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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Psalms 66

 

 

Verse 1

PSALM 66

LET ALL THE EARTH PRAISE GOD

SUPERSCRIPTION: FOR THE CHIEF MUSICIAN

A SONG; A PSALM.

Addis stated that, "We have two Psalms here: (1) that of the nation (Psalms 66:1-12); and (2) that of an individual (Psalms 66:13-20."[1] Despite opinions of this kind offered by a number of scholars, we find no necessity whatever for the acceptance of such notions.

Yes, indeed, it is true that there is a sharp change in the movement from Psalms 66:12 to Psalms 66:13; but this evident duality is easily explained.

If the psalm was written shortly after the deliverance of Israel from the army of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19), during the reign of Hezekiah, who himself had received a most remarkable deliverance from what was apparently his death-bed, by the miraculous help of God, then either Hezekiah, or someone writing upon his behalf might easily have composed this psalm, first extolling the deliverance of the nation, and then the personal deliverance of their king. Of all the conjectures offered regarding the occasion of this psalm, this explanation appeals to us as reasonable far more than any other.

Ash rejected the notion of this being two psalms joined together, stating that, "The author was a king or a national leader, whose personal experience in trial was a typical part of the larger national problem."[2] Of course such facts indeed fit the case of Hezekiah, first delivered from a fatal illness, and then delivered from the Assyrian army.

Yates also rejected the proposition that we have two psalms here, stating that, "The corporate experience of the nation forms an excellent background for the individual experience of the author."[3]

Matthew Henry wrote that, "This psalm is of such a general use and application that we need not suppose it was penned upon any particular occasion."[4] This opinion, however, ignores the very obvious truth that this psalm celebrates a most remarkable and unusual deliverance of Israel from some overwhelming danger.

As Dummelow expressed it: "This Psalm triumphantly celebrates a great national deliverance. So great that the whole earth is summonsed to join in the praise."[5] Two such "great" deliverances have been proposed, that of the destruction of Sennacherib's Assyrian army, and the return from Babylonian captivity. In our judgment, the deliverance from the Assyrians fits the psalm best.

Delitzsch pointed out that Psalms 65-68 are designated both as "a song," and as "a psalm." He further noted that, "The frequent use of `Selah' was connected with instructions for the musicians, and these annotations referring to the temple music favor the pre-exilic rather than the post exilic origin (or date) of Psalms 66 and Psalms 67."[6]

THE WHOLE WORLD SUMMONSED TO CELEBRATE THE GRAND DELIVERANCE OF ISRAEL

Psalms 66:1-4

"Make a joyful noise unto God, all the earth:

Sing forth the glory of his name:

Make his praise glorious.

Say unto God, How terrible are thy works!

Through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee.

All the earth shall worship thee,

And shall sing unto thee;

They shall sing to thy name. (Selah)"

"Make a joyful noise" (Psalms 66:1). The word "noise" here is not really appropriate for the singing that is enjoined, but it is used for the purpose of saying ordinary singing is not loud enough adequately to praise God for such a tremendous deliverance as that which Israel has just experienced.

"All the earth" (Psalms 66:1). Furthermore, Israel feels that her praise of God could not possibly be sufficient to extol such a great deliverance, therefore the whole world is invited to join in the praise.

"The point here is that the deliverance which God's people have experienced is so great that they are unable to offer praise in such a volume as the occasion required. Therefore let all the earth do her part."[7]

"This call for `all the earth' to join in implies that the nation's deliverance is of worldwide significance. That significance does not derive so much from the preservation of God's people as from the disclosure of God's glorious being."[8]

In this disclosure of God's glorious power, the destruction of Sennacherib's army was an event fully as remarkable and wonderful as the overwhelming of the host of Pharaoh in the Red Sea, an event significantly mentioned in this connection a few lines later.

"All the earth shall worship thee" (Psalms 66:4). In this psalm, these words simply mean that all the earth `should' worship God; but as they stand the words are also a prophecy of what indeed is going on now `all over the earth.' All of the ancient pagan deities have been vanquished by the True God; and although the human worship of God is by no means unanimous, it is yet true that God is worshipped in every part of the earth.


Verse 5

GOD'S MIGHTY DEEDS OF THE PAST RECALLED

"Come and see the works of God;

He is terrible in his doing toward the children of men.

He turned the sea into dry land;

They went through the river on foot:

There did we rejoice in him,

He ruleth by his might forever;

His eyes observe the nations:

Let not the rebellious exalt themselves.

(Selah)"

"He turned the sea into dry land" (Psalms 66:6). This is a reference to the passage of Israel though the Red Sea on dry land and the subsequent drowning of the army of Pharaoh in the same sea.

"They went through the river on foot" (Psalms 66:6). They not only did that, the children of Israel went over the Jordan on foot when the river was at flood stage! "It is noteworthy that throughout the Psalms no other historical event is viewed with as much awe and wonder as the Exodus crossing of the Red Sea. There are no less that eight of the Psalms that speak of it, Psalms 18; Psalms 66; Psalms 74; Psalms 77; Psalms 78; Psalms 89; Psalms 106, and Psalms 136."[9]

"Come, and see the works of God" (Psalms 66:5). Now the people who received this psalm could by no stretch of imagination "come and see" the mighty works of God mentioned in the same breath, namely, the crossing of the Red Sea and the crossing of Jordan. Then, what was it that the psalmist here invited the people to "Come, and see?" One possibility is that the nations were to come and look at the dead army of Sennacherib. There may have been some other mighty work of God just as wonderful as that; but it could have been that very thing.

"His eyes observe the nations ... let not the rebellious exalt themselves" (Psalms 66:7). Delitzsch gave the meaning here as follows: "God's eyes keep searching watch among the peoples; the rebellious who struggle against God's yoke and persecute God's people, had better not rise against Him. It will go with them if they do."[10]


Verse 8

THAT SPECIAL GRAND DELIVERANCE

"Oh bless our God, ye peoples,

And make the voice of his praise to be heard;

Who holdeth our soul in life,

And suffereth not our feet to be moved.

For thou, O God, hast proved us:

Thou hast tried us as silver is tried.

Thou broughtest us into the net;

Thou layedst a sore burden upon our loins.

Thou didst cause men to ride over our heads;

We went through fire and through water;

But thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place."

"Bless our God, ye peoples" (Psalms 66:8). The contrast between "our God" and "ye peoples" here indicates that the psalmist was calling all the Gentiles to praise Israel's God for such a marvelous demonstration of God's power. Under the circumstances there was utterly no way to deny that God had indeed wrought a mighty deliverance upon behalf of Israel.

"Holdeth our soul in life ... suffereth not our feet to be moved" (Psalms 66:9). Leupold wrote that, "The deliverance wrought in Hezekiah's day (by the death of the Assyrian army) furnishes a suitable background for every figure used in Psalms 66:8-12."

As Sennacherib's army approached, most Israelites no doubt felt that the destruction of Jerusalem was imminent. The city was already under the burden of immense tribute to the Assyrians; and the taunting remarks of Rabshakeh had struck fear into the whole nation. Despite all the threats, God kept the hopes of the nation alive, not allowing their `feet to be moved.'

"Thou hast tried us as silver is tried" (Psalms 66:10). The presence in the vicinity of Jerusalem of an immense Assyrian army was as great a `trial' as could have been imagined in those days. The Assyrians were historically called `The Breakers'; and their atrocious cruelties were terrible and inhuman. They flayed alive many of their captives; and the ancient artists of that sadistic people were more familiar with the human anatomy without the skin than they were with it. This is demonstrated by the so-called `art' and sculpture which have been excavated from the ruins of ancient Nineveh.

"Thou layedst a sore burden upon our loins" (Psalms 66:11). This appears to be a reference to the extravagant tribute Hezekiah was forced to pay to the Assyrians; 2 Kings 18 relates how Israel had great difficulty raising the hundred talents of silver and the thirty talents of gold, which they were led to believe would avert the destruction of Jerusalem. They even cut off the gold from the doors of the temple itself and left the city bankrupt of all of its precious treasures. It was `a sore burden' indeed.

"We went through fire and through water" (Psalms 66:12). These are metaphors of the most galling trials. "Fire and water in Isaiah 43:2 are figures of vicissitudes and perils of the most extreme character. Israel was indeed near to being `burned up and drowned.'"[11]

"But thou broughtest us forth into a wealthy place" (Psalms 66:12). The RSV has rendered this, "Thou hast brought us forth to a spacious place"; but we fail to see any improvement in the meaning. Certainly, as Delitzsch noted, "The period of their oppression was indeed a state of privation (and poverty); and the antithesis was surely `an abundant fulness of abundance and superabundance of prosperity.'"[12]

Under the circumstances, it seems to us that "a wealthy place" is appropriate. After all, that overwhelming tribute Hezekiah had just paid to the Assyrians would have been recovered after the death of the whole army, to say nothing of all the loot and wealth extracted from the cities of Judah that were in the process of being carried back to Nineveh by Sennacherib's rapacious soldiers.

The words here, "a wealthy place," seem to be required by the incredible riches that came to Israel as a result of God's magnificent deliverance of Hezekiah and the city of Jerusalem.

From the end of Psalms 66:12, the psalmist speaks of himself, rather than of the nation; but the kind of sacrifices offered and the general vocabulary indicate that the psalmist belonged to the nation of Israel, and in all probability, was either a prominent leader or the ruler of it.


Verse 13

THE GRATITUDE OF THE PSALMIST HIMSELF

"I will come into thy house with burnt-offerings;

I will pay thee my vows.

Which my lips uttered,

And my mouth spake, when I was in distress.

I will offer unto thee burnt-offerings of fatlings,

With the incense of rams;

I will offer bullocks with goats. (Selah)

Come, and hear, all ye that fear God,

And I will declare what he hath done for my soul.

I cried unto him with my mouth,

And he was extolled with my tongue.

If I regard iniquity in my heart,

The Lord will not hear:

But verily God hath heard;

He hath attended the voice of my prayer.

Blessed be God,

Who hath not turned away my prayer,

Nor his lovingkindness from me."

"I will come into thy house ... I will pay ... I will offer ... I will offer ... I will declare" (Psalms 66:13,15,16). The future tenses here reveal that the psalmist wrote this psalm immediately after the great deliverance and even before he had had time to offer all the sacrifices and thanksgiving appropriate for such a marvelous answer of his prayers.

"Which my lips uttered ... my mouth spake when I was in distress" (Psalms 66:14). Many a soul has made solemn promises to God in the anxieties of some awful crisis and then forgot all about it when the crisis passed. As the ancient proverb has it:

The devil was sick; the devil a saint would be;

The devil was well; and the devil of a saint was he!SIZE>

The public avowal of the psalmist's intentions here indicate that he did not forget to do what he had pledged to do. Incidentally the abundance and value of the sacrifices to be offered indicate ability and wealth upon the part of the psalmist.

"With the incense of rams" (Psalms 66:15). "The reference here is not to `actual incense' but to the `sweet savour' of the burning sacrifice."[13]

"All ye that fear God" (Psalms 66:16). There is no way that these words can be restricted to Israel alone. "They are addressed in the widest extent, as in Psalms 66:5 and Psalms 66:2, to all who fear God wheresoever such are to be found on the face of the earth."[14]

"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Psalms 66:18). The psalmist here offers an explanation of why his prayers (presumably those for the nation of Israel as well as those for his own recovery) have been so signally answered. The integrity and sincerity of his heart are assigned as a background requirement for such a glorious answer.

"Hengstenberg points out that this part of the Psalm is didactic, teaching that, `There is no way of salvation except that of well-doing.'"[15]

God's answer to the psalmist's prayer was the only proof needed that he indeed had asked in faith and integrity of heart. Such a truth was understood as axiomatic among the Hebrew people. As the man born blind stated it in the New Testament, "We know that God heareth not sinners" (John 9:31).

"Blessed be God who hath not turned away my prayer, nor his lovingkindness" (Psalms 66:20). In addition to the faith and integrity of heart on the part of men who pray, there is another precondition of God's answering deliverance. "That pre-condition, without which no words or works of men could avail, is the stedfast love of God, his lovingkindness to men, and his unchanging goodwill for His people."[16]

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 66:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/psalms-66.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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