THE PSALMS






                     E. W. HENGSTENBERG,

                         DR AND PROFESSOR OF THEOLOGY IN BERLIN.





                                               VOL. III.



                                             TRANSLATED BY THE

                            REV. JOHN THOMSON, LEITH,




                       REV. PATRICK FAIRBAIRN, SALTON.




                         T. &L T. CLARK, 38 GEORGE STREET.



                                          DUBLIN : JOHN ROBERTSON.




   Digitized by Ted Hildebrandt, Gordon College, Wenham, MA, March 2007












            THE present Volume of the FOREIGN THEOLOGICAL LIBRARY

has been enlarged considerably beyond the regular size, in order

to comprize the whole of the remainder of HENGSTENBERG on

the PSALMS. Of the portion contained in this volume, it may be

proper to state that the translation, as far as the close of Psalm

cxxvi., is by Mr Thomson, the remainder by Mr Fairbairn. The

Treatises at the close have a separate paging, from its having

been found convenient to print that part of the translation before

the rest could be got ready for the press. By some accident the

short general introduction to the group of Psalms, cxxxv.—cxlvi.,

was omitted at its proper place between Ps. cxxxiv. and cxxxv.;

and it has been inserted at the close of the group, at p. 546.

The translators have not thought it necessary to append any

notes or explanations of their own, with the exception of a brief

statement at the close of the Treatises, for which the translator

of that portion is alone responsible.









   In Ps. cxx., p. 412; Ps. cxxi., p. 418; Ps. cxxii., p. 426; Ps, cxxiii, p. 432, for

Pilgrims read Pilgrimages.









                   BOOK OF PSALMS.





                                     PSALM LXXIX.


THE main division of the Psalm contains twelve verses. These

are divided, as is frequently the case, into three strophes, each

consisting of four verses. Ver. 1-4 contains the representation

of the misery:—the land of the Lord has been taken possession

of by the heathen, the temple desecrated, Jerusalem laid in ruins,

the servants of God have been put to death; the people of God

become the objects of contempt to their neighbours. The second

and third strophes contain the prayer. The conclusion, ver. 13,

containing the result of the whole, gives expression to confi-


            The Psalm stands nearly related to the lxxiv.; the situation

is the same, and they come a good deal in contact as regards the

expression. Both Psalms refer to the Chaldean invasion. The

Psalm before us proceeds on the supposition that the seventy-

fourth had been previously composed, and supplements it. In

the seventy-fourth Psalm the destruction of the sanctuary is

pre-eminently and almost exclusively brought forward; but in the

seventy-ninth it is referred to very briefly, for the purpose of

indicating the passages which connect the two Psalms, and

other subjects are put in the foreground. There is no good

reason for the assertion which has been made, that the Psalm

before us must have been composed previously to the seventy-

fourth, as the Temple is there spoken of as entirely destroyed,


2                  THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


whereas it is only its desecration that is spoken of here. The

desecration does not exclude its destruction; the destruction is

one of the forms of its desecration. Had the Psalmist design-

ed, in allusion to the seventy-fourth, to speak of the sanctuary

in one single expression, he could not possibly have found a

stronger term than this: the most dreadful thing that can befal

the sanctuary is that it be desecrated.  In saying this every

thing that can be affirmed of it is said.

            Several expositors, both ancient and modern, refer the Psalm

to the time of the Maccabees. But there are quite decisive

grounds against this view. First, from the close resemblance to

Ps. lxxiv., the arguments which were there adverted to are of

equal force here. There are no traces here of any reference to

the special relations of the times of the Maccabees. And there

are two circumstances which are not suitable to those times: the

laying of Jerusalem in ruins, ver. 1, and the mention of nations

and kingdoms in ver. 6 (comp. 2 Kings ixiv. 2), whereas in the

time of the Maccabees Judah had to do only with a single king-

dom.a There are also two weighty external reasons. Jeremiah

was acquainted with the Psalm, and made use of it (comp. at

ver. 6), and in 1 Macc. vii. 16 and 17 it is quoted as forming at

that time a portion of the sacred volume.b It is thus not neces-

sary here to avail ourselves of the general reasons which may be

urged against the existence of Maccabean Psalms.c

            The title, "a Psalm of Asaph," is confirmed by the fact that

the Psalm stands closely related to a whole class of Psalms which

bear in their titles the name of Asaph. Those critics who re-


            a The remark of Venema renders it evident that even verses 2 and 3 will not suit the

times of the Maccabees: "that the expressions, they delivered the servants of God to

birds and wild beasts, and there was none to bury them, are to be taken in a restricted

sense, as used only of some, and in reference to the attempts and intentions of the


            b  kata> to>n lo<gon o{n e@graye: sa<rkaj o[si<wn k.t.l.  The Syrian translation: " ac-

cording to the word which the prophet has written." This is the usual way of quoting

Scripture: comp. Harless on Eph. iv. 8. Hitzig translates falsely: according to the

words which a certain one wrote. The obscure productions of unknown authors are

never quoted in this way. The fact that the author omits, in the passage from the

Psalm, what does not suit his purpose, renders it evident that the Psalm was not com-

posed for the occasion there referred to: comp. J. D. Michaelis.

            c Amyrald.: besides it cannot be doubted that there were prophets at the time of Ne-

buchad who were able to compose such poems; whereas in the age of Antiochus there

were none, at least none whose writings have reached posterity.


                      PSALM LXXIX. VER. 1-8.                            3


ject the titles are unable to explain this similarity admitted by

themselves, which obtains among all the Asaphic Psalms, even

among those which were composed at different eras. If we fol-

low the title the reason of this is clear as day. The descendants

of Asaph looked upon themselves as the instruments by which

the Asaph of David's time, their illustrious ancestor, continued

to speak, and therefore they very naturally followed as closely in

his footsteps as possible: the later descendants, moreover, would

always have the compositions of their more early, ancestors before

their minds. The unity of the persons named in the titles is

connected with the unity of character by which all these Psalms

are pervaded. Any one who composed at his own hand, and did

not look at his ancestor or the early or contemporaneous instru-

ments of that ancestor, could not have adopted it.

            Ver. 1-4.—Ver. 1. 0 God, the heathen have come into

thine inheritance, they have polluted thy holy temple; they

have laid Jerusalem in ruins. Ver. 2. They have given

the bodies of thy servants for food to the fowls of heaven,

the flesh of thy saints to the wild beasts of the earth. Ver.

3. They have shed their blood like water round about Jerusa-

lean, and the was no one to bury. Ver. 4. We have become

a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and derision to them that

are round about us.—On ver. 1, Calvin: The Psalmist says,

the order of nature is, as it were, inverted; the heathen have

come into the inheritance of God." Berleb.:  "Faith utters a

similar complaint in its struggles: the heathen have made an

inroad into my heart as thy inheritance." The pollution of the

temple by the heathen presupposes its previous pollution by the

Israelites: comp. Ex. v. 11, xxiii. 38. Ps. lxxiv. 7, is parallel.

On vtyH in ver. 2, comp. at Ps. 1. 10. That the Crx is to be

understood of the earth and not of the land is obvious from the

term in contrast heaven.—The expression, "and there was none

to bury," points to a great and general desolation, such as did

not exist at any other period except during the Chaldean inva-

sion.—Ver. 4 is from Ps. xliv. 13.

            Ver. 5-8.—Ver. 5. How long, 0 Lord, wilt thou be angry

for ever? shall thy jealousy burn like fire!  Ver. 6. Pour out

thy floods of wrath upon the heathen who know thee not, and up-

on the kingdoms which do not call upon thy name. Ver. 7.


4                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


For he devours Jacob, and they lay waste his pasture. Ver. 8.

Remember not against us the iniquities of our ancestors, make

haste to surprise us with thy tender mercies, for we have become

very much reduced.—On "how long . . . for ever," in ver. 5,

comp. at Ps. lxxiv. 9; xiii. 1. On the second clause, Deut.

xxix. 19. Ex. xx. 5.a –In ver. 6, the heathen and the kingdoms

are not at all the heathen nations generally, but those who had

risen up against Israel. The prayer rests upon what God does

constantly. Judgment begins at the house of God, but it pro-

ceeds thence to those whom God has employed as the instruments

of his punishment: the storm of the wrath of God always re-  

mains to fall at last upon the world at, enmity with his church;

comp. Deut. xxxii. Ez. xxxviii. 39.b—The sing. lkx in ver. 7

denotes the one soul which animates the many membered body of

the enemies of the church of God. All the nations and king-

doms referred to in ver. 6 served the king of Babylon. It is

better to take hvn in the sense of pasture than of habitation:

comp. the tyfrm in ver. 13: they eat up Israel, the poor flock,

and lay waste his pasture, his land. Ver. 6 and 7 are repeated

almost word for word in Jer. x. 25. It has been alleged in

favour of Jeremiah being the original author, that the prophecy

was uttered before the destruction. But this reason is of no

weight. The prophecy, which designedly bears no particular

date, was, at least in its present form, written after the destruc-

tion; it contains much moreover which represents the destruc-

tion as an event which had already taken place, while other por-

tions of it again refer to it as still future, (a peculiarity which

admits of explanation from the circumstance that the prophet is

here giving a summary view and the substance of what had been

spoken at different times); ver. 25 itself takes for granted that

the heathen had already devoured Israel and laid waste his pas-

turage. On the other hand, and in favour of the priority of the

Psalm before us, it may be urged that in all such cases there is


            a Ven.: The interrogative form conveys an insinuation that God ought not to de-

stroy utterly the whole people, as there remain among them so many pious, to be chas-

tised and purified (Dan. xi. 35), but not to be destroyed.

            b Arnd: "The difference is this: God's wrath will burn for ever against unbelievers;

with believers, however, when they deserve punishment his wrath burns fiercely indeed,

but not eternally,—he visits them with the rod and chastisement for a short while, and

with a view to their improvement."


                          PSALM LXXIX. VER. 5-8.                      5


a presumption in favour of Jeremiah borrowing--it being his

usual manner to do so; that in this chapter there are manifestly

references to other Psalms, the preceding verse being borrowed

from Ps. vi. 1, (comp. Kuper p. 159); that in Jeremiah the

words occur without any connection whatever, while in the Psalm

before us the prayer that the Lord would pour out the flood of

his wrath upon the heathen, is appended without anything inter-

vening to the complaint that his zeal is burning like fire against

Israel—the "pour out" refers back to "they have poured out,"

in ver. 3, (Mich. propter, sanguinem tuorum copiose effusum ef-

funde, see Ps. lxix. 24),—comp. ver. 10; that the difficult singu-

lar lkx is changed into the plural; and finally, that the passage

is expanded exactly in the style of Jeremiah in quoting passages,

who can leave nothing short and round,--and they have eaten him

and consumed him.—Mynwxr in ver. 8, where it stands alone, sig-

nifies nothing else than ancestors, not antiquity. The reference to

Lev. xxvi. 45, which it is impossible not to observe, is altogether

against the exposition, the former sins:  "and I remember to

them the covenant of their ancestors whom I brought out of the

land of Egypt before the eyes of the heathen, that I might be

their God,"—God does not remember the sins of their ancestors,

but according to his own promise, the covenant which he made

with them. Comp. also Lev. xxvi. 39, where instead of "ances-

tors" we have "fathers:" they desired that they may not be

treated according to this verse, but according to the 45th of this

chapter, or rather, that after they had experienced the treatment

referred to in the 39th verse, they might now also enjoy the 45th,

comp. Lam. v. 7. The guilty fathers do not at all stand in op-

position to the innocent children. It is the uniform doctrine of

scripture that no one is punished unless he be personally guilty,

and that it is only in the ungodly children that the sin of the

fathers which is represented as increased in them that is punish-

ed: comp. the Beitr. p. 544 ss. The mention of the sins of

the fathers, so far from exculpating, indicates the depth and the

magnitude of the guilt. Calvin:  "They acknowledge an obstin-

ancy of long standing, in which they have hardened themselves

against God. And this acknowledgment corresponds to the

prophetic punishments. For sacred history testifies that the

punishment of the captivity was postponed till God had experi-


6                      THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


enced that their wickedness was incurable:" comp. Is. lxv. 7.

On Mdq to surprise, comp. at Ps. xxi. 4.

            Ver. 9-12.—Ver. 9. Help us, 0 God, our Salvation, for thy

name's glory's sake; and deliver us and pardon our sins for

thy name's sake. Ver. 10. Why should the heathen say, Where

is their God? May the vengeance of the blood of thy servants

which they have shed become known to the heathen before our

eyes. Ver. 11. May the sighing of those who are bound come

before thee. According to the greatness of thine arm preserve

the dying. Ver 12. And recompense to our neighbours seven-

fold into their bosom their reproach wherewith they have re-

proached thee, 0 Lord.—In the 9th verse the church implores

the Lord to redeem that pledge of similar future deeds, which she

got in his early dealings. The name, and the honour of the name,

i. e., his glory (comp. at Ps. xxix. 1, 2), are in reality the

same:—for the sake of thy historically manifested glory (comp.

at Ps. xxiii. 3), for the purpose of now verifying this in sight of

the blaspheming enemies, and to their terror.—The first half of

the 10th verse is word for word from Jo. ii. 17, and this passage

again rests on Ex. xxxii. 12. Num. xiv. 13 ss. Deut. ix. 28. On

comparing these passages, especially the one last quoted, it be-

comes obvious, that "Where is their God?" signifies, "Where is

his far-famed love towards his people and where is his omnipo-

tence?"  The ground is not one of a mere external character:--

the heathen would have had good reason to speak thus, and

therefore God must not give them any occasion to do so; he must

make known his omnipotence, and his love, in delivering his

people; they cannot be for ever given over to misery: comp. the

Christology p. 657, &c.  In the second clause, the Myg is

written without the Vau: comp. at Ps. lxxiv. 11. "Before our

eyes," is from Deut. vi. 22. "The vengeance of the blood of thy

servants" points back to "He will avenge the blood of his ser-

vants," in the conclusion of the Song of Moses, in Deut. xxxii.

43.—In ver. 11, the whole people appears under the emblem of a

prisoner. At the first clause we ought to add: as it once did in

Egypt, Ex. ii. 23-25. The people of God have the privilege, in

every trouble, of looking to the early deliverances as pledges of

those yet to come; and hence they possess a sure ground of con-

fidence. The world, when it prays, prays only as an experiment,


                                  PSALM LXXX.                                  7


having no connection whatever with history. On "according to

the greatness of thine arm," comp. Num. xiv. 19. Deut. iii. 24.

Inward greatness is meant, energy. The htvmt is a noun

formed from the third fem. fut. (comp. in Balaam p. 120, &c.),

very probably by the Psalmist himself. Hence it cannot mean

"death," but only "that which dies," "the dying."  The sons

of the dying are those who belong to him as a personified race,

and thus the dying themselves, just like "the sons of the needy''

in Ps. lxxii. 4.—On "in their lap," ver. 12, comp. Is. lxv. 6-7.

Jer. xxxii. 18. Luke vi. 38. Their reproach, inasmuch as they

say, Where is their God? ver. 10.

            Ver. 13. And we are thy people and sheep of thy pasture,

therefore we shall praise thee for ever, recount thy praise through

all generations. The verse is expressive of confidence:  "we shall

praise thee" being equivalent to "thou shalt give us occasion to

do so;" comp. Ps. xliv. 8. In reference to "the sheep of thy

pasture," comp. at Ps. lxxiv. 1.



                                  PSALM LXXX.


            The Psalmist prays for help on behalf of the oppressed church,

particularly on behalf of Joseph and Benjamin, ver. 1-3, and

describes, in mournful language, their oppression in ver. 4-7.

In ver. 8-13, Israel appears under the image of a vine tree,

which at first is carefully attended to, and had spread forth luxu-

riantly, but now had become altogether destroyed. In ver.

19, the Psalmist prays that God would again take this vine tree

under his gracious protection.

            Ver. 1-7 are evidently to be considered as an Introduction;

and the individual character of the Psalm is to be found in the

figure of the vine tree.

            The formal arrangement is obvious,—so obvious, that light is

thrown from this Psalm upon others, where otherwise there would

have been ground for uncertainty; and even from this Psalm alone,

the significance of the numbers in the arrangement of the Psalms is

placed beyond a doubt. The whole, inclusive of the significant

title, contains twenty verses, two decades. The introduction con-

tains seven, and the main division twelve,—the numbers of the


8                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


covenant, and of the covenant people. The seven is divided into

three and four, the preliminary complaint and the preliminary

petition; the twelve is divided into six and six, the expanded

complaint, which comes in immediately after the preliminary one,

and the expanded prayer, the first and the last verses of which

are the same.

            The fundamental tone of the whole Psalm is given in the words:

"0 God, lead us back, and cause thy face to shine, and us to be

delivered." These words occur three times, like the Mosaic bles-

sing to which they allude, for the purpose of making a deeper

impression upon the mind,a at the end of the first and of the se-

cond part of the Introduction, ver. 3 and 7, and at the end of the

main division and of the whole, ver. 19: the names of God in

these same verses are arranged in an ascending series,—God,

ver. 3; God of Hosts, ver. 7; Jehovah, God of Hosts, ver. 19.

They are wanting at the end of the first part of the main division,

because it is bound together by the unity of the figure of the vine

tree; the twelve also is not so decidedly divided by the six, which

is destitute of any meaning of its own, as is the seven by the three

and the four. The beginning, moreover, of the second half of the

main division is externally indicated by the address, "0 God of

Hosts," ver. 14, just as the beginning of the second part of the

Introduction by the address, "Jehovah, God of Hosts," ver. 4,

indicating the termination prescribed for the refrain, to which it

had to advance by degrees.

            The Psalm is a remarkable testimony on behalf of the catholic

spirit by which the true church of God has been always pervaded

—an illustration of the apostolic saying, "when one member suf-

fers, all the members suffer along with it." Like the seventy-

seventh Psalm, to which it is closely allied, it gives adequate ex-

pression to the painful feelings awakened in Judah's mind by the

captivity of the ten tribes; comp. the three times repeated "lead

us back," ver. 3, 7, 19. The Septuagint have already with ac-

curacy written: u[pe>r tou?   ]Assuri<ou. For it is incontrovertibly

evident, from reasons which never would have been overlooked,

had it not been for the perverse disposition to assign to the Psalms


            a Calvin: God did not design to dictate a vain repetition of words to his people; but

this support is frequently held out to them, when oppressed with evils, in order that

nevertheless they may courageously arise.


                                   PSALM LXXX.                                  9


the latest possible date, that we cannot refer the Psalm with se-

veral interpreters, to the Chaldean invasion, nor yet, with others,

to the times of the Maccabees, nor indeed to any suffering which

befel Judah. 1. The vine tree appears as destroyed to a consi-

derable extent, and even as deprived partly of its branches, but

still it is standing in the holy land: the people of the Lord ap-

pear, as is evident from the thrice-repeated prayer, lead us back,

partly as led away; and yet they are also in possession of their

own land, as is manifest from the title, "to the Chief Musician,"

which is wanting in Ps. lxxiv. and lxxix., and which marks out

this Psalm as designed for a public service in the temple. By

this the reference to the Chaldean destruction is wholly excluded.

2. In the very first verse, God is addressed by the title: he who

leads Joseph like a flock. The idea is altogether untenable that

Joseph, who appears always as the leader of the ten tribes, and

who is spoken of, in Ps. lxxviii. 67, in opposition to Judah, is

here used for the whole of Israel, or for Judah, in whom Israel at

the time existed. Even in Obed. ver. 18, the house of Joseph

denotes the ten tribes (comp. Caspari), and, in like manner, in

Amos vi. 6, Joseph is used only of the ten tribes; comp. Ch. B.

Michaelis. 3. In ver. 2, the tribes on whose behalf the help of

God is supplicated are Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh.

Every thing here depends upon determining whether, in the divi-

sion of the state into two kingdoms, the Benjamites adhered to

Judah or to Joseph. The general view is in favour of the first.

(Comp. for example Winer in his dic., Gesenius in his Thesau-

rus.)  It is, however, involved here in inextricable difficulties; as

if Benjamin belonged to the kingdom of Judah, and this Psalm

refers to the misery of the whole people, there can be no reason

assigned why Benjamin is named here, and not Judah. We, on

the other hand, maintain that, with the exception of Jerusalem,

which lay close on the boundaries of Judah, by whom it was con-

quered, and by whom, in common with Benjamin, it was inhabited

(comp. Raumer, p. 334), and of that portion of its environs which

lay on the side of Benjamin, the declivity, namely, slanting down,

from the upper city, Benjamin adhered to Joseph. The presump-

tions are all in favour of this view. Benjamin and Joseph were

bound together by ties of an ancient character. They were both

the darling sons of beloved Rachel (Gen. xliv. 27-29), and were


10                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


united to each other in the tenderest affection, Gen. xliii. 29-

30-34. In travelling through the wilderness we find them as

here united to each other; comp. Num. ii. 17, &c., x. 21-24. It

is clear, from 2 Sam. xix. 21, that the bond of union between

Joseph and Benjamin was very close even in David's time: in

this passage Simei says that he comes first of the whole house of

Joseph. Further, Benjamin is the very last tribe who can be

supposed to have entertained any friendly feeling towards Judah,

inasmuch as the honour and pre-eminence which belonged to it

during the reign of Saul was transferred to Judah (comp. 1 Sam.

xxii. 7); and history affords evidence that, even in David's time,

there existed a spirit of deep-rooted hostility. Shimei, on the

rebellion of Absalom, gave utterance to the spirit of the tribe;

the rebel Sheba (2 Sam. xxi. 1) belonged to Benjamin: and at

the numbering of the people, with the exception of Levi, which,

from the nature of the case, could not be included, the only tribe

which was not numbered was Benjamin, undoubtedly because

Joab did not choose to provoke its seditious spirit. If we turn

now to the evidence in support of the opposite view, we find, as

wholly favouring it, the passage 1 Kings xii. 21, according to

which Rehoboam assembled the whole house of Judah and the

tribe of Benjamin. But a whole series of other passages demon-

strates that the author loosely, though, after all, with sufficient

accuracy, as the real state of matters was universally known, em-

ployed the tribe of Benjamin to denote that small portion of the

tribe which was incorporated with Judah, so that we are to supply

as understood: so far as it remained faithful to Judah. Accord-  

ing to 1 Kings xi. 13, 32, 36, xii. 20, it was only the single

tribe of Judah that remained with the house of David; and it is

utterly preposterous to suppose that in all these passages Benja-

min, which always occupied a place of distinguished honour among

the tribes, is passed over in silence, on account of its littleness.

In 1 Kings xii. 17, the only individuals not Jews who submitted

to the government of Rehoboam are "the children of Israel who

dwelt in the cities of Judah." This passage forms the connecting

link between xii. 21 and the passages above quoted, and gives to

the former the necessary limitation. Further, if we join Benja-

min to Judah, it will be impossible to make out the ten tribes;

for Simeon, who is commonly reckoned among them, manifestly


                                 PSALM LXXX.                                11


cannot be counted. That tribe, according to Gen. xlix. 7, ought

to be found like Levi, broken up into pieces; according to Jos.

xix. 1, "its inheritance was in the midst of the tribe of Judah,"

not certainly any contiguous portion of the land, but separate,

single cities, lying at a distance from each other: comp. Bachiene

i. 2, 408. The Simeonites belong, assuredly, to "the children

of Israel who dwelt in the cities of Judah," as their cities origi-

nally were situated within the tribe of Judah, and are enumerated

in the list of these cities, Bach. § 409. They must necessarily

have held fast by Judah, and probably did so very willingly: it

was quite natural that they should amalgamate with Judah, and

this is sufficient to explain the fact that they are nowhere men-

tioned as a part of the kingdom of Judah: on the division into

two kingdoms they became extinct as a tribe. This peculiar

state of matters explains 1 Kings xi. 30, &c., according to which

the whole number of the tribes was twelve, of which one remained

faithful to the house of David, and ten took part with Jeroboam.  

Now, if we leave out Simeon, it becomes necessary to take in

Benjamin, in order to complete the number ten.—It is, therefore,

evident that the three passages above quoted represent Israel

only in a limited sense, whose leading tribes they name, in ac-

cordance with original historical relations, and agreeably to later

usage; and, therefore, the Psalm cannot be referred either to the

Babylonian captivity or to the times of the Maccabees.a

            Title: To the Chief Musician, on lilies, a testimony of Asaph,

a Psalm. This title is formed in an original manner after those of

the two Davidic Psalms, the sixtieth and the sixty-ninth. "To the

Chief Musician" is important, because it skews that the Psalmist

is here acting as the organ of the whole church. Instead of lx  

pointing out the object (comp. at title of Ps. vi.) we have lf in

the two fundamental passages, The lilies are an emblem of what is

lovely (comp. at Ps. xlv.), here, as in Ps. lxix., of the lovely salva-

tion of the Lord, his tvfvwy: comp. hfwvn with which the re-

frain generally ends, the peculiarly prominent word of the Psalm,

and the htfvwy, in ver. 2. The tvdf, which, on account of the ac-

cusative, cannot be connected with Mynww, signifies always law


            a Calvin: It would have been absurd to have passed over the tribe Judah, and the

sacred city itself, and to have given the prominence to Joseph, Manasseh, Ephraim, and

Benjamin, if the language had not been designed to apply specially to Israel.


12                 THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


(comp. at Ps. lx. title), and generally denotes the divine law, as

given in the Books of Moses; in this way also it is used in the

Asaphic Psalms lxxviii. 5, lxxxi. 5. That it is used in the

same sense here also, that the Psalmist designates his poem a

law, because he does not prescribe a way of salvation at his own

hand, but merely points to the one which had already been de-

scribed in the law, and comes forward as its expounder, is evi-

dent from the reference to the title of Ps. lx., where the original

itself from which the Psalmist merely copies, is named tvdf,

and from the fact that the Psalm really throughout depends

upon the law, especially the refrain which gives its fundamental

tone. The particular application of tvdf is to be got from the

word immediately preceding, on the lilies: "a law which treats

of the way of obtaining deliverance."a  The Jsxl tvdf, cor-

responds to the Jsxl lykWm an instruction of Asaph in

Psalms lxxiv. and lxxviii.; but it is a stronger and more em-

phatic expression: comp. also, Hear, my people, my law in Ps.

lxxviii. 1.

            Ver. 1-3.--Ver. 1. 0 thou Shepherd of Israel give ear, who

leadest Joseph as the sheep; thou who sittest enthroned upon the

cherubim, shine forth. Ver. 2. Before Ephraim, and Benjamin,

and Manasseh, stir up thy strength and come for help to us.

Ver. 3. 0 God, lead us back, and cause thy face to shine, and us

to be delivered.—The "thou Shepherd of Israel," in ver. 1 (comp.

at Ps. xxiii. 1), refers to Gen. xlviii. 15; xlix. 24, where in

Joseph's blessing God is named the Shepherd of Israel. The

expression, "who leadest Joseph," &c., is the development of the

first clause, and marks directly that part of Israel who at this

time stood particularly in need of the shepherd care of God. In

the second clause prominence is given to the omnipotence of God

as the second foundation of the deliverance, just as in the first

his care for his people had been especially dwelt upon. It is

omnipotence that is indicated by, "thou sittest enthroned upon

the cherubim:" comp. at Ps. xviii. 10. The cherubim of the

sanctuary are the emblem of the earthly creation. God's sitting

above these indicates that this sublunary world with all its powers

is subject to him and serves him.  "God of hosts" corresponds


            a Venema: that the pious, when placed in dreadful trouble, might be instructed in

the true way of obtaining deliverance and salvation.


                      PSALM LXXX. VER. 4-7.                          13


to this appellation of God, and denotes as exclusively God's

dominion over the heavenly powers as the expression before us

denotes his dominion over those of earth. In reference to shine-

forth, comp. at Ps. 1. 2. Allusion is made, as appears, to the

resplendent symbol of the presence of God during the march

through the wilderness. In ver. 2, Benjamin "the little," stands

between Ephraim and Manasseh. "Before them:"—that is,

leading them forward, at their head, as formerly before Israel in

the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire: comp. Deut. xiii. 21, 22,

"and the Lord went before them," &c. Thy strength:—which

now slumbers,—comp. Ps. lxxviii. 65.—The "lead us back," in

ver. 3, refers to that portion of the people who had been led into

captivity, and who had been described with sufficient distinctness

in the preceding clauses, and whom the Psalmist, sympathising

with a suffering member, keeps throughout prominently before

his eye. The usual sense of bvw in Hiph. is to lead back

(comp. Gen. xxviii. 15, where Jacob, who in his exile beyond the

Euphrates, and in his restoration to Canaan, typified the fate of

his people, is addressed by God, I bring thee back to this place,

Jer. xii. 15; xvi. 15; xxx. 3): and there is no ground whatever

to depart from this usual sense here; more especially as in the

12th and 13th verses we find a lamentation expressed in figu-

rative language over a considerable portion of the people who had

been led into captivity. The sense to bring back to a former

condition, to restore (Luther: comfort us), is of very rare occur-

rence, indeed occurs with certainty only in one passage, Dan.

ix. 25: comp. the Christology, p. 2, p. 456. "Cause thy face

to shine," is demanded as a fulfilment of the Mosaic blessing,  

Num. vi. 25: comp. at Ps. iv. 6; xxxi. 16.

            Ver. 4-7.—Ver. 4. 0 Lord God, God of hosts, how long

dost thou smoke against the prayer of thy people? Ver. 5.

Thou feedest them with tear-bread, and givest them drink in a

great measure full of tears. Ver. 6. Thou placest us for conten-  

tion to our neighbours, and our enemies make merry. Ver. 7. 0

God, God of hosts, bring us back, and cause thy face to shine

upon us, and us to be delivered. A heaping up of the names of

God similar to that in ver. 4, occurs also in the first verse of the

fiftieth Psalm, another of the Psalms of Asaph. In prayer,

every thing depends upon God, in the full glory of his being,


14                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


walking before the soul. It is only into the bosom of such a

God that it is worth while to pour out lamentations and prayers.

"Jehovah," corresponding to "thou Shepherd of Israel," in ver.

1, points to the fulness of the love of God towards his people;

and "God, God of hosts" corresponding to "who sittest enthron-

ed upon the cherubim," to his infinite power to help them. The

Elohim Zebaoth causes no difficulty if we only explain cor-

rectly Jehovah Zebaoth: comp. Ps. xxiv. 10. It is manifest

from, comparing the fundamental passage, Deut. xxix. 19, and

the parallel Asaph. passage Ps. lxxiv. 1, that the smoke comes

into notice only as the attendant of fire. It is clear also from

these passages that we must translate against, not at the prayer

of thy people. There is a significant reference to smoke as the

standing symbol of prayer, and to its embodiment in the burnt

offering: comp. Ps. cxli. 2. Rev. v. 8; viii. 3, 4. Is. vi. 4, "the

house was full of smoke," Beitr. iii. 644. The smoke of prayer,

according to Lev. xvi. 13, should smother the fire of the wrath

of God: but instead of this, God opposes the smoke of his anger

to the smoke of prayer. In ver. 5, tear-bread is not at all bread

destroyed by tears, but bread composed of tears. This is mani-

fest from the parallel passages: comp. at Ps. xlii.3, and the second

clause: as the tears are drink there, they must be bread here.

It cannot always be, that the Shepherd of Israel, of whom it is

said, Ps. xxiii. 5, "thou preparest before me a table in presence

of my enemies, . . . my cup overfloweth," prepares nothing

but tears for the food and the drink of his people. That were a

very singular quid pro quo. The second clause can only be

translated: thou causest them to drink with a measure of tears.

For hqwh is constantly construed with the accusative of the per-

son and the thing; but it never occurs with b, before the thing.

The "measure" is thus the thing that is given to drink (the wylw  

as the name of a measure occurs only in one other passage, Is.

xl. 12; there is no need for defining its size, it was, at all events,

large for tears):  "of tears" denotes the contents of the measure.—

Ver. 6 alludes to Ps. xliv. 13, on which also Ps. lxxix. 4 depends.

The neighbours are always the petty tribes in the immediate neigh-

bourhood of Israel (several interpreters refer incorrectly to the As-

syrians and Egyptians), who always availed themselves of those

occasions when Israel was oppressed by more powerful nations, to


                       PSALM LXXX. VER. 8-13.                        15


give vent to their hatred. The Nvdm the object, the butt of

rage expressed in actions, but especially in bitter contempt,

"where is now their God?" &c.  The vml as the dat. comm.,

i.e., according to the heart's desire.

            Ver. 8-13.—Ver. 8. Thou broughtest a vine out of Egypt,

thou didst remove the heathen and didst plant it. Ver. 9. Thou

didst make room before it, and it struck its roots and filled

the land. Ver. 10. The mountains were covered with its sha-

dow, and the cedars of God with its branches. Ver. 11. It

sent its boughs to the sea and its shoots to the river. Ver. 12.

Why then hast thou broken down its wall, so that everything

that passes by plunders it? Ver. 13. The boar out of the forest

wastes it, and whatever stirs in the field feeds of it.—God can-

not leave off, far less destroy a work which he has once begun;

this is the truth on which depends the significance of the con-

trast between the once and the now. The fundamental passage

for the figurative representation is Gen. xlix. 22, where Joseph,

to whom the eye of the Psalmist is continually directed, appears,

in reference to his joyful prosperity, as a wall tree by a fountain,

whose branches rose high above the walls. The difference is  

only this, that here instead of the fruit tree, the vine is intro-

duced, after the example of Isaiah in ch. v. 1-7, where Israel

appears as the vineyard of the Lord. It is obvious from the fun-

damental passage, and from the expanded description which fol-

lows, that the point of comparison next to the abundance of beau-

tiful fruit is the luxuriant growth: comp. Hos. xiv. 7, "They

shall grow as the vine."—That the fysh in ver. 8 is to be taken

in its usual sense, to cause to depart, which it maintains even in

Job xix. 10, is evident on comparing the Asaphic passage, from

which it is immediately borrowed, Ps. lxxviii. 52, and the funda-

mental passages, Ex. xii. 37; xv. 22, on which this depends.

An affirmation may be made in regard to the spiritual, which

could not be applied to the natural vine. "Thou didst remove the

heathen" is taken from Ps. lxxviii. 55, which again depends upon

Ex. xxiii. 28; xxxiii. 2; xxxiv. 11. The sons of Asaph always

follow in the footsteps of their father.  The "plant" is from Ps.

xliv. 2, to which allusion is also made in ver. 12. The Berleb.:

“Shall all this be for nought and in vain?  Or hast thou plant-

ed it on this account, that the enemies might devour it?" On


16                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


hnp in Ps. vii. "to clear," "to clear out," in ver. 10, comp.

the Christol. 404. It corresponds to "the clearing out of the

stones" of Is. v. 2, and refers to the removal of the original inha-

bitants of the country. Instead of "it struck its roots," Luther

has falsely, "Thou hast made it strike its roots."—The funda-

mental passages for verses 11 and 12 are Gen. xxviii. 14, where

it is said in the promise to Jacob, "thou stretch out on the west

and on the east, on the north and on the south," and especially

Deut. xi. 24, "every place which the sole of your feet shall tread

upon shall be yours, from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the

river, the river Euphrates, even unto the west sea shall be your

boundaries:"—comp. Josh. i. 4. God had in former times glori-

ously fulfilled the promises contained in these passages. hlc  

and hypnf are in reality both accusatives governed by vsk

Pü; the mountains which were covered with the shadow of

the vine are the mountains on the south of Canaan, the hill coun-

try of Judah, particularly the southermost part of the same, the

hill country of the Amorites, which at the commencement of Is-

rael's country met the traveller like a wall; comp. Raumer p.

48. "The wilderness of mountains" is introduced in Ps. lxxv. 7

as the southern boundary, in the same way as the mountains are

here spoken of as the most southern portion of the land. The

cedars of God (comp. at Ps. xxxvi. 6) which the boughs of the

vine ascend and cover, are, as usual, those of Lebanon (comp. Ps.

xxix. 5; xcii. 13; civ. 16), which formed the north boundary

of Canaan: comp. Ps. xxix., where Lebanon and the wilderness

of Kadesh stand opposed to each other as the northern and

southern boundaries of Canaan. The sea is the Mediterranean,

the river, Euphrates. From this antithesis the translation falls

to the ground: and his boughs were cedars of God,—which

would bring out a monstrous figure.—The hrx to pluck (else-

where only in Song of Sol. v. 1), applies not to the grapes but to

the branches:—the luxuriance of the branches formed the subject

of the preceding description; and the opposite of that state is

described in this clause, as it is in Is. v. 5, Ps. lxxxix. 40, 41.

All who pass by time way: Berleb.:  "for example, Pul, Tiglath-

pileser, Salmanasser, Senacherib."— The boar from the forest

(comp. Jerem. v. 4) is according to the analogy of Ps. lxviii. 30.

Ez. xxix. 3, where the hippopotamos and the crocodile are em-


                       PSALM LXXX. VER. 14-19.                          17


blem of Pharaoh, and Ez. xvii., where the eagle indicates Ne-

buchadnezar, descriptive not of the enemies generally, but of the

king of Assyria. "Whatever stirs in the field" (zyz, is from the

Asaph. Ps. 1. 11, the only other passage where it is used of

beasts), denotes the whole mass of the nations serving under


            Ver. 14-19.—Ver. 14. 0 God, God of hosts, turn yet back,

look from heaven and behold and visit this vine. Ver. 15. And

maintain that which thy right hand has planted, and the Son

whom, thou hast made strong for thyself.  Ver. 16. It is burned

with fire, cut down, before the rebuke of thy countenance they

perish. Ver. 17. May thy hand be upon the man of thy right

hand, the Son of Man whom thou hast made strong for thyself.

Ver. 18. We will not go back, quicken thou us and we will call

upon thy name. Ver. 19. Lord, God, God of hosts, lead us

back, cause thy face to shine and us to be delivered.—The be-

ginning of the prayer in the main division, ver. 14 is connected

with the beginning of the prayer in the introduction, ver. 1. The

hnk; ver. 15, is the imper. of Nnk, to make firm, comp. the pro-

per noun, vhynnk, whom Jehovah hath established. It is con-

strued first with the accusative, and afterwards with lf, which

denotes the care and the protection. Against the idea that it

is to be considered as a noun, in the sense of a slip, it may be

urged, that there is no such noun, that the reference to the 8th

verse demands that it be the vine-tree that is here spoken of,

and that the following verse refers to the vine as if it had pre-

viously been spoken of. The Son of the second clause is just the

spiritual vine. The translation, a shoot, according to Gen. xlix.

22, is not only against ver. 17, but also against the sense, as it

is not any particular shoot, but the whole vine that is here spo-

ken of. The Cmx should be taken in its usual sense, to make

strong (comp. the proper noun, Amaziah,) rather than in the

sense of to choose, which depends upon the single and very doubt-

ful passage, Is. xliv. 14. The singular, of rare occurrence else-

where, here and in ver. 17, is accounted for by the allusion to

the name of Benjamin, whom the Psalmist here considers as the

representative of all Israel.  Thy right hand and, Son ought to


            a Berleb: The beasts represent, in the inner man, the destructive passions by which

the vineyard of the soul is torn up and consumed.


18                     THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


read with italics, for the purpose of making this allusion obvious.

The Son of the right hand is the Son who stands at the right

hand of his earthly and his heavenly father, and who is, conse-

quently, protected by him: Gen. xliv. 20, "his father loves

him," and Deut. xxxiii. 12, "the beloved of the Lord," are to

be considered as explanations of the name. In so far as Jacob

gave this significant name to his son, under the guidance and in-

spiration of God, it was a pledge of the divine love and help for

him, and, at the same time, for all Israel, with whom he is inter-

woven. The subject in "they perish," in ver. 16, is the chil-

dren of Israel, the spiritual vine.a—Ver. 18 alludes to Ps, xliv.

18, "our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps declined

from thy paths." Israel could not say so now; they have de-

served their misery, they have turned aside to many ways, and,

instead of the name of the Lord, they have called upon strange

gods (comp. Ps. lxxix. 6), but they promise better; if the Lord

will bring them back unto life (Ps. lxxi. 20), they also will walk

in a new life. The guilt of Israel is very tenderly touched.

The Psalmist has no intention of acting the part of Job's friends,

he follows the admonition of Job:  "have pity upon me, have

pity upon me, my friends, for the hand of God is upon me." God

has undertaken to rebuke, ver. 16, and therefore his servants may

well be silent.



                                  PSALM LXXXI.


            The exhortation to celebrate the passover with joyful heart,

ver. 1-3, is followed by the basis on which it rests, ver. 4-7:

the passover is the festival of Israel's deliverance, through their

Lord and God, from great trouble and deep misery. While the

first part points to what the Lord has done for Israel, the second

describes the position which Israel ought to occupy towards

their Lord: inasmuch as the Lord, who brought Israel out of

Egypt, is thus alone Israel's God, sufficient for all his necessities.

Israel ought therefore to serve him alone, and leave to the world

its imaginary deities,—a preposition, however, to which Israel,


            a Calvin:  "Let us learn, whenever the anger of God burns forth, even in the midst

of the flames of the conflagration to cast our griefs into the bosom of God, who wonder-

fully revives his church from destruction.


                                   PSALM LXXXI.                                  19


alas, has not hitherto responded,—and hence the origin of all his

troubles, ver. 8-12. Would that he would now become obe-

dient to the Lord! the salvation of his kingdom would be the

consequence, ver. 13-16.

            In ver. 1-5 the Psalmist speaks, as is manifest from the con-

clusion of ver. 5, as the representative of the better self of the

church, or, in the language of the Apocalypse, as its angel; and

in the 6th and following verses the speaker is the Lord. But

that this distinction, which has commonly been a great deal too

much spoken of, is one of no moment, is evident from the fact,

that vers. 6 and 7 are nothing else than a continuation of ver. 5,

and from the conclusion, vers. 15 and 16, where the address of the

Lord, and the address of the Psalmist, who speaks in the spirit

of the Lord, are immediately linked together.

            If we keep this in view, the formal arrangement of the Psalm

becomes easy and simple. The Psalm falls into two main divi-

sions, an objective and a subjective one, which are even exter-

nally separated from each other by a Selah, at the end of ver. 7.

The first, ver. 1-7, is completed in seven verses. This, as

usual, is divided into a three and a four. The second main divi-

sion contains, in the first instance, only nine verses, and is di-

vided by a five and a four. The defect of the conclusion, how-

ever, is, as in the case in Ps. lxxvii:, compensated by the title.

The arrangement, therefore, is exactly the same as that which

obtains universally in Psalms which contain 17 verses.

            According to the title, "To the Chief Musician after the

manner of Gath (comp. at title of Ps. viii.) by Asaph," the

Psalm was composed by Asaph. We shewed already, at Ps.

lxxiv., that we must adhere to the Asaph who belonged to the  

age of David, in all the Psalms which bear this name, except in

those cases in which the contents of the Psalm render this im-

possible. In the present instance this is not the case. "The

contents," observes Köster, "are of a general character, and the

freshness of tone indicates the great age of the Psalm." The

verbal reasons which led Hitzig to assign it a very late date are

of no consequence. He refers to the loose Jsvhy in ver. 5, and

to the participle after vl in ver. 13. But that the retention of

the h of the Hiph. (Ew. §. 284), is not at all characteristic of

the language of later times, is evident, among other passages,


20                      THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


from Ps. xlv. 17, and from 1 Sam. xxii. 47. These forms are

throughout poetical, and are altogether independent of time.

Poetry is fond of full and sonorous expressions. It can never be

shewn that the position of the participle after vl is characteristic

of a later idiom; comp. 2 Sam. xviii. 12. In favour, however, of

the Asaph of David's tithe, we have to urge the prophetic cha-

racter which our Psalm bears in common with the other produc-

tions of this bard, the "seer," the prophet among the Psalmists,

Ps. 1., lxxiii., lxxviii. (even Hitzig believed that he heard in the 

warnings here the voice of the author of the seventy-eighth

Psalm), and lxxxii. To this we may add the striking connection

between ver. 8 here, and Ps. 1. 7.

            Ver. 1-3.—Ver. 1. Sing aloud to God, who is our strength,

make a joyful-noise unto the God of Jacob. Ver. 2. Raise the

song, and give the timbrel, the lovely guitar with the harp.

Ver. 3. Blow in the month the horn, at the full moon, on the

day of our feast.--The exhortation to praise God with all the

might depends for its significance, as the second part of the

strophe shews, upon its pointing to the rich treasures of salvation

which he has imparted to his people.—On "our strength," comp.

as a commentary vers. 14, 15, and Ps. xlvi. 1. The Lord mani-

fested himself as the strength of his people on their deliverance

from Egypt.  In ver. 3 the instruments are introduced in regard

to their tone: timbrel stands instead of sound of the timbrel.

Against the exposition "bring hither the timbrels," it may be 

urged, that, according to the title and verse 2d, those addressed

are called upon both to sing and to play.—In verse 3 the month

is the first and the chief month of the year, the month in which

the passover occurred: comp. Ex. xii. 1, 2:  "And the Lord said

to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, This month shall be

to you the chief of months, it shall be the first month of the year

to you."  "In the full moon" of the second clause defines ex-

actly the time within the sacred month which belonged to the

festival. The general and special descriptions are connected with

each other exactly in the same way in Lev. xxiii. 5: "In the

first month, on the 14th day of the month, is the passover to the

Lord." In other passages throughout the law it is merely the

general descriptions that occur; thus, Ex. xxxiv. 18: "The

feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep, seven days shalt thou


                        PSALM LXXXI. VER. 1-3.                       21


eat unleavened bread, at the time of the month Abib" (comp. on

the passage the Beitr. p. 361 ss. on Abib p. 364), Deut. xvi.

1:  "Observe the month Abib, for in the month Abib the Lord

thy God brought thee out of Egypt:" comp. on the passage the

Beitr. p. 365.  According to the common construction, wdH sig-

nifies the new moon; throughout the Pentateuch, however, it

invariably signifies a month; and everywhere, even in the later

scriptures, it retains this signification, with this difference, that

sometimes the month stands for the festival peculiar to the month.

And the following grounds are decisive the other way. 1. As it

is undoubted that hsk signifies full moon, we have two festivals

according to this view—a supposition very unlikely in itself, and

the more so that no inward connection whatever is indicated be-

tween the new moon and the full moon festival.  2. The con-

tents of the Psalm shew that it was composed exclusively for

use at the passover. The festival for which it was set apart was,

according to ver. 5, instituted at the departure from Egypt, and

according to verses 6, 7, and 10, stands in immediate reference

to this deliverance;--that the new moon of the month Abib was

celebrated as, a preparation for the passover is altogether an arbi-

trary assumption. 3. The horn (not at all the trumpets named

in Num. x. 10) appears here only as one among many instruments,

while the sound of drums for the new moons, and especially for

the 7th of the month, was the peculiar and characteristic cere-

mony. Such an amount of musical power as is here desired was

not suitable for this festival. 4. There is no doubt that our verse

as supplementing the title fixes the character of the Psalm. This,

however, it cannot do, if wdH signify the new moon. In this

case, in consequence of the indefinite nature, “in the new moon,”

which demands explanation from what follows, we have our atten-

tion directed exclusively to "in the full moon;" and are thus left

to waver in uncertainty, as the example of Gesenins shows, be-

tween the full moon of the passover and of the feast of taber-

nacles.a—The idea of those who, after the example of Luther (in

our festival of booths), understand the feast of tabernacles, is

confuted by the preceding context. By this reference, it becomes


            a It is clear from Prov. vii. 20, and also from the Syr. (See Gesen.), that hsk denotes

in general the full moon, and not at all, as has been supposed, specially the feast of ta-


22                        THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


altogether impossible to understand the Psalm. The expression

"on the day of our feast" is also in favour of the passover. The

passover, which celebrates the fundamental deed of God on be-

half of his church, is the feast: comp. the Christol. ii. p. 565.

Beitr. iii. p. 80. The feast of tabernacles never has this name,

not even in 2 Chron. v. 3.—The correct interpretation of this

verse is destructive of the position taken up by Venema, that the

Psalm was composed for the celebration of the passover under

Hezekiah; for this took place, according to 2 Chon. xxx. 2, con-

trary to the usual custom, in the second month. The account of

this celebration, however, is so far of importance to rev. 1-3, as

it shows that at that times music and singing formed a very im-

portant part of the celebration of the passover: comp. 2 Chron.

xxx. 21, 22.

            Ver. 4-7.—Ver. 4. For it is a law for Israel, a right for

the God of Jacob. Ver. 5. Such a commandment he gave to

Joseph, when he brought him over Egypt land, where I heard

a language unknown to me. Ver. 6. I removed from the bur-

den his shoulder, his hands were set free from the burden-bas-

kets. Ver. 7. In the distress thou didst call and I delivered

thee. I heard thee in the thunder-cover. I proved thee at the

waters of strife. Selah.—In ver. 4, the law for Israel and the

right for the God of Jacob correspond. God, by the deliverance

which he has wrought out, has acquired a right to the thanks of

Israel, and it is Israel's duty, by rendering obedience to the ap-

pointed law of the passover, to implement this right. Israel does

not celebrate the passover at his own hand, he only pays to God

what is his due,—a due demanded on the ground of mercies be-

stowed. It is this that distinguishes all festivals belonging to

the true religion from those connected with religions that are

false; the former depends throughout upon the foundation of

a salvation imparted by God, and assumes the character of a

right and a duty. The xvh refers to the festivals in general.

The individual expressions of festive joy spoken of in ver. 1-3

had not been expressly commanded in the law. They are, how-

ever, accidents which necessarily accompany the substance.—In

ver. 5-7, the deed is more particularly described on which the

right of God and the duty of Israel are founded. In reference to

Hvdf a testimony, next a law, comp. at Ps. xix. 7, lxxviii, 5.

23                      PSALM LXXXI. VER. 4-7.


Joseph occupies the place of Israel here, because, during the whole

period of the residence in the land of Egypt, the nation owed

every thing to Joseph, "the crowned one among his brethren,"

Gen. xlix. 26; their whole existence there was founded on the

services which Joseph had rendered to Egypt; comp. Ex. i. 8,

according to which, the oppression of Israel arose from the new

king, who did not know Joseph. It was only during this period

of his existence that Israel could bear the name of Joseph; and

it is altogether incorrect to generalize what is founded singly and

entirely on the special circumstances connected with that period.

The passage before us has assuredly nothing whatever to do with

Ps. lxxvii. 15 and lxxx. i. The suffix in vtxcb refers to Jo-

seph. "Out of Egypt" is the expression which commonly

occurs in the Pentateuch; comp. Ex. xi. 41, "All the armies

of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt," ver. 51, Num.

xxii. 5, Deut. ix. 7; particularly in connection with the feast of

the passover, comp. Ex. xxxiv. 18, "Thou shalt keep the feast

of unleavened bread, seven days shalt thou eat unleavened

bread as I have commanded thee at the time of the month Abib,

for in the month Abib thou wentest out of Egypt." Here, how-

ever, the expression is "over Egypt," across, lf, in the same

sense in which it occurs in Job xxix. 7, "When I went out to the

gate over or across the city." This over is more expressive than

out of. The marching out appears all the more glorious, inas-

much as the marching extended over the whole country, across

Egypt. Num. xxxiii. 4 supplies the commentary,—"The chil-

dren of Israel went out with a high hand before all the Egyp-

tians;" comp. Ex. xiv. 8.a Many expositors have suffered them-

selves to be led astray by the lf. They translate: when he.

(the Lord) went forth against the land of Egypt, with reference

to Ex. xi. 4, "About midnight I go out in the land of Egypt."

Against this, however, we may urge, besides the manifest refer-

ence to the passage from the Pentateuch above referred to, the

obviously corresponding expression "who led thee out of the land

of Egypt," in ver. 11. There is next added very suitably, accord-

ing to the first-mentioned rendering, "where I heard a language


            a Calvin: The people, led on by God, traversed freely the whole land of Egypt, a pas-

sage having been afforded them in consequence of the broken and terrified state of the


24                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


unknown to me," an expression which denotes more exactly the

oppressive nature of their previous condition, and the unspeakable

benefit arising from their deliverance; comp. Ps. cxiv. 1, "When

Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from the people of

strange language." Finally, in the continuation in ver. 6 and 7,

the language refers entirely to the deliverance out of Egypt, and

not at all to the destruction of the first-born of the Egyptians, to

which there is nowhere else one single reference throughout the

whole Psalm. The last words of the verse indicate, as has been

already observed, what it was that rendered the departure of the

Israel so very desirable. To dwell in the midst of a people of

strange language, to serve a people from whom they were inwardly

in a state of utter estrangement, must have been very painful and

oppressive. The subject is Israel represented by the Psalmist.

We cannot translate, "a language of such a one whom," "but a lan-

guage (of the kind that) I did not understand," "a language of

unintelligibility for me;" Comp. Böttcher, proben p. 51. Many

expositors translate: the voice of one unknown to me (a God

whom I till that time did not know) I heard then in Egypt, or

I hear now, the oracle referred to in ver. 6-16. But a compa-

rison of the parallel passages, Ps. cxiv. 1, which is particularly

decisive, Deut. xxviii. 49, "The Lord will bring upon thee a

people from afar, . . . . a people whose language thou

dost not understand," Is. xxxiii. 19, and Ju. v. 15, leaves

no doubt whatever as to the correctness of the interpreta-

tion given above. Farther, the description of the miserable

condition in which Israel existed in the land of Egypt is

continued in ver. 6 and 7. To the unknown language here,

corresponds the burden, the burden-basket there; and to the

marching out here the rescuing, the delivering there. Then

the designation of Jehovah as one unknown, for the whole people,

or for the individual, to whom a revelation begins, is destitute

of all real foundation and analogy. Finally, this translation,

which proceeds from an entire misapprehension of the whole

train of thought, must be rejected on etymological grounds. hpW

never signifies a particular discourse, but a way of speaking, a

language; comp. Böttcher.--As the difference in regard to the

speaker (in ver: 6 and 7 it s the Lord that speaks, while pre-

vious to this the Psalmist, or Israel represented by him, had

                               PSALM LXXXI. VER. 4-7                         25


spoken in the name and spirit of the Lord) is one merely of form,

and as, in reality, verses 6 and 7 merely continue the train of

thought of ver. 5 (when the Lord removed, or, then the Lord re-

moved) it is altogether inappropriate, by marks of quotation, to

favour the idea of the beginning of a new address. Such a change

as to speakers requires very little attention to be paid to it, es-  

pecially in the Psalm of Asaph, as they are of a highly poetical

character. At the first clause of ver. 6, comp. Ex. vi. 6, 7, "I

the Lord bring you out from under the burden of the Egyptians."

The basket dvd is, according to the parallelism, the burden-

basket. Baskets of this kind were found in the sepulchral vaults

which have been opened in Thebes, of which Rosellini first fur-

nished drawings and descriptions: the Israelites used them for

carrying from one place to another the clay and manufactured

bricks: comp. Egypt and the Books of Moses, p. 79, &c.a —On.

"I heard thee in the thunder-cover," in ver. 7, comp. Hab. iii. 4,

"And there (in the lightning-flash which surrounds the Lord at

his appearance) was the hiding of his power." As in that pas-

sage God is concealed in the lightning-flash (comp. Delitzsch),

so is he here in the thunder, i. e., the thunder-cloud, "the dark-

ness," Ex. xx. 18, the storm. There is no need for assuming

that the Psalmist alludes, specially and exclusively, to Ex. xiv.

24, according to which, while the Egyptians were passing through

the sea, the Lord looked upon their chariots from the pillar of

fire and cloud, and thus completed the deliverance of the Is-

raelites. It is a common figure of poetry to represent the Lord

as riding forth in a storm, mighty against his enemies, and on

behalf of this people; comp. Ps. lxxvii. 16-18; Ps. xviii. 11:

--and hence the Psalmist has assuredly before his eyes

the whole series of Egyptian plagues. At the last clause, I

proved thee at the water of Meribah, Luther says correctly:

"he makes mention of the waters of strife in order that he may

remind them of their sins." The words do not properly belong

to the train of thought in the preceding context, which is occu-

pied only with the salvation of God. They look in the first in-


            a Calvin: "We may now apply the subject to ourselves: inasmuch as God has not

only removed our shoulders from burdens of bricks, and our hands from kilns, but

has redeemed us from the tyranny of Satan, and brought us up from perdition, we

are laid under much more solemn obligations than were the ancient people."

26                      THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


stance very like the expression of an idea which had started up

uncalled for. This apparently arbitrary reference to Israel's un-

faithfulness and ingratitude prepares the way, however, for the

following exhortation and complaint, and thus forms the connect-

ing link between the first and second portions of the Psalm. The

proving at the waters of strife, Ez. xvii. 1, &c. (comp. on the rela-

tion which this narrative bears to that at Num. xx. 1, &c., the

Beitr. p. 378, &c.) is specially referred to, because it was here

that the first proper act of rebellion took place on the part of the

people who had only a short while ago beheld the glorious deeds

of the Lord—the first manifestation of his real nature. The

proving comes into notice here in reference to the well known re-

sult by which it was followed.

            Ver. 8-12.—Ver. 8. Hear my people, and let me swear

solemnly to thee, if thou harkenest unto me. Ver. 9. Let

there not be among thee another God; and thou shalt not wor-

ship a God of the strangers. Ver. 10. I am the Lord thy God

who have brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth

wide, I will fill it. Ver. 11. But my people does not listen to

my voice, and Israel will not be mine. Ver. 12. So I have

given them over to the wickedness of their heart, they walk in  

their own counsels.—On ver. 8, comp. Ps. 1. 7. On "my peo-

ple," Luther says: "You are my people, I have preserved, nour-

ished, and redeemed thee; therefore listen to me." As Mx is

never a particle expressive of desire, it is necessary to supply:

it will be well with thee, or something similar,—a construction

rendered also probable by comparing ver. 13. Similar ellipses

occur in Ex. xxxii. 32 ; Ps. xxvii. 17 (comp. at the passage),

Luke xix. 42; xix. 9 (see Koenöhl on the passages).—Ver. 9

and 10 depend on Ex. xx. 2, 3. It has been very unjustifiably

maintained that the first commandment stands instead of the

whole decalogue. This would deprive the thought of all point.

It was only their fathers' God, their country's God, that had ma-

nifested himself in the past as Israel's Redeemer (comp. Dent.

xxxii. 12, "the Lord alone did lead him, and there was not with

him one God of the stranger)," and thus he is still rich in help

for them; therefore they should even now serve this one God only.

—Ver. 10 is in reality connected with ver. 9 by a "Because." The

expression, "who led thee out of the land of Egypt" is literally

                        PSALM L.XXXI. VER. 10-16.                     27


from Deut. xx. 1. The words, "Open thy mouth wide, I will

fill it," are equivalent to "I am rich for all thy necessities, even

for thy boldest wishes," as is evident from their development in

ver. 14-16.—In ver. 11, 12, the Lord complains that Israel had

hitherto, to their own loss, failed to respond to the exhortations

addressed to them in ver. 8-10, notwithstanding the solid foun-

dation on which these rested in their deliverance. Comp. Prov.

i. 30, 31, "they would have none of my counsel, they despised

all my censures: therefore they eat the fruit of their way and

shall be satisfied with their own counsels." At ver. 11, Luther

says:  “It is something dreadful and terrible that he says my

people Israel. If it had been a stranger to whom I had mani-

fested no particular deeds of kindness, &c.” Allusion is made to

Deut. xiii. 9, where it is said, in reference to him who should

entice Israel to serve strange Gods:  "thou shalt not consent

unto him nor hearken unto him." Israel had- singularly and

shamefully reversed the matter: they had lent their ear to the

enticer and renounced their own God. The preterites denote

the past stretching forward into the present.—At ver. 12, God

lets every one take his own way; the stiff-necked Israelites who

would not have his truth and goodness, shall be given over to

error and wickedness, to their own destruction; comp. Rom. i.

24. 2 Thess. ii. 10, 11. The bl tvryrw (not hardness but

wickedness of heart) is here and everywhere else where it occurs,

Is. iii. 17; vii. 24, taken from Deut. xxix. 19. To walk in their

own counsels is to regulate the life according to them, according

to the passions of their own corrupted hearts instead of the com-

mandments of the holy God, comp. Jer. vii. 24; Is. lxv. 2:  "a

rebellious people who walk in a way that is not good, after their

own thoughts."

            Ver. 13-16. Arnd.:  "The blessed God in his great fatherly

love and faithfulness cannot leave them, he must repeat his pro-

mise and call men again to him by the offer of his gracious deeds."

—Ver. 13. If now my people did hear me, and Israel walked in

my way. Ver. 14. I would soon bring down their enemies and

turn my hand upon their adversaries. Ver. 15. The haters of

the Lord would feign submission to him, and their time would

continue for ever. Ver. 16. He would feed them with the fat of

the wheat, and out of the rock would I satisfy thee with honey.

28                     THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


---The vl, ver. 13, denotes the condition notwithstanding the

consciousness that it is not realized: if my people heard, which

they do not: comp. Ewald, 627. Is. xlviii. 18. The ways of

the Lord form the contrast to their own stupid and ruinous plans,

ver. 12.—The phrase "to turn the hand upon," ver. 14, is, when

taken by itself, an indefinite one, to turn it to the object of trade

or manufacture: comp. the Christol. p. 338. Here, accord-

ing to the connection, it is the punishing hand; and to turn it

back denotes the speedy overpowering of the enemies,—as for-

merly in the days of old, ver. 6 and 7: comp. particularly there

hrcb.—The first half of ver. 15 depends on Deut. xxxiii. 29:

"thy enemies shall feign to thee" (comp. at Ps. xviii. 44.) The

allusion to this passage shews that the vl is to be referred to

Israel and accounts for the singular. On "the haters of the

Lord," Luther: "Thou shouldst not think that I am favourable

to them, for they are my enemies also. But they are too strong

for thee and gain the upper hand because thou hast forsaken me.

Had it not been for this, matters would have been very different.

It is not the enemies that plague thee; it is I: mine hand it is

that oppresses thee when thine enemies oppress thee." It was

the design to give great prominence to the thought so comfort-

ing for Israel and so well fitted to lead them to reconciliation with

God, that their enemies are also the enemies of God, which led to

the expression, "the haters of the Lord," instead of "my

haters." The use of the third person in the first clause of ver.

16 is connected with this. But towards the conclusion, the usual

form is resumed. On the second clause, comp. 2 Sam. vii. 24.

The tf signifies always time, never fortune.—On ver. 16, Luther:

"For there are two things of which we stand in need, nourish-

ment and protection. Therefore, God now says, that if they turn

to him he will not only be their man of war to fight for them, but

also their husbandman: so that those who fear him and trust in

him shall want nothing that pertains to this life." The first

clause is from Deut. xxxii. 14 (the fat of the wheat is instead of

the best of the wheat), the second clause from Deut. xxxii. 13,

and he caused Israel to suck honey from the rock, oil from the

flinty rock." That the honey from the rock is not at all what

several very prosaicly have supposed, the honey which the bees

had prepared in the crevices of the rocks, but something alto-

                                  PSALM LXXXII.                                          29


gether unusual and supernatural (out of the hard barren rock) is

evident from the parallel clause in Deut., oil from the flinty rock,

and also from the passage, Job. xxix. 6, which in like manner

alludes to the passage in Deut.: "when I bathed my feet in milk

and the hard rock was changed for me into streams of oil."



                                  PSALM LXXXII.


            God appears in the midst of his church for judgment upon the

gods of the earth, the judges who bear his image, ver. 1, pun-

ishes them on account of their violation of justice, and exhorts

them to a better conduct, ver. 2-4. Still they persevere in

their want of understanding, in their walk in darkness, and every

thing is in confusion, ver. 5. The definite sentence is there-

fore passed upon them, intimation of their destruction is made

to them, ver. 6 and 7. In conclusion, the Psalmist expresses in

ver. 8 his desire for the appearance of the Lord to judgment.

            The formal arrangement is very simple. The main division is

complete in seven, which is again divided into a four and a three,

the preceding judgment, and the final decision. To the main

division, which is throughout of a prophetical character, there is

appended a lyrical conclusion, in which the Psalmist expresses

his wish for that which he had already announced as just impend-

            The question arises, whether the wicked rulers against whom

the Psalm is directed are internal or external. The last view is

the one generally entertained. The Psalm is considered as di-

rected " against the potentates of Asia about the time of the

captivity;" "the miserable, the poor," &c. are viewed as the Is-

raelites. But the only argument in favour of this view depends

upon a false interpretation of ver. 5 and 8; and there are nu-

merous and decisive reasons in favour of the reference to inter-

nal relations. Just at the very beginning God appears for judg-

ment in the "congregation of God," and there calls to account the

wicked judges who must therefore belong to it. The name

Elohim and sons of God which is given to them, is never used in

the Old Testament of heathen magistrates. It presupposes the

kingdom of God. When there is no king there can be no vice-

30                      THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


king. Besides, in ver. 6, in reference to this title of honour, al-

lusion is made to expressions in the Pentateuch which are applied

exclusively to Israelitish rulers. In reference to heathen rulers,

it is matter of great difficulty that those in the Psalm are accused

of nothing else than faulty administration of justice, partiality in

favour of the wicked, the denial of the rights of the poor, and so

on. The sins of the heathen judges lay entirely in another direc-

tion. And on the other hand, these very charges are brought

forward in many passages against the Israelitish rulers, for ex-

ample, Is. iii. 13-15, a passage nearly related to our Psalm, and

which may serve as a commentary to it: "the Lord standeth up

to plead, and the Lord standeth to judge the people: the Lord will

enter into judgment with the ancients of his people and the

princes thereof; for ye have eaten up the vineyard, the spoil of  

the poor is in your houses," Ch. i. 17-24. Mich. iii. 1-4.

Jer. xxii. 1, &c. If we compare carefully these passages and

likewise the passages in the Pentateuch in which the Israelitish

rulers are told their duties, such as Deut. i. 17, and also the ad-

dress of Jehosaphat to the rulers sent forth by him, it will not be

possible with a good conscience to adopt the hypothesis of hea-

then riders.

            These passages, and also the fundamental passages of the

Pentateuch, are decisive against those who would refer the Psalm

exclusively, or only especially, to kings.  It has to do with the

judges of the people, and with kings, if at all, only in so far as

they are judges. If the Psalm was composed in the time of

David, in favour of which supposition may be pleaded the pro-

phetic tone peculiar to the Asaph of that period, and against

which no tenable ground can be advanced (even Hitzig must

allow that there is no allusion of any kind, no late form or con-

necting particle, no term which could be pronounced as being

decidedly of later origin to betray an author belonging to a later

age), the Psalmist could not, in the first instance, assuredly have

referred to the king,—a view which is confirmed by the express

mention of "the princes," in ver. 7, as compared with "the

ancients of his people and the princes thereof," in Is. iii. Still

though the Psalm was in the first instance called forth by exist-

ing relations, yet being destined for all ages, it undoubtedly ad-

mits of being applied to kings in the discharge of their duty as

31                                 PSALM LXXXII.


judges, in so far as they are guilty of that perversion of right

here imputed to them: comp. Jos. xxii. 1, ss.

            The following remarks are designed to lead to a deeper insight

into the meaning of the Psalm. Nothing can be more unground-

ed than the assertion which in modern times has been repeatedly

made, that the God of the Old Testament is a being altogether

strange or foreign to finite beings. The Old Testament opposes

this view at its very opening, with its doctrine of the creation of

man after the image of God. With this doctrine in its com-

mencement, it cannot possibly teach in any other part that there

is an absolute opposition between God and man. Besides, in

the Law of Moses, all those whose office it is to command, to

judge; and to arbitrate, all those to whom in any respect rever-

ence and regard is due, are set apart as the representatives of God

on earth. The foundation of this is found in the commandment,

"honour thy father and mother," in the Decalogue. It was shewn

in the Beitr. P. iii. p. 605, that this commandment belongs to the

first table: thou shalt fear and honour. God, first in himself,

second in those who represent him on earth, and farther, that the

parents are named in it only in an individualising manner, as re-

presentatives of all who are possessed of worth, and are worthy

of esteem. The direction in Lev. xix. 32, rises on the foundation

of this commandment, where respect for the aged appears as the

immediate consequence of respect for God, whose eternity was de-

signed to be revered and honoured under the emblem of their old

age; also Ex. xxii. 27, according to which we are taught to re-

cognise in governors a reflection of the majesty of God: "thou shalt

not revile God, nor curse the ruler of thy people," i. e., thou shalt

not curse thy rulers (or in any one way dishonour him), for he

bears the image of God, and every insult offered to such a repre-

sentative of God in his kingdom is an insult against God, in him

God himself is honoured and revered: comp. 1 Chron. xxix. 23,  

"and Solomon sat upon the throne of Jehovah." But it was in

connection with the office of judge that the stamp of divinity was

most conspicuous, inasmuch as that office led the people under

the foreground of an humble earthly tribunal to contemplate the

background, of a lofty divine judgment; "the judgment is God's,"

Deut. i.. 17, whoever comes before it, comes before God, Ex.

xxi. 6; xxii. 7, 8.

32                       THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


            The position assigned to the office of judge must, when pro-

perly considered, have exerted a practical influence of a twofold

character. It must have filled those who were brought before its

tribunal with a sacred reverence for an authority which maintained

its right upon earth in the name of God. And on the part of the

judges themselves it must have led them to take a lofty view of

their calling, it must have called forth earnest efforts to practise

the virtues of him whose place they occupied, him "who does not

favour princes, and makes no distinction between rich and poor, for

they are the work of his hands," Job xxxiv. 19, and it must have

awakened a holy fear of becoming liable to his judgment. For

there could be no doubt that as they judged in God's stead, the

heavenly Judge would not suffer them to go unpunished should

they misuse their office, but would in that case come forth from

his place and utter his thundering cry, "how long!" This last

idea is expressly brought forward in the law. In Deut. i. 17,

solemn admonitions are addressed to judges, grounded on the

lofty position assigned to their office. Comp. 2 Chron. xix. 6, 7,

where Jehosaphat, with greater copiousness of detail, addresses

the following admonitions to the judges, whom he commission-

ed:  "Take heed what ye do, for ye judge not for man but

for God, who is with you in the judgment: wherefore now let the

fear of the Lord be upon you, take heed and do it, for there is

no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect of persons, nor  

taking of gifts."

            The Psalm has no reference to the depth of human sinfulness

except in so far as the judges lost sight of the above view, set

before their minds rather the rights than the duties of their

exalted station, and abused for the gratification of their pride

what should have produced in them fear and trembling. The

name Elohim, which should have continually reminded them of

their heavenly Judge, served them as a shield for their own un-

righteousness. They held it up in the face of all complaints and

objections. Every man who did not go in with their unrighteous-

ness, they branded as a rebel against God. The Psalmist raises

his protest against this melancholy perversity. He shows the

wicked judges what it was that they really had to do with the

title Elohim. Asaph the seer lets them see, what the eye of

                              PSALM LXXXII.                                     33


flesh did not see, God, God among the gods, and brings him out

to their dismay from his place of concealment.

            There is a deviation so far from the language of the law of

Moses, that there the name Elohim is applied only in general to

the bench of judges as representing God, and here in the expression,

"in the midst of the gods he judges," it is applied to individual

judges. This difference, however, which has frequently been

misused in favour of completely untenable expositions, is so far

from being of any importance, that even in the Pentateuch an

individual person, although not a judge, if representing God,

is dignified with the name Elohim. Moses, in Ex. iv. 16, as the re-

presentative of God for Aaron, is called his god; and in like manner

a god to Pharaoh, ch. vii. 1: comp. Baumgarten on the passages.

Luther, after giving a picture of the wickedness and profligacy

of the great men of his time, remarks:--"There existed also among

the Jewish people youths of this character, who kept, continually in

their mouths the saying of Moses in Ex. xxii. 9. They employed

this saying as a cloak and shield for their wickedness, against the

preachers and the prophets; and gave themselves great airs

while they said: wilt thou punish us and instruct us? Dost thou

not know that Moses calls us Gods?  Thou art a rebel, thou

speakest against the ordinance of God, thou preachest to the

detriment of our honour. Now the prophet acknowledges and

does not deny that they are gods, he will not be rebellious, or

weaken their honour or authority, like the disobedient and re-

bellious people, or like the mad saints who make heretics and

enthusiasts, but he draws a proper distinction between their

power and the power of God. He allows that they are gods over

men, but not over God himself. It is as if he said:  It is true

you are gods over us all, but not over him who is the God of us

all. From this we see in what a high and glorious position God

intends to maintain the office of the magistracy. For who will

set himself against those on whom God bestows his own name?

Whoever despises them, despises at the same time the true

Magistrate, God, who speaks and judges in them and through

them, and calls their judgment his judgment. The Apostle Paul,

Rom. xiii. 2, points out the consequences of this; and experience

amply confirms his statement. But again; just as on the one

hand he restrains the discontent of the populace, and brings

34                      THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


them on account of it under the sword and under law, so does he

on the other hand restrain the magistracy, that it shall not abuse

such majesty and power for wickedness, but employ it in the pro-

motion and maintenance of peace. But yet only so far, that he will

not permit the people to lift up their arm against it, or to seize

the sword for the purpose of punishing and judging it. No, that

they shall not do; God has not commanded it. He himself,

God; will punish wicked magistrates, he will be judge and master

over them, he will get at them, better than any one else could,

as he has done from the beginning of the world."

            Ver. 1-4.—Ver. 1. A Psalm of Asaph. God stands in the

congregation of God, in the midst of the gods he judges. Ver. 2.

"How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of

the wicked? Selah. Ver. 3. Judge the poor and the fatherless,

give their rights to the poor and needy. Ver. 4. Deliver the

poor and the needy, rid them out of the hand of the wicked."—

The fiftieth Psalm, which was also composed, by Asaph, begins,

like the one now before us, with an appearance of God for judg-

ment. The name Elohim, not Jehovah, designedly occurs in the

first clause of ver. 1, because the judges also had been designated

by this name:  God judges the gods.  The bcn is, "he is placed,"

he comes forward," as in Is. iii. 13. The sphere of the judging

is described in general terms in the first clause, and is more par-

ticularly defined in the second. The general description refers to

the ground of this special judging act on the part of God because

Israel is his people, among whom he can suffer no unrighteous-

riess, no abuse of an office which bears his name, he must judge

his degenerate office-bearers.a  hvhy tdf, the congregation,

of Jehovah, in lxrWy tdf, the congregation of Israel (for ex-

ample Ps. lxxiv. 2), hdfh, the congregation, are standing ex-

pressions for the people of God. The Psalmist places lx in-

stead of the Jehovah of the first expression, for the sake of the

allusion to the second, and also because lx is more allied to

Myhlx.  Several deny the reference to Israel, and translate


            a Luther: He stands in his congregation, for the congregation is his own. This is a

terrible word of threatening against these wicked gods or magistrates. For they must

here understand that they are not placed overstocks and stones, nor over swine and dogs,

but over the congregation of God: they must therefore be afraid of acting against God

himself when they act unjustly.

                        PSALM LXXXII. VER. 1-4.                    35


either: in the assembly of God, the assembly which God ap-

points, or that over which he presides, or: in the divine college

of judges. But hdf never signifies an assembly or a college,

but always a community, a congregation. By Elohim several

would understand the sons of God, the angels: God holds a

judgment (upon the judges) in the midst of his heavenly court.

But in this way the fundamental thought of the Psalm which

seems placed at its head in marked antithetic expressions, God

judges the Gods, is destroyed; Elohim is never used for angels,

(comp. at Ps. viii. 5, Gesen. on the word), and there is no reason

why it should be so used here, the same appellation applied to

God and to the angels manifestly leading to confusion; it is

impossible to tell in this case who is judged, or to whom the

address in ver. 4-6 is directed; and finally, ver. 6, where the

judges are called gods, cannot possibly be separated from the,

words "in the midst of the gods." The judging refers, in the

first instance, to the sharp accusation of ver. 2-4. Still in these  

cases where this is not attended to,a it is completed in the defi-

nite sentence of death contained in ver. 6 and 7.—Ver. 2 de-

pends on Lev. xix. 15: Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judg-

ment, thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour

the person of the mighty, but in righteousness shalt thou judge

thy neighbour: comp. Deut. i. 17: Ye shall not respect persons

in judgment. The lf stands here in some measure as an ad-

verb, exactly as Myrwym in Ps. lviii. 1: comp. at the passage.

Gesenius in his Thesaurus has proved, in a thorough discussion

which in fact exhausts the subject, that the phrase Mynp xWn  

signifies, not "to lift up the face of any one,"  “to make him

lift it up,” but "to regard the face of any one," "to respect his

person," "to be inclined towards him," "to favour him."  The

Selah standing here, as in Ps. iv. 4, between the prohibition and

the command, leaves time to lay the first to heart.—The judging

in ver. 3 denotes the opposite of not taking up their case, of

sending them away unheard: comp. Is. i. 17: judge the father-

less, plead for the widow.  The poor,—comp. Ex. xxiii. 3. The

fatherless,--comp. Ex. xxii. 21. Luther "Every prince should,


            a Mich.: Such is the great benignity and patience of the supreme Judge; that before

pronouncing sentence he addresses to the criminals before his bar a serious admonition,

with a view of bringing them, if possible, to a sound state of mind.

36                     THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


get these three verses, yea the whole Psalm, painted upon the

walls of his room, upon his bed, over his table, and even upon

his clothes. For here they will find what high, princely, noble

virtue their situation demands; so that assuredly worldly supre-

macy, next to the office of the ministry, is the highest service of

God, and the most profitable duty upon earth."

            Ver. 5-7.—Ver. 5. They know not and understand not, in

darkness they walk on, all the foundations of the earth are

shaken. Ver. 6. I have said: Ye are gods and sons of the

Most High all of you. Ver. 7. But ye shall die like men, and

fall like one of the princes.—At ver. 5 we must supply: "as

they have hitherto done; the divine reprehension and punish-

ment have produced no good effects." As God continues to

speak in ver. 6 and 7, we must conceive of this complaint in re-

gard to the inefficacy of what he had hitherto announced, as pro-

ceeding from him. At "they know not and understand not,"

we are to supply the object from the context, as in all similar

cases (comp. at Ps. xiv. 3), viz., the sacred duties of their office,

which had been inculcated upon them in ver. 2-4. Comp.

Mich. iii. 1. "is it for you to know judgment?" The darkness

indicates moral bewilderment, comp. Prov. ii. 13:  "They forsake

the ways of uprightness, and walk in the ways of darkness."  At

the last clause we are by no means to supply therefore: the

clause stands in the same relation as the other clauses to the

criminality of the judges: every thing is ruined by them,—they

ruin every thing. There is an implied comparison: every thing

in the land is tossed upside down as in an earthquake. It is

only in the comparison, and not in the reality, that the reference

to the earth lies.—In the final judgment pronounced by God,

ver. 6 and 7, the elevated station of judges is first acknowledged,

on which they grounded their assertion that they were invested

with absolute power, ver. 4, and then it is affirmed that this

station by no means frees them from responsibility, or affords

them any protection against that merited punishment which was

just about immediately to befal them. The but in ver. 7 sup-

poses an indeed understood in ver. 6.a I have said refers to cer-


            a Calvin: A concession in which the prophet spews the wicked judges, that they will

derive no protection from that sacred character with which God has invested them. I

acknowledge that you are God, &c.

                           PSALM LXXXII. VER. 5-7.                        37


tain generally well-known expressions in which the magistracy,

and in particular the judicial office, is designated by the name

Elohim,—the passages already quoted of the Mosaic law. The

Elohim might here in itself be taken in the singular: ye are God,

bearers of his image, as Gousset and others expound. But ver. 1

renders it necessary to translate:  ye are gods. Our Saviour in-

terprets the passage in this way in Jo. x. 35. Along with the

fundamental passages to which it refers, and on which it certainly

forms an advance, in so far as the name Elohim is applied to

individuals, the passage before us is strikingly adapted to

give a blow to that rigid dualism of God and man, in which the

Pharasaic opposition to the God-man is rooted: The second ap-

pellation, "Sons of the Highest," indicates the intimate character

of the relation in which earthly judges stand to the Judge in

heaven. It was shewn at Ps. ii. 7, that it is in this sense that

the sonship of God is spoken of every where throughout the Old

Testament. Luther:  "It may well make one wonder that he

calls such wicked individuals as those whom he here rebukes so

sharply, by the name of sons of God or sons of the Highest, since

children of God is an appellation which in Scripture is applied to

holy believers. Answer:  it is just as great a wonder that he

should bestow upon such wicked people his own name; yea, it is

rather a greater wonder that he should call them gods. But it all

lies in the word: I have said. For we have often remarked that

the word of God sanctifies and deifies all things to which it is

applied. Wherefore we may call such situations as have had im-

pressed upon them the word of God, in every respect holy divine

conditions, although the persons are not holy. Just as father,

mother, preacher, minister, &c., are in every respect holy divine

situations, although the persons who are in them may be knaves

and rogues. Thus inasmuch as God stamps the office of magistry

with his word, magistrates are correctly called gods, and the chil-

dren of God, on account of their divine condition, and the word of

God, although they are really vile knaves, as he complains that they

are."—The 7th verse does not at all refer in general to mortality

and death—a reference which acquired proper force and significance

only in New Testament times, when "and after that the judg-

ment," was brought clearly out as standing in immediate con-

nection. The idea meant to be conveyed is, in accordance with

38                      THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


the Old Testament practice throughout, and especially that of

the Psalms in similar cases, a threatening of violent death, of a

cutting off in the midst of the days: comp. the heathen saying:

ad generum Cereris sine caede et sanguine pauci descendant reges

et sicca morte tyranni. This is evident from "ye shall fall" of

the second clause (lpn is always used of a violent death, Ps.

xci. 7; Ex. xix. 21; Jer. viii. 12, and in the full form, "to fall

by the sword," in Jer. xxxix. 18, and in other passages), by

which the general expression of the first clause, "ye shall die,"

which is accompanied only by the words "like men," is rendered

definite. The expression, "like men," "after the manner of

men" (comp. at Ps. xvii.), intimates to the gods of the earth,

who fancied themselves to be above all other men, that as far as

death is concerned, they are subject to the general lot of hu-

manity. The expression, "as one of the princes" (comp. 1 Kings

xxii. 13; xix. 2. Obed. ver. 11), reminds them of the numerous

examples in early times of similar dignitaries who were removed

by the judgment of God. The connection shews that it is fallen

princes that are meant. Any further reference (several exposi-

tors suppose that heathen princes are meant, who are not even 

once particularly alluded to, others warriors,—not to speak of

still more arbitrary ideas) is altogether unknown to the context,

is in no respect called for, and indeed is of no use whatever.

            The prophetic denunciation of the judgment of God is followed,

in ver. 8, by an expression of earnest desire for its accomplish-

ment.--Lift up thyself, 0 God, judge the earth, for thou art

Lord over all the nations.—The wish of the Psalmist, or of the

church, in whose name he speaks, refers, in the first instance, to

Israel; yet, as the special exercise of judgment on the part of

God is only an instance of what is general, the Psalmist calls

upon him to appear to judge the world: comp. at Ps. vii. 7,

8; lvi. 7; lix. 5.  The Lord appears also, in the parallel pas-

sage, Is. iii. 13, to judge the nations. The call made upon God

to judge the earth is based upon the fact, that all its nations are

subject to him, and responsible to him, no less than Israel, the

peculiar hlHn of the Lord, and, therefore, the immediate object

of his judgment.  lHn, with the accusative is, "to possess," and

with b "to have a possession:" comp. Num. xviii. 20; Deut.

xix. 14; Num. xxxiv. 29. (Böttcher is wrong, Proben. p. 184.)

                             PSALM LXXXIII.                                   39



                             PSALM LXXXIII.


            The short prayer that God would help, ver. 1, is followed, in

ver. 2-8, by a representation of the trouble which occasions the

prayer: first, in ver. 2-4, the doings of the enemies,--they roar,

they take crafty counsel, they aim at nothing less than the entire

destruction of Israel—second, their number, in ver. 5-8,—no

fewer than ten nations assembled around Ammon and Moab as

the centre-point, are united against Israel. The representation

of the distress is followed, in ver. 9-18, by the developed

prayer. This prayer first reminds God of the wonderful assist-

ance which, in similar circumstances, he had vouchsafed to

his people in the days of old, ver. 9-12; next it calls upon  

him to let loose the storm and the tempest of his wrath upon the

enemies, ver. 13-15, and finally, by the destruction of the ene-

mies, to promote his own glory upon the earth, ver. 16-18.

            The formal arrangement admits of being ascertained with ease

and certainty. If we cut off the title and the preliminary prayer

in. ver. 1 which in reality belongs to it, we have two main divi-

sions, which are also externally separated by the Selah, viz., the

representation of the trouble, ver. 2-8, and the prayer, ver. 9-16.

The seven of the first is divided into a three and a four, the qua-

lity of the enemies, and their quantity; the ten of the second by

a seven, which again falls into a four and a three (the reversed

relation of the three and the four of the first half) and a three.

The ten hostile nations, in ver. 5-7, correspond to the number

ten of the verses of the second half: there are as many verses of

petitions as there are enemies; while the number of individual peti-

tions of this half is complete in twelve, the signature of the peo-

ple of the covenant. This number ten of the nations is divided

exactly in the same way as the verses: 4, 3, 3. In like manner,

the number seven of the names of the enemies of the times of

old, who were annihilated by the omnipotence of God, at the be-

ginning of the second part, ver. 9-11, corresponds to the num-

ber seven of the verses of the first half, which speaks of the rage

and the crowd of the enemies. Accident here cannot possibly


            There is no room for doubt as to the historical occasion of the

40                       THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


Psalm. It refers to the war of Jehosaphat against the allied

Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, and other nations, and forms

the earliest as to subject of a series of cognate Psalms. While it

makes mention of the help of God in the midst of danger, the forty-

seventh Psalm was sung, after the discomfiture of the enemy, on

the field of battle, and the forty-eighth at the thanksgiving service

in the temple. The following reasons may be urged in favour of this

view--a view which has been taken by all commentators, except

those who have been prevented from arriving at the truth by

some prejudice, such as that all the Psalms of Asaph were com-

posed in David's time, or that the narrative at 2 Chron. xx. is

not historically correct. 1. Here, as on that occasion, it is the

same nations, upon the whole, that meet us. The Edomites, the

Moabites, and the Ammonites, whom alone the author of Chro-

nicles expressly names, are not only mentioned in this Psalm, but  

are also introduced as those with whom the whole enterprise ori-

ginated. The others are grouped around these three; and at the

conclusion, the sons of Lot are expressly named as the instigators.

Even the narrative in Chronicles decidedly indicated that these

three were named merely as the centre of the undertaking, and

that there were others concerned of less note, the mention of

whom was not a matter of such consequence to the historian as

it was to the Psalmist whose object was promoted by a heaping

up of names. Not to mention that, according to Chronicles, the

enemy formed such a mass that Israel had no strength to resist

them, that the quantity of plunder indicated an enemy from a far

country, who had set out, bag and baggage, it is expressly said,

in ver. 1, "and with them others who dwelt remote from the

Ammonites, beyond them," (comp. on Mynvmfhm Cler. and the

annot.), and in ver. 2, "and they told Jehosaphat saying, There

cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea, be-

yond Aram" (not out of Aram, for there is no copula), out of

the country east of that stripe which is bounded on the north by

Syria, and on the south by the Dead Sea, therefore, from the de-

serts of Arabia, whose hordes had in former times made Palestine

the object of their marauding assaults. 2. The union and con-

federacy of all the nations mentioned, ver. 3 and 5, is of great

consequence. Such a confederacy of nations took place only at

one period during the whole history, viz., in the time of Jehosa-

                             PSALM LXXXIII.                                      41


phat. The remark of Koester, who finds it necessary to consider

the confederacy of the nations as not a historical event, "they

plunder us as if they had preconcerted a plan," shows to what

arbitrary expedient those are obliged to have recourse who do

not adopt the reference to this transaction. 3. According to ver.

4, the enemies kept their plans secret, and employed cunning

preparatory to force. It is exactly in accordance with this, that,

from 2 Chron. xx. 2, it appears that Jehosaphat obtained intelli-

gence of the undertaking of his enemies for the first time, when

they were already within his dominions, at Engedi: they could

not possibly have made their hostile preparations with greater

cunning and silence. The place, also, at which the enemies made

their entrance, leads to the same result. Their marching south-

ward so as to go round the Dead Sea, while they might have

quietly entered Canaan from the east, as Israel did in former

times, could only have been adopted for the purpose of concealing

their object. 5. According to ver. 4 and 12, the enemies had

nothing less for their object than to do to Israel what Israel had

formerly done to the Canaanites. It was no ordinary marauding

expedition;—the intention was completely to root out Israel,

and to take entire possession of his lands. The enemies of Jeho-

saphat, according to 2 Chron. xx. 11, had the same object in

view. That they had so is obvious from the quality of the booty

which was found in their tents. They had set out, as Israel did

of old, with bag and baggage. 5. The mention of the Amalekites

among the enemies of Israel, in ver. 7, renders it impossible to

come down to times later than that of Jehosaphat. The last re-

mains of the Amalekites were, according to 1 Chron. iv. 43, rooted

out by the Simeonites, under Hezekiah. From that time, they

disappear altogether from history. Ewald's assertion that Ama-

lek stands here "only as a name of infamy applied to parties

well-known at the time," is to be considered as a miserable shift.

6. The Psalm must have been composed previous to the exten-

sion of the empire of the Assyrians over Western Asia. For the

Assyrians named last, in the 8th verse, appear here in the very

extraordinary character of an ally of the Sons of Lot. 7. Our

Psalm, according to the title, was composed by Asaph. In ac-

cordance with this, we read, in 1 Chron. xx. 14, that the Spirit

of the Lord came upon Jehasiel, of the sons of Asaph, in the

42                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


midst of the assembly. This Jehasiel is probably the author of

the Psalm. 8. Our Psalm is a true picture of the state of feel-

ing which prevailed throughout the people during the danger

under Jehosaphat. According to the history of Chronicles, they

praised God at that time, in the midst of their danger, with loud

voice, ver. 19; and here in the title, which is an appendage to

that of Ps. xlviii., the Psalm is called a song of praise (comp. on

ryw, at Ps. xlii. 9); and it is such in reality, although it bears

the form of a prayer,—a song of triumph sung before the vic-

tory,—no contest, no doubt, the distress is simply committed to


            In establishing the correct view, we, at the same time, virtu-

ally refute those of an erroneous nature, whose very existence, as

well as that of the prejudice against the historical character of

2 Chron. xx.—a notion which even our Psalm, in common with

Ps. xlvii. and xlviii. (comp. Keil on 2 Chron. p. 241 ss.) is suffi-

cient to put to shame,—is to be accounted for by the extent to

which the abettors of the late origin of the Psalms have overshot

their mark. The hypothesis that the Psalm refers to the occur-

rence at Neh. iv. 1 ss. is negatived by this, among other reasons,

that it is scarcely possible to conceive anything less suitable to

it than these "railleries of the neighbours," who had no further

end in view than to hinder the building of the temple; and still

further by the consideration that the Samaritans, who were at

that time the chief enemies, would not have been wanting, and

that the Amalekites and the Assyrians would not have been

mentioned. That the Persians are meant by the Assyrians is

again a miserable subterfuge. In a case where nine nations are

spoken of by their proper names, the tenth must be referred to

in the same way: that the Persians took any part in that ma-

chination is a groundless assertion; even had they done so, they

would not have occupied such a subordinate place as is here as-

signed to the Assyrians.—The assertion first made by v. Til, and

subsequently repeated by Hitzig, that the Psalm refers to the

incidents of 1 Macc. v. is negatived by the following considera-

tions:—At that time, there was no combination among the

neighbouring nations; each acted by itself: these nations at that

time did not set out for the purpose of extirpating the Jews ge-

nerally; they only rose up against those who were dwelling in

                           PSALM LXXXIII. VER. 2-4.                           43


the midst of them: there is no passage where the Syrians are

designated by the name of Assyrians; they never were, like the

Chaldeans and the Persians, the successors of the Assyrians in

the dominion of Asia: the Syrians took no part in that conflict:

the mention of Endor as the place of the discomfiture of the

Canaanites, at ver. 10, shows that the Psalm must have been

composed at a time when, in reference to the period of the Judges,

there were other sources of information at hand than those which

now exist. It is, therefore, not at all necessary to have recourse

to those general grounds which are conclusive against the exist-

ence of Maccabean Psalms. The incidents, however, recorded in

Neh. iv. and 1 Macc. v. are of importance so far, that they show 

how intense and permanent was the hatred of the neighbouring

nations against "the people of God," and, consequently, go far

to confirm the credibility of 2 Chron. xx., and the historical cha-

racter of ver. 2-8 of our Psalm.

            Amyraldus:  "The Psalm may be applied now to the enemies

of the Christian Church, of which Israel was the type. The most

important and formidable of these are assuredly sin and Satan,

from whom we most especially long to be delivered."

            Title: A Song of praise, a Psalm of Asaph. Ver. 1. 0 God,

keep not silence, be not dumb, and be not still, 0 God.—That

ymd signifies not rest, but silence, is evident from "thine enemies

make a noise;" in ver. 2, and from the following word, wrHt,

comp. at Ps. xxviii. 1. The word also signifies to be silent, in

Is. lxii. 7, as is evident from the 6th verse.

            Ver. 2-4.—Ver. 2. For lo, thine enemies make a noise, and

those who hate thee lift up the head. Ver. 3. They make cun-

ning plots against thy people, and consult against thy concealed

ones. Ver. 4. They say: come let us root them out; so that

they shall not be a people, and that mention be no more made

of the name of Israel.—On ver. 2. Calvin:  "It is to be re-

marked that those who attack the church are called enemies of

God, and it is no ordinary ground of confidence to have enemies,

in common with God." They lift up the head,—proudly, boldly,

confidently; comp. Judges viii. 28, “And Midian was humbled

by the children of Israel, and did not any more lift up its head.”

—In the first clause of ver. 3, the translation generally given is:

they make artfully the plots in the councils. But as Myrfh in

44                      THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


other passages means to act cunningly, and dvs does not exactly

indicate counsel or deliberation; it is better to consider dvs  

as standing in the accusative, just as bl does in ver. 5, and

jmw in ver. 18, comp. Evr. § 483: in reference to confidence

comp. at Ps. lxiv. 2, confidential intercourse which they carry on.

The expression, "the hidden ones of God," instead of "those

under his protection," is explained by Ps. xxvii. 5; xxxi. 21.—

On ver. 4, Calvin: "it is as if they had formed the daring pur-

pose of annulling the decree of God in which the eternal exist-

ence of the church lies founded." The yvgm is away from a peo-

ple,---so that they shall be no more a people: comp. Jer. xlviii.

2; Is. vii. 8.—There are five terms employed in these three

verses, descriptive of the doings of the enemies. The number

five as the signature of the half, of something unfinished, points

to the second half strophe, which is occupied with enumerating

the enemies.

            Ver. 5-8.—Ver. 5. For they have consulted from the heart

together, they have formed a covenant against thee. Ver. 6.

The tents of Edom and of the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Haga-

rites. Ver. 7. Gebal, and Ammon,  and Amalek; Philistia

with the inhabitants of Tyre. Ver. 8. Even Assyria has joined

them; they stretch out their arm to the Sons of Lot. Selah.

Calvin:  "It is not a little profitable for us to see in this case, as

in a glass, what, from the beginning, has been the experience of

the Church of God, so that we need not be frightened too much

when the whole world is against us. When we see that nothing

new befals us, we are strengthened in patience by the example of

the church of old, until God suddenly put forth his power, which

alone is sufficient to subvert all the machinations of the world."

Several expositors erroneously connect the 5th verse with what

goes before—a flat and insipid rendering. The yk indicates a

more full exhibition of the relations alluded to in the preceding

verses; and it is not co-ordinate with the yk in ver. 2. The bl  

stands like the dvs in ver. 3, and the dmw in ver. 18, in the

accusative. The expression "with the heart" supplies a commen-

tary to Ps. lxiv. 5,6, and denotes the earnestness and zeal of their

plans; the heart, with the whole fulness of its purposes, plans,

and wickedness, is engaged in the matter. Several expositors

refer erroneously to dHx bl with one heart, in 1 Chron. xii.

                      PSALM LXXXIII. VER. 5-8.                              45


38.—In enumerating the nations, the first seven are grouped to-

gether in such a manner that we find associated with the ring-

leaders, who are Edom, Moab, and Ammon, those nations who had

been pressed into the service by them,—so that these three names

should be looked upon as if printed in large characters. That the

arrangement is to be explained in this way is evident from the

otherwise inexplicable separation of Moab from Ammon. As

the Edomites were not a wandering but a settled people, we

must either understand by "tents" camp-tents, or "tents" is to

be considered as a poetical expression for habitations, founded on

the dwelling of the Israelites in the wilderness: comp. Jud. vii.

8; 1 Kings xii. 16. The Edomites, who are associated with the

Ishmaelites, dwelt, according to Gen. xxv. 18, next to the Assy-

rians, and therefore, in the desert of Arabia. The attendants of

Moab, the Hagarites, were a wandering Arabic tribe, to the east

of Jordan, which, in the time of Saul, was dispossessed of its coun-

try by the tribe of Reuben: comp. 1 Chron. v. 10, 19-22. They

removed, in all probability, farther south, into that part of Ara-

bia which adjoins Moab; and they were, therefore, their natural

allies in this league. On the right side of Ammon there was

Gebal, in all probability an Idumean district, and on the left,

Amalek, who appears here, as on a former occasion, Judges iii.

13, in a state of alliance with him: “and he (Eglon, the king of

Moab) assembled around .him the sons of Ammon and Amalek.”

To the seven nations, who formed the main body, there are

added other three. First, the Philistines, who are not, indeed,

expressly named in Chronicles, but concerning whom it is taken

for granted, that those who always embraced the opportunity of

a war raised against the Israelites by other nations, would not

lose this opportunity of gratifying their deep-seated hatred. The

inhabitants of Tyre appear only as following in the train of the

Philistines. The merchants were induced merely by cupidity to

join in this movement, as the tradesmen of Tarsus did in Ez.

xxxviii. 13.  They are universally to be found wherever there is

any thing to be earned. In Amos, also, i. 6-10, the Philistines

and the Tyrians appear in compact with each other, and with the

Edomites, in their purposes of hostility towards the  Israelites;

and the passage in Joel iv. 4, &c., shows how natural is this ad-

dition of the Tyrians to the Philistines, where we find it repre-

46                      THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


sented in prophetic vision that the Philistines, along with the

Tyrians and Sidonians, avail themselves of the opportunity of a

war raised against Israel by other nations to gratify their hatred

and their cupidity.—The Assyrians are mentioned last, being at

the greatest distance, and engaged only indirectly and partially

in the enterprise. According to Gen. xxv. 18, they were the

neighbours of the Arabian sons of the desert, yea, according to

Gen xxv. 3, they had Arabic elements in the midst of themselves,

so that it is, therefore, antecedently probable that they should be

found taking part in this great movement of the Arabic tribes.

The Assyrians finally, as the associates from the most remote

east, stand opposed to the Philistines and the Tyrians from the

west. The seven wicked nations are bounded by these on the east

and the west. Last of all, the sons of Lot are mentioned as the pro-

per instigators and fire-brands of the war. The subject in "they

stretch" is not the singular Assyrian, but all the nations which

had been named, with the self-evident exception of the sons of

Lot themselves. It is only by adopting this view, which, indeed,

is the most obvious one, as far as the language is concerned, that

this conclusion receives its proper significance.a

            Ver. 9-12.—Ver. 9. Do to them as to Midian, as to Sisera,

as to Jabin, in the valley of Kison. Ver; 10. Who were de-

stroyed at Endor, they were dung for the land. Ver. 11. Make

them, their nobles, as Oreb and as Seeb, all their princes as

Sebah and Zalmuna. Ver. 12. Who said: we will possess

ourselves of the habitations of God.—Calvin: "The substance

is, may God who has so often smitten his enemies, and delivered

his timorous sheep out of the jaws of wolves, not leave them at

this time unprotected against these forces." From the many

examples of divine judgment upon the enemies, which constituted

pledges of deliverance in this trouble, the Psalmist selects two,

the victory over the Canaanites from Judges iv. and v., and the

victory of Gideon over the Midianites from Judges vii. and viii.

He begins with the latter as the more glorious of the two. But

in expanding the general subject of the 9th verse, in ver. 10 and

11, the order is reversed. Ver. 10 is an appendage to the second

clause; ver. 11 expands the first. "Do to them as to Midian"


            a Venema: Finally, having enumerated the nations in order, the Psalmist adds who

were the authors of the war and who allies.

                      PSALM LXXXIII. VER. 13-15.                            47


(instead of "as thou didst to Midian,"—the comparison being, as

is frequently the case, merely referred to, not drawn out, comp.

Ew. 527) was fulfilled beyond what they asked or thought:

the discomfiture of the enemies, as was the case with the Midian-

ites, took place by mutual destruction,--a means which has often

proved of signal service to the kingdom of God: comp. 2 Chron.

xx. 22, 23, with Judges vii. 22. The glorious victory over

Midian appears also in Is. ix. 4, and Hab. iii. 7, as the emblem

and pledge of glorious deliverances yet to come. The effort to

exhibit the individuals named, standing as much apart as pos-

sible, "as Sisera, as Jabin," not "and Jabin," is explained by

the reference to the seven nations. On "in the valley of Kison,"

comp. Judges iv. 7, 13; v. 21.—Endor ver. 10 (comp. Robin-

son, vol. iii. 468. 77), which appears here as the proper place of

the discomfiture of the Canaanites, is not expressly named in the

book of Judges. In the second clause there is an abbreviated

comparison, as is obvious from the other passages where this

same comparison occurs, drawn out, for example, 2 Kings ix. 37,

"and the carcase of Jezebel shall be as thing upon the face of

the field," Jer. ix. 21. Is. v. 25.—The "their nobles" In ver. 11,

is expository of "them." Oreb and Seeb were, according to

Judges vii. 25; the commanders of the Midianites, Sebah and

Zalmunah, Judges viii. 5-10; xii. 18-21, their kings.—Ver. 12

points once more to the guilt of the enemies which made them

worthy of a destruction similar to that which befel those of an

earlier period. Elohim (not Jehovah) is selected for the purpose

of making more distinct the criminality of the attempt. By the

"habitations of God" is meant the whole land of Canaan: comp.

2 Chron, xx. 11, "they have come to cast us out of thy posses-

sion which thou hast given us to inherit," Ps. xlvii. 4.

            Ver. 13-15.—Ver. 13. My God, make them like the whirl,

like the stubble before the wind. Ver. 14. As fire which burns

up the forest, as flame which scorches the hills:  Ver. 15. Do

thou thus pursue them with thy tempest, and terrify them

with thy storm.a—The "like the whirl (comp. at Ps. lxxvii.


            a Venema: Having placed before our eyes the judgment of God upon the enemies, as

illustrated by the example of antiquity, he now describes it in a sublimer style, with

images drawn from wind, storm, and fire, and (ver 16-18) exhibits the scope and effect

of these judgments, in order that men, overwhelmed with shame, may learn to reverence

the majesty of Jehovah.

48                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


18), like the stubble," in ver. 13, is equivalent to "like

the stubble which is, whirled round and carried off:" comp. Is.

xvii. 13, a passage which depends on the verse before us.—As

fire, ver. 14, as destructively. The hills are mentioned, as

is obvious from the parallel clause, in reference to what covers


            Ver. 16-18.--Ver. 16. Fill their faces with shame, and may

they seek thy name, 0 Lord. Ver 17. Let them be put to shame

and terrified for ever, and blush and perish. Ver. 18. And may

they know that thou with thy name, 0 Lord, art above the most

high over the whole earth.—The object aimed at is intimated

in the words: may they seek thy name, and may they know thy

name. "Fill their face with shame" serves as the basis of the

first, and the contents of ver. 18, of the second: we can never

be more confident of the destruction of our enemies, and of our

own deliverance, than when these tend to promote the exaltation

and the glory of God. In point of form, however, the second

clause of ver. 16 is independent of, and co-ordinate with the first:

—not: that they may seek. Otherwise, we destroy the number

of petitions, twelve in all, seven in this paragraph, corresponding

to the number seven of the verses of the preceding paragraph.—

On "their faces," ver. 16, comp. Ps. lxix. 7. "Thy name" is

equivalent to "thee, rich in deeds, glorious." "May they seek

thee" (Berleb: as humble suppliants) has no reference to "con-

version," but to the forced subjection of those who, like Pharaoh,

are not able to hold out any longer against the inflictions of God.

This is evident, also, from the following verse, where the Psalmist

prays for the destruction of the enemies.a  It would be the height

of folly to hope for the conversion of such enemies.—In the 18th

verse, the acknowledgment is not a voluntary but a forced ac-

knowledgment: comp. Ps. lix. 13; 1 Sam. xvii. 46. The jmw,

is the accus., just as the bl in ver, 5, and the dvs in ver. 3, "as


            a Calvin: "It is, I acknowledge, the first step towards repentance, when men, humbled

by chastisements, yield of their own accord; but the prophet adverts merely to a forced

and servile submission. For it often happens that the wicked, subdued by sufferings,

give glory to God for a time. But because in a short while they exhibit a frantic rage,

their hypocrisy is thus sufficiently exposed, and the ferocity which lay concealed in their

hearts becomes apparent. He wishes, therefore, that the wicked may be compelled reluc-

tautly to acknowledge God: that at least their fury, at present breaking forth with im-

punity, may be kept under restraint and within due bounds.

                                PSALM LXXXIV.                              49


to thy name," i. e., "for the sake of thy name:" thou who

rich in deeds, glorious. The name, the product of the deeds, is

what belongs to the Lord, above all others who are called lords

and gods these are all nameless; the names which they bear

are mere names, shells without kernel. That we are not to give

the first half of the verse a sense complete in itself—and know

that thou alone hast the name Jehovah—is evident from the

parallel and in all probability dependant passage, Is. xxxvii. 16,

where Hezekiah says:  Jehovah, Sabbaoth, God of Israel, thou

art God Ha-elohim, alone for all the kingdoms of the earth,

2 Kings xix. 19.a  The Eljou is the predicate here just as Elo-

him is there.



                                  PSALM LXXXIV.


            The Psalmist pronounces himself happy in the possession of the

highest of all blessings, that of dwelling in the house of God, and

that of communion with him; for inheritance follows adoption:

to those who participate in this blessing, the Lord will by his

salvation yet give occasion to praise him, ver. 1-4. He pronounces

those happy (salvation to himself because he belongs to their

number) who place their trust in God, and walk blamelessly: for

their misery, shall be turned into salvation, and the end of their

way is praise and thanks, ver. 5-7. The prayer rises on the

basis of the meditation; may God be gracious to his anointed,

for his favour is the highest good, whoever possesses it is sure of

salvation, ver. 8-12.

            The whole Psalm contains 12 verses. It is divided into two

strophes; one of meditation, in seven verses, and the other of

prayer, in five. The seven is divided into four and three: sal-

vation as the necessary consequence of dwelling in the house of

the Lord, and salvation: as the consequence of piety and blame-

lessness. The five which points out the second strophe as sup-

plementary to the first is divided into an introduction and, a con-

clusion, each of one verse, and a main body of three verses.

The Selah stands where it is most necessary, at the end of the


            a Is. xxxvii. 20 is to be supplemented from both these passages: and all the kingdoms

of the earth may experience that thou; 0 Lord, alone (art God).

50                           THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


first part of the first strophe, and at the end of the introduction

of the prayer-strophe. It is here that the parts, which ought

to be kept separate, admit most easily of being read together.

The name Jehovah occurs three times in the first and three times

in the second strophe. Sabbaoth is added twice in each. If we

add to the six repetitions of Jehovah the four repetitions of Elo-

him, which occurs generally in a subordinate position, so that

Jehovah preponderates, we have altogether ten names of God.

The ninth verse renders it evident that the speaker is the

Anointed of the Lord: This fact an be reconciled with the

title, which ascribes the Psalm to the sons of Korah, only by

the supposition that it was sung from the soul of the Anointed:

comp. the Intro. to Ps. xl. and xliii., where the case is exactly

the same.

            The Psalm gives very slight intimation as to the situation of

the Anointed. That he was in a calamitous situation is obvious

from the whole tendency of the Psalm, which, is, manifestly de-

signed to pour consolation into the soul of the sufferer, and in

particular from "they shall still praise thee," in ver. 4, "going

through the valley of tears," in ver. 6, and the prayer in ver. 8

and 9, which is that of a sufferer standing in need of divine

assistance. It is intimated in ver. 7 that the sufferer particu-

larly is separated from the sanctuary.  Farther, the Anointed

stands in inward and near relation to the Lord, ver. 1-4; he is

one who has his strength in the Lord, and trusts in him, vers. 5

and 12, and who has walked blamelessly, vers. 5 and 11, yea he

stands as the teacher in Israel of these great virtues, ver. 6.

            These marks lead to David in his flight from Absalom; they

meet together as applicable no where else. This result obtained

from the consideration of the Psalm itself is confirmed by com-

paring it with Ps. xlii. and in which the traces of that

time, and the reference to these events, are still more apparent.

These Psalms are so closely allied to the one before us, that it

is impossible to consider them apart. They both bear a con-

siderable resemblance to it, even externally, as might be made

to appear,--Pss. xlii. and xliii. stand at the head of the Korahite

Elohim Psalms, and this Psalm at the head of the Korahite Je-

hovah Psalms, so that thus both are in a peculiarly close manner

connected together. And they possess the following points in



                                 PSALM LXXXIV.                                  51


common:—they were composed by the sons of Korah from the

soul of the Anointed; they are all characterized by an ardour of

feeling, and a tender pathos, which here, as is also indicated by

the title, assumes the form of a pathetic joy; in all, the Anointed

is in a state of suffering, and is separated from the sanctuary.

The fundamental thought also of this Psalm occurs in Ps. xlii. 6,

8, where the Psalmist obtains comfort in his misery, and the hope

of salvation because he becomes absorbed in a consciousness of

possessing the favour of God. As to particular expressions comp.

ver. 4 with Ps. xlii. 5, ver. 7 with Ps. xliii. 3, ver. 9 with Ps.

xliii. 5.a

            The sons of Korah perform here as in Ps. xliii. for David

in the time of Absalom, the same duty which David once per-

formed for Saul. They sang quietness and peace from their soul

to his, giving back to him a part of what they themselves had

ceived, from him the "teacher," ver. 6. They brought to his

recollection the foundations of his hope: the blessing of com-

munion with God yet remaining to him, which, as the fountain

all other blessings, must brighten his piety and his blameless

walk in the estimation of all who regard God, and finally his

suffering in joy.

            The contents are nearly allied to those of Ps. lxiii., which was

composed by David himself in the time of Absalom. There also

we find hope in reference to the future rising on the basis of in-

ward union with God enjoyed by the Psalmist at present.

            It has been maintained as an argument against the composi-

tion of the Psalm in the time of David, that the sanctuary in

per. 1, 2, 3, 10, must have been a temple, a large building. But

the mention of “habitations” of God, in ver. 1, does not imply

this; for even the tabernacle-temple was divided into several

apartments, and the habitations and sanctuaries of the Lord are


            a Even Ewald acknowledges that Ps. xlii., and Ps. lxxxiv., are inseparably con-

nected. "These Psalms are manifestly so similar, in colouring of language, in plan and

structure, in overflowing fulness of rare figures, finally, in refined delicacy and tender-

ness of thought, and yet every thing in both poems is so entirely original, while nothing

is the result of imitation from the other, that it is impossible to avoid coming to the con-

clusion that both are the product of the same poet." It is singular that with such ac- 

knowledgments and concessions the inference so necessarily flowing from them it

favour of the titles should be disregarded. How comes it that in the titles those

Psalms are attributed to the same authors which on internal grounds are so intimately

related, if these titles were composed upon mere conjecture?


 52                         THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


mentioned in other Psalms which manifestly belong to the times

of David, Ps. xliii. 3, lxviii. 35. The same cannot be said of

"courts " in ver. 2 and 10. The tabernacle, and therefore pro-

bably also the tent erected by David for the ark of the covenant

on Mount Zion, had certainly only one court. But in poetical

language we not infrequently find courts used in the sense of the

space before the sanctuary, where in reality there was only one

court. Thus, for example, in Ps. lxv. 4, which was composed by

David; again in Is: i. 12, "who hath required this of you that

ye tread my courts," Ps. xcii. 13, c. 4: the one of the two courts

of Solomon's temple was the court of the Priests, and it therefore

cannot be meant as included. Finally, it is only by adopting a

false rendering that ver. 3 can be considered as making any men-

tion of birds nests in the sanctuary; the same may be said of

ver. 5 ss., in regard to pilgrimages,—it is without any good rea-

soh, besides, that it has been said of these that they did not exist

in the time" of David. An intimation that the sanctuary at that

time existed in a tent, occurs in ver. 10. The reference to the

tabernacle-house of God undoubtedly called forth in that passage

the mention of the tents of wickedness, instead of its palaces:

            The Psalm has had the misfortune to be misunderstood in

various ways, particularly by the modern expositors whose per-

ception of its meaning is upon the whole much more profound

than was that of Luther. The main ground of the misunder-

standings is the falsely literal rendering of those passages in

which mention is made of the house of the Lord. It is from this

that has arisen the idea that there exists in the Psalm "an ex-

pression of earnest desire for the temple," in opposition to ver. 2,

where the Psalmist rejoices as one who already enjoys the privi-

lege of near access to God, to ver. 3, according to which the bird

has already found its house and the swallow its nest in the house

of God, and to ver. 10 in connection with to ver. 9, &c.

            On the title "to the chief Musician after the manner (or  ac-

cording to the harp, comp. at title of Ps. viii.) of Gath, by the

sons of Korah, a Psalm," Arnd remarks: The Gittith was a

spiritual musical instrument on which these Psalms were played,

which sounded pleasantly and joyfully. For the ancients did not

play all the Psalms upon the same instrument, but they varied

according to the strain of each Psalm. What should we learn

                           PSALM LXXXIV. VER. 1-4                        53


from this?  That our heart, mouth, and tongue, should be the true

spiritual musical instruments of God, the pleasant harps and the

good sounding symbols, both mournful and joyful instruments

according to the dispensation of God and the times." "To the

Chief Musician," shews that the Psalm was intended for some-

thing more than what immediately gave occasion to it, that along

with its individual application we must keep in view its applica-

tion for all the suffering people of God: comp. the Intro. at

Ps. xlii.

            Ver. 1-4.—Ver. 1. How beloved are thy dwelling-places, 0

Lord, (Lord) of Hosts. Ver. 2. My soul longeth and even

fainteth after the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh

rejoice to the living God. Ver. 3. Even the bird has found a

house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she lays her

young, thine altars, 0 Lord of Hosts, my king and my God.

Ver. 4. Blessed are those who dwell in thy house, they shall

still praise thee.—The dydy in Ver. 1 signifies always beloved and

never lovely; comp. at Ps. xlv. 1; and the second verse is in

entire harmony with this, where the expression "how much loved

they are (by me)" is expanded; and also the parallel passage,

Ps. xxvii. "One thing I desire of the Lord, that do I seek after,

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord." The Psalmist loves

the habitations of the Lord; because he is sure of finding safety

and protection there: comp., among other passages, Ps. xxvii. 5.

The term Sabbaoth points to this ground as one to which marked

prominence is given in what follows. The Lord of Heaven is rich

in salvation on behalf of his own people; the man whom he takes

into his presence is protected, and that, too, although the whole

world were to rise up against, him: comp. Ps. xxvii. 1, “Nothing

can go entirely wrong with him whom the Most High has resolved

to aid."--The longing and fainting, in ver. 2, do not at all in-

dicate any desire completely unsatisfied at the time; but rather a

spiritual hunger, which is immediately connected with satiety, a

need which as it has arisen from enjoyment, also, calls for enjoy-

ment.  This is evident from the rejoicing, which , stands, as far

as the grammatical interpretation is concerned, inseparably con-

nected with the longing and fainting, but which, in consequence

of the erroneous view taken of the former, has been to no purpose,

considered as equivalent to to cry aloud. Nn.eri is of frequent oc-

54                      THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


currence in the Psalms, and always signifies to rejoice. He who

can rejoice in God must be in possession of the object of his de-

sire. In proportion as the soul has already enjoyed the grace of

God, does it earnestly long after it; and in proportion as it longs

after it does it rejoice in God. Arnd:  "This is the effect of

holy desire, the fruit of holy longing after God, for God is so gra-

cious and condescending that he does not permit the heartfelt

love and the holy desire which man bears towards him to pass

unrewarded, but so gladdens the man that he refreshes him both

in body and soul. There arises, therefore, out of heartfelt desire

after God a heartfelt joy, or true joy of the heart." The Mg

does, not indicate a climax; but, as is frequently the case (comp.,

for example; Ps. cxxxvii. 1) is a mere particle of addition. The

soul, heart, and flesh are exceedingly appropriate, when used

together, as expressive of the whole than, and therefore, as

indicating the intensity of the desire (comp. at Ps: lxiii. 1), and

the second clause begins with "they rejoice," to which the nomi-

native is soul, heart, and flesh.  The "courts of the Lord" are

the courts of the outward temple, which is also designated in ver.

1 the habitations: the desire, however, is, not to be present

in this temple corporeally, but spiritually, which is possible even

in the case of external distance the servants of the Lord dwell

always spiritually with him in his temple, and are there cared for

by him with fatherly love, comp. at Ps. xxvii. 4; xxxvi. 8; lxv.

4, and the parallel passages referred to there. The court is spe-  

cially spoken of here, as in Ps. lxv. 4; xcii. 13, because in the.

"tabernacle of meeting" it formed the external place of concourse

for the congregation; it is, therefore, there also the spiritual seat

of its members; into it there flowed upon them out of the sanc-

tuary the stream of the grace and love of God. The Nnr with

lx, to rejoice to God, who makes himself known in grace and

love to the longing soul, in rejoice, in return or response; occurs

only here.  On yh lx comp. at Ps. xlii. 2.—The simple thought of

ver. 3 is this: the dwelling in thy house, confiding relationship

to thee, secures: thy grace, with confidence and protection. The

"bird" and the swallow is the Psalmist himself, the rvrz need

not to be very exactly defined; the connection in which it is used

defines nothing except that from the parallel rvpc, and the ge-

neral sense of the passage, it must denote a little, helpless bird:

                         PSALM LXXXIV. VER. 1-4.                           55


comp. Ps. xi, 1, where David calls himself a "little bird," Ps. lvi.

Title (comp. lv. 6), where he calls himself "the dumb dove of

distant places," 1 Sam. xxvi. 20, where he calls himself a flea, and

compares himself to a partridge on the mountains. There is an

abbreviated comparison: like a little bird, which, after a long

defenceless wandering, has found a house (Matth. viii. 20) in

which it may dwell securely, a nest to which it may entrust with

confidence its dearest possession, its young, thus have I, a poor

wanderer, found safety and protection in thy house, 0 Lord. Jo.

Arnd:  "David gives thanks to the Lord for this, and says, my

poor little soul, the terrified little bird has now found its right

house, and its right nest, namely, thy altars; and if I had not

found this beautiful house of God, I must have been for ever-

flying about, out of the right way. I would have been like a

lonely bird on the house-top, like an owl in the desert, Ps. cii:,

like a solitary turtle dove; give not thy turtle dove into the

hands of the enemies," says Ps. lxxiv.  The Mg does not connect,

the whole passage with what goes, before (comp. Ew. § 622, Ps.

lxxxv. 12); not: even the bird has found, but: the bird has even

found. Feeble man, in this hard, troublous world, destitute of

the help and grace of God, is compared to the "little bird," and

the, "swallow." The house, in an extended sense, is brought into

notice as a place of safety for the bird, for the little bird itself, the

nest, as a place of safety for its most precious possession. On rwx  

for "where" comp., Ew. § 589. The jytvHbzm tx is the accus.

as at 1 Kings xix. 10, 14. The plural refers to the altar of burnt-  

offering, and the altar of incense-offering: comp. Num. iii. 31.

The altars are specially mentioned instead, of the whole house;

because there the relation to God was concentrated. There the

soul brings forward its spiritual offerings, which constitute the

soul even of material sacrifices, and hears the much-loved respon-

sive call of God; the assurance of his help, and his salvation, even

when the body is not near the altar. "My king and my God"

( joined together in this manner only in Ps. v. 2) gives, in connec-

tion with Sabbaoth, the ground why the Psalmist considers it

such a happy thing for him that he has been permitted access to  

the altars of God, why the house of God is to him what its house

and, nest are to the little bird. How should he not feel infinitely

safe whom his king and his God, he who guides the stars in their

56                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


courses, has taken him into his own dwelling-place. Luther took

a correct view of this verse, as is obvious from his "namely thine

altars." Modern expositors, however, have gone astray, in con-

sequence of their having unfortunately taken up the idea that the

Psalm contains the expression of the earnest longings after the

temple of one separated from it. They translate: "even the

sparrows find an house, and the swallows a nest; for themselves,

where they lay their young, in thine altars, Jehovah Sabbaoth,

my King and my God," and suppose the idea intended to be con-

veyed is: and are thus happier than I am, who am separated from

thy sanctuary. But the thought obtained in this way is one, not-

withstanding the defence which has been made of it by De Wette

and Maurer, of a trivial character, and unworthy the holy earnest-

ness of Israelitish poetry; a bird, certainly, was in no very en-

viable situation which had fixed its place of dwelling and its nest

in the house of the Lord. The main thing, moreover, I am less

fortunate than they is wanting, and added to the passage without 

any reason whatever. The "with thine altars," instead of "at,"

is very strange, and certainly the unusual    tx would not have

been used for the purpose of avoiding the ambiguity. The birds

durst build their nest if generally in the sanctuary, yet certainly

not in the neighbourhood of the altars. Finally, verse 4th is

not at all suitable, if we suppose that ver. 3 contains a lamenta-

tion over absence from the sanctuary; and even ver. 2 can only

by a false interpretation be brought, in this case, into harmony

with ver. 3.—The dwellers in the house of God, in ver. 4, are, as

was formerly shown at Ps. xxvii. 4, not those who regularly repair

to it, but the inmates (Jer. xx. 6) of God's house in a spiritual

sense. As the Psalmist, according to what has been said before,

belongs to their number, in praising their happiness, he praises

at the same time his own: happy, therefore, also I. In the

second clause, the ground of this praise is given: for they shall

still (even though for the present they may be in misery) praise

him; he by imparting to them his salvation, give them yet

occasion to do so: comp. "he will praise me," for "he will get

occasion to do so," Ps. 1. 15, 23, and also lxxix. 13. It is usually

translated: always they praise thee. But with this construction

the use of dvf in the parallel passage, Ps. xlii. 6, is not attended

to. Besides, dvf never means always. Gen, xlvi. 29 is to be trans-

                      PSALM LXXXIV. VER. 1-4.                         57


lated: and he wept still upon his neck when Israel spoke. In

Ruth i. 14, the dvf, "they wept still," refers back to

ver. 9.

            The sons of Korah now open up, in ver. 5-7, to the anointed

of the Lord the second fountain of consolation, they point out to

him the pledge of salvation which had been imparted to him

through his trust in God and the blamelessness of his walk.—

Ver. 5. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee, in whose

hearts (are) ways. Ver. 6. Going through the valley of tears, they

make it a well; the teacher is even covered with blessing. Ver.

7. They go from strength to strength, he appears before God in

Zion.—Ver. 6 and 7 contain the grounds on which the declara-

tion of blessedness made in ver. 5 is founded: Blessed are they,

for in passing through the valley of tears, &c. Ver. 5 contains.

two conditions of salvation. First, that a man has his strength

in God, has him as his strength. Jo. Arnd: "But what

does having God for our strength mean? It means that we

place the trust of our heart, our confidence, help, and consolation

only in him, and in no creature, be it power, skill, honour, or

riches. That is a happy man who knows in his heart of no other

strength, help, and comfort than of God." The second condition

of salvation is, that a man has ways, made roads, in his heart. By

this is designated zealous moral effort, blamelessness and right-

eousness. The heart of man in its natural condition, appears

like a pathless wilderness, full of cliffs and precipices ; and re-

pentance is a levelling of the roads. The following passages are

parallel: Ps. 1. 23, "whoso offereth praise (= has his strength

in thee) and whoever prepares a way, to him will I show the

salvation of God;" Prov. xvi. 17, "the highway of the upright

(in opposition to the pathlessness of the wicked) is far from evil

&c." and Is. xl. 3, 4, "prepare the way of the Lord, make straight

in the heath a pathway for our God; every valley is exalted, and

every hill shall be made low, and every steep place shall be made

plain; and the rugged place shall become a valley:" comp. the

proof given in the Christol. p. 395, that by the figurative

language of the preparing of the ways we are to understand

the zeal of moral effort as referred to in that passage. Both of

these conditions of salvation are united, as they are here, in Ps.

xxvi.: the second has prominence given to it, for example, in Ps.

xv.; Ps. xxiv. As in the 12th verse, "who trusts in thee" cor-

58                      THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


responds to "who has his strength in thee," "who walk blame-  

lessly," in ver. 11, corresponds to "the ways in their hearts."

Luther's translation is not sufficiently exact: who walk after

thee from the heart; those of recent date are entirely false:

whose heart thinks upon the streets, the pilgrimages to Jerusalem.

The pilgrimages are in no respect suitable if the connection be

viewed correctly.  tvlsm does not mean ways generally, but

made roads, it means streets, not once the streets, which is still

much too vague.—The sense of ver. 6 is: to those whose mind is

in this state, suffering is turned into joy, misery into salvation.

"Wandering" is not, "although they wander," but "while they

wander." The stat. constr. stands, while, at the same time, the

preposition cannot be omitted: comp. at Ps. ii. 12. There is

a reference to the second half of the preceding verse: those who

have prepared the ways of their heart shall be prospered in regard

to their outward ways.  The valley, properly the depth, or the

deep, is an emblem of a low and miserable condition. Into such a

valley David found himself cast down from the height of his pro-

sperity in the time of Absalom. The old translators, with won-

derful agreement, give to xkb the sense of weeping; and even

the Massorah remarks that the x at the end stands instead of h.

Others, on the ground that the form with the x never occurs,

consider Baka as the name of a tree, which is mentioned in 2 Sam.

v. 23, 24, and the parallel passage in Chron., according to the old

translators, a mulberry tree, according to Celsus in Hierobot., a tree

something like the balsam shrub. If we adopt this view, we must

consider that the reason why the valley of the Baca tree is men-

tioned is, that the tree has its name from weeping;a so that in

reality the sense is the same as on the former view,—in the val- 

ley of the tear-shrubs. The appellation of Zalmon in Ps. lxviii.

14 is similar to this. Then, against the idea that the Baca tree

grows only in dry places, that the valley of Baca, therefore, simply

denotes such a place, it may be urged with effect that valleys are

not usually dry, and that the Baca tree, according to the only

passage in Scripture where it is mentioned, grew in the very fruit-

ful valley of Rephaim, Is.xvii. 6. In this case, also, instead of,

"they make it a well," we would have expected, "they make it

rich in wells." But that whole reference to the Baca trees must,


            a Abul Fadli:, in Celsus i. p. 330, says of the Arabian Baca tree: when its leaf is cut,

a certain tear drops from it, white, warm, sharp, yet of no virtue.

                         PSALM LXXXIV. VER. 1-4.                          59


in all probability, be given up. As nothing remains left of them

except the name, the naming of them is flat and trifling enough.

In the parallel, and, in all probability, fundamental passage, Ps.

xxiii. 4, there occurs also an appellative: even though I walk

through the valley of the shadow of death: comp. also Ps. cxxvi.

5, 6. The sweet fountain of salvation stands in marked, con-

trast to he bitter fountain of weeping. A valley of weep-

ing also occurs in Burkhardt ii. p. 977. Gesell.:  "after

you have advanced two hours, the valley for an hour gets, the

name of Wady Beka (            ) or the valley of the weeping,

 and, according to tradition, it got the name because a Be-

douin wept; when, as his enemy was pursuing him, his dro-

medary fell down, and he therefore could not follow his com-

panion.”a  We adopt, therefore, the vale of tears.b David

experienced what it was to wander in this valley of tears, when he

went up by Mount Olivet and wept, 2 Sam. xv. 30. As the val-

ley of weeping is an image of misery, the fountain is an image of

salvation. (Luther gives erroneously the plural instead of the

singular.) They make it, namely, inasmuch as they, by their

faith and their righteousness, call down the grace of God upon

them, or open the doors for the blessing. The Mg stands as in

ver. 2. The hFfy is the fut. in Kal as at Lev. xiii. 45, Jer.  

xliii. 12. The verb signifies always in Kal to be covered, even

in Lev. xiii. 45, Mich. iii. 7, with the accusative of the thing with

which any one is covered, here tvkrb, the plural, pointing to the

fulness and multiplicity of the blessing.  hrvm is the instructor,

the teacher, 2 Kings xvii: 28; Is. xxk. 20; Prov. v. 13. The ob-

ject of the teaching is to be taken from ver. 5:  who not only has

his own strength in the Lord, and his ways in his own heart, but

who also directs others to this, instructs them. This was David's

for example, Ps. xv., Ps. lxii. 3. The correct view is to be found

high calling and earnest endeavour, as his Psalms testify; comp:,

in Luther.  The translation which has hitherto been the common

one is altogether erroneous;  and the harvest-rain covers it with


            a Burkhardt knew nothing of the Baca trees growing in this valley, and Gesenius in

vain endeavcurs to propose them here contrary to the Arabic authorities.

            b Ven.:  A valley represents a depressed and abject condition; a valley of tears must

therefore represent such a condition in connection with much misery, and affording very

little consolation, or none at all.

60                  THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


blessing. For the hrvm signifies always "teaching," or "teach-

er," never "rain," or "early rain," which is always hrvy, with

the single exception of Joel ii. 23, where, however, hrvm is used

in the sense of the early rain, only on account of the similarity

in sound to the hrvm, which occurs immediately before in its or-

dinary sense; comp. the Christol. on the passage. The hFf  

occurs only once in Hiph., in Kal throughout quite generally.

The tvkrb, would not have stood without the preposition, had it

not been that hFf is so constantly used with the accusative of the

thing with which one is covered, that there is no danger of mistake.

The omission of the suffix referring to the valley would be harsh.—

The hxry, in ver. 7 is power, might, ability; comp. "In God we

shall get ability, and he will tread down our enemies," in Ps. xl.

12. From strength to strength, the Berleb.; from one degree of

strength to another.  Comp. Jer. ix. 2, Ps. cxliv. 3. The sub-

ject in hxry, is, as is apparent, the teacher. The lx in the

phrase "to appear before God," elsewhere rarely used, is se-

lected with reference to the second clause; from strength to

strength, and finally to God in Zion. Everywhere the faithful

appear then praising and giving thanks, after their sufferings have

been brought to a close. Comp. ver. 4. That there is here a

special reference to the violent separation of the Psalmist from

the sanctuary, is evident on comparing Ps. xliii. 3.a

            The prayer in ver. 8-14 follows the meditation.—Ver. 8. 0

Lord, God, God of hosts, hear my prayer, accept it, 0 God of

Jacob. Selah. Ver. 9. Thou, our shield, behold now, 0 God,

and look upon the face of thine anointed. Ver. 10. For a

day in thy courts is better than, a thousand (elsewhere). I will

rather lie at the threshold in the house of my God than dwell in

the tents of wickedness. Ver. 11. For a sun and shield is the

Lord, God, the Lord gives grace and glory, he denies no

good to those who walk blamelessly. Ver. 12. 0 Lord of

hosts, blessed is the man who trusteth in thee.—"Our shield" in

ver. 9 (comp. at Ps. iii. 3) shews, as "God of Jacob" in ver. 8

had already done, that in the one person the whole people is ex-

posed to danger. It is emphatically placed foremost, because on


            a Luther, after the example of the Septuagint, as if the reading were lxe, translates

"the God of Gods," and therefore wholly misunderstands the passage.

                        PSALM LXXXIV. VER. 8-42.                       61


it the assurance of the answer to the prayer depends. The trans-

lation, "look upon our shield," is altogether at fault. The 11th

verse is sufficient proof against it.--On "behold," comp. 2 Kings

xix. 16, "0 Lord, thine ear and hear, open, 0 Lord, thine

eyes and behold," where the object to be heard and seen is more

particularly described. "The whole forementioned state of

things " is what must be supplied. The face of the anointed is,

his humble supplicatory face. "Thine anointed" contains in

it the basis of the prayer: my face, because I am thine anoint-

ed, comp. Ps. xviii. 50, cxxxii. 10.—The Psalmist, in ver. 10,

gives the reason why he turns to the Lord with beseeching prayer,

why his highest wish is that he may help him: impart to me thy

favour and help me, for to be in thy favour is the highest of all

good. The "for" by which the verse is connected with the pre-

ceding one, is fatal to the idea, that it is not the Anointed that

is praying for himself, but the Psalmist that is praying for his

king, and also to the supposition, that the expressions which

refer to the house of God are to be interpreted, externally. This

view could not be held unless it were the case that the Psalmist,

in the preceding context, had been praying for restoration to the

outward sanctuary. Ver. 12, however, would not in this case be

suitable. Than a thousand,—which are spent elsewhere, in the

world, and in pursuit of its pleasures.  At the expression, "I

will rather, lie at the door," like Lazarus at the door of the rich

man, I will rather be content with the most despised place in the

kingdom of God, the most distant relation to him and to his

grace, we must suppose added, "if it cannot be otherwise, if God

does not permit me to a nearer approach to him." There is not

here any expression of unpretending modesty and humility, as

Calvina supposes; but an expression of the very high sense which

the Psalmist had of the value of the grace of God in salvation, above

all the pleasures and all the means of support furnished by the

world. Instead of the mere "dwelling," Luther has falsely sub-

stituted "long dwelling." We are to think of a dwelling whether

as an inhabitant or as a client, and of wickedness, as richly fur-


            a “A rare example of piety. For although many desire for themselves a place in the

Church, yet ambition is so prevalent that few are content to remain in the common

number. For almost all are so hurried on by the mad desire of rising higher, that they

cannot remain at rest unless they occupy a prominent place.”

62                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


nished with all human means as was the case with the enemies

of David in the time of Absalom.a  We have the same thought

in another form in Ps: iv. 7.--In the 11th verse, we have the

reason assigned why the favour of God is the best gift; whoever

has him for a friend, receives in due season a fulness of gifts, and

may therefore be comforted and happy even in misery. A sun

and a shield, that is, deliverance and protection. Instead of the

figure of the sun, the more common one in other passages is usu-

ally that of light; comp. especially Ps. xxvii. 1; still there oc-

cur the passages, Is. lx. 19, 20, Mal. iii. 20, Rev. xxi. 23, of a

kindred nature to the one before us. Arnd: As the natural sun

is the light, life, and joy of all natural things, so God himself is

the light of all those who dwell in his house, their salvation; and

the strength of their life.  But the Lord is not only a sun, he is

also a shield,—such a protection as covers the body and soul like

a shield, so that no murderous weapon of the devil and of men

can strike and mortally wound us." By grace is meant the ef-

fects and gifts of grace, deliverance from enemies, &c. On glory,

comp. at Ps. xlix. 16; and on "walk in a blameless," for as a

blameless man, at Ps. xv. 2.



                                       PSALM LXXXV.


            The contents of the Psalm are made up of a prayer on the

part of the people, for deliverance during long protracted misery.

The prayer rises first in ver. 1-4, upon the foundation of the

early grace of God; after this it is more fully developed in ver;

5-7, and thus the number seven of this first strophe is divided

into a four and a three. The second strophe, which contains the

promise of deliverance, consist exactly of the same length. Only

there is wanting a verse at the conclusion, which, as in Ps. lxxxi.,

is to be supplied from the title; and we are thus reminded of

Hab. iii. 19, where the usual appendage borrowed from the titles

of the Psalms stands at the close.

            It has been generally supposed that the people gives thanks in


            a Ven.: It is not any tents, or tents of any kind, that are understood, but rich, power-

ful, glorious, and splendid tents.

                                    PSALM LXXXV.                              63


ver. 1-3, for restoration from captivity; and after this, in ver 7,

prays to the Lord to complete the work which he had begun, to

remove entirely his anger from the people, and to put them in full

possession of deliverance. But the idea that vers. 1-3 refer to re-

storation from captivity, depends altogether upon a wrong transla-

tion of the phrase tvbw bw in ver. 1.  This never means to

bring back the prisoners, not even, to turn the captivity, but al-

ways to turn back to the prison, that is, to the misery (comp. at

Ps. xiv. 7; and this translation is especially demanded here by

the vnbvw, in ver. 4, and the bvwt, in verse 6. The clause at

the beginning "thou hast shewn thyself merciful to thy land,"

is altogether against the reference to the Babylonish captivity.

“These words," remarks Claus with correctness, "appear much

rather to suit a time when the people dwelt in their land, and

had been visited with severe punishment." Further, the forgive-

ness and the sheaving of favour in ver. 1-3, are of a universal

character, just as then the wrath is completely removed, so

in ver. 4-7 the people still lie completely under wrath. Ver. 1-3

cannot therefore be considered as referring to events of recent oc-  

currence, but to transactions of a remote age: Luther correctly

gives: thou who hast been gracious in the days of old. The

people cannot be considered as praying at ver. 4, &c., that the

Lord would complete a work, which, according to ver. 1-3, had

been begun, but that he would anew act at the present time as he

had done in the the days of old.

            The Psalm will not bear an historical exposition:  The descrip-

tion of the distress out of which the people had been delivered, is

conveyed in terms which are entirely general; and in like man-  

ner, there are no individual references in the representation of

the relations of the present. In the confident expectations en-

tertained of deliverance, the prominence given to peace would

seem to point to an oppression which had arisen from enemies;

while, on the other hand, "the land gives it increase," especially

when viewed in, connection with the fundamental passage, Lev.

xxvi. 4, appears to indicate that the distress had arisen from a

failure of the crops. We are hence entitled to draw the conclu-  

sion that the Psalm was designed for the use of all times of pro-  

tracted distress—of all times in which men did not witness the ful-

filment of the promise of Levi xxvi. 3-13; the bringing to re-

64                      THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


membrance of which was evidently the design of the second part.

The time of composition cannot be determined; the title, "To

the Chief Musician by the sons of Korah, a Psalm," gives as little

clue to this as it does to the contents of the Psalm.

            The introduction, ver. 1-4, is entirely similar to the introduc-

tion in Ps. ix., and also in Ps. xl.: compare also Ps. lxxxiii. 9-1.

There cannot be given any more solid foundation for a prayer in

which it is desired that God should do something, than to ap-

peal to what he has already done, inasmuch as, just because he

is the unchangeable God, those deeds which proceed from the ne-

cessity of his being, partake of a prophetic character.—Ver. 1.

Thou didst manifest thyself gracious, 0 Lord, to thy land.

Thou didst turn back to the prison house of Jacob. Ver. 2

Thou didst take away the iniquity of thy people, thou didst

cover all their sins. Selah. Ver. 3. Thou didst take away all

thy wrath, thou didst cease from the fury of thine anger. Ver.

4. Turn back therefore to us, 0 God, our. Saviour, and cause thy

wrath against us to cease.—Every man is left at liberty to think

upon one of great examples of the divine compassion in the days

of old. The pause after ver. 1, pointed out by the Selah, is in-

tended to bind ver. 2 and 3 closely together, and in this way to

intimate that every thing said of the early grace of God was only

designed to serve the object of giving a basis to the prayer for

new grace. The bywh stands in ver, 3, absol. to cease from, as

in Ez. xviii. 30,32. It is evident from Ez. xiv. 6, that this usage

is properly dependant upon an omission,—to turn back the face

or the heart: compare on such frequent omissions of the object in

Hiph. Ew. § 239: Maurer's translation, "thou hast stilled in

part thine anger," is not only "unnatural," but is contradicted

in one breath by the Psalmist: all their sins, all thy wrath. Al-

lusion is made to Ex. xxxii. 12, where Moses says to God: turn

back from the fierceness of thy wrath. This prayer was at that

time graciously heard.—The bvw, with the accusative has always

the sense of to turn back: compare at Ps. xiv. 7. The vnmf be-

longs to the verb: make it in our case to cease; compare vmfm,

from beside him, so that it is no longer near him, in Ps. lxxxix.

33. To connect the noun with the verb of indignation by the Mf,

is not usual.

            Ver. 5-7.—Ver. 5. Wilt thou then be angry with us for ever?

                      PSALM LXXXV. VER. 5-11.                            65


prolong thine anger to all generations? Ver. 6. Wilt thou not

turn back, quicken us, and shall not thy people rejoice in thee?

Ver. 7. Let us behold, 0 Lord, thy mercy, and give us thy sal-

vation.—On ver. 5, Berleb.:  "The question supplicates or is put

in this mournful form, with a view to move the heart of God, who,

in virtue of his fatherly love, could not possibly fail to return a

favourable answer." Michaelis: "while thine anger on other

occasions lasts only one moment," Ps. xxx. 5: comp. Ex. xxxiv.

3, 6.—The bvwt in ver. 6 cannot, from ver. 1 and 5, be con-

strued as an adverb, it rather stands in immediate connection with

vnyyHt: on this word comp. Ps. lxxx. 18; Deut. xxxii. 39;

Hos. vi. 21 The return of God is the indispensable condition and

means of quickening. The "thy people" contains the basis of

the prayer. To rejoice in their God (comp. Ps. v. 11, xl. 16) is

essential to the being of the people of God.

            Ver. 8-11.—Ver. 8. I will hear what God the Lord speaks.

For he speaks peace to his pious ones, only that they return not;

to foolishness.  Ver. 9. Truly salvation is near to those who

fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. Ver. 10. Mercy

and truth meet each other, righteousness and peace embrace each

other. Ver. 11. Truth springs from the earth, and righteous-

ness looks) from heaven.—It is not the Psalmist that speaks in

ver. 8, but the people, as in the fourth and following verses, and in

the whole psalm; and the answer is got by the same party from

whom the question and the prayer had proceeded. lxh is equi-

valent to "our God," comp. Ps. 20.  The "for" contains

the basis of the zeal and the joy (I will hear) with which the

people prepares to listen. The church has already observed, that

the answer to her prayer is a favourable one.  In reference to

the speeches of God, the Berleb. Bible: "Dost thou ask how

this happens? Know that it happens in the simplest and surest

of all ways, by his own holy and good spirit, when he imparts to

the soul such good instruction and impression as that thus it

learns to know his will. He speaks, therefore, nothing else than

what already stands in the Bible, and only brings to remembrance

what he had already said, and caused to be written. He ex-

plains it, points it out, and applies it to the condition of souls

and to all circumstances." It has been already observed, that

the address of God here is, in particular, nothing else than a re-

66                     THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


petition of Lev. xxvi. 3-13. If that passage be compared, it

will immediately be perceived, that by the peace nothing else is

understood than protection against enemies, with which in that

passage also the fertility of the land is conjoined as the second gift

of a gracious God. The clause designed to be read with emphasis

"to his saints," following up the expression of a previous verse,

"to his people," and the still more definite clause, "and they may

not return to foolishness," i. e., "but that only they do not return,"

indicate that as the fundamental promise, so here every thing

expressly and repeatedly is made dependant on obedience to the

commandments of God, and also that the promise drawn from it is

throughout a conditional one, the new salvation rests throughout

upon the foundation of the new obedience. Comp. Ps. lxxx. 18.

Inasmuch as this was always imperfect, the people of the Old

Testament never obtained full possession of the blessings here

promised.—The j`x in ver. 9 is the particle of assurance: comp.

at Ps. lviii. 12.--On the 10th and 11th verses many errors have

been fallen into in regard to the subject matter, from not ob-

serving that the language from the relation in which the passage  

stands to the first part cannot possibly apply to any thing else

than to the gifts of God: we have there what the Lord has for-

merly fulfilled and ought now to perform, and here what he is

about to perform, exactly in accordance with "he speaks peace

to his people," of ver. 8, and with the fundamental passage.—

The mercy in ver. 10 is the mercy of God, the truth therefore

can be nothing but his truth. For both the mercy and the truth

of God occur thus bound up together, (comp. for example Ps.

xxv. 10; xl. 11; lxi. 7), and if the truth were to be viewed in

connection with men, it would be necessary to define it more

exactly.a  The meeting each other, and the kissing, denote si-

multaneous appearance and friendly agreement. The righteous-

ness, as is evident from the parallelism with the first clause, and

ver. 11, is not subjective righteousness, but righteousness as the

gift of God, the matter-of-fact proclamation of righteousness;

comp. at Ps. xxiii. 3.—The righteousness springs out of the

earth, ver. 11, as to its consequences, in the rich increase, which

God, always consistent in word and deed, gives to the land;


            a Cocceius: "the former denotes paternal love and its gifts, the opposites of anger,

enmity, and condemnation, the latter the exhibition and the fulfilment of the promises."

                          PSALM LXXXVI.                                   67


comp. “our land gives its increase,” ver. 12, which serves as a

commentary. To "the righteousness looks down from heaven,"

that is, descending in blessings upon the people of God, we have

there the corresponding clause, "the Lord gives what is good."

Is. xiv. 8 is parallel and probably dependent upon this passage:

“drop down ye heavens from above, and let the skies pour down

righteousness, let the earth open, and let it bring forth salvation,

and let it cause righteousness to spring up together.”

            Ver.  2, 13.—Ver. 12. The Lord also gives what is good,

and our land gives it increase. Ver. 13. Righteousness goes

forth before him and makes her footsteps a way.—On the second

half of the 12th verse comp. Ps. lxvii. 6. Here as there the

words are from Lev. xxvi. 4.—The way to the right interpreta-

tion of the second half of ver. 13 has been obstructed by per-

versely interpreting righteousness in a moral sense. Righteous-

ness makes her footsteps for a way (comp, Is. li. 10), and thus

we are enabled to walk in the ways of righteousness and salva-

tion, comp. at Ps. xxiii. 3.



                                     PSALM LXXXVI.


            The Psalmist grounds his prayer for assistance upon the mercy

and forgiving love of God towards his own people, according to

which he cannot overlook their misery or permit their prayer to

be unheard, ver. 1-5, then turning from what is the first of the

enemies of trust in God in trouble, viz., doubt as to his willingness

to help, to what is the second, viz., doubt as to his ability, he grounds

it next upon the omnipotence and glory of God—so great that in

future times all the heathen will do homage to him their creator, ver.

6-10. To these foundations there is added a third in ver. 11-13,

the early inexpressible grace of God: inasmuch as God formerly

delivered him from the jaws of death, how should he not now

help him and should not the Psalmist confidently hope for his

assistance? The prayer and the representation of the distress up

to this point have been set forth only incidentally and in con-

nection with the representation of the grounds of the confidence;

now, however, that these last had been completely given, they

break forth in an independent and developed form, ver. 14-17.

68                     THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


            The Psalm is divided into two strophes. The number ten of

the first is divided by a five, the number seven of the second by

a four and a three. The first strophe gives the general grounds

of confidence, and in the second the prayer follows upon the

special grounds.

            The title, "a Prayer of David," is justified as far as the first

part of it is concerned, by the circumstance that the Psalm, in

point of form, bears throughout a devotional and supplicatory

character; it never sinks down from prayer to meditation, comp.

on hlpt at Ps. xc., where the meditation gives rise to ad-

dresses to God of unwonted frequency. It has been objected

against the second part of the title that the Psalm, in consequence

of the numerous borrowed passages which it contains, is mani-

festly the production of a later date. But the circumstance that

the passages, with the exception of those from the Pentateuch;

are all borrowed from the Davidic Psalms, and none from later

productions, shews that we must keep by the era of David, and

at the same time leads to the idea,—an idea which we shall find

confirmed by subsequent examination,—that the borrowed pass-

ages originated not in feebleness but in design.

            The situation in the life of David may with certainty be ascer-

tained. The Psalmist finds himself in misery, deprived of all

human help, ver. 1; his life is endangered by a band of proud,

violent, ungodly men, ver. 2, 14, after God, at an early period,

had shewn towards him great mercy, and had delivered his soul

out of the deep hell, ver. 13. As the last passage manifestly

refers to his deliverance from the hand of Saul, we are here

limited to those dangers to which he was exposed in the time of


            It is very probable that this Psalm was sung by the Sons of

Korah from the soul of David, when they accompanied him in

his banishment. This was manifestly the case with Ps. xlii., xliii.,

and lxxxiv., and the composition by the Sons of Korah, which it

was necessary should be there expressly marked, as Ps. xlii. and

xliii. open the series of the Korahitic Elohim-Psalms, and Ps.

lxxxiv. the series of the Kor. Jehovah-Psalms, is in the case before

us determined with equal certainty by the position of the Psalm in

the middle of the Korahitic Psalms, from which, the title got its

necessary supplement. The prayer, however, is David's, not

                         PSALM LXXXVI. VER. 1-5.                       69


only because it was intended for him, and was sung from his

soul, the Korahites did no more than give back to him what

they had got from him; but also because the poem is throughout

interwoven with quotations from the Davidic Psalms. This fact

is much more easily explained if we suppose one of the sons of

Korah rather than David himself to have been the author. It

must have gone to David's heart to have been comforted with

words which he had either addressed to his own afflicted soul in

troubles which the Lord had gloriously averted, or with which he

had comforted others. The tenderness of feeling which charac-

terizes the other Psalms which the sons of Korah sang to their  

afflicted king, is so very marked in this case that it is impossible

to overlook it.

            It has been objected to the Psalm that the sentiment is not

at all of a noble character, the poet  boasts of his piety. This

objection has been met in our remarks upon other Psalms, in re-

ference to which it has, been in like manner brought forward;

comp. for example Ps. xvii., xviii: It is a very preposterous ob-

jection to be urged against one who founds his hope entirely upon

the forgiving mercy of God, comp. ver. 5, 15.

            Ver. 1--5.—Ver. 1. Incline, 0 Lord, thine ear, hear me, for

I am miserable and poor.  Ver. 2. Protect my soul, for I am

pious, deliver thy servant, 0 thou my God, who trusts in thee.

Ver. 3. Be gracious to me, 0 God, for I cry to thee continually.

Ver. 4. Rejoice the soul of thy servant, for to thee, 0 Lord, I

draw my soul. Ver 5. For thou; 0 Lord, art good and for-

giving, and rich in mercy for all who call upon thee.—In ver. 1.

the misery is not considered as forming of itself a sufficient basis

for the prayer,—this basis is supplemented in what follows. I

am miserable, and (what is equivalent to being one of thy ser-

vants) full of trust in thee, seeking help from thee alone, and

thou art rich in goodness and forgiving mercy towards those who

are thine. This goodness and compassion of God is the proper

ground of hope, comp. ver. 15; the piety and trust of the

Psalmist merely denote the condition of its development.—Ver.

14 forms a commentary upon the "protect my soul " of ver. 2. In

reference to dysH comp. at Ps. iv. 3.a —The "I draw my soul to,


            a On "who trusts in thee," Calvin: "We know that some were endued with that

measure of integrity that they have obtained among men the praise of the highest:

70                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


thee," in ver. 4, is to be considered as understood with marks of

quotation. It forms the beginning of Ps. xxv.—The "forgiving,"

in ver. 5 is related to the "good," as the species to the genus:

God would not be good if he did not forgive to his people their

sins of infirmity.

            Ver. 6-10.—Ver. 6. Accept, 0 God, my prayer, and attend

to the voice of my supplication. Ver. 7. In the day of my

calamity I cry to thee, for thou wilt hear me. Ver. 8. There

is none like to thee among the gods, 0 Lord, and there is nothing

like thy work. Ver. 9. All the heathen whom thou hast made

shall come and worship before thee, 0 Lord, and give the glory

to thy name. Ver. 10. For thou art great and doest wonders,

thou, 0 God alone.—The plural feminine from tvnvnHt, which

does not elsewhere occur, is one constructed by the Psalmist

for the purpose of imprinting still more distinctly upon the word

the character of weakness and entreaty.--In ver. 7, assurance of

being heard is given as the basis of the cry to God in trouble:

for thou shalt hear me, certainly not: would that thou wert will-

ing to hear me. The basis on which this confidence rests is given

in ver. 8-10, in the reference there made to the glory and omni-

potence of God: no man can hinder his work, &c.—Before ver. 8,

according to this remark, for is in reality to be supplied. The

verse reads literally: there is not (a God) as thou (art) among the

gods, and there are not (works) as (are) thine. The fundamental

passages are Ex. xv. 11, "who is like thee, 0 Lord, among the

gods," and Deut. iii. 24, "where is there a god in heaven and upon

the earth, who does according to thy works and according to thy

great deeds. On "among the gods," Calvin:  "Should any one

assert that it is unseemly to compare God to the empty fictions,

the answer is easy, the discourse is accommodated to the ignorance


equity: as Aristides boasted that he had given occasion of grief to none. But because

these men, along with the excellency of their virtues, were either filled with ambition or

so inflated with pride, that they trusted in themselves rather than in God, it is not won-

derful that they paid the penalty of their vanity; just as in reading profane histories we

foolishly wonder how it happened that God exposed honourable, grave, and self-denying

men to the multitude of the wicked; whereas trusting to their own virtue, they despised

in their sacrilegious pride the grace of God. For whereas their virtue was the idol which

they worshipped, they did not condescend to lift their eyes to God. Therefore although

we maintain a good conscience, and God can be appealed to as the highest attestator of

our innocence, yet if we desire his aid, we must cast our hopes and our cares upon


                             PSALM LXXXVI. VER. 6-10.                      71


of men, because we know how daringly superstitious men raise

their whims above the heavens. David casts contempt in a

forcible manner upon their stupidity, inasmuch as they manu-

facture gods which in no way are attested to be gods." That

thus, "among the gods," is to be understood as if it were "among

the imaginary gods," is clear from the 9th verse, where even

the heathen belong to the works of God, whose gods therefore

have no domain left them on which to exercise any power. In the

parallel assages, Ps. xviii. 31, "for who is God save the Lord," 2

Sam. viii 22, "there is no God besides thee" (in a preceding

clause as here: there is no God like thee), divinity and therefore

existence is denied to all other gods.—In ver. 9, for the purpose of

intimating the transcendant greatness of God, it is mentioned

that at a future time all the heathen shall serve him; comp.

Zeph. ii. 11, "and men shall worship him, every one from his

place, all the isles of the heathen," Zech. xiv. 9, 16, and the

Christol. on the last passage. How should such a God not hear

the supplication of his servant! The expression, "whom thou

hast made," incidentally refers to the ground of the hope of the

future conversion of the heathen. To be and not to be conscious

of being cannot always continue apart; the creature must neces-

sarily, at a future period, return to a state of obedience to its

Creator. Comp. Ps. xx. 28, where the announcement that the

heathen shall, at a future period, do homage to the Lord, is

founded on the fact that he alone is lawful King of the earth.

We here see what a fulness of prophetical matter, and of joyful

expectation of the dawning of the day of knowledge, even in the

midst of the dark night of error which covered the earth, was

furnished by the sound doctrines in regard to the creation, which

meet us, as it were, at the very threshold of the sacred Scripture.

The expression, "whom thou hast made," ought always to lift us

to blessed confidence, as often as the state of the world before

God, falls heavily upon our souls. The proper basis of the confi-

dence, however, is given in ver. 10. God, God alone is great,

and does wonderful deeds, and this his greatness manifesting it-

self in wonderful deeds, cannot but produce a lasting impression.

The heathen shall at a future time come and honour his name,

the product of his deeds. The hammer of the greatness of God

will break the rock of their hearts.

72                      THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


            Vers. 11-13. But the Lord has given to the Psalmist (0 that

he did but lay them to heart) special pledges of acceptance and

deliverance. He has already brought him once from death to life:

how should he not now prevent his death! The Psalmist not

merely as one considering, but as one praying, makes mention of

the former favour of God, and his heart is full of confidence.—Ver.

11. Teach me, 0 Lord, thy way, I will walk in thy truth, in-

cline my heart that I may fear thy name. Ver. 12. I will

praise thee, 0 Lord my God, with my whole heart, and honour

eternally thy name. Ver. 13. For thy grace has been great to-

wards me, and thou didst deliver my soul out of deep hell.--

"Teach me thy way, 0 Lord," in ver. 11, is borrowed word for

word from Ps. xxvii. 11. As the quotation here is undoubtedly

designed, the way of the Lord must have the same meaning here

which it has there—viz., his guidance, the way of salvation along

which he leads his people. The Psalmist had already, in fulfil-

ment of the prayer of Ps. xxvii. 11, learned this way externally,

but he prays, judiciously applying the sense of Ps. xxvii. 11, that

the Lord would teach him inwardly also, still more perfectly this

way, would lead him heartily and fully to appreciate the grace

which had been vouchsafed to him as being the only ground on

which hope can grow. The truth of God is always the truth (comp.

Ps. xxx. 9) which belongs to God, the agreement between word and

deed as manifested in the experience of his people, never the truth

which he desires, and which is well-pleasing to him, or faithfulness

towards him; comp. at Ps xxv. 5. To walk in the truth of God sig-

nifies, according to the fundamental passage, Ps. xxv. 3, to be al-

ways mindful of it. David had there represented walking in the

truth of God, as the condition of deliverance, He is tenderly re-

minded of this here by the sons of Korah. They pray out of his

soul; as thou hast led me in thy truth, Ps. xxv. 5, as thou hast

richly manifested this in my experience, so may I also turn to my

own words (Ps. xxvi. 3), walk in it, meditate on it with my whole

heart. That the fear of the Lord, for which the Psalmist prays

in the last clause, is reverential gratitude for the manifestation of

the glory of the Lord in his experience, is evident, not only from the

second clause, but also from the first clause of ver. 12, which may

be considered as a commentary on the expression. The fear here

corresponds to the praise there. The fear of the name of the

                     PSALM LXXXVI. VER. 14-17.                          73


Lord exists already in the Psalmist's heart, but lie feels that

it is not there in a perfect state; he prays to the Lord, therefore,

that he would unite his heart to fear his name, i. e., that he would

fill it in all its parts with reverential gratitude, that he would en-

tirely remove from him the intervening ground between the torrid

and the frigid zone; comp. "I will praise thee with my whole

heart," in ver. 12, Ps. xii. 2, James iv. 8.—Ver. 13 points more

distinctly and clearly than the preceding one, to the mighty deli-

verance in the time of Saul, with allusion to Ps. 13, where,

in a Psalm of David's, composed at this time, we read: "for

thou hast delivered my soul from death, so that I walk before

God in the land of the living;" comp. also Ps. xviii. 5, "the

cords of hell compassed me about, the snares of death surprised

me."  It is impossible to translate with Ew. "the deepest hell,"

but only "the under hell," or "the hell deep below;" comp.

Deut. xxxii. 22.

            Ver. 14-17: the developed prayer.—Ver. 14. 0 God, the

proud rise against me, and the band of the violent stands

against my soul, and they do not set thee before their eyes.

Ver. 15. And thou; 0 Lord, art a God, compassionate and

gracious, long-suffering, and of great mercy and truth. Ver.

16. Turn thyself to me, and be gracious unto me, give thy

strength to thy servant, and help the son of thine handmaid.

Ver. 17. Perform to me a sign for good, that those may see it

who hate me, and be ashamed, because thou, Lord, assistest me,

and comfortest me.—Ver. 14 is copied quite literally from Ps.

liv. 3.  The effect in David's case must have been very striking,

when those very same words were here put into his lips in this

new distress, which had been used by himself so nobly on a for-

mer ocasion. The "violent," who at that time sought after his

soul, were now at rest in their graves. The most remarkable of

the variations (these always occur in such cases), is that Mydz,

proud, occurs instead of Myrz, strangers, barbarians (comp. at

Ps. xix. 13), and instead of the violent, the band of the violent,

the plural form being retained, which points back to the original

text. The conspiracy of Absalom is more exactly indicated by

this expression than by the mere word violent. Even the Elo- 

him is transposed from the original passage in which the Psalmist

removes his refuge away from the earth, where he is defenceless,

74                     THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


to heaven, flees to God that he may undertake for him in opposition

to men.—In ver. 15, the Psalmist turns back once more to the

basis. He holds up before God the great comforting expression

which had been made use of in Ex. xxxiv. 6. "Towards thine

own" must be supplied; comp. ver. 5.—The son of an hand-

maid, ver. 16, is a home-born slave; comp. Ex. xxiii. 12. As it is

incumbent upon the servant that he serve the Lord, it is the duty

of the Lord to help and protect the servant.—The sign which

the Psalmist asks in ver. 17, is a matter-of-fact attestation of the

divine favour. Neither the sense of the word nor the connection

admits of a miraculous sign. What the Psalmist speaks of, ac-

cording to the preceding context, and the conclusion of the Psalm,

is simply help and comfort, by which his enemies may see, that

it is not without good ground that he calls God his God. For good,

for prosperity, comp. Ps. xvi. 2. In the last words (not, while

thou helpest me, in this case the tenses would not be preterites),

the Psalmist grounds his prayer upon confidence, with an expres-

sion of which the Psalm appropriately closes. The preterites are

to be explained by the strength of the faith which anticipates the




                               PSALM LXXXVII.


            Zion, the much valued city of God, is protected and honoured

by him, ver. 1-3. The fulness of the heathen shall one day en-

ter into it, find in it their true home, and all the fountains of

their salvation, ver. 4-7. Ver. 1-3, the contents of which are

general, are to be considered as forming the introduction. The

main thought is that contained in ver. 4-7, the glorifying of Sion

by the reception of the heathen into the number of its citizens;

and a well-defined form and arrangement of this thought forms

the proper kernel of the Psalm, viz., "Sion, the birth-place of

the nations," which occurs in every one of the three verses (4-6),

which are bounded by a Selah behind and before.

            The formal arrangement is, upon the whole, easily discerned;

the number seven of the verses is divided by a three and a four.

(Ver. 7, as far as the main idea is concerned, is intimately con-

nected with ver. 3-6; it contains the praises of Sion as sung by

                               PSALM LXXXVII.                              75


its new citizens.) If we search deeper, it is manifest that the

numbering pervades the words as well as the verses. The whole

is grouped mind the 4th verse, which stands in the middle, and

contains twelve words. The three preceding verses have the

numbers 7, 7, 5, and the three following verses have exactly the

same (in ver. 5 the wyxv wyx is considered as one word, and in

like manner the hb-dly).  If we consider the 7 and the 5 as the

broken 12, the whole becomes characterised by the 7 and the 12,

the signature of the covenant, and of the people of the covenant.

The seven is, according to common rule, divided by the three

and the four. Everything here agrees too harmoniously toge-

ther to admit of the arrangement being the result of chance.

The view is one of considerable importance in more respects

than one. Thus it attests the originality of the Title in

ver. 1, and, consequently, of the titles generally; for the title

forms part if the artificial structure of the Psalm, a structure

which falls, to pieces as soon as the title is removed. In like

manner it sets aside arbitrary attempts, such as that of Ewald,

who magnanimously endeavours to cover over out of his own re-

sources, the pretended defect at the beginning of the Psalm. And

it also explains, adequately, the very concise form of expression

throughout the Psalms which certainly looks like one, the words

of which had been numbered.

            The title furnishes no means for expounding historically the

Psalm. For the song of the Sons of Korah, to whom it is as-

signed, was heard at very different times. Yet an historical ex- 

position is demanded by the contents. For hopes such as those

here expressed, suppose some actual occasion by which their flame,

always glimmering under the ashes, might be kindled up in the 

soul of a prophet, or of a Psalmist who is particularly depend-

ent upon such actual occasions. These actual occasions are of a

twofold character: either the depth of misery, the sad contrast

between the idea of the people of God, and their appearance,

which powerfully constrains heaven-enraptured souls to seek com-

pensation in the future, and opens their spiritual eye to behold

the glory pointed out to them by God, (this is the history of the

Messianic prospects immediately before the exile, during it, and

shortly after its close), or some great present salvation, in which

the believing soul sees a prelude and a pledge of the perfection of

76                      THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


salvation, and by which it is lifted up to the active exercise of

hope in regard to it. The spirit and tone of the Psalm render

it manifest that it was an occasion of the latter kind, as at Ps.

lxviii. lxxii., that existed in the case before us; the former is, ge-

nerally speaking, rather prophetic than lyric; poetry is depend-

ant upon the popular tone of mind, and is drawn forth by it,

while prophecy corrects it. The whole character of the Psalm

agrees with the title, which designates it a Song of Praise. There

are no traces of tears recently dried up in the clear countenance

of the Psalmist, as there were, for example, in that of Jeremiah,

when he began to sing the song of Israel's deliverance. Triumph-

ant joy pervades it from beginning to end.

            If we endeavour to define more closely the historical occasion,

every thing leads us to the joyful events under Hezekiah. We

cannot fix upon an earlier time. For before this time Babylon

could not have been named, as it is here, as being, next to Egypt,

the representative of the power of the world. Its rising grandeur

became first known in the time of Hezekiah. In the forty-eighth

Psalm, which was composed by David, Egypt and Cush still ap-

pear, ver. 31, 32, as the representatives of the might of the

world: in Asia at that time it had no adequate representative.  

Further, the name Rahab, haughtiness, pride, by which Egypt

is here designated, occurs for the first time in Is. xxx. 7, in a

prophecy belonging to the time of the Assyrian oppression un-

der Hezekiah, and this passage is undoubtedly the fundamental

one on which the others, the passage before us and Ps. lxxxix. 11,

depend,—the name does not occur in Is. li. 9, 10: comp. at Ps.

lxxiv. 13. Isaiah indicates pretty clearly that he is the author

of the name, when he says: therefore I call it Rahab. And in

like manner, we cannot come down to a later time. The deliver-

ance under Hezekiah is the last great joyful event previous to

the captivity; and the name by which Egypt is here designated

forbids us again to descend to a period later than that event.

The name "haughtiness," "pride," was suitable only so long as

Egypt continued to be a formidable power (and that Rahab is to

be explained in this way is manifest from Job ix. 13; xxvi. 12;

Is. li. 9; comp. at Ps. lxxiv. 13, besides Is. xxx. 7); the word

is never applied to a ferocious aquatic animal, a sea monster;

by the battle at Karkemish or Circesium on the Euphrates, the

                                  PSALM LXXXVII.                           77


haughtiness of Egypt was humbled, its pride was broken. The

name appears, indeed, in Ps. lxxxix. 11, but only in reference to

the haughtiness and pride of the past, the incarnation of which

was Pharaoh in the time of Moses: but here the allusion is that

even this still haughty and proud power shall take upon itself the

yoke of the Lord,—Rahab,—Egypt, with all its haughtiness and

pride.—Further, it is evident from Ps. xlvi., lxxv., lxxvi., which

were all composed at this time, that the Psalm-poetry received a

mighty impulse from the events under Hezekiah, and was at that

time awakened out of its long slumber. The first of these Psalms,

like the one now before us, belongs to the sons of Korah, and

shows that these men at that time,were found among the organs

by whom the joy of inspired men and the confidence of the

people received their adequate expressions. This Korahitic

Jehovah Psalm is intimately connected with that Korahitic

him-Psalm, not only in spirit and tone, which it possesses in com-

mon with Ps. xlviii. and xlviii., the ancient models after which the-

Korahitic Psalms of the time of Hezekiah were composed, but

also in particular expressions, such as the praise of Zion (comp.

Ps. xlvi. 4, 5,with ver. 1-3 here), the name "the city of God,"

which is given to it here (comp. ver. 4 there with ver. 3 here), and

the words "he establishes it," here in ver. 5, and there in ver. 5.

 —If we suppose the Psalm to have been composed on the occasion

referred to, it will appear quite intelligible that the Psalmist should,

break out so suddenly at the beginning with praise of the security

of Sion: he merely lends his mouth in this case to the full heart

of the people; verse second also, "The Lord loveth the gates of

of Sion more than all the dwellings of Jacob," is seen in its true light,

for this preference for Sion was at that time verified—its gates

remained closed upon the enemies, while all the rest of the coun-

try was subject to their sway,—the heart alone remained uninjured.

In like manner, also, the expression in ver. 5, "He establishes it,

the Most High," receives its foundation.—That time also was

peculiarly well-fitted to develope the germ of the main-idea of

our Psalm, the hope, namely, which always slumbered among the

people, of the conversion of the heathen to God and to his king-

dom. The ancient promise, "In thy seed shall all the nations of

the earth be blessed," had at that time found a prelude of its fulfil-

ment. The common enemy of the human race had been cast to the

78                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


ground for the sake of Sion; the heathen shared in a blessing

which was in the first instance imparted to her. That they were

not wholly hardened against this favour, but that they responded

to the exhortations of Asaph, "Let them bring gifts to the

Dreadful One," Ps. lxxvi. 12, is evident from 2 Chron. xxxii. 23,

"And many brought gifts to the Lord to Jerusalem." What

time could be better fitted than this to awaken the hope of the

future conversion of the heathen?--Finally, if we assume the

occasion referred to to have been the correct one, a surprising

light is thrown upon the enumeration of the nations, which thus

is saved from the appearance of arbitrariness. The nations enu-

merated are only such nations as were bound up in community of

interest with Israel at that time and are hence the same as the

"many" of Chronicles. The Egyptians formed always the chief

object of attack to the Assyrians, and were severely threatened

by Sennacherib. The Ethiopians at that time were closely bound

up with the Egyptians (comp. Rosellini i. ii. p. 105), and Torhaka,

king of the Ethiopians, was, according to Is. xxxvii. 9, in the

train against Sennacherib. The king of Babylon, whose rising

power the spiritual eye of the prophets had already before this

time beheld in the fore-ground of the future, and whom they had

represented to themselves as the heir of the decaying Assyrian

(comp., for example, Is. xxxix. 23, 17; Micah iv. 10), sent a pre-

sent, after the Assyrian catastrophe, to Hezekiah, and sought to

enter into closer terms of friendship with him. Isaiah, in chap.

xiv. 29, threatens the Philistines with dreadful misery from the

Assyrians, and it is evident, from chap. xx. 1, that this threaten-

ing was fulfilled.—Rich Tyre would, in all probability, come in

next after Judah.—Thus, therefore, every thing unites in favour

of the assumption of the composition at the time referred to, in

favour of which it may still be added that some passages remind

us very strikingly of Isaiah.

            Title. By the sons of Korah, a Psalm, a Song of Praise.

Ver. 1. His founded (city), upon the holy mountains. Ver. 2.

The Lord loves the gates of Sion more than all dwellings of

Jacob. Ver. 3. Glorious things are said of thee, thou city of

God.—The suffix in vtdvsy, ver. 1, refers not to Sion, which every

where throughout the Psalm is plural, but to Him of whom the

soul of the Psalmist, and of the people at that time, was so full

                     PSALM LXXXVII. VER. 1-3.                          79


that every one would immediately think of him, even when he

was not expressly mentioned, the Lord; comp. ver. 2 and 5,

and Is. xiv. 32, liv. 11, where the founding of Sion by the Lord

is, in like manner, mentioned. We cannot translate: his found-

ing, for the noun hdvsy, never occurs; it must be: his founded

(city), as a simple participle. The founding of Sion took place in

a spiritual sense, when it was chosen to be the seat of the sanc-

tuary; comp. the being born used of the spiritual birth in ver. 4-6.

It was at that time that the place, though it had previously existed,

received its true foundation. It is better to supply "is founded,"

out of "his founded city," than to insert the mere "is:" comp. dsy

with b of that on which it is founded in Is. liv. 11, "I will found

thee on sapphires." As in other passages Sion is always spoken

of only as the holy mountain of the Lord (comp., for example,

Ps. ii. 6, xliii. 3), and as the Psalmist, throughout the whole

Psalm, has to do, not with the whole of Jerusalem, but only with

Sion, Mount Sion here must be understood as alone meant.

The Psalmist speaks of mountains, because Sion is one part of a

mountain range, comp. Robinson ii. 15.  The whole was indebted

for its dignity to this particular part. The sanctity of the moun-

tain range, of which Sion formed the kernel (the remaining por-

tion was merely the shell) denoted its separation from all the

other mountains of the earth, its inapproachable character, its

impregnable security against all the attacks of the world. For

this sanctity it was indebted to the choice of God, fixing it as

the seat of his church upon the earth. The mountain is holy "as

the mountain which the Lord chooses for his seat," Ps. lxviii. 16.

The praise which is here bestowed upon Sion belongs peculiarly

to the church of God upon the earth. As it belonged to Sion

only in so far as it was the seat of the church, so it belongs to

the church only in so far as it is really the church.—On the ex-

pression, "The Lord loveth," in ver. 2, comp. Ps. lxxviii. 68.

The gates are specially mentioned because it was against them

that the assaults of the enemies were in the first instance directed.

If they remained safe, the whole city was safe: comp. Is. lx. 18.

—"There is spoken," in ver. 3, stands instead of "men speak."

The tvdbkn is the accusative; comp. Ewald, 552. The form

of expression is designedly general: by God, by man, among Is-

rad, among the heathens, Sion gets glorious praise. Glorious:

80                        THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


because the Lord protects thee, wonderfully maintains thee, shall

at a future time wonderfully increase thy citizens; comp. the

glorious praise of Sion in Ps. xlviii. and xlvi. which may serve as

a commentary.  Of thee:—comp. on rbd with b of the object

Ew. § 521, 8. We may also translate, "in thee," the glorious

things of God's wonderful protection and blessing upon thee;

comp. Ps. xlviii. 3, "God is known in her palaces for a refuge."

“Thou city of God” (comp. Ps. xlvi. 4, xlviii. 1) contains the

ground of the fact that there is said something glorious of Sion

or in Sion.

            Ver 4-7.—Ver. 4. I announce Rahab and Babylon as those

who know me, behold Philistia and Tyre with Cush: this one

was born there. Ver. 5. And of Sion it is said: every one is

born in her, and He establishes her, the Most High. Ver. 6.

The Lord shall count in the writing down of the nations: this

one was born there. Selah. Ver. 7. And singers and dancers:

all my fountains are in thee." At the time when these hopes

were expressed, the number of the members of the kingdom of

God had been very much melted down. The ten tribes had al-

ready been led away into captivity, and Judah remained alone in

the land. In these circumstances the longing after the fulfilment

of the old promises of a posterity to Abraham as numerous as the

stars of heaven and the sand of the sea, must have been awakened

with peculiar power, and must have seized with especial ardour

upon every thing, such as the above mentioned events in the

time of Hezekiah, which furnished a foundation on which such a

hope could rest, and brought into view a compensation for the loss

of Israel in the coming in of the heathen. In like manner in the

present day, the melancholy condition of the church among our-

selves makes us look with earnest longings towards heathen lands,

and observe every sign which intimates that the Lord will there

collect new members for his church. In the first half of ver. 4,

the Lord speaks, and from the second half to the end the Psalm-

ist; for it will not do to suppose that the Psalmist begins with

"and" in ver. 5. The difference, however, is one purely formal,

so that it would scarcely be proper to read the address of the Lord

with inverted commas. The Psalmist who speaks in the spirit of

the Lord, merely continues what the Lord had begun. The rkyzH,

is to mention, to announce, as Ps. xx. 7; xlv. 17; lxxi. 16;

                       PSALM LXXXVII. VER. 4-7.                    81


lxxvii. 11; Jer. iv. 16. The yfdyl is as my knowers, such as

know me, like ywpHl xcy to go out as a free man, Ex. xxi. 2.

On to know the Lord, compare at Ps. xxxvi. 10; Isaiah xix. 21

is parallel:  "And the Lord shall be known to the Egyptians,

and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day." The trans-

lation of Gesenius must be rejected: I will make them known to

my (old) acquaintances. For the mere announcement is not suf-

ficient; the quality must be pointed out. Is. xix. 19, &c., is, for

example, really parallel; where Egypt and Assyria, instead of

which we have here Babylon on the ground already mentioned,

serve the Lord, and Israel is third in the covenant; and also Is.

xliv. 5, "this one shall say I am the Lord's, and this one shall

call himself by the name of the God of Jacob, and this one shall

subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the

name of Israel." After "behold Philistia and Tyre with Cush,"

we must supply: this shall be said by them; compare rbdm in

ver. 3, and rmxy in ver. 5. This supplementary clause is indi-

cated by the quotation given of the words which these utter: this

one was born there. Tyrus had already been named in Ps. xlv. 12,

as among the nations which shall in future times turn to the Lord

and his kingdom. The Berleb Bible: "The Syrians had already

furnished workmen and materials for Solomon's temple, as a good

'type that they also would join in the fellowship of the Church of

New Testament times, of which the Canaanitish woman formed the

first fruits." On the conversion of the Cushites, compare Ps. lxviii.

31; lxxii. 10. Berleb: of which the eunuch of Queen Candace,

Acts viii. 27, was the first fruits. "This one" does not refer to

individuals, but to the ideal persons of the nations who had for-

merly been spoken of, and with whom the Psalmist has through-

out to do; compare particularly, "when the people shall be re-

corded" in ver. 4. The "being born" stands here in. anticipa-

tion of the New Testament doctrine of the second birth in a

spiritual sense: besides the passage before us, it occurs only in

Job xi. 12, "and the vain man shall be wise, and the wild ass

born a man." Sion is the birth-place of the higher existence of

the heathen, their spiritual mother city. They shall be there

born anew as children of God and children of Abraham.—In ver.

5. The great favour which the Lord shews for Sion in making her

the birth-place and the true home of the heathen, is again touched

82                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


upon for the purpose of placing it in connection with a second

favour, that namely of strength and maintainence. It is in this

connection, that what is new and advanced in the thought lies.

Calvin:  "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 subjected from time to time to a variety of

vicissitudes; for they are carried round with the world in its re-

volutions, and do not enjoy everlasting defenders. But it is the

very reverse with the new Jerusalem, which, being founded upon

the power of God, shall continue when even heaven and earth

shall have fallen into ruins." On rmx with l compare iii. 2;

lxxi. 10. We may also translate here, "to Sion," although in

point of form the address is not directed to Sion. The wyx  

wyxv is to be considered as one noun, and signifies each and every

one (comp. Esth. i. 8 ; Lev. xvii. 10, 13),—man is added to man,

nation to nation, comp. at ver. 4.  He, he himself and no other,

not a weak human being. The Most High—comp. Ps. xlvii. 2.

--In ver. 6, which Luther has wholly misunderstood, rps has its

usual sense, to count, compare 2 Sam. xxiv. 10, where it is used

of David numbering the people. The Lord numbers the nations

1, 2, 3, &c., and in doing so, in assigning in the case of each the

reason why he counts it in, he makes the remarks: this one was

born there. The bvtk is not a noun (no such noun occurs), but

an infinitive: in the noting down of the people—not when he

notes down, but when they are noted down. The Lord merely

presides at the taking up of the lists, and intimates who are to be

marked down. There lies at the foundation a reference to the

usual enumeration and citizen-rolls, compare Ez. xiii. 9, which

gave a poor and misreable result as compared with the high ex-

pectations and hopes which had been called forth in the church of

God at its commencement. There comes at last, however, a num-

bering which satisfies all these hopes. Whole hosts of nations  

shall be added to the kingdom of God.—Ver. 7 is so far separated

from ver. 4-6, as is intimated by the Selah, as that there is no-

thing more said in it of Sion as the birth-place of the heathen;

                          PSALM LXXXVII. VER. 4-7.                     83


it is so far connected, however, as that the matter spoken of is

still the relation of the heathen to Sion. It contains the words

with which these new citizens of Sion praise it as the fountain of

all their salvation: and singers and dancers (at the head of every

great procession of the heathen), speak thus: all my fountains

are in thee. The mention of singers and dancers leads to a joy-

ful procession, in which the redeemed from the heathen, as Israel

did on a former occasion after their passage through the Red Sea,

Ex. xv. 20, 21, express their gratitude to the Lord and to his

church. In such joyful processions the singers here first named

occupy the chief-place; compare at Ps. lxviii. 25. What these

did with their lips, the ring-dancers expressed in music and by

mimicry; compare Ps. cxlix. 3; cl. 4, "let them praise his name

in the dance." As: the one no less than the other. llH is a

verbal noun from lvH, compare tvllvHm, the ring-dancers in

Jud. xxi. 23, which, according to ver. 21, is to be derived from

lvH.  Ps. xxx. 11, and the example of David, 2 Sam. vi. 16,

render it manifest that the ring-dance was not confined to young

women, but was also engaged in by men. The fountains are the

fountains of salvation, which revive the thirsty soul and the thirsty

land; compare Ps. lxxxiv, 6; Is. xii. 3, "with joy shall ye draw

water out of the wells of salvation." In Ezekiel, chap. xlvii.

there flows a fountain proceeding out of the sanctuary in Sion,

spreading the blessings of fertility and life through the wilderness

into the Dead Sea, the two emblems of the heathen world. Com-

pare on the representations of the blessings of the kingdom of

God by the emblem of a stream, at Ps xxxvi. 8; xlvi. 4. The

jb can refer, as in ver. 3, only to Sion: in the Lord and thus in

Sion his church, which he has made the depository of all his trea-

sures; compare Is. xlv. 14. Calvin:  "Now that we know that

whatever has been foretold by the Spirit has been fulfilled, we are

more than unthankful if experience superadded to the words of

Scripture, does not still more confirm our faith. For it is not

possible to say how gloriously Christ by his appearing has adorned

the church. Then the true religion which had hitherto been con-

fined within the narrow boundaries of Judea, spread over the

whole world Then for the first time God, who had hitherto been

known only by one family, was called upon in the different

languages of all nations. Then the world, which had hitherto been

84                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


miserably rent in pieces by the innumerable sects of superstition

and error, was gathered together into a holy unity of faith."



                            PSALM LXXXVIII.


            The Psalmist, in ver. 1 and 2, prays suppliantly for help;

grounds this prayer, ver. 3-9, upon the fact that he is sunk in

the deepest misery, and standing on the verge of complete de-

struction, at the gates of death; and intimates in ver 10-12 that  

God cannot possibly give over his own people to this. After a

short effort at renewed prayer, there follows a representation of

the sufferings of the Psalmist, and with this the whole termi-

nates, ver. 13-18.

            The understanding of this Psalm is entirely dependant upon

the correct view of its relation to Ps. lxxxix. We shall there-

fore direct attention to this subject in the first instance. Seve-

ral expositors have noticed that the two Psalms stand intimately

connected together;a no expositor, however, has sufficiently fol-  

lowed out the traces which have been discovered. We maintain

that the two Psalms together, like Psalms ix. and x., xlii. and

xliii., and many other pairs of Psalms, form one whole consisting

of two parts. 1. The Title of Ps. lxxxviii. furnishes more than

one reason in favour of this. Its disproportionate length, so very

striking, becomes explained at once as soon as it is viewed as

belonging to one great whole. In the next place it is very

striking that the last words of the title, "an instruction of He-

man the Esrahite," correspond exactly to the title of Ps. lxxxix.,

“an instruction of Ethan the Esrahite.” By this we are un-

questionably led to the idea that the above are the titles of the

two parts respectively, and that the preceding portion of the title

of Ps. lxxxviii. is the title of the whole. Finally, the ryw placed,

as it were, at the top of the title, is perfectly decisive. We have,

on a former occasion, shown that this word does not denote a

poem generally, but a song, a song of praise, comp. at Ps. xlii. 8,


            a Amyraldus on Ps. lxxxix.: It is common to this Psalm with the last, that although

each names its author in the title, these authors are both unknown, and besides in both

Psalms there is contained a most vehement lamentation, accompanied with incredible

ardour of soul.

85                             PSALM LXXXVIII.


lxxxiii. title. Now if we refer the title entirely to Ps. lxxxviii.,

it is impossible to tell what to make of it. The Psalmist is so

completely unmanned by a sense of his misery, that he can

scarcely adopt the language of prayer, and certainly not that of

praise.  On the other hand, if we refer the title to the whole of

both Psalms, the term is quite appropriate. Ps. lxxxix. begins,

with manifest reference to the title, with the words, "I will sing

the grace of God," and bears from ver. 1 to ver. 38 throughout the

character if a song of praise.a This character belongs to the

whole, as soon as it is recognised as a whole. The introductory

and concluding portions, dark in themselves, are illuminated by

of the light if a centre-sun. And the design of the whole then

becomes manifest, namely, to give instruction how, in circum-

stances of great distress, to gain the victory over despair by

praising God. 2. If we separate Ps. lxxxviii. from Ps. lxxxix.,

it stands alone in the whole book of Psalms. All expositors re-

mark with one voice, that such a comfortless complaint no where

else occur throughout its entire compass. Stier, for example,

says: "the most mournful of all the plaintive Psalms, yea so

wholly plaintive, without any ground of hope, that nothing like

it is found in the whole Scriptures." The fact is all the more

striking, that the Psalm begins with the words, "0 Lord, thou

the God of my salvation," after which one certainly might ex-

pect any thing else rather than a mere description of trouble, in

which the darkness is thickest at the close, contrary to the usual

practice, for in all other cases the sun breaks through the clouds

at the end, if it had not done so before:—the peculiar feature of

this Psalm is that it ends entirely in night. The importance of

these facts is obvious from the circumstance that Muntinghe has

been led by them to adopt the idea that the Psalm is merely a

fragment of a larger one—an idea utterly destitute of probability;

for we have no such thing as fragments either in the book of

Psalms or indeed within the whole compass of the literature of

the Old Testament. As soon as the connection between Ps.

lxxxviii. any lxxxix. is acknowledged, the difficulty disappears.

The Psalmist might, in this case, give free scope in the first part


            a Ven.: The subject matter of the Psalm, if you regard the largest portion of it, is the

celebration of the grace and truth of God, especially in reference to the promise of the

perpetuity of the kingdom of David.

86                THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


to his pain and lamentation, in obedience to an irresistible im-

pulse of human nature, knowing that in the second part the rising

sun of consolation would dispel all this darkness. 3. The con-

cluding portion of Ps. lxxxix., ver. 38-51, strikingly agrees with

Ps. lxxxviii. The situation is the same, that, viz., of one who

had speedy destruction before his eyes, who stood at the gates of

death. The complaint is as deep and painful here as it is there.

Ps. lxxxix. 47, 48, ought especially to be compared with Ps.

lxxxviii. 10-12. 4. If we consider both Psalms as one, we ob-

tain, by counting the rich title of Ps. lxxxviii., the significant

number seventy.

            It may be urged against the unity of both Psalms, that in Ps.

lxxxviii. it is a private individual who speaks, but in Ps. lxxxix.

it is the people, or, according to the idea of others, an oppressed

king of the family of David; that in Ps. lxxxix. the sufferings

distinctly arise from enemies, which in Ps. lxxxviii., even although

the assertion of some, "that the Psalmist is ill of a mortal dis-

ease," and the assertion of others, "that he is languishing in

prison," be rejected, as arbitrary and unfounded, the description

of the sufferings is of such a kind that it would apply in general

to any great distress. But these remarks, in so far as they are

founded in truth, agree perfectly well with the view given above

as to the unity of the two Psalms—a unity which is not indi-

visible, but is made up of two parts;—and are consistent with  

the contents of the titles. The author has constructed the first

part of the double whole in such a way, that it may not only

serve a sorely oppressed people, but also every individual saint

may find in it an adequate expression of his own feelings—an ar-

rangement which is exceedingly natural, inasmuch as in seasons

of public distress the individual is too often little else than an

image of the whole, and which has many analogies on its side,

especially in the prophecies and lamentations of Jeremiah, in

reading which one feels often inclined to ask whether the pro-

phet means himself or the people. The Psalmist therefore has

carefully avoided every thing which referred definitely and ex-

clusively to the people, and in like manner every thing which

might lead to any particular kind of trouble. There does not

occur, however, any thing (and only this would be decisive against

the units) which in any measure contradicts the reference to the

                                 PSALM LXXXVIII.                             87


whole community;—in ver. 8, to which reference has been made,

the acquaintances are neighbouring nations. After this, as soon

as the people only speaks in Ps. lxxxix., every objection is re-

moved. And that it is the people that speaks there, and not

the anointed, is clear as day. The promise is there in ver. 20

ss. directed, not as in the fundamental passage 2 Sam. vii. to

David, but to the people. The complaint as to difference be-

tween that promise and present experience, is raised, not on be-

half of David, but on behalf of the people. The difficulty is this,

that the divine favour which, according to the Word of God,

the people should have enjoyed through the family of David, had

been withdrawn. David, and his Son, the anointed, are through-

out spoken of in the third person; the people unquestionably

comes forward as different in ver. 17, 18, 50.

            If we adopt the unity of the two Psalms, it becomes no very

difficult latter to assign the date of the composition of the whole.

It cannot have been composed earlier than the times immediately

preceding the Babylonish captivity: for the people stand here at

the very brink of a precipice. It is even better to refer to the

time of Zedekiah, than, with Venema, to the time immediately

after the death of Josiah. The Psalm must have been composed

before the captivity: for there is no trace of the destruction of

the city and temple, which could scarcely have been omitted if it

had taken place; the kingdom of David is in a state of depres-

sion, and verging towards extreme old age, but still it exists

(comp. especially ver. 45 and 51), and the prayer of the Psalmist

is, that the Lord would deliver it from impending destruction;

according to ver. 43, the anointed of the Lord still carried on

wars, although unfortunate ones. Assumptions such as those;

which refer the composition of the Psalm to the times of the Mac-

cabees, render it necessary to have recourse to the desperate ex-

pedient of understanding the expressions, "David," "his son,"

"the anointed of the Lord," as meaning, not the royal family of

David, but the royal nation—an assertion which does not require

one word to be thrown away upon it.

            The Title runs:  A Song of Praise, a Psalm by the Sons of

Korah. To the Chief Musician, upon the distress of oppres-

sion.—An Instruction by Heman, the Esrahite.—The expres-

sion, "to the Chief Musician," amounts to a notice that we

88                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


have before us a proper church-song. The tvnfl tlHm lf

has been already explained at Ps. xiv., vol. i. p. 206. That "of

the sickness" is to be interpreted of sickness in a figurative sense

as equivalent to severe suffering—a sense in which the word is

frequently used, as, for example, Is. i. 5 ; Ps. liii. Title—is evi-

dent from the term which is appended as an explanation, tvnfl,

denoting the afflicting cause: comp. ver. 8, 15, Ps. xc. 15, cii.

23, cxix. 75, or that in which the distress consists of it. If we

connect these words with the ryw of the beginning we have a

description of the design of the Psalm: to comfort, in severe suf-

fering, by the praise of God. Let us now direct our attention to

the special title of Ps. lxxxviii. It bears the name of Instruction

or a didactic Psalm (at Ps. xxxii. Title), and the Psalm gives

direction not to allow our sorrows to prey upon ourselves, but

to pour them out before God—the A B C of all sufferers. If

they follow this direction, they may be again spoken with. He

who has learned to complain to God, will soon learn to hope in

God. As the authors of the whole Psalm had already been said

to be the Sons of Korah (comp. at Ps. xlii.), it is obvious that

Heman the Esrahite, who is named here, and Etham the Esra-

hite, who is named in Ps. lxxxix. should not be considered as the

proper authors of the parts marked by their name, but as men

into whose mouths the contents of these parts were put. The l

is here, as in other passages, the l auctoris; but it denotes the

imaginary, and not the real author—a sense in which it may,

naturally be understood in those cases in which the real author

had either been named or otherwise indicated, as in Ps. lxxxvi.

The reasons which induced the Sons of Korah to introduce these

names of Heman and Etham need not remain doubtful. There is no

doubt that these two men were the famous musicians of the time

of David, who are so often named next after Asaph. Etham is

the same as Jeduthun, who is in several passages named in an

exactly similar relation as third next to Asaph and Heman. The

attempt which Berthold makes in his Intro. iii. p. 1975 ss. to

prove them different persons, strikes in the opposite direction.

Etham is probably the proper noun, and Jeduthun (the praise-

man, comp. tvdvhl in 1 Chiron. xvi. 41, xxv. 3, Ges. on the

word), an ideal name, devised by David,—and hence we may ex-

plain the variety in the form: comp. Ps. xxxix. Title. These

                          PSALM LXXXVIII.                                89


men were not at all ordinary musicians: they were also, what

they must have been to enable them to be founders of the sacred

music, divinely inspired sages. In 1 Kings iv. 31, it is said of

Solomon:  "And he was wiser than all men, than Etham the

Esrahite, and Heman, and Kalkol, and Dardah," and in 1 Chron.

xxv. 5, Heman is called "the king's seer in the words of God."

Both, however, were not composers of Psalms. The Sons of

Korah were at this time desirous, on the one hand, of honour-

ing their own poem, and of strengthening its impression by pre-

fixing to it the names of these celebrated men next after their

own, and, on the other hand, of perpetuating the memory of these

men, who appeared to such disadvantage, compared with their

"brother" (I. Chron. vi. 24) Asaph, who is so often named in

the titles of the Psalms;—they wished "to raise up seed" to the

childless and sages. In doing so, they had the example of David

before their eyes, who, in Ps xxxix. Title, had named Jeduthun for

the purpose of honouring him, and handing his name down to

posterity, not indeed as the author, but as the chief musician

(comp. at the passage), and also the example of their ancestors,

who had on several occasions sung from the soul of David: comp.

for example, xliii., lxxxiv., lxxxvi.—Heman is here, and

Ethan in Ps. lxxxix., called the Esrahite. We learn the import

of the term in 1 Chron. ii. 5, "and the sons of Serah: Simri, and

Ethan, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darah" (we have the same

names in 1 Kings v. 11, with the unimportant difference of Dar-

dah instead of Darah). The x is hence an Al. prothet., and

Ethan and Heman were named Esrahites, because they be-  

longed to the family of Serah, the son of Judah, which they

adorned by their famous names. It is certain that they were not

the descendants of Serah, the son of Judah. The whole music

connected with the worship of God in David's time, and in

later periods, was in the hands of Levites; and this every child

knew, so that nobody could think of tracing the descent of the

famous chief musicians of David to the tribe of Judah. Heman,

according to the express and well-defined intimations given in 1

Chron. vi. 18 ss., xv. 27, was a Levite of the family of the Koha-

thites, the grandchild of Samuel, whose spirit passed over to the

"seer in the words of God," through his son Joel; Ethan, ac-

cording to 1 Chron. vi. 29-32 (comp. xv. 17, 19) was a Levite

90                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


of the family of the Merarites, a son of Kisis, 1 Chron. vi.

29, or, according to another form of the name of Kusaja,

xv. 17,a as Asaph, according to 1 Chron. vi. 24-28, was a

Levite of the family of the Gershonites. Hence Heman and

Ethan could have been reckoned as belonging to the family of

Serah, only in the sense that they dwelt in this family, as "stran-

gers and sojourners" (comp. Jud. xvii. 7), and were incorporated

with it, as citizens. And there are not wanting examples of

Levites being spoken of as belonging to the family of which, in

their capacity as citizens, they formed part. Thus Samuel the

Levite, 1 Sam. i. 1, is called an Ephraimite; and, in Jud. xvii.

7, there follows immediately after the words "of the family of

Judah," the remark, "who was a Levite, and he sojourned there;"

comp. Beitr. P. iii. p. 60. Heman and Ethan were hence

adopted sons of Serah's, who brought him, however, more honour

than did all his real children. From the above induction it is

clear, that Movers on Chron. p. 237, was too precipitate in find-

ing the accounts of Heman and Ethan to be contraditory ac-

counts, which are quite consistent with each other, when rightly

understood, and that Keil on Chron. p, 164, and Gesen. in his

Thes. under Heman, were, in like, too precipitate in denying the

identity of the persons in the different passages.

            It is not possible to discover any formal arrangement extend-

ing throughout both Psalms; and any forced attempts to do so

are the less called for, as these Psalms, which are of great length,

do not require, in accordance with the usual practice, any such

arrangement; comp. at Ps. lxxviii.  The Psalmist has satisfied

himself with including the whole within the remarkable number

70, and giving to each separate part an artificial arrangement, in

which the numbers 7 and 10 play the chief parts. Thus the

main division in Ps. lxxxviii. consists of seven verses, which are

divided into a four and a three, ver. 3-9, and 10-12.

            Ver. 1, 2.—Ver 1. Lord God, my saviour, I cry in the day

time, in the night before thee. Ver. 2. Let my prayer come be-

fore thee, incline thine ear to my cry,—On the "my salvation-


            a In 1 Kings v. 11, Ethan and Heman are called sons of Machol. There is, however,

no contradiction between this and the notice given in Chron. Machol is not a proper

name; it never occurs as such; we must translate: sons of the dance; Heller: Skilful

in leading down the sacred dance: comp. "daughters of music," Eccl. xii. 4.

                      PSALM LXXXVII. VER. 3-9.                        91


God," Calvin: "In thus addressing God he lays bridle and bit

on the excess of his pain, he shuts the door of despair, and

strengthens himself to carry the cross." The extremely concise

character of the second half of the verse is explained by the cir-

cumstance, that the words are numbered for the purpose of inti-

mating beforehand the 7, as the signature of the whole Psalm.

The two clauses are to be supplemented from each other; in the

first, before thee; and in the second, I cry. The fundamental

passage is Ps. xxii. 2: "My God, I cry in the day time and thou

answerest not, and in the night season and I am not silenced."

According to this passage the Mvy here must stand for Mmvy, or

Mvyb. It certainly does not occur thus in any other passage, but

there are many analogies in its favour (comp. Ew. 492), and

the short form might the more readily be used here as hlylb,

follows. Forced translations, such as "at the time when I am

during the night before thee," are foundered by the fact that Mvy,

in parallel in hlyl can only mean day.a

            The Palmist grounds, in ver. 3-9, his petition that he may be

finally heard in the prayer which he unceasingly addresses to

God, without having hitherto obtained any answer, upon the

greatness of his distress. Ver. 3. For my soul is filled with

suffering and my life is near to sheol. Ver. 4. I am reckoned

with them that go down to the grave, I am as a man to whom

there is no strength. Ver. 5. Among the dead free, like the

slain, who lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more,

and they are cut off from thy hand. Ver. 6. Thou hast laid me

in the lowest pit, in dark places, in deeps. Ver. 7. Thy wrath

lieth upon me, and thou host afflicted me with all thy waves.

Selah.  Ver. 8. Thou hast removed my acquaintances from me,

I am shut up and do not go out. Ver. 9. Mine eye languisheth

because of misery, I cry to thee, 0 Lord, every day, I stretch

out to thee my hands.—Instead of "my life stretches to sheol,"

in ver. 3, Ps. cvii. 18, has "to the gates of death." The first

clause of ver. 4 is from Ps. xxviii. 1, with the change of ytlwmn


            a On "before thee" Calvin:  "Nor is the particle, before thee, superfluous; all men alike

complain in their grief; but this is far from pouring out their groans in the presence of

God: nay, they must seek some hiding-place where they may murmur against God, and

find fault with his severity; others utter openly their clamorous words. Hence we see

what a rare virtue it is to place God before us, and to direct to him our prayers."

92                      THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


into ytbwHn.  With them, i. e., as them, or like them. The

men without strength (not is strength, for to whom there is no

strength, Ew. § 608), are, according to the connection, the dead.

It is only on this interpretation that we can explain the as. The

Psalmist was already without strength; but he is rather exactly

like a dead than like a living man on the brink of the grave.—In

"free among the dead," in ver. 5, the Psalmist overlooks the

small difference which still exists between him and the dead, and

reckons himself among the latter, as he does also in ver. 6; ver.

4, and the remaining portion of ver. 5, shew that the sense is,

"already as good as dead, and, therefore, free from thee." Free-

dom, in connection with earthly relations, is, generally speaking,

a great good. Yet, with good human masters, there have been

cases in which the slave did not choose to avail himself of the

freedom to which the divine law entitled him; comp. Deut. xv.

16, "I will not go out from thee, because I love thine house,

and I am happy with thee." But, with the heavenly master,

freedom is pre-eminently an evil; to be the servant of God is the

highest happiness; comp. Ps. lxxxvi. 16. For his service is joy,

because his yoke is easy and his burden is light, his command-

ments are more precious than gold, yea, than much fine gold, are

sweeter than honey and the honey comb (comp. the praise of the

divine commandments in Ps. xix.); and, what is of special conse-

quence here, God gives to his servants a great reward, Ps. xix.

12; he not only demands service from them, he also cares for

them with tender fatherly love, feeds them at his table, and holds

his protecting hand over them; comp. Ps. xxiii. Over against

these rich blessings, which the service of God brings with it,

there is the mere naked freedom remaining for those who have

been removed from the service of God—a poor thing. Allusion

is made, as is obvious, to Job iii. 19, "and the servant is (there

in the world of spirits) free from his master;" it may be a fortu-

nate thing to become free from an earthly master, but to be free

from the heavenly master is assuredly misery. Great difficulty

has been experienced in interpreting the words before us.

Hence have proceeded such translations as: among the dead is

my couch, or among the dead I am sick, weak, or laid prostrate.

The etymology is decidedly against this: the sense of freedom

is the fundamental and the only sense of the root wpH in He-

                   PSALM LXXXVIII. VER. 3-9.                   93


brew (Hävernick on Ez. xxvii. 20). In Ez. in the above men-

tioned place wpH ydgb is "glorious coverings;" comp. 1 Sam.

xvii. 25, where ywpH, which generally denotes not the "set free,"

but the "free man," signifies a "free lord;" magnificence can-

not be wanting. In 2 Kings xv. 5, 2 Chron. xxvi. 21, tyb,

tywpH or tvwpH is a house of freedom, a house where the lepers

dwelt, those who were likened to the dead, struck off from the roll

of the servants of God. This is manifest from the remark which

follows in Chron.:  "for he, Uzziah, was cut off from the house of

the Lord," had lost his place there where all the servants of the

Lord dwell (comp. at Ps. lxxxiv. and the parallel passages), in con-

sequence of which Uzziah lost his command over his fellow-servants,

which was handed over to his son Jotham. This strikingly

harmonious parallel passage furnishes the second proof in favour

of the above translation. The third lies in the expression, "those

whom thou rememberest no more, and who are cut off from thy

hand," which agrees remarkably well with the first clause as un-

derstood by us, and serves to explain it exactly as in the above

quoted passage of Chron., "to dwell in the house of freedom," is

explained by "to be cut off from the house of the Lord." The

comparison with the dead is followed by that with the slain, be-

cause the Psalmist was threatened with violent deprivation of

life. "To be cut off from the hand of God," his helping and

protecting hand, is to be made away with in a violent manner, in

consequence of violent destruction to be no longer the object of

God's helping grace; compare at the parallel passage, Ps. xxxi.

22, "I am cut off from thine eyes," cut off, and consequently

withdrawn from thy gracious look. We have already, at Ps. vii.

5, adverted to the idea which lies at the foundation of the whole

verse that the dead are no longer the objects of the loving care of

God. In Old Testament times it had a mournful truth. The

darkness of the intermediate state previous to the appearing of

Christ, had not yet been illuminated by the morning of divine

grace—the paradise of which the Lord spoke to the thief was

first opened up at his death—the intermediate state under the

Old Testament was indeed not distinctly known as such; the

clear view of the resurrection was first opened up by him who is 

the resurrection and the life. It was under the New Testament

that it was first said of the grave:  "it is to me a chamber where

94                 THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


I lie on roses, because by thy death I conquer death and the

grave." The servants of God at that time could not but shudder

when they stood immediately over the abyss of death and looked

into the utter darkness, "the darkness of death without order."—

The grave of deep places, in ver 6, is sheol, deep under the earth,

compare on rvb of sheol at Ps. xxviii. 1, the "lower places of the

earth," in parallel with "sheol," in Ps. lxiii. 9, Ez. xxvi. 20,

and "the lowest hell" in Ps. lxxxvi. 13. The "dark places"

are as usually (compare at Ps. lxxiv. 20) the dark places of sheol.

The Psalmist, a living corpse, is as good as brought to that place.

On tvlcm, in other passages tvlUcm water-deeps, compare at

Ps. lxix. 2.—The "waves" in ver. 7 are the tumultuous sea-waves

of trouble and pain, compare at the fundamental passage, Ps.

xlii. 7. The jyrbwm is the acc. according to thy waves—with

them, compare Ew. § 485. The Selah is appended to tynf, in

order to give prominence to that word which is intended to explain

the title. The want of the suffix, otherwise strange, may also be

accounted for by a reference to this explanation.—The complaint

of the estrangement of acquaintances and friends in consequence

of suffering, ver. 8, meets us frequently in the Psalms, compare

at Ps. xxvii. 10; xxxviii. 11; lxix. 8. (Job xix. 13). What is

true of personal is also true of national relations; like causes

produce like effects. The expression, "thou hast made me an

abomination to them" (the plural has an intensive force—as it

were a whole assemblage of abomination) alludes to Gen. xliii. 32,

xlvi. 34, (compare Ex. viii. 22), according to which Israel was an

abomination to the Egyptians, and therefore contains a slight

intimation of a national reference. The last words, "I am shut

up and do not go out," must necessarily be considered as referring

to the acquaintances, and cannot be viewed in connection with a

reference to Lam. iii. 7, 9, "shut up by misfortune, I can find no

way of escape," but "shut up by public reproach, which keeps

me in the house like a prisoner, I do not go out, I stir not from

the door," with reference to Ps. xxxi. 11, "they who see me in

the street flee from me," and especially to Job xxxi. 34, where

Job is expressing his willingness to suffer in case of his guilt

what he must now suffer unwillingly, says, "I should be afraid

before a great multitude, and the contempt of families should

terrify me, and I will be silent and not go out of doors."—On

                 PSALM LXXXVIII. VER. 10-12.                      95


bxd in ver. 9, compare Deut. xxvii. 65. Instead of "the eye,"

Luther without any reason has the "person," compare at Ps. vi.

7; lxix. 3. On "I stretch out my hands," Arnd: I sigh with

my heart, pray with my mouth, and supplicate with my hand, like

a child which stretches out both its hands to its mother."

            Ver. 10 12. The Psalmist, who is now within one single step

of death, represents to God, that if he delay any longer to help

him, he will deprive himself of the possibility of manifesting his

glory to which his very being prompts him, and of the praise of

his own people, which is very pleasant to him, compare at Ps. vi.

5. For it is to the living only and not to the dead that he can

shew wonders; and it is the living only that can praise him:—

"Make haste therefore and help me, ere I go to the land of dark-

ness when shall be lost to thee.—Ver. 10. Wilt thou then do

wonders to the dead, or will shadows stand up and praise thee.

Selah. Ver. 11. Will thy mercy be recounted in the grave, thy

faithfulnes in destruction. Ver. 12. Will thy wonders be

known in darkness, and thy righteousness in the land of forget-

fulness." That God cannot shew wonders to the dead (ver. 10)

is a strong reason why he should, while his people are still in life,

manifest on their behalf his wondrous power. The existence of

the Christian church furnishes a mighty proof that he has done

this; the maintenance of Israel in a time when every thing seemed

to proclaim entire destruction, proceeds on the supposition that he

does this. The xlp stands collectively, compare at Ps. lxxvii. 11.

The mention of wonders points to the national reference of the

Psalm. The Rephaim were a Canaanitish giant-race, whose

name was applied to the shades of the lower world. Contact with

these is something terrible for the sufferer; the spirits of the de-

ceased are represented to the imagination as possessed of a gigantic

form, compare 1 Sam. xxviii. 13, where the witch of Endor, on

the appearance of Samuel, says, "I behold Gods ascending out

of the earth." Beitr. p. 261. Against other attempted deri-

vations it may be urged that they do not explain the fact, that

this term applied to the dead is only used in poetry; that it is

in the highest degree improbable that a word written exactly

similar should have two derivations and significations; and xpr  

signifies to heal and nothing else, and that it is altogether foreign

to the Hebrew to consider Rephaim a term applied to the shades

96                  THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


as bearing an agreeable sense. The Mvq, is not to be considered

as signifying to raise again from the dead, (that would be contra-

dictory to the true doctrines, which is never done in the Old

Testament) but to rise up, compare Ps. lxxviii. 6. The language

refers to what takes place in death, not after death. The jvdvy  

also could scarcely want the copulative. The Selah gives God

as it were time to weigh the weighty reason, and then the de-

velopment follows.—In the grave and in destruction, ver. 11, = in

the place of destruction, sheol, the mercy and the faithfulness of

God could not be praised so much as by his own people on earth,

when he manifests these graces in delivering them from impending

death (compare at Ps. xxx. 9), partly because of the want of

opportunity for its manifestation, and partly because of the want

of ability to praise him.—The "land of forgetfulness" in ver. 12,

is not the land where one is forgotten (Ps. xxx. 12), but the land

where one forgets, Luther: "where one remembers nothing,"

compare Eccl. ix. 5, 6-10, "there is no work, nor device, nor

knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave." God does no wonderful

works to the dead, because they would not be known by them.

The great wonder of the resurrection is not excluded, because the

language used applies only to those wonders which are performed

to such as remain in a state of death. And that the Psalmist

does not acknowledge this, is not to be explained by "the difference

between seasons of faith and despondency in the human soul

which is found existing even in the present day." For it is

a didactic poem that we have here before us. Such a poem

may descend very low to suffering; but it must always remain

above it.

            Ver. 13-18.—Ver. 13. The Psalmist, in ver. 13, prepares for

prayer, makes even an effort at it in ver, 14, and soon sinks

back, ver. 15-18, into lamentation, which reaches its summit

in the last words.—Ver. 13. But I cry to thee, 0 Lord, and in

the morning my prayer shall anticipate thee. Ver. 14. Why,

0 Lord, dost thou cast of my soul, hidest thy face from me.

Ver. 15. I am miserable and ready to expire from my youth.

I bear thy terrors. I will despair. Ver. 16. Thy wrath goes

over me, thy terrors annihilate me. Ver. 17. They surround

me like water the whole day, they are round me altogether.

Ver. 18. Thou hast removed from me friend and neighbour,


                  PSALM LXXXVIII. VER. 13-18.                          97


mine acquaintances—the place of darkness.—"In the morning,"

in ver. 13, denotes the great earnestness in prayer: comp. at Ps. v.

3, lvii. 8. The Mdq is to surprise, comp. at Ps. xxi. 3.—On ver. 14,

Calvin: "Although these lamentations at first sight exhibit expres-

sions of pain without any consolation, they nevertheless contain

tacit prayers. For he does not proudly contend with God, but

mournfully desires some remedy to his calamities." On "why dost

thou cast off," (comp. Ps. xlii. 2), Arnd:  "Thus it is when the

cross lasts long, conflicts arise about casting off. But there is no

casting off; there is only a waiting for the hour of help, the hour

of the Lord."—In ver. 15th, there is no reason for departing from

the usual sense of rfn youth. (Luther falsely: that I am thus cast

off). When a great affliction befals us, we cannot regard it as

standing alone, we look upon it as the last step of a ladder, which

we began to ascend as soon as we came into the world, so when

we meet with any great deliverance, we think upon all the mer-

cies which we have experienced from our youth. In the funeral

hymn:  "And now I have ended life's hard course," we read:

"In every ear from tender youth, I have learned how hard's the

road to heaven." Israel, who must first occur to our thoughts,

says, in. Ps. cxxix. 1, in language which corresponds exactly to

the clause before us," "they have oft oppressed me from my youth

up." The oppression in Egypt befel Israel in his youth (comp.

Hos. xi. 1) in consequence of which he was brought to the very

verge of destruction, so that he might with truth say, "I am mi-

serable and ready to expire from my youth," just as the anti-

type, the Lord who was born in a stable (= Egypt), was soon

sought after by Herod (= Pharaoh) that he might be put to

death, and as exposed to the danger of his life on many occa-

sions on the part of his enemies. The terrors of God are the

terrors which he sends. The hnvpx is from Nvp, to despair, to

expire. The form has its usual sense. The Psalmist is so far

gone that he resolves to give himself over to despair, to give up

that opposition to it which he cannot any longer maintain.—In

ver. 16, the form yniUttum;.ci, which nowhere else occurs, is formed

out of the Piel, which occurs elsewhere, by the Psalmist himself,

for the purpose of alluding to the tvtymc of Lev. xxv. 23, "the

land shall not be sold for annihilation (so that the right of the

possessor shall not be wholly annihilated) for the land is mine, for

98                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


ye are strangers and sojourners with me." God appears—this is

the force of the allusion—to be failing, contrary to his own

law, inasmuch as he is completely alienating his property, so

that the possibility of redemption is, excluded.a —In ver. 18, the

usual translation is: my acquaintances are darkness, i. e., have

disappeared. But we must rather, with J. D. Michaelis and

others, explain: my companions—the place of darkness i.e.,

the dark kingdom of the dead is instead of all my companions,

has come near to me, while they have gone back. The fol-

lowing considerations may be adduced in support of this:—

j`wHm signifies always, even in Is. xxix. 15, xlii. 16, not

darkness, but a dark place, and it occurs in this sense, and is

even applied to the darkness of sheol in ver. 6; according to the

usual translation, the ver. does not close with a thought of suffi-

cient strength, but with merely a flat repetition of ver. 8, whereas,

according to our translation, the Psalm ends with an energetic

expression of its main thought—the immediate vicinity of death—

the darkness is thickest at the end, just as it is in the morning

before the rising of the sun; and, finally, there is a strikingly

parallel passage in Job xvii. 14, "I call the grave my father, and

the worm my mother and sister."



                                PSALM LXXXIX.


            The Psalmist, in language of joy and praise, calls to remem-

brance first the promise of God which secured the perpetual exis-

tence of the royal family of David, and consequently the preserva-

tion of the people, ver. 1-37, then complains that the present state

of matters forms a sad contrast to this promise, ver. 38-45, and

finally prays to God that he would remove this contrast, ver. 46-

51. In reference to other introductory matter, compare at Ps.


            Ver. 1-4. The Church resolves that she will eternally praise

the mercy and the faithfulness of the Lord, because these shall


            a Ewald takes another view: he, however, has nothing except a false rendering of

Hos. iv. 18 to refer to in support of his view of the import of the form. That passage

should be translated: they love the "prayer," as a description of their insatiable avarice,

which always puts "give" into their mouth,

                      PSALM LXXXIX. VER. 1-4.                          99


eternally be manifested to the family of David, and through that

family to the people, in virtue of the promise which God gave to

David that he would eternally defend his family, eternally main-

tain his throne.—Ver. 1. I will sing eternally the mercies of the

Lord, I will make known with my mouth thy truth from gene-

ration to generation. Ver. 2. For I say: eternally shall thy

mercy be built, the heaven—thou maintainest thy truth in it. Ver.

3. "I have made a covenant with my chosen one. I have sworn

to David my servant. Ver. 4. For ever I will maintain thy

seed and build thy throne from generation to generation."

Selah.—The mercies of the Lord, ver. 1, are, according to the con-

text, especially the manifestations of his love towards the family

of David, (compare ver. 49, and "the mercies of David," Is. lv.

3), and the faithfulness of God is that by which he fulfils these

promises made to this family. The determination to praise for

ever these manifestations of the love and faithfulness of God,

shews that it is not one single individual that speaks, but the

congregation of the Lord, convinced of its own eternal duration.

It is the work of faith to go forth on the supposition of eternal

duration at a time when every thing visible proclaims near de-

struction, and to give expression to the determination to praise for

ever the love and the faithfulness of God at a time when every

thing appears to declare that he has changed his love into

hatred, and has broken his promises. The Mlvf here and in ver.

2, 37 is for Mlvfl, compare at Ps. lxi. 4.—The determination to

praise for ever the mercy and the faithfulness of God is founded

on the conviction that these will stand the trial. Ver. 2. Mercy

appears here under the figure of a building in continual progres-

sion, in opposition to one which is left unfinished and falls into

ruins. The faithfulness is established in the heavens, in order

that it may, partake of their eternity, be like them eternal; com-

pare ver. 36, 37, on the eternity of the heavens at Ps. lxxii. 5,

and a similar figurative expression, Ps. cxix. 89, "thy word

stands fast in heaven." The heavens have emphatically the

foremost place assigned to them in the collocation of the words.

ver. 3 and 4, the foundation of the firm hope of the eternal

continuance of the mercy and the faithfulness of God is the

promise of, God to David in 2 Sam. vii.; in reality we ought

to supply "for thou didst say." This promise, on which see

100                THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


the remarks made in this commentary at Ps. xviii. 28-47 (vol.

i. p. 310-323), upon which also Ps. xxi., lxi., cxxxii., lxxii.,

cx., depend, forms the proper centre-point of the Psalm. It is

merely alluded to here shortly and summarily, but it is entered

upon at large in the 19th and following verses. As surely as

this promise culminates in Christ, so surely is it significant to us,

comp. at Ps. lxi.; and we may learn from this Psalm not only in

general how in the church's most troublous times we may conquer

that fear with which the visible aspect of affairs fills us, by cling-

ing to those promises which the Lord has given her, but may also

be ourselves comforted with that consolation which is adminis-

tered here to the Old Testament Church. The promise of God to

David extends to all ages, even to the end of the world.a

            In a promise every thing depends upon the person who pro-

mises. The question therefore occurs: has he the will and the

power to fulfil the promise? and where it is men who promise,

the answer to this question is never very consolatory, often very

mournful. Hence the Psalmist, before unfolding farther the con-

tents of the promise, proceeds in ver. 5-18 to praise the glory

of God, especially his omnipotence and faithfulness. This inde-

pendent portion of the Psalm is very artificially arranged. The

whole consists of 14 verses. The praise of God is completed in

10, ver. 5-14. To this there is added a declaration as to the

happiness of the people who have such a God, ver. 15-18. The

ten is divided into a three and a seven,—the introduction and

the proper treatise. The three of the introduction and the four

of the conclusion make up a seven, which corresponds to the

seven of the main division. The unbroken seven is enclosed

within the broken one.

            First, ver. 5-7: The omnipotence and faithfulness of God are

devoutly praised even by the angels, his heavenly congregation.

Ver. 5. And the heavens praise thy wonders, 0 Lord, and thy

truth in the assembly of the saints. Ver. 6. For who in the


            a On "I have sworn," Arnd:  "who does not see here how great is the friendship and

how faithful is the love which God bears to man, and how deep the lofty majesty of God

condescends when he swears to man? And why does he do this? In order that he may

make his promise sure, that he may strengthen our faith and help our weakness;—so

desirous is God that we should believe on him and not doubt his promise. In Heb. vi.

such causes are assigned. 0 blessed people, for whose sake God swears! 0 miserable

people, who will not believe God even when he swears!"



                       PSALM LXXXIX. VER. 5-7.                        101


clouds is like to the Lord, who comes like to God among the

sons of God? Ver. 7. God is very terrible in the confidence of

the saints, and dreadful for all who are round about him.—

And the heavens praise, ver. 5:—and therefore it is clear of

what mighty importance, what a precious treasure, this promise

is, the author of which is praised even by the angels, (not where-

fore or truly). Ps. xxix. 1, 2, is a parallel, and in all probability

the fundamental passage, where in like manner the praise of God

by the angels appears as an evidence for the infinite greatness of

God.  Heaven is in opposition to earth. The second clause shews

that it comes into notice in regard to its inhabitants, the angels.

The wonders are named as works of omnipotence; comp. ver. 8,

where we have as here wonders and faithfulness, might and

faithfulness. In the second clause "they praise," must be supplied

from the first. The angels have, as in the fundamental passage

Deut. xxxiii. 2, 3, the name of the "holy ones," i. e., the sacred

and the glorious (comp. at Ps. xxii. 3), for the purpose of pointing

to their dignity, which serves for a basis on which to lay the glory

of God, to whom they are devoutly subordinate. The holy ones in

heaven stand opposed to the weak mortals of earth whose praise

has not much to say. The expression, "the assembly of holy

ones," points to the congregation of God upon the earth, which,

in its weakness, sings his praise.—In ver. 6, 7, the fact that even

the holy ones praise God, is grounded on the infinite superiority

of God above the most glorious creatures.a In ver. 6, qHw,

cloud, the singular only here, and in ver. 37, in other passages,

MyqHw, is employed poetically for the heavens. On the Bne

Elim, sons of God: comp. at Ps. xxix. 1. The agreement in

this very singular expression, shews that the Psalmist had this

passage distinctly before his eyes. The thrice repeated Jehovah,

also, in ver. 5 and 6, is assuredly designed.—In ver. 7, the lx

stands in reference to its appellative sense, the strong one. "The

confidence of the holy ones" (comp. at lxxxiii. 3, lv. 14), denotes

the confidential community to whom God vouchsafes to intrust

his secrets, Job i. 6, ii. 1, though not his deepest ones, 1 Pet. i.

12. Notwithstanding this, there always remains an infinite dis-


            a Ven.: "The duty rendered to God by the inhabitants of heaven is confirmed and

illustrated by the infinite superiority and excellence of God, in which he very far excels.

them, so that there is no room for even any comparison between them and God."


102                THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


tance between him and them; comp. Job iv. 18, xv. 15. God

does not cease to be, even to his holy ones, the object of fear.

As the dvs is masculine, and does not exactly denote assembly,

the hbr cannot be an adjective, "in the great assembly of the

holy ones," but only an adverb, "very much," as at Ps. lxii. 2;

comp. dvxm in Ps. xlviii. 1. Those who are around God in

heaven stand opposed to those who are so on earth; comp. Ps.

lxxvi. 11.

            Ver. 8-14.—The Psalmist praises first, in general, the might

and the faithfulness of God, ver. 8, occupies himself next, in

detail, first with the might of God, ver. 9-13, dwelling at the

greatest length upon it, because it is at this point that his

most painful doubt arises, and afterwards at the close with the

moral attribute, the truth (corresponding to the faithfulness)

which forms the conclusion, ver. 14. In depicting the omnipo-

tence of God, prominence is given first, ver. 9, to the dominion

of God over the sea, because it presents, with its tumults, the

emblem of the power of the world, by which Israel was op-

pressed, the Psalmist passing from the figure to the reality, ver.

10; next, the dominion of God over the solid land is adverted

to, in opposition to the sea, with which the description had be-

gun; and lastly, the conclusion, ver. 13, consists of a general as-

cription of praise to God for his power.—Ver. 8. 0 Lord, God

of Hosts, who is mighty as thou art, 0 Lord, and thy faithful-

ness is round about thee. Ver. 9. Thou rulest over the pride

of the sea, when its waves swell thou stillest them. Ver. 10.

Thou crushest Rahab, like one slain, by thy mighty arm thou

destroyest thine enemies. Ver. 11. Thine is the heaven, thine

also the earth, the world and its fulness thou hast founded

them. Ver. 12. The north and the south thou host created,

Tabor and Hermon rejoice in thy name. Ver. 13. Thine is a

mighty arm, strong is thy hand, high is thy right hand. Ver.

14. Justice and judgment are the ground ( on which) thy throne

( stands ), mercy and truth go before thy face.—On hy, in ver. 8,

comp. at Ps. lxviii. 4. The Jah as the concentration of Jehovah,

is the more emphatic word. The second vocative, moreover, would

have no significance if Jehovah stood. The spirit, impressed with

a sense of God, feels the necessity of repeating frequently that

name of God, in which his being is comprehended; comp., for

                  PSALM LXXXIX. VER. 8--14.                    103


example, ver. 6. The faithfulness of God is round about him,

surrounds him as his attendants, so that he never appears with-

out it.—In ver. 9, the tvxg is not "the lifting up," but the

"pride," as "thou rulest " shews; comp. tvxg in Ps. xlvi. 3.

The figurative expression is chosen with reference to what it re-

presents, the pride of the sea of the people. A reference to this

also explains the fact, that in such representations of the omni-

potence of God, the subjugation of the waves of the sea is dwelt

upon with peculiar delight; comp. at Ps. xlvi. 3, lxv. 7. It has

been already intimated in the summary, that the whole arrange-

ment of the clauses of this paragraph can only be explained on

the supposition, that the Psalmist regards the sea a symbol of

the power of the world.a  The xvw is a noun abbreviated from

the infinitive of xWn; comp. the xyw of Job xx. 6.—From the

ordinary sea the Psalmist turns, in ver. 10, to the sea of the na-

tions. He mentions Egypt first as a particularly powerful and

famous humbled enemy of God and his people in past times;

after this, as Egypt got its main overthrow in the sea, the figure

and the reality meet together; and after this he turns generally

to the enemies of God. By the name Rahab, here applied to

Egypt (comp. at Ps. lxxxvii. 4), attention is directed to its

appellative sense, pride, haughtiness, tvxg, which had already

been used of the ordinary sea. The expression, "like one

slain," is to be considered as equivalent to, so that the proud,

haughty person sinks down to the feebleness of a slain man;b

comp. Ps. lxxxviii. 5.—On lbt, land, in opposition to sea, as

Crx, earth, in opposition to heaven; comp. at the fundamental


            a Calvin:  "And thus when the world is in a state of the greatest excitement, the

Lord can immediately bring all things into a tranquil condition." Arnd:  "It is indeed

a mighty power on the part of God which holds the sea; and the man who has not seen

the sea, has not seen the smallest portion of the power and wonders of God. As now God

rules over the sea, he rules also over the whole world, which indeed is a very boisterous

sea when the persecutors rise against the church like great waves and billows; but he

stills them so that they must not destroy Christ's poor little sheep. Yea, he also rules

in our heart; when it is as unquiet and impetuous as the sea, so that the great billows

of conflict, trouble, anguish, despair, strike against the heart, then shall we know that

the Lord rules over such hellish floods. Therefore in such troubles we should pray: 0

Lord, thou who rulest over the impetuous sea, art able to render quiet and soft even my

little restless heart."

            b Arnd:  "The Son of God has not only slain and laid low the Egyptians, and all

outward enemies, but also the hellish Egyptians of our sins, which pursue us in great

numbers, and whose captain is the devil."

104                 THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


passage, Ps. xxiv. 1, 2.—Ver. 12 describes the dominion of God

over the earth in its whole extent. After the north, and the

right hand = the south, Tabor lying on the one side of Jordan,

and Hermon on the other, can only be considered as representa-

tives of east and west; comp. Ps. xlii. 6. They were well fitted

to represent these on account of the manifest traces of the creat-

ing power of God which they bear. They rejoice, because their

very existence is a matter-of-fact praise. In thy name,—over

it, over the deeds of thy glory which have been done on them;

comp. ver. 16, and on "the name of God," for example, at Ps.

xliv. 5.—In ver. 13, according to the connection of arm, hand,

and right hand, according to "thy mighty arm," in ver. 10, and

according to ver. 21, we cannot explain: thine is might with

power, but only: thine is an arm with strength, a strong power-

ful arm.--In ver. 14, Nvkm is not foundation, basis,—this sense is

neither ascertained nor suitable; what should it mean? thy king-

dom stands through righteousness? who would overthrow it then,

if God were not righteous?—but as always the site, the soil

on which the building rests: the dominion of God, is the sense, is

situated on the domain of justice and righteousness. The Mdq  

signifies to go before, to come before, Mynp Mdq occurs in the

sense of to come before the face, Ps. xvii. 12, xcv. 2. It is not,

therefore: mercy and truth step before thee, or stand before

thee, but: they go before thee; comp. at Ps. lxxxv. 13.

            Ver. 15-18. Happy the people who have such a God, a God

of omnipotence, faithfulness, and righteousness! Salvation can

never fail to be imparted to such a people. For this holy and

awful God is, as he has solemnly said and sworn, the protection

of his anointed one.--Ver. 15. Happy the people which know

the joyful sound: 0 Lord, in the light of thy countenance they

shall walk. Ver. 16. In thy name they rejoice always, and

through thy righteousness they are glorious. Ver. 17. For

thou art their mighty ornament, and by thy favour thou exalt-

est our horn. Ver. 18. For our shield is the Lord's, and our

King is the Holy One of Israel's.—At the expression, "who

know the joyful sound," ver. 15, we must supply from the pre-

ceding verse, "in the presence or before the face of such a God;"

who knows to rejoice to thee. The joyful sound is that which

Israel shouted to God, his king and saviour, with the mouth

                 PSALM LXXXIX. VER. 15-18.                          105


and trumpets (comp. Num. x. 1 ss.), at the regular periodical

festivals, and on extraordinary occasions, such as in war;

comp. Num. x. 9, Jos. vi. 5, 20, 1 Sam. iv. 5, 6, 2 Sam. vi.

15, the treatise "on Balaam," at Num. xxiii. 28, where Balaam

says of Israel, "the shout of a king is in the midst of him."

We are not justified, with many, in limiting the joyful sound

to the festivals, or in interpreting it exclusively of the sound of

the trumpet, comp. at Ps. xxvii. 6. The relation of the two

clauses of the verse to each other, as is also the case in Ps.

lxxxiv. 4, is that of cause and consequence, not: who walk, but:

who shall walk in the light of thy countenance, in the splendour

of thy grace; comp. at Ps. iv. 6; xliv. 3; xliii. 3. The face of

the Lord is itself the light which brightly illuminates their other-

wise dark way. Arnd:  "There is great loveliness in the coun-

tenance of a joyful virtuous man. There is greater loveliness

still in the countenance of an angel. But the highest loveliness

is in the countenance of God. Just as parents look joyfully upon

their little children, and when they are learning to walk guide

them with their countenance and eye, so does the merciful God

to those who love him."—In ver. 16, "in thy name," as is mani-

fest from the parallel clause, "through thy righteousness" is to

be understood as equivalent to "over it," "over thy glory mani-

fested in guiding them," comp. at ver. 1.  2. The righteousness of

God is also here that property by which he gives to every one his

own, salvation to his people. The vmvry is not "they are proud,"

but "they are high," "lifted-up as the right hand of God itself,"

ver. 13, comp. "thou liftest up," ver. 17 and Ps. xxvii. 6.—As

it is undoubted that trxpt can only signify "an ornament"

(comp. Ps. lxxviii. 61, the Christol. on Zech. xii. 7), and zf only

"strength," "might," we can only translate in ver. 17: for thou

art their mighty ornament; comp. "the arm of thy strength,"

for "thy strong arm," in ver. 10, "the ark of thy strength,"

instead of "the strong ark," Ps. cxxxii. 8. The vmzf looks

back to zft, in ver. 13. On "thou liftest up our horn," comp.

at Ps. lxxv. 10; xcii. 10. The Keri Mvrt "our horn is high,"

has been introduced only by an unseasonable comparison of vmvry

in ver. 16, and of Mvrt in ver. 24.—In ver. 18 the confidence

which had been expressed in the preceding verses is grounded

upon the mighty assistance of the Lord. How can he do other-

106                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


wise than be surety for him, when Israel's king is his anointed,

and Israel's guardian is his guarded one? The l, denotes here,

as in Ps. xlvii. 9, "for the shields of the earth are the Lord's,"

HIM to whom the king belongs. The common translation is:

for the Lord is our shield, the Holy One of Israel our king. But

l never stands in this way before a nominative, and the thought

is not sufficiently suitable, as the joyful confidence in the salva-

tion of God expressed in ver. 15-18 is in this way wholly dis-

joined from the person of the anointed, around which the whole

Psalm revolves. In reference to the appellation of God, "the

Holy One of Israel," comp. at Ps. lxxi. 22; lxxviii. 41.

            There follows, in prosecution of the subject entered upon in

ver. 3 and 4, a more full development in two sections, of the

glorious promise made to the anointed, and in him to the people,

ver. 19-38. First in ver. 19-28, it is represented that God had

promised perpetual deliverance to the people in him, perpetual

victory over its enemies, perpetual dominion; and after that the

objection is met that this promise may, in consequence of the

sins of the anointed, become altogether null: God has already

explained that the promise is in its nature an unconditional one,

that he will punish the sins of his chosen family, but that he will

never withdraw his favour from it, and from the people in it, ver.


            Ver. 19-28.—Ver. 19. At that time thou did speak in the

appearance ( to Nathan) to thy holy ones, and didst say: I have

laid help upon a man of war, I have lifted a young man out

of the people. Ver. 20. I have found David my servant, with

my holy oil I anointed him. Ver. 21. With him my hand shall

be constant, yea my arm shall strengthen him. Ver. 22. The

enemy shall not oppress him, and the wicked shall not afflict

him. Ver. 23. And I beat down before him his opponents, and

his haters I will strike. Ver. 24. And my truth and mercy are

with him, and through my name his horn shall be exalted.

Ver. 25. And I put his hand upon the sea, and upon the rivers

his right hand. Ver. 26. He shall also thus address me: Thou

art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. Ver. 27.

I will also make him my first born, most high over the kings of

the earth. Ver. 28. I will perpetually secure for him my mercy,

and my covenant shall remain continually with him.—That the

                   PSALM LXXXIX. VER. 19-28.                      107


paragraph ends here, and that ver. 29 belongs to what follows,

is evident from the circumstance that there it is the seed of the

anointed that is spoken of, while here it is only one person that

always meets us, the ideal person of the anointed, the royal family

of David represented by him.—The "at that time," in ver. 19,

connects the paragraph with ver. 3 and 4. NvzH, appearance is

the term applied to the revelation of God made to and by Nathan

in 1 Chron. xvii. 15, comp. the NvyzH in 2 Sam. vii. 17. In its

original form the promise was directed to David. But it is made

very manifest in 1 Chron. xvii. 15, and 2 Sam. vii. 10, that it was

intended not only for him but also for the people. This view of the

promise, as intended for the people, is the only one that is kept

before our eye throughout the whole of the Psalm; and in accord-

ance with this, the people, as the original recipient of the revelation,

are termed "thy holy ones," and in harmony with it David, in what

follows, is spoken of in the third person. All the old translators,

many MSS. and editions give jydsH in the plural. The singular

owes its existence, as in Ps. xvi. 10, to an exegetical difficulty. It

was felt to be impossible to reconcile the plural with the application

to David or Nathan; and to one or other of these, all interpre-

ters, without exception, down even to modern times, have applied

the expression, without observing that in the following part of

the Psalm it is the people that complains that God does not ap-

pear to be keeping his promise, and that it is the people that

prays that he would fulfil his promise. When one goes deep

into the root of the matter, the singular is seen to be unsuitable.

The address cannot be made to David, for he is never addressed

throughout the remaining portion of the Psalm. The Psalmist

has given no ground for changing the address, which histori-

cally was directed to David through Nathan, into an address

to Nathan, so that he should be considered as the person

meant by the holy one; it would be considered as a step

backwards, inasmuch as the language employed in the Psalm

does not refer to a decree of God received inwardly, but to

one openly promulgated; and there is, moreover, no ostensible

reason why Nathan should be termed the holy one of God. His

piety has nothing to do with the matter. The divine revelation

made through Nathan first goes backward in ver. 19, 20, to what

had taken place long ago, the first choice of David by Samuel,

108                    THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


and there is next connected with this in the 22d and following

verses, the promise for the future which rests upon this as its

basis. The expression "I have laid help" is not to be understood

as equivalent to "I have provided help," but it means: I have

on behalf of you, my holy ones, laid help upon him, made him the

depository of my help, or constituted him a helper; compare Jud.

xiii. 5, when it is said of Samson: he shall begin to deliver Israel

out of the hand of the Philistines. On the term, "a man of war,"

compare 2 Sam. xvli. 10, all Israel knoweth that thy father is a

man of war. David was a powerful young man, (compare Ps.

lxxviii. 31, 63—Luther falsely a chosen one), at the time when

his selection became possessed of vitality in his deed of heroism

against Goliath. Still we must not limit ourselves to David as

an individual. We must rather consider him as the representa-

tive of his eternally youthful heroic seed, a seed which reached its

summit of perfection in Christ (Jesus = him on whom God has

laid help), compare ver. 45.—"I have found" in ver. 20, intimates

that the choice of David was not a blind arbitrary act lifting him

out of the mass of the people, but a step taken in consequence of

a fixed divine purpose. For the sake of impressing this upon the

people, God, according to the history of the choice of David, put

on the appearance of seeking and finding. The anointing of David

with the holy oil was, according to 1 Sam. xvi. 13, the form under

which the gifts of the Spirit were imparted to him, which were

developed in the most glorious forms in Christ who at the same

time was anointed in him.—"With whom my hand shall be esta-

blished" in ver. 21 (compare ver. 37; Ps. lxxviii. 37), is to be con-

sidered as equivalent to "my hand shall be continually with him,"

ver. 24, 1 Sam. xviii. 12, 14, 2 Sam. v. 10.—In ver. 22 the xywih is

"to act like a creditor," Hwvn, “to oppress.” The second clause

is quite literally taken from 2 Sam. vii. 10, "neither shall the

children of wickedness afflict them any more as in the beginning."

What is there said of the people is applied here to the anointed,

who receives every thing for the community, and without whom

the community receives nothing.—In ver. 25, the hand is that

which takes possession of any thing. The article in the sea, in

the river, stands generically as in Is. xliii. 2. The sea and the

rivers generally are meant as in Ps. xxiv. 2. The Psalmist en-

larges the promise, as the language of prophecy had already done,

                    PSALM LXXXIX. VER. 29-37.                   109


with special reference to Ps. lxxii. 8, "he has dominion from

sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth." As de-

cisive against the limited application to the Mediterranean Sea

and the Euphrates, may be mentioned the parallel passages al-

ready referred to in Ps. lxxii., and in the prophets, the clause,

"the highest over the kings of the earth" in ver. 27 and the

plural "the rivers," which cannot be explained by connecting the

Tigris with the Euphrates, for no such connection ever occurs.—

On "He will call me my father," ver. 26, compare 2 Sam. vii. 14,

and the investigations at Ps. ii. 7.—The first-begotten in ver. 27,

as in Ex. iv. 22, where Israel, and Heb. i. 6, where Christ the

true David is thus named, is at the sametime the only begotten. In

the second clause, what is said in Deut. xxviii. 1 (compare xxvi.

19) of the people, "and the Lord thy God make thee higher than

all the nations of the earth," is transferred to the anointed in

whom and through whom the people were to obtain their lofty

destination. Here also we must ascend to Christ, compare Ps.

lxxii. 11, 12; it was only a feeble type of the fulfilment that was

witnessed in David, compare 1 Chron. xiv. 17.

            Ver. 29-37.—Ver. 29. And I set upon eternity his seed, and

his throne like the days of heaven. Ver. 30. If his sons forsake

my law and walk not in my statutes. Ver. 31. If they profane

my ordinances and observe not my commandments. Ver. 32.

I visit with the rod their iniquity, and with stripes their sin.

Ver. 33. But my mercy I will not withdraw from him, nor

break my faithfulness. Ver. 34. I will not profane my cove-.

nant, and I will not alter what has gone out of my lips. Ver.

35. One thing have I sworn in my holiness, I will not lie to

David. Ver. 36. His seed shall be eternal, and his throne as

the sun before me. Ver. 37. As the moon he shall be established

for ever, and the witness in the clouds is perpetual.—At the be-

ginning and at the end of this paragraph there is an assurance of

the perpetuity of the kingdom of David. And in the middle of it,

the Psalmist removes every thing which appeared to endanger that

perpetuity, by dwelling upon the one verse, 2 Sam. vii. 14, what had

obtained a very peculiar importance in consequence of the history,

the manifest dreadful sins of the family of David, which seemed to

imply total rejection.--On ver. 29, compare 2 Sam. vii. 12; Ps.

lxxii. 5, 7, 17. The expression as "the days of heaven" is taken

110                  THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


from Deut. xi. 21, where there is promised to the people in case

they remain faithful to the covenant, a continuance "on earth as

the days of heaven."—In ver. 30 and 31 the strongest possible

descriptions of sin are designedly chosen in order to express the

thought that the substance of the covenant is altogether indepen-

dent of human conditions, that even the greatest unfaithfulness on

the part of man does not alter the faithfulness of God.—In ver.

32, the words themselves do by no means convey the idea of a

slight punishment; and neither can this be said of the fundamen-

tal passage, 2 Sam. vii. 14, "if he (the seed of David his race)

errs, I will visit him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of

the children of men," i.e., with such punishments as all men (be-

cause all are sinners) are exposed to, grace shall not remove him

from this the common lot of men, he has no commission to sin,

contrary to Prov. xxiii. 13, 14, "withdraw not thy son from chas-

tisement, if thou smitest him with the rod he shall not die, and

thou shalt deliver his soul from hell." The alleviating limitation

is here first given in ver. 33, as it is in the fundamental passage

in ver. 15. The alleviation, however, is not to be misunderstood

as if it referred to individuals contrary to the nature of the thing,

and contrary to the history, according to which annihilating judg-

ments did descend upon the rebellious members of the family of

David; but the opposition is of the punishment of sin in the in-

dividual, and of grate continually remaining to the family. We

must not fail to notice that in ver. 33 it is not said: I will not

withdraw my mercy from them, the sinners, but from him the

family as such. Now that the kingdom has passed from the sin-

ful to the holy seed of David, the direct application of this para-

graph has ceased. The case provided for in the promise cannot

again occur. Still there exist between Christ and his church a

case analogous to that between David and his seed. As David's

family was chosen in him (compare 1 Kings xi. 36, 2 Kings viii.

19, Is. xxxvii. 35, 2 Chron. vi. 42), so that it always remained

in possession of the favour of God, notwithstanding the fall and

rejection of many of its individual members, in like manner the

church is chosen in Christ and the sins of its members may hurt

themselves but cannot injure it. Notwithstanding the fall of a

whole generation, it always flourishes again and under the most

inexorable judgments which are not removed by the appear-

                           PSALM LXXXIX. VER. 29-37.               111


ance of Christ, but rendered more severe, compassionate grace

is always concealed. —In reference to the rqw, with b in ver.

33, comp. at Ps. xliv. 17.—The llH in ver. 34 signifies, as

it always does, to profane. The covenant sworn by God was

a holy one, comp. at Ps. lv. 20, and "in my holiness" at

ver. 35. That is holy which God, the Holy One, promises, de-

sires, and has agreed to. "I will not profane" refers back to "if

they profane," in ver. 31. The second clause rests on Deut xxiii.

24 (comp. Num. xxx. 13), "whatever has gone out of thy lips

thou shalt perform and do." God desires, on the part of his peo-

ple, truth and fidelity towards himself only on the ground of his

own truth and fidelity towards them. All the commands of him

who has said, "Be ye holy for I am holy," are also promises.—

In ver 35, the tHx is not once (this sense, in this case, would

be generally uncertain, and it is still more uncertain whether once

could be taken as equivalent to once for all), but one thing, as at

Ps. xxvii. 4,—if I have anywhere sworn anything to him, I have

sworn this. The thing sworn, and, according to the second

clause (on which we may compare Num. xxiii. 19; 1 Sam. xv. 29),

the thing to be kept inviolate, follows in ver. 36 and 37. On "in

my holiness," (Gesenius, manifestly falsely: in my sanctuary)

comp. Ps. lx. 6.—The "before me," in ver 36, is "under the

sheltering covering of my favour."—The constant witness, in ver.

37, is the moon. As God has connected with his own duration

the continued existence of the family of David, so has he, in like

manner, given a constant witness which would convict him of un-

faithfulness, should he permit this family to fall to the ground.

As long as the church of God beholds the moon shining, which

no more goes out in darkness than the other witness and pledge,

the sun, she may be full of comfort and joy,—he promises to her

David life and victory, even though he seems to be laid on his

death-bed, and the sons of wickedness shout over him as one al-

ready dead. Many expositors give the totally false rendering:

the witness in the clouds, God himself is to be depended on:--

the still more arbitrary view is not for one moment to be thought

of, which refers to the rainbow, with which the family of David had

nothing to do. God cannot be named as his own witness, and Nmxn  

in parallel with Nvky cannot signify "to be depended upon," but

only "constant," as in ver. 28.

112                     THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


            With the joyful assurance of the everlasting continuance of the

family of David, and, therefore, of her own deliverance, the church

proceeds to contemplate the actual state of matters at the present

moment. (Ps. xliv. 9, and following verses, are exactly similar.)

The contradiction between the present state of matters and this

assurance gives occasion to the church to utter a painful lamen-

tation, ver. 38-45. She soon turns, however, from the lamenta-

tion to the prayer, ver. 46-51, that the Lord would remove the

appearance, of contradiction.—The whole has fourteen verses, the

first paragraph twice four and the second twice three (comp. hls  

in ver. 48), the four of lamentation is both times supplemented

by three of prayer so as to form seven.

            Ver. 38-45.—Ver. 38. And THOU castest off and rejectest,

art angry with thine anointed. Ver. 39. Thou destroyest the

covenant of thy servant; thou profanest on the ground his

crown. Ver. 40. Thou tearest down all his hedges, thou layest

in ruins all his strong works. Ver. 41. All who pass by rob

him, he was a reproach to our neighbours. Ver. 42. Thou dost

exalt the right hand of his enemies, thou lettest all his foes re-

joice. Ver. 43. Thou castest also the strength of his sword to

turn back, and dost not stand by him in battle. Ver. 44. Thou

robbest him of his purity, and castest his throne to the ground.

Ver. 45. Thou shortenest the days of his youth, thou coverest

him with shame. Selah.—It is to be observed that all the objec-

tions of the Psalmist are directed to the one point, that the family

of David is apparently in danger of utter destruction. It is not any

thing that had hitherto happened, considered in itself, that dis-

quiets him—all might have happened only in terms of ver. 32—but

as foreboding a yet more dreadful future. He is contending only

against appearances, and knows in God that he is contending only

against appearances, yet the contest is, on that account, all the

harder; the signs are very threatening, and, were it not for God

and his word, he would be forced to regard it as folly still to hope.

No difficulty would ever have been felt by expositors with the

lamentation, if it had been viewed as, what it really is, the basis

of the following prayer, and if, at the same time, attention had

been directed to the light which breaks in upon its darkness out

of the preceding praise of God.—The expression "Thou profanest

his crown," in ver. 39, is to be explained by the fact, that the

                   PSALM LXXXIX. VER. 38-45.                       113


crown was the official badge of the king, as the anointed of the

Lord. There stood also upon it, though in an invisible form,

what was visible on that of the high priest, "holiness to the

Lord," Ex. xxviii. 36, xxix. 6. In reference to Crxl on the

ground," comp. at Ps. lxxiv. 7.—In the first clause of ver. 40, the

king appears, under the image of a vineyard, whose protecting

walls have been thrown down, and in the second, of a city whose

fortifications (for this is the proper meaning of rcbm) have been

demolished, comp. Job xvi. 14. The sense is: thou hast left him

defenceless and helpless. That we cannot translate "Thou

breakest down all the walls of his city," is clear from this, that

hrdg is never used of the walls of a city, but always of the en-

closures of a vineyard or sheep-fold, and also from comparing the

parallel passage, Ps. lxxx. 12, "Why hast thou broken down its

wall (i. e., the wall of thy vineyard)?" It is quite obvious that

this is the fundamental passage. In that passage "its wall" (its

fence) is an expression for which preparation had been made, as the

language used had all referred to the Lord's vine, and allusion had

been made to Is. v. 5; The expression in the 41st verse, "all

who pass by the way," is also borrowed from the eightieth Psalm.

Those quotations in the Psalm before us from the eightieth Psalm,

quotations which ft is impossible to mistake, show that we formed a

right judgment as to the age of that Psalm. Had it referred, ac-

cording to the assumption of several, to the Chaldean catastrophe,

it would have been later than the Psalm before us. The sense of

destruction, ruin, is commonly given here to htHm.  But this

sense is not well ascertained, and the ordinary sense, terror, is

also here very suitable: thou causest his fortifications to be

terrified before the enemy, and to be removed; comp. Jer.

1, "the fortification is confounded and dismayed."—In

ver. 41, "the passers by" are the nations of the Asiatic kings

who visited Judah in marching through against the king of

Egypt (comp. at the fundamental passage), the neighbours, the

surrounding nations who, on a former occasion, approached

David and Solomon with reverence, and paid tribute; comp.

2 Sam, viii. 2; 1 Kings v. 1; now they despise the anointed

of the Lord in his disgracefully degraded condition, comp.

Ps. lxxx. 6; lxxxviii. 8.—In ver. 42 the Psalmist complains

that the anointed of the Lord missed the fulfilment of the

114                   THE BOOK OF PSALMS.


prayer, "let not mine enemies triumph over me," which ap-

peared to have been secured to him for all eternity. But it is

well for him that he derives all the sufferings of the anointed

singly and alone from the Lord, and considers human enemies

only as instruments in his hands.  This is the first foundation of

the hope of deliverance.—The expression, "thou causest his sword

to turn back" in ver. 43, is illustrated by 2 Sam. i. 22, "the

sword of Saul returned not empty." The sword returns back

ashamed when it does not pierce. The rock or the stone (comp.

at Ps. xviii. 2) of his sword, is his sword which, according to the

promise, ver. 22 and 23, and through means of the rock of salva-

tion, ver. 27, should have been unchangeably firm and sure. The

whole meaning is: the edge of his sword is as it were unaccountably 

turned away. The rvc means always a stone, even in Jos. v. 2, 3.

--In the first clause of ver. 44, the suffix is to be supplemented out

of what precedes, comp. the tynf in Ps. lxxxviii. 7: thou hast

caused him to cease from his purity, thou hast robbed him of his

splendour, comp. Ez. xxxiv. 10. The explanation, thou hast

robbed from his splendour a part of it, gives a flat, and hence in

the connection an unsuitable meaning.—"Thou hast shortened

the days of his youth," in ver. 45, is equivalent to, thou hast

made him, thine anointed, old before the time, whereas according

to ver. 19 he should have been eternally young. The youth is

alluded to as- the season of strength, comp. Job xxxiii. 25. Old

age, as the season of feebleness, here referred to in connection

with the anointed, is in other passages spoken of in connection

with the church in the same view, comp. at Ps. lxxi. 9, 18, Hos.

vii. 9, "Old age whitens his hair, and he knows it not." In

Christ the family of David returned to the strength of youth,

which had apparently vanished. "Its flesh became again as that

of a little child." Several expositors altogether erroneously refer

to this or that Jewish king before the captivity, who reigned only

a short while. The Psalmist has to do throughout, not with a

single individual, but with the whole race.

            Ver. 46-51.—Ver. 46. How long, 0 Lord, wilt thou hide

thyself for ever, shall thine anger burn like fire? Ver. 47. Re-

member how short my life is, wherefore hast thou created all

the children of men in vain? Ver. 48. Where is the man who

lives and does not see death? who delivers his soul from the

                    PSALM LXXXIX. VER. 46-51.                       115


hand of sheol? Selah. Ver. 49. Where are thy early tender

mercies, 0 Lord, which thou didst swear to David in thy faith-

fulness? Ver. 50. Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy ser-

vant, that I bear in my bosom all the many nations. Ver. 51,

That thine enemies reproach, 0 Lord, that they reproach the

footsteps of thine anointed.—On "how long—always," in ver.

46, comp. at Ps. xiii. 1; lxxix. 5.a   ver. 47 and 48, the

prayer that God would not further withhold his favour from his

anointed, and from the church in him, is founded on the shortness

of human life, as is the case very often with similar prayers in

the book of Job, for example, vii. 6, "remember that my life is

a breath, mine eye will not return to see good," xiv. 1, s., comp.

at Ps. xxxix., lxxviii. 39. It would be hard if God were to fill up

entirely with sufferings, in the case of his own people, the short

span of time which man has to live.b  The first clause of ver. 47

is to be explained: remember, I, what life, i. e., what I have to

live, how short my existence is; comp. the fundamental passage,

Ps. xxxix. 5, "behold as an hand-breadth thou makest my days,

and my life is as non-existence before thee." Some hasty critics

would read instead of ynx, ynvdx, O Lord. But the Psalmist is

not so prodigal of his addresses to God, and the ynx cannot be

dispensed with, more especially as the dlH, properly exist-

ence or continuance, does not exactly point out human life.

Even in the fundamental passage the language used does not

apply to human life generally, but to the life of the Psalmist,

who speaks here in the name of every individual member of

the church. In the second clause hm lf stands in its usual

sense, why; xvw, adverbially, in vain, as Ps. cxxvii. 1, 2. We

should supposed added: as would be the case, wert thou to give


            a Arnd: "Is it not an odd thing that when we see a fire break out we are terrified

and run, and every man looks after what is his own, yet no man will be terrified at the

fire of the wrath of God? Whereas every man should rather help to quench the wrath

of God by prayer and true 'repentance, and after this consider that he has a gracious

God, and one who is not angry with him. And if this were so it would be well with us

all, and the common fire of the wrath of God would be extinguished."

            b Arnd: Thou wilt be long angry, and our life is so short. And truly, beloved

Christians, there is a high, immeasureable, noble way and disposition in the most high

God, there is such great long-suffering and compassion with him, that when a man holds

up before him his nothingness and his deep misery, he does not punish us as we have

well deserved, but thinks, what should I do with poor dust and ashes, why should I be

angry with dust."

116                THE BOOK. OF PSALMS.


over man in perpetuity to misery. The expression, therefore,

"why hast thou," &c., is in reality as much as "yet will not

have been made in vain." Even here the rich background of

salvation after death is concealed before the eye of the Psalm-

ist. It must first be made perfectly manifest in Christ.—The

former tender mercies are those which God manifested to David

in the early part of his history, and which were pledges of the fu-

ture, all the more on this account that God had sworn his favour

in perpetuity to David. In the second clause the former (tender

mercies) are not the object directly contemplated; it is only the

idea of the general favour of God that is there placed before the

mind.a —That the many nations in the second clause of ver. 50

are referred to in connection with the reproach which they cast

upon the people of God is clear from the first clause. But to

supply grammatically the reproach from the preceding clause,

"all (the reproach) of the many nations" is hard and flat:--  

such a resumption of the st. constr. in a subsequent clause is

altogether without example; Job xxvi. 10, to which Ewald re-

fers, has nothing to the point. The Church of the Lord has, as

it were, many nations in its bosom (Ps. lxxix. 1), in the reproach

which she suffers from them.—Ver. 51 is still dependant upon  

"remember " in ver. 50. The rwx is that, comp. Ewald 597.

It is emphatically shewn that the enemies of the king, as he is

the anointed of God, are the enemies of God. The footsteps of

thine anointed (Ps. lxxvii. 20)—him wherever he goes and

wherever he stands.

            Ver. 52 does not at all belong to the Psalm, but contains the

doxology which concludes the third book. Hitherto the arrange-

ment of the Psalms has presented no difficulty. The first book

contains the Davidic Jehovah-Psalms; the second the Elohim

Psalms of the singers of David, the sons of Korah, Ps. xlii.–xlix.,

Asaph, Ps. 1., then his own Elohim Psalms; the third book, the

Jehovah Psalms of his singers, Asaph, Ps. lxxiii.-1xxxiii., the

sons of Korah, Ps. lxxxiv. lxxxix. The Elohim-Psalms are de-

signedly enclosed on both sides by the Jehovah-Psalms.


            a Calvin:  "God had attested the faithfulness of his word by clear proofs, and therefore