignity which was done to the Church is aggravated from the contrast contained in the words, when God, on the one hand, is exhibited to us as a vine-keeper, and when the destroyers of this vine, on the other, are represented to be not only all that pass by, but also the wild boars and other savage beasts. The word srk, kiresem, which I have translated to waste, is taken by some for to fill the belly. fc395 This sense would very well agree with the present passage; but it is not supported by the ordinary meaning of the word.

<198014>Psalm 80:14-19

14. Return, I beseech thee, O God of Hosts! look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine, 15. And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and upon fc396 the branch fc397 which thou hast strengthened for thyself. 16. It is burnt with fire; it is cut down; fc398 they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance. 17. Let thy hand be upon the Man of thy right hand, upon the Son of man whom thou hast strengthened for thyself. 18. And we will not go back from thee: thou shalt quicken us, and we will call upon thy name. 19. Turn us again, O Jehovah, God of Hosts! cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.

 

14. Return, I beseech thee, O God of Hosts! In these words it is intended to teach, that we ought not to yield to temptation although God should hide his face from us for a time, yea even although to the eye of sense and reason he should seem to be alienated from us. For, provided he is sought in the confident expectation of his showing mercy, he will become reconciled, and receive into his favor those whom he seemed to have cast off. It was a distinguished honor for the seed of Abraham to be accounted the vineyard of God; but while the faithful adduce this consideration as an argument for obtaining the favor of God, instead of bringing forward any claims of their own, they only beseech him not to cease to exercise his accustomed liberality towards them. The words, from heaven, have, no doubt, been introduced, that the faithful might find no difficulty in extending their faith to a distance, although God, from whom they had departed, was far from them; and, farther that if they saw no prospect of deliverance upon earth, they might lift up their eyes to heaven.

As to the word hnk, cannah, fc399 in the beginning of the 15th verse, I readily acquiesce in the sense given of it by some who translate it, a place prepared; but as some think that there is a change in the Hebrew word of the letter g, gimel, into k, caph, so that the reading should be hng, gannah, a garden or vineyard, we leave the reader to judge for himself. It is, however, certain that this is a metaphor akin to the former, by which is denoted the singular liberality of God in advancing this people, and causing them to prosper. The vine-branch which was planted by the hand of God is also called the Man of his right hand.

16. It is burnt with fire. The calamities of the people are now more clearly expressed. fc400 It had been said that the Lord’s vine was abandoned to the wild beasts, that they might lay it waste. But it was a greater calamity for it to be consumed with fire, rooted up and utterly destroyed. The Israelites had perfidiously apostatised from the true religion; but, as has been previously observed, they were still a part of the Church. We are accordingly warned by this melancholy example, of the severity of the punishment due to our ingratitude, especially when it is joined with obstinacy, which prevents the threatenings and rebukes of God, however sharp and severe they may be, from being of any benefit to us. Let us also learn from the same example, when the Divine anger is blazing all around, and even when we are in the midst of its burning flames, to cast all our sorrows into the bosom of God, who, in a wonderful manner, raises up his Church from the gulf of destruction. He would assuredly be ready not only to exercise without interruption his favor towards us, but also to enrich us with his blessings more and more, did not our wickedness hinder him. As it is impossible for him not to be angry at the many offenses which we have committed, it is an evidence of unparalleled mercy for him to extinguish the fire which we ourselves have kindled, and which has spread far and wide, and to save some portion or remnant of the Church, or, to speak more properly, to raise up even from the very ashes a people to call upon his name. It is again repeated that the Church perished not by the strength and arms of her enemies, but at the rebuke of God’s countenance. Never can we expect any alleviation of our punishment, unless we are fully persuaded that we are justly chastised by the hand of God. It was a good sign of the repentance of these Israelites that, as is observed in <230912>Isaiah 9:12, “they looked to the hand of him who smote them.”

17. Let that hand be upon the Man of thy right hand. Here the Psalmist repeats in plain words the prayer which he had expressed under the figure of a vineyard, pleading that God would defend, under his hand, the Man of his right hand, and the Son of man whom he hath strengthened for himself. It is uncertain whether he speaks of the king alone, or whether the people also are included. Although Jeroboam was anointed to be king, yet he did not come to the possession of the royal dignity in a lawful way; and God never so approved of any of his successors, as to divest the posterity of David of the right and power of dominion. God, as we have seen in <197867>Psalm 78:67, did not choose the tribe of Ephraim. on the contrary, the scepter, by his immutable decree, was given to the house of Judah, as is plainly taught in the prophecy of Jacob, (<014910>Genesis 49:10.) It was therefore a base and wicked dismembering of the body, when the majority of the people revolted from the house of David, and submitted themselves to Jeroboam as their king. Such being the ease, why then, it may be said, is the king of Israel prayed for in this manner? For removing this difficulty, let it be observed, that although that kingdom had an untoward commencement, and God, as is stated in <281311>Hosea 13:11, gave them a king in his anger, yet he was afterwards pleased to tolerate its continuance; and the anointing of Jeroboam testified that he had ratified what had been unadvisedly and wickedly done by the tumult and rebellion of the people. The nation of Israel might therefore say that their king was created and established by God, who, with the view of remedying the rupture which had been made, added him as a sharer in the royal dignity to the children of David. By that rent the state of the people was greatly impaired; but, to prevent an entire overthrow, the erection of the ten tribes into a separate kingdom, under the sovereignty of Jeroboam, was, as it were, a pillar put under it by the secret counsel of God to uphold it.

I have, however, no hesitation in considering the whole body of the Church as comprehended under the expressions, the Man of God’s right hand, and the Son of man. The similar number is very properly made use of, it having been the Divine will that the chosen people should be as one man. For the same reason, the Apostle Paul also, in <480316>Galatians 3:16, lays great stress upon the words, one seed; for Ishmael, Esau, and others, were separated and scattered when God redeemed arm gathered together the seed of Abraham. Thus, by the Son of man is to be understood the people whom God had adopted to himself, that they might be as one man. fc401 But as this oneness depended upon the head, I readily admit that the phrase has a particular reference to the king, who preserved the greater part of the people from being involved in utter destruction. Here again the Prophet, in seeking to obtain the Divine favor, founds his argument and hope only upon the benefits which God had formerly conferred upon them. “Lord,” as if he had said, “since it belongs to thee to perfect that which thou hast begun, preserve the king whom thou hast given us!”

In the 18th verse, the faithful engage, upon God’s hearing them, gratefully to acknowledge his goodness, not only by rendering to him the sacrifice of praise, but also by their whole life. Calling upon God’s name, is here to be understood of “the calves of the lips,” (Hosea 45:3;) but when it is said, We will not go back from thee, this means the uniform and continued course of the whole life. The verse, however, may be interpreted thus: O Lord! we will continue in our obedience to thee, even when our circumstances, so far as we can perceive, are hopeless; never shall the sharpness of our calamities have the effect of driving us to apostasy from thee: and when we are restored by thy grace and power, we will magnify thy name. It would be superfluous to make any farther observations on the last verse, which is repeated for the third time.


PSALM 81

This psalm consists of two parts. Whoever was its author, he exhorts the people to remember the unparalleled grace of God towards them, in delivering them by his outstretched arm, and choosing them to be a kingdom of priests, and a peculiar Church to himself; that thus they may be excited devoutly to honor their deliverer, both by celebrating his praises, and by leading a holy life. God is next introduced as upbraiding them for their ingratitude in continuing obstinately to refuse to submit to the yoke of the law, notwithstanding the tender and gracious manner in which he allured them to himself.

To the chief musician upon Gittith. A Psalm of Asaph. fc402

<198101>Psalm 81:1-7

1. Sing joyfully to God our strength sing with a loud voice: to the God of Jacob. 2. Raise a song, fc403 and bring forth the tabret, the pleasant harp, with the psaltery. fc404 3. Sound the trumpet at the new moon; at the time appointed on the day of our sacrifice. fc405 4. For this is a statute to Israel, a law to the God of Jacob. 5. He set it for a testimony in Joseph, when he went forth over [or above] the land of Egypt: I heard a language which I understood not. 6. I removed his shoulder from the burden; his hands were freed from the pots. fc406 7. Thou didst cry in trouble, and I delivered thee: I answered thee in the secret place of thunder: I proved thee at the waters of Meribah. Selah.

 

1. Sing joyfully to God our strength. This psalm, it is probable, was appointed to be sung on the festival days on which the Jews kept their solemn assemblies. In the exordium, there is set forth the order of worship which God had enjoined. They were not to stand deaf and dumb at the tabernacle; for the service of God does not consist in indolence, nor in cold and empty ceremonies; but they were, by such exercises as are here prescribed, to cherish among themselves the unity of faith; to make an open profession of their piety; to stir up themselves to continual progress therein; to endeavor to join, with one accord, in praising God; and, in short, to continue steadfast in the sacred covenant by which God had adopted them to himself.

Such having been the use of festival days under the law, we may conclude, that whenever true believers assemble together at the present day, the end which they ought to have in view is to employ themselves in the exercises of religion — to call to their remembrance the benefits which they have received from God — to make progress in the knowledge of his word — and to testify the oneness of their faith. Men only mock God by presenting to him vain and unprofitable ceremonies, unless the doctrine of faith go before, stirring them up to call upon God; and unless, also, the remembrance of his benefits furnish matter of praise. Yea, rather it is a profanation of his name, when people quench the light of divine truth, and satisfy themselves with performing mere outward service. Accordingly, the faithful are here not only enjoined to come together to the tabernacle, but are also taught the end for which they are to assemble there, which is, that the free and gracious covenant which God has made with them may be brought anew to their remembrance, for increasing their faith and piety, that thus the benefits which they have received from him may be celebrated, and their hearts thereby moved to thanksgiving. With respect to the tabret, harp, and psaltery, we have formerly observed, and will find it necessary afterwards to repeat the same remark, that the Levites, under the law, were justified in making use of instrumental music in the worship of God; it having been his will to train his people, while they were as yet tender and like children, by such rudiments, until the coming of Christ. But now when the clear light of the gospel has dissipated the shadows of the law, and taught us that God is to be served in a simpler form, it would be to act a foolish and mistaken part to imitate that which the prophet enjoined only upon those of his own time. From this, it is apparent that the Papists have shown themselves to be very apes in transferring this to themselves. Under the new moon, by the figure synecdoche, is comprehended all the other high feasts. Sacrifices were daily offered; but the days on which the faithful met together at the tabernacle, according to the express appointment of the law, are called, by way of eminence, the days of sacrifice.

4. For this is a statute to Israel. To give the more effect to the preceding exhortation, it is here taught that this law or ordinance had been prescribed to God’s ancient people, for the purpose of ratifying the everlasting covenant. And as in covenants there is a mutual agreement between the parties, it is declared that this statute was given to Israel, and that God, in contracting, reserved this for himself, as a right to which he was justly entitled.

5. He set it for a testimony in Joseph. The Hebrew word hwd[, eduth, is by some derived from hd[, adah, which signifies to adorn; and they translate it the honor or ornament of Joseph. But it rather comes from the verb dw[, ud, to testify; and the scope of the passage requires that it should be translated a testimony or covenant. Farther, when Joseph is named in particular, there is a reference to the first original of the chosen people, when, after the death of Jacob, the twelve tribes were distinguished. As the sovereignty had not at that time come to the tribe of Judah, and as Reuben had fallen from his right of primogeniture, the posterity of Joseph justly had the pre-eminence, on account of the benefits which he had been instrumental in conferring; having been the father and nourisher of his brethren and of the whole nation. Moreover, the sacredness of the covenant is commended by a special appeal to the fact, that at the time when God stipulated that this honor should be yielded to him, he had purchased that people to himself; as if it had been said, The condition upon which the people were delivered was, that they should assemble together on the days appointed for renewing the remembrance of the grace which had been exercised towards them. The words when he went forth will apply equally to God and to the people. fc408 It is a common form of expression to speak of God as going forth before his people, as a shepherd goes before his flock, or as a general before his army. When it is said ABOVE the land of Egypt, some think there is an allusion to the situation of Judea, which was higher than that of Egypt; so that those who come out of Egypt to Judea ascend. But I understand the language as meaning simply, that the people, having God for their conductor, passed freely and without obstruction through the land of Egypt, the inhabitants having been so discouraged and dismayed as not to dare to make any opposition to their passage. fc409 The prophet enhances the blessing of their deliverance, when, speaking in the name of the whole people, he affirms that he had been rescued from profound barbarism: I heard a language which I understood not. fc410 Nothing is more disagreeable than to sojourn among a people with whom we can hold no communication by language, which is the chief bond of society. Language being, as it were, the image and mirror of the mind, those who cannot employ it in their mutual intercourse are no less strangers to one another than the wild beasts of the forest. When the Prophet Isaiah (<233319>Isaiah 33:19) intends to denounce a very dreadful punishment, he says, “Thou shalt see a fierce people, a people of a deeper speech than thou canst perceive; of a stammering tongue, that thou canst not understand.” Thus the people acknowledge that the benefit which God conferred was so much the more to be valued, because they were delivered from the Egyptians, with whose language they were unacquainted. fc411

6. I have removed his shoulder from the burden. Here God begins to recount the benefits which he had bestowed upon the Israelites, and the many ways in which he had laid them under obligations to him. The more galling the bondage was from which they had been delivered, the more desirable and precious was their liberty. When, therefore, it is affirmed that their burdens were so heavy that they stooped under them, and that they were doomed to the labor of making bricks, and to other slavish and toilsome occupations, the comparison of this their first state with their condition afterwards is introduced to illustrate the more strikingly the greatness of the blessing of their deliverance. Let us now apply this to ourselves, and elevate our minds to a higher subject, of which it was an image. As God has not only withdrawn our shoulders from a burden of brick, and not only removed our hands from the kilns, but has also redeemed us from the cruel and miserable tyranny of Satan, and drawn us from the depths of hell, the obligations under which we lie to him are of a much more strict and sacred kind than those under which he had brought his ancient people.

7. Thou didst cry in trouble, and I delivered thee. Here the same subject is prosecuted. By their crying when they were in distress, I understand the prayers which they then offered to God. It sometimes happens that those who are reduced to extremity bewail their calamities with confused crying; but as this afflicted people still had in them some remains of godliness, and as they had not forgotten the promise made to their fathers, I have no doubt that they directed their prayers to God. Even men without religion, who never think of calling upon God, when they are under the pressure of any great calamity, are moved by a secret instinct of nature to have recourse to Him. This renders it the more probable that the promise was, as it were, a schoolmaster to the Israelites, leading them to look to God. As no man sincerely calls upon Him but he who trusts in him for help; this crying ought the more effectually to have convinced them that it was their duty to ascribe to Him alone the deliverance which was offered them. By the secret place of thunder some, in my opinion, with too much refinement of interpretation, understand that God by thundering rendered the groanings of the people inaudible to the Egyptians, that by hearing them the Egyptians might not become the more exasperated. But the meaning simply is, that the people were heard in a secret and wonderful manner, while, at the same time, manifest tokens were given by which the Israelites might be satisfied that they were succoured by the Divine hand. God, it is true, was not seen by them face to face; but the thunder was an evident indication of his secret presence among them. fc412 To make them prize more highly this benefit, God upbraidingly tells them that they were unworthy of it, having given such a manifest proof at the waters of Meribah, fc413 that they were of a wicked and perverse disposition, <021707>Exodus 17:7. Your wickedness, as if he had said, having at that time so openly shown itself, surely it must from this be incontrovertible that my favor to you did not proceed from any regard to your good desert. This rebuke is not less applicable to us than to the Israelites; for God not only heard our groanings when we were afflicted under the tyranny of Satan, but before we were born appointed his only begotten Son to be the price of our redemption; and afterwards, when we were his enemies, he called us to be partakers of his grace, illuminating our minds by his gospel and his Holy Spirit; while we, notwithstanding, continue to indulge in murmuring, yea, even proudly rebel against Him.

<198108>Psalm 81:8-12

8. Hear, O my people! and I will protest to thee: fc414 O Israel! if thou wilt hearken to me. 9. Let there be no strange god in thee: neither worship thou a strange god. 10. I am Jehovah thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. 11. But my people hearkened not to my voice, and Israel would none of me 12. And I gave them up to the thoughts fc415 of their own heart: they shall walk in their own counsels.

 

8. Hear, O my people! The more effectually to touch the hearts of the people, God is here invested with the character of a teacher, and introduced as speaking familiarly in the midst of the congregation; and this is done for the purpose of instructing them, that all assemblies are unprofitable and trifling in which the voice of God stirring up men to faith and true godliness is not uttered. But let us proceed to the consideration of the words. This preface was intended to teach in a few words, that festival days were not purely and rightly observed unless the people listened with attention to the voice of God. In order to consecrate their hands, feet, eyes, and their whole persons, to his service, it behoved them, in the first place, to open their ears to his voice. Thus the lesson is taught that he acknowledges as his servants those only who are disposed to become learners. By the word protest he intimates that he covenants after a solemn manner, thereby to give his words the greater authority. The clause which follows, O Israel! if thou wilt hearken to me, is, I presume, an abrupt expression, similar to what is frequently employed in pathetic discourses, the ellipse serving to express the greater earnestness. Some connect it with the following verse in this way, O Israel! if thou wilt hearken to me, there will be no strange god in thee. But it is rather to be viewed as the language of regret on the part of God. He indirectly intimates that he distrusts this obstinate and rebellious people, and can hardly indulge the hope that they will prove obedient and teachable.

9. Let there be no strange god fc416 in thee. Here there is propounded the leading article of the covenant, and almost the whole sum of it, which is, that God alone must have the pre-eminence. Some may prefer this explanation: O Israel! if thou wilt hearken to me, there is nothing which I more strictly require or demand from thee than that thou shouldst be contented with me alone, and that thou shouldst not seek after strange gods: and of this opinion I am far from disapproving. God by this language undoubtedly confirms the truth which he so frequently inculcates elsewhere in the law and the prophets, that he is so jealous a God as not to allow another to be a partaker of the honor to which he alone is entitled. But at the same time he teaches us that true religious worship begins with obedience. The order which Moses observes is different, <022002>Exodus 20:2, 4, and <050506>Deuteronomy 5:6, 8. In these passages God sets out with declaring that he is the God of Israel; and then he forbids them to make for themselves any new gods. But here the prohibition is put first, and then the reason of it is subjoined, which is, that the people ought to be abundantly satisfied with the God who had purchased them to be his people. Perhaps also he sets this in the front to prepare the way for his obtaining the throne of their hearts. He would first withdraw the people from superstitions, as these must necessarily be plucked up and cleared away before true religion can take root in our hearts.

10. I am Jehovah thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide. God, by making mention of the deliverance which he had wrought for the people, put a bridle upon those whom he had taken under his protection, by which he might hold them bound to his service; and now he assures them, that with respect to the time to come, he had an abundant supply of all blessings with which to fill and satisfy their desires. The three arguments which he employs to induce the Israelites to adhere exclusively to him, and by which he shows them how wickedly and impiously they would act in turning aside from him, and having recourse to strange gods, are worthy of special attention. The first is, that he is Jehovah. By the word Jehovah, he asserts his claims as God by nature, and declares, that it is beyond the power of man to make new gods. When he says I am Jehovah, the pronoun I is emphatic. The Egyptians, no doubt, pretended to worship the Creator of heaven and of earth; but their contempt of the God of Israel plainly convicted them of falsehood. Whenever men depart from Him, they adorn the idols of their own invention with His spoils, whatever the specious pretexts may be by which they attempt to vindicate themselves. After having affirmed that he is Jehovah, he proves his Godhead from the effect and experience, — from the clear and irrefragable evidence of it in his delivering his people from Egypt, and especially, from his performing at that time the promise which he had made to the fathers. This is his second argument. The power which was displayed on that occasion ought not to have been contemplated apart by itself, since it depended upon the covenant, which long before he had entered into with Abraham. By that deliverance he gave a proof not less of his veracity than of his power, and thus vindicated the praise which was due to him. The third argument is, that he offers himself to the people for the time to come; assuring them, that, provided they continue to persevere in the faith, he will be the same towards the children as the fathers experienced him to be, his goodness being inexhaustible: Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it. By the expression open wide, he tacitly condemns the contracted views and desires which obstruct the exercise of his beneficence. “If the people are in penury,” we may suppose him to say, “the blame is to be entirely ascribed to themselves, because their capacity is not large enough to receive the blessings of which they stand in need; or rather, because by their unbelief they reject the blessings which would flow spontaneously upon them.” He not only bids them open their mouth, but he magnifies the abundance of his grace still more highly, by intimating, that however enlarged our desires may be, there will be nothing wanting which is necessary to afford us full satisfaction. Whence it follows, that the reason why God’s blessings drop upon us in a sparing and slender manner is, because our mouth is too narrow; and the reason why others are empty and famished is, because they keep their mouth completely shut. The majority of mankind, either from disgust, or pride, or madness, refuse all the blessings which are offered them from heaven. Others, although they do not altogether reject them, yet with difficulty take in only a few small drops, because their faith is so straitened as to prevent them from receiving an abundant supply. It is a very manifest proof of the depravity of mankind, when they have no desire to know God, in order that they may embrace him, and when they are equally disinclined to rest satisfied with him. He undoubtedly here requires to be worshipped by external service; but he sets no value upon the bare name of Deity — for his majesty does not consist in two or three syllables. He rather looks to what the name imports, and is solicitous that our hope may not be withdrawn from him to other objects, or that the praise of righteousness, salvation, and all blessings, may not be transferred from him to another. In calling himself by the name Jehovah, he claims Godhead exclusively to himself, on the ground that he possesses a plenitude of all blessings with which to satisfy and fill us.

11. But my people hearkened not to my voice. God now complains, that the Israelites, whom he endeavored gently to allure to him, despised his friendly invitation; yea, that although he had for a long time continued to exhort them, they always shut their ears against his voice. It is not a rebellion of one day which he deplores: he complains, that from the very beginning they were always a stupid and hardened people, and that they continued to persevere in the same obstinacy. It is assuredly monstrous perverseness to exclude God from obtaining access to us, and to refuse to give him a hearing, when he is ready to enter into covenant with us, making the terms almost equal on both sides. To leave them no room for extenuating their guilt under the pretense of ignorance, he adds, that he was rejected with avowed and deliberate contempt: Israel would none of me. From this it is evident, that their minds were bewitched by the god of this world.

This is the reason why, as is stated in the following verse, he gave them up to the hardness of their own heart, or, as others translate it, to the thoughts of their own heart. The root rr, shorer, from which the word rendered thoughts is derived, signifies properly the navel. Accordingly, the translation is very appropriate, which takes this word either for the thoughts which are wrapped up in the hearts of men, or for the hardness which possesses the heart. It being, however, as is well known, a usual thing in the Psalms for the same thing to be twice repeated, I have preferred the word thoughts, because it follows immediately after, They shall walk in their own counsels. Besides, by these words, God testifies, that he justly punished his people, when he deprived them of good and wholesome doctrine, and gave them over to a reprobate mind. As in governing us by means of his word, he restrains us, as it were, with a bridle, and thereby prevents us from going astray after our own perverse imaginations, so, by removing his prophets from the Jews, he gave loose reins to their froward and corrupt counsels, by which they were led into devious paths. It is assuredly the most dreadful kind of punishment which can be inflicted upon us, and an evidence of the utter hopelessness of our condition, when God, holding his peace, and conniving at our perverseness, applies no remedy for bringing us to repentance and amendment. So long as he administers reproof to us, alarms us with the dread of judgment, and summons us before his tribunal, he, at the same time, calls upon us to repent. But when he sees that it is altogether lost labor to reason any longer with us, and that his admonitions have no effect, he holds his peace, and by this teaches us that he has ceased to make our salvation the object of his care. Nothing, therefore, is more to be dreaded, than for men to be so set free from the divine guidance, as recklessly to follow their own counsels, and to be dragged by Satan wherever he pleases. The words, however may be viewed in a more extensive sense, as implying that the patience of God being worn out, he left his people, who, by their desperate perverseness, had cut off all hope of their ever becoming better, to act without restraint as they chose. It is a very absurd inference which some draw from this passage, that the grace of God is bestowed equally upon all men until it is rejected. Even at that time, God, while he passed by all the rest of the world, was graciously pleased to bring the posterity of Abraham, by peculiar and exclusive privilege, into a special relation to himself. At the present day, this distinction, I admit, has been abolished, and the message of the gospel, by which God reconciles the world to himself, is common to all men. Yet we see how God stirs up godly teachers in one place rather than in another. Still the external call alone would be insufficient, did not God effectually draw to himself those whom he has called. Further, as this passage teaches us, that there is no plague more deadly than for men to be left to the guidance of their own counsels, the only thing which remains for us to do is to renounce the dictates of carnal wisdom, and to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

<198113>Psalm 81:13-16

13. O if my people had hearkened to me! If Israel had walked in my ways! 14. I would soon have brought their enemies low, and turned my hand against their adversaries. 15. The haters of Jehovah would have lied to him, and their time should have been everlasting. 16. I fc417 would have fed them with the fat of corn: and I would have satisfied thee with honey from the rock.

 

13. O if my people had hearkened to me! By the honorable designation which God gives to the people of Israel, He exposes the more effectually their shameful and disgraceful conduct. Their wickedness was doubly aggravated, as will appear from the consideration, that although God called them to be his people, they differed nothing from those who were the greatest strangers to him. Thus he complains by the Prophet Isaiah,

“The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.”
(<230103>Isaiah 1:3)

The Hebrew particle wl, lu, which I have rendered O if! is not to be understood as expressing a condition, but a wish; and therefore God, I have no doubt, like a man weeping and lamenting, cries out, O the wretchedness of this people in wilfully refusing to have their best interests carefully provided for! He assumes the character of a father, and observing, after having tried every possible means for the recovery of his children, that their condition is utterly hopeless, he uses the language of one saddened, as it were, with sighing and groaning; not that he is subject to human passions, but because he cannot otherwise express the greatness of the love which he bears towards us. fc418 The Prophet seems to have borrowed this passage from the song of Moses in <053229>Deuteronomy 32:29, where the obstinacy of the people is bewailed in almost the same words: “Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” He means tacitly to upbraid the Jews, and to impress upon their minds the truth, that their own perverseness was the only cause which prevented them from enjoying a state of great outward prosperity. If it is objected, that God in vain and without ground utters this complaint, since it was in his power to bend the stiff necks of the people, and that, when he was not pleased to do this, he had no reason to compare himself to a man deeply grieved; I answer, that he very properly makes use of this style of speaking on our account, that we may seek for the procuring cause of our misery nowhere but in ourselves. We must here beware of mingling together things which are totally different — as widely different from each other as heaven is distant from the earth. God, in coming down to us by his word, and addressing his invitations to all men without exception, disappoints nobody. All who sincerely come to him are received, and find from actual experience that they were not called in vain. At the same time, we are to trace to the fountain of the secret electing purpose of God this difference, that the word enters into the heart of some, while others only hear the sound of it. And yet there is no inconsistency in his complaining, as it were, with tears, of our folly when we do not obey him. In the invitations which he addresses to us by the external word, he shows himself to be a father; and why may he not also be understood as still representing himself under the image of a father in using this form of complaint? In <261832>Ezekiel 18:32, he declares with the strictest regard to truth, “I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth,” provided in the interpretation of the passage we candidly and dispassionately take into view the whole scope of it. God has no pleasure in the death of a sinner: How? because he would have all men turned to himself. But it is abundantly evident, that men by their own free-will cannot turn to God, until he first change their stony hearts into hearts of flesh: yea, this renovation, as Augustine judiciously observes, is a work surpassing that of the creation itself. Now what hinders God from bending and framing the hearts of all men equally in submission to him? Here modesty and sobriety must be observed, that instead of presuming to intrude into his incomprehensible decrees, we may rest contented with the revelation which he has made of his will in his word. There is the justest ground for saying that he wills the salvation of those to whom that language is addressed, (<232112>Isaiah 21:12,) “Come unto me, and be ye converted.” In the second part of the verse before us, we have defined what it is to hear God. To assent to what he speaks would not be enough; for hypocrites will grant at once that whatever proceeds from his mouth is true, and will affect to listen just as if an ass should bend its ears. But the clause is intended to teach us that we can only be said to hear God, when we submit ourselves to his authority.

14. I would soon have brought their enemies low. Here the Israelites are taught, that all the calamities which had befallen them were to be imputed to their own sins; for their enemies did not fight against them with any other strength than that with which they were supplied from above. God had promised that under his leading the chosen people would prove victorious over all their enemies; and now to take away all ground for charging him with violating his word, he affirms that he would not have failed to enable them to do this had he not been prevented by their sins. He doubtless intends tacitly to remind them that the victories which they had formerly achieved were not owing to their own military valor, but to Him under whose conduct they had been placed. Now, he tells them that he was not only kept back by their sins from putting forth his power to defend them, but that he was also compelled by their perverseness to rush against them with the sword in his hand, while he left their enemies to remain in undisturbed tranquillity.

15. The haters of Jehovah would have lied to him. Here the same thought is pursued, when the Israelites are informed that their enemies would have humbly submitted to their authority had not their impiety emboldened them to run to excess, when they shook off the yoke of God, and waxed wanton against him. In calling these enemies the enemies of Jehovah, it is intended to censure the folly of the Israelites in breaking the bond of the covenant made between God and them, and thereby separating themselves from him, and preventing him from forthwith engaging in war in their behalf against those who were alike their and his enemies. As earthly princes, when they are disappointed of the assistance promised by their allies, are excited to enter into terms of agreement with their enemies, and in this way avenge themselves on those who have been found to be guilty of perjury and covenant-breakers; so God declares that he had spared his own enemies, because he had been treacherously and wickedly deceived by the people of Israel. Why does he permit his avowed enemies to remain unpunished, and cease for a time to maintain his own glory, if it is not because his object is to set them in contrast with his own rebellious and disobedient people, whom, by this means, he intends to subdue? The meaning of the word jk, cachash, which we have rendered lied, has been explained in a previous psalm fc419. It is here intimated that peace with the reprobate cannot be looked for except in so far as God restrains their rage by hidden chains. A lion shut up in an iron cage still retains his own nature, but he is kept from mangling and tearing in pieces those who are not even more than five or six feet distant from him. Thus it is with respect to the wicked. They may greedily desire our destruction; but they are unable to accomplish what their hearts are set upon; yea God humbles and abases their fierceness and arrogance, so that they put on the appearance of gentleness and meekness. The amount of the whole is, that it was the fault of the Israelites themselves that their enemies prevailed against them, and insolently triumphed over them; whereas, had they continued the humble and obedient children of God, these enemies would have been in a state of subjection to them. When it is said, their time should have been everlasting, fc420 the expression is to be referred to the promises; and so must the abundance of wheat and of honey, with which they would have been fully satisfied. God had solemnly declared that he would be their protector and guardian even to the end. The change, then, which so suddenly befell them is set before them as a matter of reproach, inasmuch as they had deliberately cast away all at once their happy state. The same remarks are applicable to the fruitfulness of the land. How is it to be accounted for that they suffered hunger in the land in which God had promised them abundance of wheat and honey, but because the blessing of God had been withheld on account of their iniquity? By the fat of corn fc421 is meant, metaphorically, pure grain, unless it may be thought preferable to understand it of the finest wheat. Some are of opinion that the expression, honey out of the rock, is hyperbolical, implying that honey would have flowed from the very rocks rather than that God would have failed to satisfy his people. But as it is evident from sacred history that honey was found everywhere in the hollows of the rocks fc422 so long as they enjoyed the blessing of God, the meaning simply is, that the grace of God would have continued to flow in an unbroken and uniform course, had it not been interrupted by the perverseness and wickedness of the people.


PSALM 82

As kings, and such as are invested with authority, through the blindness which is produced by pride, generally take to themselves a boundless liberty of action, the Psalmist warns them that they must render an account at the bar of the Supreme Judge, who is exalted above the highest of this world. After he has reminded them of their duty and condition, perceiving that he speaks to such as refuse to receive admonition, he calls upon God to vindicate his character as a righteous judge.  fc423

A Psalm of Asaph.

<198201>Psalm 82:1-4

1. God sitteth in the assembly of God: he will judge in the midst of the gods. fc424 2. How long will ye judge unjustly? and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. 3. Determine the cause of the poor and the orphan; justify fc425 the helpless and the destitute. 4. Rescue the poor and the afflicted: deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.

 

1. God sitteth in the assembly of God. fc426 It is unquestionably a very unbecoming thing for those whom God has been pleased to invest with the government of mankind for the common good, not to acknowledge the end for which they have been exalted above others, nor yet by whose blessing they have been placed in so elevated a station; but instead of doing this, contemning every principle of equity, to rule just as their own unbridled passions dictate. So infatuated are they by their own splendor and magnificence, as to imagine that the whole world was made only for them. Besides, they think that it would derogate from their elevated rank were they to be governed by moderate counsels; and although their own folly is more than enough to urge them on in their reckless career, they, notwithstanding, seek for flatterers to soothe and applaud them in their vices. To correct this arrogance, the psalm opens by asserting, that although men occupy thrones and judgment-seats, God nevertheless continues to hold the office of supreme ruler. God has made even a heathen and licentious poet bear testimony to this truth in the following lines: —

“Regum timendorum in proprios greges,
Reges in ipsos imperium est Jovis,
Clari giganteo triumpho,
Cuncta supercilio moventis.”
Horatii, Carm. Liber in. Ode i.

“Kings rule their subject flocks; great Jove
O’er kings themselves his reign extends,
Who hurl’d the rebel giants from above;
At whose majestic nod all nature bends.”
Boscawen’s Translation.

That the potentates of this world may not arrogate to themselves more than belongs to them, the prophet here erects a throne for God, from which he judges them all, and represses their pride; a thing which is highly necessary. They may, indeed, admit that they owe their elevation to royal power to the favor of God, and they may worship him by outward ceremonies, but their greatness so infatuates them that they are chargeable with expelling and casting him to a distance from their assembly, by their vain imaginations; for they cannot bear to be subject to reason and laws. Thus the design of the prophet was to deride the madness by which the princes of this world are bewitched, in leaving God no place in their assembly. The more effectually to overthrow this irrational self-confidence with which they are intoxicated, civil order is termed the assembly of God; for although the divine glory shines forth in every part of the world, yet when lawful government flourishes among men, it is reflected therefrom with pre-eminent lustre. I indeed grant that it is quite common for the Hebrews to adorn with the title of God whatever is rare and excellent. But here it would appear, from the scope of the passage, that this name of the Divine Being is applied to those who occupy the exalted station of princes, in which there is afforded a peculiar manifestation of the majesty of God; even as Solomon, in <200217>Proverbs 2:17, calls marriage “the covenant of God,” from the peculiar sanctity by which that relation is distinguished.

In the second clause of the verse, it is not material whether we read, He will judge in the midst of the gods, or, He will judge the gods in the midst. The first construction, however, is the most easy and natural, That however much the rulers of the world may exalt themselves, they cannot in the least impair the authority of God, by divesting him of his sovereignty over them and of the government of all things, which he will ever retain as his inalienable prerogative. But here, as also a little after, the name gods is to be understood of judges, on whom God has impressed special marks of his glory. To apply it to angels is a fancy too strained to admit of serious consideration.

2. How long will ye judge unjustly? Many suppose that God is here introduced speaking, and that these are the words which he utters from his throne of judgment. But I would rather consider the prophet himself as the speaker, who, in order to prepare the way for administering a rebuke, had spoken in the manner in which he did in the first verse. Kings may lift up their heads above the clouds, but they, as well as the rest of mankind, are under the government of God; and such being the case, it is in vain for them arrogantly to struggle to obtain exemption from the obligations of reason. Yet this is what they do. Although tyrants are amongst the basest of men, and occupy their exalted station by detestable treason, yet if any servant of God has the fortitude to open his mouth against them, they immediately attempt to shelter themselves by appealing to the sacred name of God, as if great wrong had been done to them. Thus, whilst they persuade themselves that they are privileged with exemption from the law to which the rest of mankind are subject, they endeavor to deprive the common people of divine truth and its ministers. In short, they think that there can be no sovereignty unless where uncontrolled license is enjoyed. But let this principle be once established, “That God rules among them,” and then a way is opened up for the admission of divine truth. Accordingly, the prophet, after having thus laid a foundation for his authority, freely inveighs against princes, and reproves the very gross vice of selling themselves to those who unrighteously oppress the poor, and of being gained by bribes to pervert in their administration every principle of justice. He expressly names the wicked; for good men will never attempt to corrupt judges. Moreover, there is a certain devilish frenzy which infatuates the princes of the world, and leads them voluntarily to pay greater respect to wicked men than to the simple and innocent. Even supposing that the wicked continue inactive, and use no endeavors to obtain for themselves favor either by flattery, fraud, bribery, or other artifices; yet those who bear rule are for the most part inclined of themselves to the bad side. The reason why the prophet upbraids them is, that wicked men find more favor at their hands than the good and conscientious.

3. Determine the cause of the poor and the orphan. We are here briefly taught that a just and well-regulated government will be distinguished for maintaining the rights of the poor and afflicted. By the figure synecdoche, one part of equitable administration is put for the whole; for it cannot be doubted that rulers are bound to observe justice towards all men without distinction. But the prophet, with much propriety, represents them as appointed to be the defenders of the miserable and oppressed, both because such persons stand in need of the assistance of others, and because they can only obtain this where rulers are free from avarice, ambition, and other vices. The end, therefore, for which judges bear the sword is to restrain the wicked, and thus to prevent violence from prevailing among men, who are so much disposed to become disorderly and outrageous. According as men increase in strength, they become proportionally audacious in oppressing the weak; and hence it is that rich men seldom resort to magistrates for help, except when they happen to fall out among themselves. From these remarks, it is very obvious why the cause of the poor and needy is here chiefly commended to rulers; for those who are exposed an easy prey to the cruelty and wrongs of the rich have no less need of the assistance and protection of magistrates than the sick have of the aid of the physician. Were the truth deeply fixed in the minds of kings and other judges, that they are appointed to be the guardians of the poor, and that a special part of this duty lies in resisting the wrongs which are done to them, and in repressing all unrighteous violence, perfect righteousness would become triumphant through the whole world. Whoever thinks it not beneath him to defend the poor, instead of allowing himself to be carried hither and thither by favor, will have a regard only to what is right. We may farther learn from this passage, that although magistrates may not be solicited for succor, they are accounted guilty before God of negligence, if they do not, of their own accord, succor those who stand in need of their interference. When iniquity openly prevails, and when, on account of it, sighs and lamentations are everywhere heard, it is in vain for them to pretend that they cannot redress wrongs, unless complaints are addressed to them. Oppression utters a sufficiently loud cry of itself; and if the judge, sitting on a high watch-tower, seems to take no notice of it, he is here plainly warned, that such connivance shall not escape with impunity.

<198205>Psalm 82:5-8

5. They know not, neither do they understand: they walk in darkness, although all the foundations of the earth are moved. 6. I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you sons of the Most High. 7. But ye shall die as a man; and ye shall fall, O princes: as one of the people. 8. Arise, O God! Judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.

 

5. They know not, neither do they understand. fc427 After having reminded princes of their duty, the Psalmist complains that his admonition from their infatuation is ineffectual, and that they refuse to receive wholesome instruction; yea, that although the whole world is shaken to its foundations, they, notwithstanding, continue thoughtless and secure in the neglect of their duty. He chiefly reprobates and condemns their madness as manifested in this, that although they see heaven and earth involved in confusion, they are no more affected at the sight than if the care of the interests of mankind did not belong to them, of which they are, notwithstanding, in an especial manner the chosen and appointed conservators. I have stated a little before, that what chiefly deprives them of understanding is, that, being dazzled with their own splendor, and perversely shaking off every yoke, no religious considerations have the effect of inclining them to moderation. All sound knowledge and wisdom must commence with yielding to God the honor which is his due, and submitting to be restrained and governed by his word. The last clause of the verse, Although all the foundations of the earth are moved, fc428 is almost universally understood by interpreters in a different sense from that in which I have rendered it. They explain it as implying, that of all the calamities in the world the greatest is when princes neglect to execute the duties of their office; for it is the observance and prevalence of justice which constitutes the foundation on which the fabric of human society rests. Thus the sense, according to them, is, that the world is undermined and overthrown by the unjust tyranny of princes. I am far from rejecting this interpretation; but, as I have already hinted, I am more inclined to think, that we have here condemned the monstrous stupidity of judges, who can remain indifferent and unmoved in beholding the horrible confusion of civil society, yea even the very earth shaken to its foundations.

6. I have said, ye are gods. God has invested judges with a sacred character and title. This the prophet concedes; but he, at the same time, shows that this will afford no support and protection to wicked judges. He does not introduce them as speaking of the dignity of their office; but anticipating the style of reasoning which they would be disposed to adopt, he replies, “If you appeal to your dignity as an argument to shield you, this boasting will avail you nothing; yea, rather you are deceiving yourselves by your foolish confidence; for God, in appointing you his substitutes, has not divested himself of his own sovereignty as supreme ruler. Again, he would have you to remember your own frailty as a means of stirring you up to execute with fear and trembling the office intrusted to you.” This verse may also be viewed as addressed by God himself to rulers, and as intimating, that, in addition to his clothing them with authority, he has bestowed upon them his name. This interpretation seems to agree with the language of Christ in <431034>John 10:34, where he speaks of those as called gods to whom the word of God came. The passage, however, may be appropriately resolved thus: I grant that ye are gods, and the sons of the Most High. fc429 But this does not materially alter the meaning. The object is simply to teach that the dignity with which judges are invested can form no excuse or plea why they should escape the punishment which their wickedness deserves. The government of the world has been committed to them upon the distinct understanding that they themselves also must one day appear at the judgment-seat of heaven to render up an account. The dignity, therefore, with which they are clothed is only temporary, and will pass away with the fashion of the world. Accordingly, it is added in the 7th verse, But ye shall die as men. You are armed with power, as if he had said, to govern the world; but you have not on that account ceased to be men, so as to be no longer subject to mortality. The last clause of the verse is translated by some expositors, Ye shall fall like one of the princes; fc430 but in my opinion improperly. They think that it contains a threatening of the violent death which would befall these unrighteous judges, corresponding to the sentiment of these lines of a heathen poet: —

“Ad generum Cereris sine caede et sanguine pauci,
Descendunt reges, et sicca morte tyranni.”

“Few kings and tyrants go down to Pluto, the son-in-law of Ceres, without being put to a violent death, before they have completed the ordinary term allotted to the life of mortal man.” fc431 That translation being forced, and not such as the words naturally suggest, I have no doubt that princes are here compared to the obscure and common class of mankind. The word one signifies any of the common people. Forgetting themselves to be men, the great ones of the earth may flatter themselves with visionary hopes of immortality; but they are here taught that they will be compelled to encounter death as well as other men. Christ, with the view of rebutting the calumny with which the Pharisees loaded him, quoted this text, <431034>John 10:34, 35, “Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” By these words Christ did not mean to place himself among the order of judges; but he argues from the less to the greater, that if the name of God is applied to God’s officers, it with much more propriety belongs to his only begotten Son, who is the express image of the Father, in whom the Father’s majesty shines forth, and in whom the whole fullness of the Godhead dwells.

8. Arise, O God! judge the earth. The reason why this psalm concludes with a prayer has been already stated at the commencement. The prophet, finding that his admonitions and remonstrances were ineffectual, and that princes, inflated with pride, treated with contempt all instruction on the principles of equity, addresses himself to God, and calls upon Him to repress their insolence. By this means, the Holy Spirit furnishes us with ground of comfort whenever we are cruelly treated by tyrants. We may perceive no power on earth to restrain their excesses; but it becomes us to lift up our eyes to heaven, and to seek redress from Him whose office it is to judge the world, and who does not claim this office to himself in vain. It is therefore our bounden duty to beseech him to restore to order what is embroiled in confusion. The reason of this which immediately follows — for thou shalt inherit all nationsis understood by some as a prophecy concerning the kingdom of Christ, by whom God has brought all nations in subjection to himself. But it is to be viewed in a more extensive sense, as implying that God has a rightful claim to the obedience of all nations, and that tyrants are chargeable with wickedly and unjustly wresting from him his prerogative of bearing rule, when they set at nought his authority, and confound good and evil, right and wrong. We ought therefore to beseech him to restore to order the confusions of the world, and thus to recover the rightful dominion which he has over it.


PSALM 83

The prophet implores the divine aid against the enemies of the Church, and, as an argument for obtaining this the more easily, he enumerates the many nations which had conspired together for the express purpose of exterminating the people of Israel, and thereby extinguishing the very name of the Church of God. To stir up himself and others to greater earnestness and confidence in prayer, he shows, by many examples, how mightily God had been wont to succor his servants.

A Song or Psalm of Asaph.

<198301>Psalm 83:1-4

1. O God! keep not silence with thyself; hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God! 2. For, behold! Thy enemies are tumultuous: and those who hate thee have lifted up the head. 3. They have formed a crafty design against thy people, and have consulted against thy hidden ones. 4. They have said, Come and let us cut them off from being a nation; and let the name of Israel be no more remembered.

 

1. O God! hold not thy peace. It is very generally agreed among commentators, that this psalm was composed during the reign of king Jehoshaphat; and in this opinion I readily concur. That godly king, as is well known, had to engage in dreadful wars against multiplied hosts of enemies. Although the Ammonites and Moabites were the originators of the principal war in which he was engaged, yet they mustered forces not only from Syria, but also from distant countries, and the troops thus brought together well nigh overwhelmed Judea with their multitude. It would then appear, from the long list of enemies, here enumerated, who had conspired together to destroy the people of God, that the conjecture is well-founded which refers the composition of this psalm to that occasion; fc432 and sacred history informs us, that one of the Levites, under the influence of the Spirit of prophecy, gave the king assurance of victory, fc433 and that the Levites sang before the Lord. In the midst of so great dangers, the whole nation, as well as the holy king, must have been involved in the deepest distress; and, accordingly, we have here a prayer full of earnestness and solicitude. These feelings prompted the repetition of the words which occur in the very opening of the psalm, Hold not thy peace, Keep not silence, be not still. By this, the faithful would intimate, that if God intended to succor them, it behoved him to make haste, else the opportunity for doing so would be lost. It is unquestionably our duty to wait patiently when God at any time delays his help; but, in condescension to our infirmity, he permits us to supplicate him to make haste. What I have rendered, keep not silence with thyself, is literally keep not silence to thyself, which some translate by the paraphrase, Hold not thy peace in thy own cause, — an exposition which is too refined to be more particularly noticed. This form of expression is equivalent to saying, Hold not thyself in. Perhaps the particle is here superfluous, as it is in many other places.

2. For, behold! thy enemies are tumultuous. As an argument for enforcing the prayer of the preceding verse, it is affirmed that the faithful are oppressed both by the impetuous violence and the crafty policy of their enemies, which, to all human appearance, rendered their escape from death utterly hopeless. When it is said that they are tumultuous and lift up the head, the meaning is, that relying upon their own power, they behave themselves insolently and proudly. By this conduct on the part of their enemies, the minds of the people of God are greatly depressed, and the only way in which they can obtain relief, is by making their moan to Him whose continual work it is to repress the proud. When, therefore, the saints implore his aid, it is their ordinary course to lay before him the perverseness of their enemies. It is worthy of notice, that those who molest the Church are called the enemies of God.

It affords us no small ground of confidence that those who are our enemies are also God’s enemies. This is one of the fruits of his free and gracious covenant, in which he has promised to be an enemy to all our enemies, — a promise for which there is good cause, when it is considered that the welfare of his people, whom he has taken under his protection, cannot be assailed without an injury being, at the same the done to his own majesty. Meanwhile, let us live at peace with all men, as much as in us lies, and let us endeavor to practice uprightness in our whole deportment, that we may be able confidently to appeal to God, that when we suffer at the hands of men, we suffer wrongfully. The pride and violent assaults of our enemies may be combined with craftiness. But when such is the case, it becomes us to yield to God the honor which belongs to him, by resting satisfied that He can succor us; for to break the proud who foam out their rage, and to take the crafty in their own craftiness, is work which He has been accustomed to perform in all ages. To keep us from thinking that we are abandoned to the snares and traps of our enemies, the prophet here seasonably sets before us a consideration calculated to administer the highest consolation and hope, when he calls us God’s hidden ones. This expression is understood by some as meaning that the aid and protection which God extends to us, is not apparent to the eye of sense and reason; just as it is said elsewhere of the life of the people of God, that it is hid, (<510303>Colossians 3:3.) But this interpretation is too forced, and altogether inconsistent both with the scope of the passage and the natural construction of the words. The design of them is simply to teach that we are hidden under the shadow of God’s wings; for although to outward appearance we lie open, and are exposed to the will of the wicked and the proud, we are preserved by the hidden power of God. fc434 Accordingly, it is said in another Psalm, (27:5,)

“In the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me.” (<192705>Psalm 27:5)

It is, however, at the same time to be observed, that none are hid under the keeping and protection of God but those who, renouncing all dependence on their own strength, betake themselves with fear and trembling to Him. Such as under the influence of a flattering belief in the sufficiency of their own strength to resist, boldly enter the conflict, and, as if devoid of all fear, wax wanton, will ultimately suffer the consequences which result from inadequate resources. fc435 We will then best consult our own safety by taking shelter under the shadow of the Almighty, and, conscious of our own weakness, committing our salvation to him, casting it, so to speak, into his bosom.

4. They have said, Come and let us cut them off from being a nation. The wickedness of these hostile powers is aggravated from the circumstance, that it was their determined purpose utterly to exterminate the Church. This may be restricted to the Ammonites and Moabites, who were as bellows to blow up the flame in the rest. But the Hagarenes, the Syrians, and the other nations, being by their instigation affected with no less hatred and fury against the people of God, for whose destruction they had taken up arms, we may justly consider this vaunting language as uttered by the whole of the combined host; for having entered into a mutual compact they rushed forward with rival eagerness, and encouraged one another to destroy the kingdom of Judah. The prime agent in exciting such cruel hatred was doubtless Satan, who has all along from the beginning been exerting himself to extinguish the Church of God, and who, for this purpose, has never ceased to stir up his own children to outrage. The phrase, to cut them off from being a nation, signifies to exterminate them root and branch, and thus to put an end to them as a nation or people. That this is the meaning is more clearly evinced from the second clause of the verse, Let the name of Israel be no more remembered. The compassion of God would in no small degree be excited by the circumstance that this war was not undertaken, as wars commonly have been, to bring them, when conquered, under the power of their enemies; but the object which the cruelty of their enemies aimed at was their entire destruction. And what did this amount to but to an attempt to overthrow the decree of God on which the perpetual duration of the Church depends.

<198305>Psalm 83:5-8

5. For they have consulted with the heart together; they have entered into a covenant fc436 against thee. 6. The tents of Edom, fc437 and the Ishmaelites fc438 Moab fc439 and the Hagarenes. fc440 7. Gebal, fc441 and Ammon, fc442 and Amalek fc443 the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre. 8. Assur is also associated with them: they have been an arm to the sons of Lot. Selah.

 

5. For they have consulted with the heart together. The multiplied hosts which united their powers together to oppose the Church of God and to effect her overthrow, are here enumerated. As so many nations, formed into one powerful confederacy, were bent on the destruction of a kingdom not greatly distinguished by its power, the miraculous aid of God was indispensably necessary for the deliverance of a people who, in such extremity, were altogether unable to defend themselves. In circumstances apparently as hopeless good king Asa gave utterance to that truly magnanimous reflection:

“Lord, it is nothing with thee to help whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God! for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitudes”
(<131411>1 Chronicles 14:11.)

The same Spirit who inspired that pious king with such invincible fortitude dictated this psalm for the benefit of the whole Church, to encourage her with unhesitating confidence to betake herself to God for aid. And in our own day he sets before us these words, in order that no danger or difficulty may prevent us from calling upon God. When the whole world may conspire together against us, we have as it were a wall of brass for the defense of Christ’s kingdom in these words, “Why do the heathen rage?” etc., (<190201>Psalm 2:1.)

It will be in no small degree profitable to us to contemplate this as an example in which we have represented to us, as in a mirror what has been the lot of the Church of God from the beginning. This, if rightly reflected upon, will keep us at the present day from being unduly dejected when we witness the whole world in array against us. We see how the Pope has inflamed the whole world against us with diabolical rage. Hence it is, that in whatever direction we turn our eyes, we meet with just so many hostile armies to destroy us. But when we have once arrived at a settled persuasion that no strange thing happens to us, the contemplation of the condition of the Church in old time will strengthen us for continuing in the exercise of patience until God suddenly display his power, which is perfectly able, without any created aid, to frustrate all the attempts of the world.

To remove from the minds of the godly all misgivings as to whether help is ready to be imparted to them from heaven, the prophet distinctly affirms that those who molest the Church are chargeable with making war against God, who has taken her under his protection. The principle upon which God declares that he will be our helper is contained in these words,

“He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye,”
(<380208>Zechariah 2:8.)

And what is said in another psalm concerning the patriarchs, is equally applicable to all true believers,

“Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm,”
(<19A515>Psalm 105:15.)

He will have the anointing with which he has anointed us to be, as it were, a buckler to keep us in perfect safety. The nations here enumerated did not avowedly make war against him; but as, when he sees his servants unrighteously assaulted, he interposes himself between them and their enemies to bear the blows aimed at them, they are here justly represented as having entered into a league against God. The case is analogous to that of the Papists in the present day. If any were to ask them, when they hold consultations for the express purpose of accomplishing our destruction, Whether they were stronger than God? they would immediately reply, That they had no intention whatever of assaulting heaven in imitation of the giants of old. But God having declared that every injury which is done to us is an assault upon him, we may, as from a watch-tower, behold in the distance by the eye of faith the approach of that destruction of which the votaries of Antichrist shall have at length the sad and melancholy experience.

The expression, to consult with the heart, is by some explained, to deliberate with the greatest exertion and earnestness of mind. Thus it is quite common for us to say, that a thing is done with the heart which is done with earnestness and ardor of mind. But this expression is rather intended to denote the hidden crafty devices complained of a little before.

Some interpreters refer the tents of Edom to warlike furniture, and understand the words as meaning, that these enemies came well equipped and provided with tents for prolonging the war; but the allusion seems rather to be to the custom which prevailed among those nations of dwelling in tents. It is, however, a hyperbolical form of expression; as if it had been said, So great was their eagerness to engage in this war, that they might be said even to pluck their tents from the places where they were pitched.

I do not intend to enter curiously into a discussion concerning the respective nations here named, the greater part of them being familiarly known from the frequency with which they are spoken of in the sacred Scriptures. When it is said that Assur and the rest were an arm to the sons of Lot, this is evidently an additional aggravation of the wickedness of the sons of Lot. It would have been an act of unnatural cruelty for them to have aided foreign nations against their own kindred. But when they themselves are the first to sound the trumpet, and when of their own suggestion they invite the aid of the Assyrians and other nations to destroy their own brethren, ought not such barbarous inhumanity to call forth the deepest detestation? Josephus himself records, that the Israelites had passed through their borders without doing them any harm, sparing their own blood according to the express command of God. When the Moabites and Ammonites then knew that their brethren the Jews spared them, remembering that they were of the same blood, and sprung from one common parentage, ought they not also to have reciprocated so much kindness on their part as not to have embarked in any hostile enterprise against them? But it is, as it were, the destiny of the Church, not only to be assailed by external enemies, but to suffer far greater trouble at the hands of false brethren. At the present day, none are more furiously mad against us than counterfeit Christians.

<198309>Psalm 83:9-12

9. Do to them as to the Midianites, fc444 as to Sisera, as to Jabin, at the brook Kishon. fc445 10. They perished at Endor; they became manure for the earth. 11. Make them and their princes like Oreb, and like Zeeb; fc446 and like Zebah, and like Zalmunna, fc447 all their princes. 12. Who have said, Let us take in possession for ourselves the habitations of God.

 

9. Do to them as to the Midianites. The faithful, having complained of the very grievous oppressions to which they were subjected, with the view of inducing God the more readily to succor them, now call to their remembrance the many occasions on which he had afforded relief to his people, when brought into the most desperate circumstances. From this, it is an obvious inference, that God wisely delays his aid to his servants under oppression, that when they seem to be reduced to the last extremity, he may appear in a miraculous manner for their succor. The prophet, in this verse, mingles together two histories. Strict accuracy would have required him to have said in one connected sentence, Do to them as to the Midianites at the brook Kishon. But he inserts in the middle of this sentence, the slaughter of Jabin and Sisera. It was, however, of no great importance to distinguish particularly between the two histories. He considered it enough for his purpose, to bring to the remembrance of himself and other pious Jews, the miracles which God in the days of old had so often wrought in delivering his people. The great object aimed at is to show, that God, who had so often put his enemies to flight, and rescued his poor trembling sheep out of the jaws of wolves, was not now without the power of effecting the same deliverance. The wonderful manner in which he succoured his people by the hand of Gideon is well known: Judges 6 and 7; It might have seemed altogether ridiculous for Gideon to venture to engage in battle against a very powerful army, with no greater a number of men of war than three hundred, and these, be it observed, such as had been in a state of bondage during their whole lives, and whom the mere look of their lords might have thrown into consternation. And yet, it came to pass, that the Midianites perished by turning their swords against each other. The same goodness God displayed in the slaughter of Sisera and king Jabin, <070413>Judges 4:13. Barak, under the conduct of a woman, Deborah, discomfited them both, when, with a small handful of soldiers, he intrepidly gave battle to their mighty host. And Sisera, the general of the army, did not die bravely on the field of battle, but was smitten by the hand of a woman after he had retired to some hiding-place. That the faithful may not be overwhelmed with terror and fall into despair, they seasonably fortify themselves with these examples of deliverance, by which God had shown that in himself alone there resides a sufficiency of power to defend his people, whenever, destitute of the resources of human aid, they should betake themselves to him. From that astonishing and unwonted mode of granting deliverance, they came to the conclusion, that he is a wonderful worker in preserving his Church; in order to encourage themselves to entertain the fullest confidence, that in his breath alone they would have sufficient strength to overthrow all their enemies. Nor is it only in this passage that the slaughter of the Midianites is related for this purpose. Isaiah also (<230904>Isaiah 9:4) introduces it for confirming the truth of the Church’s restitution: “For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.” When it is stated that they became manure for the earth, the expression may be explained as meaning, either, first, that their carcases lay rotting upon the earth; or, secondly, that they were trampled under foot as manure. This latter exposition is the most appropriate; but I do not reject the former. The reason why it is said, They perished at Endor, it is somewhat difficult to ascertain. The name, Endor, is to be found in <061711>Joshua 17:11; and it is probable, that the army of king Jabin was destroyed there. fc448 The opinion entertained by some, that Endor is here used as an appellative, conveying the idea that their discomfiture was open and visible to the eye, is what I cannot approve.

12. Who have said, Let us take in possession for ourselves the habitations of God. These heathen enemies are again accused of treason against the King of heaven, in seizing upon his heritage like lawless robbers. They would not, we may be sure, avow in so many words that it was their intention to commit such a crime; but as they despised God, who, as they well knew, was worshipped by the people of Israel, they are here justly charged with the guilt of endeavoring to dispossess Him of his own inheritance. And, without doubt, they profanely poured abuse upon the true God, of whose sacred majesty they entertained the greatest contempt, their minds being besotted with their own inventions. But even granting that they abstained from gross blasphemies, yet whatever harassing proceedings are carried on against the godly redound to the dishonor of God, who has taken them under his protection. The appellation, the habitations or mansions of God, which is applied to Judea, is a form of expression, containing no small degree of comfort. God has united himself to us, with the view of having an everlasting residence amongst us, or rather that he may set as high a value upon his Church, and account it as precious, as a householder does his possessions which are most valuable, and yield him a large revenue.

<198313>Psalm 83:13-18

13. O my God! make them like a whirling ball, fc449 like stubble before the wind. 14. As fire burns a forest fc450 and as the flame kindles the mountains, fc451 15. So pursue them with thy tempest, fc452 and terrify them with thy whirlwind. 16. Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, O Jehovah! 17. Let them be ashamed, and terrified perpetually, and let them be confounded, and perish. 18. And let them know that thou art, thy name Jehovah, thou alone the Most High over all the earth. fc453

 

13. O my God! make them like a whirling ball. As the ungodly, when they gird and prepare themselves for destroying the Church, are usually inflated with intolerable pride, the inspired bard beseeches God to put them to shame, it being impossible to abate their pride until they are laid prostrate, confounded, and shamefully disappointed. When he declares (verse 16) that, as the result of this, they will seek the name of God, he is not to be understood as speaking of their being brought to true repentance, or of their genuine conversion. I indeed admit that the first step to genuine repentance is when men, brought low by affliction, willingly humble themselves. But what is here meant is nothing more than a forced and slavish submission like that of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. It is a case of frequent occurrence for the wicked, when subdued by adversity, to give glory to God, for a short period. But they are soon again carried away with a frantic madness, which clearly discovers their hypocrisy, and brings to light the pride and rebellion which lurked in their hearts. What the prophet desires is, that the wicked may be compelled by stripes to acknowledge God, whether they will or no, in order that their fury, which breaks forth because they escape with impunity, may at least be kept under restraint. This is more clearly apparent from the 17th verse, where he distinctly prays that they may be destroyed for ever; which would not at all correspond with his previous statement, were it regarded as a prayer for their being brought to repentance. Nor does he needlessly heap together such a multiplicity of words. He does this partly because the reprobate, though often chastised, are nevertheless so incorrigible that ever and anon they are mustering up new strength and courage; and partly because there is nothing which it is more difficult to be persuaded of than that such as wallow at ease in great outward prosperity will soon perish. The cause to which this is to be attributed is just our not sufficiently apprehending the dreadful character of the vengeance of God which awaits the oppressors of the Church.

18. And let them know that thou art, thy name Jehovah. It is not the saving knowledge of God which is here spoken of, but that acknowledgement of him which his irresistible power extorts from the wicked. It is not simply said that they will know that there is a God; but a special kind of knowledge is laid down, it being intimated that the heathen who before held the true religion in contempt, would at length perceive that the God who made himself known in the Law, and who was worshipped in Judea, was the only true God. Still, however, it must be remembered, that the knowledge spoken of is only that which is of an evanescent character, having neither root nor the living juice to nourish it; for the wicked will not submit to God willingly and cordially, but are drawn by compulsion to yield a counterfeit obedience, or, being restrained by him, dare not break forth into open outrage. This, then, is an experimental recognition of God which penetrates not to the heart, but is extorted from them by force and necessity. The pronoun hta, atah, thou, is emphatic, implying a tacit contrast between the God of Israel and all the false gods which were the product of men’s invention. The prayer amounts to this: Lord, make them to know that the idols which they have fabricated for themselves are no gods, and in fact are nothing. The despisers of God may indeed shun the light, and at one time may overcast themselves with clouds, while at another their may plunge into the deep and thick shades of darkness; but He pursues them, and draws them forth to the knowledge of himself, which they would fain bury in ignorance. And as the world indiscriminately and disgracefully applies his sacred name to its own trifling inventions, this profanation is corrected when it is added, thy name Jehovah. This implies that being, or really to be, is in the strict sense applicable to God alone; for although unbelievers may attempt to tear his glory to pieces, he continues perfect and unchanged. The contrast of which I have spoken, must be kept in mind by the reader. A nation has never existed so barbarous as not to have worshipped some deity; but every country forged particular gods for itself. And although the Moabites, the Edomites, and the rest of these nations, admitted that some power and authority belonged to the God of Israel, yet they conceived that this power and authority did not extend beyond the boundaries of Judea. Thus the king of Syria called him, “the God of the hills,” (<112023>1 Kings 20:23.) This preposterous and absurd division of God’s glory, which men make, is disproved by one word, and all the superstitions which at that time prevailed in the world are overthrown, when the Prophet attributes to the God of Israel, as well the essence of Deity as the name; for unless all the idols of the heathen are completely abolished, he will not obtain, alone and unshared, the name of Jehovah. Accordingly, it is added, Thou alone art the Most High over all the earth; a statement which is worthy of our most careful attention. The superstitious commonly think it enough to leave God his name, that is to say, two or three syllables; and in the meantime they fritter away his power, as if his majesty were contained in an empty title. Let us then remember that God does not receive that honor among men to which he is entitled, if he is not allowed to possess his own inherent sovereignty, and if his glory is obscured by setting up other objects against him with antagonist claims.


PSALM 84

The Psalmist complains that nothing proved to him a source of greater distress than his being prevented from coming to the tabernacle, and his being banished from the assembly of the saints, where God was called upon. And yet he shows, that nothing can withstand the longing desires of the godly; and that, surmounting all obstacles, they will be constantly engaged in seeking God, and, so to speak, will make a way for themselves where there is none. fc454 At length he expresses his desire to be restored to the tabernacle of God, and again testifies that a day spent in the tabernacle was in his estimation more to be prized fc455 than to live for a long time in the society of unbelievers.

To the chief musician upon Gittith. A Psalm of fc456 the sons of Korah. fc457

The title of this psalm does not bear the name of David; but as its subject-matter is applicable to him, he was in all probability its author. Some think that it was composed by the sons of Korah, for his particular use; but to prove the groundlessness of this opinion, it is only necessary to advert to this one consideration, that David in his time was so eminently distinguished by the gift of prophecy as to be under no necessity of employing the Levites to perform a service for which he himself was so well qualified. The only difficulty to our ascribing it to David is, that mention is made of mount Zion, to which the ark of the covenant was not brought until he was put in peaceable possession of the kingdom. how after that, he was never deprived of the liberty of appearing before the ark with others, except once, and then only for a short time; namely, when he was under the necessity of betaking himself to flight on account of the rebellion raised against him by his son Absalom. fc458 The contents of the psalm, however, indicate, that at the time of its composition, he had been compelled to wander long in different places as an exile. If we reflect that David recorded in psalms the persecutions he endured under Saul long after he was delivered from them, we will not be surprised to find him making mention of Zion in connection with them. Of the word Gittith, I have already spoken on the eighth psalm.

<198401>Psalm 84:1-4

1. How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Jehovah of Hosts! 2. My soul longeth, [or greatly desireth,] yea, even fainteth after the courts of Jehovah: my heart and my flesh leap for joy towards the living God. 3. The sparrow also hath found a house for herself, and the swallow fc459 a nest for herself, where she may place her young ones, O thine altars! Thou Jehovah of Hosts! my King, and my God. 4. Blessed are they who dwell in thy house: they will be ever praising thee. Selah.

 

1. How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Jehovah of Hosts! David complains of his being deprived of liberty of access to the Church of God, there to make a profession of his faith, to improve in godliness, and to engage in the divine worship. Some would understand by the tabernacles of God, the kingdom of heaven, as if David mourned over his continuance in this state of earthly pilgrimage; but they do not sufficiently consider the nature of his present afflicted circumstances — that he was debarred from the sanctuary. He knew that God had not in vain appointed the holy assemblies, and that the godly have need of such helps so long as they are sojourners in this world. He was also deeply sensible of his own infirmity; nor was he ignorant how far short he came of approaching the perfection of angels. He had therefore good ground to lament over his being deprived of those means, the utility of which is well known to all true believers. His attention was, no doubt, directed to the proper end for which the external ritual was appointed; for his character was widely different from that of hypocrites, who, while they frequent the solemn assemblies with great pomp, and seem to burn with ardent zeal in serving God, yet in all this, aim at nothing more than by an ostentatious display of piety to obtain the credit of having performed their duty towards Him. David’s mind was far from being occupied with this gross imagination. The end he had in view in desiring so earnestly to enjoy free access to the sanctuary was, that he might there worship God with sincerity of heart, and in a spiritual manner. The opening words are in the form of an exclamation, which is an indication of ardent affection; and this state of feeling is expressed still more fully in the second verse. Hence we learn, that those are sadly deficient in understanding who carelessly neglect God’s instituted worship, as if they were able to mount up to heaven by their own unaided efforts.

I have observed, that in the second verse a more than ordinary ardor of desire is expressed. The first verb, psk, casaph, signifies vehemently to desire; but not contented with this word, David adds, that his soul fainteth after the courts of the Lord, which is equivalent to our pining away, when, under the influence of extreme mental emotion, we are in a manner transported out of ourselves. He speaks only of the courts of the tabernacle, because, not being a priest, it was not lawful for him to go beyond the outer court. None but the priests, as is well known, were permitted to enter into the inner sanctuary. In the close of the verse, he declares, that this longing extended itself even to his body, that is, it manifested itself in the utterance of the mouth, the languor of the eyes, and the action of the hands. The reason why he longed so intensely to have access to the tabernacle was, to enjoy the living God; not that he conceived of God as shut up in so narrow a place as was the tent of the ark, fc460 but he was convinced of the need he had of steps, by which to rise up to heaven, and knew that the visible sanctuary served the purpose of a ladder, because, by it the minds of the godly were directed and conducted to the heavenly model. And assuredly, when we consider that the sluggishness of our flesh hinders us from elevating our minds to the height of the divine majesty, in vain would God call us to himself, did he not at the same time, on his part, come down to us; or, did he not at least, by the interposition of means, stretch out his hand to us, so to speak, in order to lift us up to himself.

3. The sparrow also hath found a house for herself, and the swallow a nest for herself. Some read this verse as one continuous sentence, conveying the idea that the birds made their nests near the altars; fc461 from which it might the more evidently appear how hard and distressing his condition was in being kept at a distance from them. This opinion seems to be supported from the circumstance, that immediately before the Hebrew word for altars, there is the particle ta, eth, which is commonly joined with the accusative case. But as it is also sometimes used in exclamations, the prophet, I have no doubt, breaking off in the middle of his sentence all at once, exclaims, that nothing would be more grateful to him than to behold the altar of God. David then, in the first place, with the view of aggravating the misery of his condition, compares himself with the sparrows and swallows, showing how hard a case it was for the children of Abraham to be driven out of the heritage which had been promised them, whilst the little birds found some place or other for building their nests. He might sometimes find a comfortable retreat, and might even dwell among unbelievers with some degree of honor and state; but so long as he was deprived of liberty of access to the sanctuary, he seemed to himself to be in a manner banished from the whole world. Undoubtedly, the proper end which we ought to propose to ourselves in living, is to be engaged in the service of God. The manner in which he requires us to serve him is spiritual; but still it is necessary for us to make use of those external aids which he has wisely appointed for our observance. This is the reason why David all at once breaks forth into the exclamation, O thine altars! thou Jehovah of Hosts! Some might be ready to say in reference to his present circumstances, that there were many retreats in the world, where he might live in safety and repose, yea, that there were many who would gladly receive him as a guest under their roof, and that therefore he had no cause to be so greatly distressed. To this he answers, that he would rather relinquish the whole world than continue in a state of exclusion from the holy tabernacle; that he felt no place delightful at a distance from God’s altars; and, in short, that no dwelling-place was agreeable to him beyond the limits of the Holy Land. This he would intimate, by the appellations which he gives to God, My King, and my God. In speaking thus, he gives us to understand that his life was uncomfortable and embittered, because he was banished from the kingdom of God. “Although all men,” as if he had said, “should vie with each other in their eagerness to afford me shelter and entertainment, yet as thou art my King, what pleasure would it afford me to live in the world, so long as I am excluded from the territory of the Holy Land? And again, as thou art my God, for what end do I live but to seek after thee? Now, when thou castest me off, should I not despise every place of retreat and shelter which is offered me, however pleasant and delightful it may be to my flesh?”

4. Blessed are they who dwell in thy house. Here the Psalmist expresses more distinctly the proper and legitimate use of the sanctuary; and thus he distinguishes himself from hypocrites, who are sedulously attentive to the observance of outward ceremonies, but destitute of genuine heart godliness. David, on the contrary, testifies, that the true worshippers of God offer to him the sacrifice of praise, which can never be dissociated from faith. Never will a man praise God from the heart, unless, relying upon his grace, he is a partaker of spiritual peace and joy.

<198405>Psalm 84:5-7

5. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; the ways are in their hearts. 6. They passing through the valley of weeping, fc462 will together make it a fountain; fc463 the rain also will cover the cisterns, [or reservoirs.] fc464 7. They will go from strength to strength; fc465 the God of gods will be seen in Zion.

 

5. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee. David again informs us, that the purpose for which he desired liberty of access to the sanctuary was, not merely to gratify his eyes with what was to be seen there, but to make progress in faith. To lean with the whole heart upon God, is to attain to no ordinary degree of advancement: and this cannot be attained by any man, unless all his pride is laid prostrate in the dust, and his heart truly humbled. In proposing to himself this way of seeking God, David’s object is to borrow from him by prayer the strength of which he feels himself to be destitute. The concluding clause of the verse, the ways are in their hearts, fc466 is by some interpreted as meaning, That those are happy who walk in the way which God has appointed; for nothing is more injurious to a man than to trust in his own understanding. It is not improperly said of the law, “This is the way, walk ye in it,” <233021>Isaiah 30:21. Whenever then men turn aside, however little it may be, from the divine law, they go astray, and become entangled in perverse errors. But it is more appropriate to restrict the clause to the scope of the passage, and to understand it as implying, that those are happy whose highest ambition it is to have God as the guide of their life, and who therefore desire to draw near to him. God, as we have formerly observed, is not satisfied with mere outward ceremonies. What he desires is, to rule and keep in subjection to himself all whom he invites to his tabernacle. Whoever then has learned how great a blessedness it is to rely upon God, will put forth all the desires and faculties of his mind, that with all speed he may hasten to Him.

6. They passing through the valley of weeping, will together make it a well. The meaning of the Psalmist is, that no impediments can prevent the enlightened and courageous worshippers of God from making conscience of waiting upon the sanctuary. By this manner of speaking, he confirms the statement which he had previously made, That nothing is more desirable than to be daily engaged in the worship of God; showing, as he does, that no difficulties can put a stop to the ardent longings of the godly, and prevent them from hastening with alacrity, yea, even though their way should be through dry and barren deserts, to meet together to solemnise the holy assemblies. As the Hebrew word ajbh, habbacha, when the final letter is h, he, signifies tears, and when the final letter is a, aleph, a mulberry tree, some here read valley of tears, and others, valley of the mulberry. The majority of interpreters adopt the first reading; but the other opinion is not destitute of probability. fc467 There is, however, no doubt, that dry and barren deserts are here to be understood, in travelling through which, much difficulty and privation must be endured, particularly from the want of water; drink being of all other articles the most necessary to persons when travelling. David intended this as an argument to prove the steadfastness of the godly, whom the scarcity of water, which often discourages travelers from prosecuting their journey, will not hinder from hastening to seek God, though their way should be through sandy and and vales. In these words, reproof is administered to the slothfulness of those who will not submit to any inconvenience for the sake of being benefited by the service of God. They indulge themselves in their own ease and pleasures, and allow nothing to interfere with these. They will, therefore, provided they are not required to make any exertion or sacrifice, readily profess themselves to be the servants of God; but they would not give a hair of their head, or make the smallest sacrifice, to obtain the liberty of hearing the gospel preached, and of enjoying the sacraments. This slothful spirit, as is evident from daily observation, keeps multitudes fast bound to their nests, so that they cannot bear to forego in any degree their own ease and convenience. Yea, even in those places where they are summoned by the sound of the church-bell to public prayers fc468 to hear the doctrine of salvation, or to partake of the holy mysteries, we see that some give themselves to sleep, some think only of gain, some are entangled with the affairs of the world, and others are engaged in their amusements. It is therefore not surprising, if those who live at a distance, and who cannot enjoy these religious services and means of salvation, without making some sacrifice of their worldly substance, remain lolling at home. That such may not live secure and self-satisfied in the enjoyment of outward prosperity, David declares, that those who have true heart religion, and who sincerely serve God, direct their steps to the sanctuary of God, not only when the way is easy and cheerful, under the shade and through delightful paths, but also when they must walk through rugged and barren deserts; and that they will rather make for themselves cisterns with immense toil, than be prevented from prosecuting their journey by reason of the drought of the country.

7. They will go from strength to strength. In this verse the same sentiment is repeated. Mount Zion being the place where, according to the appointment of the law, the holy assemblies were observed, after the ark of the covenant was removed thither, it is said, that the people of God will come to Zion in great numbers, provoking one another to this good work. fc469 The word lyj, chayil, seldom signifies a troop, or band of men, but most commonly power, or strength. It will therefore be more in accordance with the ordinary use of the term, to translate, They will go from strength to strength; fc470 implying, that the saints are continually acquiring fresh strength for going up to mount Zion, and continue to prosecute their journey without weariness or fatigue, until they reach the wished-for place, and behold the countenance of God. If the word troop is preferred, the meaning will be, that not a few only will come, but numerous companies. The manner in which God manifested himself to his servants in the temple in old time, we have spoken of elsewhere, and especially on the 27th psalm, at the 4th and 5th verses. No visible image of God was there to be seen; but the ark of the covenant was a symbol of his presence, and genuine worshippers found from experience, that by this means they were greatly aided in approaching him.

<198408>Psalm 84:8-11

8. O Jehovah, God of Hosts! hear my prayer: O God of Jacob! hearken. Selah. 9. O God! our shield, behold; and look upon the face of thy Anointed. 10. For better is one day in thy courts than a thousand elsewhere. fc471 I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11. For Jehovah God is our sun and shield: Jehovah will give grace and glory: he will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly. O Jehovah of Hosts! blessed is the man who trusteth in thee.

 

8. O Jehovah, God of Hosts! hear my prayer. David, instead of acting like worldly men, who foolishly and unprofitably distress and torment themselves by inwardly cherishing their desires, very wisely directs his wishes and prayers to God. From this it is also evident, that he was not accustomed to indulge in ostentatious boasting, as is the case with many hypocrites, who present to outward appearance a wonderful ardor of zeal, while yet the omniscient eye of God sees nothing but coldness in their hearts. In the first place, he supplicates in general, that God would vouchsafe to hear him. He next anticipates a temptation which might very readily arise from his being at present apparently cut off from the Church, and wards it off, by associating and ranking himself with all true believers, under the protection of God. Had he not been a member of the Church, he could not have said generally, and as it were in the person of all its members, Our shield. Having made this statement, he uses language still more expressive of high privilege, adducing the royal anointing with which God had honored him by the hand of Samuel, <091612>1 Samuel 16:12. These words, Look upon the face of thy anointed, are very emphatic, and yet many interpreters pass over them very frigidly. He encourages himself in the hope of obtaining the favor of God, from the consideration that he had been anointed king in compliance with a divine command. Knowing, however, that his kingdom was merely a shadow and type of something more illustrious, there is no doubt, that in uttering these words, the object which he aspired after was, to obtain the divine favor through the intervention of the Mediator of whom he was a type. I am personally unworthy, as if he had said, that thou shouldest restore me, but the anointing by which thou hast made me a type of the only Redeemer will secure this blessing for me. We are thus taught, that the only way in which God becomes reconciled to us is through the mediation of Christ, whose presence scatters and dissipates all the dark clouds of our sins.

10. For better is one day in thy courts than a thousand elsewhere. Unlike the greater part of mankind, who desire to live without knowing why, wishing simply that their life may be prolonged, David here testifies, not only that the end which he proposed to himself in living was to serve God, but that in addition to this, he set a higher value on one day which he could spend in the divine service, than upon a long time passed among the men of the world, from whose society true religion is banished. It being lawful for none but the priests to enter into the inner and innermost courts of the temple, David expressly declares, that provided he were permitted to have a place at the porch, he would be contented with this humble station; for the Hebrew word ps, saph, signifies a door-post, or the threshold of a house. fc472 The value which he set upon the sanctuary is presented in a very striking light by the comparison, that he would prefer having a place at the very doors of the temple, to his having full possession of the tents of wickedness, the plain import of which is, that he would rather be cast into a common and unhonoured place, provided he were among the people of God, than exalted to the highest rank of honor among unbelievers. A rare example of godliness indeed! Many are to be found who desire to occupy a place in the Church, but such is the sway which ambition has over the minds of men, that very few are content to continue among the number of the common and undistinguished class. Almost all are carried away with the frantic desire of rising to distinction, and can never think of being at ease until they have attained to some station of eminence.

11. Jehovah God is our sun and shield. The idea conveyed by the comparison derived from the sun is, that as the sun by his light vivifies, nourishes, and rejoices the world, so the benign countenance of God fills with joy the hearts of his people, or rather, that they neither live nor breathe except in so far as he shines upon them. By the term shield is meant, that our salvation, which would otherwise be perilled by countless dangers, is in perfect safety under his protection. The favor of God in communicating life to us would be far from adequate to the exigencies of our condition, unless at the same time, in the midst of so many dangers, he interposed his power as a buckler to defend us. The sentence immediately succeeding, he will give grace and glory, might be viewed as meaning, that those whom God has distinguished by his grace in this world, will at length be crowned with everlasting glory in his heavenly kingdom. But this distinction between grace and glory being, I am afraid, too refined, it will be preferable to explain the sentence as implying, that after God has once taken the faithful into his favor, he will advance them to high honor, and never cease to enrich them with his blessings. fc473 This interpretation is confirmed by the following clause, He will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly, obviously teaching us, that God’s bounty can never be exhausted, but flows without intermission. We learn from these words, that whatever excellence may be in us proceeds solely from the grace of God. They contain, at the same time, this special mark, by which the genuine worshippers of God may be distinguished from others, That their life is framed and regulated according to the principles of strict integrity.

The exclamation with which David concludes the psalm, Blessed is the man who trusteth in thee, seems to refer to the season of his banishment. He had previously described the blessedness of those who dwell in the courts of the Lord, and now he avows, that although he was for a time deprived of that privilege, he was far from being altogether miserable, because he was supported by the best of all consolations, that which arose from beholding from a distance the grace of God. This is an example well worthy of special attention. So long as we are deprived of God’s benefits, we must necessarily groan and be sad in heart. But, that the sense of our distresses may not overwhelm us, we ought to impress it upon our minds, that even in the midst of our calamities we do not cease to be happy, when faith and patience are in exercise.


PSALM 85

God having afflicted his people with new troubles and calamities, after their return from their captivity in Babylon, they, in the first place, make mention of their deliverance as an argument why he should not leave unfinished the work of his grace. Then they complain of the long continuance of their afflictions. And, in the third place, inspired with hope and confidence, they triumph in the blessedness promised them; for their restoration to their own country was connected with the kingdom of Christ, from which they anticipated an abundance of all good things. fc474

To the chief musician, a Psalm of the sons of Korah.

<198501>Psalm 85:1-4

1. O Jehovah! thou hast been favorable to thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. 2. Thou hast taken away the iniquity fc475 of thy people: thou hast covered all their sins. Selah. 3. Thou hast turned away all thy anger: thou hast drawn back the fury of thy indignation. 4. Turn us, O God of our salvation! and cause thy anger against us to cease.

 

1. O Jehovah! thou hast been favorable to thy land. Those who translate these words in the future tense, in my opinion, mar their meaning. This psalm, it is probable, was endited to be sung by the people when they were persecuted by the cruel tyranny of Antiochus; and from the deliverance wrought for them in the past, they were encouraged to expect in the future, fresh and continued tokens of the divine favor, — God having thereby testified, that their sins, however numerous and aggravated, could not efface from his memory the remembrance of his covenant, so as to render him inexorable towards the children of Abraham, and deaf to their prayers. fc476 Had they not previously experienced such remarkable proofs of the divine goodness, they must necessarily have been overwhelmed with the load of their present afflictions, especially when so long protracted. The cause of their deliverance from captivity they attribute to the free love with which God had embraced the land which he had chosen for himself. Whence it follows, that the course of his favor was unintermitted; and the faithful also were inspired with confidence in prayer, by the reflection that, mindful of his choice, he had shown himself merciful to his own land. We have elsewhere had occasion to remark, that nothing contributes more effectually to encourage us to come to the throne of grace, than the remembrance of God’s former benefits. Our faith would immediately succumb under adversity, and sorrow would choke our hearts, were we not taught to believe from the experience of the past, that he is inclined compassionately to hear the prayers of his servants, and always affords them succor when the exigencies of their circumstances require it; especially as there remains at all times the same reason for continuing his goodness. Thus the prophet happily applies to believers of his own day, the benefits which God in old time bestowed upon their fathers, because both they and their fathers were called to the hope of the same inheritance.

2. Thou hast taken away the iniquity of thy people. It was very natural for the faithful to feel alarmed and perplexed on account of their sins, and therefore the prophet removes all ground for overwhelming apprehension, by showing them, that God, in delivering his people, had given an irrefragable proof of free forgiveness. He had before traced this deliverance to the mere good pleasure and free grace of God as its source; but after it was wrought, the iniquities of the people having separated between them and their God, and estranged them from him, it was necessary that the remedy of pardon should be brought to their aid. In saying that their iniquities were taken away, he does not refer to the faithful being reformed and purged from their sins, in other words, to that work by which God, sanctifying them by the Spirit of regeneration, actually removes sin from them. What he intended to say he explains immediately after. The amount, in short, is, that God was reconciled to the Jews by not imputing their sins to them. When God is said to cover sins, the meaning is, that he buries them, so that they come not into judgment, as we have shown more at large on the 32nd psalm, at the beginning. When, therefore, he had punished the sins of his people by captivity, it being his will to restore them again to their own country, he removed the great impediment to this, by blotting out their transgressions; for deliverance from punishment depends upon the remission of sin. Thus we are furnished with an argument in confutation of that foolish conceit of the Sophists, which they set forth as some great mystery, That God retains the punishment although he forgive the fault; whereas God announces in every part of his word, that his object in pardoning is, that being pacified, he may at the same time mitigate the punishment. Of this we have an additional confirmation in the following verse, where we are informed, that God was mercifully inclined towards his people, that he might withdraw his hand from chastising them. What answer in any degree plausible can be given to this by the Sophists, who affirm that God would not be righteous did he not, after he had forgiven the fault, execute punishment according to the strict demands of his justice? The sequence of the pardon of sin is, that God by his blessing testifies that he is no longer displeased.

4. Turn us, O God of our salvation! The faithful now make a practical application to themselves, in their present circumstances, of what they had rehearsed before concerning God’s paternal tenderness towards his people whom he had redeemed. And they attribute to him, by whom they desire to be restored to their former state, the appellation, O God of our salvation! to encourage themselves, even in the most desperate circumstances, in the hope of being delivered by the power of God. Although to the eye of sense and reason there may be no apparent ground to hope favourably as to our condition, it becomes us to believe that our salvation rests secure in his hand, and that, whenever he pleases, he can easily and readily find the means of bringing salvation to us. God’s anger being the cause and origin of all calamities, the faithful beseech him to remove it. This order demands our special attention; for so effeminate and faint-hearted in bearing adversity are we, that no sooner does God begin to smite us with his little finger, than we entreat him, with groaning and lamentable cries, to spare us. But we forget to plead, what should chiefly engage our thoughts, that he would deliver us from guilt and condemnation; and we forget this because we are reluctant to descend into our own hearts and to examine ourselves.

<198505>Psalm 85:5-8

5. Wilt thou be wroth against us for ever? wilt thou prolong thy displeasure from age to age? 6. Wilt thou not turn again and quicken us? and thy people will rejoice in thee. 7. Show us thy mercy, O Jehovah! and grant us thy salvation. 8. I will hear what God Jehovah will speak: surely he will speak peace to his people and to his meek ones, and they will not turn again to folly.

 

5. Wilt thou be wroth against us for ever? Here the godly bewail the long continuance of their afflictions, and derive an argument in prayer from the nature of God, as it is described in the law, —

“The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin,”
(<023406>Exodus 34:6, 7,)

— a truth which has also been brought under our notice in <193005>Psalm 30:5, “For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” It thus becomes us, when we engage in prayer, to meditate upon the Divine promises that we may be furnished with suitable expressions. It may seem, at first view, that these devout Jews find fault with God, as if he exhibited his character to them in a light very different from that in which he was wont to exhibit it; but the object they had in view undoubtedly was to obtain, in the struggle they were resolutely maintaining against temptation, hope of relief from the contemplation of the nature of God; as if they laid it down as a fixed principle, that it is impossible for Him to be angry for ever. We may observe, by the way, that it is evident, from their praying in this manner, that they were weighed down with such an oppressive load of calamities, as to be almost unable any longer to endure them. Let us therefore learn, that although God may not immediately grant us manifest tokens of his returning favor, yet we must not cease to persevere in earnest prayer. If it is objected, that then God has promised in vain that his anger would be of short duration, I answer, that if we entertain suitable views of our own sins, his anger will assuredly appear to be always of short continuance; and if we call to remembrance the everlasting course of his mercy, we will confess that his anger endures but for a moment. As our corrupt nature is ever relapsing into the wanton indulgence of its native propensities, manifold corrections are indispensably necessary to subdue it thoroughly.

The godly, still dwelling on the same theme, ask, in the 6th verse, whether God will not turn again and quicken them. Being fully convinced of the truth of this principle, That the punishments with which God chastises his children are only temporary; they thereby encourage themselves in the confident expectation, that although he may be now justly displeased, and may have turned away his face from them, yet, when they implore his mercy, he will be entreated, and raising the dead to life again, will turn their mourning into gladness. By the word quicken, they complain that they almost resemble persons who are dead, or that they are stunned and laid prostrate with afflictions. And when they promise themselves matter of rejoicing, they intimate that in the meantime they are well nigh worn out with sorrow.

7. Show us thy mercy, O Jehovah! In these words there is the same contrast as in the preceding sentence. In supplicating that mercy may be extended to them, and deliverance granted them, they confess that they are deprived of all sense of both these blessings. Such having been the state of the saints in old time, let us learn, even when we are so oppressed with calamities as to be reduced to extremity, and on the brink of despair, to betake ourselves notwithstanding to God. Mercy is appropriately put in the first place; and then there is added salvation, which is the work and fruit of mercy; for no other reason can be assigned why God is induced to show himself our Savior, but that he is merciful. Whence it follows, that all who urge their own merits before Him as a plea for obtaining his favor, are shutting up the way of salvation.

8. I will hear what God Jehovah will speak. The prophet, by his own example, here exhorts the whole body of the Church to quiet and calm endurance. As he had burst forth under the influence of strong emotion into a degree of vehemence, he now restrains himself as it were with a bridle; and in all our desires, be they never so devout and holy, we must always beware of their running to excess. When a man gives indulgence to his own infirmity, he is easily carried beyond the bounds of moderation by an undue ardor. For this reason the prophet enjoins silence, both upon himself and others, that they may patiently wait God’s own time. By these words, he shows that he was in a composed state of mind, and, as it were, continued silent, because he was persuaded that the care of God is exercised about his Church. Had he thought that fortune held the sovereignty of the world, and that mankind are whirled round by a blind impulse, he would not, as he does, have represented God as sustaining the function of governing. To speak, in this passage, is equivalent to command, or to appoint. It is, as if he had said, Being confident that the remedy for our present calamities is in the hand of God, I will remain quiet until the fit time for delivering the Church arrive. As then the unruliness of our passions murmur, and raise an uproar against God, so patience is a kind of silence by which the godly keep themselves in subjection to his authority. In the second clause of the verse, the Psalmist comes to the conclusion, that the condition of the Church will be more prosperous: Surely he will speak peace to his people, and to his meek ones. As God rules supreme over the affairs of men, he cannot but provide for the welfare of his Church, which is the object of his special love. The word peace, we have elsewhere shown, is employed by the Hebrews to denote prosperity; and, accordingly, what is here expressed is, that the Church, by the Divine blessing, will prosper. Moreover, by the word speak, it is intimated that God will not fail to regard his promises. The Psalmist might have spoken more plainly of Divine Providence, as for instance in these terms, “I will look to what God will do;” but as the benefits bestowed upon the Church flow from the Divine promises, he makes mention of God’s mouth rather than of his hand; and, at the same time, he shows that patience depends upon the quiet hearing of faith. When those to whom God speaks peace are not only described as his people, but also as his meek ones, this is a mark by which the genuine people of God are distinguished from such as bear merely the title of his people. As hypocrites arrogantly claim to themselves all the privileges of the Church, it is requisite to repel and exhibit the groundlessness of their boasting, in order to let them know that they are justly excluded from the promises of God.

And they will not turn again to folly. The particle rendered and has usually been explained in this way: That they may not turn again to folly; as if this clause were added to express the fruit of the Divine goodness. As God, in dealing graciously with his people, allures them to himself, that they may continue obedient to him, the prophet, as these interpreters contend, maintains that they will not again return to folly, because the Divine goodness will serve as a bridle to restrain them. This exposition is admissible; but it will be more suitable to refer the sentence to the whole subject comprised in the passage — to regard it, in short, as meaning, that after God has sufficiently chastised his Church, he will at length show himself merciful to her, that the saints, taught by chastisements, may exercise a stricter vigilance over themselves in future. The cause is shown why God suspends and delays the communications of his grace. As the physician, although his patient may experience some alleviation of his disease, keeps him still under medicinal treatment, until he become fully convalescent, and until, the cause of his disease being removed, his constitution become invigorated, — for to allow him all at once to use whatever diet he chose, would be highly injurious to him; — so God, perceiving that we are not completely recovered from our vices to spiritual health in one day, prolongs his chastisements: without which we would be in danger of a speedy relapse. Accordingly, the prophet, to assuage the grief with which the protracted duration of calamities would oppress the faithful, applies this remedy and solace, That God purposely continues his corrections for a longer period than they would wish, that they may be brought in good earnest to repent, and excited to be more on their guard in future.

<198509>Psalm 85:9-13

9. Surely fc477 his salvation is near to them that fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. 10. Mercy and truth shall meet together; righteousness and peace shall kiss each other. 11. Truth shall spring [or bud] out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven. 12. Likewise, Jehovah will grant prosperity: and our land shall yield her increase. 13. Righteousness shall go before him; and set her steps in the way.

 

9. Surely his salvation is near to them that fear him. Here the Psalmist confirms the statement made in the preceding verse. He encourages both himself and other servants of God in the hope, that although to outward appearance God was far off from his people, yet deliverance was near at hand; because it is certain, that God secretly regards those whom he seems openly to neglect. If it is considered preferable to take the particle ˚a, ach, adversatively, Yet his salvation, etc., — a sense in which it is often used in Hebrew — the sentence will be fuller. The prophet had just now said, that God continues to lengthen out the chastisement of his people, when he perceives that they are too prone to fall anew into sin; and here, lest his slowness in removing the stroke of his hand should prove too much for their patience, he qualifies the above statement, by observing, that even when the Divine help seems slowest in coming it is then near at hand. The glory which in the second part of the verse he anticipates will dwell in the land, is undoubtedly set in opposition to the ruinous appearance it then presented to the eye, which was a token of the dreadful anger of God, and which consigned the land to ignominy and reproach. fc478 By this language, therefore, he encourages himself and other genuine believers to repentance, putting them in mind, that the grievous oppression, accompanied with insult and derision, to which they were subjected by the tyranny of their enemies, was to be ascribed entirely to their having driven away the salvation of God from them by their sins.

10. Mercy and truth shall meet together. Here the verbs are in the past tense; but it is evident from the scope of the passage, that they should be translated into the future. I cordially embrace the opinion which is held by many, that we have here a prophecy concerning the kingdom of Christ. There is no doubt, that the faithful lifted up their eyes to Him, when their faith had need of encouragement and support in reference to the restoration of the Church; and especially after their return from Babylon. Meanwhile, the design of the prophet is, to show how bountifully God deals with his Church, after he is reconciled to her. The fruits which he represents as springing from this reconciliation are, first, that mercy and truth meet together; and, secondly, that righteousness and peace embrace each other. From these words, Augustine deduces a beautiful sentiment, and one fraught with the sweetest consolation, That the mercy of God is the origin and source of all his promises, from whence issues the righteousness which is offered to us by the gospel, while from that righteousness proceeds the peace which we obtain by faith, when God justifies us freely. According to him, righteousness is represented as looking down from heaven, because it is the free gift of God, and not acquired by the merit of works; and that it comes from heaven, because it is not to be found among men, who are by nature utterly destitute of it. He also explains truth springing out of the earth as meaning, that God affords the most incontestable evidence of his faithfulness, in fulfilling what he has promised. But as we ought rather to seek after the solid truth, than exercise our ingenuity in searching out refined interpretations, let us rest contented with the natural meaning of the passage, which is, that mercy, truth, peace, and righteousness, will form the grand and ennobling distinction of the kingdom of Christ. The prophet does not proclaim the praises of men, but commends the grace which he had before hoped for, and supplicated from God only; thus teaching us to regard it as an undoubted truth, that all these blessings flow from God. By the figure synecdoche, some parts being put for the whole, there is described in these four words all the ingredients of true happiness. When cruelty rages with impunity, when truth is extinguished, when righteousness is oppressed and trampled under foot, and when all things are embroiled in confusion, were it not better that the world should be brought to an end, than that such a state of things should continue? Whence it follows, that nothing can contribute more effectually to the promotion of a happy life, than that these four virtues should flourish and rule supreme. The reign of Christ, in other parts of Scripture, is adorned with almost similar encomiums. If, however, any one would rather understand mercy and truth as referring to God, I have no disposition to enter into dispute with him. fc479 The springing of truth out of the earth, and the looking down of righteousness from heaven, without doubt imply, that truth and righteousness will be universally diffused, as well above as beneath, so as to fill both heaven and earth. It is not meant to attribute something different to each of them, but to affirm in general, that there will be no corner of the earth where these qualities do not flourish.

12. Likewise, Jehovah will grant prosperity. Some take this verse allegorically, and interpret it of the increase of spiritual blessings; but this does not agree with the particle g, gam, rendered likewise, by which the prophet, in my opinion, intends to express the completeness of that blessedness of which he had spoken. He therefore mentions the fruit of the earth, as an additional proof of God’s surpassing beneficence. The chief happiness of the Church is comprehended in these four blessings which he had specified; but the provision which is required for the support of our bodies ought not to be considered as unworthy of attention, provided our care about this matter is kept within proper bounds. If it is objected that these two subjects — the spiritual kingdom of Christ, and the fruitfulness of the earth, are improperly intermingled, it may be easily observed in reply, that there is nothing at all incongruous in this, when we consider that God, while he bestows upon his people spiritual blessings, gives them, in addition to these, some taste of his fatherly love, in the outward benefits which relate to the life of the body; it being evident from the testimony of Paul, that

“godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come,” (<540408>1 Timothy 4:8.)

But let it be observed, that the faithful generally have only granted to them a limited portion of the comforts of this transitory life: that they may not be lulled asleep by the allurements of earth. I have therefore said, that, while on earth, they only taste of God’s fatherly love, and are not filled with an overflowing abundance of the good things of this world. Moreover, we are taught from this verse, that the power and capacity of the earth to produce fruit for the sustenance of our bodies was not given to it once for all, — as the heathen imagine God at the first creation to have adapted each element to its proper office, while he now sits in heaven in a state of indolence and repose; — but that the earth is from year to year rendered fruitful by the secret influence of God, who designs hereby to afford us a manifestation of his goodness.

13. Righteousness shall go before him. The word righteousness is taken by some for a righteous person; but this is unnatural. Viewed in this light, the passage, indeed, contains the useful and important truth, That the righteous man will walk before God, and will make it his object to regulate all his actions according to the principles of moral rectitude. But there being no necessity for wresting the word righteousness so violently, it will be better to adopt the more correct and simple view, which is, that under the reign of Christ order will be so well established, that righteousness will walk before God, and occupy every path. The prophet seems thus to call back the attention of the faithful to what constitutes the chief elements of blessedness; for although God may grant to his servants an abundant supply of sustenance for the body, it is unbecoming for them to have their hearts set upon this. And in truth, one difference between us and the lower animals is, that God, instead of pampering and stuffing our bellies, for the mere gratification of our animal appetites, directs our views to higher and more important objects. When it is said that righteousness shall go before God, the meaning is, that the prevalence and unobstructed course of righteousness, which is equivalent to setting her steps in the way, is to be attributed to the appointment of God. Isaiah, on the contrary, complains that equity, instead of setting her steps in the way, is prohibited from making her appearance in public, and meets with a universal repulse. “And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter,” (<235914>Isaiah 59:14.) In this psalm prayers and holy meditations, engaged in with the view of nourishing and confirming faith, together with praises and thanksgivings, are intermingled. It having been difficult in the judgment of carnal reason for David to escape from the distresses with which he was environed, he sets in opposition to its conclusions the infinite goodness and power of God. Nor does he simply request deliverance from his enemies; but he also prays that the fear of God may be implanted and firmly established in his heart.


PSALM 86

In this psalm prayers and holy meditations, engaged in with the view of nourishing and confirming faith, together with praises and thanksgivings, are intermingled. It having been difficult in the judgement of carnal reason for David to escape from the distresses with which he was environed, he sets in opposition to its conclusions the infinite goodness and power of God. Nor does he simply request deliverance from his enemies; but he also prays that the fear of God may be implanted and firmly established in heart.

A Prayer of David.

<198601>Psalm 86:1-7

1. Incline thy ear, O Jehovah! answer me; for I am poor and needy. 2. Preserve my soul, for I am meek: fc480 O my God! save thy servant who trusteth in thee. 3. Have mercy upon me, O Jehovah! for daily fc481 do I cry to thee. 4. Make glad the soul of thy servant; for to thee, O Lord! fc482 do I lift up my soul. 5. For thou, O Lord! art good, and gracious, and of great mercy to all who call upon thee. 6. Listen, O Jehovah! to my prayer, and attend to the voice of my supplications. 7. In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.

 

1. Incline thy ear, O Jehovah! Neither the inscription nor the contents of this psalm enable us to conclude with certainty what dangers David here complains of; but the psalm in all probability refers to that period of his life when he was persecuted by Saul, and describes the train of thought which then occupied his mind, although it may not have been written until after his restoration to a state of outward peace and tranquillity, when he enjoyed greater leisure. He does not without cause allege before God the oppressions which he endured as a plea for obtaining the divine favor; for nothing is more suitable to the nature of God than to succor the afflicted: and the more severely any one is oppressed, and the more destitute he is of the resources of human aid, the more inclined is God graciously to help him. That despair therefore may not overwhelm our minds under our greatest afflictions, let us support ourselves from the consideration that the Holy Spirit has dictated this prayer for the poor and the afflicted.

2. Preserve my soul, for I am meek. Here the Psalmist adduces two other arguments by which to stir up God to grant him succor, — his own gentleness towards his neighbors, and the trust which he reposed in God. In the first clause he may seem at first sight to make some pretensions to personal worth; yet he plainly shows that nothing was farther from his intention than to insinuate that by any merits of his own he had brought God under obligations to preserve him. But the particular mention made of his clemency or meekness tends to exhibit in a more odious light the wickedness of his enemies, who had treated so shamefully, and with such inhumanity, a man against whom they could bring no well-founded charge, and who had even endeavored to the utmost of his power to please them. fc483 Since God then has avowed himself to be the defender both of good causes and of those who follow after righteousness, David, not without good reason, testifies that he had endeavored to exercise kindness and gentleness; that from this it may appear that he was basely requited by his enemies, when they gratuitously acted with cruelty towards a merciful man. But as it would not be enough for our lives to be characterised by kindness and righteousness, an additional qualification is subjoined — that of trust or confidence in God, which is the mother of all true religion. Some, we are aware, have been endued with so high a degree of integrity, as to have obtained among men the praise of being perfectly just, even as Aristides gloried in having never given any man cause of sorrow. But as those men, with all the excellence of their virtues, were either filled with ambition, or inflated with pride, which made them trust more to themselves than to God, it is not surprising to find them suffering the punishment of their vanity. In reading profane history, we are disposed to marvel how it came to pass that God abandoned the honest, the grave, and the temperate, to the enraged passions of a wicked multitude; but there is no reason for wondering at this when we reflect that such persons, relying on their own strength and virtue, despised the grace of God with all the superciliousness of impiety. Making an idol of their own virtue they disdained to lift up their eyes to Him. Although, therefore, we may have the testimony of an approving conscience, and although He may be the best witness of our innocence, yet if we are desirous of obtaining his assistance, it is necessary for us to commit our hopes and anxieties to him. If it is objected, that in this way the gate is shut against sinners, I answer, that when God invites to himself those who are blameless and upright in their deportment, this does not imply that he forthwith repels all who are punished on account of their sins; for they have an opportunity given them, if they will improve it, for prayer and the acknowledgement of their guilt. fc484, But if those whom we have never offended unrighteously assail us, we have ground for double confidence before God.

3. Have mercy upon me, O Jehovah! The Psalmist again betakes himself to the mercy of God. The word ˆnj, chanan, which I have rendered have mercy, is substantially the same as to gratify, to do a pleasure. It is as if he had said, I bring no merit of my own, but humbly pray for deliverance solely on the ground of thy mercy. When he speaks of crying daily, it is a proof of his hope and confidence, of which we have spoken a little before. By the word cry, as I have already had occasion frequently to remark, is denoted vehemence and earnestness of soul. The saints do not indeed always pray with a loud voice; but their secret sighs and groanings resound and echo upwards, and, ascending from their hearts, penetrate even into heaven. The inspired suppliant not only represents himself as crying, but as persevering in doing so, to teach us that he was not discouraged at the first or second encounter, but continued in prayer with untiring earnestness. In the following verse, he expresses more definitely the end for which he besought God to be merciful to him, which was, that his sorrow might be removed. In the second clause, he declares that there was no hypocrisy in his crying; for he lifted up his soul to God, which is the chief characteristic of right prayer.

5. For thou, O Lord! art good and propitious. fc485 We have here a confirmation of the whole preceding doctrine, derived from the nature of God. It would avail the afflicted nothing to have recourse to him, and to lift up their desires and prayers to heaven, were they not persuaded that he is a faithful rewarder of all who call upon him. The point upon which David now insists is, that God is bountiful and inclined to compassion, and that his mercy is so great, as to render it impossible for him to reject any who implore his aid. He calls God propitious, or ascribes to him the attribute of pardoning sin, which is a modification of his goodness. It were not enough for God to be good in general, did he not also extend to sinners his forgiving mercy, which is the meaning of the word hls, salach. Farther, although David magnifies the plenteousness of God’s mercy, yet he immediately after represents this plenteousness as restricted to the faithful who call upon him, to teach us that those who, making no account of God, obstinately chafe upon the bit, deservedly perish in their calamities. At the same time, he uses the term all, that every man, without exception, from the greatest to the least, may be encouraged confidently to betake himself to the goodness and mercy of God.

6. Listen, O Jehovah! to my prayer. From the earnest repetition of his former requests in this and the subsequent verse, it is evident that he was oppressed with no ordinary degree of grief, and also agitated with extreme anxiety, From this example, we are taught that those who, having engaged in prayer once, allow themselves immediately to give over that exercise, provided God does not at once grant them their desire, betray the coldness and inconstancy of their hearts. Nor is this repetition of the same requests to be thought superfluous; for hereby the saints, by little and little, discharge their cares into the bosom of God, and this importunity is a sacrifice of a sweet savor before Him. When the Psalmist says, God will hear me when I cry in the day of trouble, he makes a particular application to himself of the truth which he had just now stated, That God is merciful and gracious to all who call upon him.

<198608>Psalm 86:8-11

8. Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord! nor any that can work as thou workest. 9. All the nations which thou hast made shall come and worship before thy face, O Lord! and shall give glory to thy name. 10. For thou art great, and thou alone, O God! doest wondrous things. 11. Show me thy ways, O Jehovah! I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.

 

8. Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord! Here the Psalmist may be considered either as bursting forth into thanksgivings, after having obtained what he desired, or else as gathering courage and new strength for prayer. The latter opinion I am most inclined to adopt; but perhaps it may be preferable to regard both views as included. Some understand the word whla, Elohim, as denoting angels — There is none like unto thee, O Lord! among the angelsas if David compared them with the Most High God; but this does not seem to agree so well with the passage. He does not humble the angels, representing them as inferior gods, that they may give place to the power of God; but he holds up to contempt and derision all the false gods in whom the heathen world imagined some help was to be found; fc486 and he does this because they could supply no evidence of their being gods from their works. Had he distributed the power of working between them and the true God in different degrees, assigning less to the former and more to the latter, he would not have attributed to God that which is naturally and exclusively his own. He therefore affirms, without qualification, that no characteristic of Deity could be perceived in them, or traced in any works performed by them. In calling us to the consideration of works, he clearly shows, that those who indulge in ingenious speculations about the occult or secret essence of God, and pass over the unequivocal traces of his majesty which are to be seen beaming forth in bright effulgence in his works, do but trifle and spend their time to no purpose. As the Divine nature is infinitely exalted above the comprehension of our understanding, David wisely confines his attention to the testimony of God’s works, and declares that the gods who put forth no power are false and counterfeit. If it is objected that there is no comparison between God and the silly inventions of men, the answer is obvious, That this language is employed in accommodation to the ignorance of the generality of men. The effrontery with which the superstitious exalt the spurious fabrications of their own brain above the heavens is well known; and David very justly derides their madness in forging gods to themselves, which in reality are no gods.

9. All nations which thou hast made shall come. fc487 If any would rather limit what is here stated to David’s present case, this view does not seem liable to any material objection. He, in fact, often enhances the Divine goodness of which he himself had experience by the like magnificent strain. It may, however, be fitly extended to the universal power of God; but whether he speaks of the grace that was bestowed upon himself alone, or treats, in general, of the works of God, we must bear in mind what has been observed in another place, that whenever he celebrates the prevalence of true godliness among the heathen, he has an eye to the kingdom of Christ, prior to whose coming God gave only the initial or dawning manifestation of his glory, which at length was diffused through the whole world by the preaching of the Gospel. David was not ignorant of the future calling of the Gentiles; but this being a doctrine with which Jewish ears were not familiar, that people would have felt it a disagreeable announcement, to have been told that the Gentiles should come to worship God indiscriminately with the children of Abraham, and, all distinction being removed, become partakers with them of heavenly truth. To soften the announcement, he asserts that the Gentiles also were created by God, so that it ought not to be accounted strange if they, being enlightened also, should at length acknowledge Him who had created and fashioned them.

10. For thou art great, and thou alone, O God! doest wondrous things. In this verse there is again repeated the cause which will bring all nations to worship before the Lord, namely, the discovery made of his glory by the greatness of his works. The contemplation of God’s glory in his works is the true way of acquiring genuine godliness. The pride of the flesh would always lead it to wing its way into heaven; but, as our understandings fail us in such an extended investigation, our most profitable course is, according to the small measure of our feeble capacity, to seek God in his works, which bear witness of him. Let us therefore learn to awaken our understandings to contemplate the divine works, and let us leave the presumptuous to wander in their own intricate mazes, which, in the end, will invariably land them in an abyss from which they will be unable to extricate themselves. To incline our hearts to exercise this modesty, David magnificently extols the works of God, calling them wondrous things, although to the blind, and those who have no taste for them, they are destitute of attraction. In the meantime, we ought carefully to attend to this truth, That the glory of Godhead belongs exclusively to the one true God; for in no other being is it possible to find the wisdom, or the power, or the righteousness, or any of the numerous marks of divinity which shine forth in his wonderful works. Whence it follows, that the Papists are chargeable with rendering, as much as in them lies, his title to true Godhead nugatory, when despoiling him of his attributes they leave him almost nothing but the bare name.

11. Show me thy ways, O Jehovah! David now rises higher, praying that he may be governed by the spirit of sound understanding, in order to his living a holy life, and that he may be strengthened in his endeavors thereto by the spirit of fortitude. He tacitly contrasts the ways of God with all the counsels which he could derive from carnal reason. In submitting himself to God, and in imploring Him to be his guide, he confesses that the only possible way by which we can be enabled to live a holy and an upright life is, when God goes before us, while we follow after him; and, accordingly, that those who deviate, let it be never so little, from the law through a proud conceit of their own wisdom, wander from the right path. This he more fully confirms, by adding immediately after, I will walk in thy truth. He pronounces all to be guilty of vanity and lying who observe not this rule of truth. Farther, his prayer to be taught in the ways of the Lord does not imply that he had been previously altogether ignorant of divine truth; but well aware of the much darkness — of the many clouds of ignorance in which he was still enveloped, he aspires after greater improvement. Let it also be observed, that he is not to be understood as speaking only of external teaching: but having the law among his hands, he prays for the inward light of the Holy Spirit, that he may not labor in the unprofitable task of learning only the letter; according as he prays in another place,

“Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law,” (<19B918>Psalm 119:18.)

If a prophet so distinguished, and so richly endued with the graces of the Holy Spirit, makes such a frank and cordial confession of his own ignorance, how great our folly if we feel not our own deficiency, and are not stirred up to greater diligence in self-improvement from the knowledge of our slender attainments! And, assuredly, the more progress a man has made in the knowledge of the true religion, the more sensible will he be that he is far from the mark. Secondly, it is necessary to add, that reading or hearing is not enough, unless God impart to us inward light by his Spirit.

In addition to this, the Psalmist desires that his heart may be framed for yielding obedience to God, and that it may be firmly established therein; for as our understanding has need of light, so has our will of uprightness. The original words which I have translated, unite my heart, are translated by some, rejoice my heart, as if the verb were from the root, hdj, chadah, to rejoice; fc488 but it rather comes from djy, yachad, to unite — a sense which is very suitable to the passage before us. fc489 This word contains a tacit contrast, which has not been sufficiently attended to, between the unwavering purpose with which the heart of man cleaves to God when it is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the disquietude with which it is distracted and tossed so long as it fluctuates amidst its own affections. It is therefore indispensably requisite, that the faithful, after having learned what is right, should firmly and cordially embrace it, that the heart may not break forth in impetuous desire after unhallowed lusts. Thus, in the word unite, there is a very beautiful metaphor, conveying the idea, that the heart of man is full of tumult, drawn asunder, and, as it were, scattered about in fragments, until God has gathered it to himself, and holds it together in a state of stedfast and persevering obedience. From this also, it is manifest what free will is able to do of itself. Two powers are ascribed to it; but David confesses that he is destitute of both; setting the light of the Holy Spirit in opposition to the blindness of his own mind; and affirming that uprightness of heart is entirely the gift of God.

<198612>Psalm 86:12-17

12. I will praise thee, O Lord my God! With all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for ever. 13. For thy mercy has been great towards me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lower grave. fc490 14. O God! the proud have risen up against me, and a company of mighty men have sought after my soul; and they have not set thee before them. 15. And thou, O Lord! art God, merciful, ready to forgive, long-suffering, and abundant in mercy and truth. 16. Look to me, and have pity upon me: give thy strength to thy servant, and save the son of thy handmaid. 17. Make with me a sign for good: and my adversaries will see it fc491 and be ashamed; for thou, O Jehovah! hast succoured and comforted me.

 

12. I will praise thee, O Lord my God! David engages, when he shall have experienced God to be in all respects a beneficent father, to yield to him the tribute of gratitude. He expressed in the preceding verse a desire to have his heart united to God, that he might fear him; and now he affirms it to be his resolution to publish or celebrate his praises, not only with the mouth or tongue, but also with sincere affection of heart; yea, even to continue with steadfast perseverance in that exercise.

In the 13th verse, he sets forth the reason of this, which is, because, in delivering him, God had given a singular and remarkable proof of his mercy. To place in a stronger light the greatness of this benefit, he describes the dangers from which he had been delivered, by the expression, the lower grave; as if he had said, I have not been held down by one death only, but have been thrust down into the lowest depths of the grave, so that my circumstances required the hand of God to be stretched out to me in a wonderful manner. By the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we are delivered from a still deeper abyss of death; and such being the case, our ingratitude will be inexcusable, unless each of us exercise himself to the utmost of his power in celebrating this deliverance. If David so highly magnified the name of God merely on account of the prolongation of his life for a short time, what praises are due for this unparalleled redemption by which we are drawn from the depths of hell and elevated to heaven? The Papists attempt to found an argument on this passage in support of their doctrine of Purgatory, as if that were an upper hell, while there was another lower; fc492 but this argument is too rotten to stand in need of refutation.

14. O God! the proud are risen up against me. Instead of ydz, zedim, the proud, some read, yrz, zarim, strangers; and, undoubtedly, the Scriptures often employ this word to denote barbarous cruelty, so that it is the same as if it had been said, the cruel. I, however, prefer following the generally received reading. As between the Hebrew word ydz, zedim, the proud, and yrz, zarim, strangers, there is only the difference of a single letter, the one having the letter d, daleth, where the other has the letter r, resh, it is obvious that, from the similarity of these two letters, the former might easily have been changed into the latter. Besides, the word, proud, agrees better with the scope of the passage; for, in the same sense, the Psalmist immediately after applies the epithet, strong, to those who, with headlong impetuosity and fierceness, rushed upon him to destroy him; and we know that where pride reigns no moderation is observed. He expresses without figure what he had just now said respecting the grave. Being as a lamb in the midst of wolves, he would have been quickly swallowed up, had not God miraculously delivered him, as it were, from the jaws of death. In representing his enemies as having no regard to God, he means to set forth the extreme excess of their cruelty. The fury of our lusts, unless we are restrained by the fear of God and the sense of his judgment, will become so great as to dare any thing, however atrocious. For these calamities he seeks a remedy, in the Divine mercy, in the following verse.

15. And thou, O Lord! art God, merciful, ready to forgive. By immediately passing on to the celebration of these divine attributes, he would intimate, that we have adequate strength and protection against the audacity and rage of the wicked, in the divine goodness, mercy, and faithfulness. Perhaps, also, from his feeling that the wicked were scourges in the hand of God, he set before himself the divine goodness and mercy, to allay the excess of terror with which he might be seized; for this is the true and the only source of comfort, that although God chastise us he does not forget his mercy. This sentence, as is well known, is taken from <023406>Exodus 34:6, where we meet with a very remarkable description of the nature of God. First, he is called merciful; in the next place, ready to forgive, which he manifests by compassionating our distresses. In the third place, he is described as long-suffering; for he is not angry whenever an offense is committed against him, but pardons us according to the greatness of his loving-kindness. In short, he is said to be abundant in mercy and truth; by which I understand, that his beneficence is continually exercised, and that he is always true. He is indeed no less worthy to be praised on account of his rigour, than on account of his mercy; but as it is our wilful obstinacy alone which makes him severe, compelling him, as it were, to punish us, the Scriptures, in representing him as by nature merciful and ready to forgive, teach us, that if he is at any time rigorous and severe, this is, as it were, accidental to him. I am speaking, it is true, in popular language, and such as is not strictly correct; but still, these terms by which the divine character is described amount in effect to this, That God is by nature so gracious and ready to forgive, that he seems to connive at our sins, delays the infliction of punishment, and never proceeds to execute vengeance unless compelled by our obstinate wickedness. Why the truth of God is joined with his mercy has been considered in another place. As even those who are most generous sometimes desire to retract the promises which they have made, repenting of their too great facility, we who are accustomed unreasonably to judge of God by ourselves, distrust his promises. God therefore declares, that he is unlike men, because he is as firm to his purpose in abundantly performing whatever he has promised, as he is distinguished for promising liberally.

16. Look to me, and have pity upon me. Here the Psalmist makes a more distinct application to himself of what he had said concerning the divine mercy and goodness. As God is merciful, he assures himself that his welfare will be the object of the divine care. The second verb in the verse, ˆnj, chanan, which I have rendered have pity, signifies to gratify, to do one a pleasure; and is intended to convey the idea, that the succor which God affords to his people proceeds from his free goodness. fc493 Finally, the Psalmist concludes, that the only way in which he can be preserved is by the divine aid, which he seeks to obtain by prayer; and thus he confesses his utter destitution of any strength of his own. In applying to himself the appellation of God’s servant, and the son of his handmaid, he does not boast of his own services, but urges as a plea, for obtaining greater favor at the divine hand, the long line of his ancestors, and the continual course of God’s grace; setting forth, that he was from his mother’s womb a household-servant of God, and, as it were, born one of his servants in his house: fc494 a point of which we have already spoken elsewhere.

The last verse contains an additional confirmation of the statement, that he was in a manner forsaken of God. He would not have desired to be favored with some token of the divine favor, had he not been on all sides driven to despair, and had not the divine favor been hidden from him to try his patience. It was a proof of no ordinary steadfastness to maintain the conflict with this temptation, and to do this so successfully, as not to cease to descry light in the midst of darkness. He desires that his enemies may be put to shame, because they assailed his simplicity with mockery and scoffing, as if he had acted a foolish part by trusting in God. The miserable and distressing condition in which the Church was placed after the Babylonish captivity, might be apt to sink the minds of the godly into despondency; and, accordingly, the Holy Spirit here promises her restoration in a wonderful and incredible manner, so that nothing would be more desirable than to be reckoned among the number of her members.


PSALM 87

A Psalm or Song of the sons of Korah.

It is evident, from constant observation, that, so long as the children of this world are in prosperity, they are well satisfied with their condition, and mightily extol it, while they look upon the Church with proud contempt; and even after having endured calamities, they are not so subdued by them as to renounce the foolish presumption by which they are intoxicated. Meanwhile they recklessly despise all religion, and the worship of God, because, contenting themselves with pleasures, riches, and the splendor of honor, they fancy themselves to be happy without him. And then it often happens, that the Lord pampers them with all kind of good things, purposing at length to inflict upon them merited punishment for their ingratitude, when the fit season shall have arrived; while, on the contrary, he loads his Church with various and grievous afflictions, or, at least, keeps her in a low and despised condition, so that she may seem to herself to be miserable, or she is at least exposed to the contempt of others. That the faithful may not be deceived with this shadowy appearance of things, it is of importance to recall their attention to a different subject, that they may be persuaded of the truth of what is stated in <193312>Psalm 33:12,

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.”
(<193312>Psalm 33:12)

What we are taught in this psalm may be summed up in this, That the Church of God far excels all the kingdoms and politics of the world, inasmuch as she is watched over, and protected by Him in all her interests, and placed under his government; that, in the first place, amidst the violent commotions and dreadful storms with which the whole world is often shaken, she may continue safe; and, in the second place, and principally, that being wonderfully preserved by the protection of the same God, she may at length, after the toil and struggle of a protracted warfare, be crowned with the triumphant laurels of her high calling. It is in truth a singular benefit of God, and at the same time, a signal miracle, that, amidst the great and various revolutions of the kingdoms of this world, he enlarges her continually from age to age, and preserves her from destruction; so that in the whole world there is nothing enduring but the Church. As, however, it often happens, that whilst the wicked abound in riches, and have lavished upon them worldly possessions and authority, the afflicted Church is tossed amidst many dangers, or rather, is so overwhelmed with impetuous floods as to seem to be entirely shipwrecked, her happiness must be considered as consisting principally in this, that she has reserved for her an everlasting state in heaven.

An attention to the time when this psalm was composed will contribute, in no small degree, to a clear understanding of its contents. Although the people had returned from their captivity in Babylon; although the Church of God had been again gathered together, and united into one body after a long dispersion; although the temple had been rebuilt, the altar set up, and the service of God restored; yet, as of a vast multitude of people, there was only a small portion remaining, which made the condition of the Church very low and despised, — as the number left was daily diminished by their enemies, — and as the temple was far inferior in magnificence to what it originally was; — all this being considered, the faithful had hardly any ground to entertain favorable hopes as to the future. It certainly seemed impossible that they would ever again be raised to their former state from which they had fallen. There was, therefore, reason to apprehend that the minds of the godly, both from the remembrance of the overthrow which they had already experienced, and from the weight of the present miseries with which they were oppressed, would faint and finally sink into despair. That they might not succumb under such heavy adversities, the Lord not only promises in this psalm that they would recover what they had lost, but also encourages them in the hope of an incomparable glory with which the Church should yet be invested, according to that prophecy of Haggai,

“The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former.” (<370209>Haggai 2:9)

Last of all, it remains that we learn to accommodate this psalm to our own circumstances, and study to derive from it the lessons which it is fitted to convey. The consolation contained in it ought to have had such influence on the godly of that age, as to have made them not only stand erect in the midst of their adversities, but also to have raised them from the grave, and lifted them up to heaven. In the present day, when we know that whatever was foretold by the Spirit has been fulfilled, we are more than ungrateful if the experience of the fathers, added to the words of the Spirit, does not more powerfully confirm our faith. It is impossible to express in language adequate to the subject the glory with which Christ beautified his Church by his advent. Then the true religion which before had been shut up within the narrow limits of Judea was spread abroad through the whole world. Then God, who had been known only by one family, began to be called upon in the different languages of all nations. Then the world, which had been miserably rent in pieces by innumerable sects of superstition and error, was gathered together into a holy unity of faith. Then all men, vying with each other, associated themselves in companies to the society of the Jews, whom they had before abhorred. Then the kings of the earth and their people voluntarily yielded themselves to the yoke of Christ; wolves and lions were converted into lambs; the gifts of the Holy Spirit were poured out upon the faithful, — gifts which far surpassed all the glory, all the riches, and grandeur, and precious ornaments of the world. fc495 The body of the Church also was gathered together out of countries far distant from each other, and was increased and preserved in a wonderful manner. The gospel was spread far and wide within a period of time incredibly short, and equally extraordinary was the rich harvest of fruit with which the preaching of it was succeeded. Although, therefore, the renown of the Church had never been celebrated by this prophecy, yet the goodly and unequalled condition of that age, which may be called the Golden Age, clearly demonstrate that she was truly the heavenly kingdom of God. It was however requisite, even at that period, that the faithful should form their estimate of her excellence by something higher than carnal sense or reason. At the time when she flourished most, it was not purple, gold, and precious stones, which imparted to her the splendor which invested her, but the blood of martyrs. Rich she was in the graces of the Spirit, and yet poor and destitute of earthly possessions. Beautiful and glorious in holiness before God and the angels, she was nevertheless contemptible in the eyes of the world. Without she had many avowed enemies, who either exercised towards her fierce and cruel persecution, or by indirect acts practiced against her, the worst that craft could suggest; while within were alarms and treachery. In short, her dignity, venerable indeed, but yet spiritual, lay as yet hidden beneath the cross of Christ. The consolation, therefore, contained in this psalm was very seasonable, even at that time, for encouraging the faithful to wait for a more perfect state of the Church But the case stands otherwise with us. It has already long ago come to pass, fc496 through the default of our fathers, that that renowned beauty of the Church has lain polluted and disfigured under the feet of the wicked. And at the present day, overwhelmed with the load of our sins, she groans under miserable desolation, under the scornful reproaches of the devil and the world, under the cruelty of tyrants, and under the wicked calumnies of enemies; so that the children of this world, who wish to live at ease, desire nothing less than to be accounted among the people of God. Whence we may perceive the more clearly how much benefit may be derived from this psalm; and, at the same time, how necessary it is to meditate upon it continually. The title does not so much refer to the authors of the psalm as to the chief musicians to whom it was committed to be sung. It is, however, possible that some Levite of the family of Korah composed it.

<198701>Psalm 87:1-3

1. His foundations are in the holy mountains. 2. Jehovah loveth the gates of Zion above all the dwellings of Jacob. 3. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God! Selah.

 

1. His foundations are in the holy mountains. Those who conceive that Jerusalem is here meant, as if it were said to be founded upon the holy mountains, are in my judgment mistaken; for the relative is in the masculine gender. Some learned men, I am aware, defend this opinion, by supposing that the words, the people, are to be supplied, although it is the capital of Judea which is specified. But it is unnecessary for me to say any thing to prove what is apparent to all, that this exposition is forced. Some Jewish interpreters have thought it most probable that this opening sentence is to be referred to the psalm itself; and, accordingly, they explain foundations as denoting metaphorically the theme, or subject of the poem, because it treats of the holy city Jerusalem, which was situated upon mountains. But I am surprised that they should have been mistaken in a matter so very obvious. It being quite a common thing among the Hebrews to put a relative without its antecedent, fc497 this manner of speaking ought not to seem harsh or strange. The name of God is mentioned a little after; and we know that he is everywhere represented as having founded Jerusalem.

Some by the mountains understand Moriah and Zion, fc498 which were the two tops of a mountain cleft into two, but this is too forced. As the country was mountainous, we are rather to understand the prophet as having in his eye the several neighboring and contiguous mountains which formed a chain around Jerusalem; for we will see in another place that Jerusalem was surrounded by mountains, (<19C502>Psalm 125:2.) The true and natural meaning then is, that God chose the holy mountains in order to found and erect his city in the midst of them. For a little after, in the prosecution of the subject, these words occur, “The Highest himself shall establish her.” He is indeed the founder of other cities also; yet we do not read of him saying with respect to any other city,

“This is my rest for ever; here will I dwell; for I have desired it,”
(<19D214>Psalm 132:14.)

There is this difference, which is always to be remembered, that while other cities were founded and built by the guidance and power of God, merely for the sake of civil government, Jerusalem was his peculiar sanctuary, and his royal seat. Isaiah also uses a similar form of expression, (<231432>Isaiah 14:32,) “The Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.” Besides, although the whole country of Judea was consecrated to God, yet he is said to have rejected all the other cities, and to have chosen this one for himself in which to reign. Here the question is not about earthly polity, but spiritual government; for the pure religion, and the true worship of God, and the doctrine of godliness, were at that time to be found nowhere but in Jerusalem.

2. Jehovah loveth the gates of Zion above all the dwellings of Jacob. Here we are taught that all the excellence of the holy city depended on the free choice which God had made of it. With this agrees what is stated in <197706>Psalm 77:60, 67, that God rejected Shiloh, the tribe of Ephraim, and the tabernacle of Joseph, that he might dwell in Zion which he loved. The prophet then points out the cause why God preferred that one place before all others; and the cause which he assigns is, not the worth of the place itself, but the free love of God. If it is demanded why Jerusalem was so highly distinguished, let this short answer be deemed sufficient, Because it so pleased God. To this the divine love is to be traced as its source; but the end of such a choice was, that there might be some fixed place in which the true religion should be preserved, and the unity of the faith maintained, until the advent of Christ, and from which it might afterwards flow into all the regions of the earth. This, then, explains why the prophet celebrates Jerusalem as possessing the high distinction of having God for its master-builder, its founder and protector. Farther, he attributes to the divine favor and adoption whatever excellence it possessed above other places. In putting Zion for Jerusalem, and the gates for the whole compass of the city, there is a double synecdoche.

3. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God! The reading literally is, That which is spoken in thee are glorious things. We must consider the design of the prophet, or rather the object of the Spirit of God, speaking by the mouth of the prophet. From the low and despised condition of the whole people, from the many and terrible enemies who pressed hard upon them on all sides, from the small number who had sufficient courage to surmount the obstacles in their way, from the new and unlooked-for changes which were daily springing up, from the danger there was lest the state of affairs gradually sinking more and more into decay, should at length become desperate, it was difficult to cherish the hope that the holy city would be restored. That despair might not overcome the hearts of the faithful, and cause them to fail, there is set before them the supporting and consolatory consideration, that the Lord hath spoken differently concerning the future condition of the Church. Their attention, there can be no doubt, is called away from the present aspect of things, and directed to the promises which inspired them with the hope of the wonderful glory with which she should be adorned. Although, therefore, nothing appeared to the eye of sense and reason, calculated greatly to rejoice the heart, yet the prophet would have them encouraged by the word to stand as it were on a watch-tower, waiting patiently for the fulfillment of what God had promised. In this way they were admonished, first, to direct their attention to the ancient prophecies, and to keep in remembrance, especially those which are contained in Isaiah from the fortieth chapter (Isaiah 40) to the end of the book; and, secondly, to give ear to the servants of God, who at that time preached the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Whence it follows that a right judgment cannot be formed of the happiness of the Church, except when we estimate it according to the standard of God’s word.

<198704>Psalm 87:4-6

4. I will make mention of Rahab, fc499 and Babel among them that know me: behold the Philistines, and Tyre, with Ethiopia, fc500 he is born there! fc501 Selah. 5. And it shall be said of Zion, Man and man is born in her: and the Most High himself will establish her. 6. The Lord will recount when he writeth the peoples, he is born there. Selah.

 

4. I will make mention of Rahab and Babel. The name of Rahab is put for Egypt in many other parts of Scripture; and this signification is very suitable to the present passage, the object of which is to portray the magnificent amplitude of the Church, which as yet was only matter of hope. It is therefore said that those who formerly were deadly enemies, or entire strangers, shall not only become familiar friends, but shall also be ingrafted into one body, that they may be accounted citizens of Jerusalem. In the first clause it is said, I will make mention of Egypt and Babylon among my household. In the second, it is added, that the Philistines, Tyrians, and Ethiopians, who hitherto had been so much at variance with the people of God, shall now be brought into as cordial harmony with them as if they were Jews by birth. What a glorious distinction of the Church, that even those who held her in contempt shall come flocking to her from every quarter, and that those who desired to see her completely cut up and destroyed, shall consider it the highest honor to have a place among the number of her citizens, and to be accounted such! All of them shall voluntarily renounce their own countries in which they had before proudly boasted. Wherever they may have been born, whether in Palestine, or Ethiopia, or Tyre, they shall profess themselves citizens of the holy city.

The Hebrew doctors explain this passage as meaning, that there shall spring from other nations very few who shall excel either in mental endowment or in virtuous attainment, but that in Israel such persons will be very numerous. Scarcely, say they, will there be found among the Tyrians, the Egyptians, the Ethiopians, and other nations, a man to each of them worthy of praise; so that if such an one be found among them, he may be pointed at with the finger, on account of his rarity; but in Zion man and man shall be born; fc502 that is to say, the number of such men among the Jews shall be great. Christian doctors are almost unanimous in referring these words to Christ, and think that the cause is here assigned why those who hitherto were strangers, and even mortal enemies to each other, are now to be numbered among the citizens of Jerusalem, namely, because Christ shall be born there, fc503 whose office it is to gather together into the unity of faith and hope of eternal life, men who were scattered like members torn from the body. The first of these interpretations being altogether forced, needs no refutation. Moreover, it is very evident that the Jews, actuated by a foolish ambition, wrest this passage as it were purposely. The exposition of the Christian doctors is, at first sight, plausible from its ingenuity; but it is destitute of solidity. The words clearly imply, that whatever nation men may belong to, they shall willingly renounce their own country, to be enrolled in the Register of the chosen people. When it is said, that they are born there, this does not mean that they are natives of the country, and have been brought up in it from their birth, but that they are its citizens. What is added afterwards, The Most High himself will establish her, may, with equal propriety, be translated, will order her; it being the work of God specially to govern his Church by his word.

5. And it shall be said of Zion, Man and man is born in her. It is asserted, in the 4th verse, That new citizens shall be gathered into the Church of God from different parts of the world; and here the same subject is prosecuted. Another figure is however employed, which is, that strangers by birth shall be accounted among the holy people, just as if they were descended from Abraham. It had been stated in the preceding verse, that the Chaldeans and Egyptians would be added to the household of the Church; and that the Ethiopians, Philistines, and Tyrians, would be enrolled among her children. Now, it is added, by way of confirmation, that the number of the new progeny shall be exceeding great, so that the city which had been for a time uninhabited, and afterwards only half filled with a few people, shall be crowded with a vast population. The prophet Isaiah describes more at length what is here promised, in a few words,

“Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord. Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes: for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.” (<235401>Isaiah 54:1)

Also,

“Lift up thine eyes round about, and see; all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.”
(<236004>Isaiah 60:4)

And, in the 44th chapter, at the 5th verse, we meet with almost the same language as in the passage before us, or at least what comes very near to it: “One shall say, I am the Lord’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.” Nor is the word born inappropriately employed to express the fact, that the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and such like, shall be of the flock of God’s people. Although Zion was not the place of their natural birth, but they were to be grafted into the body of the holy people by adoption; yet as the way by which we enter into the Church is a second birth, this form of expression is used with great propriety. The condition upon which Christ espouses the faithful to himself is, that they should forget their own people and their father’s house, (<194511>Psalm 45:11,) and that, being formed into new creatures, and born again of incorruptible seed, they should begin to be the children of God as well as of the Church, (<480419>Galatians 4:19.) And the ministry of the Church, and it alone, is undoubtedly the means by which we are born again to a heavenly life. By the way, we should remember the difference which the Apostle sets forth as subsisting between the earthly Jerusalem, — which, being herself a bondwoman, brings forth children also in bondage, — and the heavenly Jerusalem, which brings forth free children by the instrumentality of the Gospel.

In the second part of the verse, there is expressed the stability and enduring character of Zion. It often happens, that in proportion to the rapidity with which cities rise to distinguished eminence, is the shortness of the continuance of their prosperity. That it may not be thought that the prosperity of the Church is of such a perishable and transitory nature, it is declared, that the Most High himself will establish her. It is not surprising, as if it had been said, to find other cities shaken, and subject from time to time to a variety of vicissitudes; for they are carried round with the world in its revolutions, and do not enjoy everlasting defenders. But it is the very reverse with respect to the new Jerusalem, which, being founded upon the power of God, will continue even when heaven and earth shall fall into ruins.

6. The Lord will recount, when he writeth the peoples. The meaning is, that Zion will acquire such renown as to excite all men with the greatest earnestness to desire to be admitted into the number and rank of her citizens. It is a highly honorable condition which is spoken of, the language implying, that when God shall take a census of the people on whom he will be graciously pleased to confer the highest honor, he will write them as belonging to Zion, rather than to Babylon or any other cities; for to be one of the common people among the citizens of Zion, will be a greater distinction than to be invested with the highest rank anywhere else. We are, at the same time, taught that the cause to which we are to trace the sudden elevation of these aliens to so great honor, is the favor of God. Those who are the bondslaves of Satan and of sin will assuredly never be able to obtain, by any efforts of their own, the right of citizenship in the heavenly Jerusalem. It is the Lord’s peculiar work to divide people into their respective ranks, distinguishing one from another, as seemeth good to him, all men being on a level by nature. This passage is to be understood as referring to effectual calling. God, it is true, wrote the names of his children in the Book of Life before the creation of the world; but he enrols them in the catalogue of his saints, only when, having regenerated them by the Spirit of adoption, he impresses his own mark upon them.

<198707>Psalm 87:7

7. And the singers as the players upon instruments: all my springs are in thee. fc504

 

The meaning of this verse is obscure, partly from its abrupt brevity, and partly from the ambiguity of one word. The word springs is, beyond all controversy, to be here taken metaphorically; but interpreters are not agreed as to the explanation of the metaphor. Some understand it as denoting hopes, some affections, and others thoughts. Did the idiom of the language admit, I would willingly subscribe to the opinion of those who translate it melodies or songs. But as this might be considered unsupported by the usage of the Hebrew term, I am rather inclined to adopt, as most suitable to the subject in hand, the opinion that lookings is the proper translation, the root of the word signifying an eye. It is as if the Psalmist had said, I will always be earnestly looking, as it were, with fixed eyes upon thee.

Let us now inquire what is meant by the other clause, The singers as the players upon instruments. This, it is true, is an abrupt form of expression; but the sense, about which there is a general agreement, is, that so great will be the ground for rejoicing, that the praises of God will resound in Zion continually, with the energy of the living voice, as well as with musical instruments. This, then, is a confirmation of what was spoken before concerning the glorious restoration of Zion; for by the greatness of the joy, and the manifold harmony and melody of praises, is portrayed the happiness which shall prevail in the midst of it. At the same time, we have here described the great design of all the gifts which God has conferred upon his Church with so liberal a hand; namely, that the faithful, by hymns and songs, should testify their remembrance of his benefits and gratefully acknowledge them. fc505 The Hebrew word yllwj, cholelim, which we have rendered the players upon instruments, is translated by some, those who dance to the sound of instruments. fc506 But this is a matter of no great importance, it being enough to consider the meaning, in short, as this, that there will be a continual concert of God’s praises in the Church, where he unfolds the treasures of his grace, and that the faithful will be heard singing successively and in response. Moreover, the prophet shows his singular love to the Church, and the singular care and zeal which he exercised about her, to encourage and stir up all the godly, by his example, to cultivate and manifest the same zeal, agreeably to what is stated in another psalm,

“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem! let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.” (<19D705>Psalm 137:5)

All our affections are then settled on the Church, when, gathered in from the vague and vain objects by which they are distracted, and regarding with indifference the honors, pleasures, riches, and pageantries of the world, they find enough to engage and satisfy them in the spiritual glory of Christ’s kingdom, and in that alone.


PSALM 88

This psalm contains very grievous lamentations, poured forth by its inspired penman when under very severe affliction, and almost at the point of despair. But he, at the same time, whilst struggling with sorrow, declares the invincible stedfastness of his faith; which he displayed in calling upon God to deliver him, even when he was in the, deep darkness of death. fc507

A Song or Psalm of the sons of Korah. To the chief musician upon Machalath, to make humble. An instruction of Heman, the Ezrahite.

Heman, whose name appears in the inscription, is probably the same person who is mentioned in sacred history, <110431>1 Kings 4:31, where Solomon, when commended for his wisdom, is compared with Ethan, Heman, Chalcol, and Darda. fc508 It is, therefore, not surprising that a man, so highly distinguished by the spirit of wisdom, was the author of this psalm. Some translate tlhmAl[, al-machalath, upon infirmity; fc509 but it is probable, according to the ordinary use of the word, that it denotes either some instrument of music, or the beginning of some song. fc510 Of the other words I have already sufficiently spoken elsewhere. Moreover, it is of importance to bear in mind, that in the person of one man there is presented to our view an example at once of rare affliction and of singular patience. God, in so sorely exercising Heman, whom he had adorned with such excellent gifts to be an example to others, did not do this for the sake of his servant only. His object was to present common matter of instruction to all his people. Carrying out this object, Heman ascending, as it were, an elevated stage, testifies to the whole Church his infirmities as well as his faith and constancy. It greatly concerns us to look upon such a distinguished servant of God, and one who was so eminently adorned with the graces of the Holy Spirit, thus overwhelmed with so heavy a burden of afflictions as made him mournfully complain that he differed nothing from a dead man, — it greatly concerns us, I say, to look on this spectacle, that our distresses, however grievous, may not overwhelm us with despair; or if we should at times be ready to faint through weariness, care, grief, sorrow, or fear, that we may not on that account despond, especially when we see that it is not without the highest effort that the holy prophet emerges from this profound darkness into the cheering light of hope. We should rather rest assured that the Spirit of God, by the mouth of Heman, has here furnished us with a form of prayer for encouraging all the afflicted who are, as it were, on the brink of despair to come to himself.

<198801>Psalm 88:1-5

1. O Jehovah! God of my salvation! I cry day and night before thee. 2. Let my prayer come into thy presence: incline thy ear to my cry; 3. For my soul is filled with troubles; and my life is drawing near to the grave. 4. I am numbered with them that go down to the pit: I have been as a man who hath no strength: 5. Free among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more, and who are cut off from thy hand.

 

1. O Jehovah! God of my salvation! Let me call upon you particularly to notice what I have just now stated, that although the prophet simply, and without hyperbole, recites the agony which he suffered from the greatness of his sorrows, yet his purpose was at the same time to supply the afflicted with a form of prayer that they might not faint under any adversities, however severe, which might befall them. We will hear him by and by bursting out into vehement complaints on account of the grievousness of his calamities; but he seasonably fortifies himself by this brief exordium, lest, carried away with the heat of his feelings, he might become chargeable with complaining and murmuring against God, instead of humbly supplicating Him for pardon. By applying to Him the appellation of the God of his salvation, casting, as it were, a bridle upon himself, he restrains the excess of his sorrow, shuts the door against despair, and strengthens and prepares himself for the endurance of the cross. When he speaks of his crying and importunity, he indicates the earnestness of soul with which he engaged in prayer. He may not, indeed, have given utterance to loud cries; but he uses the word cry, with much propriety’, to denote the great earnestness of his prayers. The same thing is implied when he tells us that he continued crying days and nights. Nor are the words before thee superfluous. It is common for all men to complain when under the pressure of grief; but they are far from pouring out their groanings before God. Instead of this, the majority of mankind court retirement, that they may murmur against him, and accuse him of undue severity; while others pour forth their cries into the air at random. Hence we gather that it is a rare virtue to set God before our eyes, that we may address our prayers to him.

3. For my soul is filled with troubles. These words contain the excuse which the prophet pleads for the excess of his grief. They imply that his continued crying did not proceed from softness or effeminacy of spirit, but that from a due consideration of his condition, it would be found that the immense accumulation of miseries with which he was oppressed was such as might justly extort from him these lamentations. Nor does he speak of one kind of calamity only; but of calamities so heaped one upon another that his heart was filled with sorrow, till it could contain no more. He next particularly affirms that his life was not far from the grave. This idea he pursues and expresses in terms more significant in the following verse, where he complains that he was, as it were, dead. Although he breathed still among the living, yet the many deaths with which he was threatened on all sides were to him so many graves by which he expected to be swallowed up in a moment. And he seems to use the word rbg, geber, which is derived from rbg, gabar, he prevailed, or was strong, fc511 in preference to the word which simply signifies man, — the more emphatically to show that his distresses were so great and crushing as to have been sufficient to bring down the strongest man.

5. Free among the dead, lie the slain who lie in the grave. The prophet intended to express something more distressing and grievous than common death. First, he says, that he was free among the dead, because he was rendered unfit for all the business which engages human life, and, as it were, cut off from the world. The refined interpretation of Augustine, that Christ is here described, and that he is said to be free among the dead, because he obtained the victory over death by a special privilege, that it might not have dominion over him, has no connection with the meaning of the passage. fc512 The prophet is rather to be understood as affirming, that having finished the course of this present life, his mind had become disengaged from all worldly solicitude; his afflictions having deprived him of all feeling. fc513 In the next place, comparing himself with those who have been wounded, he bewails his condition as worse than if, enfeebled by calamities, he were going down to death by little and little; for we are naturally inspired with horror at the prospect of a violent death.

What he adds, that he is forgotten of God, and cut off from his hand or guardianship, is apparently harsh and improper, since it is certain that the dead are no less under the Divine protection than the living. Even wicked Balaam, whose purpose it was to turn light into darkness, was, nevertheless, constrained to cry out,

“Let me die the death of the righteous,
and let my last end be like his,” (<042310>Numbers 23:10.)

To say, then, that God is no longer mindful of man after he is dead, might seem to be the language of a heathen. To this it may be answered, That the prophet speaks according to the opinion of the generality of men; just as the Scriptures, in like manner, when treating of the providence of God, accommodate their style to the state of the world as presented to the eye, because our thoughts ascend only by slow degrees to the future and invisible world. I, however, think, that he rather gave utterance to those confused conceptions which arise in the mind of a man under affliction, than that he had an eye to the opinion of the ignorant and uninstructed part of mankind. Nor is it wonderful that a man endued with the Spirit of God was, as it were, so stunned and stupified when sorrow overmastered him, as to allow unadvised words to escape from his lips. Although faith in the truth that God extends his care both to the living and the dead is deeply rooted in the hearts of all his genuine servants, yet sorrow often so overclouds their minds as to exclude from them for the time all remembrance of his providence. From perusing the complaints of Job, we may perceive, that when the minds of the godly are preoccupied with sorrow, they do not immediately pierce to the consideration of the secret providence of God, which yet has been before the subject of their careful meditation, and the truth of which they bear engraven on their hearts. Although the prophet, then, was persuaded that the dead also are under the Divine protection, yet, in the first paroxysm of his grief, he spoke less advisedly than he ought to have done; for the light of faith was, as it were, extinguished in him, although, as we shall see, it soon after shone forth. This it will be highly useful particularly to observe, that, should we be at any time weakened by temptation, we may, nevertheless, be kept from falling into despondency or despair.

<198806>Psalm 88:6-9

6. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in dark places, in the deeps. 7. Thy indignation lieth heavy upon me; and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah. 8. Thou hast removed my acquaintances from me: thou hast made me to be abhorred by them: I am shut up that I cannot go forth. 9. My eye mourneth because of my affliction; I invoke thee, O Jehovah! daily: I stretch out my hands to thee.

 

6. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit. The Psalmist now acknowledges more distinctly, that whatever adversities he endured proceeded from the Divine hand. Nor indeed will any man sincerely betake himself to God to seek relief without a previous persuasion that it is the Divine hand which smites him, and that nothing happens by chance. It is observable that the nearer the prophet approaches God the more is his grief embittered; for nothing is more dreadful to the saints than the judgment of God.

Some translate the first clause of the 7th verse, Thy indignation hath approached upon me; and the Hebrew word ˚ms, samach, is sometimes to be taken in this sense. But from the scope of the passage, it must necessarily be understood here, as in many other places, in the sense of to surround, or to lie heavy upon; for when the subject spoken of is a man sunk into a threefold grave, it would be too feeble to speak of the wrath of God as merely approaching him. The translation which I have adopted is peculiarly suitable to the whole drift of the text. It views the prophet as declaring, that he sustained the whole burden of God’s wrath; seeing he was afflicted with His waves. Farther, as so dreadful a flood did not prevent him from lifting up his heart and prayers to God, we may learn from his example to cast the anchor of our faith and prayers direct into heaven in all the perils of shipwreck to which we may be exposed.

8. Thou hast removed my acquaintances from me. He was now destitute of all human aid, and that also he attributes to the anger of God, in whose power it is either to bend the hearts of men to humanity, or to harden them, and render them cruel. This is a point well worthy of our attention; for unless we bear in mind that our destitution of human aid in any case is owing to God’s withdrawing his hand, we agitate ourselves without end or measure. We may indeed justly complain of the ingratitude or cruelty of men whenever they defraud us of the just claims of duty which we have upon them; but still this will avail us nothing, unless we are thoroughly convinced that God, being displeased with us, takes away the means of help which he had destined for us; just as it is easy for him, whenever he pleases, to incline the hearts of all men to stretch forth their hand to succor us. The prophet, as an additional and still more grievous element in his distressed condition, tells us that his friends abhorred him.  fc514 Finally, he concludes by observing, that he could perceive no way of escape from his calamities: I am shut up that I cannot go forth. fc515

9. My eye mourneth because of my affliction. To prevent it from being supposed that he was iron-hearted, he again repeats that his afflictions were so severe and painful as to produce manifest traces of his sorrow, even in his countenance and eyes — a plain indication of the low condition to which he was reduced. But he, notwithstanding, testifies that he was not drawn away from God, like many who, secretly murmuring in their hearts, and, to use a proverbial expression, chafing upon the bit, have nothing farther from their thoughts than to disburden their cares into the bosom of God, in order to derive comfort from Him. In speaking of the stretching out of his hands, he puts the sign for the thing signified. I have elsewhere had an opportunity of explaining the import of this ceremony, which has been in common use in all ages.

<198810>Psalm 88:10-13

10. Wilt thou perform a miracle for the dead? shall the dead fc516 arise to praise thee? Selah. 11. Shall thy loving kindness be declared in the grave? thy truth in destruction? fc517 12. Shall thy wonders be known in darkness? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? 13. But to thee have I cried, O Jehovah! and in the morning my prayer shall come before thee. fc518

 

10. Wilt thou perform a miracle for the dead? By these words the prophet intimates, that God, if he did not make haste to succor him, would be too late, there being scarce anything betwixt him and death; and that therefore this was the critical juncture, if God was inclined to help him, for should the present opportunity not be embraced another would not occur. He asks how long God meant to delay, — if he meant to do so till death intervened, that he might raise the dead by a miracle? He does not speak of the resurrection at the last day, which will surpass all other miracles, as if he called it in question; yet he cannot be vindicated from the charge of going to excess, for it does not belong to us to prescribe to God the season of succouring us. We impeach his power if we believe not that it is as easy for him to restore life to the dead as to prevent, in proper season, the extreme danger which may threaten us from actually lighting upon us. Great as has been the constancy of the saints, it has always had some mixture of the infirmity of the flesh, which has rendered it necessary for God, in the exercise of his fatherly clemency, to bear with the sin with which even their very virtues have been to a degree contaminated. When the Psalmist asks, Shall thy loving-kindness be declared in the grave? he does not mean that the dead are devoid of consciousness; but he pursues the same sentiment which he had previously stated, That it is a more seasonable time to succor men, whilst in the midst of danger they are as yet crying, than to raise them up from their graves when they are dead. He reasons from what ordinarily happens; it not being God’s usual way to bring the dead out of their graves to be witnesses and publishers of his goodness. To God’s loving-kindness or mercy he annexes his truth or faithfulness; for when God delivers his servants he gives a confirmation of his faithfulness to his promises. And, on the other hand, he is influenced to make his promises by nothing but his own pure goodness. When the prophet affirms, that the divine faithfulness as well as the divine goodness, power, and righteousness, are not known in the land of forgetfulness, some deluded persons foolishly wrest the statement to support a gross error, as if it taught that men were annihilated by death. He speaks only of the ordinary manner in which help is extended by God, who has designed this world to be as a stage on which to display his goodness towards mankind.

13. But to thee have I cried, O Jehovah! There may have been a degree of intemperateness in the language of the prophet, which, as I have granted, cannot be altogether vindicated; but still it was a sign of rare faith and piety to persevere as he did with never-failing earnestness in prayer. This is what is meant when he says, that he made haste in the morning; by which he would have us not to imagine that he slowly and coldly lingered till he was constrained by dire necessity. At the same time, he modestly intimates by these words, that his pining away in long continued miseries was not owing to his own sluggishness, as if he had not sought God. This is an example particularly worthy of notice, that we may not become discouraged if it happen sometimes that our prayers are for a time unsuccessful, although they may proceed from the heart, and may be assiduously persevered in.

<198814>Psalm 88:14-18

14. Wherefore, O Jehovah! wilt thou reject my soul? and hide thy face from me? 15. I am afflicted, and ready to die from my youth; I have suffered thy terrors by doubting. 16. Thy wraths have passed over me: thy terrors have cut me off. 17. They have daily encompassed me like waters: they have surrounded me together. 18. Thou hast put far from me friend and companion: and my acquaintances are darkness.  fc519

 

14. Wherefore, O Jehovah! wilt thou reject my soul? These lamentations at first sight would seem to indicate a state of mind in which sorrow without any consolation prevailed; but they contain in them tacit prayers. The Psalmist does not proudly enter into debate with God, but mournfully desires some remedy to his calamities. This kind of complaint justly deserves to be reckoned among the unutterable groanings of which Paul makes mention in <450826>Romans 8:26. Had the prophet thought himself rejected and abhorred by God, he certainly would not have persevered in prayer. But here he sets forth the judgment of the flesh, against which he strenuously and magnanimously struggled, that it might at length be manifest from the result that he had not prayed in vain. Although, therefore, this psalm does not end with thanksgiving, but with a mournful complaint, as if there remained no place for mercy, yet it is so much the more useful as a means of keeping us in the duty of prayer. The prophet, in heaving these sighs, and discharging them, as it were, into the bosom of God, doubtless ceased not to hope for the salvation of which he could see no signs by the eye of sense. He did not call God, at the opening of the psalm, the God of his salvation, and then bid farewell to all hope of succor from him.

The reason why he says that he was ready to die fc520 from his youth, (verse 15,) is uncertain, unless it may be considered a probable conjecture that he was severely tried in a variety of ways, so that his life, as it were, hung by a thread amidst various tremblings and fears. Whence also we gather that God’s wraths and terrors, of which he speaks in the 16th verse, were not of short continuance. He expresses them in the 17th verse as having encompassed him daily. Since nothing is more dreadful than to conceive of God as angry with us, he not improperly compares his distress to a flood. Hence also proceeded his doubting. fc521 for a sense of the divine anger must necessarily have agitated his mind with sore disquietude. But it may be asked, How can this wavering agree with faith? It is true, that when the heart is in perplexity and doubt, or rather is tossed hither and thither, faith seems to be swallowed up. But experience teaches us, that faith, while it fluctuates amidst these agitations, continues to rise again from time to time, so as not to be overwhelmed; and if at any time it is at the point of being stifled, it is nevertheless sheltered and cherished, for though the tempests may become never so violent, it shields itself from them by reflecting that God continues faithful, and never disappoints or forsakes his own children.


PSALM 89

The prophet who wrote this psalm, whoever he was, in approaching the throne of grace to make supplication to God in behalf of the afflicted Church, lays down, as an encouragement both to himself and the rest of the faithful to cherish good hope, the covenant which God had made with David. He then adverts in general to the Divine power which is discerned in the whole government of the world. And next, he calls to remembrance the redemption in which God had given an everlasting testimony of his fatherly love towards his chosen people. Thence, he again returns to the covenant made with David, in which God had promised to continue his favor towards that people for ever, for the sake of their king. Finally, he subjoins a complaint that God, as if he had forgotten his covenant, abandoned his Church to the will of her enemies, and, in the midst of strange disaster and mournful desolation, withheld all succor and consolation.

An instruction of Ethan, the Ezrahite.

Who this Ethan was, to whom this psalm is ascribed, is somewhat uncertain. If we should consider him to have been one of the four eminent men to whom Solomon is compared for his distinguished wisdom, (<110431>1 Kings 4:31) fc522 the argument or subject of the poem will not agree with his time; unless we suppose him to have survived Solomon, and bewailed the sad and mournful division which occurred after the death of that monarch, and which proved the commencement and prelude of future ruin. The people, it is true, after being divided into two kingdoms, continued still to exist safe as before; but as that rupture dissolved the unity established by God, what ground of hope could any longer remain? Besides, the prosperity and welfare of the whole body depended upon their having one head, from their allegiance to whom the ten tribes had wickedly revolted. What a horrible spectacle was it to behold that kingdom, which might have flourished in unimpaired vigor, even to the end of the world, disfigured and miserably rent asunder, at the close of the life of one man! Who would not have thought that the holy oracle was deceptive and vain, the truth of which seemed to be overthrown in so short a time? If, therefore, the Ethan above referred to should be regarded as the author of this psalm, the complaints contained in it must be applied to that period, in which not only the throne of David was weakened, but in which also the great mass of the people apostatised from God, while those who were brethren proceeded to work each other’s ruin by mutual and intestine discord. This certainly appears to me to be the most probable conjecture in this doubtful case. Some think that the author, speaking under the influence of the Spirit of prophecy, predicts the calamities which were to befall the people: but this opinion may be easily refuted by the context itself, where the inspired bard expressly bewails the first unhappy alteration which took place in the kingdom, in consequence of the conspiracy of Jeroboam.

<198901>Psalm 89:1-4

1. I will sing of the mercies of Jehovah for ever: with my mouth will I celebrate thy truth from generation to generation. 2. For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: thou shalt establish the heavens, thy truth is in them. fc523 3. I have made a covenant with my chosen: I have sworn to David my servant, 4. I will establish thy seed for ever, and will build up thy throne from age to age. Selah.

 

1. I will sing of the mercies of Jehovah for ever. It must be borne in mind, as I have just now observed, that the Psalmist opens with the praises of God, and with calling to mind the Divine covenant, to encourage the faithful to strengthen their faith against the formidable assaults of temptation. If when we set about the duty of prayer some despairing thought, at the very outset, presents itself to us, we must forcibly and resolutely break through it, lest our hearts faint and utterly fail. The design of the prophet, therefore, was to fortify the minds of the godly at the very commencement, with stable and substantial supports, that, relying on the Divine promise, which, to outward appearance, had almost fallen to the ground, and repelling all the assaults of temptation with which their faith was severely shaken, they might with confidence hope for the re-establishment of the kingdom, and continue perseveringly to pray for this blessing. From the sad spectacle of begun decay, fc524 which Ethan beheld, listening to the dictates of carnal reason, he might have thought that both himself and the rest of God’s believing people were deceived; but he expresses his determination to celebrate the mercies of God which at that time were hidden from his view. And as it was no easy matter for him to apprehend and acknowledge the merciful character of God, of whose severity he had actual experience, he uses the plural number, the Mercies of God, that by reflecting on the abundance and variety of the blessings of Divine grace he might overcome this temptation.

2. For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever. He assigns the reason why he perseveres in singing the Divine praises in the midst of adversities; which is, that he does not despair of the manifestation of God’s loving-kindness towards his people, although at present they were under severe chastisement. Never will a man freely open his mouth to praise God, unless he is fully persuaded that God, even when he is angry with his people, never lays aside his fatherly affection towards them. The words I have said, imply that the truth which the inspired writer propounds was deeply fixed in his heart. fc525 Whatever, as if he had said, has hitherto happened, it has never had the effect of effacing from my heart the undoubted hope of experiencing the Divine favor as to the future, and I will always continue stedfastly to cherish the same feeling. It is to be observed, that it was not without a painful and arduous conflict that he succeeded in embracing by faith the goodness of God, which at that time had entirely vanished out of sight; — this we say is to be particularly noticed, in order that when God at any time withdraws from us all the tokens of his love, we may nevertheless learn to erect in our hearts that everlasting building of mercy, which is here spoken of, — a metaphor, by which is meant that the Divine mercy shall be extended, or shall continue till it reach its end or consummation. In the second clause of the verse something must be supplied. The sense, in short, is, that the Divine promise is no less stable than the settled course of the heavens, which is eternal and exempt from all change. By the word heavens I understand not only the visible skies, but the heavens which are above the whole frame of the world; for the truth of God, in the heavenly glory of his kingdom, is placed above all the elements of the world.

3. I have made a covenant with my chosen. fc526 The more effectually to confirm himself and all the godly in the faith of the Divine promise, he introduces God himself as speaking and sanctioning, by his authority, what had been said in the preceding verse. As faith ought to depend on the Divine promise, this manner of speaking, by which God is represented as coming forward and alluring us to himself by his own voice, is more forcible than if the prophet himself had simply stated the fact. And when God in this way anticipates us, we cannot be charged with rashness in coming familiarly to him; even as, on the contrary, without His word we have no ground to presume that he will be gracious to us, or to hope, at the mere suggestion of our own fancy, for what he has not promised. Moreover, the truth of the promise is rendered still more irrefragable, when God declares that he had made a covenant with his servant David, ratified by his own solemn oath. It having been customary in ancient times to engrave leagues and covenants on tables of brass, a metaphor is here used borrowed from this practice. God applies to David two titles of distinction, calling him both his chosen and his servant. Those who would refer the former appellation to Abraham do not sufficiently attend to the style of the Book of Psalms, in which it is quite common for one thing to be repeated twice. David is called the chosen of God, because God of his own good pleasure, and from no other cause, preferred him not only to the posterity of Saul, and many distinguished personages, but even to his own brethren. If, therefore, the cause or origin of this covenant is sought for, we must necessarily fall back upon the Divine election.

The name of servant, which follows immediately after, is not to be understood as implying that David by his services merited any thing at the hand of God. He is called God’s servant in respect of the royal dignity, into which he had not rashly thrust himself, having been invested with the government by God, and having undertaken it in obedience to his lawful call. When, however, we consider what the covenant summarily contains, we conclude that the prophet has not improperly applied it to his own use, and to the use of the whole people; for God did not enter into it with David individually, but had an eye to the whole body of the Church, which would exist from age to age. The sentence, I will establish thy throne for ever, is partly to be understood of Solomon, and the rest of David’s successors; but the prophet well knew that perpetuity or everlasting duration, in the strict and proper sense, could be verified only in Christ. In ordaining one man to be king, God assuredly did not have a respect to one house alone, while he forgot and neglected the people with whom he had before made his covenant in the person of Abraham; but he conferred the sovereign power upon David and his children, that they might rule for the common good of all the rest, until the throne might be truly established by the advent of Christ.

<198905>Psalm 89:5-8

5. And the heavens shall praise thy wondrous work, O Jehovah! thy truth fc527 also in the congregation of the saints. 6. For who in the clouds [or in heaven] can be compared to Jehovah? who among the sons of the gods fc528 is like to Jehovah? 7. God is very terrible fc529 in the assembly of the saints, and to be feared above all who are around him. 8. O Jehovah! God of Hosts, who is a strong God as thou art? and thy truth is round about thee.

 

5. And the heavens shall praise thy wondrous work. The prophet, having spoken of God’s covenant, even as faith ought to begin at the word, now descends to a general commendation of his works. It is, however, to be observed, that when he treats of the wonderful power of God, he has no other end in view than to exalt and magnify more highly the holiness of the covenant. He exclaims, that this is the God who has rightful claims to be served and feared, who ought to be believed, and upon whose power the most unhesitating confidence may be reposed. The words wondrous work, in the first clause, I would therefore limit to the power which God displays in preserving and maintaining his Church. The heavens, it is true, are most excellent witnesses and preachers of God’s wonderful power; but from attending to the scope of the passage, it will be still more evident, that the encomiums here pronounced have all a special reference to the end of which I have spoken. Some interpreters judiciously explain the word heavens, of the angels, among whom there is a common joy and congratulation in the salvation of the Church. This interpretation is confirmed from the last clause of the verse, in which it is asserted, that God’s truth will be celebrated in the congregation of the saints. There is no doubt, that the same subject is here prosecuted, and that by the word truth, it is intended to signalise the remarkable deliverances by which God had manifested his faithfulness to the promises made to his servants.

6. For who in the clouds can be compared to Jehovah? The prophet now proceeds to illustrate farther what he had said respecting God’s wonders, and exclaims emphatically, Who in the clouds can be compared to God? The reason why he speaks of the clouds, or heaven, is because, what is not surprising, nothing is to be found upon the earth which can at all approach the glory of God. Although man excels other living creatures, yet we see how contemptible and miserable his condition is, or rather, how full it is of shame and reproach. Whence it follows, that under heaven there is no excellence which can compete with that of God. But when we ascend to heaven, immediately ravished with admiration, we conceive of a multitude of gods, which do away with the true God. The last clause of the verse, in which it is said, that among the sons of the gods there is none like the true and only God, is an explanation of the first. The opinion of some, that by the clouds, or the heavens, is to be understood the sun, moon, and stars, is disproved by the context itself. The amount then is, that even in the heavens, God alone has the entire pre-eminence, having there none as a companion or equal. The appellation the sons of the gods is here given to angels, because they neither have their origin from the earth, nor are clothed with a corruptible body, but are celestial spirits, adorned with a Divine glory. It is not meant that they are a part of the Divine essence or substance, as some fanatics dream; but as God displays his power in them, this title is attributed to them, to distinguish between their nature and ours. In short, although a greater majesty shines forth in the angels than in other creatures, at the contemplation of which we are ravished with admiration, yet come they not near God, so as to obscure and impair his glory by their excellence, or to share with him in the sovereignty of the universe. This is a point worthy of our careful attention; for, although God everywhere declares in his word that the angels are only his servants, and always ready to execute his commands, yet the world, not contented with having only one God, forges for itself a countless number of deities.

To the same effect is the following verse, in which it is affirmed, that God is very terrible in the assembly of the saints. In these words is censured that devilish superstition, to which almost all men are prone, of exalting angels beyond measure, and without reason. But if the angels themselves tremble, and are afraid before the Divine Majesty, why should they not be regarded as subjects, and kept in their own rank, that God alone may have the sovereignty entirely to himself? Farther, when they are represented as around God, the meaning is, that they surround his royal throne like body-guards, and are always ready to execute his behests. In the subsequent verse the same thing is repeated yet again, Who is a strong God as thou art? and this is done, that at least the fear of the Divine Majesty may teach us to beware of robbing him of the honor which belongs to him. That we may not, however, by too much fear, be prevented from approaching him, some portion of sweetness is intermingled with this description, when it is declared, that his truth is to be seen round about him on all sides; by which we are to understand, that God is always stedfast in his promises, and that whatever changes may happen, he nevertheless continues invariably true, both before and behind, on the right hand and on the left. fc530

<198909>Psalm 89:9-14

9. Thou governest the pride of the sea: when the waves thereof rise up, thou restrainest them 10. Thou hast overthrown Egypt, as a wounded man; fc531 with thy mighty arm [literally, with the arm of thy strength] thou hast scattered thy enemies. 11. The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: thou hast made the world, and the fullness thereof. 12. Thou hast created the north fc532and the south: fc533 Tabor and Hermon fc534 shall rejoice in thy name. 13. Thou hast a mighty arm: thou wilt strengthen thy hand, thou wilt exalt thy right hand. 14. Righteousness and judgment are the place of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.

 

9. Thou governest the pride of the sea. I have already observed that what the prophet has hitherto spoken generally concerning the power of God, is to be referred to the miracle of the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, which he now celebrates in express terms. According to the interpretation of some, God is said to still the impetuous waves of the sea, because he does not suffer it to break forth and overflow the whole world by a deluge. But I would read the 9th and 10th verses connectedly, and would understand the prophet as speaking of the Red Sea, which God divided to make a way for the chosen tribes to pass over. The Psalmist adds immediately after, that all the land of Egypt was overthrown as a wounded man. By these words he magnifies the grace of God, which was displayed in the deliverance of the Church. He intended, there can be no doubt, to set before his own mind and the minds of others, the paternal love of God, to encourage both himself and others to have recourse to Him for succor, with the greater freedom and alacrity. And in affirming that God had broken in pieces his enemies with his mighty arm, he concludes from the past experience of the Church, that his mode of acting will be always similar, whenever in his infinite wisdom he sees it to be required.

11. The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine. He again repeats, the third time, that the same God who had been the deliverer of the chosen people exercises supreme dominion over the whole world. From the fact that God created all things, he concludes, that it is He who actually presides over, and controls whatever takes place in heaven and in earth. It would be absurd to suppose, that the heavens, having been once created by God, should now revolve by chance, and that things should be thrown into confusion upon the earth either at the will of men, or at random, when it is considered that it belongs to God to maintain and govern whatever he has created; unless, like the heathen, we would imagine that he enjoys himself in beholding all the works of his hand, in this beautiful theater of the heaven and the earth, without giving himself any farther trouble about them. In speaking of the south and the north, and also of the mountains, Tabor and Hermon, the prophet accommodates his language to the unrefined apprehension of the common people: as if he had said, there is no part of the fabric of the world which does not reverence and honor its Creator. I also connect with this the next verse, which affirms, that the arm of God is furnished with power, his hand with strength, and that his right hand is exalted. Some resolve the two last clauses of the verse into the form of a prayer, Strengthen thy hand, lift up thy right hand; but this seems too much removed from the mind of the prophet, who, with the simple view of encouraging all the godly, celebrates the inconceivable power of God.

14. Righteousness and judgement are the place of thy throne. These encomiums serve more effectually to confirm the hope of true believers than if the Divine power alone had been presented to our view. Whenever mention is made of God, it behoves us to apply our minds principally to those attributes of his nature which are specially fitted for establishing our faith, that we may not lose ourselves by vainly indulging in subtile speculations, by which foolish men, although they may minister to their own mental recreation, make no advances to the right understanding of what God really is. The prophet, therefore, in allusion to the insignia and pomp of kings, declares that righteousness and judgment are the pillars of the throne on which God sits conspicuous in sovereign state, and that mercy and truth are, as it were, his pursuivants; as if he had said, “The ornaments with which God is invested, instead of being a robe of purple, a diadem, or a scepter, are, that he is the righteous and impartial judge of the world, a merciful father, and a faithful protector of his people.” Earthly kings, from their having nothing in themselves to procure for them authority, and to give them dignity, fc535 are under the necessity of borrowing elsewhere what will invest them therewith; but God having in himself an all-sufficiency, and standing in no need of any other helps, exhibits to us the splendor of his own image in his righteousness, mercy, and truth.

<198915>Psalm 89:15-18

15. Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound! fc536 they shall walk, O Jehovah! in the brightness of thy countenance. 16. In thy name shall they daily rejoice; and in thy righteousness shall they glory. 17. For thou art the glory of their strength; and in thy favor shall our horn be exalted. 18. For to Jehovah fc537 is our buckler; and our King is to the Holy One of Israel.

 

15. Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound. Here the same train of reflection concerning the Church is pursued, not only because unbelievers are blind to the consideration of God’s works, but also because the prophet has no other purpose in view than to inspire the godly with good hope, that they may with confidence rely upon God, and not be discouraged by any adversities from boldly calling upon him. It is declared that those are happy to whom it is given to rejoice in God; for although all men in common are sustained and nourished by his liberality, yet the feeling of his paternal goodness is far from being experienced by all men in such a manner as to enable them, from a certain persuasion that he is favorable to them, to congratulate themselves upon their happy condition. It is, therefore, a singular privilege which he confers upon his chosen ones, to make them taste of his goodness, that thereby they may be encouraged to be glad and rejoice. And, in fact, there is not a more miserable condition than that of unbelievers, when by their brutish insensibility they trample under foot the Divine benefits which they greedily devour; for the more abundantly God pampers them, the fouler is their ingratitude. True happiness then consists in our apprehending the Divine goodness which, filling our hearts with joy, may stir us up to praise and thanksgiving.

The prophet afterwards proves from the effect, that those who with joy and delight acknowledge God to be their father are blessed, because they not only enjoy his benefits, but also, confiding in his favor, pass the whole course of their life in mental peace and tranquillity. This is the import of walking in the light of God’s countenance: it is to repose upon his providence from the certain persuasion that he has a special care about our well-being, and keeps watch and ward effectually to secure it. The expressions rejoicing in his name, and glorying in his righteousness, are to the same purpose. The idea involved in them is, that believers find in God abundant, yea more than abundant, ground to rejoice and glory. The word daily appears to denote stedfast and unwavering perseverance; and thus there is indirectly censured the foolish arrogance of those who, inflated only with wind and presuming on their own strength, lift up their horns on high. Standing as they do upon an insecure foundation, they must at length inevitably fall. Whence it follows, that there is no true magnanimity nor any power which can stand but that which leans upon the grace of God alone; even as we see how Paul (<450831>Romans 8:31) nobly boasts, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” and defies all calamities both present and to come.

17. For thou art the glory of their strength. The same sentiment is confirmed when it is declared, that God never leaves his faithful servants destitute of strength. By the appellation the glory of their strength, which is ascribed to him, is meant that they are always so sustained by his present aid as to have just ground to glory in him; or which amounts to the same thing, that his power appears always glorious in aiding and sustaining them. They are, however, at the same time, reminded of the duty of yielding to God all the praise of their being preserved in safety. If this is true as to the present life, it is much more truly applicable to the spiritual life of the soul. Farther, the more highly to magnify this instance of God’s liberality, we are taught, at the same time, that it depends entirely upon his good pleasure, there being no other cause of it. fc538 Whence it follows, that they are wholly bound and indebted to Him who is induced by his free bounty alone to continue to extend to them his help.

18. For to Jehovah is our buckler. As the chief protection of the people was in the person of their king, it is here expressly shown, that the maintenance of the welfare of the faithful by his instrumentality is the gift of God. But it is to be noticed, that the prophet’s mind was not so fixed upon this temporal and transitory kingdom as to neglect, at the same time, to consider the end of it, as we shall presently see. He knew that it was only on account of Christ that God made his favor to flow upon the head of the Church, and from thence upon the whole body. And, in the first place, while he calls the king metaphorically a buckler, — a figurative expression frequently employed in Scripture, — he confesses that when the people are defended by his hand and working, it is nevertheless done by the providence of God, and is thus to be traced to a higher source than human agency. The same thing is again repeated in the second clause, in which it is affirmed, that the king was given by God to govern the people; and that, therefore, the defense which comes from the king is a blessing of God. Moreover, we must remember that what is said of this kingdom, which was a shadow of something greater, properly applies to the person of Christ, whom the Father has given to us to be the guardian of our welfare, that we may be maintained and defended by his power.

<198919>Psalm 89:19-23

19. Then thou spakest in vision to thy meek ones, fc539 and saidst, I have laid help upon a mighty one; I have exalted one chosen from among the people. 20. I have found David my servant; with my holy oil [literally with the oil of my holiness] have I anointed him. 21. Therefore, my hand shall be established with him: my arm also shall strengthen him. 22. The enemy shall not exact upon him, fc540 nor shall the son of iniquity afflict him. 23. And I will break in pieces his oppressors before his face ; and I will strike those who hate him.

 

19. Then thou spakest in vision to thy meek ones. The Psalmist now declares at greater length why he said that the king, set over the chosen people for the preservation of the public good, was given them from heaven; namely, because he was not chosen by the suffrages of men, nor usurped at his own hand the supreme power, nor insinuated himself into it by corrupt arts, but was elected by God to be the instrument of maintaining the public good, and performed the duties of his office under the auspices and conduct of God. The design of the prophet, as we shall shortly see more clearly, is to distinguish this Divinely-appointed king from all other kings. Although what Paul teaches in <451301>Romans 13:1, is true, “There is no power but of God;” yet there was a great difference between David and all earthly kings who have acquired sovereign power by worldly means. God had delivered the scepter to his servant David immediately with his own hand, so to speak, and had seated him on the royal throne by his own authority. The particle za, az, which properly signifies then, is taken also for long since, or in old time. The meaning, therefore, is, that whereas some are born kings, succeeding their fathers by right of inheritance, and some are elevated to the royal dignity by election, while others acquire it for themselves by violence and force of arms, God was the founder of this kingdom, having chosen David to the throne by his own voice. Farther, although he revealed his purpose to Samuel, yet as the plural number is here used, implying, that the same oracle had been delivered to others, we may certainly conclude that it had been communicated to other prophets that they might be able, with one consent, to bear testimony that David was created king by the Divine appointment. And, indeed, as other distinguished and celebrated prophets lived at that time, it is not very probable that a matter of so great importance was concealed from them. But Samuel alone is named in this business, because he was the publisher of the Divine oracle and the minister of the royal anointing. As God in those days spake to his prophets either by dreams or by visions, this last mode of revelation is here mentioned.

There next follows the substance or amount of the Divine oracle, That God had furnished with help the strong or mighty one whom he had chosen to be the supreme head and governor of the kingdom. David is called strong, not because naturally and in himself he excelled in strength, (for, as is well known, he was of small stature, and despised among his brethren, so that even Samuel passed him over with neglects) but because God, after having chosen him, endued him with new strength, and other distinguished qualities suitable for a king; even as in a parallel case, when Christ chose his apostles, he not only honored them with the title, but at the same time bestowed the gifts which were necessary for executing their office. And at the present day he imparts to his ministers the same grace of his Spirit. The strength of David, then, of which mention is here made, was the effect of his election; for God, in creating him king, furnished him at the same time with strength adequate for the preservation of the people. This appears still more distinctly from the second clause, where this invincible strength is traced to its source: I have exalted one chosen from among the people. All the words are emphatic. When God declares that he exalted him, it is to intimate the low and mean condition in which David lived, unknown and obscure, before God stretched out his hand to him. To the same effect is the expression which follows, from among the people. The meaning is, that he was at that time unnoted, and belonged to the lowest class of the people, and gave no indications of superior excellence, being the least esteemed of his father’s children, in whose country cottage he held the humble office of a herdsman. fc541 By the word chosen, God calls us back to the consideration of his own free will, as if he forbade us to seek for any other cause of David’s exaltation than his own good pleasure.

20. I have found David my servant. The prophet confirms the same proposition, That there was nothing of royalty in David, who owed all to the sovereignty of God in preventing him by his grace. Such is the import of the word found, as if God had said, When I took him to elevate him, this proceeded entirely from my free goodness. The name servant, therefore, does not denote any merit, but is to be referred to the divine call. It is as if God had said, that he confirmed and ratified by his authority the sovereign power of David; and if He approved it, its legitimacy is placed beyond all doubt. The second clause of the verse affords an additional confirmation of God’s free election: With my holy oil have I anointed him. This anointing, which was not the fruit of David’s own policy, but which he obtained contrary to all expectation, was the cause of his elevation to the estate of royalty. God then having of himself, and according to his mere good pleasure, anticipated David, that he might anoint him king by the hand of Samuel, he justly declares that he found him. It is afterwards added, that he will be the guardian and protector of this kingdom of which he was the founder; for it is not his usual way to abandon his works after having commenced them, but, on the contrary, to carry them forward by a continued process of improvement to their completion.

22. The enemy shall not exact upon him. fc542 Here it is declared in express terms, that although David may not be without enemies, the power of God will be always ready to maintain and defend him, that he may not be oppressed with unrighteous violence. It is accordingly affirmed, that David will not be tributary to his enemies, as he who is vanquished in battle is constrained to grant such conditions of peace as his conqueror may dictate, however injurious to himself these may be. When his enemies are called sons of iniquity, it is tacitly intimated, that this government will be so exempt from tyranny and extortion, that whoever shall attempt to overthrow it will be involved in the perpetration of wrong and wickedness. The amount is, that David and his successors will be so secure and strongly fortified by the divine protection, that it will be impossible for their enemies to treat them as they would wish. In regard to the fact, that God suffered this kingdom to be greatly afflicted, so that David’s successors were constrained to pay a vast amount of tribute to foreign and heathen kings, it is not at variance with this promise; for, although the power of the kingdom was reduced, it was enough that the root still remained, until Christ came, in whose hand the kingdom was at length firmly established. As both the king and the people wickedly rejected this singular blessing of God, the kingdom was often shaken through their own default, afterwards impaired, and finally ruined. Yet God, to confirm his oracle concerning the perpetuity of this kingdom, ceased not all along to cherish and preserve some hope, by contending against their ingratitude. Besides, when mention is made of David’s haters and oppressors, it is intimated, that this throne will not be privileged with exemption from annoyances and troubles, inasmuch as there will be always some who will rise up in hostility against it, unless God set himself in opposition to them.

<198924>Psalm 89:24-29

24. My truth and my mercy shall be with him: and in my name shall his horn be exalted. 25. And I will set his hand in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers. fc543 26. He shall cry to me, Thou art my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation. 27. I will also make him my first-born, fc544 higher than the kings of the earth. 28. And I will keep my mercy for him for ever, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. 29. And I will establish his seed for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven.

 

24. My truth and my mercy shall be with him. God shows that he will continue to exercise without intermission that grace which he had manifested towards David at first. These words are as if he had said, that to prove himself faithful to his word, he would be always gracious and bountiful. Thus We see that God, not only at the outset, furnished David with testimonies of his goodness, but that he always continued to deal with him in the same merciful way. This has a reference to the whole Church of Christ, so that the divine goodness is manifested in the whole course of our salvation, and not only at our first entrance upon it, as these shufflers and sophists the Sorbonists foolishly talk. fc545 The horn of David denotes here, as it often does in other places, his glory, dignity, and power. The meaning therefore is, that by the grace of God, this kingdom shall always flourish and prosper.

25. And I will set his hand in the sea. The vast extent of the kingdom is here adverted to. As the people by their wickedness had, as it were, blocked up the way, and intercepted the blessing of God, their inheritance was more limited than the promise implied. But now God declares, that during the reign of David, it will be again enlarged, so that the people shall possess the whole country, from the sea even to the river Euphrates. From this we gather, that what God had promised by Moses was fulfilled only in the person of David, that is to say, from his time. fc546 By the rivers may be understood, either the Euphrates alone, which is cut into many channels, or the other neighboring rivers on the coast of Syria.

26. He shall cry to me, Thou art my Father. In this verse it is declared, that the chief excellence of this king will consist in this, that he will be accounted the Son of God. This indeed is a title of honor, which is applied to all whom God ordains to be kings, as we have seen in a previous psalm,

“I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High:”
(<198206>Psalm 82:6)

but in the passage before us, something special is expressed of the holy king whom God had chosen, and it is intended to say, that he will be the son of God in a different sense. We shall immediately see in the subsequent verse, how he is placed in a higher rank than the kings of the earth, although they may sway the scepter over a larger extent of country. It was therefore a privilege peculiar to only one king in this world, to be called the Son of God. Had it been otherwise, the apostle reasoned not only inconclusively but absurdly, in quoting this text as a proof of the doctrine, that Christ is superior to the angels:

“I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son,”
(<580105>Hebrews 1:5.)

Angels, and kings, and all who are regenerated by the Spirit of adoption, are called sons of God; but David, when God promises to take him for his son, is, by singular prerogative, elevated above all others to whom this designation is applied. This is still more apparent from the following verse, in which he is called God’s first-born, because he is higher than all the kings of the earth; and this is an honor which transcends all the dignity both of men and angels. If it is objected, that David being a mortal man could not be equal to the angels, the obvious answer is, that if he is considered in himself, he cannot justly be elevated to the same rank with them, but with the highest propriety he may, in so far as for a time he represented the person of Christ.

28. And I will keep my mercy to him for ever. We see how God frequently repeats, that he had set up the kingdom of David with the express design of establishing it for ever. By placing his mercy first in order, and then adding his covenant, he points out the cause of this covenant, intimating in one word, that it is gratuitous, and that his grace is not only the foundation on which it rests, but also the cause why it is preserved inviolate. The amount is, that God will be always merciful to David, in order that his covenant may never fail. From this it follows, that its inviolability depends upon the mere good pleasure of God. In the next verse, God expresses the effect of his truth, declaring, that the posterity of David will sit for ever on the royal throne. There being nothing under heaven of long continuance, the days of heaven is an expression employed to denote everlasting duration. Whence it follows, that this prophecy cannot have its full accomplishment in any till we come to Christ, in whom alone, in the strict and proper sense, this everlasting duration is to be found.

<198930>Psalm 89:30-37

30. If his children shall forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; 31. If they violate fc547 my ordinances, and keep not my statutes; 32. Then will I visit their transgression with my rod, fc548 and their iniquity with stripes. 33. But my loving-kindness will I not withdraw from him; nor suffer my faithfulness to fail, [literally, nor will I lie in my truth.] 34. My covenant will I not break, nor alter that which hath proceeded from my lips. 35. Once have I sworn by my holiness, That I will not lie fc549 to David. 36. His seed shall endure for ever; and his throne as the sun before me. 37. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and a faithful witness in the heaven. fc550 Selah.

 

30. If his children shall forsake my law. The prophet proceeds yet farther, declaring, that although the posterity of David should fall into sin, yet God had promised to show himself merciful towards them, and that he would not punish their transgressions to the full extent of their desert. Moreover, to give the promise the greater efficacy, he always introduces God speaking, as if he presented to him a request corresponding with the precise words and express articles of his covenant. fc551 It was very necessary that this should be added; for so easily do we slide into evil, and so prone are we to continual falls, that unless God, in the exercise of his infinite mercy, pardoned us, there would not be a single article of his covenant which would continue stedfast. God, therefore, seeing that it could not be otherwise, but that the posterity of David, in so far as it depended upon themselves, would frequently fall from the covenant, by their own fault, has provided a remedy for such cases, in his pardoning grace.

Farther, as it is profitable for men to be subjected to divine correction, he does not promise that he will allow them to escape unpunished, which would be to encourage them in their sins; but he promises, that in his chastisements he will exercise a fatherly moderation, and will not execute vengeance upon them to the full extent which their sins deserve. It is also to be observed, that he promises pardon, not only for light offenses, but also for great and aggravated sins. It is not without cause that he uses these forms of expression, to forsake his law, to violate his statutes, not to walk in his judgments, and not to keep his commandments. Nor is it without cause that he uses the word transgression, or perfidiousness, and iniquity. We see, then, that the patience and lenity of God, by which he reconciles to himself the posterity of David, is extended even to sins of the most heinous and aggravated description.

This passage teaches us, that when God adopts men into his family, they do not forthwith completely lay aside the flesh with its corruptions, as is held by some enthusiasts, who dream, that as soon as we are grafted into the body of Christ, all the corruption that is in us must be destroyed. Would to God that we could all on a sudden change our nature, and thus exhibit that angelic perfection which they require! But as it is quite apparent, that we are far from such an attainment, so long as we carry about with us this tabernacle of flesh, let us bid adieu to that devilish figment, and let us all betake ourselves to the sanctuary of forgiveness, which is at all times open for us. God, unquestionably, is speaking of the household of his Church; and yet it is declared, with sufficient plainness, in the promise which he makes of pardoning their offenses, that they will transgress and be guilty of revolting from him.

To limit what is here said to the ancient people of Israel, is an exposition not only absurd, but altogether impious. In the first place, I take it as a settled point, which we have already had occasion often to consider, that this kingdom was erected to be a figure or shadow in which God might represent the Mediator to his Church: and this can be proved, not only from the testimony of Christ and the apostles, but it may also be clearly and indubitably deduced from the thing considered in itself. If we set Christ aside, where will we find that everlasting duration of the royal throne of which mention is here made? The second from David, in the order of succession, was despoiled of the greater part of the kingdom, so that out of twelve tribes he retained scarcely one tribe and a half. Afterwards, how many losses did this kingdom thus greatly reduced sustain, and by how many calamities was it defaced, until at length the king and the whole body of the people were dragged into captivity, with the utmost ignominy and reproach? And I pray you to consider where was the dignity of the throne, when the king, after his sons were put to death before his eyes, was himself treated as a criminal? (<122507>2 Kings 25:7.) The Jews were indeed afterwards permitted to dwell in their own country; but it was without the honor and title of a kingdom. Accordingly, Ezekiel (<262127>Ezekiel 21:27) declares thrice, that the crown shall be laid in the dust, “until he come whose right it is.” The obvious conclusion then is, that perpetuity, as applied to this kingdom, can be verified in Christ alone. And, in fact, what access could the Jews of old time have had to God, or what access could we in the present day have to him, did not the Mediator come between us and him, to cause us find favor in his sight?

It now remains that we apply to ourselves the qualities of this kingdom of which we have been speaking. As its everlasting duration leads us to the hope of a blessed immortality, and its invincible strength inspires our minds with tranquillity, and prevents our faith from failing, notwithstanding all the efforts which Satan may put forth against us, and notwithstanding the numerous forms of death which may surround us; so the pardon which is here promised belongs to the spiritual kingdom of Christ: and it may be equally gathered from this passage, that the salvation of the Church depends solely upon the grace of God, and the truth of his promises. If it is objected, that those who are regenerated by the Spirit of God never totally fall away, because the incorruptible seed of the word abides in them, I grant that this is an important truth. It is not, however, a total apostasy which is here spoken of — not such as implies the entire extinction of godliness in the individual chargeable with it. But it sometimes happens that the faithful cast off the yoke of God, and break forth into sin in such a manner, as that the fear of God seems to be extinguished in them; and such being the case, it was necessary that He should promise the pardon even of heinous sins, that they might not upon every fall be overwhelmed with despair. Thus David seemed, to outward appearance, to be wholly deprived of the Spirit of God, whom he prays to be restored to him. The reason why God leaves hope of pardon even for detestable and deadly transgressions is, that the enormity of our sins may not keep us back or hinder us from seeking reconciliation with him. From this, we are led to condemn the undue severity of the fathers, who scrupled to receive to repentance those who had fallen for the second or third time. Due care must indeed be taken lest, by too great forbearance, loose reins should be given to men to commit iniquity; but there is no less danger in an extreme degree of rigour. It is to be observed, that when God declares that he will show himself merciful towards sinners, who have violated his law, and broken his commandments, he purposely employs these odious terms to excite our hatred and detestation of sin, and not to entice us to the commission of it. Still, however, we must understand the passage as amounting to this, That although the faithful may not in every instance act in a manner worthy of the grace of God, and may therefore deserve to be rejected by him, yet he will be merciful to them, because remission of sins is an essential article promised in his covenant. And, indeed, as God in his law requires us to perform what exceeds our power, all that he promises in it is of no avail to us, to whom it can never be accomplished. Hence Paul, in <450414>Romans 4:14, affirms, “If the inheritance come by the law, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect.” To this also belong these words of Jeremiah,

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; (which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord;) but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (<243131>Jeremiah 31:31-34)

Farther, since God does not adopt us as his children, to encourage us to take liberty to commit sin with the greater boldness, mention is here made at the same time of chastisement, by which he shows that he hates the sins of his children, and, warning them of what they have deserved in offending him, invites and exhorts them to repentance. This fatherly chastisement then, which operates as medicine, holds the medium between undue indulgence, which is an encouragement to sin, and extreme severity, which precipitates persons into destruction. Here the inspired writer adverts to the prophecy recorded in <100714>2 Samuel 7:14, where God declares that in chastising his own people, he will proceed after the manner of men —

“If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men.” (<100714>2 Samuel 7:14)

God there speaks of his chastising his people after the manner of men, either because the anger of a father in correcting his children proceeds from love, — for he sees that otherwise he would fail in promoting their good; or it contains a contrast between God and men, implying, that in the task of chastising he will proceed with moderation and gentleness; for, were he to put forth his strength, he would immediately bring us to nothing, yea, he could do this simply by moving one of his fingers. The scope of both passages undoubtedly is, that whenever God punishes the sins of true believers, he will observe a wholesome moderation; and it is therefore our duty to take all the punishments which he inflicts upon us, as so many medicines. On this point, the Papists have egregiously blundered. Not understanding the true end and fruit of chastisements, they have imagined that God proceeds herein as if avenging himself upon sinners. Whence arose their satisfactions, and from these again proceeded pardons and indulgences, by which they endeavored to redeem themselves from the hand and vengeance of God. fc552 But God has nothing else in view than to correct the vices of his children, in order that, after having thoroughly purged them, he may restore them anew to his favor and friendship; according to the words of Paul in <461133>1 Corinthians 11:33, which affirm that the faithful “are chastened of the Lord, that they should not be condemned with the world.” For this reason, lest they should be overwhelmed with the weight of chastisement, he restrains his hand, and makes considerate allowance for their infirmity. Thus the promise is fulfilled, That he does not withdraw his loving-kindness from his people, even when he is angry with them; for, while he is correcting them for their profit and salvation, he does not cease to love them. It is, however, to be observed, that there is a change of person in the words. After it is said, If his children shall forsake my law, etc., it is at length subjoined, My loving-kindness or mercy will I not withdraw from Him. It ought surely to have been said, them instead of him, since it is children in the plural number who are before spoken of. But it is very probable that this form of expression is purposely employed to teach us that we are reconciled to God only through Christ; and that if we would expect to find mercy, we must seek for it from that source alone. What follows in the end of the verse, I will not suffer my faithfulness to fail, is more emphatic than if it had been said that God will be true to what he has said. It is possible that God’s promise may fail of taking effect, and yet he may continue faithful. For example, the law is true and holy, and yet of what advantage is it to us that salvation is promised in the law, when no human being can ever obtain salvation by it? God then in this passage leads us farther; promising that his covenant shall be stedfast and effectual, not only because he will be faithful on his part, but also because he will keep his people from falling away through their own inconstancy.

34. My covenant will I not break. As the true knowledge of God’s mercy can only be obtained from his word, he enjoins us to keep our eyes intently fixed upon his covenant. The more excellent and invaluable a blessing it is, “Never to be rejected after having been once adopted by him,” the more difficult it is for us to believe its truth. And we know how many thoughts from time to time present themselves to our minds, tempting us to call it in question. That the faithful, therefore, may not harass themselves beyond measure in debating in their own minds whether or no they are in favor with God, they are enjoined to look to the covenant, and to embrace the salvation which is offered to them in it. God here commends to us his own faithfulness, that we may account his promise sufficient, and that we may not seek the certainty of our salvation any where else. He had said above, If the children of David break my statutes; and now, alluding to that breach, he declares that he will not requite them as they requite him, My covenant will I not break, implying, that although his people may not altogether act in a manner corresponding to their vocation, as they ought to do, he will not suffer his covenant to be broken and disannulled on account of their fault, because he will promptly and effectually prevent this in the way of blotting out their sins by a gratuitous pardon. He is still pursuing the illustration of the preceding proposition, I will not suffer my faithfulness to fail; promising not only to be faithful on his side, as we say, but also that what he has promised shall take full effect, in despite of all the impediments which men may cast in the way; for he will strive against their sins, that by means of them the fruit of his goodness may not be prevented from reaching them. When the Jews, by their ingratitude and treachery, revolted from him, the covenant was not disannulled, because it was founded upon the perfect immutability of his nature. And still, at the present day, when our sins mount even to the heavens, the goodness of God fails not to rise above them, since it is far above the heavens.

35. Once have I sworn by my holiness. God now confirms by an oath what he previously stated he had promised to David; from which it appears that it was not a matter of small importance; it being certain that God would not interpose his holy name in reference to what was of no consequence. It is a token of singular loving-kindness for him, upon seeing us prone to distrust, to provide a remedy for it so compassionately. We have, therefore, so much the less excuse if we do not embrace, with true and unwavering faith, his promise which is so strongly ratified, since in his deep interest about our salvation, he does not withhold his oath, that we may yield entire credence to his word. If we do not reckon his simple promise sufficient, he adds his oath, as it were, for a pledge. The adverb once, fc553 denotes that the oath is irrevocable, and that therefore we have not the least reason to be apprehensive of any inconstancy. He affirms that he sware by his holiness, because a greater than himself is not to be found, by whom he could swear. In swearing by Him, we constitute him our judge, and place him as sovereign over us, even as he is our sovereign by nature. It is a more emphatic manner of expression for him to say, by my holiness, than if he had said, by myself, not only because it magnifies and exalts his glory, but also because it is far more fitted for the confirmation of faith, calling back, as it does, the faithful to the earthly habitation which he had chosen for himself, that they might not think it necessary for them to seek him at a distance; for by the term holiness, I have no doubt, he means the sanctuary. And yet he swears by himself, and by nothing else; for, in naming the temple which he had appointed as his seat, he does not depart from himself; but, merely accommodating his language to our rude understandings, swears by his holiness which dwells visibly upon earth. With respect to the elliptical form of the oath, we have seen, in a previous psalm, that this was a manner of swearing quite common among the Hebrews. Thus they were warned that the name of God was not to be used without due consideration, lest, by using it rashly and irreverently, they should draw down upon themselves the Divine vengeance. The abrupt and suspended form of expression was, as it were, a bridle to restrain them, and give them opportunity for reflection. It is no uncommon thing for God to borrow something from the common custom of men.

36. His seed shall endure for ever. There now follows the promise that the right of sovereignty shall always remain with the posterity of David. These two things — his offspring and his throne, are conjoined; and by these words the everlasting duration of the kingdom is promised, so that it should never pass to those who were of a strange and different race. The sun and the moon are produced as witnesses; for although they are creatures subject to corruption, they yet possess more stability than the earth or air; the elements, as we see, being subject to continual changes. As the whole of this lower world is subject to unceasing agitation and change, there is presented to us a more stedfast state of things in the sun and moon, that the kingdom of David might not be estimated according to the common order of nature. Since, however, this royal throne was shaken in the time of Rehoboam, as we have before had occasion to remark, and afterwards broken down and overthrown, it follows that this prophecy cannot be limited to David. For although at length the outward majesty of this kingdom was put an end to without hope of being re-established, the sun ceased not to shine by day, nor the moon by night. Accordingly, until we come to Christ, God might seem to be unfaithful to his promises. But in the branch which sprung from the root of Jesse, these words were fulfilled in their fullest sense. fc554

<198938>Psalm 89:38-45

38. But thou hast abhorred and rejected him; thou hast been angry against thy anointed. 39. Thou hast made the covenant of thy servant to cease; fc555 thou hast profaned his crown to the earth. 40. Thou hast broken down all his walls; thou hast made his fortresses a ruin. 41. All who pass by the way have spoiled him: he has been a reproach to his neighbors. 42. Thou hast exalted the right hand of his oppressors; thou hast caused all his enemies to rejoice. 43. Thou hast also blunted the edge of his sword, and hast not made him to stand in battle. 44. Thou hast effaced his splendor, and cast his throne to the ground. 45. Thou hast shortened the days of his youth; thou hast covered him with shame. Selah.

 

38. But thou hast abhorred and rejected him. Here the prophet complains that in consequence of the decayed state of the kingdom, the prophecy appeared to have failed of its accomplishment. Not that he accuses God of falsehood; but he speaks in this manner, that he may with all freedom cast his cares and griefs into the bosom of God, who permits us to deal thus familiarly with him. It doubtless becomes us to frame our desires according to the divine will; but that person cannot be said to pass beyond due bounds who humbly laments that he is deprived of the tokens of the divine favor, provided be does not despair, or rebelliously murmur against God; and we shall afterwards see that the prophet, when he blesses God at the close of the psalm, affords a proof of tranquil submission, by which he corrects or qualifies his complaints. Whoever, therefore, that Rabbin was who maintained that it is unlawful to recite this psalm, he was led by a foolish and impious peevishness to condemn what God bears with in his children. In taking this liberty of expostulating with God, the prophet had no other object in view than that he might the more effectually resist distrust and impatience, by unburdening himself in the divine presence. Farther, the words, Thou hast abhorred and rejected him, if criticised according to the rules of the Greek and Latin language, will be pronounced inelegant; for the word which is most emphatic is put first, and then there is added another which is less emphatic. But as the Hebrews do not observe our manner of arrangement in this respect, the order here adopted is quite consistent with the idiom of the Hebrew language. The third verb contains the reason of this change on the part of God, teaching us that the king was rejected because God was incensed against him. It is thought by some that there is here a recital of the mockery in which the enemies of the chosen people indulged, an opinion which they adopt to avoid the difficulty arising from viewing this severe kind of complaint, as uttered by the Church, which proved such a stumbling-block to the Rabbin above referred to, that on account of it he condemned the whole psalm. But it is to be observed, that the prophet speaks according to the common feeling and apprehension of men; while at the same time he was fully convinced in his own mind, that the king who had been once chosen by God could not be rejected by him.

In the same sense we ought to understand what follows (verse 39) concerning the disannulling of the covenant — Thou hast made the covenant of thy servant to cease. The prophet does not charge God with levity and inconstancy: he only complains that those notable promises of which he had spoken had to appearance vanished and come to nought. Whenever the faithful put the question,

“How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord?” “Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord?” (<191301>Psalm 13:1; 44:23; 79:5,)

they assuredly are not to be understood as attributing forgetfulness or sleep to him: they only lay before him the temptations which flesh and blood suggest to them in order to induce him speedily to succor them under the infirmity with which they are distressed. It is not then wonderful, though the prophet, amidst such horrible desolation, was affected by the infirmities to which human nature is so liable in such circumstances, and thus prompted to make the assertion, that what God promised was far from being manifestly realised. When he saw all things going contrary to the Divine promise, he was not a man so steel-hearted as to remain unmoved at so pitiable and confused a spectacle. But coming freely into the Divine presence, he seeks a remedy that he might not be swallowed up with sorrow, which would have been the case had he indulged in secret repining, and neglected this means of alleviation. What is added in the close of the verse, Thou hast cast his crown to the earth, does not seem to apply to the time of Rehoboam, unless, perhaps, the dismemberment of the kingdom may be denoted by the casting of the crown to the earth. The statements which are made immediately after must necessarily be referred to some greater calamity. If this is admitted, the author of the psalm must have been a different person from Ethan, who was one of the four wise men, of whom mention is made in the sacred history, (<120431>2 Kings 4:31.) In so doubtful a case, I leave every one to adopt the conjecture which appears to him the most probable.

40. Thou hast broken down all his walls. The prophet, although he might easily have found another cause to which to impute the breaking down and razing of the fortifications, yet under the influence of devout and sanctified feeling acknowledges God to be the author of this calamity; being fully convinced that men could not at their pleasure have destroyed the kingdom which God had set up had not the Divine anger been kindled. Afterwards speaking metaphorically, he complains that the kingdom was exposed as a prey to all passers-by, resembling a field or garden, of which the walls were broken down, and the ground laid open to depredation. As an aggravation of a calamity which in itself was sufficiently grievous, the additional indignity is brought forward, that the king was a reproach to his neighbors. The worldly and the profane, there can be no doubt, finding an opportunity so much according to their wishes, derided him, saying, Is this that king of God’s choice, a king more excellent than the angels, and whose throne was to continue as long as the sun and the moon should endure? As these railings recoiled upon God himself, the prophet justly complains of the reproachful derision with which God’s Anointed was treated, whose dignity and royal estate were ratified and confirmed by heavenly anointing.

42. Thou hast exalted the right hand of his oppressors. Here he states that God took part with the enemies of the king; for he was well aware that these enemies could not have prevailed but by the will of God, who inspires some with courage, and renders others faint-hearted. In short, in proportion to the number of the calamities which had befallen the chosen people, was the number of the evidences of their having been forsaken by God; for, so long as he continued his favor, the whole world, by all their machinations, were unable to impair the stability of that kingdom. Had it been said that the enemies of the king obtained the victory, the statement would have been quite true; but it would not have been a mode of expression so obviously fitted to exalt the Divine power; as it might have been thought that men setting themselves in opposition to God had, by their own power, forced their way, and effected their purpose, even against those who enjoyed his protection. Accordingly, the prophet reflects with himself, that unless the Divine anger had been incensed, that kingdom which God had erected could not have been reduced to a condition so extremely wretched.

45. Thou hast shortened the days of his youth. Some would explain this sentence as meaning, that God had weakened the king, so that he faded or withered away at his very entrance upon the flower of youth, and was exhausted with old age before reaching the period of manhood. fc556 This exposition may be regarded as not improbable; but still it is to be observed, in order to our having a clearer understanding of the mind of the prophet, that he does not speak exclusively of any one individual, but compares the state of the kingdom to the life of man. His complaint then amounts to this, That God caused the kingdom to wax old, and finally to decay, before it reached a state of complete maturity; its fate resembling that of a young man, who, while yet increasing in strength and vigor, is carried away by a violent death before his time. This similitude is highly appropriate; for the kingdom, if we compare the state of it at that period with the Divine promise, had scarce yet fully unfolded its blossom, when, amidst its first advances, suddenly smitten with a grievous decay, its freshness and beauty were defaced, while at length it vanished away. Moreover, what we have previously stated must be borne in mind, that when the prophet complains that the issue does not correspond with the promise, or is not such as the promise led the chosen people to expect, he does not, on that account, charge God with falsehood, but brings forward this apparent discrepancy for another purpose — to encourage himself, from the consideration of the Divine promises, to come to the throne of grace with the greater confidence and boldness; and, while he urged this difficulty before God, he was fully persuaded that it was impossible for Him not to show himself faithful to his word. As the majority of men drink up their sorrow and keep it to themselves, because they despair of deriving any benefit from prayer so true believers, the more frankly and familiarly they appeal to God in reference to his promises, the more valiantly do they wrestle against their distrust, and encourage themselves in the hope of a favorable issue.

<198946>Psalm 89:46-48

46. How long, O Jehovah? wilt thou hide thyself for ever? shall thy fury burn like fire? 47. Remember of what age I am! fc557 why shouldst thou have created all the sons of men in vain? fc558 48. What man shall live, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul [or life] from the hand of the grave? fc559 Selah.

 

46. How long, O Jehovah? wilt thou hide thyself for ever? After having poured forth his complaints respecting the sad and calamitous condition of the Church, the Psalmist now turns himself to prayer. Whence it follows that the language of lamentation to which he had hitherto given utterance, although it emanated from carnal sense, was nevertheless conjoined with faith. Unbelievers, in the agitation of trouble, may sometimes engage in prayer, yet whatever they ask proceeds from feigned lips. But the prophet, by connecting prayer with his complaints, bears testimony that he had never lost his confidence in the truth of the Divine promises. With respect to this manner of expression, How long, for ever? we have spoken on <197905>Psalm 79:5, where we have shown that it denotes a long and continued succession of calamities. Moreover, by asking How long God will hide himself, he tacitly intimates that all will be well as soon as God is pleased to look upon his chosen people with a benignant countenance. In the second clause of the verse, he again mentions as the reason why God did not vouchsafe to look upon them with paternal favor, that his anger was incensed against them. The obvious conclusion from which is, that all the afflictions endured by us proceed from our sins; these being the scourges of an offended God.

47. Remember how short my time is. After having confessed that the severe and deplorable afflictions which had befallen the Church were to be traced to her own sins as the procuring cause, the prophet, the more effectually to move God to commiseration, lays before him the brevity of human life, in which, if we receive no taste of the Divine goodness, it will seem that we have been created in vain. That we may understand the passage the more clearly, it will be better to begin with the consideration of the last member of the verse, Why shouldst thou have created all the sons of men in vain? The faithful, in putting this question, proceed upon an established first principle, That God has created men and placed them in the world, to show himself a father to them. And, indeed, as his goodness extends itself even to the cattle and lower animals of every kind, fc560 it cannot for a moment be supposed, that we, who hold a higher rank in the scale of being than the brute creation, should be wholly deprived of it. Upon the contrary supposition, it were better for us that we had never been born, than to languish away in continual sorrow. There is, moreover, set forth the brevity of the course of our life; which is so brief, that unless God make timely haste in giving us some taste of his benefits, the opportunity for doing this will be lost, since our life passes rapidly away. The drift of this verse is now very obvious. In the first place, it is laid down as a principle, That the end for which men were created was, that they should enjoy God’s bounty in the present world; and from this it is concluded that they are born in vain, unless he show himself a father towards them. In the second place, as the course of this life is short, it is argued that if God does not make haste to bless them, the opportunity will no longer be afforded when their life shall have run out.

But here it may be said, in the first place, that the saints take too much upon them in prescribing to God a time in which to work; and, in the next place, that although he afflict us with continual distresses, so long as we are in our state of earthly pilgrimage, yet there is no ground to conclude from this that we have been created in vain, since there is reserved for us a better life in heaven, to the hope of which we have been adopted; and that, therefore, it is not surprising though now our life is hidden from us on earth. I answer, That it is by the permission of God that the saints take this liberty of urging him in their prayers to make haste; and that there is no impropriety in doing so, provided they, at the same time, keep themselves within the bounds of modesty, and, restraining the impetuosity of their affections, yield themselves wholly to his will. With respect to the second point, I grant that it is quite true, that although we must continue to drag out our life amidst continual distresses, we have abundant consolation to aid us in bearing all our afflictions, provided we lift up our minds to heaven. But still it is to be observed, in the first place, that it is certain, considering our great weakness, that no man will ever do this unless he has first tasted of the Divine goodness in this life; and, secondly, that the complaints of the people of God ought not to be judged of according to a perfect rule, because they proceed not from a settled and an undisturbed state of mind, but have always some excess arising from the impetuosity or vehemence of the affections at work in their minds. I at once allow that the man who measures the love of God from the state of things as presently existing, judges by a standard which must lead to a false conclusion;

“for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,” (<581206>Hebrews 12:6.)

But as God is never so severe towards his own people as not to furnish them with actual experimental evidence of his grace, it stands always true that life is profitless to men, if they do not feel, while they live, that He is their father.

As to the second clause of the verse, it has been stated elsewhere that our prayers do not flow in one uniform course, but sometimes betray an excess of sorrow. It is, therefore, not to be wondered at that the faithful, when immoderate sorrow or fear occupies their thoughts and keeps fast hold of them, experience such inattention stealing by degrees upon them, as to make them for a time forget to keep their minds fixed in meditation upon the life to come. Many think it very unaccountable, if the children of God do not, the first moment they begin to think, immediately penetrate into heaven, as if thick mists did not often intervene to impede or hinder us when we would look attentively into it. For faith to lose its liveliness is one thing, and for it to be utterly extinguished is another. And, doubtless, whoever is exercised in the judgments of God, and in conflict with temptations, will acknowledge that he is not so mindful of the spiritual life as he ought to be. Although then the question, Why shouldst thou have created all the sons of men in vain? is deduced from a true principle, yet it savours somewhat of a faulty excess. Whence it appears that even in our best framed prayers, we have always need of pardon. There always escapes from us some language or sentiment chargeable with excess, and therefore it is necessary for God to overlook or bear with our infirmity.

48. What man shall live, and shall not see death? This verse contains a confirmation of what has been already stated concerning the brevity of human life. The amount is, that unless God speedily hasten to show himself a father to men, the opportunity of causing them to experience his grace will no longer exist. The original word rbg, geber, which we have translated man, is derived from the verb rbg, gabar, he was strong, or he prevailed; and the sacred writer employs this word, the more forcibly to express the truth, that no man is privileged with exemption from the dominion of death.

<198949>Psalm 89:49-52

49. O Lord! where are thy former mercies? thou hast sworn to David in thy truth. 50. O Lord! Remember the reproach of thy servants: I have sustained in my bosom all the reproaches of mighty peoples; 51. With which thy enemies, O Jehovah! have reproached thee; with which they have reproached the footsteps of thy Messiah, [or thy Anointed.] 52. Blessed be Jehovah for ever! Amen, and Amen.

 

49. O Lord! where are thy former mercies? The prophet encourages himself, by calling to remembrance God’s former benefits, as if his reasoning were, That God can never be unlike himself, and that therefore the goodness which he manifested in old time to the fathers cannot come to an end. This comparison might indeed make the godly despond, when they find that they are not dealt with by him so gently as he dealt with the fathers, did not another consideration at the same time present itself to their minds — the consideration that he never changes, and never wearies in the course of his beneficence. As to the second clause of the verse, some interpreters connect it with the first, by interposing the relative, thus: — Where are thy former mercies which thou hast sworn? In this I readily acquiesce; for the sense is almost the same, although the relative be omitted. God had given evident and indubitable proofs of the truth of the oracle delivered to Samuel; fc561 and, therefore, the faithful lay before him both his promise and the many happy fruits of it which had been experienced. They say, in truth, that they may with the greater confidence apply to themselves, whatever tokens of his liberality God had in old time bestowed upon the fathers; for they had the same ground to expect the exercise of the Divine goodness towards them as the fathers had, God, who is unchangeably the same, having sworn to be merciful to the posterity of David throughout all ages.

50. O Lord! remember the reproach of thy servants. They again allege, that they are held in derision by the ungodly, — a consideration which had no small influence in moving God to compassion: for the more grievous and troublesome a temptation it is, to have the wicked deriding our patience, that, after having made us believe that God is not true in what he has promised, they may precipitate us into despair; the more ready is he to aid us, that our feeble minds may not yield to the temptation. The prophet does not simply mean that the reproaches of his enemies are to him intolerable, but that God must repress their insolence in deriding the faith and patience of the godly, in order that those who trust in him may not be put to shame. He enhances still more the same sentiment in the second clause, telling us, that he was assailed with all kind of reproaches by many peoples, or by the great peoples, for the Hebrew word ybr, rabbim, signifies both great and many.

Moreover, it is not without cause, that, after having spoken in general of the servants of God, he changes the plural into the singular number. He does this, that each of the faithful in particular may be the more earnestly stirred up to the duty of prayer. The expression, in my bosom, is very emphatic. It is as if he had said, The wicked do not throw from a distance their insulting words, but they vomit them, so to speak, upon the children of God, who are thus constrained to receive them into their bosom, and to bear patiently this base treatment. Such is the perversity of the time in which we live, that we have need to apply the same doctrine to ourselves; for the earth is full of profane and proud despisers of God, who cease not to make themselves merry at our expense. And as Satan is a master well qualified to teach them this kind of rhetoric, the calamities of the Church always furnish them with matter for exercising it. Some take bosom for the secret affection of the heart; but this exposition seems to be too refined.

51. With which thy enemies, O Jehovah! have reproached thee. What the Psalmist now affirms is, not that the wicked torment the saints with their contumelious language, but that they revile even God himself. And he makes this statement, because it is a much more powerful plea for obtaining favor in the sight of God, to beseech him to maintain his own cause, because all the reproaches by which the simplicity of our faith is held up to scorn recoil upon himself, than to beseech him to do this, because he is wounded in the person of his Church; according as he declares in Isaiah,

“Whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed; and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on high? even against the Holy One of Israel.” (<233723>Isaiah 37:23)

That wicked robber Rabshakeh thought that he scoffed only at the wretched Jews whom he besieged, and whose surrender of themselves into his hands he believed he would soon witness; but God took it as if he himself had been the object whom that wicked man directly assailed. On this account also, the prophet calls these enemies of his people the enemies of God; namely, because in persecuting the Church with deadly hostility, they made an assault upon the majesty of God, under whose protection the Church was placed.

In the second clause, by the footsteps of Messiah or Christ is meant the coming of Christ, even as it is said in <235207>Isaiah 52:7,

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace!” (<235207>Isaiah 52:7)

The Hebrew word bq[, akeb, sometimes signifies the heel; but here, as in many other passages, it signifies the sole of the foot. Others translate it the pace or step, but this gives exactly the same sense. There can be no doubt, that footsteps, by the figure synecdoche, is employed to denote the feet; and again, that by the feet, according to the figure metonomy, is meant the coming of Christ. The wicked, observing that the Jews clung to the hope of redemption, and patiently endured all adversities because a deliverer had been promised them, disdainfully derided their patience, as if all that the prophets had testified concerning the coming of Christ had been only a fable. fc562 And now also, although he has been once manifested to the world, yet as, in consequence of his having been received up into the glory of heaven, he seems to be far distant from us, and to have forsaken his Church, these filthy dogs scoff at our hope, as if it were a mere delusion.

52. Blessed be Jehovah for ever! I am surprised why some interpreters should imagine, that this verse was added by some transcriber in copying the book, affirming, that it does not correspond with the context: as if the language of praise and thanksgiving to God were not as suitable at the close of a psalm as at the opening of it. I have therefore no doubt, that the prophet, after having freely bewailed the calamities of the Church, now, with the view of allaying the bitterness of his grief, purposely breaks forth into the language of praise. As to the words Amen, and Amen, I readily grant, that they are here employed to distinguish the book. fc563 But whoever composed this psalm, there is no doubt, that by these words of rejoicing, the design of the writer was to assuage the greatness of his grief in the midst of his heavy afflictions, that he might entertain the livelier hope of deliverance.


PSALM 90

As Moses is about to treat as well of the brevity and miseries of human life, as of the punishments inflicted upon the people of Israel, in order to minister some consolation for assuaging the grief and fear which the faithful might have entertained upon observing the operation of the common law, to which all mankind are subject, and especially, upon considering their own afflictions, he opens the psalm by speaking of the peculiar grace which God had vouchsafed to his chosen tribes. He next briefly recites, how wretched the condition of men is, if they allow their hearts to rest in this world, especially when God summons them as guilty sinners to his judgment seat. And after he has bewailed, that even the children of Abraham had experienced for a time such severity, that they were almost consumed with sorrow, confiding in God’s free favor, by which He had adopted them to himself, he prays that He would deal towards them in a merciful and gracious manner, as he had done in times past, and that he would continue even to the end the ordinary course of his grace.

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.

It is uncertain whether this psalm was composed by Moses, or whether some one of the prophets framed it into a song for the use of the people, from a formula of prayer written by Moses, and handed down from age to age. It is, however, highly probable, that it is not without some ground ascribed to Moses in the title; and since psalms were in use even in his time, I have no doubt that he was its author. fc564 Some maintain that the reason why his name appears in the inscription is, that it was sung by his posterity; but I cannot see why they should have recourse to such a groundless conceit. The epithet, The man of God, given to Moses, which is immediately added, clearly confutes them. fc565 This honorable designation is expressly applied to him, that his doctrine may have the greater authority. If conjectures are to be admitted, it is probable, that when the time of his death drew near, he endited this prayer to assuage the prolonged sorrow under which the people had almost pined away, and to comfort their hearts, under the accumulation of adversities with which they were oppressed. Although the wonderful goodness of God shone brightly in their deliverance from Egypt, which, burying the miseries formerly endured by them, might have filled them with joy; yet we know that, soon after, it was extinguished by their ingratitude; so that for the space of not less than forty years, they were consumed with continual languor in the wilderness. It was therefore very seasonable for Moses at that time to beseech God that he would deal mercifully and gently with his people, according to the number of the years in which he had afflicted them.

<199001>Psalm 90:1-2

1. O Lord! thou hast been our dwelling-place, from generation to generation. 2. Before the mountains were brought forth, and before thou hadst formed the earth and the world, fc566 even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

 

1. O Lord! thou hast been our dwelling-place. In separating the seed of Abraham by special privilege from the rest of the human family, the Psalmist magnifies the grace of adoption, by which God had embraced them as his children. The object which he has in view in this exordium is, that God would now renew the grace which he had displayed in old time towards the holy patriarchs, and continue it towards their offspring. Some commentators think that he alludes to the tabernacle, because in it the majesty of God was not less conspicuous than if he had dwelt in the midst of the people; but this seems to me to be altogether out of place. He rather comprehends the whole time in which the Fathers sojourned in the land of Canaan. As the tabernacle had not yet continued for the space of forty years, the long duration here mentioned — our dwelling-place from generation to generationwould not at all be applicable to it. It is not then intended to recount what God showed himself to be towards the Israelites from the time that he delivered them from Egypt; but what their fathers had experienced him to be in all ages, even from the beginning. fc567 Now it is declared that as they had always been pilgrims and wanderers, so God was to them instead of a dwelling-place. No doubt, the condition of all men is unstable upon earth; but we know that Abraham and his posterity were, above all others, sojourners, and as it were exiles. Since, then, they wandered in the land of Canaan till they were brought into Egypt, where they lived only by sufferance from day to day, it was necessary for them to seek for themselves a dwelling-place under the shadow of God, without which they could hardly be accounted inhabitants of the world, since they continued everywhere strangers, and were afterwards led about through many windings and turnings. The grace which the Lord displayed in sustaining them in their wanderings, and shielding them with his hand when they sojourned among savage and cruel nations, and were exposed to injurious treatment at their hands — this grace is extolled by Moses in very striking terms, when he represents God as an abode or dwelling-place to these poor fugitives who were continually wandering from one place to another in quest of lodgings. This grace he magnifies from the length of time during which it had been exercised; for God ceased not to preserve and defend them for the space of more than four hundred years, during which time they dwelt under the wings of his protection.

2. Before the mountains were brought forth. Moses designs to set forth some high and hidden mystery, and yet he seems to speak feebly, and, as it were, in a puerile manner. For who does not know that God existed before the world? This we grant is a truth which all men admit; but we will scarcely find one in a hundred who is thoroughly persuaded that God remains unchangeably the same. God is here contrasted with created beings, who, as all know, are subject to continual changes, so that there is nothing stable under heaven. As, in a particular manner, nothing is fuller of vicissitude than human life, that men may not judge of the nature of God by their own fluctuating condition, he is here placed in a state of settled and undisturbed tranquillity. Thus the everlastingness of which Moses speaks is to be referred not only to the essence of God, but also to his providence, by which he governs the world. Although he subjects the world to many alterations, he remains unmoved; and that not only in regard to himself, but also in regard to the faithful, who find from experience, that instead of being wavering, he is stedfast in his power, truth, righteousness, and goodness, even as he has been from the beginning. This eternal and unchangeable stedfastness of God could not be perceived prior to the creation of the world, since there were as yet no eyes to be witnesses of it. But it may be gathered a posteriori; for while all things are subject to revolution and incessant vicissitude, his nature continues always the same. There may be also here a contrast between him and all the false gods of the heathen, who have, by little and little, crept into the world in such vast numbers, through the error and folly of men. But I have already shown the object which Moses has in view, which is, that we mistake if we measure God by our own understanding; and that we must mount above the earth, yea, even above heaven itself, whenever we think upon him.

<199003>Psalm 90:3-8

3. Thou shalt turn man to destruction, and shalt say, Return, ye sons of Adam. 4. For a thousand years in thy sight are as yesterday when it is gone, and as a watch in the night. 5. Thou carriest them away as with a flood, they will be a sleep: in the morning he shall grow as grass: 6. In the morning it shall flourish and grow: at the evening it shall be cut down, and shall wither. 7. For we fail by thy anger, and are affrighted by thy indignation. 8. Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, and our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.

 

3. Thou shalt turn man to destruction. Moses, in the first place, mentions how frail and transitory is the life of man, and bewails its miseries. This he does, not for the purpose of quarrelling with God, but as an argument to induce him the more readily to exercise his mercy, even as he is elsewhere said to pardon mortal men, when he considers of what they are made, and remembers that they are but dust and grass, (<19A314>Psalm 103:14.) he compares the course of our life to a ring or circle, because God, placing us upon the earth, turns us about within a narrow circuit, and when we have reached the last point, draws us back to himself in a moment. Others give a different interpretation, namely, that God leads men forth to death, and afterwards restores them at the resurrection. But this subtilty is far-fetched, and does not harmonise with the context. We have here laid down a simple definition of our life, that it is, as it were, a short revolution in which we quickly complete our circle, the last point of which is the termination of our earthly course. This account of human life sets in a clearer light the gracious manner in which God deals with his servants, in adopting them to be his peculiar people, that he may at length gather them together into his everlasting inheritance. Nor is it in vain that it is added, by way of contrast, (verse 4,) that a thousand years in God’s sight are as yesterday. Although we are convinced from experience that men, when they have completed their circle, are forthwith taken out of the world, yet the knowledge of this frailty fails in making a deep impression upon our hearts, because we do not lift our eyes above the world. Whence proceeds the great stupidity of men, who, bound fast to the present state of existence, proceed in the affairs of life as if they were to live two thousand years, but because they do not elevate their conceptions above visible objects? Each man, when he compares himself with others, flatters himself that he will live to a great age. In short, men are so dull as to think that thirty years, or even a smaller number, are, as it were, an eternity; nor are they impressed with the brevity of their life so long as this world keeps possession of their thoughts. This is the reason why Moses awakens us by elevating our minds to the eternity of God, without the consideration of which we perceive not how speedily our life vanishes away. The imagination that we shall have a long life, resembles a profound sleep in which we are all benumbed, until meditation upon the heavenly life swallow up this foolish fancy respecting the length of our continuance upon earth.

As men are thus blinded, Moses sets before their view God as their judge. O Lord! as if he had said, if men would duly reflect upon that eternity from which thou beholdest these inconstant circlings of the world, they would not make so great account of the present life. But as, instead of seriously considering what is true duration, they rather wilfully turn away their eyes from heaven, this explains why they are so stupid, and look upon one day as if it were a hundred years. Moses’ apostrophe to God is emphatic, implying that his patience being exhausted at seeing us so thoughtless, he addresses himself to God; and that it was labor to no purpose for him to speak to the deaf, who would not be taught that they were mortal, no, not even by the proofs of this, which experience was constantly presenting before them. This text is quoted by the Apostle Peter in a sense somewhat different, (<610308>2 Peter 3:8,) while at the same time he does not pervert it, for he aptly and judiciously applies the testimony of Moses in illustration of the subject of which he is there treating. The design of Moses is to elevate the minds of men to heaven by withdrawing them from their own gross conceptions. And what is the object of Peter? As many, because Christ does not hasten his coming according to their desire, cast off the hope of the resurrection through the weariness of long delay, he corrects this preposterous impatience by a very suitable remedy. He perceives men’s faith in the Divine promises fainting and failing, from their thinking that Christ delays his coming too long. Whence does this proceed, but because they grovel upon the earth? Peter therefore appropriately applies these words of Moses to cure this vice. As the indulgence in pleasures to which unbelievers yield themselves is to be traced to this, that having their hearts too much set upon the world, they do not taste the pleasures of a celestial eternity; so impatience proceeds from the same source. Hence we learn the true use of this doctrine. To what is it owing that we have so great anxiety about our life, that nothing suffices us, and that we are continually molesting ourselves, but because we foolishly imagine that we shall nestle in this world for ever? Again, to what are we to ascribe that extreme fretfulness and impatience, which make our hearts fail in waiting for the coming of Christ, but to their grovelling upon the earth? Let us learn then not to judge according to the understanding of the flesh, but to depend upon the judgment of God; and let us elevate our minds by faith, even to his heavenly throne, from which he declares that this earthly life is nothing. Nor does Moses simply contrast a thousand years with one day, but he contrasts them with yesterday, which is already gone; for whatever is still before our eyes has a hold upon our minds, but we are less affected with the recollection of what is past. In regard to the word watch, the ancients, as is well known, were accustomed to divide the night into four watches, consisting of three hours each. fc568 To express still more forcibly how inconsiderable that which appears to us a long period is in God’s eyes, this similitude is added, That a thousand years in his sight differ nothing from three hours of the night, in which men scarcely know whether they are awake or asleep.

5. Thou carriest them away as with a flood. Moses confirms what he had previously said, That men, so long as they are sojourners in this world, perform, as it were, a revolution which lasts only for a moment. I do not limit the expression to carry away as with a flood to calamities of a more grievous kind, but consider that death is simply compared in general to a flood; for when we have staid a little while in the world, we forthwith fall into the grave and are covered with earth. Thus death, which is common to all, is with propriety called an inundation. While we are breathing the breath of life, the Lord overflows us by death, just as those who perish in a shipwreck are engulfed in the ocean; so that death may be fitly called an invisible deluge. And Moses affirms, that it is then evidently seen that men who flatter themselves that they are possessed of wonderful vigor in their earthly course, are only as a sleep. The comparison of grass which is added, amounts to this, That men come forth in the morning as grass springs up, that they become green, or pass away within a short time, when being cut down, they wither and decay. The verbs in the 6th verse being in the singular number, it is better to connect them with the word grass. But they may also be appropriately referred to each man; and as it makes little difference as to the sense of the text, whether we make grass or each man the nominative to the verbs, I am not disposed to expend much labor upon the matter. This doctrine requires to be continually meditated upon; for although we all confess that nothing is more transitory than our life, yet each of us is soon carried away, as it were, by a frantic impulse to picture to his own imagination an earthly immortality. Whoever bears in mind that he is mortal, restrains himself, that instead of having his attention and affections engrossed beyond measure with earthly objects, he may advance with haste to his mark. When we set no limit to our cares, we require to be urged forward by continual goadings, that we may not dream of a thousand lives instead of one, which is but as a shadow that quickly vanishes away.

7. For we fail by thy anger. Moses makes mention of the anger of God advisedly; for it is necessary that men be touched with the feeling of this, in order to their considering in good earnest, what experience constrains them to acknowledge, how soon they finish their course and pass away. He had, however, still another reason for joining together the brevity of human life and the anger of God. Whilst men are by nature so transitory, and, as it were, shadowy, the Israelites were afflicted by the hostile hand of God; and his anger is less supportable by our frail natures, which speedily vanish away, than it would be were we furnished with some tolerable degree of strength.

8. Thou hast set our iniquities before thee. To show that by this complaint he is far from intending to murmur against God, he asserts that the Divine anger, however terrible it had been, was just, inasmuch as the people had provoked it by their iniquities; for those who, when stricken by the Divine hand, are not brought to genuine humiliation, harden themselves more and more. The true way to profit, and also to subdue our pride, is to feel that He is a righteous judge. Accordingly Moses, after having briefly taught that men by nature vanish away like smoke, gathers from thence that it is not to be wondered at if God exanimates and consumes those whom he pursues with his wrath. The manner of the expression by which God is described as showing the tokens of his anger is to be observed — he sets the iniquities of men before his eyes. Hence it follows, that whatever intermission of punishment we experience ought in justice to be ascribed to the forbearance of. God, who buries our sins that he may spare us. The word ymwl[, alumim, which I have rendered our secret sins, is translated by some, our youth; fc569 as if Moses had said that the faults committed in youth are brought to remembrance. But this is too forced, and inconsistent with the scope of the passage; for it would destroy the contrast between secret sins and the light of God’s countenance, by which Moses intimates that men hide themselves in darkness, and wrap themselves in many deceits, so long as God does not shine upon them with the light of his judgment; whereas, when he draws them back from their subterfuges, by which they endeavor to escape from him, and sets before his eyes the sins which they hide by hypocrisy, being subdued by fear and dread, they are brought sincerely to humble themselves before him.

<199009>Psalm 90:9-10

9. For all our days are passed away in thy indignation: we have spent our years as it were a thought. fc570 10. In the days of our years there are threescore years and ten: and if through strength they are fourscore years, yet is their pride but labor and grief; for it fc571 swiftly passes by, and we fly away.

 

9. For all our days are passed away in thy indignation. This might be viewed as a general confirmation of the preceding sentence, That the whole course of man’s life is suddenly brought to an end, as soon as God shows himself displeased. But in my opinion Moses rather amplifies what he has said above concerning the rigour of God’s wrath, and his strict examination of every case in which he punishes sin. He asserts that this terror which God brought upon his people was not only for a short time, but that it was extended without intermission even to death. He complains that the Jews had almost wasted away by continual miseries; because God neither remitted nor mitigated his anger. It is therefore not surprising to find him declaring that their years passed away like a tale, when God’s anger rested upon them so unremittingly.

10. In the days of our years there are threescore years and ten. He again returns to the general doctrine respecting the precariousness of the condition of men, although God may not openly display his wrath to terrify them. “What,” says he, “is the duration of life? Truly, if we reckon all our years, we will at length come to threescore and ten, or, if there be some who are stronger and more vigorous, they will bring us even to fourscore.” Moses uses the expression, the days of our years, for the sake of emphasis; for when the time is divided into small portions, the very number itself deceives us, so that we flatter ourselves that life is long. With the view of overthrowing these vain delusions, he permits men to sum up the many thousand days fc572 which are in a few years; while he at the same time affirms that this great heap is soon brought to nothing. Let men then extend the space of their life as much as they please, by calculating that each year contains three hundred and sixty-five days; yet assuredly they will find that the term of seventy years is short. When they have made a lengthened calculation of the days, this is the sum in which the process ultimately results. He who has reached the age of fourscore years hastens to the grave. Moses himself lived longer, (<053407>Deuteronomy 34:7,) fc573 and so perhaps did others in his time; but he speaks here of the ordinary term. And even then, those were accounted old men, and in a manner decrepit, who attained to the age of fourscore years; so that he justly declares that it is the robust only who arrive at that age. He puts pride for the strength or excellence of which men boast so highly. The sense is, that before men decline and come to old age, even in the very bloom of youth they are involved in many troubles, and that they cannot escape from the cares, weariness, sorrows, fears, griefs, inconveniences, and anxieties, to which this mortal life is subject. Moreover, this is to be referred to the whole course of our existence in the present state. And assuredly, he who considers what is the condition of our life from our infancy until we descend into the grave, will find troubles and turmoil in every part of it. The two Hebrew words lm[, amal, and ˆwa, aven, which are joined together, are taken passively for inconveniences and afflictions; implying that the life of man is full of labor, and fraught with many torments, and that even at the time when men are in the height of their pride. The reason which is added, for it swiftly passes by, and we fly away, seems hardly to suit the scope of the passage; for felicity may be brief, and yet on that account it does not cease to be felicity. But Moses means that men foolishly glory in their excellence, since, whether they will or no, they are constrained to look to the time to come. And as soon as they open their eyes, they see that they are dragged and carried forward to death with rapid haste, and that their excellence is every moment vanishing away.

<199011>Psalm 90:11-13

11. Who knoweth the power of thy anger? and according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. 12. Teach us so fc574 to number our days, and we shall apply our hearts to wisdom. 13. Return, O Jehovah! how long? Be pacified towards thy servants.

 

11. Who knoweth, the power of thy anger? Moses again returns to speak of the peculiar afflictions of the Israelites; for he had also on this occasion complained before of the common frailty and miseries of mankind. He justly exclaims that the power of God’s wrath is immeasurably great. So long as God withholds his hand, men wantonly leap about like runaway slaves, who are no longer afraid at the sight of their master; nor can their rebellious nature be reduced to obedience in any other way than by his striking them with the fear of his judgment. The meaning then is, that whilst God hides himself, and, so to speak, dissembles his displeasure, men are inflated with pride, and rush upon sin with reckless impetuosity; but when they are compelled to feel how dreadful his wrath is, they forget their loftiness, and are reduced to nothing. What follows, According to thy fear, so is thy wrath, is commonly explained as denoting that the more a man is inspired with reverence towards God, the more severely and sternly is he commonly dealt with; for “judgment begins at the house of God,” (<600417>1 Peter 4:17.) Whilst he pampers the reprobate with the good things of this life, he wastes his chosen ones with continual troubles; and in short, “whom he loveth he chasteneth,” (<581206>Hebrews 12:6.) It is then a true and profitable doctrine that he deals more roughly with those who serve him than with the reprobate. But Moses, I think, has here a different meaning, which is, that it is a holy awe of God, and that alone, which makes us truly and deeply feel his anger. We see that the reprobate, although they are severely punished, only chafe upon the bit, or kick against God, or become exasperated, or are stupified, as if they were hardened against all calamities; so far are they from being subdued. And though they are full of trouble, and cry aloud, yet the Divine anger does not so penetrate their hearts as to abate their pride and fierceness. The minds of the godly alone are wounded with the wrath of God; nor do they wait for his thunderbolts, to which the reprobate hold out their hard and iron necks, but they tremble the very moment when God moves only his little finger. This I consider to be the true meaning of the prophet. He had said that the human mind could not sufficiently comprehend the dreadfulness of the Divine wrath. And we see how, although God shakes heaven and earth, many notwithstanding, like the giants of old, treat this with derision, and are actuated by such brutish arrogance, that they despise him when he brandishes his bolts. But as the Psalmist is treating of a doctrine which properly belongs to true believers, he affirms that they have a strongly sensitive feeling of the wrath of God which makes them quietly submit themselves to his authority. Although to the wicked their own conscience is a tormentor which does not suffer them to enjoy repose, yet so far is this secret dread from teaching them to humble themselves, that it excites them to clamor against God with increasing frowardness. In short, the faithful alone are sensible of God’s wrath; and being subdued by it, they acknowledge that they are nothing, and with true humility devote themselves wholly to Him. This is wisdom to which the reprobate cannot attain, because they cannot lay aside the pride with which they are inflated. They are not touched with the feeling of God’s wrath, because they do not stand in awe of him.

12. Teach us so to number our days. Some translate to the number of our days, which gives the same sense. As Moses perceived that what he had hitherto taught is not comprehended by the understandings of men until God shine upon them by his Spirit, he now sets himself to prayer. It indeed seems at first sight absurd to pray that we may know the number of our years. What? since even the strongest scarcely reach the age of fourscore years, is there any difficulty in reckoning up so small a sum? Children learn numbers as soon as they begin to prattle; and we do not need a teacher in arithmetic to enable us to count the length of a hundred upon our fingers. So much the fouler and more shameful is our stupidity in never comprehending the short term of our life. Even he who is most skillful in arithmetic, and who can precisely and accurately understand and investigate millions of millions, is nevertheless unable to count fourscore years in his own life. It is surely a monstrous thing that men can measure all distances without themselves, that they know how many feet the moon is distant from the center of the earth, what space there is between the different planets; and, in short, that they can measure all the dimensions both of heaven and earth; while yet they cannot number threescore and ten years in their own case. It is therefore evident that Moses had good reason to beseech God for ability to perform what requires a wisdom which is very rare among mankind. The last clause of the verse is also worthy of special notice. By it he teaches us that we then truly apply our hearts to wisdom when we comprehend the shortness of human life. What can be a greater proof of madness than to ramble about without proposing to one’s self any end? True believers alone, who know the difference between this transitory state and a blessed eternity, for which they were created, know what ought to be the aim of their life. No man then can regulate his life with a settled mind, but he who, knowing the end of it, that is to say death itself, is led to consider the great purpose of man’s existence in this world, that he may aspire after the prize of the heavenly calling.

13. Return, O Jehovah! how long? After having spoken in the language of complaint, Moses adds a prayer, That God, who had not ceased for a long time severely to punish his people, would at length be inclined to deal gently with them. Although God daily gave them in many ways some taste of his love, yet their banishment from the land of promise was a very grievous affliction; for it admonished them that they were unworthy of that blessed inheritance which he had appointed for his children. They could not fail often to remember that dreadful oath which he had thundered out against them,

“Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness,”
(<041423>Numbers 14:23, 32.) fc575

Moses, no doubt, combines that sore bondage which they had suffered in Egypt with their wanderings in the wilderness; and therefore he justly bewails their protracted languishing in the words how long? As God is said to turn his back upon us, or to depart to a distance from us, when he withdraws the tokens of his favor, so by his return we are to understand the manifestation of his grace. The word jn, nacham, which we have translated be pacified, signifies to repent, and may therefore not improperly be explained thus: Let it repent thee concerning thy servants. According to the not unfrequent and well known phraseology of Scripture, God is said to repent, when putting away men’s sorrow, and affording new ground of gladness, he appears as it were to be changed. Those, however, seem to come nearer the mind of the Psalmist who translate, Comfort thyself over thy servants; for God, in cherishing us tenderly, takes no less pleasure in us than does a father in his own children. Now that is nothing else than to be pacified or propitious, as we have translated it, to make the meaning the more obvious.

<199014>Psalm 90:14-17

14. Satiate us early fc576 with thy goodness, and we will be glad and rejoice all our days. 15. Make us joyful according to the days of our affliction; according to the years in which we have seen evil. 16. Let thy work appear towards thy servants, and thy glory upon their children. 17. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us; and direct the work of our hands upon us; yea, direct thou the work of our hands.

 

16. Let thy work appear towards thy servants. As God, when he forsakes his Church, puts on as it were a character different from his own, Moses, with much propriety, calls the blessing of protection which had been divinely promised to the children of Abraham God’s proper work. Although, therefore, God’s work was manifest in all the instances in which he had punished the perfidiousness, ingratitude, obstinacy, unruly lusts, and unhallowed desires of his people, yet Moses, by way of eminence, prefers before all other proofs of God’s power, that care which he exercised in maintaining the welfare of the people, by which it was his will that he should be principally known. This is the reason why Paul, in <450923>Romans 9:23, especially applies to the Divine goodness the honorable title of “glory.” God indeed maintains his glory by judging the world; but as nothing is more natural to him than to show himself gracious, his glory on that account is said to shine forth chiefly in his benefits. With respect to the present passage, God had then only begun to deliver his people; for they had still to be put in possession of the land of Canaan. Accordingly, had they gone no farther than the wilderness, the lustre of their deliverance would have been obscured. Besides, Moses estimates the work of God according to the Divine promise; and doing this he affirms that it will be imperfect and incomplete, unless he continue his grace even to the end. This is expressed still more plainly in the second clause of the verse, in which he prays not only for the welfare of his own age, but also for the welfare of the generation yet unborn. His exercise thus corresponds with the form of the covenant,

“And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenants to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee,”
(<011707>Genesis 17:7.)

By this example we are taught, that in our prayers we ought to extend our care to those who are to come after us. As God has promised that the Church will be perpetuated even to the end of the world, — a subject which was brought under our notice in the preceding psalm, — this ought, in a special manner, to lead us in all the prayers by which we commend the welfare of the Church to him, to include, at the same time, our posterity who are yet unborn. Farther, the words glory and beauty are to be particularly noticed: from which we learn that the love which God bears towards us is unparalleled. Although, in enriching us with his gifts he gains nothing for himself; yet he would have the splendor and beauty of his character manifested in dealing bountifully with us, as if his beauty were obscured when he ceases to do us good. In the clause immediately succeeding, Direct the work of our hands upon us, Moses intimates that we cannot undertake or attempt anything with the prospect of success, unless God become our guide and counsellor, and govern us by his Spirit. Whence it follows, that the reason why the enterprises and efforts of worldly men have a disastrous issue is, because, in not following God, they pervert all order and throw everything into confusion. Nor is the word wnyl[, alenu, upon us, superfluous; for although God converts to good in the end whatever Satan and the reprobate plot and practice against him or his people; yet the Church, in which God rules with undisturbed sway, has in this respect a special privilege. By his providence, which to us is incomprehensible, he directs his work in regard to the reprobate externally; but he governs his believing people internally by his Holy Spirit; and therefore he is properly said to order or direct the work of their hands. The repetition shows that a continual course of perseverance in the grace of God is required. It would not be enough for us to be brought to the midst of our journey. He must enable us to complete the whole course. Some translate, confirm or establish; and this sense may be admitted. I have, however, followed that translation which was more agreeable to the context, conceiving the prayer to be that God would direct to a prosperous issue all the actions and undertakings of his people.


PSALM 91

In this psalm we are taught that God watches over the safety of his people, and never fails them in the hour of danger. They are exhorted to advance through all perils, secure in the confidence of his protection. The truth inculcated is one of great use, for though many talk much of God’s providence, and profess to believe that he exercises a special guardianship over his own children, few are found actually willing to intrust their safety to him. fc377

<199101>Psalm 91:1-4

1. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the High One shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2. I will say to Jehovah, He is my hope and my fortress: my God; in him will I hope. 3. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, from the noxious pestilence. 4. He shall protect thee with his wings, and under his feathers shalt thou be safe; his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

 

1. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the High One. Some Hebrew interpreters read the three first verses as one continuous sentence, down to the words, he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler. The whole would then run thus — “He who dwells in the covert of the Most High, and abides under his shadow, to him will I say of Jehovah, that he is his hope and defense, and the God in whom he may safely rest, for he shall deliver him from the snare,” etc. This is evidently a forced construction to put upon the verses, and the reason which has led some to adopt it is weak and insufficient. They consider that the first verse repeats the same thing twice, and therefore conveys no proper meaning. But this is a great mistake; for the inspired penman of the psalm, whoever he may have been, states two ideas quite distinct, That he who is hid under the Divine protection occupies a safe and secure position, where no hostile weapon can reach him. Or should the verse be read — He who has God to be the guardian of his safety shall rest under the shadow of God; still the second clause would retain an emphatic meaning, for the power of God would be contrasted with that weak defense which man is able to extend. Those, too, who dwell in the secret place of God are here said by the Psalmist to dwell under his shadow, in the sense that they experience to what a rich extent his protection reaches. Men generally seek out a great-variety of hiding-places, having recourse to one or another, according as the calamities are different which threaten to overtake them; but here we are taught that the only safe and impregnable fortress to which we can betake ourselves is the protection of God. He contrasts the security of those who trust in God with the vanity of all other confidences by which we are apt to delude ourselves.

In the second verse he repeats the truth which he had already inculcated, showing at the same time that he speaks from his personal feeling and experience as a believer. This is very necessary in one who would be a teacher; for we cannot communicate true knowledge unless we deliver it not merely with the lips, but as something which God has revealed to our own hearts. fc578 The Psalmist accordingly gives evidence, that what he had taught in the preceding verse accorded with his own inward experience. Some read, I will say concerning the Lord, and the Hebrew prefix, l, lamed, may be so rendered; but the other translation which I have given conveys the more forcible meaning. The believer does more than simply resolve to make God his fortress; he draws near in the trust of the Divine promises, and familiarly addresses God. This confidence in prayer affords an additional proof how securely the people of God can dwell under his shadow. This holy species of boasting constitutes the very highest triumph of faith, when we betake ourselves to God without fear under our worst trials, and are fully persuaded that he answers all our prayers, nay, that we have in him a sufficiency and a superabundance of help.

In verse third the Psalmist expresses his assurance that the trust of which he had spoken would not be vain and delusory, but that God would prove at all times the deliverer of his people. He is evidently to be considered as addressing himself, and in this way encouraging his own heart to hope in the Lord. Some think that by the snare of the fowler, spoken of here in connection with the pestilence, is to be understood hidden mischief as distinguished from open aggression, and that the Psalmist declares the Divine protection to be sufficient for him, whether Satan should attack him openly and violently or by more secret and subtle methods. I would not reject this interpretation; for though some may think that the words should be taken in their simpler acceptation, the Psalmist most probably intended under these terms to denote all different kinds of evil, and to teach us that God was willing and able to deliver us from any of them.

4. He shall protect thee with his wings. This figure, which is employed in other parts of Scripture, is one which beautifully expresses the singularly tender care with which God watches over our safety. When we consider the majesty of God, there is nothing which would suggest a likeness such as is here drawn between him and the hen or other birds, who spread their wings over their young ones to cherish and protect them. But, in accommodation to our infirmity, he does not scruple to descend, as it were, from the heavenly glory which belongs to him, and to encourage us to approach him under so humble a similitude. Since he condescends in such a gracious manner to our weakness, surely there is nothing to prevent us from coming to him with the greatest freedom. By the truth of God, which, the Psalmist says, would be his shield and buckler, we must understand God’s faithfulness, as never deserting his people in the time of their need; still we cannot doubt that he had in his eye the Divine promises, for it is only by looking to these that any can venture to cast themselves upon the protection of God. As, without the word, we cannot come to the enjoyment of that Divine mercy of which the Psalmist had already spoken, he now comes forward himself to bear witness in behalf of it. Formerly, under the comparison of a fortress, he had taught that by trusting in God we shall enjoy safety and security; now he compares God to a shield, intimating that he will come between us and all our enemies to preserve us from their attacks.

<199105>Psalm 91:5-8

5. Thou shalt not fear for the terror of the night; for the arrow that flieth by day; 6. For the destruction that walketh in darkness; for the pestilence fc579 which wasteth at noon-day. fc580 7. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; it shall not come nigh thee. 8. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

 

5. Thou shalt not fear for the terror of the night. The Psalmist continues to insist upon the truth which I have just adverted to, that, if we confide with implicit reliance upon the protection of God, we will be secure from every temptation and assault of Satan. It is of importance to remember, that those whom God has taken under his care are in a state of the most absolute safety. Even those who have reached the most advanced experience find nothing more difficult than to rely upon Divine deliverance; and more especially when, overtaken by some of the many forms in which danger and death await us in this world, doubts will insinuate themselves into our hearts, giving rise to fear and disquietude. There was reason, therefore, why the Psalmist should enter upon a specification of different evils, encouraging the Lord’s people to look for more than one mode of deliverance, and to bear up under various and accumulated calamities. Mention is made of the fear of the night, because men are naturally apprehensive in the dark, or because the night exposes us to dangers of different kinds, and our fears are apt at such a season to magnify any sound or disturbance. The arrow, rather than another weapon, is instanced as flying by day, for the reason apparently that it shoots to a greater distance, and with such swiftness, that we can with difficulty escape it. The verse which follows states, though in different words, the same truth, that there is no kind of calamity which the shield of the Almighty cannot ward off and repel.

7. A thousand shall fall at thy side. fc581 He proceeds to show that, though the state of all men may to appearance be alike, the believer has the special privilege of being exempted from evils of an imminent and impending nature; for it might be objected that he was but man, and, as such, exposed with others to death in its thousand different forms. To correct this mistake, the Psalmist does not hesitate to assert that, when universal ruin prevails around, the Lord’s children are the objects of his distinguishing care, and are preserved amidst the general destruction. The lesson is one which is needed by us all, that, though naturally subject to the common evils which are spread around, we are privileged with a special exemption which secures our safety in the midst of dangers. In the verse succeeding more is meant than merely that the believer will have personal experience of the truth which the Psalmist had stated, actually feeling and seeing with his own eyes that God manages his defense; a new argument is brought forward in support of the truth, which is this, that God, as the righteous judge of the world, cannot but punish the wicked according to their sins, and extend protection to his own children. There is much that is dark in the aspect of things in this world, yet the Psalmist hints that, amidst all the confusion which reigns, we may collect from what we see of God’s judgments, that he does not disappoint the expectations of his believing people. He must be considered, however, as addressing those who have eyes to see, who are privileged with the true light of faith, who are fully awake to the consideration of the Divine judgments, and who wait patiently and quietly till the proper time arrive; for most men stagger and confuse their minds upon this subject, by starting to precipitate conclusions, and are prevented from discovering the providence of God by judging according to sense. It becomes us too to be satisfied with apprehending the judgments of God only in some imperfect measure while we remain upon earth, and leaving him to defer the fuller discovery of them to the day of complete revelation.

<199109>Psalm 91:9-12

9. Because thou, Jehovah, art my protection; thou hast made the Most High thy refuge. fc582 10. There shall no evil befall thee, and no plague shall come nigh thy dwelling. 11. For he has given his angels charge concerning thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. 12. They shall bear thee upon their hands, lest thou dash thy foot upon a stone,

 

9. Because thou, Jehovah, art my protection. He dwells at this length in commendation of the providence of God, as knowing how slow men naturally are to resort to God in a right manner; and how much they need to be stimulated to this duty, and to be driven from those false and worldly refuges in which they confide. There is a change of person frequently throughout this psalm: thus, in the first verse, he addresses God, and afterwards addresses himself. God he styles his protection, — in this manner, by his own example, recommending others to have recourse to God as their help. So, afterwards, he addresses himself, that he may be the better persuaded of the sincerity of his inward affection. The true method of testing our faith is to turn our thoughts inward upon ourselves, and, when no human eye sees us, to search our own spirits. If, not content with having to do with God only, we turn our eyes to men, it is almost impossible to prevent pride from insinuating itself into the room of faith. He speaks of accounting God to be his house or refuge, because he defends us from every evil, as in <199001>Psalm 90:1. This verse may be considered as connected with that which follows, and as stating the cause or reason of what is there asserted; for it is added, There shall no evil befall thee. And how are coming evils averted, but just by our resting with confidence in the protection of God? Troubles, it is true, of various kinds assail the believer as well as others, but the Psalmist means that God stands between him and the violence of every assault, so as to preserve him from being overwhelmed. The Divine guardianship is represented as extending to the whole household of the righteous; and we know that God comprehends under his love the children of such as he has adopted into his fatherly favor. Or, perhaps, the term may be taken in its simpler sense, and nothing more be intended than that those who choose God for their refuge will dwell safely in their houses.

11. For he has given his angels charge concerning thee. This is added by the Psalmist expressly with the view of obviating any fears which might arise from our infirmity; so that we cannot fail to be struck with the benignant condescension of God in thus not only forgiving our diffidence, but proposing the means by which it may be best removed. Does he exhibit himself to us as a fortress and shield, proffer the shadow of his protection, make himself known to us as a habitation in which we may abide, and stretch out his wings for our defense — surely we are chargeable with the worst ingratitude if we are not satisfied with promises so abundantly full and satisfactory? If we tremble to think of his majesty, he presents himself to us under the lowly figure of the hen: if we are terrified at the power of our enemies, and the multitude of dangers by which we are beset, he reminds us of his own invincible power, which extinguishes every opposing force. When even all these attempts to encourage us have been tried, and he finds that we still linger and hesitate to approach him, or cast ourselves upon his sole and exclusive protection, he next makes mention of the angels, and proffers them as guardians of our safety. As an additional illustration of his indulgent mercy, and compassion for our weakness, he represents those whom he has ready for our defense as being a numerous host; he does not assign one solitary angel to each saint, but commissions the whole armies of heaven to keep watch over every individual believer. It is the individual believer whom the Psalmist addresses, as we read also <193407>Psalm 34:7 — that “angels encamp round about them that fear him.” We may learn from this that there is no truth in the idea that each saint has his own peculiar guardian angel; and it is of no little consequence to consider, that as our enemies are numerous, so also are the friends to whom our defense is intrusted. It were something, no doubt, to know that even one angel was set over us with this commission, but it adds weight to the promise when we are informed that the charge of our safety is committed to a numerous host, as Elisha was enabled, by a like consideration, to despise the great army of adversaries which was arrayed against him, (<120616>2 Kings 6:16.) Nor is this inconsistent with passages of Scripture, which seem to speak as if a distinct angel were assigned to each individual. It is evident that God employs his angels in different ways, setting one angel over several whole nations, and again several angels over one man. There is no necessity that we should be nice and scrupulous in inquiring into the exact manner in which they minister together for our safety; it is enough that, knowing from the authority of an apostle the fact of their being appointed ministers to us, we should rest satisfied of their being always intent upon their commission. We read elsewhere of their readiness to obey and execute the commands of God; and this must go to strengthen our faith, since their exertions are made use of by God for our defense.

The Psalmist, in the passage now before us, speaks of members of the Church generally; and yet the devil did not wrest the words when, in his temptation in the wilderness, he applied them particularly to Christ. It is true that he is constantly seeking to pervert and corrupt the truth of God; but, so far as general principles are concerned, he can put a specious gloss upon things, and is a sufficiently acute theologian. It is to be considered that when our whole human family were banished from the Divine favor, we ceased to have anything in common with the angels, and they to have any communication with us. It was Christ, and he only, who, by removing the ground of separation, reconciled the angels to us; this being his proper office, as the apostle observes, (<490110>Ephesians 1:10,) to gather together in one what had been dispersed both in heaven and on earth. This was represented to the holy patriarch Jacob under the figure of a ladder, (<012812>Genesis 28:12;) and, in allusion to our being united into one collective body with the angels, Christ said,

“Afterwards ye shall see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending,” (<430151>John 1:51.)

The Psalmist adds, all your ways in the plural number, to convey to us more distinctly that wherever we go we may expect that the angels shall always extend their guardianship to us. The course of our life is subject to many windings and changes, and who can tell all the storms by which we are liable to be tossed? It was necessary, therefore, to know that the angels preside over all our particular actions and purposes, and thus to be assured of their safe-conduct in whatever quarter we might be called to move. This expression, however, your ways, was, in all likelihood, intended to enjoin upon us a due consideration and modesty, to warn us against tempting God by any rash step, and admonish us to confine ourselves within the bounds of our proper calling. For should we commit ourselves recklessly, and attempt things which the promise of God does not warrant us to undertake, aspiring at what is presumptuous, and opposed to the Divine will, we are not to expect that the angels will become ministers and helps to our temerity. Satan would appear to have craftily omitted this clause when he tempted Christ rashly to throw himself down from the temple.

12. They shall bear thee upon their hands. He gives us a still higher idea of the guardianship of the angels, informing us, that they not only watch lest any evil should befall us, and are on the alert to extend assistance, but bear up our steps with their hands, so as to prevent us from stumbling in our course. Were we to judge indeed by mere appearances, the children of God are far from being thus borne up aloft in their career; often they labor and pant with exertion, occasionally they stagger and fall, and it is with a struggle that they advance in their course; but as in the midst of all this weakness it is only by the singular help of God that they are preserved every moment from falling and from being destroyed, we need not wonder that the Psalmist should speak in such exalted terms of the assistance which they receive through the ministrations of angels. Never, besides, could we surmount the serious obstacles which Satan opposes to our prayers, unless God should bear us up in the manner here described. Let any one combine together the two considerations which have been mentioned, — our own utter weakness on the one hand, and on the other the roughness, the difficulties, the thorns which beset our way, the stupidity besides which characterises our hearts, and the subtlety of the evil one in laying snares for our destruction, — and he will see that the language of the Psalmist is not that of hyperbole, that we could not proceed one step did not the angels bear us up in their hands in a manner beyond the ordinary course of nature. That we frequently stumble is owing to our own fault in departing from him who is our head and leader. And though God suffers us to stumble and fall in this manner that he may convince us how weak we are in ourselves, yet, inasmuch as he does not permit us to be crushed or altogether overwhelmed, it is virtually even then as if he put his hand under us and bore us up.

<199113>Psalm 91:13-16

13. Thou shalt walk over the lion and asp, the young lion and dragon shalt thou trample under feet. 14. Because he hath trusted in me, I will deliver him; because he hath known my name, I will set him on high. 15. He shall call upon me, and I shall answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and glorify him. 16. With length of days will I satisfy him, and I will show him my salvation.

 

13. Thou shalt walk over the lion and asp. The same truth is here expressed in different words. He had already spoken of the obstacles which Satan throws in our course under the figure of a stone. Now he speaks of the formidable troubles to which we are exposed in the world under the figures of the asp, lion, young lion, and dragon. So long as we are here we may be truly said to walk amongst wild beasts, and such as threaten us with destruction. And in this case what would become of us did not God promise to make us victorious over the manifold evils which everywhere impend us? None who seriously considers the temptations to which he is liable will wonder that the Psalmist, with the view of removing apprehension from the minds of the Lord’s people, should have adopted the language of hyperbole; nor indeed will he say that it is the language of hyperbole, but a true and exact representation of their case. We boast much of our courage so long as we remain at a distance from the scene of danger; but no sooner are we brought into action, than in the smallest matters we conjure up to ourselves lions, and dragons, and a host of frightful dangers. The Psalmist accommodates his language to this infirmity of our carnal apprehension. The Hebrew word lj, shachal, which in the Septuagint is rendered asp, fc583 signifies a lion, and such repetition in the second member of the sentence is usual in the Hebrew. There is therefore no occasion for seeking any nice distinction which may have been intended in specifying these four different kinds of animals; only by the lion and young lion we are evidently to understand more open dangers, where we are assailed by force and violence, and by the serpent and dragon hidden mischiefs, where the enemy springs upon us insidiously and unexpectedly, as the serpent from its lurking place. fc584

14. Because he hath trusted in me, I will deliver him. It may prevent any feeling of disgust or weariness under the repetition and enlargement of the Psalmist upon his present subject, to remember, that, as I have already observed, he is influenced in this by a due consideration of our weakness, ever indisposed, as we are upon the approach of danger, to exercise a due reliance upon the providence of God. With this view he now introduces God himself as speaking, and confirming by his own voice what had already been asserted. And here it is noticeable that God, in declaring from heaven that we shall be safe under the wings of his protection, speaks of nothing as necessary on the part of his people but hope or trust. For the Hebrew verb qj, chashak, which signifies to desire, or love, or, as we commonly express it, to find our delight in any object, means here to rest with a sweet confidence in God, and rejoice in his favor. He engages to extend us assistance, if we seek him in sincerity. The language implies that we must be continually surrounded by death and destruction in this world, unless his hand is stretched out for our preservation. Occasionally he assists even unbelievers, but it is only to his believing people that his help is vouchsafed, in the sense of his being their Savior to the true extent of that term, and their Savior to the end. Their knowing the name of God is spoken of in connection with their trust and expectation; and very properly, for why is it that men are found casting their eyes vainly round them to every quarter in the hour of danger, but because they are ignorant of the power of God? They cannot indeed be said to know God at all, but delude themselves with a vague apprehension of something which is not God, a mere dead idol substituted for him in their imaginations. As it is a true knowledge of God which begets confidence in him, and leads us to call upon him; and as none can seek him sincerely but those who have apprehended the promises, and put due honor upon his name, the Psalmist with great propriety and truth represents this knowledge as being the spring or fountain of trust. That the doctrine which he teaches was needful we may learn from the senseless and erroneous manner in which the Papists speak of faith. While they inculcate an implicit adherence to God, they bury the word which opens up the only access which men can have to him. The expression to exalt or lift up on high means no more than to keep in a state of safety or security; but the reason of this metaphor is, that God preserves his people in an extraordinary manner, raising them, as it were, to some high and impregnable fortress.

15. He shall call upon me. He now shows more clearly what was meant by trusting in God, or placing our love and delight in him. For that affection and desire which is produced by faith, prompts us to call upon his name. This is another proof in support of the truth, which I had occasion to touch upon formerly, that prayer is properly grounded upon the word of God. We are not at liberty in this matter, to follow the suggestions of our own mind or will, but must seek God only in so far as he has in the first place invited us to approach him. The context, too, may teach us, that faith is not idle or inoperative, and that one test, by which we ought to try those who look for Divine deliverances, is, whether they have recourse to God in a right manner. We are taught the additional lesson, that believers will never be exempt from troubles and embarrassments. God does not promise them a life of ease and luxury, but deliverance from their tribulations. Mention is made of his glorifying them, intimating that the deliverance which God extends, and which has been spoken of in this psalm, is not of a mere temporary nature, but will issue at last in their being advanced to perfect happiness. He puts much honor upon them in the world, and glorifies himself in them conspicuously, but it is not till the completion of their course that he affords them ground for triumph. It may seem strange that length of days should be mentioned in the last verse as promised to them, since many of the Lord’s people are soon taken out of the world. But I may repeat an observation which has been elsewhere made, that those Divine blessings which are promised in relation to the present perishing world, are not to be considered as made good in a universal and absolute sense, or fulfilled in all according to one set and equal rule. fc585 Wealth and other worldly comforts must be looked upon as affording some experience of the Divine favor or goodness, but it does not follow that the poor are objects of the Divine displeasure; soundness of body and good health are blessings from God, but we must not conceive on this account that he regards with disapprobation the weak and the infirm. Long life is to be classed among benefits of this kind, and would be bestowed by God upon all his children, were it not for their advantage that they should be taken early out of the world. fc586 They are more satisfied with the short period during which they live than the wicked, though their life should be extended for thousands of years. The expression cannot apply to the wicked, that they are satisfied with length of days; for however long they live, the thirst of their desires continues to be unquenched. It is life, and nothing more, which they riot in with such eagerness; nor can they be said to have had one moment’s enjoyment of that Divine favor and goodness which alone can communicate true satisfaction. The Psalmist might therefore with propriety state it as a privilege peculiarly belonging to the Lord’s people, that they are satisfied with life. The brief appointed term is reckoned by them to be sufficient, abundantly sufficient. Besides, longevity is never to be compared with eternity. The salvation of God extends far beyond the narrow boundary of earthly existence; and it is to this, whether we live or come to die, that we should principally look. It is with such a view that the Psalmist, after stating all the other benefits which God bestows, adds this as a last clause, that when he has followed them with his fatherly goodness throughout their lives, he at last shows them his salvation.


PSALM 92

This psalm contains an exhortation to praise God, and shows how much ground we have for this exercise from the works of God, insisting, especially, upon his justice, displayed in the protection of his people, and the destruction of the wicked. By such truth it encourages to the practice of righteousness, and preserves us from fainting under the cross of Christ, by proposing to our view a happy issue out of all our afflictions. To deter us, on the other hand, from the commission of iniquity it declares that sinners, however they may prosper for a time, will speedily be destroyed.

A Song for the Sabbath-day.

<199201>Psalm 92:1-4

1. It is good to give thanks unto Jehovah, to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High! 2. To show forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness in the night, 3. Upon the psaltery, and upon the hand instrument, with the song upon the harp. 4. For thou, Jehovah, hast made me glad in thy works; I will triumph in the works of thy hands.

 

1. It is good to give thanks unto Jehovah. There is no reason to doubt that the Jews were in the habit of singing this psalm, as the inscription bears, upon the Sabbath-day, and it is apparent, from different passages, that other psalms were applied to this use. As the words may be read literally in the Hebrew, it is good for giving thanks unto the Lord, some interpreters, founding upon the letter l, lamed, prefixed to the verb, understand the Psalmist to mean that it was good to have a certain day set apart for singing the praises of God — that it was a useful arrangement by which one day had been chosen to be occupied by the Lord’s people in celebrating his works. But it is well known that this letter, when prefixed, is merely the ordinary mark of the infinitive mood — and I have given what is obviously the simple meaning. The reason why the Psalmist appropriated this psalm to the Sabbath is sufficiently obvious. That day is not to be holy, in the sense of being devoted to idleness, as if this could be an acceptable worship to God, but in the sense of our separating ourselves from all other occupations, to engage in meditating upon the Divine works. As our minds are inconstant, we are apt, when exposed to various distractions, to wander from God. fc587 We need to be disentangled from all cares if we would seriously apply ourselves to the praises of God. The Psalmist then would teach us that the right observance of the Sabbath does not consist in idleness, as some absurdly imagine, but in the celebration of the Divine name. The argument which he adduces is drawn from the profitableness of the service, for nothing is more encouraging than to know that our labor is not in vain, and that what we engage in meets with the Divine approbation. In the succeeding verse, he adverts to the grounds which we have for praising God, that we may not imagine that God calls upon us to engage in this service without reason, or simply in consideration of his greatness and power, but in remembrance of his goodness and faithfulness, which should inflame our hearts to such exercise, if we had any proper sense and experience of them. He would have us consider, in mentioning these, that not only is God worthy of praise, but that we ourselves are chargeable with ingratitude and perversity should we refuse it. We are the proper objects of his faithfulness and goodness, and it would argue inexcusable indifference if they did not elicit our cordial praises. It might seem a strange distinction which the Psalmist observes when he speaks of our announcing God’s goodness in the morning, and his faithfulness at night. His goodness is constant, and not peculiar to any one season, why then devote but a small part of the day to the celebration of it? And the same may be said of the other Divine perfection mentioned, for it is not merely in the night that his faithfulness is shown. But this is not what the Psalmist intends. He means that beginning to praise the Lord from earliest dawn, we should continue his praises to the latest hour of the night, this being no more than his goodness and faithfulness deserve. fc588 If we begin by celebrating his goodness, we must next take up the subject of his faithfulness. Both will occupy our continued praises, for they stand mutually and inseparably connected. The Psalmist is not therefore to be supposed as wishing us to separate the one from the other, for they are intimately allied; he would only suggest that we can never want matter for praising God unless indolence prevail over us, and that if we would rightly discharge the office of gratitude, we must be assiduous in it, since his goodness and his faithfulness are incessant.

In the fourth verse, he more immediately addresses the Levites, who were appointed to the office of singers, and calls upon them to employ their instruments of music — not as if this were in itself necessary, only it was useful as an elementary aid to the people of God in these ancient times. fc589 We are not to conceive that God enjoined the harp as feeling a delight like ourselves in mere melody of sounds; but the Jews, who were yet under age, were astricted to the use of such childish elements. The intention of them was to stimulate the worshippers, and stir them up more actively to the celebration of the praise of God with the heart. We are to remember that the worship of God was never understood to consist in such outward services, which were only necessary to help forward a people, as yet weak and rude in knowledge, in the spiritual worship of God. A difference is to be observed in this respect between his people under the Old and under the New Testament; for now that Christ has appeared, and the Church has reached full age, it were only to bury the light of the Gospel, should we introduce the shadows of a departed dispensation. From this, it appears that the Papists, as I shall have occasion to show elsewhere, in employing instrumental music, cannot be said so much to imitate the practice of God’s ancient people, as to ape it in a senseless and absurd manner, exhibiting a silly delight in that worship of the Old Testament which was figurative, and terminated with the Gospel. fc590

4. Because thou, Jehovah, hast made me glad. The Psalmist repeats the truth that the Sabbath was not prescribed as a day of idleness, but a season when we should collect our whole energies for meditation upon the works of God. He intimates, at the same time, that those are best qualified for celebrating the praises of God who recognize and feel his fatherly goodness, and can undertake this service with willing and joyful minds. His language implies that the goodness and faithfulness of God, which he had already mentioned, are apparent in his works upon a due examination of them. What produces joy in our hearts is the exhibition which God gives of himself as a Father, and of his deep and watchful anxiety for our welfare; as, on the other hand, the cause of our brutish indifference is our inability to savor or relish the end designed in the works of God. fc591 As the universe proclaims throughout that God is faithful and good, it becomes us to be diligently observant of these tokens, and to be excited by a holy joy to the celebration of his praise.

<199205>Psalm 92:5-8

5. O Jehovah! how magnificent are thy works! thy thoughts are very deep. 6. The foolish man shall not know them, neither shall the man void of wisdom understand them. 7. When the wicked flourish as the grass, and all the workers of iniquity spring up, that they may perish for ever. 8. And thou, O Jehovah! art exalted for evermore.

 

5. O Jehovah! how highly exalted are thy works! The Psalmist, having spoken of the works of God in general, proceeds to speak more particularly of his justice in the government of the world. Though God may postpone the punishment of the wicked, he shows, in due time, that in conniving at their sins, he did not overlook or fail to perceive them; and though he exercises his own children with the cross, he proves in the issue, that he was not indifferent to their welfare. His reason for touching upon this particular point seems to be, that much darkness is thrown upon the scheme of Divine Providence by the inequality and disorder which prevail in human affairs. fc592 We see the wicked triumphing, and applauding their own good fortune, as if there was no judge above, and taking occasion from the Divine forbearance to run into additional excesses, under the impression that they have escaped his hand. The temptation is aggravated by that stupidity and blindness of heart which lead us to imagine that God exerts no superintendence over the world, and sits idle in heaven. It is known, too, how soon we are ready to sink under the troubles of the flesh. The Psalmist, therefore, intentionally selects this as a case in which he may show the watchful care exerted by God over the human family. He begins, by using the language of exclamation, for such is the dreadful distemper and disorder by which our understandings are confounded, that we cannot comprehend the method of God’s works, even when it is most apparent. We are to notice, that the inspired penman is not speaking here of the work of God in the creation of the heavens and earth, nor of his providential government of the world in general, but only of the judgments which he executes amongst men. He calls the works of God great, and his thoughts deep, because he governs the world in quite another manner than we are able to comprehend. Were things under our own management, we would entirely invert the order which God observes; and, such not being the case, we perversely expostulate with God for not hastening sooner to the help of the righteous, and to the punishment of the wicked. It strikes us as in the highest degree inconsistent with the perfections of God, that he should bear with the wicked when they rage against him, when they rush without restraint into the most daring acts of iniquity, and when they persecute at will the good and the innocent; — it seems, I say, in our eyes to be intolerable, that God should subject his own people to the injustice and violence of the wicked, while he puts no check upon abounding falsehood, deceit, rapine, bloodshed, and every species of enormity. Why does he suffer his truth to be obscured, and his holy name to be trampled under foot? This is that greatness of the Divine operation, that depth of the Divine counsel, into the admiration of which the Psalmist breaks forth. It is no doubt true, that there is an incomprehensible depth of power and wisdom which God has displayed in the fabric of the universe; but what the Psalmist has specially in view is, to administer a check to that disposition which leads us to murmur against God, when he does not pursue our plan in his providential managements. When anything in these may not agree with the general ideas of men, we ought to contemplate it with reverence, and remember that God, for the better trial of our obedience, has lifted his deep and mysterious judgments far above our conceptions.

6. The foolish man shall not know them. This is added with propriety, to let us know that the fault lies with ourselves, in not praising the Divine judgments as we ought. For although the Psalmist had spoken of them as deep and mysterious, he here informs us that they would be discerned without difficulty, were it not for our stupidity and indifference. By the foolish, he means unbelievers in general, tacitly contrasting them with believers who are divinely enlightened by the word and Spirit. The ignorance and blindness to which he alludes have possession of all without exception, whose understandings have not been illuminated by Divine grace. It ought to be our prayer to God, that he would purge our sight, and qualify us for meditation upon his works. In short, the Psalmist vindicates the incomprehensible wisdom of God from that contempt which proud men have often cast upon it, charging them with folly and madness in acting such a part; and he would arouse us from that insensibility which is too prevalent, to a due and serious consideration of the mysterious works of God.

7. When the wicked flourish as the grass. He points out, and exposes, by a striking and appropriate figure, the folly of imagining that the wicked obtain a triumph over God, when he does not, it may be, immediately bring them under restraint. He makes an admission so far — he grants that they spring up and flourish — but adds immediately, by way of qualification, that they flourish, like the grass, only for a moment, their prosperity being brief and evanescent. In this way he removes what has been almost a universal stumbling-block and ground of offense; for it would be ridiculous to envy the happiness of men who are doomed to be speedily destroyed, and of whom it may be said, that to-day they flourish, and to-morrow they are cut down and wither, (<19C906>Psalm 129:6.) It will be shown, when we come to consider the psalm now quoted, that the herbs to which the wicked are compared are such as grow on the roofs of houses, which want depth of soil, and die of themselves, for lack of nourishment. In the passage now before us, the Psalmist satisfies himself with using simply the figure, that the prosperity of the wicked draws after it the speedier destruction, as the grass when it is full grown is ready for the scythe. There is an antithesis drawn, too, between the shortness of their continuance and the everlasting destruction which awaits them; for they are not said to be cut down that they may flourish again, as withered plants will recover their vigor, but to be condemned to eternal perdition. fc593 When he says of God, that he sits exalted for evermore, some understand him to mean, that God holds the power and office of governing the world, and that we may be certain nothing can happen by chance when such a righteous governor and judge administers the affairs of the world. Various other meanings have been suggested. But it seems to me that the Psalmist compares the stability of God’s throne with the fluctuating and changeable character of this world, reminding us that we must not judge of Him by what we see in the world, where there is nothing of a fixed and enduring nature. God looks down undisturbed from the altitude of heaven upon all the changes of this earthly scene, which neither affect nor have any relation to him. And this the Psalmist brings forward with another view than simply to teach us to distinguish God from his creatures, and put due honor upon his majesty; he would have us learn in our contemplations upon the wonderful and mysterious providence of God, to lift our conceptions above ourselves and this world, since it is only a dark and confused view which our earthly minds can take up. It is with the purpose of leading us into a proper discovery of the Divine judgments which are not seen in the world, that the Psalmist, in making mention of the majesty of God, would remind us, that he does not work according to our ideas, but in a manner corresponding to his own eternal being. We, short-lived creatures as we are, often thwarted in our attempts, embarrassed and interrupted by many intervening difficulties, and too glad to embrace the first opportunity which offers, are accustomed to advance with precipitation; but we are taught here to lift our eyes unto that eternal and unchangeable throne on which God sits, and in wisdom defers the execution of his judgments. The words accordingly convey more than a simple commendation of the glorious being of God; they are meant to help our faith, and tell us that, although his people may sigh under many an anxious apprehension, God himself, the guardian of their safety, reigns on high, and shields them with his everlasting power.

<199209>Psalm 92:9-11

9. For, lo! thine enemies, O Jehovah! for, lo, thine enemies shall perish; all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered. fc594 10. But my horn shalt thou exalt, like the horn of an unicorn: fc595 I have been profusely anointed with fresh oil. fc596 11. And mine eyes shall see it on mine enemies: mine ears shall hear it upon those who rise up against me, upon those who persecute me.

 

9. For, lo! thine enemies, O Jehovah! From what was already said in the verse preceding, the Psalmist concludes it to be impossible that God should not overthrow his enemies. This, as I have already observed, clearly shows that it was his design to establish our faith under the strong temptations to which it is subjected, and, more especially, to remove that offense out of the way, which has disturbed the minds of many, and led them astray; — we refer to the prosperity of the wicked, and its effect in attaching a certain perplexity to the judgments of God. As our faith is never called to a more sharp and arduous trial than upon this point, the Psalmist delivers the truth, which he announces with much force of expression, using both exclamations and repetition. First, he declares the destruction of God’s enemies to be as certain as if it had already taken place, and he had witnessed it with his own eyes; then he repeats his assertion: and from all this we may see how much he had benefited by glancing with the eye of faith beyond this world to the throne of God in the heavens. When staggered in our own faith at any time by the prosperity of the wicked, we should learn by his example to rise in our contemplations to a God in heaven, and the conviction will immediately follow in our minds that his enemies cannot long continue to triumph. The Psalmist tells us who they are that are God’s enemies. God hates none without a cause; nay, so far as men are the workmanship of his hand, he embraces them in his fatherly love. But as nothing is more opposed to his nature than sin, he proclaims irreconcilable war with the wicked. It contributes in no small degree to the comfort of the Lord’s people, to know that the reason why the wicked are destroyed is, their being necessarily the objects of God’s hatred, so that he can no more fail to punish them than deny himself. fc596

The Psalmist, shortly afterwards, shows that he intended this to be a ground of comfort and hope under all cares, griefs, anxieties, and embarrassments. He speaks under the figure of oil of enjoying Divine blessings, and by green or fresh oil is meant, such as has not become corrupted, or unfit for use by age. It is noticeable that he appropriates, and improves for his own individual comfort, that grace of God which is extended to all the Lord’s people without exception; and would teach us by this that mere general doctrine is a cold and unsatisfactory thing, and that each of us should improve it particularly for himself, in the persuasion of our belonging to the number of God’s children. In one word, the Psalmist promises himself the protection of God, under whatever persecutions he should endure from his enemies, whether they were secret, or more open and violent, that he may encourage himself to persevere with indefatigable spirit in the world’s conflict. We may judge from this how absurd is the opinion of the Rabbin, who conjectured that Adam was the author of this psalm fc597 — as if it were credible that his posterity should have set themselves up in rebellion against him.

<199212>Psalm 92:12-13

12. The righteous shalt flourish like the palm-tree, fc598 he shall be multiplied as the cedar in Lebanon. fc599 13. Those who are planted in the house of Jehovah shall flourish in the courts of our God. 14. They shall still bud forth in old age; they shall be fat and green; 15. That they may show that Jehovah is upright, my rock, and that there is no iniquity in him.

 

12. The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree. He now passes to the consideration of another general truth, That though God may exercise his people with many trials, subject them to hardships, and visit them with privations, he will eventually show that he had not forgotten them. We need not be surprised that he insists so explicitly and carefully upon this point, as nothing is more difficult than for the saints of God to entertain expectations of being raised up and delivered when they have been reduced almost to the state of the dead, and it does not appear how they can live. Some think the cedar is mentioned from the fragrancy of its smell, and the palm for the sweetness of its fruit; but this is too subtile a meaning to attach to the words. The sense seems simply, that though the righteous may appear for a time to be withered, or to have been cut down, they will again spring up with renewed vigor, and flourish as well and as fair in the Church of God as the stateliest trees upon Lebanon. The expression which is employed — planted in the house of the Lordgives the reason of their vigorous growth; nor is it meant that they have merely a place there, (which can be said even of hypocrites,) but that they are firmly fixed, and deeply rooted in it, so as to be united to God. The Psalmist speaks of the courts of the Lord, because none but the priests were allowed to enter the holy place; the people worshipped in the court. By those who are planted in the Church he means such as are united to God in real and sincere attachment, and insinuates that their prosperity cannot be of a changeable and fluctuating nature, because it is not founded upon anything that is in the world. Nor indeed can we doubt that whatever has its root, and is founded in the sanctuary, must continue to flourish and partake of a life which is spiritual and everlasting. It is in this sense that he speaks of their still budding forth, and being fat, even in old age, when the natural sap and juices are generally dried up. The language amounts to saying that they are exempt from the ordinary lot of men, and have a life which is taken from under the common law of nature. fc600 It is thus that Jacob, speaking of the great renovation which should take place in the Church, mentions, that at that happy period he who was an hundred years old should be a child, meaning that, though old age naturally tends to death, and one who has lived a hundred years is upon the very borders of it, yet in the kingdom of Christ; a man would be reckoned as being merely in his childhood, and starting in life, who entered upon a new century. This could only be verified in the sense, that after death we have another existence in heaven.

15. That they may show that Jehovah is upright. It is evident from this verse that the great object of the Psalmist is, to allay that disquietude of mind which we are apt to feel under the disorder which reigns apparently in the affairs of this world; and to make us cherish the expectation, (under all that may seem severe and trying in our lot, and though the wicked are in wealth and power, flourish, and abound in places and distinctions,) that God will bring light and order eventually out of confusion. That they may show, it is said particularly, that the Lord is upright; for through the influence of our corruption we are apt to conclude, when things do not proceed as we would wish in the world, that God is chargeable not only with neglect but with unrighteousness, in abandoning his people, and tolerating the commission of sin. When God displays his justice in proceeding to execute vengeance upon the wicked, it will be seen at once, that any prosperity which they enjoyed was but the forerunner of a worse destruction in reserve for them. The Psalmist, in calling God his rock, shows a second time that he reckoned himself amongst the number of those in whom God would illustrate his justice by extending towards them his protection.


PSALM 93

The psalm commences with the celebration of the infinite glory of God. It is then declared that such is his faithfulness that he never deceives his own people, who, embracing his promises, wait with tranquil minds for their salvation amidst all the tempests and agitations of the world.

<199301>Psalm 93:1-2

1. Jehovah hath reigned, he hath clothed himself with majesty:  fd1 Jehovah hath clothed himself with strength, he hath girded himself:  fd2 he hath also established the world, it shall not be moved. 2. Thy throne is stable;  fd3 from then, from everlasting art thou.

 

1. Jehovah hath reigned. We here see what I have lately adverted to, that in the power of God there is exhibited to us matter of confidence; for our not investing God with the power which belongs to him, as we ought to do, and thus wickedly despoiling him of his authority, is the source of that fear and trembling which we very often experience. This, it is true, we dare not do openly, but were we well persuaded of his invincible power, that would be to us an invincible support against all the assaults of temptation. All admit in word what the prophet here teaches, That God reigns; but how few are there who oppose this shield to the hostile powers of the world, as it becomes them to do, that they may fear nothing however terrible? In this then consists the glory of God, that he governs mankind according to his will. It is said that he clothes himself with majesty and strength; not that we ought to imagine that there is any thing in him which is derived from another, but it is intended by the effect and indubitable experience to show his wisdom and righteousness in the government of mankind. The Psalmist proves that God will not neglect or abandon the world, from the fact that he created it. A simple survey of the world should of itself suffice to attest a Divine Providence. The heavens revolve daily, and, immense as is their fabric, and inconceivable the rapidity of their revolutions, we experience no concussion — no disturbance in the harmony of their motion. The sun, though varying its course every diurnal revolution, returns annually to the same point. The planets, in all their wanderings, maintain their respective positions. How could the earth hang suspended in the air were it not upheld by God’s hand? By what means could it maintain itself unmoved, while the heavens above are in constant rapid motion, did not its Divine Maker fix and establish it? Accordingly the particle a, aph, denoting emphasis, is introduced — Yea, he hath established it.

2. Thy throne is stable. Some read, is prepared, and this agrees well with the context. provided we take the two clauses as one sentence, meaning — O Lord, as thou art from eternity, even so thy throne is erected or prepared from that time. For the sense which some have attached to the words, as if they contained a simple assertion of God’s eternity, is poor; and the Psalmist evidently intends to say that as God is eternal in essence, so he has always been invested with power and majesty. The term throne signifies, by the figure synecdoche, righteousness, and office or power of government; it being customary to transfer such images taken from men to God, in accommodation to our infirmity. fd4 By this ascription of praise the Psalmist effectually disposes of all the absurd ideas which have been broached, tending to deny or disparage the power of God, and declares, upon the matter, that God may sooner cease to be, than to sit upon his throne in the government of this world.

<199303>Psalm 93:3-5

3. The floods have lifted up, O Jehovah! the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods shall lift up their waves. 4. The waves  fd5 of the sea are terrible, by reason of the noise of great waters, Jehovah is terrible above. 5. Thy testimonies are singularly true: holiness is the glory of thy house, O Jehovah! for length of days.  fd6

 

3. The floods have lifted up, O Jehovah! Various meanings have been attached to this verse. Some think there is an allusion to the violent assaults made upon the Church by her enemies, and the goodness of God seen in restraining them. fd7 Others are of opinion that the words should be taken literally, and not figuratively, in this sense — Though the noise of many waters be terrible, and the waves of the sea more fearful still, God is more terrible than all. I would not be inclined to insist too nicely upon any comparison that may have been intended. I have no doubt the Psalmist sets forth the power of God by adducing one brief illustration out of many which might have been given, fd8 Intimating that we need not go farther for a striking instance of Divine power — one that may impress us with an idea of his tremendous majesty — than to the floods of waters, and agitations of the ocean; as in <192904>Psalm 29:4, the mighty voice of God is said to be in the thunder. God manifests his power in the sound of the floods, and in the tempestuous waves of the sea, in a way calculated to excite our reverential awe. Should it be thought that there is a comparison intended, then the latter clause of the verse must be understood as added, with this meaning, That all the terror of the objects mentioned is as nothing when we come to consider the majesty of God himself, such as he is in heaven. There is still another sense which may be extracted from the words, That though the world may to appearance be shaken with violent commotions, this argues no defect in the government of God, since he can control them at once by his dreadful power.

5. Thy testimonies  fd9 are singularly true. As yet the Psalmist has insisted upon the excellency of God in the work of creation, and the providential government of the world. Now he speaks of his distinguishing goodness to his chosen people, in making known to them the doctrine which bringeth salvation. He begins by commending the absolute trust-worthiness and truthfulness of the law of God. This being a treasure which was not extended to all nations promiscuously, he adds immediately that the house of God would be adorned with a glory which should last for ever. The Divine goodness is displayed in every part of the world, but the Psalmist justly considers it as of all others the most inestimable blessing, that God should have deposited in his Church the covenant of eternal life, and made his glory principally to shine out of it. Some translate the Hebrew word hwan, navah, desirable,  fd10 as if the Psalmist had said that the adorning of the temple was precious; but the grammatical construction will not admit of this. By length of days is meant perpetual succession,  fd11 and to this we find Isaiah referring in striking terms, that the Divine truth might be preserved in faithful custody through successive ages.

“Behold, I have put my word in thy mouth, in the mouth of thy seed, and of thy seed’s seed,” (Psalms 59:21)


PSALM 94

The Psalmist implores Divine assistance against wicked and violent men, who persecuted the upright in a cruel and tyrannical manner. It is evident that he refers to domestic foes, whose unrighteous domination was as vexatious and oppressive to the Lord’s people, as all the injuries received from the Gentile nations without.

<199401>Psalm 94:1-6

1. O Jehovah! God of vengeances; God of vengeances,  fd12 shine forth.  fd13 2. Lift up thyself, thou Judge of the earth! render a reward to the proud. 3. O Jehovah! how long shall the wicked — how long shall the wicked triumph? 4. They pour forth, they speak hard things, all the workers of iniquity lift up themselves. 5. They break in pieces thy people, O Jehovah! and afflict thy inheritance. 6. They slay the widow, and the stranger, and murder the fatherless.

 

1. O Jehovah! God of vengeances. We know that the Jews were surrounded by many neighbors who were not well affected towards them, and were thus incessantly subject to the assaults and oppression of bitter enemies. As this intestine persecution was even more afflictive than the rampant and unrestrained violence of the wicked, we need not wonder that the Psalmist should earnestly beseech God for deliverance from it. The expressions which he uses, calling upon God to shine forth conspicuously, and lift himself up on high, amount in common language to this, that God would give some actual manifestation of his character as judge or avenger; for in that case he is seen ascending his tribunal to exact the punishment due to sin, and demonstrate his power in preserving order and government in the world. The phraseology is used only in reference to ourselves, disposed as we are to feel as if he overlooked us, unless he stretched out his hand to help us in some visible and open manner. In calling him twice successively the God of vengeances, and then, judge of the earth, the Psalmist uses these titles as applicable to the present situation in which he stood, reminding Him in a manner of the office which belonged to him, and saying — O Lord! it is thine to take vengeance upon sinners, and judge the earth — see how they take advantage of the impunity which is extended to their guilt, and triumph audaciously in their wickedness! Not that God needs to be admonished of his duty, for he never resigns himself to indifference, and even when he seems to delay his judgments, is only adjusting them according to what he knows to be the best season; but his people conceive of him in this way to themselves, and take occasion from this to embolden and stimulate themselves to greater vehemency in prayer.  fd14 The same may be said of the repetition which the Psalmist uses. When the wicked then indulge in unrestrained excesses, we are to remember that God can never cease to assert his character as the judge of the earth who takes vengeance upon iniquity. Does he seem in our carnal apprehension to have at any time withdrawn and hidden himself? let us put up without hesitation the prayer which is here taught us by the Holy Spirit, that he would shine forth.

3. O Jehovah! how long shall the wicked? The Psalmist justifies himself in this verse for the fervent importunity which he showed in prayer. There was need of immediate help, when the wicked had proceeded to such an extent of audacity. The necessity of our case may justly embolden us in our requests, which must be all the more readily heard as they are reasonable; and here the Psalmist insists that his complaints were not without cause, nor originated in trifling reasons, but were extorted by injuries of the most flagrant description. Notice is taken of the length of time during which their persecutions had lasted, as an aggravating circumstance. They had become hardened under the long-continued forbearance of God, and had in consequence contracted a shamelessness, as well as obstinacy of spirit, imagining that he looked upon their wickedness with an eye of favor. The term how long twice repeated, implies the extent of impunity which had been granted, that it was not as if they had newly started upon their career, but that they had been tolerated for a length of time, and had become outrageously flagitious. It was thus that in former times wicked men tyrannized to such a degree over the Church, while yet God did not interfere to apply a remedy; and we need not be surprised that he should subject her now to protracted persecutions, nor should we conclude that, because he does not immediately proceed to cure existing evils, he has utterly forsaken her. The term triumph denotes that fullness of audacious and boasting exultation which the wicked feel when they are intoxicated with continued prosperity, and conceive that they may indulge in every excess without restraint.

4. They pour forth, they speak hard things.  fd15 He shows in still clearer terms, how their fierceness in persecution was such that they did not scruple to glory in their guilt. The Hebrew verb [bn, nabang, means more than to speak. Literally it signifies to rush or boil forth, and comes to denote figuratively the uttering of reckless or rash words. We see how wicked men are instigated by pride and vain-glory, to demean and disgrace themselves so far as to boast vain-gloriously of their power, breathing forth threatenings of bloodshed, violence, and monstrous cruelty. It is to such ebullitions that the Psalmist refers, when men who are lost to all sense of shame and modesty boast of the wickedness which they can perpetrate at will. This is what he means by their speaking hard things, uttering discourse which is under no restraint of fear, or prudential consideration, but which launches into the most unbridled license. As the Lord’s people had formerly to endure the heavy trial of seeing the Church subjected to this wild tyranny and misrule, we should account it no strange thing to see the Church suffering still under miserable misgovernment, or positive oppression, but should pray for help from God, who, though he connives at wickedness for a time, eventually comes to the deliverance of his children.

5. They break in pieces thy people, O Jehovah! Having spoken of their discourse or language as vain-glorious and shameless, he proceeds to speak of their deeds, in cruelly persecuting the Church. It is hard that even the subjects of heathen princes should be subjected to unjust persecution, but a more intolerable thing still, that those who are God’s own people, his peculiar inheritance, should be trampled under the foot of tyranny. The prayer before us is one which, as I have already remarked, is given with the intention that we should prefer it ourselves, when we or others may be persecuted by wicked men, and especially intestine enemies. Our safety is dear to the Lord, not only as we are men, the workmanship of his hand, but as we are his peculiar heritage; and this should lead us, when wronged at any time, to betake ourselves to God with the more confidence. It is farther added — that they spare not the widow, and the orphan, and murder the stranger. God, while he has commanded us in general to cultivate equity and justice in our common intercourse, has commended the orphan, widow, and stranger, to our peculiar care, as being more exposed to injury, and therefore more entitled to humanity and compassion. To treat such objects with cruelty argues a singular degree of impiety, and contempt of divine authority, and is not only an outrage of common justice, but the infraction of a privilege of special protection which God has condescended to cast around them.  fd16 They who are chargeable with such conduct, particularly provoke the divine anger. As to little children especially, their helplessness and tender age will even protect them from being attacked by dogs and wild beasts. And what shall we think of the monstrous inhumanity of men, who would make them the objects of their assault? We have here a specimen of the dreadful state of matters which must then have prevailed in the Church of God. The law was there, and the ordinances of divine appointment, yet we see to what an awful extent every species of wickedness abounded. Let us beware lest we fall into a similar state of corruption, and should it so happen under our own observation that men persecute the stranger, seize the widow, and rob the fatherless, let us, in imitation of the Psalmist, who would have us alleviate their misfortunes, pray God to undertake their defense.

<199407>Psalm 94:7-10

. 7. And they have said, God shall not see, the God of Jacob shall not know. 8. Understand, ye stupid  fd17 among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise? 9. He that planted  fd18 the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see? 10. He that chastiseth the nations, shall not he correct? he that teacheth man knowledge.  fd19

 

7. And they have said, God shall not see. When the Psalmist speaks of the wicked as taunting God with blindness and ignorance, we are not to conceive of them as just exactly entertaining this imagination of him in their hearts, but they despise his judgments as much as if he took no cognisance of human affairs. Were the truth graven upon men’s hearts that they cannot elude the eye of God, this would serve as a check and restraint upon their conduct. When they proceed to such audacity in wickedness as to lay the hand of violence upon their fellow-creatures, to rob, and to destroy, it shows that they have fallen into a state of brutish security in which they virtually consider themselves as concealed from the view of the Almighty. This security sufficiently proves at least, that they act as if they never expected to be called to an account for their conduct.  fd20 Though they may not then be guilty of the gross blasphemy of asserting in so many words that God is ignorant of what goes forward in the world, a mere nothing in the universe — the Psalmist very properly charges them with denying God’s providential government, and, indeed, avowedly stripping him of the power and function of judge and governor, since, if they really were persuaded as they ought of his superintending providence, they would honor him by feeling a reverential fear — as I have elsewhere observed at greater length. He intends to express the lowest and most abandoned stage of depravity, in which the sinner casts off the fear of God, and rushes into every excess. Such infatuated conduct would have been inexcusable even in heathens, who had never heard of a divine revelation; but it was monstrous in men who had been brought up from infancy in the knowledge of the word, to show such mockery and contempt of God.

8. Understand, ye stupid among the people. As it was execrable impiety to deny God to be Judge of the earth, the Psalmist severely reprimands their folly in thinking to elude his government, and even succeed by artifices in escaping his view. The expression, stupid among the people, is stronger than had he simply condemned them as foolish. It rendered their folly more inexcusable, that they belonged to the posterity of Abraham, of whom Moses said,

“What people is there so great, who have their gods so near unto them, as the Lord thy God hath this day come down unto thee? For this is your understanding and wisdom before all nations, to have God for your legislator.” (<050407>Deuteronomy 4:7)

 fd21 Perhaps, however, he may be considered as addressing the rulers and those who were of higher rank in the community, and styling them degraded among the people, that is, no better than the common herd of the vulgar. Proud men, who are apt to be blinded by a sense of their importance, require to be brought down, and made to see that in God’s estimation they are no better than others. He puts them on a level with the common people, to humble their self-complacency; or we may suppose that he hints with an ironical and sarcastic allusion to their boasted greatness, that they were distinguished above others chiefly for pre-eminent folly — adding, at the same time, as an additional aggravation, that they were obstinate in their adherence to it; for as much is implied in the question, When will ye be wise? We might consider it an unnecessary assertion of Divine Providence to put the question to the wicked, Shall not he who made the ear hear? because there are none so abandoned as openly to deny God’s cognisance of events; but, as I have observed above, the flagrant audacity and self-security which most men display in contradicting his will, is a sufficient proof that they have supplanted God from their imaginations, and substituted a mere dead idol in his place, since, did they really believe him to be cognisant of their actions, they would at least show as much regard to him as to their fellow-creatures, in whose presence they feel some measure of restraint, and are prevented from sinning by fear and respect. To arouse them from this stupidity, the Psalmist draws an argument from the very order of nature, inferring that if men both see and hear, by virtue of faculties which they have received from God the Creator, it is impossible that God himself, who formed the eye and the ear, should not possess the most perfect observation.

10. He that chastiseth the nations, shall not he correct? He would have them argue from the greater to the less, that if God did not spare even whole nations, but visits their iniquity with punishment, they could not imagine that he would suffer a mere handful of individuals to escape with impunity. The comparison intended, however, may possibly be between the Gentiles and the Jews. If God punished the heathen nations, who had not heard his word, with much severity, the Jews might expect that they, who had been familiarised to instruction in his house, would receive still sharper correction, and that he would vindicate his justice most in that nation over which he had chosen to preside. Still the former sense of the passage appears to me preferable, That it is folly in any number of individuals to flatter themselves with impunity, when they see God inflicting public punishment upon collective people. Some think there is an exclusive allusion to the signal and memorable instances of Divine judgment recorded in Scripture, as in the destruction of Sodom with fire from heaven, (<011901>Genesis 19.) and of the whole human family by the flood, (<010701>Genesis 7.) But the simpler meaning is best, That it were the height of madness in individuals to think that they could escape when nations perish. In adding that God teacheth men knowledge,  fd22 the Psalmist glances at the overweening confidence of such as despise God, and pride themselves in their acuteness and shrewdness, as we find Isaiah denouncing a woe against those crafty enemies of God who dig deep, that they may hide themselves from his sight, (<232915>Isaiah 29:15.) It is a disease prevalent enough in the world still. We know the refuges under covert of which both courtiers and lawyers take occasion to indulge in shameless mockery of God.  fd23 It is as if the Psalmist had said — You think to elude God through the confidence which you have in your acute understandings, and would pretend to dispute the knowledge of the Almighty, when, in truth, all the knowledge which is in the world is but as a drop from his own inexhaustible fullness.

<199411>Psalm 94:11-13

11. Jehovah knoweth the thoughts of men,  fd24 that they are vain.  fd25 12. Blessed is the man whom thou hast instructed, O God! And taught out of thy law; 13. To give him rest from days of evil whilst the pit is digged for the wicked.

 

11. Jehovah knoweth the thoughts of men, etc. He again insists upon the folly of men in seeking to wrap themselves up in darkness, and hide themselves from the view of God. To prevent them from flattering themselves with vain pretexts, he reminds them that the mists of delusion will be scattered at once when they come to stand in God’s presence. Nothing can avail them, so long as God from heaven stamps vanity upon their deepest counsels. The Psalmist’s design in citing them before the Judge of all, is to make them thoroughly search and try their own hearts; for the great cause of their self-security lay in failing to realize God, burying all distinction between right and wrong, and, so far as that was possible, hardening themselves against all feeling. They might contrive to soothe their minds by means like these, but he tells them that God ridiculed all such trifling. The truth may be a plain one, and well known; but the Psalmist states a fact which many overlook, and which we would do well to remember, That the wicked, when they attempt to hide themselves under subtile refuges, cannot deceive God, and necessarily deceive themselves. Some read — They (that is, men themselves) are vanity; but this is a forced rendering, and the form of expression is one which both in the Greek and Hebrew may be translated, God knows that the thoughts of men are vain.

12. Blessed is the man whom thou hast instructed, O God! The Psalmist now passes from the language of censure to that of consolation, comforting himself and others of the Lord’s people with the truth, that though God might afflict them for a time, he consulted their true interests and safety. At no period of life is this a truth which it is unnecessary to remember, called as we are to a continued warfare. God may allow us intervals of ease, in consideration of our weakness, but would always have us exposed to calamities of various kinds. The audacious excesses to which the wicked proceed we have already noticed. Were it not for the comfortable consideration that they are a blessed people whom God exercises with the cross, our condition would be truly miserable. We are to consider, that in calling us to be his people, he has separated us from the rest of the world, to participate a blessed peace in the mutual cultivation of truth and righteousness. The Church is often cruelly oppressed by tyrants under color of law — the very case of which the Psalmist complains in this psalm; for it is evident that he speaks of domestic enemies, pretending to be judges in the nation. Under such circumstances, a carnal judgment would infer, that if God really concerned himself in our welfare he would never suffer these persons to perpetrate such enormities. To prevent this, the Psalmist would have us distrust our own ideas of things, and feel the necessity of that wisdom which comes from above. I consider the passage to mean that it is only in the Lord’s school we can ever learn to maintain composure of mind, and a posture of patient expectation and trust under the pressure of distress. The Psalmist declares that the wisdom which would bear us onward to the end, with an inward peace and courage under long-continued trouble, is not natural to any of us, but must come from God.  fd26 Accordingly, he exclaims, that those are the truly blessed whom God has habituated through his word to the endurance of the cross, and prevented from sinking under adversity by the secret supports and consolations of his own Spirit.

The words with which the verse begins, Blessed is the man whom thou hast instructed, have no doubt a reference to chastisements and experience of the cross, but they also comprehend the gift of inward illumination; and afterwards the Psalmist adds, that this wisdom, which is imparted by God inwardly, is, at the same time, set forth and made known in the Scriptures.  fd27 In this way he puts honor upon the use of the written word, as we find Paul saying, that all things

“were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope” (<451504>Romans 15:4)

This shows from what quarter we are to derive our patience — the oracles of God, which supply us with matter of hope for the mitigation of our griefs. In short, what the Psalmist means is summarily this: Believers must, in the first place, be exhorted to exercise patience, not to despond under the cross, but wait submissively upon God for deliverance; and next, they must be taught how this grace is to be obtained, for we are naturally disposed to abandon ourselves to despair, and any hope of ours would speedily fail, were we not taught from above that all our troubles must eventually issue in salvation. We have here the Psalmist’s testimony to the truth, That the word of God provides us with abundant ground of comfort, and that none who rightly avails himself of it need ever count himself unhappy, or yield himself to hopelessness and despondency. One mark by which God distinguishes the true from the false disciple is, that of his being ready and prepared to bear the cross, and waiting quietly for the Divine deliverance, without giving way to fretfulness and impatience. A true patience does not consist in presenting an obstinate resistance to evils, or in that unyielding stubbornness which passed as a virtue with the Stoics, but in a cheerful submission to God, based upon confidence in his grace. On this account it is with good reason that the Psalmist begins by laying it down as a fundamental truth, necessary to be learned by all the Lord’s people, That the end of those temporary persecutions, to which they are subjected, is their being brought at last to a blessed rest after their enemies have done their worst. He might have contented himself with saying, that the truly blessed were those who had learned from God’s word to bear the cross patiently, but that he might the more readily incline them to a cheerful acquiescence in the Divine disposals, he subjoined a statement of the consolation which tends to mitigate the grief of their spirits. Even supposing that a man should bear his trials without a tear or a sigh, yet if he champ the bit in sullen hopelessness — if he only hold by such principles as these, “We are mortal creatures,” “It is vain to resist necessity, and strive against fate,” “Fortune is blind” — this is obstinacy rather than patience, and there is concealed opposition to God in this contempt of calamities under color of fortitude. The only consideration which will subdue our minds to a tractable submission is, that God, in subjecting us to persecutions, has in view our being ultimately brought into the enjoyment of a rest. Wherever there reigns this persuasion of a rest prepared for the people of God, and a refreshment provided under the heat and turmoil of their troubles, that they may not perish with the world around them, — this will prove enough, and more than enough, to alleviate any present bitterness of affliction.

By evil days, or days of evil, the Psalmist might thus mean the everlasting destruction which awaits the ungodly, whom God has spared for a certain interval. Or his words may be expounded as signifying, that the man is blessed who has learned to be composed and tranquil under trials. The rest intended would then be that of an inward kind, enjoyed by the believer even during the storms of adversity; and the scope of the passage would be, that the truly happy man is he who has so far profited, by the word of God, as to sustain the assault of evils from without, with peace and composure. But as it is added, whilst  fd28 the pit is digged for the wicked, it would seem necessary, in order to bring out the opposition contained in the two members of the sentence, to suppose that the Psalmist rather commends the wisdom of those who reckon that God afflicts them with a view to saving them from destruction, and bringing them eventually to a happy issue. It was necessary to state this second ground of comfort, because our hearts cannot fail to be affected with the most intense grief when we see the wicked triumph, and no Divine restraint put upon them. The Psalmist meets the temptation by appropriately reminding us that the wicked are left upon earth, just as a dead body which is stretched out upon a bed, till its grave be dug. Here believers are warned that, if they would preserve their constancy, they must mount their watchtower, as Habakkuk says, (<350201>Habakkuk 2:1) and take a view in the distance of God’s judgments. They shall see worldly men rioting in worldly delights, and, if they extend their view no farther, they will give way to impatience. But it would moderate their grief, would they only remember that those houses which are nominally appropriated to the living, are, in fact, only granted to the dead, until their grave be digged; and that, though they remain upon earth, they are already devoted to destruction.  fd29

<199414>Psalm 94:14-15

14. Surely Jehovah will not cast off his people, and he will not forsake his inheritance. 15. But judgment will return unto righteousness, and all the upright in heart after him.

 

14. Surely Jehovah will not cast off his people. He enforces the same truth which he had stated above in still clearer terms, denying it to be possible that God should cast off his people, whom he had chosen in a manner to be his inheritance. When assailed by afflictions, we should fly to this consideration, as a sanctuary of refuge, that we are God’s people, gratuitously adopted into his family, and that he must necessarily have a most intimate and tender regard for our safety, having promised to watch as carefully over his Church as if it were his own heritage. We are thus again taught that our patience will soon give way and fail, unless the tumult of carnal suggestions be allayed by a knowledge of the Divine favor shining in upon our souls.

15. But judgment will return unto righteousness. In the dark season of affliction, it is not easy to recognize the secret love which God even then bears to his own children, and the Psalmist adduces another ground of comfort, in the consideration that God will eventually put an end to the confusions which perplex them, and reduce matters to order. The form of expression used by the Psalmist is a little obscure, and this has led some to read the first part of the verse, as if it contained two distinct clauses — justice will return at the end, and then, judgment will return. This is a violent wresting of the context. I have no doubt the Psalmist meant to say that judgment would be fitted or conformed to justice. And by judgment here is meant, as in many other places, the government or public state of matters. The confusion which prevails in the world, seems to argue some defect or unrighteousness of administration; and he holds out to us that it shall be well in the issue. More is said than merely that men who indulged in reckless oppression would be brought back to equitable dealing. A deeper meaning is intended, That God, when he interposed to restore the condition of his people, would bring forth openly to the light his justice which had lain concealed; by which we are not to understand that he ever deviates the least in his providence from the strictest rectitude, only there is not always that harmony and arrangement which might make his righteousness apparent to man’s view, and the correction of this inequality is here called justice of government.  fd30 As the sun’s light is hid from view at night, or at a cloudy season, so when the wicked persecute the righteous, and are allowed to indulge in iniquity without restraint, the Divine justice is obscured by the clouds which are thus interposed between us and the providence of God, and judgment is in a manner separated from justice. But when things are brought back again to their proper state, justice and government are seen to harmonize perfectly together in the equality which prevails.  fd31 Faith no doubt, should enable us to discern the justice of God even when things are most dark and disordered; but the passage speaks of what would be obvious to sense and actual observation, and asserts that the justice of God would shine as the sky when all is calm and serene.

And all that are upright in heart after him. Some read, after it, that is, after righteousness; but as by righteousness here we are to understand the equal and harmonious government which prevails when God takes vengeance upon the wicked and delivers his own people, this rendering will scarcely suit. It would rather seem that God himself is to be understood, so that the relative is here without an antecedent. In the Hebrew, when mention is made of God, the relative is not unfrequently put instead of the name. The words then mean, that upon God’s restoring order in the world, his people would be encouraged to follow him with greater alacrity. Even when called to bear the cross, they sigh after him under their troubles and distresses, but it binds them more closely to his service when they see his hand stretched forth in this visible manner, and sensibly experience his deliverance.

<199416>Psalm 94:16-19

16. Who will rise up for me against my adversaries? who will stand up for me  fd32 against the workers of iniquity? 17. Unless Jehovah had been my help, my soul had well nigh dwelt in silence.  fd33 18. If I said, My foot has fallen, thy kindness, O Jehovah! has held me up.  fd34 19. In the multitude of my thoughts,  fd35 thy comforts within me delight my soul.  fd36

 

16. Who will rise up for me against my adversaries? Here the Psalmist points out, in a lively and graphic manner, how destitute he was of all human aid. As if at the moment in danger, he cries out — Who will stand up for me? Who will oppose himself to my enemies? And immediately afterwards he replies, that had not God helped him, he must have despaired of safety. In declaring that he had been thus miraculously rescued from death, when deserted by all the world, he commends the more God’s kindness and grace. When men aid us, they are only instruments by which the grace of God works; but we are apt not to recognize God’s hand when we see any subordinate agency in the deliverance. He speaks of his life dwelling in silence, (verse 17) for the dead lie in the grave without feeling or strength. Thus the Psalmist owns that there was no means by which his life could have been preserved, had not God interposed without delay.

18. If I said, My foot has fallen. What is said in this verse confirms the preceding statement. The more to commend God’s kindness and power, he declares that it was no common danger from which he had been rescued, but in a manner from present death. The import of the language is, that death stared him so full in view, that he despaired of himself; as Paul speaks of having had the message of death in himself, when his condition was desperate, and he had given up hope of life, (<470109>2 Corinthians 1:9.) The fact of the Psalmist having been delivered after he had considered death certain, made the Divine interposition the more conspicuous. If we understand him as speaking of temporal death only in the expression, My foot has fallenthere is nothing unaccountable in the circumstance of his having despaired,  fd37 as God often prolongs the life of his people in the world, when they had lost hope, and were preparing for their departure. Possibly, however, the Psalmist only means that this was the language of sense; and this is the more probable, because we have already seen that he never ceased praying to God — a proof that he had still some hope. The next verse affords still further proof, for there he tells us that his afflictions were always mixed with some comfort. By thoughts, he means anxious and perplexing cares, which would have overwhelmed him had not consolation been communicated to him from above. We learn this truth from the passage, That God interposes in behalf of his people, with a due regard to the magnitude of their trials and distresses, and at the very moment which is necessary, enlarging them in their straits, as we find stated in other places. The heavier our calamities grow, we should hope that Divine grace will only be the more powerfully manifested in comforting us under them, (<190401>Psalm 4:1; 118:5,) But should we through weakness of the flesh be vexed and tormented by anxious cares, we must be satisfied with the remedy which the Psalmist here speaks of in such high terms. Believers are conscious of two very different states of mind. On the one hand, they are afflicted and distressed with various fears and anxieties; on the other, there is a secret joy communicated to them from above, and this in accommodation to their necessity, so as to preserve them from being swallowed up by any complication or force of calamity which may assail them.

<199420>Psalm 94:20-23

20. Shall the throne of iniquities have fellowship with thee, framing molestation for law?  fd38 21. They will gather together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood. 22. But Jehovah has been my fortress; and my God for the rock of my confidence. 23. And he shall repay their own iniquity upon them, and shall cut them off in their wickedness; Jehovah our God shall cut them off.

 

20. Shall the throne of iniquities have fellowship with thee? He again derives an argument for confidence from the nature of God, it being impossible that he should show favor to the wicked, or sanction their evil devices. With God for their enemy, how could they escape being destroyed? The words have greater force from being thrown into the form of a question, to show how completely opposed all sin is to the divine nature. The term throne is used, because those against whom the present charge is brought were not common robbers or assassins, who are universally recognized as infamous, but tyrants who persecuted the Lord’s people under color of law. These, although occupying the throne which has been consecrated to God, have stained and polluted it with their crimes, and therefore have nothing in common with it. The meaning is brought out more clearly in the subsequent clause of the verse, where they are declared to be persons utterly estranged from God, who frame molestation for law, or, as the Hebrew word qj, chok, signifies, decree of law, or statute order. The Psalmist aims at those profligate judges who, under pretense of pursuing the strict course of office, perpetrate the worst species of enormities. Judges of this abandoned character, as we know, with no other view than to retain possession of a specious name for integrity, invent various excuses to defend their infamous oppressions. The meaning of the Psalmist is apparent then; and it is this, that honorable as a throne may be, so far as the name goes, it ceases to have any worth or estimation with God when abused by wicked men; for iniquity can never meet with his approbation.

21. They will gather together against the soul of the righteous. As the Hebrew word ddg, gadad, or dwg, gud,  fd39 signifies to collect forces or a band of men, the Psalmist evidently intimates that he had to do with leading persons of influence, and not with those merely in private station. The term implies too, that it was not merely one or two private individuals who persecuted him, and others of the Lord’s people, but a public convention. Melancholy and disgraceful must the state of matters have been, when the wicked thus ruled in lawful assembly, and those who formed the college of judges were no better than a band of robbers. The case becomes doubly vexatious, when the innocent victims of oppression are not only injured, but have a stigma fixed upon their character. And what more unseemly spectacle, than when the whole course of judicial administration is just a foul conspiracy against good and innocent men?  fd40 The instance here recorded should prepare us for a like emergency, if it chance to occur in our own day, when the wicked may be permitted, in the providence of God, to mount the seat of judgment, and launch destruction upon the upright and the righteous, under color of law. Intolerable as it might seem at first sight, that persons innocent of any crime should meet with cruel persecution, even from the hands of judges, so as to be loaded with ignominy, we see that God tried his children in other times by this double species of oppression, and that we must learn to bear submissively not only with unrighteous violence, but with charges most injurious to our character, and most undeserved.  fd41

22. But Jehovah has been my fortress. The Psalmist declares, that great as were the extremities to which he had been reduced, he had found sufficient help in the single protection of God; thus passing a new commendation upon his power, which had been such as alone, and unaided, to put down the mightiest endeavors — all the force and the fury of his numerous enemies. He does more than say that God was a fortress, where he might hide with safety, and from the top of which he could bid defiance to every assault. Having congratulated himself upon the divine protection, he proceeds to denounce destruction upon his enemies; for it is to be considered as God’s special prerogative to make the evil which his enemies devise against his people recoil upon their own heads. The mere defeating, and frustrating their attempts, would afford no inconsiderable display of divine justice; but the judgment of God is far more marvellously manifested when they fall into the pit which they themselves had prepared, when all the subtle plans which they have adopted for ruining the innocent end in their being destroyed by their own craftiness, and when having done their utmost, they fall by their own sword. We are slow to believe that this shall be the issue, and accordingly it is said twice — he shall cut them off — the Lord our God shall cut them off. It may be noticed also, that the Psalmist in using the expression our God, holds out a ground of encouragement to the faithful, reminding us of what he had said above, that God will not forget his own inheritance, even his people whom he has brought unto the faith of himself.


PSALM 95

The inspired penman of this psalm, whoever he was,  fd42 in exhorting the Jews to praise God in solemn assembly, states two grounds why God should be praised; the one, that he sustains by his power the world which he created, the other, that he had of his free grace adopted the Church into a gracious relationship with himself. As many take God’s praises into their lips in a hypocritical manner, he exhorts the people at the same time to be sincere, serious, and devoted in the service, and to show by the tenor of their life that they had not been chosen in vain. The more effectually to guard them against hypocrisy, he mentions that their fathers from the beginning had been of a stubborn spirit, and chargeable with ingratitude to God; and he takes notice of the dreadful punishment which fell upon them, and which might well deter their children from following in the footsteps of their rebelliousness.

<199501>Psalm 95:1-5

1. Come, let us rejoice before Jehovah; let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation.  fd43.2. Let us come before his face with praise, In psalms let us shout for joy unto him. 3. For Jehovah is a great God, And a great King, above all gods. 4. For in his hand are the deep places of the earth,  fd44 And the heights of the mountains are his. 5. For his is the sea, and he made it; And the dry land his hands formed.

 

1. Come, let us rejoice before Jehovah. This psalm is suited for the Sabbath, when we know that the religious assemblies were more particularly convened for the worship of God. It is not individuals among the godly whom he exhorts to celebrate the divine praises in private; he enjoins these to be offered up in the public meeting. By this he showed that the outward worship of God principally consisted in the sacrifice of praise, and not in dead ceremonies. He enjoins haste upon them; by which they might testify their alacrity in this service. For the Hebrew word dq, kadam, in the second verse, which I have rendered, let us come before, etc., means to make haste. He calls upon them to speed into the presence of God; and such an admonition was needed, considering how naturally backward we are when called by God to the exercise of thanksgiving. This indirect charge of indolence in the exercise, the Psalmist saw it necessary to prefer against God’s ancient people; and we should be made aware that there is just as much need of a stimulus in our own case, filled as our hearts are with similar ingratitude. In calling them to come before God’s face, he uses language which was also well fitted to increase the ardor of the worshippers; nothing being more agreeable than to offer in God’s own presence such a sacrifice as he declares that he will accept. He virtually thus says, in order to prevent their supposing the service vain, that God was present to witness it. I have shown elsewhere in what sense God was present in the sanctuary.

3. For Jehovah is a great God. By these words the Psalmist reminds us what abundant grounds we have for praising God, and how far we are from needing to employ the lying panegyric with which rhetoricians flatter earthly princes. First, he extols the greatness of God, drawing a tacit contrast between him and such false gods as men have invented for themselves. We know that there has always been a host of gods in the world, as Paul says,

“There are many on the earth who are called gods,”
(<460805>1 Corinthians 8:5.)

We are to notice the opposition stated between the God of Israel and all others which man has formed in the exercise of an unlicensed imagination. Should any object, that “an idol is nothing in the world,” (<460804>1 Corinthians 8:4,) it is enough to reply, that the Psalmist aims at denouncing the vain delusions of men who have framed gods after their own foolish device. I admit, however, that under this term he may have comprehended the angels, asserting God to be possessed of such excellence as exalted him far above all heavenly glory, and whatever might be considered Divine, as well as above the feigned deities of earth.  fd45 Angels are not indeed gods, but the name admits of an improper application to them on account of their being next to God, and still more, on account of their being accounted no less than gods by men who inordinately and superstitiously extol them. If the heavenly angels themselves must yield before the majesty of the one God, it were the height of indignity to compare him with gods who are the mere fictions of the brain. In proof of his greatness, he bids us look to his formation of the world, which he declares to be the work of God’s hands, and subject to his power. This is one general ground why God is to be praised, that he has clearly shown forth his glory in the creation of the world, and will have us daily recognize him in the government of it. When it is said, that the depths of the earth are in his hand, the meaning is, that it is ruled by his providence, and subject to his power. Some read, the bounds of the earth, but the word means abysses or depths, as opposed to the heights of the mountains. The Hebrew word properly signifies searching.

<199506>Psalm 95:6-7

6. Come ye, let us worship, and bow down;  fd46 let us kneel before the face of Jehovah our Maker. 7. Because he is our God, and we the people of his pastures, and the flock of his hand; to-day, if ye will hear his voice.

 

6. Come ye, let us worship. Now that the Psalmist exhorts God’s chosen people to gratitude, for that pre-eminency among the nations which he had conferred upon them in the exercise of his free favor, his language grows more vehement. God supplies us with ample grounds of praise when he invests us with spiritual distinction, and advances us to a pre-eminency above the rest of mankind which rests upon no merits of our own. In three successive terms he expresses the one duty incumbent upon the children of Abraham, that of an entire devotement of themselves to God. The worship of God, which the Psalmist here speaks of, is assuredly a matter of such importance as to demand our whole strength; but we are to notice, that he particularly condescends upon one point, the paternal favor of God, evidenced in his exclusive adoption of the posterity of Abraham unto the hope of eternal life. We are also to observe, that mention is made not only of inward gratitude, but the necessity of an outward profession of godliness. The three words which are used imply that, to discharge their duty properly, the Lord’s people must present themselves a sacrifice to him publicly, with kneeling, and other marks of devotion. The face of the Lord is an expression to be understood in the sense I referred to above, — that the people should prostrate themselves before the Ark of the Covenant, for the reference is to the mode of worship under the Law. This remark, however, must be taken with one reservation, that the worshippers were to lift their eyes to heaven, and serve God in a spiritual manner.  fd47

7. Because he is our God. While it is true that all men were created to praise God, there are reasons why the Church is specially said to have been formed for that end, (<236103>Isaiah 61:3.) The Psalmist was entitled to require this service more particularly from the hands of his chosen people. This is the reason why he impresses upon the children of Abraham the invaluable privilege which God had conferred upon them in taking them under his protection. God may indeed be said in a sense to have done so much for all mankind. But when asserted to be the Shepherd of the Church, more is meant than that he favors her with the common nourishment, support, and government which he extends promiscuously to the whole human family; he is so called because he separates her from the rest of the world, and cherishes her with a peculiar and fatherly regard. His people are here spoken of accordingly as the people of his pastures, whom he watches over with peculiar care, and loads with blessings of every kind. The passage might have run more clearly had the Psalmist called them the flock of his pastures, and the people of his hand;  fd48 or, had he added merely — and his flock fd49the figure might have been brought out more consistently and plainly. But his object was less elegancy of expression than pressing upon the people a sense of the inestimable favor conferred upon them in their adoption, by virtue of which they were called to live under the faithful guardianship of God, and to the enjoyment of every species of blessings. They are called the flock of his hand, not so much because formed by his hand as because governed by it, or, to use a French expression, le Troupeau de sa conduite.  fd50 The point which some have given to the expression, as if it intimated how intent God was upon feeding his people, doing it himself, and not employing hired shepherds, may scarcely perhaps be borne out by the words in their genuine meaning; but it cannot be doubted that the Psalmist would express the very gracious and familiar kind of guidance which was enjoyed by this one nation at that time. Not that God dispensed with human agency, intrusting the care of the people as he did to priests, prophets, and judges, and latterly to kings. No more is meant than that in discharging the office of shepherd to this people, he exercised a superintendence over them different from that common providence which extends to the rest of the world.

To-day, if you will hear his voice.  fd51 According to the Hebrew expositors, this is a conditional clause standing connected with the preceding sentence; by which interpretation the Psalmist must be considered as warning the people that they would only retain possession of their privilege and distinction so long as they continued to obey God.  fd52 The Greek version joins it with the verse that follows — to-day, if ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts, and it reads well in this connection. Should we adopt the distribution of the Hebrew expositors, the Psalmist seems to say that the posterity of Abraham were the flock of God’s hand, inasmuch as he had placed his Law in the midst of them, which was, as it were, his crook, and had thus showed himself to be their shepherd. The Hebrew particle a, im, which has been rendered if, would in that case be rather expositive than conditional, and might be rendered when,  fd53 the words denoting it to be the great distinction between the Jews and the surrounding nations, that God had directed his voice to the former, as it is frequently noticed he had not done to the latter, (<19E720>Psalm 147:20; <050406>Deuteronomy 4:6, 7.) Moses had declared this to constitute the ground of their superiority to other people, saying, “What nation is there under heaven which hath its gods so nigh unto it?” The inspired writers borrow frequently from Moses, as is well known, and the Psalmist, by the expression to-day, intimates how emphatically the Jews, in hearing God’s voice, were his people, for the proof was not far off, it consisted in something which was present and before their eyes. He bids them recognize God as their shepherd, inasmuch as they heard his voice; and it was an instance of his singular grace that he had addressed them in such a condescending and familiar manner. Some take the adverb to be one of exhortation, and read, I would that they would hear my voice, but this does violence to the words. The passage runs well taken in the other meaning we have assigned to it. Since they had a constant opportunity of hearing the voice of God — since he gave them not only one proof of the care he had over them as shepherd, or yearly proof of it, but a continual exemplification of it, there could be no doubt that the Jews were chosen to be his flock.

<199508>Psalm 95:8-11

8. Harden not your heart, as in Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness.  fd54 9. When your fathers tempted me, they proved me, though yet they had seen my work. 10. Forty years, I strove with this generation,  fd55 and said, They are a people that err in heart,  fd56 and they have not known my ways. 11. Wherefore I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest:  fd57

 

8. Harden not your heart, as in Meribah. The Psalmist, having extolled and commended the kindness of God their Shepherd, takes occasion, as they were stiffnecked and disobedient, to remind them of their duty, as his flock, which was to yield a pliable and meek submission; and the more to impress their minds, he upbraids them with the obstinacy of their fathers. The term hbyrm, Meribah, may be used appellatively to mean strife or contention; but as the Psalmist evidently refers to the history contained in <021702>Exodus 17:2-7,  fd58 I have preferred understanding it of the place — and so of hsm, Massah.  fd59 In the second clause, however, the place where the temptation happened may be thought sufficiently described under the term wilderness, and should any read, according to the day of temptation (instead of Massah) in the wilderness, there can be no objection. Some would have it, that Massah and Meribah were two distinct places, but I see no ground to think so; and, in a matter of so little importance, we should not be too nice or curious. He enlarges in several expressions upon the hardness of heart evinced by the people, and, to produce the greater effect, introduces God himself as speaking.  fd60 By hardness of heart, he no doubt means, any kind of contempt shown to the word of God, though there are many different kinds of it. We find that when proclaimed, it is heard by some in a cold and slighting manner; that some fastidiously put it away from them after they had received it; that others proudly reject it; while again there are men who openly vent their rage against it with despite and blasphemy.  fd61 The Psalmist, in the one term which he has employed, comprehends all these defaulters, the careless — the fastidious — such as deride the word, and such as are actuated in their opposition to it by frenzy and passion. Before the heart can be judged soft and pliable to the hearing of God’s word, it is necessary that we receive it with reverence, and with a disposition to obey it. If it carry no authority and weight with it, we show that we regard him as no more than a mere man like ourselves; and here lies the hardness of our hearts, whatever may be the cause of it, whether simply carelessness, or pride, or rebellion. He has intentionally singled out the odious term here employed, to let us know what an execrable thing contempt of God’s word is; as, in the Law, adultery is used to denote all kinds of fornication and uncleanness, and murder all kinds of violence, and injury, hatreds, and enmities. Accordingly, the man who simply treats the word of God with neglect, and fails to obey it, is said here to have a hard and stony heart, although he may not be an open despiser. The attempt is ridiculous which the Papists have made to found upon this passage their favorite doctrine of the liberty of the will. We are to notice, in the first place, that all men’s hearts are naturally hard and stony; for Scripture does not speak of this as a disease peculiar to a few, but characteristic in general of all mankind, (<263626>Ezekiel 36:26.) It is an inbred pravity; still it is voluntary; we are not insensible in the same manner that stones are,  fd62 and the man who will not suffer himself to be ruled by God’s word, makes that heart, which was hard before, harder still, and is convinced as to his own sense and feeling of obstinacy. The consequence by no means follows from this, that softness of heart — a heart flexible indifferently in either direction, is at our command.  fd63 The will of man, through natural corruption, is wholly bent to evil; or, to speak more properly, is carried headlong into the commission of it. And yet every man, who disobeys God therein, hardens himself; for the blame of his wrong doing rests with none but himself.

9. When your fathers tempted me, they proved me. The Psalmist insinuates, as I have already remarked, that the Jews had been from the first of a perverse and almost intractable spirit. And there were two reasons which made it highly useful to remind the children of the guilt chargeable upon their fathers. We know how apt men are to follow the example of their predecessors; custom begets a sanction; what is ancient becomes venerable, and such is the blinding influence of home example, that whatever may have been done by our forefathers passes for a virtue without examination. We have an instance in Popedom, of the audacity with which the authority of the fathers is opposed to God’s word. The Jews were of all others most liable to be deceived upon this side, ever accustomed as they were to boast of their fathers. The Psalmist accordingly would detach them from the fathers, by taking notice of the monstrous ingratitude with which they had been chargeable. A second reason, and one to which I have already adverted, is, that he would show them the necessity in which they stood of being warned upon the present subject. Had their fathers not manifested a rebellions spirit, they might have retorted by asking the question, Upon what ground he warned them against hardness of heart, their nation having hitherto maintained a character for docility and tractableness? The fact being otherwise — their fathers having from the first been perverse and stubborn, the Psalmist had a plain reason for insisting upon the correction of this particular vice.

There are two ways of interpreting the words which follow. As tempting God is nothing else than yielding to a diseased and unwarrantable craving after proof of his power,  fd64 we may consider the verse as connected throughout, and read, They tempted me and proved me, although they had already seen my work. God very justly complains, that they should insist upon new proof, after his power had been already amply testified by undeniable evidences. There is another meaning, however, that may be given to the term proved, — according to which, the meaning of the passage would run as follows: Your fathers tempted me in asking where God was, notwithstanding all the benefits I had done them; and they proved me, that is, they had actual experience of what I am, inasmuch as I did not cease to give them open proofs of my presence, and consequently they saw my work. Whatever sense we adopt, the Psalmist’s design is plainly to show how inexcusable the Jews were in desiring a discovery of God’s power, just as if it had been hidden, and had not been taught them by the most incontestable proofs.  fd65 Granting that they had received no foregoing demonstration of it, they would have evinced an unbecoming spirit in demanding of God why he had failed to provide them with meat and drink; but to doubt his presence after he had brought them from Egypt with an outstretched hand, and evidenced his nearness to them by most convincing testimonies, — to doubt his presence in the same manner as if it had never been revealed, was a degree of perverse forgetfulness which aggravated their guilt. Upon the whole, I consider the following to be the sense of the passage — Your fathers tempted me, although they had abundantly proved — perceived by clear and undeniable evidences, that I was their God — nay, although my works had been clearly set before them. The lesson is one which is equally applicable to ourselves; for the more abundant testimonies we may have had of the power and loving-kindness of the Lord, the greater will our sin be, if we insist upon receiving additional proofs of them. How many do we find in our own day demanding miracles, while others murmur against God because he does not indulge their wishes? Some may ask why the Psalmist singles out the particular case of Meribah, when there were many other instances which he might have adduced. They never ceased to provoke God from the moment of their passing the Red Sea; and in bringing this one charge only against them, he might seem by his silence on other points to justify their conduct. But the figure synecdoche is common in Scripture, and it would be natural enough to suppose that one case is selected for many. At the same time, another reason for the specification may have been, that, as plainly appears from Moses, the ingratitude and rebellion of the people reached its greatest height on this occasion, when they murmured for water. I am aware that interpreters differ upon this. Such, however, was the fact. They then crowned their former impiety; nor was it until this outcry was made, as the consummating act of all their preceding wickedness, that they gave open proof of their obstinacy being incurable.  fd66

10. Forty years I strove with this generation.  fd67 The Psalmist brings it forward as an aggravation of their perverse obstinacy, that God strove with them for so long a time without effect. Occasionally it will happen that there is a violent manifestation of perversity which soon subsides; but God complains that he had constant grounds of contention with his people, throughout the whole forty years. And this proves to us the incurable waywardness of that people. The word generation is used with the same view. The word rwd, dor, signifies an age, or the allotted term of human life; and it is here applied to the men of an age, as if the Psalmist had said, that the Israelites whom God had delivered were incorrigible, during the whole period of their lives. The verb fwqa, akut, which I have rendered I strove, is, by some, translated contemned, and in the Septuagint it reads, proswcqisa, fd68 I was incensed, or enraged; but Hebrew interpreters retain the genuine meaning, That God strove with them in a continual course of contention. This was a remarkable proof of their extreme obstinacy; and God is introduced in the verse as formally pronouncing judgment upon them, to intimate, that after having shown their ungodliness in so many different ways, there could be no doubt regarding their infatuation. Erring in heart, is an expression intended not to extenuate their conduct, but to stamp it with folly and madness, as if he had said, that he had to do with beasts, rather than men endued with sense and intelligence. The reason is subjoined, that they would not attend to the many works of God brought under their eyes, and more than all, to his word; for the Hebrew term ˚rd, derech, which I have rendered ways, comprehends his law and repeated admonitions, as well as his miracles done before them. It argued amazing infatuation that when God had condescended to dwell in such a familiar manner amongst them, and had made such illustrious displays of himself, both in word and works, they should have shut their eyes and overlooked all that had been done. This is the reason why the Psalmist, considering that they wandered in error under so much light as they enjoyed, speaks of their stupidity as amounting to madness.

11. Wherefore I have sworn in my wrath. I see no objection to the relative ra, asher, being understood in its proper sense and reading — To whom I have sworn. The Greek version, taking it for a mark of similitude, reads, As I have sworn. But I think that it may be properly considered as expressing an inference or conclusion; not as if they were then at last deprived of the promised inheritance when they tempted God, but the Psalmist, having spoken, in the name of God, of that obstinacy which they displayed, takes occasion to draw the inference that there was good reason for their being prohibited, with an oath, from entering the land. Proportionally as they multiplied their provocations, it became the more evident that, being incorrigible, they had been justly cut off from God’s rest.  fd69 The meaning would be more clear by reading in the pluperfect tense — I had sworn; for God had already shut them out from the promised inheritance, having foreseen their misconduct; before he thus strove with them. I have elsewhere adverted to the explanation which is to be given of the elliptical form in which the oath runs.  fd70 The land of Canaan is called God’s rest in reference to the promise. Abraham and his posterity had been wanderers in it until the full time came for entering upon the possession of it. Egypt had been a temporary asylum, and, as it were, a place of exile. In preparing to plant the Jews, agreeably to his promise, in their rightful patrimony of Canaan, God might very properly call it his rest. The word must be taken, however, in the active sense; this being the great benefit which God bestowed, that the Jews were to dwell there, as in their native soil, and in a quiet habitation. We might stop a moment here to compare what the Apostle states in the third and fourth chapters of his Epistle to the Hebrews, with the passage now before us. That the Apostle follows the Greek version, need occasion no surprise.  fd71 Neither is he to be considered as undertaking professedly to treat this passage. He only insists upon the adverb To-day, and upon the word Rest. And first, he states that the expression to-day, is not to be confined to the time when the Law was given, but properly applies to the Gospel, when God began to speak more openly. The fuller and more perfect declaration of doctrine demanded the greater share of attention. God has not ceased to speak: he has revealed his Son, and is daily inviting us to come unto him; .and, undoubtedly, it is our incumbent duty, under such an opportunity, to obey his voice. The Apostle next reasons from the rest, to an extent which we are not to suppose that the words of the Psalmist themselves warrant.  fd72 He takes it up as a first position, that since there was an implied promise in the punishment here denounced, there must have been some better rest promised to the people of God than the land of Canaan. For, when the Jews had entered the land, God held out to his people the prospect of another rest, which is defined by the Apostle to consist in that renouncing of ourselves, whereby we rest from our own works while God worketh in us. From this, he takes occasion to compare the old Sabbath, or rest, under the Law, which was figurative, with the newness of spiritual life.  fd73 When his said that he swore in his wrath, this intimates that he was in a manner freed to inflict this punishment, that the provocation was of no common or slight kind, but that their awful obstinacy inflamed his anger, and drew from him this oath.


PSALM 96

This psalm contains an exhortation to praise God, an exhortation which is directed not only to the Jews, but to all nations. We must infer from this, that it has reference to the kingdom of Christ. God’s name could not be called upon in any other part of the world than Judea, until it had been revealed; and the heathen nations were at that time necessarily altogether incapacitated for any such exercise.  fd74 Yet it is evident that the Holy Spirit stirred up the saints who were under the Law to celebrate the Divine praises, till the period should arrive when Christ, by the spread of the Gospel, should fill the whole earth with his glory.

<199601>Psalm 96:1-3

1. Sing to Jehovah a new song, sing unto Jehovah, all the earth. 2. Sing unto Jehovah, bless his name; show forth his salvation from day to day. 3. Declare his glory among the heathen; his wonders among all people.

 

1. Sing unto Jehovah a new song. This commencement shows that, as I have already observed, the Psalmist is exhorting the whole world, and not the Israelites merely, to the exercise of devotion. Nor could this be done, unless the gospel were universally diffused as the means of conveying the knowledge of God. The saying of Paul must necessarily hold true,

“How shall they call upon him in whom they have not believed?” (<451014>Romans 10:14.)

The same Apostle proves the calling of the Gentiles, by adducing in testimony of it, “Praise the Lord, ye Gentiles, with his people” — from which it follows, that fellowship in the faith stands connected with the joint celebration of praise, (<451511>Romans 15:11.) Besides, the Psalmist requires a new song,  fd75 not one which was common, and had formerly been raised. He must therefore refer to some unusual and extraordinary display of the Divine goodness. Thus, when Isaiah speaks of the restoration of the Church, which was wonderful and incredible, he says, “Sing unto the Lord a new song,” (<234210>Isaiah 42:10.) The Psalmist intimates accordingly, that the time was come when God would erect his kingdom in the world in a manner altogether unlooked for. He intimates still more clearly as he proceeds, that all nations would share in the favor of God. He calls upon them everywhere to show forth his salvation, and, in desiring that they should celebrate it from day to day, would denote that it was not of a fading or evanescent nature, but such as should endure for ever.

3. Declare his glory among the heathen. Additional terms are adduced to commend the salvation spoken of. It is called his glory and his wonders; which is equivalent to saying that it was glorious and admirable. By such titles the Psalmist would distinguish it from any deliverances which had formerly been granted, as indeed there can be but one opinion, that when God appeared as Redeemer of all the world, he gave a display of his mercy and of his favor, such as he never vouchsafed before. This salvation it was impossible, as I have said, that the Gentile nations could have celebrated, had they been left without it. The words teach us that we can never be said to have rightly apprehended the redemption wrought out by Christ, unless our minds have been raised to the discovery of something incomparably wonderful about it.

<199604>Psalm 96:4-6

4. For Jehovah is great, and greatly to be praised; he is terrible above all gods.  fd76 5. For all the gods of the nations are vanities;  fd77 but Jehovah made the heavens. 6. Strength and honor are before him; power and glory are in his sanctuary.

 

4. For Jehovah is great, and greatly to be praised. He particularly describes that God, whom he would have men to celebrate, and this because the Gentile nations were prone to merge into error upon this subject. That the whole world might abjure its superstitions, and unite in the true religion, he points out the one only God who is worthy of universal praise. This is a point of the greatest importance. Unless men are restrained by a due respect to it, they can only dishonor him the more that they attempt to worship him. We must observe this order if we would not profane the name of God, and rank ourselves amongst unbelieving men, who set forth gods of their own invention. By gods in the verse may be meant, as I observed already, (<199503>Psalm 95:3,) either angels or idols. I would still be of opinion that the term comprehends whatever is, or is accounted deity. As God, so to speak, sends rays of himself through all the world by his angels, these reflect some sparks of his Divinity.  fd78 Men, again, in framing idols, fashion gods to themselves which have no existence. The Psalmist would convince them of its being a gross error to ascribe undue honor either to the angels or to idols, thus detracting from the glory of the one true God. He convicts the heathen nations of manifest infatuation, upon the ground that their gods are vanity and nought, for such is the meaning of the Hebrew word ylyla, elilim,  fd79 which is here applied to idols in contempt. The Psalmist’s great point is to show, that as the Godhead is really and truly to be found in none but the one Maker of the world, those religions are vain and contemptible which corrupt the pure worship of him. Some may ask, Are angels then to be accounted nothing and vanity, merely because many have been deceived in thinking them gods? I would reply, that we do injury to the angels when we give them that honor which is due to God only; and, while we are not on this account to hold that they are nothing in themselves, yet whatever imaginary glory has been attached to them must go for nothing.  fd80 But the Psalmist has in his eye the gross delusions of the heathen, who impiously fashioned gods to themselves.

Before refuting their absurd notions, he very properly remarks of God that he is great, and greatly to be praisedinsinuating that his glory as the infinite One far excels any which they dreamt of as attaching to their idols. We cannot but notice the confidence with which the Psalmist asserts the glory of the true God, in opposition to the universal opinion which men might entertain. The people of God were at that time called to maintain a conflict of no inconsiderable or common description with the hosts and prodigious mass of superstitions which then filled the whole world. The true God might be said to be confined within the obscure corner of Judea. Jupiter was the god every where received — and adored throughout the whole of Asia, Europe, and Africa. Every country had its own gods peculiar to itself, but these were not unknown in other parts, and it was the true God only who was robbed of that glory which belonged to him. All the world had conspired to believe a lie. Yet the Psalmist, sensible that the vain delusions of men could derogate nothing from the glory of the one God,  fd81 looks down with indifference upon the opinion and universal suffrage of mankind. The inference is plain, that we must not conclude that to be necessarily the true religion which meets with the approbation of the multitude; for the judgment formed by the Psalmist must have fallen to the ground at once, if religion were a thing to be determined by the suffrages of men, and his worship depended upon their caprice. Be it then that ever so many agree in error, we shall insist after the Holy Ghost that they cannot take from God’s glory; for man is vanity himself, and all that comes of him is to be mistrusted.  fd82 Having asserted the greatness of God, he proves it by reference to the formation of the world, which reflects his perfections.  fd83 God must necessarily exist of himself, and be self-sufficient, which shows the vanity of all gods who made not the world. The heavens are mentioned — a part for the whole — as the power of God is principally apparent in them, when we consider their beauty and adornment.

6. Strength and honor are before him. I translate the Hebrew word dwh, hod, by strength, and think those interpreters who render it glory have not duly considered the context. It is evident that the next member of the verse is a repetition, and there it reads, Power and Glory are in his sanctuary. The Psalmist means that we cannot be said to know God if we have not discovered that there is in him an incomparable glory and majesty. He first takes notice of his power and strength, as that in which his glory consists. There, as God is invisible, he directs the thoughts of his people to the sanctuary, which we have already seen to be the symbol of his presence. Such is the weakness of our minds that we rise with difficulty to the contemplation of his glory in the heavens. The Psalmist reminds us that we have no reason to say that his glory is obscure, since there were emblems of his presence in the temple, the sacrifices, and the ark of the covenant. Let us endeavor, when we make mention of God, to conceive of this glory which shines before him — otherwise, if we do not apprehend his power, it is rather a dead than a living God whom we worship.  fd84

<199607>Psalm 96:7-9

7. Give to Jehovah, O ye assemblies of peoples! give to Jehovah glory and strength.  fd85 8. Give to Jehovah the glory of his name; bring an offering,  fd86 and come into his courts. 9. Worship before Jehovah in the beauty of the sanctuary;  fd87 let the whole earth tremble before his face.

 

7. Give to Jehovah, etc. Since praise waited for God in Zion, (<196501>Psalm 65:1,) and that was the place devoted to the celebration of his worship, and the posterity of Abraham were alone invested with the privilege of priesthood, we cannot doubt that the Psalmist refers here to that great change which was to take place in the Church upon the advent of Christ. An opposition or distinction is intended between God’s ancient people and the Gentile tribes, which were to be afterwards adopted into the same fellowship. To declare his glory and strength, is the same with declaring the glory of his strength. And to show that man can boast nothing of his own, and in refusing to celebrate God, impiously despoils him of his just honors, he subjoins, Give unto the Lord the glory of his name; an expression which denotes that God borrows nothing from without, but comprehends all that is worthy of praise in himself. He calls upon the Gentile nations in so many words to render unto God the same worship which the Jews did; not that we must worship God now according to the outward ritual which was prescribed under the Law, but he signifies that there would be one rule and form of religion in which all nations should accord. Now, unless the middle wall of partition had been broken down, the Gentiles could not have entered along with God’s children into the courts of the sanctuary. So that we have here a clear prediction of the calling of the Gentiles, who needed to have their uncleanness taken away before they could be brought into the holy assembly. The mincha, or oblation, was only one kind of sacrifice, but it is here taken to denote the whole worship of God, because it was a part of divine service more ordinarily practiced. We see from this, and other passages, that the inspired penmen describe the inward worship of God under symbols common in the age when they lived. God would not have meat-offerings presented to him after Christ had come; but the words which the Psalmist employs intimate that the doors of the temple, once shut, were now to be opened for the admission of the Gentiles. The Apostle, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, (<581315>Hebrews 13:15) tells us what are those sacrifices with which God will now be worshipped. Hence the absurdity of the Papists, who would adduce such passages in support of the mass and their other fooleries. We may very properly learn from the words, however, that we ought not to come empty-handed into the presence of God, enjoined as we are to present ourselves and all that we have as a reasonable service unto Him, (<451201>Romans 12:1; <600205>1 Peter 2:5.)

9. Worship before Jehovah. The Psalmist prosecutes the same train of sentiment. In requiring oblations of his people, God was not to be considered as standing in need of the services of the creature, but as giving them an opportunity of professing their faith. The true reason, therefore, is here mentioned why the oblation was enjoined, That his people might prostrate themselves before him, and acknowledge that they and all belonging to them were his. Mention is made of the beauty of the temple, referring to the fact that the Gentiles should be raised to a new honor, in being associated into one body with God’s chosen people.  fd88 At the time when this psalm was written, it was generally deemed scarcely credible that the heathen nations would be admitted into the temple in company with the holy seed of Abraham. This should make us think all the more highly of our calling as Gentiles, which seemed then so incredible and impracticable a thing. We may be convinced that God only could have opened for us the door of salvation. The beauty of the temple is an expression intended to beget a reverential view of the temple, that men may approach it with humble fear, instead of rushing without consideration into God’s presence. The clause which follows in the verse is inserted for the same purpose — tremble before his face, intimating that we should prostrate ourselves as suppliants before him when we consider his awful majesty. Not that he would deter worshippers from drawing near to God. They should esteem it their greatest pleasure and enjoyment to seek his face. But he would have us humbled to the right and serious worship of God. I may add, that the beauty or glory of the sanctuary did not consist in silver and gold, in the preciousness of the material of which it was made, nor in polished stones, nor in any splendor and decoration of this kind, but in the representation of the heavenly pattern which was shown to Moses on the mount, (<022509>Exodus 25:9.)

<199610>Psalm 96:10-13

10. Say among the heathen, Jehovah reigneth; also the world shall be established, it shall not be moved: he shall judge the peoples  fd89 in righteousness, [literally, in righteousnesses.] 11. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea thunder, and the fullness thereof. 12. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein; likewise let all the trees of the wood rejoice.  fd90 13. Before Jehovah; for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.  fd91

 

10. Say among the heathen, Jehovah reigneth. His language again implies that it is only where God rules and presides that he can be worshipped. The Gentiles could not possibly profess the worship of God, so long as his throne was only in the small corner of Judea, and they were not acknowledging his government. Accordingly, the Psalmist speaks of his extending his kingdom to all parts of the world, with the view of gathering unto himself in one, those who had formerly been divided and scattered. The expression, Say among the heathen, signifies that God would enlarge the boundaries of his kingdom by his word and doctrine. What is said of the world being established, is particularly worthy of our observation. So far as the order of nature is concerned, we know that it has been Divinely established, and fixed from the beginning; that the same sun, moon, and stars, continue to shine in heaven; that the wicked and the unbelieving are sustained with food, and breathe the vital air, just as do the righteous. Still we are to remember that so long as un-godliness has possession of the minds of men, the world, plunged as it is in darkness, must be considered as thrown into a state of confusion, and of horrible disorder and misrule; for there can be no stability apart from God. The world is very properly here said therefore to be established, that it should not shake, when men are brought back into a state of subjection to God. We learn this truth from the passage, That though all the creatures should be discharging their various offices, no order can be said to prevail in the world, until God erect his throne and reign amongst men. What more monstrous disorder can be conceived of, than exists where the Creator himself is not acknowledged? Wicked and unbelieving men may be satisfied with their own condition, but it is necessarily most insecure, most unstable; and destitute as they are of any foundation in God, their life may be said to hang by a thread.  fd92 We are to recollect what we have seen taught, (<194605>Psalm 46:5) “God is in the midst of the holy city, she shall not be moved.” Very possibly there may be an indirect allusion to the imperfect and uncompleted state of things under the Law, and a contrast may have been intended between the perfect condition of things which should obtain under Christ, and the prelude to it under the former period. Next he predicts that the kingdom to be introduced should be distinguished by righteousness, according to what we have seen, (<194506>Psalm 45:6) “A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom.” The term judging, in the Hebrew, includes government of any kind. If God’s method of governing men be to form and regulate their lives to righteousness, we may infer, that however easily men may be satisfied with themselves, all is necessarily wrong with them, till they have been made subject to Christ. And this righteousness of which the Psalmist speaks has not reference merely to the outward actions. It comprehends a new heart, commencing as it does in the regeneration of the Spirit, by which we are formed again into the likeness of God.

11. Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad. With the view of giving us a more exalted conception of the display of God’s goodness in condescending to take all men under his government, the Psalmist calls upon the irrational things themselves, the trees, the earth, the seas, and the heavens, to join in the general joy. Nor are we to understand that by the heavens he means the angels, and by the earth men;  fd93for he calls even upon the dumb fishes of the deep to shout for joy. The language must therefore be hyperbolical, designed to express the desirableness and the blessedness of being brought unto the faith of God. At the same time, it denotes to us that God does not reign with terror, or as a tyrant, but that his power is exercised sweetly, and so as to diffuse joy amongst his subjects. The wicked may tremble when his kingdom is introduced, but the erection of it is only the cause of their fear indirectly.  fd94 We might notice also, that the hyperbole here employed does not want a certain foundation of a more literal kind. As all elements in the creation groan and travail together with us, according to Paul’s declaration, (<450822>Romans 8:22) they may reasonably rejoice in the restoration of all things according to their earnest desire. The words teach us how infatuated that joy is, which is wantonly indulged in by men who are without God. From the close of the psalm, we learn that it is impossible to experience the slightest measure of true joy, as long as we have not seen the face of God, Rejoice before the Lord, because he cometh. And if the very sea and land mourn so long as God is absent, may we not ask what shall become of us, who are properly the subjects of God’s dreadful curse? The Psalmist, to remove all doubt regarding an event which might seem incredible, repeats his assertion of it, and states, at the same time, in what that rectitude consists, which he had formerly mentioned, when he adds, that God shall govern the world with righteousness and truth. This shows us that it is only by the light of God’s righteousness and truth that the wickedness and hypocrisy of men can be removed and dispelled.


PSALM 97

The description which we have of the kingdom of God in this psalm, does not apply to the state of it under the Law. We may infer, accordingly, that it contains a prediction of that kingdom of Christ, which was erected upon the introduction of the Gospel. The Psalmist, while he commends it to us by insisting upon its greatness and glory, so well calculated to compel the reverential fear of men, gives an amiable representation of it, by informing us that it has been erected for the salvation of mankind sinners.

<199701>Psalm 97:1-5

1. Jehovah reigns: let the earth rejoice, let the great islands  fd95 be glad. 2. Clouds and darkness are round about him; righteousness and judgment are the habitation  fd96 of his throne. 3. A fire shall go before his face, and shall burn up his enemies round about. 4. His lightnings enlightened the world; the earth shall see, and tremble. 5. The hills flow down like wax at the presence of Jehovah, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

 

1. Jehovah reigns. His inviting men to rejoice, is a proof that the reign of God is inseparably connected with the salvation and best happiness of mankind. And, the joy he speaks of being common to the whole world and to the regions beyond the seas, it is evident that he predicts the enlargement of God’s kingdom, which had been confined within the narrow boundaries of Judea, to a far wider extent. The Psalmist, in setting forth the various particulars of the Divine glory in the four verses which follow, would seek to impress all men with a reverential fear of him. Thus he gives us a representation of the formidable majesty attaching to God, that he may dash and humble vain confidence and carnal pride. A cloudy sky overawes us more than a clear one, as the darkness produces a peculiar effect upon the senses. The Psalmist makes use of this symbol, no doubt, to impress the world with the greater reverence of God. Others refine more upon the words, and think that clouds are said to be round about God, to check human rashness and presumption, and restrain that excessive curiosity which would pry more than is fit into the mysteries of Godhead. This is an interpretation of the words which makes them convey a very useful lesson; but I am against all refined renderings, and think that the Psalmist intended in associating darkness with God, to impress the hearts of men with a fear of him in general.  fd97 The same meaning is brought out in the remaining context, when fire is said to go before him, and burn up his enemies, his lightnings to shake the earth, and the mountains to flow down. Should any object that this does not agree with what was said of the joy which his kingdom diffuses, I might answer, first, that although God is ready on his part to diffuse blessedness wherever he reigns, all are not capable of appreciating it. Besides, as I have already hinted, the truth is one of use to believers, humbling the pride of the flesh, and deepening their adoration of God. God’s throne is represented as founded in justice and judgment, to denote the benefit which we derive from it. The greatest misery which can be conceived of, is that of living without righteousness and judgment, and the Psalmist mentions it as matter of praise exclusively due to God, that when he reigns, righteousness revives in the world. He as evidently denies that we can have any righteousness, till God subjects us to the yoke of his word, by the gentle but powerful influences of his Spirit. A great proportion of men obstinately resist and reject the government of God. Hence the Psalmist was forced to exhibit God in his severer aspect, to teach the wicked that their perverse opposition will not pass unpunished. When God draws near to men in mercy, and they fail to welcome him with becoming reverence and respect, this implies impiety of a very aggravated description; on which account it is that the language of denunciation suits with the kingdom of Christ. The Psalmist intimates that those who should despise God in the person of his only-begotten Son, will feel in due time and certainly the awful weight of his majesty. So much is implied in the expression used — The earth Shall See. For the wicked, when they find that their attempts are vain in fighting against God, resort to subterfuge and concealment. The Psalmist declares that they would not succeed by any such vain artifice in hiding themselves from God.

<199706>Psalm 97:6-8

6. The heavens have declared his righteousness, and all the people have seen his glory. 7. Confounded be all those who serve graven images, who glory in their inventions;  fd98 let all the gods worship before him. 8. Zion heard, and was glad; and the daughters of Judah  fd99 rejoiced because of thy judgments, O Jehovah!

 

6. The heavens have declared his righteousness. Here he states that there would be such an illustrious display of the righteousness of God, that the heavens themselves would herald it. The meaning is not the same as in the beginning of the nineteenth psalm, “The heavens declare the glory of God,” etc. In that psalm David means no more than that the wisdom and power of God are as conspicuous in the fabric of the heavens, as if God should assert them with an audible voice. The meaning of the passage before us is, that the spiritual righteousness of God should be so signally manifested under the reign of Christ as to fill both heaven and earth. There is much force in this personification, in which the heavens, as if even they were penetrated with a sense of the righteousness of God, are represented as speaking of it. It is equally probable, however, that the heavens signify here the angels, who are contained in heaven, by the figure of metonomy or synecdoche, while, in the corresponding clause, instead of the earth being mentioned, he speaks of the peoples who dwell upon it. The angels may very properly be said to announce and celebrate the Divine glory.

7. Confounded be all those who serve graven images. The Psalmist draws a broad distinction here, as in the psalm next to this, between the true God and the false gods which men form for themselves. This he does that the praise which he had ascribed might not be applied to any but the true God. Men are all ready to admit that they ought to celebrate the praises of God, but, naturally prone as they are to superstition, few indeed will be bound down to worship God in the manner which is right. No sooner have they to do with God than they deviate into the most baseless delusions. Each fashions a god for himself, and all choose what suits them best in the medley of inventions. This is the reason why the sacred writers, under the apprehension that men may turn to false gods, are careful in giving exhortations to the worship of God, to state at the same time who the true God is. The order observed by the Psalmist suggests the remark, that corrupt superstitions will never be removed until the true religion obtains. Prevented from coming to the true God by the slowness of their spiritual apprehension, men cannot fail to wander in vanities of their own; and it is the knowledge of the true God which dispels these, as the sun disperses the darkness. All have naturally a something of religion born with them,  fd100 but owing to the blindness and stupidity, as well as the weakness of our minds, the apprehension which we conceive of God is immediately depraved. Religion is thus the beginning of all superstitions, not in its own nature, but through the darkness which has settled down upon the minds of men, and which prevents them from distinguishing between idols and the true God. The truth of God is effectual when revealed in dispelling and dissipating superstitions. Does the sun absorb the vapors which intervene in the air, and shall not the presence of God himself be effectual much more? We need not wonder then that the Psalmist, in predicting the Kingdom of God, triumphs over the ungodly nations, which boasted in graven images, as when Isaiah, speaking of the rise of the Gospel, adds,

“Then all the idols of Egypt shall fall,” (<231905>Isaiah 19:50)

Since the knowledge of God has been hid from the view of men, we are taught also that there is no reason to be surprised at the host of superstitions which have overspread the world. We have an exemplification of the same truth in our own day. The knowledge of the true doctrine is extinguished amongst the Turks, the Jews, and Papists, and, as a necessary consequence, they lie immersed in error; for they cannot possibly return to a sound mind, or repent of their errors, when they are ignorant of the true God. When the Psalmist speaks of their being confounded, he means that the time was come when those who were given to idolatry should repent, and return to the worship of the true God. Not that all without exception would be brought to genuine repentance, — for experience has taught us in these our own times how atheistical men  fd101 will cast off superstition, and yet assume the most shameless effrontery, but that this is one of those consequences which the knowledge of God should effect, the turning of men from their errors unto God. Some there are who obstinately resist God, of which we have many examples in the Papacy; but we have every reason to believe that they are secretly prostrated by that which they affect to despise, and confounded notwithstanding their opposition. What the Psalmist says a little after, Let all the gods  fd102 worship before him, properly applies to the angels, in whom there shines forth some small portion of divinity, yet it may, though less appropriately, be extended to fictitious gods; as if he had said, Whatever is accounted or held as a god must quit its place and renounce its claims, that God alone may be exalted. Hence it may be gathered that the true definition of piety is, when the true God is perfectly served, and when he alone is so exalted, that no creature obscures his divinity; and, accordingly, if we would not have true piety entirely destroyed amongst us, we must hold by this principle, That no creature whatever be exalted by us beyond measure,

8. Zion heard, and was glad. In the former part of the psalm he had spoken of that joy which should be common to all the world. Now he makes special mention of God’s chosen nation; and this partly, because they were to enjoy the first-fruits of this joy, and partly, because he would remove all occasion for rivalry or envy. Accordingly, having said that the Gentile nations should be brought to equal privileges with the posterity of Abraham, he adds, that the Jews would not suffer any diminution of honor by this co-partnership of privilege, but might rather reasonably rejoice in being chosen of God to be the fountain out of which the world was to be watered and refreshed. Those of whom the Psalmist speaks were the true children of Abraham and them only. They had a double reason for rejoicing, when God extended his government and glory from the rising to the setting sun; for, while he exhibited to them in Christ the complete fulfillment of that redemption which was promised, they, at the same time, saw the glory of God diffused from the narrow limits of Judea to all parts of the world. When the nations were blessed in the seed of Abraham, agreeably to the prediction which had gone before, this was no inconsiderable confirmation of their faith, as also, when they saw a religion which had been hated and despised universally embraced. But why, it may be asked, does he speak of those things being heard, rather than seen? Two reasons may be given for this. First, he would have God’s believing people anticipate the blessing by hope, ere the consummation of it arrived; and, again, the language intimates, that the glory of the Gospel would be spread to such distant quarters, that the Jews would rather hear of it by report, than witness it with their own eyes.

<199709>Psalm 97:9-12

9. For thou, Jehovah, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods. 10. Ye that love Jehovah, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his meek ones; he will deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. 11. Light has been sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. 12. Rejoice in Jehovah, ye righteous, and celebrate the memory of his holiness.

 

9. For thou, Jehovah, art high above all the earth. Having already, in another place, explained these words, I shall not say more at present upon them. Only it is to be noticed, that there is a comparison drawn between God and the angels, and whatever has any claim to eminence. The Psalmist limits all other excellency in such a manner, as to leave no room for questioning that all majesty is comprehended in God only. This was the case more eminently when God manifested himself in his only-begotten Son, who is the express image of himself. Before that period his greatness was less apparent, because he was less known.

10. Ye that love Jehovah, hate evil. Those that fear God are here enjoined to practice righteousness, as Paul says,

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

He shows from the very nature of God, that we cannot be judged and acknowledged to be his servants unless we depart from sin, and practice holiness. God is in himself the fountain of righteousness, and he must necessarily hate all iniquity, unless we could suppose that he should deny himself; and we have fellowship with him only on the terms of separation from unrighteousness. As the persecution of the wicked is apt to provoke us to seek revenge, and unwarrantable methods of escape, the Psalmist guards us against this temptation, by asserting that God is the keeper and protector of his people. If persuaded of being under the Divine guardianship, we will not strive with the wicked, nor retaliate injury upon those who have wronged us, but commit our safety to him who will faithfully defend it. This gracious act of condescension, by which God takes us under his care, should serve as a check to any impatience we might feel in abstaining from what is evil,  fd103 and preserving the course of integrity under provocation.

11. Light has been sown for the righteous. He confirms the truth just advanced, and anticipates an objection which might be brought against it. We have seen that the Lord’s people are often treated with the utmost cruelty and injustice, and would seem to be abandoned to the fury of their enemies. The Psalmist reminds us for our encouragement that God, even when he does not immediately deliver his children, upholds them by his secret power.  fd104In the first clause of the verse there is a double metaphor. By light is meant joy, or a prosperous issue, (according to a phraseology which is common in Scripture,) as darkness denotes adversity. The latter metaphor of sowing is rather more difficult to understand.  fd105Some think that gladness is sown for the just, as seed which, when cast into the ground, dies or lies buried in the earth a considerable time before it germinates. This idea may be a good one; but, perhaps, the simplest meaning of the words is the following, that though the righteous may be almost banished out of the world, and unable to venture themselves forth in public, and hidden from view, God will spread abroad their joy like seed, or bring forth to notice the light of their joy which had been shut up. The second clause of the verse is an exegesis of the first — light being interpreted to mean joy, and the righteous such as are upright in heart. This definition of righteousness is worthy of notice, That it does not consist in a mere outward appearance, but comprehends integrity of heart, more being required to constitute us righteous in God’s sight than that we simply keep our tongue, hands, or feet, from wickedness. In the concluding verse he exhorts the Lord’s people to gratitude, that looking upon God as their Redeemer, they should lead a life corresponding to the mercy they have received, and rest contented under all the evils they encounter, with the consciousness that they enjoy his protection.


PSALM 98

This psalm has a great resemblance to the ninety-sixth, not only in matter, but language. The great scope of it is to show that the glory of God would be illustriously displayed in the spread of the knowledge of his name throughout the world, both from the more ample fulfillment which would be given upon the manifestation of the Savior, to the promises made to the posterity of Abraham, and from the sudden extension of salvation to all parts of the earth. He calls upon men to magnify the name of God on this account.

<199801>Psalm 98:1-3

1. Sing unto Jehovah a new song, for he hath done marvelous things: his own right hand, and the arm of his holiness, hath gotten him the victory.  fd106 2. Jehovah hath made known his salvation: his righteousness he hath revealed in the sight of the heathen. 3. He hath remembered his goodness and truth towards the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. fd107

 

1. Sing unto Jehovah a new song. I have already remarked, that the expression here used denotes an extraordinary, not a common, ascription of praise. This appears from the reason assigned for it, That God had manifested his salvation in a singular and incredible manner. For having spoken of marvelous things, he represents this as the sum of all, that God had procured salvation with his own right hand;  fd108 that is, not by human means, or in an ordinary way, but delivering his Church in an unprecedented manner. Isaiah enlarges upon this miracle of God’s power:

“The Lord looked if there were any to help, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his own arm brought salvation, and his righteousness sustained him,” (<235916>Isaiah 59:16)

In both passages the arm of God stands opposed to ordinary means, which although when employed they derogate nothing from the glory of God, yet prevent us from so fully discovering his presence as we might otherwise do. The language of the Psalmist amounts to a declaration that God would not save the world by means of an ordinary kind, but would come forth himself and show that he was the author of a salvation in every respect so singular. He reasonably infers that mercy of such a wonderful, and, to us, incomprehensible kind, should be celebrated by no ordinary measures of praise. This is brought out still more clearly in the verse which follows, where it is said that his salvation and righteousness are shown to the nations. What could have been less looked for than that light should have arisen upon these dark and benighted places, and that righteousness should have appeared in the habitations of desperate wickedness? Salvation is mentioned first, although it is, properly speaking, the effect of righteousness. Such an inversion of the natural order is often observed in stating divine benefits; nor is it surprising that what is the means, and should be mentioned first, is sometimes set last, and follows by way of explanation. I may add, that the righteousness of God, which is the source of salvation, does not consist in his recompensing men according to their works, but is just the illustration of his mercy, grace, and faithfulness.

3. He hath remembered his goodness. Having spoken of the general manifestation of his salvation, he now celebrates his goodness more particularly to his own chosen people. God exhibited himself as a Father to Gentiles as well as Jews; but to the Jews first, who were, so to speak, the first-born.  fd109 The glory of the Gentiles lay in their being adopted and in-grafted into the holy family of Abraham, and the salvation of the whole world sprung from the promise made to Abraham, as Christ said, “Salvation is of the Jews,” (<430422>John 4:22) The Psalmist therefore very properly observes, that God in redeeming the world remembered his truth, which he had given to Israel his people — language, too, which implies that he was influenced by no other motive than that of faithfully performing what he had himself promised.  fd110 The more clearly to show that the promise was not grounded at all on the merit or righteousness of man, he mentions the goodness of God first, and afterwards his faithfulness, which stood connected with it. The cause, in short, was not to be found out of God himself, (to use a common expression,) but in his mere good pleasure, which had been testified long before to Abraham and his posterity. The word remembered is used in accommodation to man’s apprehension; for what has been long suspended seems to have been forgotten. Upwards of two thousand years elapsed from the time of giving the promise to the appearance of Christ, and as the people of God were subjected to many afflictions and calamities, we need not wonder that they should have sighed, and given way to ominous fears regarding the fulfillment of this redemption. When it is added, all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of God, this is not merely commendatory of the greatness of the salvation, meaning that it should be so illustrious that the report of it would reach the ends of the earth; but it signifies that the nations formerly immersed in delusions and superstitions would participate in it.

<199804>Psalm 98:4-9

4. Exult before Jehovah all the earth; make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. 5. Sing to Jehovah upon the harp, upon the harp, and with the voice of a psalm.  fd111 6. With trumpets, and sound of the cornet, sing before Jehovah the King. 7. Let the sea roar, and the fullness thereof; the world, and those who dwell therein.  fd112 8. Let the floods clap their hands:  fd113 let the hills be joyful together, 9. Before Jehovah: for he cometh to judge the earth; with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with uprightness.

 

4. Exult before Jehovah all the earth. Here he repeats the exhortation with which he had begun, and by addressing it to the nations at large, he indicates that when God should break down the middle wall of partition all would be gathered to the common faith, and one Church formed throughout the whole world. When he speaks of musical instruments the allusion is evidently to the practice of the Church at that time, without any intention of binding down the Gentiles to the observance of the ceremonies of the law. The repetition made use of is emphatical, and implies that the most ardent attempts men might make to celebrate the great work of the world’s redemption would fall short of the riches of the grace of God. This is brought out still more forcibly in what follows, where feeling is ascribed to things inanimate. The whole passage has been elsewhere expounded, and it is unnecessary to insist further upon it.


PSALM 99

This psalm differs from those which precede it in one respect, that it speaks of the kingdom of God, and the blessings consequent upon it, as confined within Judea; and rather calls upon the posterity of Abraham, in distinction from the surrounding nations, to praise God for the privilege of their adoption.

<199901>Psalm 99:1-4

1. Jehovah reigns; let the people tremble: he dwells between the cherubim; let the earth be moved. 2. Jehovah is great in Zion; and he is high above all nations. 3. They shall acknowledge thy great and terrible name; it is holy. 4. The king’s strength  fd114 also loves judgment; thou hast established equity, thou hast done judgment and righteousness in Jacob.

 

1. Jehovah reigns. The people, who were formerly called upon to rejoice, are now commanded to tremble. For as the Jews were encompassed by enemies, it was of the utmost importance that God’s power should be magnified among them, that they might know that, while under his guardianship, they would be constantly and completely safe from the hatred and fury of every foe. The Hebrew word zgr, ragaz, as we have elsewhere seen, sometimes signifies to tremble, at other times, to be angry, and, in short, denotes any strong emotion arising either from anger or fear.  fd115 Accordingly, the prophet here intends that God, in the emancipation of his chosen people, should give such a palpable display of his power, as would strike all the nations with dismay, and make them feel how madly they had rushed upon their own destruction. For it is with regard to men that God is said to reign, when he exalts himself by the magnificent displays which he gives of his power; because, while the aid which he gives to them remains invisible, unbelievers act a more presumptuous part, just as if there were no God.

2. Jehovah in Zion. It is proper that we should not forget the antithesis I formerly mentioned, namely, that God is great in Zion to destroy and annihilate all the enemies of his Church; and that, when the Psalmist goes on to say, he is high above all nations, his meaning is, not that he presides over them to promote their welfare, but to disconcert their counsels, to baffle their designs, and to subvert all their power. That which immediately follows about the praising of God’s name, refers not to the nations at large, but in my opinion to the faithful, from whom alone the prophet demands a tribute of gratitude. For although God compels his vanquished enemies to acknowledge him, yet as they do not cease from speaking against his glory, and blaspheming his holy name, it cannot be to them that the exhortation is addressed, Praise the name of God, for it is holy; but to the faithful, who, from their knowledge of God’s holy name, very cordially engage in the celebration of its praises.

4. The king’s strength also loves judgment. This may be viewed as a threatening designed to fill his enemies with dismay; as if he should say, such is God’s regard for righteousness and equity, that he hath clothed himself with power to avenge the injuries which his enemies have done to him. I think it preferable, however, to apply it to the Church, because she is under the government of God for the express purpose  fd116 of practicing righteousness and holiness. There is another interpretation which is by no means objectionable, namely, that which does not associate ideas of tyranny with the government of God, because there is constant concord between his power and justice. But when I consider the whole context, I have no doubt, that the prophet, after having introduced God as established upon his royal throne, now speaks of the manner in which he governs his kingdom; for he adds, thou hast established equity and righteousness. This clause is susceptible of two interpretations; either that God in his law has commanded his people to practice perfect equity, or that, in supporting and defending them, he has uniformly testified his great regard for his justice and equity. It is most true that the highest equity has always characterized the works and judgments of God, yet it appears more probable that it refers to that system, that form of government which God, who loves justice, appointed among the people of Israel, and which was the best rule for leading a life of honesty and integrity. And hence the word to do is improperly taken to signify to order or command. Should any one choose to consider this last clause as relating to God’s government, I am by no means disposed to disagree with him. For there is nothing that more animates and encourages the faithful to render obedience to God, or inspires them with greater zeal to observe his law, than to find in this course of action that they are the objects of his paternal care, and that the righteousness, which he requires from his own people in words, is on his part reciprocated by kind deeds.

<199905>Psalm 99:5-9

5. Exalt Jehovah our God, and worship at his footstool; he  fd117 is holy. 6. Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among those who call upon his name; they called upon Jehovah, and he answered them. 7. He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar:  fd118 they kept his testimonies, and the statute which he gave them. 8. O Jehovah our God, thou wast a God that wast favorable to them, though thou didst take vengeance upon their inventions. 9. Exalt Jehovah our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for Jehovah our God is holy.

 

5. Exalt Jehovah our God. This exhortation is properly addressed to the Church alone, because having been made a partaker of the grace of God, she ought the more zealously to devote herself to his service, and to the love of godliness. The Psalmist, therefore, calls upon the Jews to exalt that God from whom they had received such manifest help, and enjoins them to render that worship appointed in his Law. The temple indeed is frequently in other places denominated God’s seat, or house, or rest, or dwelling-place; here it is called his footstool, and for the use of this metaphor, there is the best of all reasons. For God desired to dwell in the midst of his people in such a manner, as not only to direct their thoughts to the outward temple and to the ark of the covenant, but rather to elevate them to things above. Hence the term house or dwelling-place tended to impart courage and confidence to them, that all the faithful might have boldness to draw near unto God freely, whom they beheld coming to meet them of his own accord.

But as the minds of men are prone to superstition, it was necessary to check this propensity, lest they should associate with their notions of God things fleshly and earthly, and their thoughts should be wholly engrossed by the outward forms of worship. The prophet, therefore, in calling the temple God’s footstool, desires the godly to elevate their thoughts above it, for he fills heaven and earth with his infinite glory. Nevertheless, by these means he reminds us that true worship can be paid to God no where else than upon mount Zion. For he employs a style of writing such as is calculated to elevate the minds of the godly above the world, and, at the same time, does not in the least degree detract from the holiness of the temple, which alone of all places of the earth God had chosen as the place where he was to be worshipped. From this we may see, since the days of Augustine, how vainly many perplex themselves in endeavoring to ascertain the reason for the prophet ordering God’s footstool to be worshipped. The answer of Augustine is ingenious. If, says he, we look to Christ’s manhood, we will perceive a reason why we may worship the footstool of God, and yet not be guilty of idolatry; for that body in which he wishes to be worshipped he took from the earth, and on this earth nothing else than God is worshipped, for the earth is both the habitation of Deity, and God himself condescended to become earth. All this is very plausible, but it is foreign to the design of the prophet, who, intending to distinguish between legal worship, (which was the only worship that God sanctioned,) and the superstitious rites of the heathen, summons the children of Abraham to the temple, as if to their standard, there, after a spiritual manner, to worship God, because he dwells in celestial glory.

Now that the shadowy dispensation has passed away, I believe that God cannot otherwise be properly worshipped, than when we come to him directly through Christ, in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells. It were improper and absurd for any one to designate him a footstool. For the prophet merely spake in this manner to show that God was not confined to the visible temple, but that he is to be sought for above all heavens,  fd119 inasmuch as he is elevated above the whole world.

The frantic bishops of Greece, in the second Council of Nice, very shamefully perverted this passage, when they endeavored to prove from it that God was to be worshipped by images and pictures. The reason  fd120 assigned for exalting Jehovah our God, and worshipping at his footstool, contains an antithesis: he is holy. For the prophet, in hallowing the name of the one God, declares all the idols of the heathen to be unholy; as if he should say, Although the heathen claim for their idols an imaginary sanctity, they are nevertheless very vanity, an offense, and abomination. Some translate this clauses for it is holy; but it will appear from the end of the psalm that it was the design of the prophet by this title to distinguish God from all idols.

6. Moses and Aaron. The Psalmist magnifies the special grace which God in a very remarkable manner vouchsafed to the seed of Abraham, that thence he chose for himself prophets and priests to be, as it were, mediators between him and the people, to ratify the covenant of salvation. And he mentions three persons who were famous in former times. For Moses was, as it were, a mediator to reconcile the people unto God. Aaron was invested with the same office; and, subsequently, Samuel sustained the same character. There is no doubt, however, that under these three persons he included all the people with whom God had made a covenant. But he mentions the names of those who were the depositaries and guardians of this invaluable treasure. It may appear improper that he should speak of Moses as among the priests, since his sons were only among the common Levites, and that Moses himself, after the giving of the law, never held the office of high priest. But as the Hebrews call ynhwk, chohanim, those who are chief and very eminent personages,  fd121 such as kings’ sons, there is nothing to prevent the prophet from giving this designation to Moses, as if he had said that he was one of the holy rulers of the Church.  fd122 Moreover, if we go back to the first original — to the period prior to the publication of the law, it is certain that Moses was then invested with the high priest’s office. The design of the prophet must also be kept in mind, namely, that God not only adopted the seed of Abraham, but set apart some of them to act as mediators, whom he enjoined to call upon his name, in order that his covenant might be the more confirmed. For the invocation of which he speaks must not be understood indiscriminately of every manner of calling upon, but only of that which belongs to the priests, who were chosen by God, as intercessors to appear in his presence in the name of all the people, and to speak on their behalf.

They called upon Jehovah. The Psalmist explains more fully what I have just now said, that God from the very first, and with a special reference to his gracious covenant, bestowed great benefits upon the descendants of Abraham — the Jews. And, therefore, as often as they experienced the loving-kindness of God, it behooved them to call to mind his former loving-kindness. The prophet, too, makes particular mention of the visible symbol of the cloudy pillar, by which God designed to testify in all ages that his presence was ever with his people, according as he employed temporal signs, not only for their benefit to whom they were exhibited, but also for the benefit of those who were to succeed them. Not that God always showed a cloudy pillar to his ancient people, but considering that the dullness of men is so great, that they do not perceive the presence of God unless they are put in mind by external signs, the prophet very properly reminds the Jews of this memorable token. And as God had appeared openly in the desert to their fathers, so their posterity might be well assured that he would also be near to them. He adds, that they had kept God’s testimonies, for the purpose of enforcing the duty of like obedience upon succeeding generations.

8. O Jehovah our God. The prophet here reminds them that God had heard their prayers because his grace and their piety harmonized. Consequently, encouraged by their exemplary success in prayer, their posterity ought to call upon God, not merely pronouncing his name with their lips, but keeping his covenant with all their heart. He farther reminds us that if God does not display his glory so bountifully, and so profusely in every age, the fault is with men themselves, whose posterity have either utterly forsaken, or greatly declined from the faith of the fathers. It is not to be wondered at that God should withdraw his hand, or at least not stretch it forth in any remarkable way, when he beholds piety waxing cold on the earth.

O God, thou hast been propitious to them. fd123 From these words it is quite obvious that what the Psalmist had formerly said concerning Moses, Aaron, and Samuel, refers to the whole people; for surely they did not officiate as priests merely for their own benefit, but for the common benefit of all the Israelites. Hence the transition is more natural which he makes from these three to the remaining body of the people. For I neither restrict the relative, to these three persons, nor do I interpret them exclusively of the same, but I rather think that the state of the whole Church is pointed out; namely, that while God, at the prayers of the priests, was propitious to the Jews, he, at the same time, sharply punished them for their sins. For on the one hand, the prophet magnifies the grace of God in that he had treated the people so kindly, and had so mercifully forgiven their iniquity; on the other hand, he specifies those awful examples of punishment by which he punished them for their ingratitude, that their descendants might learn to submit themselves dutifully to him. For it must not be forgotten, that by how much God deals graciously with us, by so much will he the less easily endure that we should treat his liberality with scorn.

In the close of the psalm he repeats the same sentence which we had in the fifth verse, only substituting his holy mountain instead of his footstool; and as for the sake of brevity he had formerly said somewhat obscurely awh wdq, kadosh hu, he is holy, he now says more plainly, Jehovah our God is holy. His intention is to show that God is not to be worshipped by the Israelites at random, (as the religion of the heathen depended upon fancy alone,) but that his worship is founded upon the assurance of faith.


PSALM 100

The title of this psalm may serve for a summary of its contents Moreover, its brevity renders a lengthened discourse unnecessary. The Psalmist, in an especial manner, invites believers to praise God, because he has chosen them to be his people, and has taken them under his care.

<19A001>Psalm 100:1-3

A Psalm of Praise

1. Let all the earth make a joyful noise to Jehovah. 2. Serve Jehovah with gladness: come into his presence with joyfulness. 3. Know ye that Jehovah himself is God: he made us, and not we ourselves: we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

 

1. Make a joyful noise. The Psalmist refers only to that part of the service of God which consists in recounting his benefits and giving thanks. And since he invites the whole of the inhabitants of the earth indiscriminately to praise Jehovah, he seems, in the spirit of prophecy, to refer to the period when the Church would be gathered out of different nations. Hence he commands (verse 2) that God should be served with gladness, intimating that his kindness towards his own people is so great as to furnish them with abundant ground for rejoicing. This is better expressed in the third verse, in which he first reprehends the presumption of those men who had wickedly revolted from the true God, both in fashioning for themselves gods many, and in devising various forms of worshipping them. And as a multitude of gods destroys and suppresses the true knowledge of one God only, and tarnishes his glory, the prophet, with great propriety, calls upon all men to bethink themselves, and to cease from robbing God of the honor due to his name; and, at the same time, inveighs against their folly in that, not content with the one God, they were become vain in their imaginations. For, however much they are constrained to confess with the mouth that there is a God, the maker of heaven and earth, yet they are ever and anon gradually despoiling him of his glory; and in this manner, the Godhead is, to the utmost extent of their power, reduced to a nonentity. As it is then a most difficult thing to retain men in the practice of the pure worship of God, the prophet, not without reason, recalls the world from its accustomed vanity, and commands them to recognize God as God. For we must attend to this short definition of the knowledge of him, namely, that his glory be preserved unimpaired, and that no deity be opposed to him that might obscure the glory of his name. True, indeed, in the Papacy, God still retains his name, but as his glory is not comprehended in the mere letters of his name, it is certain that there he is not recognized as God. Know, therefore, that the true worship of God cannot be preserved in all its integrity until the base profanation of his glory, which is the inseparable attendant of superstition, be completely reformed.

The prophet next makes mention of the great benefits received from God, and, in an especial manner, desires the faithful to meditate upon them. To say God made us is a very generally acknowledged truth; but not to advert to the ingratitude so usual among men, that scarcely one among a hundred seriously acknowledges that he holds his existence from God, although, when hardly put to it, they do not deny that they were created out of nothing; yet every man makes a god of himself, and virtually worships himself, when he ascribes to his own power what God declares belongs to him alone. Moreover, it must be remembered that the prophet is not here speaking of creation in general, (as I have formerly said,) but of that spiritual regeneration by which he creates anew his image in his elect. Believers are the persons whom the prophet here declares to be God’s workmanship, not that they were made men in their mother’s womb, but in that sense in which Paul, in <490210>Ephesians 2:10, calls them, To< poihma, the workmanship of God, because they are created unto good works which God hath before ordained that they should walk in them; and in reality this agrees best with the subsequent context. For when he says, We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture, he evidently refers to that distinguishing grace which led God to set apart his children for his heritage, in order that he may, as it were, nourish them under his wings, which is a much greater privilege than that of merely being born men. Should any person be disposed to boast that he has of himself become a new man, who is there that would not hold in abhorrence such a base attempt to rob God of that which belongs to him? Nor must we attribute this spiritual birth to our earthly parents, as if by their own power they begat us; for what could a corrupt seed produce? Still the majority of men do not hesitate to claim for themselves all the praise of the spiritual life. Else what mean the preachers of free-will, unless it be to tell us that by our own endeavors we have, from being sons of Adam, become the sons of God? In opposition to this, the prophet in calling us the people of God, informs us that it is of his own good will that we are spiritually regenerated. And by denominating us the sheep of his pasture, he gives us to know that through the same grace which has once been imparted to us, we continue safe and unimpaired until the end. It might be otherwise rendered, he made us his people, etc.  fd124 But as the meaning is not altered, I have retained that which was the more generally received reading.

<19A004>Psalm 100:4-5

4. Enter into his gates with praise, and into his courts with rejoicing: give glory  fd125 to him, and bless his name. 5. Because Jehovah is good, his mercy endureth for ever, and his truth from generation to generation.

 

4. Enter his gates. The conclusion of the psalm is almost the same as the beginning of it, excepting that he adopts a mode of speech which relates to the worship of God which obtained under the law;  fd126 in which, however, he merely reminds us that believers, in rendering thanks to God, do not discharge their duty aright, unless they also continue in the practice of a steady profession of piety. Meanwhile, under the name of the temple, he signifies that God cannot be otherwise worshipped than in strict accordance with the manner prescribed in his law. And, besides, he adds, that God’s mercy endureth for ever, and that his truth also is everlasting, to point out to us that we can never be at a loss for constant cause of praising him. If, then, God never ceases to deal with us in this manner, it would argue the basest ingratitude on our part, if we wearied in rendering to Him the tribute of praise to which he is entitled. We have elsewhere taken notice of the reason why truth is connected with mercy. For so foolish are we, that we scarcely feel the mercy of God while he openly manifests it, not even in the most palpable displays of it, until he open his holy lips to declare his paternal regard for us.


FOOTNOTES

psalm 79

ftc371 If this psalm was written on the taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, or during the Babylonish captivity, it would appear, from this verse, that when the Chaldeans destroyed Jerusalem, they left the bodies of the slain unburied, to be devoured by beasts and birds of prey.

ftc372 Similar threatenings are to be found in <231419>Isaiah 14:19, 20; <240802>Jeremiah 8:2.

ftc373 Street, instead of “our neighbors,” reads, “those that dwell among us;” and has the following note: — “Those foreigners who sojourn among us; wnynkl, from ˆk, to inhabit or dwell; geitosin hJmwn, our neighbors, Septuagint. But that rendering does not sufficiently express the distressed and humbled state of Israel, as described in the Hebrew; they were so reduced, that not only neighboring nations, but even those foreigners who sojourned amongst them, had the insolence to deride them, even in their own country.” Dr Adam Clarke explains, We are become a reproach to our neighbors, thus: “The Idumeans, Philistines, Phoenicians, Ammonites, and Moabites, all gloried in the subjugation of this people; and their insults to them were mixed with blasphemies against God.”

ftc374 “C’est, ire.” — Fr. marg. “That is, anger.”

ftc375 This and the preceding verse are almost exactly the same with <241025>Jeremiah 10:25. “Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name: for they have eaten up Jacob, and devoured him, and consumed him; and have made his habitation desolate.” From this, some have thought that Jeremiah, who was one of the prophets of the captivity, was the inspired writer of this psalm.

ftc376 “Mettans en avant l’absurdite qui en reviendroit, si Dieu ne punissoit les persecuteurs.” — Fr.

ftc377rpk, chapper, be propitiated, or receive an atonement (wnytafh l[, al chatoteinu) on account of our sins.” — Dr Adam Clarke.

ftc378 Horsley, who guesses that this psalm was composed during the distresses of Manasseh’s reign, supposes “the prisoner” to mean Manasseh.

ftc379 “C’est, les condamnez a mort.” — Fr. marg. “That is, those who are condemned to death.” “Sons of death, either those who were condemned to death because of their crimes, or condemned to be destroyed by their oppressors. Both these senses apply to the Israelites: they were sons of death, i.e., worthy of death because of their sins against God. They were condemned to death, or utter destruction, by their Babylonish enemies.” — Dr Adam Clarke.

ftc380Sevenfold, i.e., in excessively great measure, — (comp. <010415>Genesis 4:15, 24; <090205>1 Samuel 2:5,) — into their bosom. This is an allusion to the custom of folding the loose garment worn by the natives of Eastern countries, so as to make it a recipient of gifts. Comp. <193513>Psalm 35:13; <236506>Isaiah 65:6; <243218>Jeremiah 32:18; <420638>Luke 6:38.” — Cresswell.

ftc381 “C’est, te rendrons graces.” — Fr. marg. “That is, will give thee thanks.”

ftc382 “Car ce n’est pas que les fideles se veuillent yci souler a veoir espandre le sang humain.” — Fr.

ftc383 “Laquelle apparoist quand il fait la vengence des outrages qu’on a faits aux siens.” — Fr.

ftc384 “C’est a dire, de la puissance de Dieu.” — Fr.

psalm 80

ftc385 This is the opinion of Hammond, who supposes that this psalm “is a complaint of the troubles of God’s Church and people, probably in time of captivity, or by way of prediction of it.” “Why Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, and no other, are here named,” says he, “must be learned from the order of the Israelites’ march in the wilderness, Numbers 2. For there, next after the ark, the pledge of God’s special presence and assistance, did these three tribes follow: ‘Then the tabernacle of the congregation shall set forward,’ etc., verse 17; ‘On the west side (i.e., next behind it) shall be the standard of the camp of Ephraim,’ verse 18; ‘and his host,’ etc., verse 19. ‘And by him shall be the tribe of Manasseh,’ verse 20; ‘and his host,’ etc., verse 21. ‘Then the tribe of Benjamin, and his host,’ verses 22, 23. Now the returning from the captivity, the desire whereof is the business of this psalm, being a parallel to the delivery from Egypt, God’s ‘leading them back, stirring up himself, and coming to save them,’ is very fitly. begged, and described in a style resembling the former rescue.” Merrick accounts for Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh, being particularly specified, by supposing the psalm to have been written at a time when some enemy was advancing towards these tribes, which were contiguously situated, or was directing his march to Jerusalem, through their territories. “Such an occasion,” he observes, “might make it very proper for the Psalmist to pray that the people of those tribes might particularly be made spectators of the divine interposition. If the psalm was not written on any such occasion, it may be most reasonable to suppose, that Benjamin, Joseph’s only brother by the same mother, and Ephraim and Manasseh his sons, are in the second verse equivalent to Joseph; who, in the preceding verse, represents the whole posterity of Israel.”

ftc386 The argument which Calvin here adduces in support of the opinion, that this psalm relates to the ten tribes which constituted the kingdom of Israel, in contradistinction to the kingdom of Judah, is evidently inconclusive. He seems to have forgotten the fact that the tribe of Benjamin, which is expressly specified, did not belong to the kingdom of Israel, but formed a part of the kingdom of Judah, — a fact which is altogether destructive of the argument by which he attempts to prove that the psalm relates exclusively or especially to the kingdom of Israel. The whole of God’s ancient people seem therefore to be intended. It may farther be observed, that the calamities which are referred to are so extensive and general, as to render it in a high degree probable, that the entire body of that people are spoken of. This view is also confirmed, from the introduction of the similitude of a vine transplanted from Egypt. The subject of the psalm may be the same with that of the 79th — the calamitous condition into which the chosen people were brought by the arms of Nebuchadnezzar.

ftc387 The original word for “stir up” is , hrrw[, orera, from rw[, ur, was excited. “This word,” says Dimock, “seems to convey the idea of God’s having been asleep during the Babylonish captivity. See <235109>Isaiah 51:9.”

ftc388 Literally, “wilt thou smoke (with wrath;”) i.e., be very angry. — See <197401>Psalm 74:1.

ftc389 “There cannot,” says Bishop Horne, “be a more striking picture of Zion in captivity! Her bread is dipped in tears; and her cup is filled to the brim with them: no time is free from grief and lamentation!”

ftc390 The LXX. read this verse as follows. Eka>luyeno]rh hJ skia< aujth~v, kai< ai> ajnadendra>dev aujth~v ta<v ke>drouv tou Qeou~ . “The shadow thereof covered the hills, and the branches thereof [covered] the cedars of God.” The LXX. seem to have read hsk, casah, covered, instead of wsk, cossu, were covered. With this agree the versions of the Syriac, Arabic, and Vulgate; and this is the reading adopted by Hare, Houbigant, Lowth, and Horsley. “Is it an extravagant image of a flourishing vine,” says Lowth, “to say, that it climbed up even the highest cedars, spread itself along the branches, and covered the very top of them?” “The image,” says Merrick, “may, I think, well be allowed in the description of an allegorical vine, which is represented as stretching out her branches unto the sea, and her boughs unto the river; especially when compared with what Kaempfer says of some foreign vines. ‘Maximum proventum vites tribuunt, quae nulla jutae cultura palmites per summa spargunt fastigia arborum.’ — Amoenitat. Exot. Fascic. 2, Relat. 9, 2, page 390. The author of the History of the Piratical States of Barbary (published in 1750) informs us that some of the vines near Algiers ‘climb to the tops of very lofty trees, and, extending themselves to others, form natural bowers,’ page 163. And Beverley, in his History of Virginia, (page 116, ed. 2d,) affirms that he has seen great trees covered with single vines, and those vines almost hidden with grapes. . . . The vine’s covering the cedars, in the Psalmist’s description, might be intended to suggest an idea not only of its extent, but also of its sovereignty, (agreeably to what Musculus writes on the place: ‘Operti fuerunt montes umbra ejus, et ramis ejus cedri Dei: Ponit haec de potentia regni Israelitici,’ etc.,) as a Greek poet has, from this very circumstance, represented the vine as the mistress of the trees. (Nonnus, Dionysiac. L. 12, 278, 279.”)

ftc391 The sea — the river — i.e., the Mediterranean, which was the Western, and the Euphrates, which was the Eastern boundary of Palestine. The Divine promise respecting the extent of the territory of the chosen people runs in these terms, (<051124>Deuteronomy 11:24,) “From the river Euphrates to the uttermost sea shall your coast be.” And it was fulfilled in the days of Solomon, (<110421>1 Kings 4:21; <197208>Psalm 72:8.) In his time there were Hebrew colonies and garrisons near the river Euphrates.

ftc392 According to the Talmud, the middle letter of the word rendered forest in this verse, is the middle letter of the Hebrew Psalter.

ftc393 The boar out of the forest hath wasted it. “This terrible animal is both fierce and cruel, and so swift, that few of the savage tribes can outstrip him in running. His chief abode, says Forbes, is in the forests and jungles; but, when the grain is nearly ripe, he commits great ravages in the fields and sugar plantations. That ferocious and destructive animal, not satisfied with devouring the fruit, lacerates and breaks with his sharp and powerful tusks the branches of the vine, or, with his snout, digs it up by the roots, pollutes it with his touch, or tramples it under his feet.” — (Paxtons Illustrations, volume 2, page 66.) Homer complains of the ravages of this animal, (Iliad, 9. 535;) and Mr Ward remarks, that the buffaloes and wild hogs make the like ravages in the orchards of the Hindoos; to prevent which, men are placed day and night in proper situations to guard against them. — (Wards Hindoos, volume 2, page 327.)

ftc394 “Mais du travail qu’il avoit prins a la provigner.” — Fr.

ftc395hnmsrky, (jechar-semenna,) will destroy it. Targum, Will tear it up with its tusk. Fut. pih. From srj, he cut off, cut down, consumed, a quadriliteral, same as the Chaldaic swq. Occurs here only in Scripture, and, according to others, is compounded of rk, a belly, as though rkw, will fill the belly from it.” — Bythner.

ftc396 “Hammond thinks it most probable that l[, al, upon, is an expletive, or that it may refer to har, reeh, behold or look, the last verb except one in the preceding verse, l[ har, reeh al, look upon.

ftc397 The original word which Calvin renders branch is ˆb, ben, son. “Where,” says Horsley, “does ˆb signify a branch?” It is; however, so used in <014922>Genesis 49:22, where it is said, “Joseph is a fruitful ˆb, ben, bough, or branch, by a well.” The reading of some MSS., and of the Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, thiopic, and Arabic versions, is the son of man, as in the 17th verse; and eighteen of Kennicott’s and De Rossi’s MSS. read da ˆb, ben adam, son of man. It has been thought by many that Christ is here intended. Aben Ezra and R. Obadiah thus interpret the passage. The Chaldee paraphrase is, “And upon the King Messiah whom thou hast strengthened for thyself.” Hare, Green, Horsley, and Morison, consider the last clause of this verse, “and the branch which thou hast strengthened for thyself,” as a misplaced anticipation of the latter clause of the 17th verse.

ftc398 Horsley thinks that the word hjwsk, kesuchah, which Calvin renders as a verb, “it is cut down,” is probably the noun hjws, with the comparative k, caph, prefixed — “It is consumed in fire like refuse;” and he refers to Parkhurst’s Lexicon, under the roots, jsk, and hjs. “This verse,” says he, “with the two preceding, should be thus rendered: —

‘Return, we beseech thee, O God of Hosts!
Look down from heaven and behold, And visit this vine;
Even the plant which thine own right hand planted,
Burnt with fire like refuse.—
At the rebuke of thy countenance they shall perish,’

“ — they shall perish: They, the spoilers of the vineyard, described under the image of the wild boar and beast in the 13th verse.” “The Bishop’s reading of verse 16,” says Dr Morison, “is very satisfactory.” “They perish. This should either be rendered as by our translators and Mr Ainsworth, and then the words refer to the vine of the Jewish Church; but if in the future, as by Bishop Horsley, it must refer to their heathen persecutors. Bishop Horne mentions both, and the original will admit of either.” — Williams.

ftc399 “Surely ,hnk, should not be translated vineyard, but plant: and probably w should be translated, or understood to mean, even. See Noldius, Sign. 38.” — Arcbishop Secker. “Michaelis and Gesenius derive it from ˆnk, texit, with the suffix h. Bochart considers it an Egyptian word. ‘hnk, verto plantam ex sententia Bocharti (in Phaleg. lib. 1, cap. 15 and 16, edit. Leusd.) qui putat vocem esse gyptiacam. Nam, auctore Plutarcho in Iside, hederam gyptii ceno>irin, h. e. futo<n Osiridov, plantam Osiridis vocabant.’ Dathe. De Rossi concurs.” — Rogers Book of Psalms, etc., volume 2, 231.

ftc400 Under the same allegorical imagery the Prophet Ezekiel represents the afflicted state of his country, (<261910>Ezekiel 19:10, 12, 13.)

ftc400 Muis, Walford, and others, in like manner, suppose these titles, The Man of thy right hand, and The Son of man, to belong to the people of Israel. Walford translates the 15th and 17th verses thus: —

“The scion, which thy right hand planted;
Even the branch, which thou madest strong for thyself.

Let thy support be extended to the Man of thy right hand;
To the Son of man, whom thou madest strong for thyself.”

And he observes on the 17th verse, “The Psalmist here quits the figurative representation, and speaks literally of the people of Israel, whom God had chosen, and so greatly favored.” “From comparing <143622>2 Chronicles 36:22, 23; <234426>Isaiah 44:26-28; 45:1-11, and <242512>Jeremiah 25:12, 13,” says Dimock, “with this verse, might not Jeremiah, or whoever was the author of this psalm, mean Cyrus, by these titles, who was prophesied of as the restorer of Israel, by name, above a hundred years before his birth?” It has been thought by others, and it is highly probable, that the phraseology here employed contains a mystic allusion to the Messiah. The pious Israelites were accustomed, in times of great calamity, to look forward with longing desire to the days of Him who should reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of whose kingdom there should be no end. These striking expressions, The Man of thy right hand, and The Son of man, apply in the fullest and most perfect sense to Christ. If the Man of Gods right hand be the man placed there, to whom can the title apply but to him? for, “to which of the angels said God at any time, Sit on my right hand?” (<580103>Hebrews 1:3;) and much less has he said this of any Jewish king. As to the other appellation, The Son of man, it is one of Christ’s most definite titles, being given to him in Scripture no less than seventy-one times; in sixty-seven instances by himself; once by Daniel; once by the martyr Stephen; and twice by the Apostle John in the Revelation. He it is, too, whom the Father has made strong for the salvation of his Church, and who will yet turn away iniquity from the chosen people, and restore them to a place in the Church, so that henceforth they “will not go back from God.”

psalm 81

ftc401 There are various opinions as to the time and occasion of the composition of this psalm. Bishop Horsley observes, “It is certainly older than the time of David; for the use of Joseph’s name, in the 5th verse, as the name of the whole nation, shows that it was composed before Judah became the principal tribe, while the place of worship was in the tribe of Ephraim; that is, among Joseph’s descendants.” “This, however,” says Fry, “is not conclusive, as a psalm, whenever composed, referring to the events of those times, might use the same distinctions.” According to Walford, it “was most likely written to be sung at some celebration of the feast of the Passover, during the reign of Jehoshaphat or of Hezekiah.” But the generally received opinion is, that it was composed, in the first instance, for the feast of trumpets. This feast was celebrated on the first day of the month Tisri, which was the beginning of the Jewish year, answering to our September. It has been supposed by some, that this feast was appointed in commemoration of the creation of the world, which is conjectured to have been completed at that season of the year. The Hebrew months were lunar, and the first day of each month had its religious services, accompanied with sound of trumpets, <041010>Numbers 10:10; but the feast of trumpets was kept with additional sacrifices, <032324>Leviticus 23:24; <042901>Numbers 29:1. The trumpets were blown from sunrise until sunset. It appears from the book of the Jewish Liturgy, that this psalm is still sung at that feast. “It may have been used,” observes Dr Adam Clarke, “in celebrating the feast of trumpets on the first of Tisri; the feast of tabernacles, on the fifteenth of the same month; the creation of the world; the feast of the new moons; and the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt; to all which circumstances it appears to refer.”

ftc402Take a psalm. Ainsworth, Take up a psalm. Bishop Horsley says, ‘The word (psalm) must in this place denote some musical instrument.’ But, with all due deference to his Lordship, suppose a clergyman in the present day were to say to his clerk, ‘Strike up a psalm!’ (quite a similar phrase,) would the clerk understand him to mean a musical instrument? Certainly not.” — Williams.

ftc403 For an account of these musical instruments, see Appendix.

ftc404 Hammond translates this verse thus, “Blow the trumpet on the first day of the month, on the new moon, on the day of our feast.” “The word djb,” says he, “must here be rendered, in the beginning of the month, that so hskb, that follows, may be rendered, as it truly signifies, in the new moon. It is true, that from dj, new, dj indifferently signifies the novilunium, and the first day of the month; but here, the new moon being peculiarly expressed by hsk, to avoid tautology,dj must be rendered the new month; i.e., the first day of the month. The Syriac sets this down here most expressly, ‘In the beginning or first of the month, and in the new moon;’ which, meeting always together, were festival among the Jews, and so the trumpet was to be sounded thereon.”

ftc407 The word translated pot was, according to Kennicott, a large vessel in which the earth was mixed and worked up for making the bricks. The LXX. the Vulgate, Symmachus, Jerome, Street, Parkhurst, Ainsworth, Fry, Walford, and others, render the original word, by the basket. Parkhurst observes, that baskets might probably be employed both in carrying the earth of which the bricks were made, and also the bricks themselves.

ftc408When he went forth, etc.; i.e., When God went forth to destroy the first-born in all the land of Egypt, on account of which the passover was appointed.” — Walford.

ftc409 “Going forth (l[) over the land of Egypt seems to express dominion over it, which God exercised in bringing out the Israelites; and they were then in what may be called a state of superiority over the Egyptians, and went out with a high hand. <021408>Exodus 14:8; <043303>Numbers 33:3. And soon after that the law was given.” — Archbishop Secker.

ftc410 The Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, and all the versions except the Chaldee, have the third person, “He heard a language which he understood not;” Doederlein reads, “I heard a voice which I understood not;” and retaining the first person, interprets the words as an abrupt exclamation of the Psalmist upon feeling himself suddenly influenced by a divine afflatus, and upon hearing an oracle addressed to him by God, which consisted of what immediately follows, from the 6th verse to the close of the psalm, and which is spoken in the person of God. This voice he heard, but he did not understand it; that is, he did not fully comprehend its design and import.

ftc411 “The Egyptian language was not intelligible to the children of Jacob; for Joseph spake to his brethren by an interpreter, when he appeared as ruler of Egypt, and did not as yet choose to make himself known to them. See <014223>Genesis 42:23.” — Street.

ftc412 Bishop Lowth understands by “the secret place of thunder” the communication of the Israelites with God upon mount Sinai, the awfulness of which is expressed by these few words. (Lowth’s Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, volume 2, page 220.) Walford reads, “I answered thee by thunder, from a hidden retreat;” and he observes, that this contains “a reference to the majestic display on Sinai, where, though the symbols of the present Deity were seen and heard, the lightnings and thunders, he himself was concealed from all human view.” The only objection which can be made against interpreting this of Sinai is, that the murmuring at Meribah, Exodus 17, was before the thundering on Sinai, Exodus 19; whereas here the thunder is mentioned first, and then what took place at Meribah in the end of the verse. But this objection is easily removed; for in the poetical compositions of Scripture strict order is not, always observed in the narration of facts. Thus in <198309>Psalm 83:9, the victory over the Midianites (<070701>Judges 7) is mentioned before that over Sisera, (<070401>Judges 4,) which was the victory first achieved.

ftc413 Literally “the waters of contradiction;” hbyrm, meribah, from bwr, rub, to quarrel, being a noun signifying contention, strife. It is therefore fitly used as the name of the place in the desert where the Israelites quarrelled with Moses. “The local specification,” observes Bishop Mant, “as used in our Bible translation, is much more poetical than the rendering in the Common Prayer-Book, ‘the waters of strife.’” “The mention of Meribah,” says Lowth, “introduces another idea, namely, the ingratitude and contumacy of the Israelites, who appear to have been ever unmindful of the favors and indulgence of their heavenly Benefactor.”

ftc414 Street reads, “and I will make a testimony with thee.” “hdy[a” says he, “is in the hiphil conjugation, which frequently signifies to make or cause a thing to be made. The ark is called the ark of the testimony, td[h ˆwra, <023026>Exodus 30:26, and the ark of the covenant, <060306>Joshua 3:6, and <022521>Exodus 25:21. Moses is commanded to put the testimony which God shall give him into the ark. It is plain, therefore, that the covenant and the testimony are the same.” “I will testify unto thee. I will, upon all occasions, give the oracular direction, so that thou shalt have no occasion to resort to other gods, nor shall any pretended god have power to harm thee.” — Horsley.

ftc415 “Ou, perversite, ou, durete.” — Fr. marg. “Or, the perversity, or, the hardness.” Hammond reads: “I gave them up unto the imaginations of their hearts.” Horsley: “So I gave them up to the government of their own hearts.” Fry: “And I gave them up to the desires of their heart.” Walford: “Therefore I gave them up to the purposes of their heart.”

ftc416 “Heathen, or foreign god.” — Hammond.

ftc417 In our English Bible it is, “He should have fed them.” The LXX., Vulgate, and Syriac versions, Green, Walford, and others, read as Calvin does, “I would have fed them.” “This is the preferable reading,” says Walford, “as the common lection introduces a too sudden change of person.”

ftc418 “Nothing,” says Dr Adam Clarke on this verse, “can be more plaintive than the original: sense and sound are surprisingly united. I scruple not to say to him who understands the Hebrew, however learned, he has never found in any poet, Greek or Latin, a finer example of deep-seated grief, unable to express itself in appropriate words, without frequent interruptions of sighs and sobs, terminated with a mournful cry —

yl [m ym[ wl
wklhy ykrdb lary
Loo-ghammee-shomeagh-lee
Yishrael-bid’ rakee-yehallekoo!

      “He who can give the proper guttural pronunciation to the letter [, ayin; and gives the w, vau, and the y, yod, their full Asiatic sound; and does not pinch them to death by a compressed and worthless European enunciation; will at once be convinced of the propriety of this remark.”

ftc419 See volume 1, page 301.

ftc420Their time, etc.: that is, the time, the continuance, the prosperity of my people, would have been durable.” — Warner.

ftc421 It is an usual phrase with the Hebrews to call the most esteemed part of anything blj, cheleb, “the fat.” The word is used with this combination in <053214>Deuteronomy 32:14; and is adopted again in <19E714>Psalm 147:14. See also <014518>Genesis 45:18; <041829>Numbers 18:29; and <197304>Psalm 73:4. The translators of our English version have rendered it here “the finest of the wheat.”

ftc422 Palestine abounded in wild bees, which, living in the crevices of rocks, and in the hollows of trees, furnished honey in great plenty. To this there are frequent allusions in Scripture. In <053213>Deuteronomy 32:13, Moses, speaking of God’s goodness to Israel in the song with which he closed his long and eventful career, says, “He made him suck honey out of the rock.” As an evidence of the great abundance of wild honey in that country, we may refer to <091425>1 Samuel 14:25, where it is said, “And all they of the land came to a wood, and there was honey upon the ground; and when the people were come to the wood, behold the honey dropped.” In proof of the same point, reference may be also made to the fact, that a part of the food of John the Baptist in the wilderness was wild honey, which most probably he found in rocks or hollow trees. In Scripture, the country is frequently described by a familiar phrase, as “A land flowing with milk and honey;” and in <182017>Job 20:17, we meet with the strong expression of “Brooks, floods, and rivers of honey.” Palestine is still remarkable for this natural production. It may be observed, that the change of person in this last verse from the third to the first is highly poetical.

psalm 82

ftc423 Kimchi thinks it probable that this psalm was written in the days of Jehoshaphat, and refers to <141905>2 Chronicles 19:5-7, as indicating the time and occasion of its composition. We are there informed that Jehoshaphat; “set judges in the land, throughout all the fenced cities of Judah, city by city;” and in instructing them with regard to their duty, he uses nearly the same words as those in the beginning of this psalm. Dr Morison takes a different view. “This psalm,” says he, “was composed in all probability in the days of Hezekiah, in reference to certain wicked magistrates, (<142930>2 Chronicles 29:30,) who had grievously perverted the administration of justice, who were guilty of great oppression, and who had done much to introduce a state of general national corruption. King Jehoshaphat had reformed several public abuses which had crept into the judicatories of Israel in his time, (<141907>2 Chronicles 19:7,) but before the reign of Hezekiah, things had reverted to their former unhappy condition; so that a public national reformation was loudly demanded. The psalm contains an exhortation to the judges of Israel, and a reproof for their negligence and oppression.”

ftc424 “Ou, il jugeras au milieu les dieux.” — Fr. marg. “Or, he will judge in the midst the gods.”

ftc425 “C’est, faites justice.” — Fr. marg. “That is, do justice to.”

ftc426 Horsley translates the first verse thus: —

“God standeth in the assembly;
God, in the midst of the gods, giveth sentence.”

      On which he has the following note: — “In what assembly? The assembly of his holy angels. The Psalmist, I think, poetically imagines the celestial court assembled for the business of this review of the proceedings of the earth’s judges, and God, in the midst of his angels, taxing their iniquity, and awarding their punishment.”

ftc427 “The Psalmist having thus far addressed himself to the administrators of justice, as if wearied with his ineffectual remonstrance, here suddenly turns away and condemns their inattention and perverseness. The change of person is a natural indication of the earnestness of the speaker, and has a lively effect.” — Mant.

ftc428All the foundations of the earth, etc. Rather, of the land; that is, truth and justice, the foundation of all good government, and the only security of a state, are now altogether violated or disregarded.” — Warner.

ftc429Ye are all the children of the Most High, an Hebrew idiom, signifying men of the highest rank and power. Comp. <192901>Psalm 29:1; 89:7.” — Cresswell.

ftc430 This is the reading in our English Bible, on which Archbishop Secker remarks, “It seems needless to say that these princes shall fall like one of the princes.” He thinks with Bishop Hare that the true reading is not yrh, hassarim, the princes, as in our present copies, but yrh, harsaim, the poor. The translation, however, given by Calvin, who takes yrh in the vocative case, O ye princes! and who, after the word djak, cheachad, for as one of, supplies the people, makes any alteration of the text unnecessary. Gataker also considers yrh, to be in the vocative case, which is approved by Horsley, Berlin, and others. Dathe takes yrh in the sense of tyrants, but brings no authority to prove that the word has this sense. Le Clerc, in the latter part of the verse, after like one of, supplies the many, reading, “And fall, O ye princes! like one of the many.”

ftc431 This is the translation given of these lines in the French version.

psalm 83

ftc432 Compare the 6th, 7th, and 8th verses of the psalm with <142001>2 Chronicles 20:1, 10, 22; and the 12th verse of the psalm with the 11th verse of that chapter.

ftc433 The name of this Levite was Jahaziel, and he is expressly said to be a prophet of the race of Asaph, <142014>2 Chronicles 20:14. It is not unlikely that he is the same with Asaph, the author of this psalm.

ftc434 The Hebrew word translated thy hidden ones, primarily means a treasure, and is so taken in <191714>Psalm 17:14. Accordingly, it is here rendered by Mudge, and French and Skinner, “thy treasured ones :” that is, thy peculiar people: those whom thou hast hitherto protected and kept in perfect safety, as in a place of security and secrecy. The Septuagint reads, kata< tw~n aJgi>wn sou, “against thy saints.” The word is also sometimes put for the sanctuary, as in <260722>Ezekiel 7:22. Some therefore think that the temple, and the treasures contained in it, are intended.

ftc435 “Ils sentiront a la fin a leur grande honte, qu’ils estoyent desnuer de toute vertu.” — Fr. “Will at length find, to their great shame, that they were destitute of all power.”

ftc436 The Hebrew is wtrky tyrb, berith yichrothu, “they have cut a covenant.” The verb is from trk, carath, he cut, which, with the noun, tyrb, berith, signifies to strike a league, or to covenant. The phrase owes its origin to the custom which prevailed, in ancient times, of sacrificing an animal at the forming of solemn leagues, and dividing the victim in twain, the contracting parties passing between the two pieces; see volume 2, page 264, note. It is then affirmed of these combined enemies of the Jews, that they had cut the covenant sacrifice; that they had slain a sacrificial victim, divided it in twain, and passed between the pieces’ thus mutually binding themselves to accomplish their hostile purpose.

ftc437 That is, the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, (<012530>Genesis 25:30.) They were a pastoral people, and made great use of tents.

ftc438 The Ishmaelites were the descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, by Hagar the Egyptian, (<012512>Genesis 25:12-18.) They inhabited part of Arabia.

ftc439 That is, the Moabites, the descendants of Moab, a son of Lot, by one of his daughters, (<011937>Genesis 19:37.)

ftc440 The Hagarenes or Hagarites were the posterity of Abraham by Keturah, (who is supposed to have been Hagar,) whom he married after Sarah’s death. They dwelt on the east of Gilead, in the vicinity of the Euphrates. , In the days of Saul war was made upon them by the Reubenites, who, after having nearly destroyed them and expelled them from their country, dwelt in their tents, (<130510>1 Chronicles 5:10.) They seem again to have recruited their strength; but where they afterwards dwelt is not known. “They are probably the same,” says Cresswell, “as the Saracens.”

ftc441 Gebal, which signifies a mountain, denotes, according to some, the Giblites, who inhabited a district on the Phoenician coast in the neighborhood of Tyre. They were a tribe of the Aborigines of Canaan, and are mentioned as left by Joshua to be conquered after his death, (<061305>Joshua 13:5.) They were of considerable service to Hiram, king of Tyre, in preparing materials for Solomon’s temple, as we learn from <110518>1 Kings 5:18, where the original word for stone-squarers is ylbgh haggibelim, the Giblites; and it would seem from Ezekiel’s speaking of “the ancients of Gebal and the wise men thereof,” (<262709>Ezekiel 27:9,) that they rose to no small degree of eminence. The ruins of an ancient city called by the natives Gibyle, situated upon the Mediterranean Sea between Tripoli and Sidon, are supposed to be those of the chief city of the Giblites. If so, these ruins attest its ancient grandeur to have been considerable. Others suppose that Gebal (the Gebalene of the Romans) was a mountainous district inhabited by the Edomites, and extending from the Dead Sea southward to Selal or Petra. By the Arabs it is called Djebal.

ftc442 That is, the Ammonites, the descendants of Ammon, another of Lot’s sons, by one of his daughters, (<011938>Genesis 19:38.) They dwelt in Arabia Petrea.

ftc443 The Amalekites were a powerful people, who dwelt also in Arabia Petrea, between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea, or between Havilah and Shur, (<091507>1 Samuel 15:7,) south of Idumea, and east of the northern part of the Red Sea.

ftc444 The Midianites derive their name from Midian, the son of Abraham, by Keturah, <012502>Genesis 25:2. The history here referred to is the complete defeat of that people by Gideon, <070721>Judges 7:21, 23.

ftc445 Kishon is a torrent which flows from mount Tabor into the sea.

ftc446 Oreb and Zeeb were two chiefs or generals of the Midianites, and were slain by the men of Ephraim in their pursuit of the Midianites, <070724>Judges 7:24, 25.

ftc447 Zebah and Zalmunna were kings of Midian, whom Gideon, after having defeated their army, took prisoners and put to death, <070810>Judges 8:10-21.

ftc448 Endor is not mentioned in the account given of the discomfiture of Jabin’s host, and the slaughter of Sisera, in Judges 4; but it appears from <061711>Joshua 17:11, which Calvin quotes, to have been a part of the portion which fell to the tribe of Manasseh. In that passage, Taanach and Megiddo are mentioned as districts adjoining to Endor. And in the song of Deborah, the kings of Canaan who fought on the occasion referred to, against the Israelites, are said to have fought “in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo,” <070519>Judges 5:19. This may explain why they are said to have perished at Endor, which was near the place where Sisera’s army were destroyed.

ftc449Globum,” — Lat. “Une boule,” — Fr. The word lglg, galeggal, thus translated, is interpreted by Lowth, “any light thing whirled by the wind, chaff, thistle-down, etc.” “lglg seems here,” says Archbishop Secker, “especially on comparing <231713>Isaiah 17:13, to be not a wheel, but some light matter, which the wind whirls round and blows away; chaff.” In that passage of Isaiah, where the same Hebrew word occurs, the rendering in our English Bible is “a rolling thing;” and the marginal reading, “thistle-down.” This verse affords a striking exhibition of the nothingness of combined nations before the Almighty. He can make them “like the thistle-down; like the stubble before the wind.”

ftc450 The allusion in this verse is to the fires, either accidental or designed, which frequently occur in hot and wooded countries, and which spread to a vast extent, devouring all before them, and continuing their ravages for a long time. Many Eastern and African travelers describe these formidable and alarming fires from personal observation; and such descriptions serve to give a more adequate idea than would otherwise offer itself to an European mind of the Psalmist’s meaning. This language is an expressive image for wide and quick destruction.

ftc451Kindleth the mountains, that is, the produce of the mountains, trees, plants, etc.” — Walford.

ftc452Pursue them with thy tempest, is an evident reference to the dissipation of the chaff, and what follows relates clearly to the expansion of the flame.” Note of Henley, in Lowths Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, volume 1, page 277.

ftc453 “The construction of the words in the close of the psalm lies most probably thus, w[dyw, and they shall know, i.e., it shall be known by this means, hwhy ˚m hta yk, thou art thy name Jehovah, i.e., that thou art what thy name Jehovah imports; and what that is, is expounded in the remainder of the verse, ˆwyl[ ˚dbl, thou only the Most High over all the earth; that being indeed the meaning of Jehovah, the infinite, eternal, and so the only supreme power over all the world.”. — Hammond.

Psalm 84

ftc454 “Mais au contraire que par dessus tous empeschemens ils poursuyvront constamment a chercher Dieu, et par maniere de dire, se feront voye la ou il n’y en a point.” — Fr.

ftc455 “Il tesmoigne derechef qu’il estime plus de jouyer de ceste liberte d’assister avec les autres au tabernacle de Dieu, quand mesme il ne devroit vivre qu’un jour, etc.” — Fr. “He again testifies, that to enjoy the liberty of assisting with others at the tabernacle of God for only one day was, in his estimation, more to be prized, etc.”

ftc456 “It is admitted that the Hebrew preposition here used (lamed) may be translated either by, to, or for. When applied to an individual, we consider it as marking the author by whom it was written, or the musician to whose care it was addressed, for adapting it to music. But when addressed to a company of choristers, as the sons of Korah, there seems no doubt but it was intended for them to sing it.” — Williams.

ftc457 The sons of Korah were the descendants of Korah, whom the earth swallowed up for striving against Moses and against the Lord. In the narrative of that event, we are informed that “the children of Korah died not,” (<042610>Numbers 26:10.) They joined not with their father in his sedition, and therefore escaped his punishment. It appears from <130919>1 Chronicles 9:19, and 26:1-19, that their posterity were employed as porters or keepers of the tabernacle and temple. They had also a place among the singers of the temple, (<142019>2 Chronicles 20:19.) Their name occurs in the title of nine psalms.

ftc458 “Or est-il, que depuis ce temps-la, il ne perdit jamais la liberte de pouvoir comparoistre devant l’Arche avec les autres, si non une fois et pour bien peu de temps, c’est ascavoir quand il s’enfuit pour la persecution que luy faisoit son fils.” — Fr.

ftc459 Bochart supposes rwrd, to signify not the swallow, but some kind of wild dove; as he observes, that the thiopic version renders it the ring-dove, and the Septuagint, Vulgate, Chaldee, Syriac, and other ancient versions, the turtle. These last probably render it turtle from the resemblance of the name to rwt, tur, the common name of that bird. Merrick, in his version, translated it at first turtle, but afterwards substituted the more comprehensive name of dove instead of turtle, at the suggestion of Dr Lowth. “You have very good authorities for the turtle,” says that learned Prelate: “my objection may be merely an English one. The bird which we know by that name is of all others the most retired and shyest; and hardly ever approaches any building, much less makes her nest in any frequented place. Does not this consideration render it an unfit image for the Psalmist’s purpose here? The dove, which is only a more general name for the same bird, would not be liable to this objection.” But to remove that difficulty relating to the turtle, Merrick quotes a passage from Sir H. Blunt’s Voyage to the Levant, (page 186, ed. 5) in which that traveler says, that in Turkey, all birds are so tame from not being used to violence, that he had thrown his coat upon turtle-doves in the highway. “The Hebrew interpreters,” says the Illustrated Commentary upon the Bible, “believe it is the swallow, and are followed by our version. The word means freedom, deliverance, and may be supposed to refer to the free manner in which the swallow flies. It is only mentioned again, at least by this name, in <202602>Proverbs 26:2; and is there also associated with the tsippor, which our version there renders bird, instead of sparrow. In both texts, the meaning agrees better with the swallow than the turtle-dove.”

ftc460 “Comme estort le pavillon de l’Arche.” — Fr.

ftc461 This is the sense given in our English Bible; to the accuracy of which Dr Adam Clarke objects. “It is very unlikely,” says he, “that sparrows and swallows, or birds of any kind, should be permitted to build their nests, and hatch their young, in or about altars, which were kept in a state of the greatest purity, and where perpetual fires were kept for the purpose of sacrifice, burning incense, etc.” He proposes to read the words beginning at the third verse and ending with her young ones, within a parenthesis, and to explain the remaining part of the verse as the conclusion of the sentence commencing at verse 2d; or to read the parenthesis as the close of verse 3d: “Even the sparrow hath found out a house, and the swallow (ring-dove) a nest for herself, where she may lay her young; but I have no place either of rest or worship.” But though it cannot be reasonably supposed that these birds would be permitted to nestle about the altar itself, before which the priests were continually serving; yet it is not improbable that they were permitted to construct their nests in the houses near the altar. “The altar,” says Dr Paxton, “is here by a synecdoche of a part for the whole, to be understood of the tabernacle, among the rafters of which, the sparrow and the swallow were allowed to nestle; or rather for the buildings which surrounded the sacred edifice where the priests and their assistants had their ordinary residence.” — Paxtons Illustrations of Scripture, volume 2, pages 310, 355. Dr Morison, after quoting the criticism of Dr Clarke, observes, “I confess I see a great beauty in adhering to the sense given in the common version. Though the sparrow and ring-dove are represented as finding a nest for themselves at the altars of the sanctuary, it does not follow that the inspired writer intends any thing more than that, while he was exiled from the house of his God, these familiar birds had a home near that sacred spot where he had associated his chief joys.” Parkhurst considers, that a comparison is intended; and that though the particles of similitude “as” and “so” are not in the Hebrew text, they are to be understood. And in the Hebrew Scriptures, there are many instances in which they are omitted, but where it is necessary to supply them to make an intelligible version. He translates as follows: “Even (as) the sparrow findeth her house, and the dove her nest, where she hath laid her young, (so, should I find,) thy altars, O Jehovah of Hosts! my King, and my God.” According to this exposition, the Psalmist illustrates his vehement longing after the sacred tabernacle, and God’s public worship, by the natural affection of birds, and by that joy and delight with which they return to their brood after they have been absent from them. (See Parkhurst’s Lexicon on rrd,2.) Walford takes the same view. His version is: —

“As the sparrow findeth a house, and the swallow a nest,
Where she may place her offspring,
So may thy altars be my abode, O Jehovah of Hosts!
My King, and my God.”

ftc462 “Ou, du meurier.” — Fr. marg. “Or, of the mulberry-tree.”

ftc463 “Fontem ponent.” — Lat. “La rendent semblable a une fontaine.” — Fr.

ftc464 “Pools or reservoirs of water, as well as wells, are common in the Eastern deserts: the latter are supplied by springs, the former by rains, as here noticed: but both are to be found in considerable numbers in Judea, and are, according to Rauwolff, more numerous in these countries than springs that lie high; that is, than fountains and brooks of running water. Some of these have been made for the use of the people that dwell in the neighborhood; some for travelers, and especially those that travel for devotion; as for instance, such as go in pilgrimage to Mecca. The Psalmist appears to refer to provisions of this sort, made by the devout Israelites in the way of their progress to Jerusalem.” — Mant.

      This last clause has been very variously rendered. It has been understood by all the versions, in a different sense from that given to it by Calvin and our English version, which agrees with him. The Septuagint reads: “The law-giver will give blessings.” Dr Adam Clarke: “Yea, the instructor is covered, or clothed with blessings.” “God,” says he, “takes care to give his followers teachers after his own heart, that shall feed them with knowledge: and while they are watering the people they are watered themselves.” Mudge reads: “Even Moreh is clothed with ponds.” He translates the 5th, 6th, and 7th verses thus: — “How happy the man whose strength is in thee! that travel the roads with their hearts. In the valley of Baca he maketh it a fountain; even Moreh is clothed with ponds. They walk from strength to strength; he appeareth before God in Zion.” His note on these verses is as follows: — “I join the latter end of the 5th to the first word of the 6th, (so the Seventy direct, and the sense seems to require,) with a slight alteration into wrb[; the change of number, I have often observed, is not to be regarded. ‘How happy the man that feels himself invigorated by thee; that travels the roads that lead to Jerusalem, with full bent of heart! He goes through the valley of Baca as full of spirit as if it was cheered with a fountain of waters, and Moreh, as if it was filled with delicious ponds.’ (Two desolate places I suppose, through which the road lay.) ‘He grows lustier as he walks; he appears before God in Zion.’”

ftc465 “Ou, de troupe en troupe.” — Fr. marg. “Or, from company to company.”

ftc466 “Heb. The ways are in his heart; i.e., the highways to the temple are the objects of his delight. In the former verses he had alluded to the happiness of the priests, etc., who were always engaged in the service of Jehovah; here he expresses the felicity of other Israelites, who frequented the worship of the temple.” — Dr Goods new Version of the Book of Psalms, with Notes.

ftc468 “Au reste, pource que le mot Hebrieu Habbacha, quand il est escrit par un He, en la fin, signifie Pleurs: et quand il ha un Aleph, en la fin, signifie un meurier, les uns lisent yci Vallee de pleurs, les autres Vallee du meurier. Or combien que la pluspart suyve la premiere lecture, l’opinion toutesfois des derniers n’est pas sans apparence.” — Fr.

The LXX. render akb, bacha, here by , tou klauqmw~nov; Aquila by klauqmaou , “of weeping;” and the Vulgate by lachrymarum, “of tears;” viewing the word as related to the verb ,hkb, bachah, to weep, to distil, etc. “Instead of akb, baca, a mulberry-tree,” says Dr Adam Clarke, “seven MSS. have hkb, bacah, mourning. I believe Baca to be the same here as Bochim, <070201>Judges 2:1-5, called The valley of weeping.” But according to others, Bacha signifies the mulberry-tree, which is supposed to be so called because its fruit exudes a juice resembling tears. In our English Bible, while in the text “Baca” is retained as a proper name, the marginal reading is “of mulberry-trees;” and yakb, bechaim, the plural of akb, bacha, which occurs in <100523>2 Samuel 5:23, 24, and <131414>1 Chronicles 14:14, 15, is also in our English version rendered “mulberry-trees;” and in the Septuagint and Vulgate, “pear trees.” Harmer in his remarks on the passage before us, considers the translation “mulberry-trees” to be wrong, on the ground that the mulberry-tree is not a native of Judea, an opinion which he rests upon what is stated by Hasselquist, that this tree scarcely ever grows in Judea, very little in Galilee, but in abundance in Syria and mount Lebanon. He conceives the cause of its present abundance in these places to arise from the great industry with which their inhabitants apply themselves to the production of silk, and observes, that had this tree been a native of Judea, it would still be often met with there. He supposes that the weeping willow is the tree here meant. Harmers Observations, volume 3, pages 253, 254. But it is a strong objection to this conjecture, that the favourite situation of the willow is the watery plain, or the margin of the brook, and not a barren or desert place such as this valley appears to have been. Parkhurst and Gesenius think, that akb, bacha, means a kind of large shrub, (the Amyris Gileadensis,) which the Arabs in the present day call Baca; and which probably was so named, from its distilling an odoriferous gum.

      Through this valley, the Israelites, it appears, were wont to pass, in going up to Jerusalem; but commentators are not agreed with respect to its situation. Some, as Dathe, suppose, that it is the place referred to in those passages from Samuel and Chronicles, which have been quoted above. In the Fragments to Calmet it is alleged, that it lay among the mountains of Lebanon; that some rivulets ran through it; and that it was one of the most northern districts whence travelers were supposed to journey to Jerusalem. De la Roque (Voyage de Syrie) states, that the province, or rather the whole territory of Baalbec towards the mountains, is named in Arabic Al-Bkaa, which we express by Bekaa. It is watered by a river and many other streams. But if Calvin’s interpretation of the verse be correct, the valley spoken of was not a place abounding with water, but some dry and barren defile among the mountains — irrigated by no streams, and clothed with no verdure, where the thirsty traveler was compelled to dig for water, and to form cisterns in the earth to receive the rain of heaven. Dathe translates, “Passing through the arid valley of Baca, it seems to them well watered. The autumnal rain refreshes them.” “The road through that valley to Jerusalem,” says he, “was doubtless painful to these travelers. But through their longing for the solemnities to be observed at the holy city, these and places seemed to them as if irrigated with fountains of water.” Celsius, (quoted in Merrick’s Annotations,) after observing that the supposition that this was a certain valley where fountains required to be dug, would serve not a little to illustrate the subject, and expressing a doubt of its correctness, because valleys are not generally deficient in water, goes on to say, that he would rather conjecture that it was called the valley of weeping, because it was a valley rugged and embarrassed with bushes and stones, which could not be passed through without labor and tears; and he refers to <052104>Deuteronomy 21:4, to prove that there were such valleys in Judea.

ftc467 “Ou la cloche sonnera pour appeler les gens aux prieres publiques” — Fr.

ftc468 “Il dit que les fideles y viendront a grand foulle, et a l’envie l’un de l’autre, comme on dit.” — Fr.

ftc469 “Horsley reads, ‘from wall to wall;’ Merrick, ‘from station to station;’ others, ‘from virtue to virtue,’ in the military sense. All come to the same effect; they persevere through all difficulty or opposition, having their hearts set on reaching Zion’s hill.” — Williams. “I think with Gejerus that the Hebrew may be translated from strength to strength, (answerably to the words from faith to faith, <450117>Romans 1:17, and from glory to glory, <470318>2 Corinthians 3:18,) and signify, that whereas other travelers grow more and more weary as they travel, each of the pious persons here described shall, by the refreshments administered to them, proceed from one degree of strength to another, viresque acquiret eundo. As Jerusalem is represented in the New Testament as a type of heaven, I see nothing irrational in supposing that the inspired writer might, in describing the ascent to Jerusalem, have in view also that spiritual progress which leads to the city which is above, the mother of us all. The words before us are certainly very applicable to the advances made in this progress, from strength to strength, from one stage of Christian perfection to another.” — Merricks Annotations.

ftc470Ailleurs.” This supplement is not in the Latin version.

ftc471 And therefore the verb pwtsh, histopheph, derived from this noun, signifies to sit at the threshold.

Psalm 85

ftc472 This explanation is adopted by Walford, who reads, “Jehovah giveth favor and honor.” “The common gloss on these words,” he observes, “is, that God first bestows grace on earth, and then glory in heaven. But this is an interpretation of the ear rather than of the understanding. The writer is evidently speaking of the present happy consequences of walking uprightly as he immediately says. The judgment of Calvin agrees with this statement.”

ftc473 “It is generally agreed, that the subject of this psalm is the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity; in celebrating which, the Psalmist is carried by a prophetic impulse to foretell a much greater deliverance by the coming of Christ.” — Dimock.

ftc474ˆw[ tan, nasata avon, ‘Thou hast borne, or carried away, the iniquity. An allusion to the ceremony of the scape-goat.” — Dr Adam Clarke. “It is a maxim among the Jewish doctors,” says Hammond, “that captivity is one way of expiation, and so to return from thence was a sure indication that the sin for which it was inflicted was remitted or done away. This, saith Abarbanel, on Leviticus 16, was adumbrated in the Azazel, or scape-goat, which, as the other that was slain, was a sin-offering, as appears, <031605>Leviticus 16:5. ‘He shall take two kids for a sin-offering.’ And then the ‘confessing the sins over him,’ mentioned 5:21, (‘Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, etc., putting them on the head of the goat: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities into a land of separation,’ 5:22,) shows that they were to carry their sins with them into the land of their captivity, meant by the land of separation, that land whatsoever it was, whither the Divine Providence had designed their deportation. From whence therefore being now returned, their sins, for which they were thus punished, are supposed to be left behind them, no more to be laid to their charge, if their return to their former sins do not cause them to be called to remembrance.”

ftc475 “Ne faire qu’il ne fust enclin et pitie envers les enfans d’Abraham pour exaucer leurs prieres.” — Fr.

ftc476 “Ou, si est ce que.” — Fr. marg. “Or, Yet.”

ftc477 Walford, who thinks that the composition of this psalm is referable to some period subsequent to the return of God’s ancient people from Babylon, explains this concluding clause of the 9th verse as follows: — “The glory that is here spoken of is that which was formerly enjoyed, when they were surrounded on all sides by prosperity; and when especially they were favored with the tokens of the divine presence, in the performance of all the instituted worship of the sanctuary, when the ark, the temples etc., were in their pristine beauty and splendor.”

ftc478 Mercy and truth are very generally applied by commentators to God; and the passage is understood as the celebration of the harmony of the divine attributes in the salvation of man. The description is one of great beauty and sublimity. “How admirable,” says Bishop Lowth, in illustrating this verse, “is that celebrated personification of the divine attributes by the Psalmist; How just, elegant, and splendid does it appear, if applied only according to the literal sense, to the restoration of the Jewish nation from the Babylonish captivity! but if interpreted as relating to that sublimer, more sacred, and mystical sense, which is not obscurely shadowed under the ostensible image, it is certainly uncommonly noble and elevated, mysterious and sublime.”(Lowths Lectures on Hebrew Poetry, volume 1, page 284.)

Dr Adam Clarke gives a turn to the text, which still more heightens its effect. “It would be more simple,” says he, “to translate the original,

‘Mercy and truth have met on the way;
Righteousness and peace have embraced.’

This is a remarkable text, and much has been said on it: but there is a beauty in it, which I think has not been noticed.

Mercy and peace are on one side: truth and righteousness on the other. Truth requires righteousness; mercy calls for peace.

“They meet together on the way; one going to make inquisition for sin, the other to plead for reconciliation. Having met, their differences on certain considerations (not here particularly mentioned) are adjusted: their mutual claims are blended together in one common interest; on which peace and righteousness immediately embrace. Thus righteousness is given to truth; and peace is given to mercy. “Now, Where did these meet? — In Christ Jesus. “When were they reconciled? — When He poured out His life on Calvary.”

ftc479 “Pource qu’on luy defend de se trouver en public et que chacun la repousse.” — Fr.

ftc480 “Hezekiah, in the season of distress, <121916>2 Kings 19:16, begins his prayer with these words: which may have occasioned the tradition of the Jews that he made use of this psalm on that occasion.” — Warner.

psalm 86

ftc481 In our English version it is, “for I am holy.” Cresswell would rather render, “for I am merciful and pious.” “That,” says he, “is the meaning of the Hebrew word, which the Septuagint and Jerome have rendered by holy. The Psalmist supplicates God’s favor upon five several grounds, namely, his destitution, (verse 1;) his mercifulness and goodness, (verse 2;) his trust in God, (verse 2;) his prayerfulness, (verses 3, 4;) and God’s goodness, (verse 5.”) — Cresswell.

ftc482 “Ou, tout le jour.” — Fr. marg. “Or, all the day.”

ftc483 Here, and in all the verses in this psalm where ynda, Adonai, occurs, many MSS. read hwhy, Yehovah. We have before observed, (volume 1, page 13, note 2, and page 195, note,) that the Jews, out of reverence to the incommunicable name Jehovah, pronounce ynda where hwhy is in the text. It is, therefore, not improbable that hwhy is the true reading in all these places.

ftc484 “Veu que luy qui estoit homme innocent, voire qui s’estoit efforce de tout son pouvoir a leur faire plaisir.” — Fr.

ftc485 “Quia illis ad manum est deprecatio.” — Lat. “Car ils ont en main la priere et recognoissance de leur faute.” — Fr.

ftc486 The word for “and propitious” is jlsw, vesallach, which Bythner renders, “and a pardoner.” It is from jls, salach, he forgave, pardoned.

ftc487Among the gods, i.e., among the gods of the Gentiles, such as Baal, Baal-berith, Baal-zebub, Dagon, Ashtoreth, Chemosh, Milcom, Nisroch, and especially, as R. Kimchi thinks, the heavenly bodies, the sun and the stars. Some commentators suppose that it may mean, among angels, or among princes. There is good reason for doubting, however, with Parkhurst, whether the word Alaim ever positively means princes, judges, or magistrates; and the passage (<071322>Judges 13:22) quoted by Buxtorf, to show that it sometimes means an angel, only proves that Manoah intended to say that he had seen God in the person of his angel. Comp. <198907>Psalm 89:7; 96:5.” — Cresswell.

ftc488 “This verse has been considered, with great probability, as a prediction of the calling of the Gentiles under the messiah. See <451509>Romans 15:9.” — Warner.

ftc489 The reading of the LXX. is, “Let my heart rejoice,” with which the Syriac agrees; and this sense is adopted by several critics, as Muis, Dr Durell, and others.

ftc490 Bishop Law would read, “Make my heart one, that it may fear thy name;” that is, says he, “Let the fear of thee be the one ruling disposition of my soul.” — Quoted in Warner’s Psalter, with Notes.

ftc491 The original word here for grave is lwa, sheol; on which Mr Peters remarks, that if sheol here meant only a deliverance from death and the grave, the expression, lower, or lowest, would be quite unnecessary. “The lower grave” may, however, be a figurative expression for a state of the deepest distress.

ftc492 Street reads, “That those who hate me may fear. The word wary,” he observes, “if considered without the points, may be the third person plural of ary, to fear; but the authors of all the versions seem to have derived it from har, to see. I read ˚bwfl instead of hbwfl.”

ftc493 “Comme si c’estoit un enfer plus haut, et qu’il y en eust un autre plus bas.” — Fr.

ftc494 “Et est pour monstrer que le secours que Dieu donne aux siens, procede de sa bonte gratuite.” — Fr.

ftc495 “Que des le ventre de sa mere il est serviteur domestique de Dieu, et comme nay d’un sien serviteur en la maison.” — Fr.

psalm 87

ftc496 “Lesquels surmontoyent de beaucoup toute la gloire, toutes les richesses et magnificences et les precieux ornemens du monde.” — Fr.

ftc497 “Il est advenu desja de pieca.” — Fr.

ftc498 As examples of this, see <100119>2 Samuel 1:19, 25; <19B402>Psalm 114:2; <220102>Song of Solomon 1:2; <232301>Isaiah 23:1; 26:1, 3; 30:4; 41:2; 55:4; <243302>Jeremiah 33:2; <250301>Lamentations 3:1; <340108>Nahum 1:8.

ftc499 Warner, who adopts this opinion, observes: — “Though the hills round about Jerusalem (<19C502>Psalm 125:2) were all holy, from their proximity to the holy city, yet those of Zion and Moriah (<194802>Psalm 48:2) were more especially so, as on them were built the tabernacle, the palace of David, and the temple of Solomon.”

ftc500 Rahab is a poetical name of Egypt, (<233007>Isaiah 30:7; 51:9; <198704>Psalm 87:4; 89:11.) It signifies pride or fierceness, and seems to have been given to Egypt by the Jews, in memorial of the cruel tyranny which had been exercised over them by the Egyptians during their bondage among that people.

ftc501Ethiopia, the land of Cush, which was in Arabia.” — Williams.

ftc502 “These nations, as amongst those best known to the Jews, typify the entire Gentile world; and are intended to declare the accession of all the earth to the faith of Christianity.” — Tucker.

ftc503But of Zion it shall be said, He and He were born there; i.e., not one, but many men of note.” — Geddes.

ftc504 Horsley, who takes this view, translates —

“And every one shall say of Zion,
He was born there:”

on which he has the following note: — “Unusquisque, every one. Every one shall confess, to the honor of the Israelites, that the Savior was a native Jew.” Dimock objects to this, observing that Christ was not born at Jerusalem.

ftc505 Cresswell connects the second clause of this verse with the first, in this manner: — “Singers also, and players upon the pipe, shall chant, ‘All my wells are in thee;’” i.e., says he, “all my sources of refreshment, of hope, and of salvation, are in thee, O Zion!” He adds, “The phrase, wells of salvation, occurs in <231203>Isaiah 12:3, the Hebrew word being the same as that which, in our two English versions of the Psalms, is translated springs and fountains.” Walford connects the two clauses in the same manner, “They sing with musical instruments, ‘All my springs are in thee.’” “The persons who are here said to sing,” he observes, “accompanied by musical instruments, are the people spoken of in verse 6. They are described as uniting in a joyful song of praise and thanksgiving; and the burden of their song is, ‘All my springs are in thee.’ Springs or fountains are a constant image for the blessings which are productive of refreshment and happiness. These new-born converts are, therefore, represented as joining the universal Church, and offering ascriptions of praise to God, who is the overflowing source of all the streams of good, which refresh and bless the people.”

psalm 88

ftc506 “Afin que les fideles en chantant Pseaumes et Cantiques monstrent la souvenance qu’ils ont des benefices receus, et luy en facent recognoissance.” — Fr.

ftc507As well the singers as players, or dancers, shall be there; i.e., the whole chorus of joy and praise. Dr Chandler renders it, ‘They shall sing like those that lead up the dance;’ i.e., with joy and exultation.” — Williams. Symmachus and Aquila translate the text:— …Kai aJdontev wJv cwroi, pasai phgai en soi : “And they shall sing as in leading up a dance; ‘All my fountains are in thee.’”

ftc508 There are various opinions as to the occasion of the composition of this psalm. Dr Kennicott conceives it to be the prayer of a person shut up in a separate house because of the leprosy, who seems to have been in the last stage of that distemper; this disease, under the Mosaic dispensation, having been supposed to come from the immediate stroke of God. Kimchi is of opinion that it was written in the name of the Jewish people during the captivity, in the language of a poor slave under his chains. Bishop Patrick supposes that Heman, the author of it, was during the same period cast into a dark prison, (see verses 5, 6,) or, that he was otherwise as miserably treated, as if he had been in a dungeon; and that he here bewails his private calamity.

ftc509 The Heman mentioned in that text has been supposed by some to be the son of Zerah, one of Judah’s sons, by his daughter-in-law Tamar, spoken of in <130206>1 Chronicles 2:6. If these two passages refer to the same persons, then as the grandchildren of Judah are called in <110431>1 Kings 4:31, the sons of Mahol, it would follow that Mahol was either another name of Zerah or the name of his wife. If this Heman was the author of the psalm before us, and if Ethan, his brother, wrote the subsequent psalm, as they lived at least one hundred and seventy years before Moses, these poems are the oldest poetical compositions extant, and the most ancient part of divine revelation. This, however, is far from being certain. Heman, the grandson of Judah, may have been the author of the 78th psalm; but the 79th could not have been written by Ethan, his brother, as it speaks of transactions that took place long after his time, at least as late as the days of David, who is particularly mentioned in it. Calvin obviously considers this Heman to have lived in the time of David or Solomon. There is a person of the same name who was constituted by David one of the chiefs of the sacred singers, <132501>1 Chronicles 25:1. But he was a Levite, whereas the present Heman is called an Ezrahite, which is understood to denote a descendant from Zerah, the son of Judah. If, therefore, the chief musician in the time of David be intended, some transcriber must have erroneously applied to him the term Ezrahite. But if the psalm, as is supposed by many, was written during the Babylonish captivity, it must have been written by a different person.

ftc510 Street renders the title, “An instructive psalm in sickness, through affliction, by Aiman, the Ezrahite.” He observes, “hljm, sickness, is used, <022325>Exodus 23:25. The word tlhm, is the construct form of it.” He adds — “ The title thus translated agrees with the matter contained in the psalm.”

ftc511 See volume 2, page 320, note 2. Some consider the words twn[l tljm, Machalath Leannoth, which Calvin renders “Machalath, to make humble,” as together denoting an instrument of music. “For my part,” says Dr Morison, “I lean to the idea that these words are intended to denote some musical instrument of the plaintive order; and in this opinion Kimchi and other Jewish writers perfectly agree. They assert that it was a wind-instrument, answering very much to the flute, and employed mainly in giving utterance to sentiments of grief, upon occasions of great sorrow and lamentation.”

ftc512 rbg geber, therefore, denotes a man “when in vigorous manhood; who is neither a boy nor an old man, yet it is applied to Balaam, when old, in <042404>Numbers 24:4.” — Bythner.

ftc513 “‘Free among the dead,’ inter mortuos liber,” says Dr Adam Clarke, “has been applied by the Fathers to our Lord’s voluntary death: all others were obliged to die; He alone gave up his life, and could take it again, (<431018>John 10:18.) He went into the grave and came out when he chose. The dead are bound in the grave: He was free, and not obliged to continue in that state as they were.”

ftc514 This verse has been supposed to contain a reference to the condition of the leper under the law, which much resembled the picture here drawn. ypj, chophshi, from pj, chophash, “is free,” says Hammond, (“in opposition to servitude,) manumitted, set at liberty. The use of this word may more generally be taken from <142621>2 Chronicles 26:21, where of Uzziah, being a leper, it is said, that he dwelt, typjh tyb, ‘in an house of freedom, for he was cut off from the house of the Lord.’ The meaning is, that after the manner of the lepers, he was excluded from the temple, and dwelt, lwry ˆm rb, saith the Chaldee, there, in some place without Jerusalem, which is therefore called the ‘house of freedom,’ because such as were there were exempt from the common affairs, and shut up from the conversation of men. And in comparison with these, they that are, as it were, dead and laid in their graves, are here said to be free, i.e., removed from all the affairs and conversation of the world.”

ftc515 “This verse,” observes Dr Adam Clarke, “has been supposed to express the state of a leper, who, because of the infectious nature of his disease, is separated from his family, — is abominable to all, and at last shut up in a separate house, whence he does not come out to mingle with society.” “Heman means,” says Walford, “either that the character of his disease was such that men could not endure to be near him, or that the state of his mind was so disordered that he became wearisome and intolerable; perhaps he includes both.”

ftc516 According to Cresswell, the meaning of this clause is, “That the Psalmist confined himself to his house from the fear of encountering, if he were abroad, the revilings of his former friends.” Walford explains it as follows — “Either his state of feeling was such as induced him to withdraw himself altogether from society, or he was so environed by hopeless misery, that he regarded himself as a wretch confined in a dungeon, whence he could not escape.” Horsley reads, “I am shut up apart, and am not permitted to come out.” He observes, that shut up apart is the proper sense of alk, and adds, that “when it denotes confinement, it always implies solitary confinement.”

ftc517 The Hebrew word for the dead, in the first clause of the verse, is ytm, methim; here it is yapr, rephaim. This last “Hebrew word,” says Parkhurst, “means ‘dead bodies reduced,’ or ‘resolved into their original dust.’ I know not (he adds) of any one English word that will express it: remains, or relics, come as near to it as any that I can recollect. It is several times put after ytm, ‘the dead,’ as of more intense signification.” (See Parkhurst’s Lexicon,apr, 2.) “Mortui, qui vivere desierunt, manes, proprie flaccidi.” — Simonis. According to Dr Adam Clarke, yapr, rephaim, means “the manes or departed spirits.” The Chaldee paraphrases this word “the carcases that are putrefied in the dust.”

ftc518 “C’est, la mort.” — Fr. marg. “That is, death.”

ftc519 Or prevent thee — Come before the usual hour of morning prayer. — See <410135>Mark 1:35.

ftc520 “C’est, se cachent.” — Fr. marg. “That is, hide themselves.” Walford reads, “The darkness of death is my associate;” on which he has the following note: — “The darkness of death. I take this literally to mean, ‘My acquaintance, or he that knoweth me, is darkness personified:’ — orcus, abaddon.”

ftc521 The original word for “ready to die” is [wg, goveang. It is literally, I labour,or pant for breath, I breathe with pain and difficulty, as a person in great affliction and distress. The verb sometimes signifies to expire; but it does not so strictly express as imply death, from the obstruction of breathing that accompanies it. (See Parkhurst’s Lexicon, [gg, 1, 2.)

ftc522 The Hebrew verb for “doubting” is ,hnwpa, aphunah. It means “to turn this way and that,” as a person in great distress, not knowing, as we say, which way to turn himself. (See Parkhurst’s Lexicon, hnp, 8.)

psalm 89

ftc523 The Ethan celebrated in that passage, according to some, is the same person who is mentioned in <130206>1 Chronicles 2:6, as the grandson of Judah. (See page 406, note 2.) But that this psalm could not have been written by him is evident, as we have there observed, from several allusions contained in it to events which happened even posterior to the days of David. A person of this name was one of the chief musicians in the time of David, (<132501>1 Chronicles 25:1,) but he was a Levite; whereas this Ethan is called an Ezrahite. Nichols thinks it probable that the author, like Heman, was of the family of Zerah, and wrote this psalm during the captivity, most likely in the time of Jehoiakim, whose misfortunes he seems here to describe in a spirit of despondency, notwithstanding the promises made to David.

ftc524 Ainsworth’s translation of this last clause is both literal and elegant. “The heavens, thou wilt establish thy faithfulness in them.” Dr Kennicott, in his Remarks on Select Passages of the Old Testament, here refers to verses 37, 38, “where,” says he, “it appears that the sun, the moon, and the bow in the sky, were the tokens of confirmation given by God to the covenant made with David.” “The meaning of this passage,” says Warner, “appears to be, that the constancy of the celestial motions, the regular vicissitudes of day and night, and alternations of the seasons, were emblems of God’s own immutability.”

ftc525 “Ex tristi ruinae spectaculo.” — Lat. “Voyant ce commoncement pitoyable d’une ruine.” — Fr.

ftc526 “The word ytrma, ‘I have said,’ is used, in the Book of Psalms, to express two things; either a fixed purpose, or a settled opinion of the person speaking. The Psalmist, therefore, delivers the whole of this second verse in his own person, and introduces not God speaking till the next verse.” — Horsley.

ftc527 “Comp. <100711>2 Samuel 7:11, etc. In 5:3 and 5:4, the Psalmist introduces God as speaking on a subject which he resumes in 5:34; so that the intervening verses may be considered as parenthetical.” — Cresswell.

ftc528 “ — and thy truthLe Clerc thinks that the word men should here be supplied, and men thy truth; in which case, the congregation of the saints will have its proper meaning — an assembly of the pious upon earth; and the Psalmist thus describes both angels and men as praising God.” — Cresswell.

ftc529 “Literally who is he among the sons of Alim, (or of Gods, as in <192901>Psalm 29:1,) i.e., according to Suicer, the powerful, the princes of the earth. Ale, in the singular number, is used to signify God in <053217>Deuteronomy 32:17; <180304>Job 3:4, 23, (and in other places of that book;) <271138>Daniel 11:38; Habakkak 3:3. But it may be doubted whether its plural, Alim, ever means, as Aleim does, the true God. We have, however, the sons of Aleim, for chief men, in <010602>Genesis 6:2, and for angels in <180106>Job 1:6; in which sense some commentators have understood the sons of Alim both here and in <192901>Psalm 29:1, and with them agrees the Chaldee interpreter of this place. In Habakkak 1:11, Ale is used in speaking of the false god of the Chaldeans; and Parkhurst is of opinion, that by the sons of Alim are meant those kings who worshipped material divinities, such as the sun.” — Cresswell.

ftc530 Ainsworth reads, “God is daunting terrible.” The original word is ≈r[n, naarats, from ≈r[, arats, he was broken, bruised, terrified. “An epithet of God,” says Bythner “as though breaking all things.”

ftc531 Hammond’s explanation of the words, And thy truth is round about thee, conveys a striking and beautiful idea. “The elegance of the phrase (which is poetical) seems to be taken,” says he, “from the style of angels, verse 7th, where they are described as they that encompass God; signifying, that as they wait upon God, and execute his will, so, far above the strength of those, God’s fidelity, his care to perform his promise exactly encompasses him, is ready prest to perform all that he hath ever promised to do.” — Hammond.

ftc532 Horsley renders the clause thus: — Thou hast crushed Rahab, that she lies gasping with her wounds; and has the following note: — “The word llj“, [for lies gasping with her wounds,] “as it is used here, and in <198805>Psalm 88:5, signifies not a dead carcass, but a person left for dead, under his wounds, upon the field of battle; a person so wounded, as to be fallen, and incapable of rising to defend himself, or annoy the enemy. It answers exactly to the Greek word , traumatiav, by which the LXX. render it. We have no corresponding word in the English language.” Dr Adam Clarke reads, “Thou, like a hero, hast broken down Egypt;” and observes, “Dr Kennicott has largely proved, that llj, chalal, which we render wounded, slain, etc., means a soldier, warrior, hero; and it is certain that this sense agrees better with it than the other in a great number of places.”

ftc533 “The Hebrew word for ‘the north,’ is derived from a root signifying ‘to hide, conceal.’ The ‘north’ is probably so named; because in our northern hemisphere of the earth, the sun appears to move from east to south, and from south to west, and, towards mid-day, is at all times of the year southerly; whence the north side of a building, tree, or mountain, is usually ‘concealed’ or ‘hidden’ from his direct rays, and is, as we express it, in the shade. (See Parkhurst on ˆpx, 4.) Simonis, also, assigns this as the reason of the name, in the judgment of some critics, or, in that of others, because the north is covered with snow, and of others again, with darkness; and so the Greek word for darkness, zofov, is continually used by Homer for the north: for the ancients thought that the north was always buried in gloom and thick darkness.” — Mant.

ftc534 The original word ˆymy, yamin, for “the south,” signifies literally “the right hand.” As the Hebrews, when they engaged in prayer, turned their faces eastward, they called the East ynp, the face, and the West, rwja, the hinder part. The South, therefore, would necessarily be on their right hand; and hence, ymy, yamin, came to be used to denote the south.

ftc535 Tabor is a mountain of Judea, and Hermon (<19D303>Psalm 133:3) of Syria, the former to the west, and the latter to the east of the Jordan; so that they may be considered as put for the East and the West. Accordingly, the Chaldee paraphrase is, “Thou hast created the desert of the north, and the inhabitants of the south; Tabor on the west, and Hermon on the east, sing praises to thy name.” “These mountains,” says Warner, “were at a considerable distance from each other. This indicates, that the most distant parts of the land shall be equally blessed; have a like cause of rejoicing.”

ftc536 “Pource qu’ils n’ont rien au dedans qui leur acquiere authorite et donne majeste.” — Fr.

ftc537 “O the blessednesses of the people that know the joyful sound; that are spared to hear the sound of the trumpet on the morning of the jubilee, which proclaims deliverance to the captives, and the restoration of all their forfeited estates!” — Dr Adam Clarke. “But let us not forget,” says Dr Morison, “that the trumpet of jubilee was a type of the proclamation of peace and salvation by Jesus Christ. How happy they who, when the gospel trumpet is blown by the heralds of salvation, are enabled to recognize its joyful sound.”

ftc538 “The Hebrew hwhyl, must be rendered of or from the Lord, in both places in this verse: ‘Of the Lord is our shield or defense;’ ‘Of the Lord, or from him,’ i.e., of his appointment, ‘is our King.’”— Hammond.

ftc539 “Sans qu’il y en ait aucune autre cause.” — Fr.

ftc540 The word in the Hebrew Bible for “thy meek ones” is in the singular number; but in the ancient versions, and in sixty-three MSS. of Dr Kennicott’s collection, and seventy-one of De Rossi’s, it is in the plural number.

ftc541 “L’ennemi n’aura puissance sur luy.” — Fr. “The enemy shall not have power over him.”

ftc542 “Quum ultimus esset in rustico tugurio, et inter pecuarios.” — Lat. “Veu qu’il estoit le plus petit en la maison de son pere, et qu’en ce mesnage de village il estoit de ceux qui gardoyent les bestes.” — Fr.

ftc543 “The allusion appears to us to be made to a cruel and unjust creditor, who exacts not only his just debts, but some exaggerated demand, with usurious interest, which was not permitted.” — Williams.

ftc544 This means, that David’s power should extend from the Mediterranean, or Great Sea, to the river Euphrates. Gejerus and Le Clerc have illustrated this passage from a speech addressed to Alexander by the Scythian ambassadors, in Q. Curtius, 50, 7.”Si Dii habitum corporis tui aviditati animi parem esse voluissent, orbis te non caperet; altera manu orientem, altera occidentem contingeres.” “If the gods had given thee a body proportionable to thy insatiable mind, the world would not be able to contain thee. Thou wouldst stretch forth one hand to the furthest extremities of the east, and the other to the utmost west.”

ftc545I will make him my first-born; i.e., as the eldest son of a family ranks the highest, and receives the most from his father, so shall David be first in the order of kings, who, when they are legitimate sovereigns, may be regarded as the sons of God, their common Father: comp. <012701>Genesis 27:1, etc.; <020422>Exodus 4:22; <052117>Deuteronomy 21:17; <190207>Psalm 2:7; <510115>Colossians 1:15. In <231430>Isaiah 14:30, by the first-born of the poor, is meant the extreme of that class, they who are the poorest of the poor.” — Cresswell.

ftc546 “Sicuti nugantur Sophistae.” — Lat. “Comme gazouillent ces brouillons et Sophistes de Sorbonistes.” — Fr.

ftc547 “C’est a dire, de son temps.”

ftc548 The original word for “they violate” is wlljy, yechallelu, from llj, chalal, he perforated or pierced through. “When said of sacred things, he profaned, violated, polluted, prostituted, as though, pierced through divine things.” — Bythner.

ftc549 “In virga.” — Lat. “Avec ma verge.” — Fr.

ftc550 Heb. ‘if I lie,’ the most solemn form of negative in that language.” — Williams.

ftc551 “The whole passage, beginning with ‘I have laid help,’ in verse 19, to the end of verse 37, may be considered as a paraphrase of what God had said unto David, (<100708>2 Samuel 7:8, etc.,) through the mouth of Nathan. The promises herein recited, we know from history, had their fulfillment only in Jesus Christ. The Psalmist, therefore, in the next subsequent verses, contemplating the calamities of his nation, indulges in the language of complaint.” — Cresswell.

ftc552 “Acsi ex conceptis pacti verbis cum eo ageret.” — Lat. “Comme s’il luy presentoit requeste suyvant les propres mots et articles expres de son alliance.” — Fr.

ftc553 “Par lesqnels moyens ils ont pens se racheter pour eschapper la main et vengence de Dieu.” — Fr.

ftc554Once. Emphatic. It needs not to be repeated: nor will be.” — Walford.

ftc555 “There is a very obvious and important observation to be made on the description of the apparent change that had taken place in the conduct of God towards the family and descendants of David. The extraordinary promises which had been given to that prince were certainly not accomplished in the fortunes of his descendants, the kings of Judah; nor shall we be able to discover how the truth of these promises is to be sustained without an admission of their being given in reference to the Messiah, that spiritual king, who ‘was born of the seed of David, according to the flesh.’ When we take the assurances which were made to David, and which pledged to him the perpetuity of his kingdom, in this sense, the mystery is disclosed, and the difficulty is completely removed: ‘the loving-kindness of God has not been withdrawn from him, nor has his faithfulness failed.’ David has still a royal successor, though the genealogy of his posterity is lost upon earth; a successor who will endure for ever, and whose throne will be perpetuated in glory, not merely as long as the sun and the moon continue, but will still be rising in splendor, when those lights of heaven shall be extinguished, and the new heaven and the new earth shall witness the imperishable glories of the Son of God.” — Walford.

ftc556 “Ou, as quitte l’alliance de ton serviteur.” — Fr. marg. “Or, thou hast quitted the covenant of thy servant.”

ftc557 Some of the Jewish interpreters take this view, and suppose the allusion to be to king Jehoiachin, (<122408>2 Kings 24:8.) Kennicott infers from the expression, “Thou hast shortened the days of his youth,” that this portion of the psalm refers to Ahaz, who died at thirty-six years of age.

ftc558 “‘Remember at what an age or time of life I am.’ Or, ‘of what duration,’ or, ‘how fleeting,’ rlj, (by a transposition of letters from lrj, he ceased,) denotes the present time rapidly passing away. Or, the short race of our life; or this world, ‘the fashion of which passeth away,’ (<460731>1 Corinthians 7:31.)” — Bythner.

ftc559 Ainsworth reads, “O call thou to remembrance how transitory I am; into what vain state thou hast made all the sons of Adam.”

ftc560 This appeal respecting the universality of death, and the impossibility of avoiding it, meets with a ready response in the bosom of every child of Adam, however exalted or humble his lot. And, when death has once seized on its victim, all the wealth, power, and skill of the world cannot spoil the grave of its dominion. The admirable lines of Gray, in his celebrated Elegy, furnish a very good comment on this verse: —

“The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Await alike th’ inevitable hour: —
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

“Can storied urn, or animated bust,
Back to its mansions call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flatt’ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death?”

ftc561 “Sur les asnes et chevaux, et autres bestes brutes.” — Fr. “To asses and horses, and other brute beasts.”

ftc562 “De la revelation faite a Samuel.” — Fr.

ftc563 Or, as if our Redeemer were slow-paced, halt, or lame, and his Church should never behold his steps. With this agrees the Chaldee paraphrase: — “The slowness of the footsteps of the feet of thy Messiah or anointed.” Kimchi renders, “the delays of the Messiah;” “the discourse,” he observes, “being of those who say that he will never come.” A similar style of speech has been employed by the enemies of the gospel, as Calvin goes on to observe, who scoffingly asked in the days of the apostles, and who still ask, “Where is the promise of his coming?” <610304>2 Peter 3:4.

psalm 90

ftc564 “Pour faire la fin de ce livre troisieme.” — Fr. “As a conclusion to this third Book.” The Psalter, as we have before observed, has been divided by the Hebrews into five books. This is the end of Book 3. See volume 2, page 126, note.

ftc565 All the ancient versions ascribe this psalm to Moses, and it is generally agreed, that it was written by him. To him also, R. Selomo, and other Jewish commentators, ascribe the nine following psalms; for which they do not appear to have any other foundation but their own absurd canon of criticism, by which they assign all anonymous psalms to that author whose name last occurred in a preceding title. It is evident, for instance, that the 99th psalm, in which the prophet Samuel is mentioned, could not have been written by Moses.

ftc566 Man of God was a common designation of the Jewish prophets: comp. <071306>Judges 13:6; <090227>1 Samuel 2:27; 9:6.

ftc567The earth and the world. The latter of those words properly means, the habitable world; that part of the earth which, by its fertility, is capable of supporting inhabitants.” — Walford.

ftc568 “‘Our home’ — or ‘our dwelling-place.’ This image seems to have a particular reference to the unsettled condition of the Israelites before their establishment in the Land of Promise. ‘Strangers and pilgrims as we have hitherto been, in every succeeding generation, from the days of Abraham; first sojourners in Canaan; then bondsmen in Egypt; now wanderers in this dreary waste; we nevertheless find the comforts of a home and settlement in thy miraculous protection.’” — Horsley.

ftc569 “In the Indies,” says Sir John Chardin, “the parts of the night are made known, as well by instruments (of music,) in great cities, as by the rounds of the watchmen, who, with cries and small drums, give notice that a fourth part of the night is passed. Now, as these cries awaked those who had slept all that quarter part of the night, it appeared to them but as a moment.” — Harmers Observations, volume 1, page 333. If this psalm was the production of Moses, it is observable that night watches were in use in his time.

ftc570 Archbishop Secker supposes that this may be the reading, and refers to <182011>Job 20:11.

ftc571 “Ou, une parolle.” — Fr. marg. “Or, a word.” Dr Adam Clarke reads, “We consume our years like a groan;” and observes, “We live a dying, whining, complaining life; and at last a groan is its termination! How amazingly expressive!”

ftc572 “Pource que nostre vie.” — Fr. “For our life.”

ftc573 In the Latin version it is, “multa annorum millia;” “many thousand years.” But this is evidently a mistake, which the French version corrects, reading “beaucoup de milliers de jours.”

ftc574 Moses, as we learn from the passage to which Calvin refers, “was an hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.” He was eighty years old when God made him captain of the chosen people; and Aaron was eighty-three years old before he was made High Priest, <020707>Exodus 7:7. These, and a few other similar cases, have led many to conclude that the age of eighty was not considered at that time the age of decrepitude; and consequently that this psalm, which limits the average length of human life to seventy or eighty years, must be of a later date than the time of Moses. But this is no valid argument against his being its penman. According to Calvin, seventy or eighty years was at that time, in general, the utmost limits of human life; and the longevity of Moses and some others who exceeded that limit was an exception to the general rule. If this should be called in question, it might be observed that this psalm treats of the afflictions and brevity of life, not in reference to all men absolutely, but with respect to the Israelites in particular, who, on account of their murmuring at the report of the spies who had been sent to spy out the land of Canaan, and other sins, provoked God to swear in his wrath that the carcases of all that were numbered of them according to their whole number, from twenty years old and upwards, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, should fall in the wilderness during the forty years of their wandering in it, (<041427>Numbers 14:27-29.) Few of them, therefore, could have exceeded or even reached the age of fourscore years. It has been thought by some that at that time human life all over the world was reduced to the measure here specified, as its average standard. “The decree which abbreviated the life of man as a general rule to seventy or eighty years,” observes Dr J. M. Good, “was given as a chastisement upon the whole race of Israelites in the wilderness. It does not appear that the term of life was lengthened afterwards. Samuel died about seventy years old, David under seventy-one, and Solomon under sixty; and the history of the world shows that the abbreviation of life in other countries was nearly in the same proportion.”

ftc575 “There is an ambiguity in ˆk, as it denotes either so or rightly. Hence the interpretation is twofold; either ‘so make us to know that we may cause a heart of wisdom to come,’ i.e., so instruct us that we may acquire a wise heart. Or, ‘teach us to number our days rightly,’ etc. LXX. give it another and distorted interpretation.” — Bythner.

ftc576 The great mortality constantly taking place among them could not but remind them of this oath. Dimock calculates that the number of persons who died in the wilderness, from twenty years old and upwards, was one year with another near 15,000.

ftc577Early, after the dark night of afflictions.” — Ainsworth.

psalm 91

ftc378 This psalm is allowed to be one of the finest in the whole collection. “Could the Latin or any modern language,” says Simon de Muis, “express thoroughly all the beauties and elegancies as well of the words as of the sentences, it would not be difficult to persuade the reader that we have no poem, either in Greek or Latin, comparable to this Hebrew ode.” It is supposed by some to have been composed by Moses on the same occasion as the preceding; but others think it was written by David on the occasion of the pestilence which was inflicted upon the people as a punishment of his sin in numbering them, (2 Samuel 24.) It is ascribed to David in the Septuagint, Chaldee, Vulgate, Syriac, Arabic, and thiopic versions. Its subject-matter affords us no assistance in determining who was its inspired author, or on what occasion it was written. “There is, however, no reason,” says Walford, “to regret our unacquaintedness with these particulars, as the poem is so clear and intelligible, that nothing in it can be mistaken or misunderstood. The purpose of it is to illustrate the safety and happiness which result from the knowledge of God, and the exercise of a steadfast dependence upon his promise and grace. The sentiments are expressed with great force and beauty; and dead indeed must be the soul to every emotion of spiritual and heavenly delight that fails to be impressed by its truth, or to aim at the acquirement of such faith and reliance upon it as will alone render it productive of the peace and tranquillity of mind which it is intended to bestow. The learned Michaelis is of opinion that this psalm was to be recited in alternate parts by two choruses or sets of singers responding to each other, and that God himself is introduced in verse 14 as taking part of the performance.” It is supposed by the Jews to relate to the Messiah. See <400406>Matthew 4:6; <420410>Luke 4:10, 11.

ftc579 “Car ceste est la vraye cognoissance, laquelle nous pouvons bailler aux autres de main en main, quand nous mettons en avant ce que Dieu nous a revele, non point des levres taut seulement: mais aussi du profond du coeur.” — Fr.

ftc580 The original word, which Calvin renders “the pestilence,” is rendered in the Syriac “the blowing wind.” Fry’s version has “the blast.” “The simoon, or hot wind of the desert,” he observes, “a phenomenon in those regions too remarkable to have escaped the divine poet in enumerating the sources of danger to human life.” This wind being hot and burning in its effects, when it blows at noon-day, must be still more fatal.

ftc581 “Verses 5 and 6. Jos. Scaliger explains, in Epis. 9, these two verses thus: — Thou shalt not fear, rhpm, from consternation by night, ≈jm, from the arrow flying by day, rbdm, from pestilence walking at evening, bfqm, from devastation at noon. Under these four he comprehends all the evils and dangers to which man is liable. And as the Hebrews divide the four and twenty hours of day and night into four parts, namely, evening, midnight, morning, and mid-day, so he understands the hours of danger to be divided accordingly: in a word, ‘that the man, who has made God his refuge,’ is always safe, day and night, at every hour, from every danger.” — Bythner.

ftc582 As a signal instance of this preservation, Bishop Horne adduces the well known and exemplary conduct of the good Bishop of Marseilles, who, during the plague in that city in 1720, When nature sickened, and each gale was death, though in constant attendance on the infected and dying thousands, entirely escaped the contagion.

ftc583 Calvin’s reading of this verse is different from that of our English Bible. According to it, thou, in the first clause, refers to the Psalmist; while, according to him, it is to be understood of God. Hammond gives a similar version. “Because thou, O Lord! art my hope; thou hast made the Most High thy help or refuge.” All the ancient versions understand the first clause as spoken of God. In the Septuagint it is su< Ku>rie hJ e]lpiv mou, “thou, O Lord! art my hope.” Similar is the reading of the Chaldee, the Syriac, and Vulgate. But the last member of the verse, “thou hast made the Most High thy refuge,” is generally referred to the Psalmist, and regarded as a part of a soliloquy to which, when alone, his soul gave utterance.

ftc584 ajspida. The most ancient versions correspond in this respect with the Septuagint, as the Vulgate, St Jerome’s, Apollinaris’, the Syriac, Arabic, and thiopic versions, rendering lj, shachal, not by the lion but by the asp, though they are not agreed as to the particular kind of asp which is intended. This opinion is adopted by the learned Bochart, (Hieroz. volume 3, lib. 3, cap. 3,) who thinks it probable that throughout the verse serpents only are spoken of, and other interpreters have concurred in the same view. He thinks lj, shachal, rendered “the lion,” is the black serpent, or hoemorhous; and rypk, kepher, rendered “young lion,” has been supposed to be the cenchris, which Nicander (Theriac, 5, 463) calls le>wn a]iolov, the spotted lion, because he is speckled, and, like the lion, raises his tail when about to fight, and bites and gluts himself with blood. Bochart objects to the lion and young lion being meant, on the ground of the incongruity of animals of so very different a nature as lions and serpents being joined together; and observes, that to walk upon the lion seems not a very proper expression, as men do not in walking tread on lions as they do on serpents. But the lion and the young lion, the rendering of later interpreters, correspond to each other, and preserve the parallelism for which the Hebrew poetry is distinguished, and the reasons assigned by Bochart for setting it aside seem insufficient. The lion and the serpent are formidable animals to contend with; and Satan, one of the enemies to be “put in subjection under the feet of Christ,” is, in the New Testament, compared both to the lion and the dragon, (<600508>1 Peter 5:8; <661209>Revelation 12:9.) “Let it be added,” says Merrick, “that the Hebrew text says nothing of walking upon the lion, but has the word ˚rdt, which strictly signifies calcabis, thou shalt tread; and as to trample on the nations, and to make his enemies his footstool, are expressions used to signify the subduing and triumphing over them; to tread on the lion and the serpent may be understood in the same sense.”

Cresswell thinks it probable that the language of this verse is proverbial. “The course of human life,” he remarks, “is in Scripture compared to a journey; and the dangers described in this verse were common to the wayfaring man in the Psalmist’s time and country.”

ftc585 “Dei benedictiones quae ad hanc caducam vitam spectant, non esse perpetuas, neque aequali tenore fluere.” — Lat. “Ne sont pas perpetuelles, et ne descoulent pas d’un fil continuel.” — Fr.

ftc586With long life, etc. This was a blessing often pledged to good men during the Mosaic dispensation; though we cannot understand it as being universally accomplished, because God at that, as at every subsequent period, has reserved to himself, and to his own wisdom, ‘the times and the seasons.’” — Walford.

psalm 92

ftc587 “Car selon que nos pensees sont volages, si elles sont distraittes ca et la, elles s’alienent facilement de Dieu.”

ftc588 “Que si nous commencons au matin de louer Dieu, il faut continuer ses louanges jusques a la derniere partie de la nuit; pource que sa bonte et fidelite meritent cela.” — Fr.

ftc589 “Mais pource que c’estoit un rudiment fort utile au peuple ancien.” — Fr.

ftc590 But although Calvin held the use of instrumental music in public worship to be inconsistent with the genius of the Christian dispensation, he regarded the celebration of the praises of God with the melody of the human voice as an institution of great solemnity and usefulness. He knew that psalm-singing is sanctioned by the apostles, and that music has a powerful influence in exciting the mind to ardor of devotion; and to him belongs the merit of having, with the advice of Luther, formed the plan of establishing, as a principal branch of public worship in the Reformed Churches, the singing of psalms, translated into the vernacular language, and adapted to plain and easy melodies, which all the people might learn, and in which they all might join. Immediately upon the publication of Clement Marot’s version of David’s Psalms into French rhymes at Paris, he introduced it into his congregation at Geneva, set to plain and popular music; and it soon came into universal use throughout the numerous congregations of the Reformed Church of France. At length Marot’s Psalms formed an appendix to the Catechism at Geneva, and became a characteristic mark or badge of the Calvinistic worship and profession. Marot’s translation, which did not aim at any innovation in the public worship, and which he dedicated to his master Francis I., and the ladies of France, received at first the sanction of the Sorbonne, as containing nothing contrary to sound doctrine. But Calvin knew the character of the book better than the doctors of the Sorbonne, and having, by his influence, obtained its introduction into the worship of the Protestant Church of France, it contributed so much, in consequence of its extraordinary popularity, to the advancement of the Reformed cause in that country, that it was interdicted under the most severe penalties; and, in the language of the Romish Church, psalm-singing and heresy became synonymous terms. — Wartons History of English Poetry, volume 3, pages 164, 165.

ftc591 “Comme aussi la cause de nostre paresse brutale est, que nous avons perdu tout goust quand il est question dee savourer la fin des oeuvres de Dieu.”

ftc592 “Pource que la confusion difforme laquelle se voit en la vie des hommes, obscurcit grandement l’ordre de la providence de Dieu.”

ftc593 “Comme s’il disoit qu’ils ne sont point retranchez, afin que sur le prim-temps ils rejettent derechef, ainsi que les herbes mortes reprenent nouvelle vigueur, mais qu’ils sont condamnez a perdition eternelle. — Fr.

ftc594 Hammond reads “separated,” and supposes that this may be a judicial phrase, denoting the discrimination made betwixt men, as that which will be effected betwixt the sheep and the goats at the last day. <402532>Matthew 25:32 — “All the nations shall be gathered together or assembled before him” as a judge, “and, ajforiei~ aujtouv ajpj allh>lwn, he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd, ajfori>zei, separates the sheep from the goats.” For this interpretation we have the authority of the Chaldee, which paraphrases the clause thus, “In the world to come the workers of iniquity shall be separated from the congregation of the just.” If this sense is admitted, the passage corresponds with these words in the fifth verse of the first psalm, “The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.” The LXX., however, render the original word, wdrpty, yithparedu, by diaskorpisqh>sontai, “shall be scattered;” and the Syriac gives a similar version. Thus it may denote the scattering of enemies, which have been vanquished in battle and put to flight.

ftc595 The horn is worn over all the East, and is the symbol of strength and power. It adorns the heads of all princely personages in Oriental mythology. Large horns, representing the glory of deity, are planted on the heads of their idols, or placed in their hands. The horn is therefore frequently employed in Scripture as the emblem of power and authority; and when the Psalmist affirms that God would exalt his horn, it expresses his assurance of victory over his enemies. As to the animal meant by “the unicorn,” great variety of interpretations has obtained both among ancient and modern critics. The most probable opinion is that of Bochart, who, supporting himself by numerous quotations from Arabian and other Eastern writers, concludes that the ar, reem, of Scripture, is a species of wild goat of a snow-white color, having long and sharp horns, and distinguished by carrying their heads very high.

ftc596 “The verb in the Hebrew expresses much more than a superficial unction, viz., a penetration of the whole substance of the man’s person by the oil. See Parkhurst’s Lexicon, under lb: — fresh oil; rather invigorating oil.” — Horsley. The original word for fresh signifies green. But, as Harmer observes, “We are not to suppose the Psalmist means oil of a green color. We are to understand the word as signifying precious, fragrant oil, such as princes in times of prosperity were anointed with.” — Harmers Observations, volume 3, page 257.

ftc597 “Qu’il faut necessairement qu’ils soyent hays de Dieu, lequel ne se peut renoncer soy mesme.”

ftc598 These Rabbins say that Adam composed it immediately after the creation before the Sabbath. The Chaldee paraphrase entitles the psalm, “A hymn or song which the first man spoke concerning the Sabbath-day.” But had it been a composition of Adam’s, one would think it should have been placed at the head of this collection of psalms. Besides, there were no musical instruments at that time for this psalm to be sung upon, (see verse 3;) for Tubal was the father of them that handle the harp and organ; nor, as Calvin observes, had Adam numerous enemies and wicked men who rose up against him, to which reference is made in verses 7, 9, 11. We may therefore justly regard the Jewish tradition, which ascribes the composition of this psalm to Adam, as fabulous, having no other foundation but the invention and fancy of some of their Rabbins.

ftc599 The palm is one of the noblest and most beautiful of trees. It is more remarkable than any other tree for its straight, upright growth, and hence its Hebrew name rmt tamar. It frequently rises to the height of more than a hundred feet; and its leaves, when it arrives at maturity, are often six or eight feet in length, and broad in proportion. At the age of thirty it attains its greatest vigor, and continues in full strength and beauty for seventy years longer, producing every year about three or four hundred weight of dates. It is crowned at the top with a large tuft of spiralling leaves about four feet long, which never fall off, but always continue in the same flourishing verdure. And it has been said that when loaded with any weight it possesses the quality of resisting it, and of rising upwards and bending the contrary way, to counterbalance the pressure. This tree, then, so distinguished for its uprightness, loftiness, fecundity, longevity, perpetual verdure, and power of resistance, is employed with great elegance to express the spiritual beauty, elevation, fruitfulness, constancy, patience, and victory of the righteous.

ftc600 The cedars of Lebanon are a favourite image with the sacred writers. They grow to a prodigious size, rise to an enormous height, and spread their branches to a great extent, affording a grateful shade. They continue to flourish for more than a thousand years; and, when cut down, their wood is so durable that it has obtained the reputation of being incorruptible. How striking, then, the image, “The righteous shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon,” like that massy, lofty, umbrageous, and incorruptible tree, which continues to flourish from generation to generation, which survives empires, and is still vigorous when a thousand years have passed over it.

ftc601They shall still bring forth fruit in old age. Being thus planted and watered, they shall not only bring forth the fruits of righteousness, but shall continue and go on to do so, and even when they are grown old; contrary to all other trees, which, when old, cease bearing fruit; but so do not the righteous; grace is often in the greatest vigor when nature is decayed; witness Abraham, Job, David, Zechariah, and Elisabeth, and good old Simeon, who went to the grave like shocks of corn fully ripe.” — Dr Gill.

Psalms 93

ftd1 Horsley translates, —

“Jehovah is King,
Jehovah is gorgeously arrayed.”

And, on the second line, he has the following note: — “The construction of the original is doubtful, though the sense be obvious. The text may be expounded in either of these two ways; hwhy (Jehovah) bl (hath put on).bl twag (majesty of dress;) or, bl twag (majesty of dress) [is] bl (the dress) hwhy (of Jehovah.)”

ftd2 See volume 2, page 455, note 2. Bishop Lowth supposes that here, as well as in that passage, there is an allusion to the precious and magnificent ornaments of the priests’ attire. “Such,” says he, “was the gracefulness, such the magnificence of the sacerdotal vestments, especially those of the High Priest; so adapted were they, as Moses says, (<022802>Exodus 28:2,) to the expression of glory and beauty, that to those who were impressed with an equal opinion of the sanctity of the wearer, nothing could possibly appear more venerable and sublime. To these, therefore, we find frequent allusions in the Hebrew poets, when they have occasion to describe extraordinary beauty or comeliness, or to delineate the perfect form of supreme Majesty. The elegant Isaiah (<236110>Isaiah 61:10) has a most beautiful idea of this kind when he describes, in his own peculiar manner, (that is, most magnificently,) the exultation and glory of the Church, after its triumphal restoration. Pursuing the allusion, he decorates her with the vestments of salvation, and clothes her in a robe of righteousness. He afterwards compares the Church to a bridegroom dressed for the marriage, to which comparison incredible dignity is added by the word Ikohen, a metaphor plainly taken from the apparel of the priests, the force of which, therefore, no modern language can express. No imagery, indeed, which the Hebrew writers could employ, was equally adapted with this to the display (as far as the human powers can conceive or depict the subject) of the infinite majesty of God, ‘Jehovah’ is therefore introduced by the Psalmist as ‘clothed with glory and with strength,’ (<199301>Psalm 93:1,) he is ‘girded with power,’ (<196507>Psalm 65:7;) which are the very terms appropriated to the describing of the dress and ornaments of the priests.” — Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, volume 1, pages 174, 175.

ftd3 “Ou, prepare.” — Fr. marg. “Or, prepared.”

ftd4 “Selon que ces similitudes-ci prinses des hommes ont de coustume d’estre appropriees a Dieu, pour le regard et la portee de nostre infirmite.” — Fr.

ftd5 The Hebrew word yrbm, mishberey, here used for waves, means “waves” that “beat” against the shore or each other, and so are “broken,” — “breakers.” Accordingly, Mant translates, “Strong the breakers tossing high.” Horsley gives a similar version. He reads the third and fourth verses thus, —

3. “The floods, O Jehovah! Raised
The floods raised their voice;
The floods lifted up their waves,
With the sound of many waters.
4. Mighty are the breakers of the seal;
Mighty on High is Jehovah!”

      As to the fourth line, “With the sound of many waters,” he observes, “This is the first line of the fourth, but should be joined to the third verse. And are not the floods here mentioned, the fluids of the indigested chaos, in wild irregular agitation, before the Creator had reduced it to form and order? Or rather, may they not be mystical, — the tumults of the rebellious people?”

ftd6 “Domui tuae decus, sanctitas Jehovah in longitudinum dierum.” — Lat. The translation in the French version is different, — “A ta maison est donc magnificence: la sainctete du Seigneur est pour un long temps.” “To thy house then there is glory: the holiness of the Lord is for a length of time.” In the former version, holiness is represented to be the true glory and ornament of God’s house; in the latter, it is described as the attribute of God.

ftd7 Dr Morison, after stating the opinion of Mudge, who thinks that this psalm was composed on occasion of some violent inundation, which threatened a general confusion to the world, adds, “It is more probable, perhaps, that the floods spoken of are entirely figurative; and that they represent in Eastern phrase, those powerful enemies by whom the peace of David and the ancient Church was so often disturbed. But though the floods were lifted high, and threatened destruction to those who were within their reach, yet Jehovah was seen, as it were, riding on their most tempestuous billows, and amidst their mightiest tumult, his throne was unshaken and his kingdom unmoved.” In support of this view he refers to other passages of Scripture, as <230807>Isaiah 8:7, 8; 17:12, 13; and <184607>Job 46:7, 8, where the confederated enemies of God’s Church are compared to the tempestuous waves of the mighty ocean, which roll one after another with resistless fury upon the storm-tossed bark.

ftd8 “Non dubito quin Propheta quasi per hypotyposin Dei potentiam hic nobis exprimat.” — Lat. “Comme par une demonstration.” — Fr. Hypotyposis means strictly the first rough sketch of a picture.

ftd9 “The testimonies of God, when taken generally, are the truths which he has testified or declared, inclusive not only of moral precepts, but of gracious and unchangeable promises. The combined result of which is, to impress on the minds of men the weighty consideration, that those who trust in the mercy of God must not, in a lower degree, venerate and adore his sanctity in all their converse with him.” — Walford.

Psalms 94

ftd10 “Quidam, hwan, pro desiderabili accipiunt: acsi dixisset propheta, Templi decus esse pretiosum,” etc. — Lat. The French version follows this exactly. But the sentence is unsatisfactory; and there would seem to be some mistake, or omission, in the original text. If the Hebrew word referred to be rendered desirable, then when joined to dq, the clause would read, holiness is desirable, or becoming, to thy house, etc. — and not the adorning of thy house is desirable, or precious.

ftd11 “‘Holiness becometh thine house — for ever,’ ymy ˚ral, le-orec yamim, ‘for length of days:’ during the whole lapse of time; till the sun and moon shall be no more.” — Dr Adam Clarke.

ftd12 This is a literal translation of the original Hebrew, and Archbishop Secker thinks it is much more spirited than that of our English version. The word vengeance, when applied to God, means nothing more than his retributive justice. It may not be one of the happiest words for representing the Hebrew term when used to express this attribute of Deity, being liable to be misunderstood, as if it implied a revengeful spirit, the sense which it commonly bears when applied to men. “This retributive justice,” says Dr Adam Clarke, “is what we often term vengeance, but perhaps improperly; for vengeance with us signifies an excitement of angry passions, in order to gratify a vindictive spirit, which supposes itself to have received some real injury; whereas, what is here referred to is the simple act of justice that gives to all their due.”

ftd13 Mant renders,

“Beam forth with all thy radiance bright.”

“The Hebrew verb,” he observes, “signifies to irradiate, shine forth, as God in glory; <198001>Psalm 80:1; 50:2; and that either in vengeance, as in this place, or kindness, as in <181003>Job 10:3.” — See Parkhursts Lexicon on [py.

ftd14 “Mais les fideles s’arrestent a mediter ainsi en eux-mesmes la nature d’iceluy, afin de s’accourager, meilleure esperance, et soliciter a prier avec plus grande ardeur et vehemence.” — Fr.

ftd15 In our English Bible this verse is put into the interrogative form, and the words “how long” are supplied: “How long shall they utter and speak hard things?” Calvin translates it as a simple statement, and without any supplemental words; which Archbishop Secker considers to be more correct.

ftd16 “Non seulement le droict commun est viole, mais aussi le privilege que Dieu a voulu ordonner pour les maintenir en sauvete et seurete.” — Fr.

ftd17yr[b, boharum, ye brutish. From r[b, a brute.” — Bythner.

ftd18 “The Hebrew verb denotes planting in various senses: and is with great propriety applied to the wonderful structure of the ear, and its insertion into and connection with the head.” — Mant.

ftd19 Upon this and the preceding verse, Grotius says, “This is a very excellent way of arguing; for whatever perfection there is in created beings, it is derived from God; and therefore it must be in him in the most eminent manner.” It is well observed by Dr Adam Clarke, that “the Psalmist does not say, He that planted the ear hath he not an ear? He that formed the eye hath he not eyes? No, but shall he not hear — shall he not see? And why does he say so? To prevent the error of humanising God; of attributing members or corporeal parts to the infinite Spirit.”

ftd20 “Et certes une asseurance tant lourde monstre qu’ils pechent tout ainsi comme s’ils ne devoyent jamais estre appelez , rendre raison de leur vie.” — Fr.

ftd21 The Latin reads here as follows: “Quis populus tam nobilis, qui deos sibi appropinquantes hubeat, sicuti hodie Deus tuus ad te descendit? Haec enim vestra est intelligentia coram cunctis Gentibus, et sapientia, Deum habere legislatorem.”

ftd22 In our English Bible, the words shall not he know? are added. “But this is not acknowledged by the original nor by any of the versions. Indeed it is not necessary; for, either the words contain a simple proposition, ‘It is he who teacheth man knowledge;’ or this clause should be read in connection with verse 11, ‘Jehovah, who teacheth man knowledge, he knoweth the devices of man, that they are vanity.’ As he teaches knowledge to man, must He not know all the reasonings and devices of the human heart?” — Dr Adam Clarke.

ftd23 “Mais nous voyons avec quelles couvertures tant les courtisans que les gens de justice obscurcissent leurs entendemens afin que sans aucune vergongne ils osent bien se moquer de Dieu.” — Fr.

ftd24 Horsley reads, “the devices of man:” and asking, Did not St Paul for da read r[, or rather wr[? refers to <460320>1 Corinthians 3:20.

ftd25 The original word lbh is “from lbh, which first signifies to vanish, or come to nought, as in <240205>Jeremiah 2:5, ‘They walked after lbhh, vanity, wlbhyw, and vanished, or came to nought;’ and if understood here in this sense, it must signify vanishing, transient, that soon comes to nothing; and accordingly the Syriac renders it a vapour. But there is another notion of lbh; it is put metaphorically for ‘stultescere,’ ‘to grow foolish.’

Thus in Psalms 62:11, it is best rendered from the Hebrew, ‘Trust not in oppression and rapine, wlbhtAla, become not vain,’ i.e., .fools, to signify that those that so trust, that depend on unlawful means for enriching themselves, will certainly be deceived, find this the most perfect folly in the event. And the term folly being that by which the Atheist is most frequently expressed in Scripture, will be most agreeable to this place, where the Atheist’s cogitations are described, verse 7, confident of Gods not seeing nor regarding; which thoughts of his, as they are Atheistical, and so false, and so foolish in one sense, as folly is ignorance, so are they most impudent, (which is practical and the greatest folly,) will never secure his wicked actions of impunity, but, on the contrary, will betray him to all the ruin in the world. And to this sense it is, that in verse 8 we find it said in the like style, ‘Understand, O ye brutish; and ye fools, when will ye be wise?’ and so this is the adequate notion of the word here.” — Hammond.

ftd26 “Les hommes ne sont point si sages, qu’au milieu des afflictions continuelles ils taschent d’un courage paisible de parvenir jusques au but; mais qui ceste sagesse-la leur est donnee de Dieu.” — Fr.

ftd27 “Mais le Prophete adjouste incontinent, que ceste sagesse laquelle Dieu nous inspire au dedans, nous est quant-et-quant proposee et manifestee en la Loy.” — Fr.

ftd28 In our English Bible it is “until the pit be digged:” on which Hammond, who gives the same translation as Calvin, comments as follows: — “The rendering of d[, until, in this place, may much disturb the sense, and make it believed that the rest [r ymym, from the evil days, i.e., from persecution, (see <490516>Ephesians 5:16,) which God gives to good men, is to continue till the pit be digged for the ungodly, i.e., till the measure of their sins be filled up, and so destruction be ready for them: whereas, the contrary of this is evident, that either the destruction of the wicked is first, and the quiet and rest of the good (oppressed by them) a natural effect of that, and so subsequent to it; or that both of them are of the same date, at once ‘tribulation to them that trouble you, and to you who are troubled rest,’ <530106>2 Thessalonians 1:6, 7. And this is evidently the meaning of it here, and so will be discerned, if only the da be rendered dum, whilst, (as it is elsewhere used, <320402>Jonah 4:2, ytwyh da, ‘whilst I was,’ <180116>Job 1:16, rbdm hz da, ‘whilst he was speaking,’) for then thus it will run very fitly, ‘That thou mayest give him rest — whilst the pit is digged —’” Horsley reads the verse —

“To produce ease for him out of the days of adversity, Whilst the pit is digging for the impious.”

ftd29 “Que les maisons qui sont destinees aux vivans, pour un peu de temps sont bien concedees aux morts cependant qu’on leur fait leur fosse; et qu’en ceste facon ceux qui neantmoins sont destinez a perdition, demeurent en vie,” etc. — Fr.

ftd30 “Mais pource qu’au regard des hommes ou ne voit pas tousjours une telle moderation ou temperature que sa justice soit apparente; laquelle est nommee Gouvernement juste, apres que l’inequalite est corrigee.” — Fr.

ftd31 “On voit un tresbon accord entre la domination et justice en une equalite bien moderee.” — Fr.

ftd32 Horsley reads, “Who will set himself on my side?” The original words are yl bxytyAAym. “The verb bxyty,” says this critic, “I take to be a military term; literally, ‘to take one’s place in battalion’”

ftd33 “The Hebrew is hmwd. Sepulchrum, Pagn. Silentium, Mont. The Septuagint has tw~| a[|dh; and Jerome in inferno.” — Reeves Collation of the Hebrew and Greek text of the Psalms.

ftd34ynd[sy, yisadeni, propped me. It is a metaphor taken from any thing falling, that is propped, shored up, or buttressed. How often does the mercy of God thus prevent the ruin of weak believers, and of those who have been unfaithful?” — Dr Adam Clarke.

ftd35 In the Septuagint and Vulgate, it is “in the multitude of my sorrows.”

ftd36 Horsley reads the whole verse thus: —

“In the multitude of my anxieties within me,
Thy comforts cheered my soul.”

      And he observes, “The original word w[[y signifies ‘to cause to leap or dance for joy;’ but the English language will not bear an application of this image to the soul; though we say, ‘to make the heart leap for joy.’”

ftd37 “Si nous entendons le glissement du pied, seulement de la mort corporelle, il ne sera point absurde de dire que le Prophere ait este en ce desespoir.” — Fr.

ftd38 Dr Kennicott reads, “sub specie legis;” in which he is followed by Horsley: “Framing oppression under the pretense of law.” Fry’s version of the whole verse stands thus: —

“Is the tribunal of iniquity in accord with thee?
Decreeing wrong against me by law?”

      “Legal forms,” he remarks, “have often been given to the proceedings of the persecutors of God’s people; and the sacred institutions, both of the civil and religious authorities, have been perverted to be the tools of oppression.”

ftd39wdwgy, (ja-ghod-du,) will collect in a troop. Targ. ‘will heap together evils;’ LXX. ‘will hunt after.’ From ddg, ran by troops, invaded with an army.” — Bythner.

ftd40 “Deinde quid minus consentaneum, quam ut tota forensis ratio nihil aliud sit quam scelesta conspiratio ad insontes damnandos?” — Lat.

ftd41 “Toutesfois pour autant que Dieu a jadis exerce ses serviteurs en l’une et l’autre sorte de tentation, apprenons non seulement de porter patiemment une violence injuste, mais aussi les calomnies indignes,” etc. — Fr.

Psalms 95

ftd42 This psalm has no inscription, but the Septuagint, Vulgate, thiopic, Arabic, and Syriac versions, and the apostle Paul in <580407>Hebrews 4:7, ascribe it to David; so that there can be no doubt that it is one of the compositions of the sweet singer of Israel.

ftd43 Horsley reads the second clause, “Let us raise the loud peal of melody to the Rock of our salvation;” on which he has the following note: “The verb [yrh signifies to make a loud sound of any sort, either with the voice or with instruments. In the Psalms it generally refers to the mingled din of voices and various instruments, in the temple-service. This wide sense of the word cannot be expressed otherwise in the English language than by a peripharasis.” Bishop Mant, acting on this notion, has ventured, conformably to it, to specify in his version some of the instruments commonly used in the temple-worship: —

“Come, let us sing Jehovah’s praise!
To him the pealing chorus raise,
With trump, and harp, and cymbals ring;
The rock on which our hopes are placed!”

ftd44 “The deep places of the earth,” which are opposed to the “heights of the mountains,” plainly mean the deepest and most retired parts of the terraqueous globe, which are explored by the eye of God, and by his only. Horsely reads the verse thus, —

“The God in whose hand are the nethermost recesses of the earth,
Whose also are the inaccessible summits of the mountains.”

“This, and the following verse,” says he, “are expositive of the greatness of the Godship of Jehovah, generally mentioned in the lst verse. ‘The God, in whose hand.’ Thus, I have endeavoured to preserve the full force of the Hebrew phrase wdyb ra.” Bythner’s version of the last member is, “And the strength of the mountains is his.” He derives the noun twp[wtw, vethoaphoth, which he renders strength, from the verb [y, yaaph, was wearied; and observes, that this is “a noun plural feminine, weariness, — by antiphrasis, strength: is read four times in Scripture, and is said of mountains, silver, and the unicorn, the weariness and difficulty in overcoming which, denote their great strength.” Pagninus gives a similar rendering. Montanus has cacumina, the tops, which the Septuagint seems to agree, reading ta< u[ yh tw~n ojre>wn.

ftd45 “Deum ita excellere, ut longe emineat supra omnem coelestem gloriam et quicquid divinum est, non minus quam supra omne terrenum figmentum.” — Lat.

ftd46 “That is, so as to touch the floor with the forehead, while the worshipper is prostrate on his hands and knees. — See <140703>2 Chronicles 7:3.” — Fry.

ftd47 “Il faut neantmoins tousjours adjoustor ceste exception, que les fideles eslevans les yeux au ciel, adorent Dieu spirituellement.” — Fr.

ftd48 Hammond, after making a similar remark, adds — “But it is more reasonable to take the explanation from the different significations of h[r, [the word which Calvin renders pasture,] as for feeding, so for governing, equally applicable to men and cattle; from whence it is but analogy, that h[rm, which signifies a pasture, where cattle are fed, should also signify dominion or kingdom, or any kind of politei>a, wherein a people are governed. And then the other part, the sheep of his hand, will be a fit, though figurative, expression; the shepherd that feeds, and rules, and leads the sheep, doing it by his hand, which manageth the rod and staff, <192304>Psalm 23:4. The Jewish Arab reads, ‘the people of his feeding, or flock, and the sheep of his guidance.’”

ftd49 The text reads, “Si tantum nomen Legis posuisset.” This is evidently a mistake of the printer for Gregis. The French version reads — “Le Troupeau.”

ftd50 The flock under his conduct or guidance.

ftd51 The ancient Jewish writers frequently apply these words to the Messiah: and they have argued from them, that if all Israel would repent but one day the Messiah would come; because it is said, “To-day, if ye will hear his voice.”

ftd52 Hammond observes, that the particle a, im, here rendered if, is in other places often used in an optative signification, as in <023232>Exodus 32:32, “If thou wilt” for “O that thou wouldst forgive them;” and that therefore the rendering here may be, “O that to-day ye would hear his voice;” — a reading, he adds, which “may be thought needful to the making the sense complete in this verse, which otherwise is thought to hang (though not so fitly) on the 8th verse, and not to be finished without it.” He then goes on to say, “But it may be considered also, whether this verse be not more complete in itself by rendering a, if, thus: ‘Let us worship and bow down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and sheep of his hand, if ye will hear his voice to-day,’ i.e., speedily, — if ye will speedily perform obedience to him, — setting the words in form of a conditional promise, thereby to enforce the performance of the condition on our part. The condition to the performance of which they are exhorted, (verse 6,) is paying God the worship and lowly obedience due to him; and the promise secured to them in this performance, that he will be their God, and they the people of his pasture, etc., i.e., that God will take the same care of them that a shepherd does of his sheep; preserve them from all enemies, Midianites, Philistines, Canaanites, etc.”

ftd53 “Non erit proprie conditionalis, sed expositiva; vel pro temporis adverbio sumetur.” — Lat. — “Ne sera pas proprement conditionnelle, mais expositive; ou bien elle sera prinse pour Quand.” — Fr.

ftd54 That is, in the wilderness of Midian, into which the people entered after passing through the Red Sea. In their way towards Horeb, their fourth station was at Rephidim, where they were chargeable with the sinful conduct here referred to.

ftd55 Paul, in quoting this passage in <580309>Hebrews 3:9, joins the words forty years to the concluding part of the preceding verse: “When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years;” whereas, in the Hebrew text, and as Calvin connects them, they form the commencement of the 10th verse. But this depends on the punctuation system of the Masorites, which the Apostle has not followed. It is of little consequence whether the words forty years are connected with the close of the 9th verse or the beginning of the 10th; the sense in either case being substantially the same. If the Israelites tempted God forty years, he strove with them during that period; and if he strove with them for so long a time, it was because they tempted him. The Apostle shows that either of these readings may be indifferently adopted, when, in the 17th verse of that chapter, instead of speaking of the forty years as the space of time during which the Israelites tempted God, he speaks of them as the period during which God was grieved by that rebellious people. “But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness?”

ftd56 bbl y[t [, am toe lebab, “a nation wandering of heart.” Y[t, toe, is from h[t, taah, he wandered, deviated. The LXX., whom Paul follows in <580310>Hebrews 3:10, have ajei< planwntai; from which Reeves conjectures, that instead of y[t [, populus erratium, “a people that do err;” they might have read,y[t l[ “always erring.” The phrase, erring in heart, is emphatic, indicating the great stress which God lays on the state of the heart. Moses Stuart, in his commentary on this passage, as quoted in <580310>Hebrews 3:10, understands the heart as pleonastic; so that the phrase imports simply, They always err, i.e., they are continually departing from the right way. But the phrase, we think, is intended to convey another idea, — that God, in judging of the character and conduct of men, has a special regard to the state of the heart. It is the heart which he principally requires in our obedience; and this he chiefly looks to in men’s disobedience. When it is upright as to its general frame, design, and principle, he will bear with many failings and shortcomings. When it is insincere, he will set no value whatever on any outward professions or actions, however good in themselves. We ourselves act upon the same principle, and are justified in doing so. If a man discovers that he has just ground to suspect that the hearts of those with whom he has intimate intercourse, are false and deceitful towards him, he ceases to respect and love them, whatever may be their professions of friendship. The lines of the Greek poet, though inconsistent with the subdued feeling and tone of Christian benevolence, which, in this case, instead of hatred to the person, produces regret and grief; yet show that men universally, from their very nature, take into account the state of the heart in estimating the professions and conduct of others towards them: —

Ecqov gar moi ceinov ojmwv ai`dao pulhsin
Ov c eJteron men ceuqei eni fresin, allo de bazei

“I hate him like the gates of hell, who, pretending fairly to me,
reserves other things in his mind.”

ftd57 The oath to which God here refers is recorded in <041420>Numbers 14:20, 23.

ftd58 This remarkable part of Jewish history is alluded to in other places, and for various purposes. Sometimes to reproach the Israelites on account of their sins, as in <050922>Deuteronomy 9:22, “And at Massah ye provoked the Lord to wrath;” sometimes to warn them against falling into the like sins, as in <050616>Deuteronomy 6:16, “Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God as ye tempted him in Massah;” and, at other times, as an instance of the faithfulness of the Levites who clave to God in these circumstances of trial, <053308>Deuteronomy 33:8, “And of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one, whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah.”

ftd59 In our English Bible it is, “in the provocation — in the day of temptation.” But the most eminent critics agree with Calvin in thinking that it is better to retain the terms Meribah and Massah than to translate them. The places called by these names were so designated from the Israelites provoking and tempting God at them; and the retaining of the proper names gives more effect and liveliness to the allusion. See <198107>Psalm 81:7, volume 3, page 316, n. 2.

ftd60 Mant and Walford suppose that it is at the second part of verse 7, “To-day, if ye will hear his voice,” where God is introduced as speaking. “By an almost imperceptible transition,” remarks the former critic, “the person is here [last clause of verse 7th] changed; Jehovah becomes the speaker; and with a corresponding change of topic, the Ode, which had commenced with a spiritual exhortation to exult in the blessings of the Gospel, concludes with a solemn, affectionate, and impressive admonition of the danger of disobedience to it; leaving the warning upon the mind with an abruptness peculiarly well calculated to excite attention and to produce the desired effect.” Dimock conjectures, that, as God is introduced as speaking in the last clause of the 7th verse, we should read with Mudge, ylwqb, for wlqb, (or, as 37 MSS. and two others at first, wlwqb,) “Oh that you may hear my voice this day: that you may not harden your hearts,” etc.

ftd61 “Ab aliis frigide audiri, et contemptim; ab aliis fastidiose respui; ab aliis superbe rejici; ab aliis etiam furiose non sine probro et blasphemia proscindi.” — Lat.

ftd62 “Combien qu’une telle perversite nous soit naturelle, toutesfois pource qu’elle est volontaire, et que nous ne sommes pas insensibles comme les pierres.” — Fr.

ftd63 “Il ne s’ensuit pas neantmoins qu’il soit en nostre puissance d’amollir nostre coeur, ou de le flechir en l’une et l’autre part.” — Fr.

ftd64 “When the Scriptures speak of men as tempting God, the meaning is, that men do that which puts the divine patience, forbearance, goodness, etc., to a trial; i.e., makes it difficult, as it were, to preserve a strict regard to these.” — Stuart on <580308>Hebrews 3:8.

ftd65 “D’autant qu’ils ont desire que la vertu de Dieu, laquelle leur estoit declaree par tant d’experiences, leur fust manifestee, comme s’ils ne l’eussent jamais cognue.” — Fr.

ftd66 “Solus ille strepitus, quasi omnium actionum catastrophe, palam ostenderit insanabilem esse eorum pervicaciam.” — Lat.

ftd67The men of that age, or, as we say in English, the generation then upon the stage.” — Stuart on <580310>Hebrews 3:10.

ftd68proswcqiza I was indignant, was offended at. The word is Helenistic. The Greeks use ojcqe>w and ojcqi>zw. According to etymology, it consists of pro>v, to, against, upon, and ojcqh, bank, shore. It is applied primarily to a ship infringing upon the shore, or, as we say, running aground. It answers to the Hebrew wq fwq sam, etc.” — Stuart on <580310>Hebrews 3:10.

ftd69 “Satis superque innotuit, quia corrigi nullo modo poterant, non temere fuisse abdicatos a requie Dei.” — Lat.

ftd70 See Commentary, <192713>Psalm 27:13, and 89:35. “The Hebrews used a, in the latter clause of an oath, which ran thus: God do so to me, if (a) I do thus, etc. See the full form in <090317>1 Samuel 3:17; <100335>2 Samuel 3:35; <120631>2 Kings 6:31. The former part of this oath was sometimes omitted, and a had then the force of a strong negative; see <101111>2 Samuel 11:11; <091445>1 Samuel 14:45, alibi; vide Ges. Heb. Lex. under a, number 6. So in <199511>Psalm 95:11, ˆwaby a, contains a strong negative, which the LXX., and Paul after them, (<580311>Hebrews 3:11,) have rendered eij eijseleu>sontai, they shall not enter.” — Stuart on <580311>Hebrews 3:11. “The expression,” says Dr Owen, “is imperfect, and relates to the oath of God, wherein he sware by himself. As if he had said, ‘Let me not live, or not be God, if they enter,’ which is the greatest and highest asseveration that they should not enter. And the concealment of the engagement is not, as some suppose, from a paqov, causing an abruptness of speech, but from the reverence of the person spoken of. The expression is perfectly and absolutely negative. So <410812>Mark 8:12, with <401604>Matthew 16:4; <091444>1 Samuel 14:44; <112010>1 Kings 20:10.” — Commentary on <580311>Hebrews 3:11.

ftd71 See volume 1, page 103, note.

Psalms 96

ftd72 “Subtilius disputat quam ferant Prophetae verba.” — Lat.

ftd73 “Vetus et legale Sabbathum quod umbratile tantum erat, cum spirituali vitae novitate.” — Lat.

ftd74 “Mutae erant ac surdae.” — Lat.

ftd75 We meet with a psalm very similar to this, in 1 Chronicles 16, delivered by David to Asaph, to be sung on occasion of the removing of the ark from the house of Obed-edom to Zion. But the ode, as it stands in 1 Chronicles 16, is considerably longer, extending from the 8th verse to the 36th; and this is only the part of it from the 23rd to the 33rd verse. It has been supposed that this part was extracted from the psalm above mentioned, and, with a few inconsiderable alterations, adapted to the solemnity of the dedication of the second temple. This opinion is founded upon the inscription of the psalm in the Septuagint, Vulgate, thiopic, and Arabic versions, which is, “A song of David when the house was built after the captivity.” Consequently, strictly speaking, this is not a new song. But it may be called new, from its having been adapted to a new purpose — from its having been intended to celebrate new mercies conferred upon the Jews, and to lead the mind forward to the glorious era of the coming of the Messiah, and the establishment of his kingdom, which probably was the matter of more general expectation among the chosen people, at the period when the temple was rebuilt, than when the ark was brought to Mount Zion from the house of Obed-edom. It may be observed, that the first verse is not in the original poem, as recorded in the book of Chronicles, but appears to have been added for the new occasion to which this shorter psalm was adapted.

ftd76 The original word for gods is yhla, elohim. Dr Adam Clarke, who doubts whether this word is ever by fair construction applied to false gods or idols, reads —

“Jehovah is great, and greatly to be praised.
Elohim is to be feared above all.”

ftd77 “Ou, idoles.” — Fr. marg. “Or, idols.”

ftd78 “Quia Deus per angelos irradiat totum mundum, in illis refulgent Deitatis scintillae.” — Lat. “Pource que Dieu jette comme ses rayons sur tout le monde par les anges, des estincelles de Divinite reluisent en iceux.” — Fr.

ftd79 lyla, elil, signifies a thing of nought; as if from la, not, the l being doubled to denote extreme nothingness. Thus a false vision or prophecy, on which no dependence can be placed, is called lyla, elil, “a thing of nought,” <241414>Jeremiah 14:14, and a shepherd that leaves the flock, and instead of visiting, healing and feeding them, devours and tears them in pieces, is called in <381115>Zechariah 11:15, 16, “a pastor, lylah, haelil, of no value.” In this sense the word is used of the false gods of the heathen. Instead of being yhla, elohim, gods, they are ylyla, elilim, mere nothings. Accordingly, Paul, in <460804>1 Corinthians 8:4, speaks of an idol as being “nothing in the world.”

ftd80 “Sed quicquid imaginarium illis affingitur, nihilum esse.” — Lat.

ftd81 “Quia eorum vanitas nihil derogat unis Dei gloriae.” — Ib.

ftd82 “Car tout ainsi qu’ils sont vanite aussi tout ce qui procede d’eux est vain et plein de deception.” — Fr.

ftd83 “The argument of God’s superiority over all other beings, drawn from his creation of the world, is sublimely expressed in the following lines ascribed by Justin Martyr (de Monarchid. page 159, ed. Oxon. 1703) to Pythagoras, —

Ei] tiv ejrei~, Qeo>v eijmi pa>rex eJno<v, ou=tov ojfei>lei
Ko>smon i]son tou>tw| sth>sav eijpei~n ejmo<v ou=tov.

“One God our hearts confess: whoe’er beside
Aspires with Him our homage to divide,
A world as beauteous let him first design,
And say, its fabric finished, ‘This is mine.’”
 — Merrick’s Annotations.

ftd84 “Car ceux qui separent de luy sa puissance, imaginent plustost une essence morte, qu’une Divinite vive.” — Fr.

ftd85 The original word for strength is z[, oz, which is derived from zz[, azaz, he was strong. “The same word,” says Hammond, “signifies what the Greeks call ejxousi>a, power, dominion, empire. In the notion of strength or valour it may probably be used in verse 6, where as beauty so strength is said to be in his sanctuary; beauty in respect of the glory of the divine presence, by the guard of angels that attend there, and strength in respect of the assistance that is by God provided and furnished there to all that seek it by prayer. But the other notion is fitter for this place, where the word is joined with glory and attributed to God; and so in <600511>1 Peter 5:11, which seems to be taken from hence, it is aujtw~| hJ do>xa kai< to< kra>tov, ‘to him be glory and dominion;’ and hence God’s title of pantokra>twr is best rendered, not ‘almighty,’ or ‘he that hath all strength’ but ‘he that hath the z[ or , kra>tov, dominion or empire over all.’”

ftd86 Horsley reads, “Take an offering.” “A mincha,” says he, “an offering of bread and flour, not of flesh.”

ftd87 The words dqAtrdhb, which Calvin renders, “in the beauty of the sanctuary,” are rendered in our English Bible “in the beauty of holiness.” The Septuagint reads, aujlh~ aJgia aujtou, “in the court of his holiness;” from which it has been thought probable that the text originally stood w:wqArxjb. See this word at the end of the preceding verse. In <192902>Psalm 29:2, the same sentence occurs. The version of Calvin, and that of Jerome, which is precisely the same, in decore sanctuarii, partake both of the Hebrew and Septuagint reading.

ftd88 “Pour monstrer que les Gentils devoyent estre receus a un honneur nouveau, qu’ils feront un mesme corps avec le peuple eleu.” — Fr.

ftd89The peoples. The Hebrew word is plural, and it is rendered plurally by all the ancient versions. It is not one people only, but all the nations upon earth, that God will judge.” — Street.

ftd90 The Hebrew verb wnnr, rannenu, here rendered rejoice, “expresses,” says Mant, “the vibratory motion either of a dancer’s feet, or of a singer’s lips. Hence it signifies, to wave to and fro’ as trees.” In support of this sense of the word he refers to Bishop Horsley’s note on <199808>Psalm 98:8, and Parkhurst’s Lexicon on ˆnr, 1:2. Accordingly, he translates the verse —

“Be glad, ye fields, and fruits, the fields that spread;
Wave high, ye woods, in worship wave the head;”

which, he observes, will remind the reader of Adam and Eve’s morning hymn: —

“ — and wave your tops, ye pines,
With every plant, in sign of worship wave.” Paradise Lost, v.

ftd91 This psalm has been admired for its grandeur and magnificence. The three last verses in particular have been frequently quoted as a specimen of sublimity in sentiment and language, which cannot be surpassed. “Nothing can excel in this respect,” remarks Bishop Lowth, “that noble exultation of universal nature in the 96th Psalm, which has been so often commended, where the whole animate and inanimate creation unite in the praises of their Maker. Poetry here seems to assume the highest tone of triumph and exultation, and to revel, if I may so express myself, in all the extravagance of joy.” — Lectures on Sacred Poetry, volume 1, page 378.

ftd92 “Semper tamen fluctuari necesse est, et vitam eoram pendere de filo, quia in Deo fundatus non est eorum status.” — Lat.

ftd93 “Neque enim metonymice de angelis vel hominibus loquitur.” — Lat. “Il ne faut pas penser que ce soit yci la figure nommee Metonymie, et que par les Cieux il entende les Anges, par la Terre les hommes.” — Fr.

ftd94 “C’est une chose accidentale.” — Fr.

Psalms 97

ftd95 “Ou, que beaucoup d’isles.” — Fr. marg. “Or, let the many isles.” Horsley and some other critics object to translating the original word, yya, iyim, by isles. He reads, “Let the various settlements of man rejoice:” on which he observes, “I cannot more exactly render the force of the Hebrew yya, than by this periphrasis. The English language hath no single word to convey the same idea; and the word ‘isles’ or ‘islands,’ hath hardly any relation to it.” Fry’s note here is as follows: — “The Hebrew terms rendered, ‘the multitude of the isles,’ ‘the various settlements of men,’ ‘the extended shores,’ seem in a special manner to designate these western parts of the world, which were known as distant coasts visited by the ships of Tyre. All Europe might originally fall under this denomination, with some parts of the sea coasts of Africa, and even of Asia; nor can there be any doubt, that all subsequent discoveries by sea, once uninhabited, but now colonized, and settled from the old countries, would be designated by this term. Some nations of this description are called upon, in particular, to rejoice in the Savior’s appearing.”

ftd96 The word ˆwkm, mechon, here rendered “habitation,” is from ˆwk, kun, he prepared, fitted, confirmed. “It is used,” says Hammond, “for a place, seat, but especially a basis, whereon anything is set: from whence the LXX. had their mecwvw<q, (the very Hebrew twnwkm) for basis, <110727>1 Kings 7:27. The Chaldee here retains the original ˆwkm, but the LXX., from the notion of the verb for fitting, read kato>rqwsiv, ‘the setting right of his throne;’ the Syriac, by way of paraphrase, ‘by equity and judgment thy throne is confirmed:’ all which concur to the notion of basis or foundation, which is the thing that gives the rectitude first, and then the stability, to the chair or throne that is set on it. And so that is unquestionably the right, intelligible rendering of the phrase, ‘Righteousness and judgment are the (not habitation but) basis of his throne,’ i.e., his sentences, decrees, judicatures, are all built upon righteousness and judgment, as a throne is built and established on a foundation.”

ftd97 “Que le Prophete a voulu par ce regard obscur de Dieu, toucher au vif les coeurs des hommes, afin qu’ils tremblent.” — Fr.

ftd98 “Ou, idoles.” Fr. marg. “Or, idols.” The original word here is ylyla elilim. See note 2, page 50.

ftd99Judahs daughters, the inferior towns and villages of Judea, so called with reference to the metropolis, or mother city. This is a very elegant kind of personification, by which the subject, adjunct, accident, effect, or the like, of any thing or place is called the son, or, as in this instance, the daughter of that thing or place. Hence the Hebrew poets often introduce, as it were, on the stage, nations, countries, or kingdoms, clothed in the dress of women, and performing all the functions suited to such a character. The practice is familiar to our minds; but probably it is so rendered by our habitual acquaintance with the Hebrew idiom, to which it appears to owe its origin.” — Mant on Psalms 48:11.

ftd100 “Les hommes ont naturellement quelque religion,” etc. — Fr.

ftd101 “Lucianici homines.” — Lat. “Disciples de Lucian et Atheistes.” — Fr.

ftd102 With the exception of the Chaldee, which, instead of “gods,” has “people,” all the ancient versions translate angels all his angels, as if the Hebrew reading had originally been wykalm lk, and not as in our present copies yhla lk. It has indeed been questioned whether yhla, elohim, can be correctly translated angels. The most of modern lexicographers and critics reject this sense of the word. “But usage, after all,” says Moses Stuart, “pleads in favor of it. The Septuagint render la (God) by a]ggelov, in <182015>Job 20:15; and yhla by a]ggeloi, in <190806>Psalm 8:6; 96:7; 137:1. Paul follows them by quoting <190806>Psalm 8:6 in <580207>Hebrews 2:7; and also by quoting <199707>Psalm 97:7 in <580106>Hebrews 1:6; i.e., supposing that he does actually quote it. Is not this sufficient evidence that there was a usus loquendi among the Jews, which applied the word yhla occasionally to designate angels? It is admitted that kings and magistrates are called elohim, because of their rank or dignity. Is there any thing improbable in the supposition that angels may be also called yhla, who at present are elevated above men, <580207>Hebrews 2:7?”

Stuart, in the above remarks, speaks as if it were doubtful whether Paul in <580106>Hebrews 1:6, “And again, when he bringeth the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him,” quotes from the 7th verse of the 97th Psalm. Commentators are divided in opinion on this point, some maintaining that the quotation is from Psalm 97, and others that it is from <053243>Deuteronomy 32:43, in the Septuagint version, where the very words are found which appear in <580106>Hebrews 1:6, although only in that version; the Hebrew and all the ancient versions being without them. One difficulty attending the supposition of his quoting from <053243>Deuteronomy 32:43 is, that the subject connected with this command to the angels (if we admit the clause in the Septuagint to be a part of the sacred text) has no relation to the Messiah. The context celebrates the victory over the enemies of Israel, which God will achieve. After saying that ‘his arms should be drunk with blood, and that his sword should devour flesh with the blood of the slain and of captives, from the time when he begins to take vengeance on the enemy,’ the Septuagint (not the Hebrew) immediately inserts, eujfra>nqhte oujranoi< a[ma aujtw~| kai< prokunhsa>twsan aujtw~| pa>ntev a]ggeloi qeou~. This in the place where it stands must mean, “Let the inhabitants of the heavenly world rejoice in the victory of God over the enemies of his people, and let them pay their adoration to him.” But the Messiah does not seem to be at all alluded to any where in the context, much less described as being introduced into the world. It is not therefore very likely that this is the passage quoted, unless we suppose that Paul borrowed the words merely as fitted to express the idea which he intended to convey, without any reference to their original meaning. The probability is in favor of a quotation from the text before us; which in the Septuagint runs thus: proskunh>sate aujtw~| pa>ntev a]ggeloi aujtou~. Paul’s words are, kai proskunhsa>tw>san aujtw|~ pantev a]ggeloi Qeou~. Here the variation from the Septuagint is so very inconsiderable, making no change upon the sense of the passage, that the discrepancy, especially when it is considered that very few of the quotations from the Old Testament in the New agree verbatim either with the Hebrew or Septuagint, is no argument against the supposition of the Apostle’s quoting this text from that version which was in general use among the Jews. And this psalm admits of an easy application to the coming and kingdom of the Messiah, whose advent was to destroy idolatry, and be the source of rejoicing and happiness to all the righteous, which the passage in Deuteronomy referred to does not. — See Stuarts Commentary on <580106>Hebrews 1:6, and Excursus 6.

ftd103 “De nous tenir en bride, de peur qu’il ne nous soit fascheux ou grief de nous abstenir de malice,” etc. — Fr.

ftd104 “Quamvis non statim suos liberet Deus, arcana tamen virtute tucri eorum salutem.” — Lat.

ftd105 Walford objects to the version light is sown, on the ground that it presents an incongruous combination of figures; and he translates, “light is diffused.” “Who can say,” he remarks, “what is meant by the sowing of light? The diffusion or expansion of light is intelligible, and means that though good men may be in darkness or adversity, light and prosperity will burst through the cloud.” The Septuagint, Vulgate, Arabic, and thiopic versions translate, “light is risen for the righteous,” probably reading jrz, zarach, which De Rossi found in one manuscript, instead of [rz, zara. Houbigant and others adopt this reading, conceiving it to be more agreeable to the common idea of light. But Muis vindicates the text from <19C605>Psalm 126:5; and Archbishop Secker thinks “sown” a very proper expression. In support of the same rendering, Merrick, in his Annotations, quotes several passages from the classic Greek authors, in which both light and gladness are said to be sown.

Psalms 98

ftd106 The last clause is “literally, have wrought deliverance for him, i.e., not deliverance of him, as if God had been himself in danger or distress; but that is done for any one, which is done agreeably to his wishes and intentions, and at his instigation. The original, therefore, expresses, that the deliverance wrought was originally designed and decreed by God, and that his immediate power effected the thing intended without any other aid.” — Horsley. Street translates, “hath wrought salvation for us.” He thinks that instead of wl, for him, we should read wnl, for us.

ftd107 The last part of this verse is in the same words with <235210>Isaiah 52:10.

ftd108 “Car apres avoir parle des miracles, il les restreint specialement a une somme, ascavoir, que Dieu sest acquis salut par sa propre vertu.” — Fr.

ftd109 “Afin qu’ils fussent comme les aisnez.” — Fr.

ftd110 “Qu’il n’a point este induit par autre raison, sinon afin que fidelement il accomplist ce qu’il avoit promis.” — Fr.

ftd111 Horsley reads —

“Chant unto Jehovah to the harp,
To the harp, and the sound of the zimrah.”

hrmz here,” he remarks, “as in <198102>Psalm 81:2, is certainly the name of some musical instrument. But what the particular instrument might be, which went by that name, is quite uncertain. I therefore retain the Hebrew word.”

ftd112 Street is of opinion that the nominative cases of the concluding part of this verse do not belong to the verb of the preceding clause, but to the verb in the subsequent verse. “Roar let the globe,” says he, “‘and those that inhabit it,’ is not so proper an expression as ‘Let the globe and those that inhabit it clap the hand.’”

ftd113 “Let the floods clap their hands,” is a most beautiful prosopopoeia, a figure for which the Hebrew poets are remarkable, and which they manage with equal elegance and boldness. Horsley renders, “Let the floods sound applause;” observing, that it is literally “clap their hands.” “The verb ˆnr,” he adds, “expresses the vibratory motion, either of a dancer’s feet, or of a singer’s lip. Therefore, when applied figuratively to an inanimate thing that can neither dance nor sing, it is better to render its general sense than to confine it to either particular image. Our language has no word, which, like the Hebrew, may express dancing or singing indiscriminately.” The propriety of deviating from the literal rendering may, however, be questioned. This ode is highly animated; it is a burst of joy in God raised to the highest pitch; and it is the property of this emotion, when felt in a high degree, to express itself in the most daring and unusual figures. It may be added, that the whole of the seventh and eighth verses furnish a beautiful specimen of personification. With a sublimity of sentiment and an energy of language which cannot be surpassed, all nature, animate and inanimate, is summoned to unite in the song of joy, and to contend with eager rivalry in celebrating the praises of its Creator.

Psalms 99

ftd114The kings strength seems here put for the king himself.” — Merrick. Street removes the original word for strength to the end of the preceding verse, reading holy and mighty; and renders the first part of this verse thus: “Thou art a king that lovest judgment;” observing, that, in the Hebrew it is ˚lm, melech, not ˚lmh, hamelech, that the word bha, aheb, that lovest, is a participle here, and that the pronoun hta, atah, thou, belongs to the first clause. “According to the translation of the English Bible,” says he, “there is a great want of connection. ‘The king’s strength also loveth judgment: thou dost establish equity,’ etc. There had been no king spoken of before except Jehovah, and the Psalmist is here addressing him in the second person, not speaking of him in the third.”

ftd115 zgr, ragaz, “denoting commotion either of the body or mind, imports in the latter acceptation particularly two things, fear and anger, those two principal emotions of the mind. In the sense of anger we have it in <014524>Genesis 45:24, where we render it falling out or quarrelling, and in <121927>2 Kings 19:27, 28, where we render it rage. So, <202909>Proverbs 29:9, and in <014110>Genesis 41:10, the Hebrew xq, (affirmed of Pharaoh, viz., that) he was wroth, is by the Chaldee rendered zgr. And this is much the more frequent acceptation of the word in the Old Testament.” — Hammonds note on <190404>Psalm 4:4. On the text before us, after observing that Abu Walid explains this root as signifying in the Arabic trembling and commotion, arising sometimes from anger, sometimes from fear, and other causes, the same critic says, “Here the context may seem to direct the taking it in the notion of commotion simply, as that signifies ajkatastasi>a, sedition or tumult of rebels or other adversaries. And then the sense will be thus: ‘The Lord reigneth, let the people be moved,’ i.e., Now God hath set up David in his throne, and peaceably settled the kingdom in him, in spite of all the commotions of the people. The LXX. render it to this sense, as <190404>Psalm 4:4, ojrgize>sqwsan, ‘let the people be angry or regret it as much as they will.’” The verb here, and the concluding verb of the verse, may be read in the future tense: “The people or nations shall tremble, and the earth shall be moved,” just as at the giving of the Law, “the people trembled,” and “the earth shook.” Thus the passage may be regarded as a prediction of the subjection of the heathen world to the dominion of Christ.

ftd116 “A ceste condition.” — Fr. “Upon condition.”

ftd117 The marginal translation in our English Bible is, it is holy, connecting holy with Jehovah’s footstool, mentioned in the preceding clause. This construction appears to be very appropriate. The third, the fifth, and in effect the ninth verses, end with this expression, which seems to be a kind of chorus, and thus divides the psalm into three parts. The first part terminates with ascribing holiness to the name of Jehovah; the second with attributing the same property to his abode; and at the conclusion, holiness, essential, infinite, and immutable holiness, is ascribed to Jehovah himself.

ftd118 That God spoke to Moses and Aaron out of the cloudy pillar, there is no doubt. In <021610>Exodus 16:10, 11, we read,

“And it came to pass as Aaron spoke unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,” etc.

And when God said to Moses, <021706>Exodus 17:6, “Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb,” The meaning undoubtedly is, that the cloudy pillar, from which he was to speak, would stand upon Horeb. See also <021909>Exodus 19:9, 18, 19. To this intercourse Aaron as well as Moses was admitted, as we learn from the 24th verse of that chapter, and from <022021>Exodus 20:21, 22. The only difficulty here is, how God can be said to have spoken to Samuel out of the cloudy pillar, of which we have no particular account in his history. To this it may be answered, that when God called upon Samuel four times successively, at the fourth time he “came and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel,” (verse 10,) which seems parallel to those words of God to Moses, <021706>Exodus 17:6, “I will stand before thee upon the rock,” and may, therefore, be presumed to mean that the cloud, the usual emblem of the Divine presence under the former dispensation, came and stood before Samuel, and that God spake from it, though it is evident that at the three preceding calls it did not appear. Again, when Samuel’s offerings and prayers were so signally heard at Mizpeh, 1 Samuel 7, it is said, verse 9, “The Lord answered him,” and verse 10, “The Lord thundered with a great thunder;” and as where thunder is, a cloud is supposed to exist, this answering of Samuel with thunder may not unreasonably be supposed to denote God’s speaking to him at this time also out of the cloud.

ftd119 “Comme aussi il est esleve par dessus tout le monde.” — Fr.

ftd120 “La cause qu’il rend.” — Fr. “Causae redditio.” — Lat.

ftd121 “Ceux qui sont les principaux et les plus excellens personnages.” — Fr.

ftd122 Accordingly, some instead of priests read princes, or chief men. ˆhk, ˆjk, to minister, is a common title of civil as well as ecclesiastical officers. Hence, in <020216>Exodus 2:16, for the Hebrew term ˆhk, the Chaldee has abr, “the Prince of Midian.” And in <100818>2 Samuel 8:18, it is said of David’s sons, that they were ynhk, which does not there mean priests, but princes or chief rulers; — ˆybrbr, great men, as the Chaldee has it, or ynwarh, “principal or chief men about the king,” as they are termed in <131817>1 Chronicles 18:17. Of this sort was Ira the Jairite, who, in <102026>2 Samuel 20:26, is called ˆhk, which does not there denote priest, but a chief ruler about David. Thus, as in the more general sense of the word, it comprehends civil as well as ecclesiastical rulers, it is evident that Moses, no less than Aaron, may be reckoned wynhkb, among Gods rulers or chief men; and, as Calvin states, it is to be noticed that Moses was, properly speaking, the Priest of the Israelites before the appointment of Aaron and his family to the sacerdotal office.

ftd123 Hammond translates, “O God, thou was propitiated for their sakes.” He observes, that hl, lahem, which Calvin renders to them, is not to be understood barely in the sense of the dative case, “thou wast propitiated to them,” or “forgavest them;” but means for them, that is, for their sakes: God sparing the people, for or on account of the prayers of Moses, Aaron, and Samuel. God did not destroy them when these holy and devoted men pleaded with him in their behalf; he spared them, and drew back the hand of vengeance in answer to prayer. Such was the effect of Moses’ intercessions. When the people caused Aaron to make the golden calf and worshipped it, God’s anger was kindled against them. And he said to Moses, “Now therefore, let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot, and that I may consume them, and I will make of thee a great nation.” Had Moses let God alone, the whole of that race would have been utterly consumed. But he pleaded with God in their behalf, and “the Lord repented him of the evil which he thought to do unto the people,” <022210>Exodus 22:10-15. Nor was Aaron less prevalent in turning away the anger of God from the rebellious Israelites, as is evident from <041643>Numbers 16:43-45. When, on the occasion of the rebellion and murmuring of the people at Moses and Aaron on account of what befell Korah and his company, God said to Moses, “Get thee up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment;” Moses and Aaron “fell upon their faces,” and prayed. Then it follows, verse 46, “And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar; and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them; for there is wrath gone out from the Lord; the plague is begun. And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.” Equally successful were the intercessions of Samuel. When the Israelites were sore pressed by the Philistines, and afraid of them, they “said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the Lord our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines.” Samuel did as they desired, and God was propitiated by his prayers: “Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt-offering wholly unto the Lord; and Samuel cried unto the Lord for Israel, and the Lord answered him.” — <090707>1 Samuel 7:7, 8, 9.

Psalms 100

ftd124 The Hebrew text has a keri, which is wnjna wlw, “and we are his,” instead of wnjna alw “and not ourselves.” The Septuagint supports the latter reading, the ketib, kai< oujc hJmei~v, “and not we ourselves;” in which it is followed by the Syriac and Vulgate versions. Jerome agrees with the keri, Ipse fecit nos, et ipsius sumus; and so does the Chaldee. “I am persuaded,” says Lowth, in Merrick’s Annotations, “that the Masoretical correction, wlw, (and we are his,) is right: the construction and parallelism both favour it.”

ftd125 “Donnez-luy gloire.” — Fr.

 


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