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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Psalms 92

 

 

Verse 1

PSALM 92

PRAISING THE GREATNESS OF GOD

The superscription refers to this psalm as, "A song for the sabbath day," meaning, no doubt, that it was used by the Jews as part of their worship on each sabbath day.

In this connection, we were intrigued by a comment of Albert Barnes. "The Chaldee Paraphrase has this for the title, `A song which the first man spoke for the sabbath day.'... We have no proof of what would be so interesting a fact of our having a genuine poetic composition of Adam."[1] Such a thing is an absolute impossibility, because God did not reveal the sabbath day to Adam, there being no evidence whatever that Adam ever heard of it. God revealed the sabbath day to Moses, not Adam. Furthermore, it was never given to "all mankind" but only to the Jews. (For further information on this subject see our extended comments on this matter in Vol. 2, of our Series on the Pentateuch (Exodus), pp. 223-226,277-279.) The first mention of a sabbath day is not in Genesis, but in Exodus 16:23; and the words, `Remember the sabbath day' in the Decalogue are not a reference to Genesis, but to Exodus 16:23.

Regarding the paragraphing of Psalms 92, there are nearly as many opinions as there are scholars. The psalm has 15 verses, and a convenient way of dividing is the method adopted by Delitzsch and Maclaren, in five divisions of three verses each.[2]

The Rabbinical tradition that Moses wrote the psalm is declared to be "untenable" by most modern writers, despite the fact of there being absolutely nothing in the psalm that supports such a dogmatic view. Of course, we cannot know who wrote it, or upon what occasion he did so. An exception is the mention of instruments of music, which, if authentic, would mean that Moses did not write this, but the liturgical use of the psalm during the period of later Judaism might well have led to the addition of this feature.

The same human conceit that added mechanical musical instruments to the temple services would not have hesitated to add them to a psalm. See comment on Psalms 92:3, below.

Psalms 92:1-3

INTRODUCTION

"It is a good thing to give thanks unto Jehovah,

And to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High;

To show forth thy lovingkindness in the morning,

And thy faithfulness every night.

With an instrument of ten strings, and with the psaltery;

With a solemn sound upon the harp."

These three verses are generally recognized as an introduction to the whole psalm.

It is of interest that "Most High" is here used as a synonym for Jehovah. The extensive use of this title in Psalms has not received the attention from scholars that it deserves. The Hebrew people never allowed this title to any pagan deity, although it was sometimes so applied by pagans.

"In the morning ... every night" (Psalms 92:2). The most appropriate times for worshipping God are morning and evening. Every morning, when men arise from sleep, refreshed and strengthened from a night of rest, the blessing of God in the gift of a new day and a new beginning for human activity should inspire every man to `thank God' and worship the Most High. Likewise in the evenings, as one remembers the achievements of the day and God's protection from danger and failure, it is also appropriate to worship God.

Under the Law of Moses, the principle of morning and evening worship were established in the institution of "the morning and evening sacrifices" (Exodus 29:38-42). In the Christian faith, through the tradition of offering thanks for meals, the Lord is actually worshipped "three times daily."

"Instrument of ten strings ... solemn sound upon the harp" (Psalms 92:3). If this is an authentic rendition of the sacred text, it is impossible to suppose that Moses is the author, because such instruments of music were never used in God's worship till the times of David and subsequently. We are not sure, however that the translation here is accurate. Adam Clarke, a very able scholar, objected to it strenuously, declaring that it should be translated: "`Upon the [~'asur], upon the [~nebel], upon the [~higgayon],' with the [~kinnor]. Thus it stands in the Hebrew."[3] None of these words is a reference to any kind of a musical instrument. They appear to be instructions to the singers. Of course, there is no doubt that David did indeed introduce the extensive use of mechanical instruments of music into God's worship; and the only question here is whether or not this psalm mentions it.


Verse 4

THE GREAT WORKS OF GOD

"For thou, Jehovah, hast made me glad through thy work:

I will triumph in the works of thy hands.

How great are thy works, O Jehovah!

Thy thoughts are very deep.

A brutish man knoweth not;

Neither doth a fool understand this!"

"Made me glad through thy work" (Psalms 92:4). It is not clear just which works of God gladdened the heart of the psalmist; perhaps the gladness was from "all" of the works of God. Rawlinson supposed that it was probably, "God's work of providence in the world."[4] The starry heavens alone are enough to inspire any thoughtful person with gladness and praise of God.

"Thy thoughts are very deep" (Psalms 92:5). The thoughts of God are beyond the comprehension of any man, regardless of how learned and intelligent he may be. The universe in which we live with its thousands of galaxies arranged according to a pattern in outer space, deployed in an astounding arrangement featuring millions of light years between them, the quasars, the black holes, the jets of astounding energies, the speed of light, the particular attention of God to the tiny speck of matter called `earth,' and a million other things stagger the imagination of the most intelligent man who ever lived.

Of course, it is also true in this connection, as stated by Addis, that, "God's counsels are too deep for the stupid man."[5]

"The evidence for the exalted nature of God's works and thoughts is so great that a man who falls to acknowledge them, must be classified as a brute and a fool."[6] We like Delitzsch's word for such a man, "Homo brutus."[7]

"Man can neither measure the greatness of God's works nor fathom the depths of divine thought. The enlightened man, however, perceives the immeasurableness of the one and the unfathomableness of the other; but a man of animal nature, `homo brutus,' a blockhead, or one dull in mind, whose carnal nature outweighs his intellectual and spiritual nature, cannot discern how unsearchable are God's judgments and how untrackable are his ways."[8]


Verse 7

THE WICKED TO BE DESTROYED

"When the wicked spring as the grass, And when all the workers of iniquity do flourish;

It is that they shall be destroyed forever.

But thou, O Jehovah, art on high forevermore.

For, lo, thine enemies, O Jehovah,

For, lo, thine enemies shall perish;

All the workers of iniquity shall be scattered."

"When the wicked spring as the grass" (Psalms 92:7). The Good News Bible reads this, "Grow like weeds." We have encountered this adequate metaphor before. Nothing provides any better picture of wicked men than the grass which flourishes one day and is destroyed the next.

"They shall be destroyed forever" (Psalms 92:7). "The prosperity of the wicked has posed a difficult problem for some. Job struggled with it (Job 21:7-21); and Asaph was troubled by it (Psalms 73:2-15); but the psalmist here found no problem at all with it. He saw the prosperous condition of the wicked as nothing but a prelude to their destruction."[9] No enemy of God has any future except that of eternal destruction from the presence of God and the glory of his power (2 Thessalonians 1:9).


Verse 10

THE JOY OF THE RIGHTEOUS

"My horn hast thou exalted like the horn of the wild ox:

I am anointed with fresh oil.

Mine eyes also hath seen my desire on mine enemies,

Mine ears have heard my desire of the evil-doers that rise up against me.

The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree:

He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon."

"My horn" (Psalms 92:10). The horn is a symbol of power, ability, stature and prosperity.

"Like the horn of the wild ox" (Psalms 92:10). This animal is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament, as in Numbers 23:22; 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9-10; Psalms 22:21; 29:6; 92:10; Isaiah 34:7, where all of these references in the KJV are translated "the unicorn."[10] The unicorn is usually referred to as a "mythical animal." We should not think that the King James translators were thinking of the fabulous mythological `unicorn'; "They may have been thinking of some one-horned creature such as the rhinoceros."[11]

To some, the theory that there was indeed, at one time, such an animal is attractive. The absence of any fossil evidence, etc., seems conclusive enough, but it cannot be considered as final unless we were certain that "all the animals of antiquity" are known to modern man, which, it seems to us, is a rather precarious assumption. The use of this animal as an emblem of British royalty, and the existence of such realistic tapestries as "The Unicorn Tapestries," which are displayed in the "Cloisters," New York City, lend some plausibility to such a theory.

"I am anointed with fresh oil" (Psalms 92:10). Taylor suggested that the anointing here, "Was that of a priest in connection with some sickness, such as leprosy (Leviticus 14:10-18)."[12] However, to us, the extreme joy that prevails in the psalm seems rather to indicate that the "anointing" was perhaps like that of Psalms 23, a festive anointing, provided for honored guests on the occasion of a banquet.

"Mine eye hath seen my desire on mine enemies ... mine ears have heard my desire, etc" (Psalms 92:11). "Following the pattern of antiquity, the psalmist gloats over the destruction of enemies; but returns quickly to a description of the happy lot of the righteous."[13]

"The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: ... like a cedar in Lebanon." The palm tree and the cedar are both used as metaphors of the righteous in the Old Testament. The palm's ability to stand straight and tall in savage winds, its grace and beauty, its marvelous fruitfulness (sometimes six hundred pounds of dates from a single tree) and its longevity make it an appropriate metaphor.

The cedar "of Lebanon" was used in the construction of Solomon's temple; it is a very valuable timber, grows tall and handsome, is the source of rich perfume which is fatal to obnoxious insects, and was coveted as a material used in the building of grand residences. Such qualities echo the traits of the righteous. The desirability of cedar for residences is illustrated by the fact that the residence of the first president of the Republic of Texas, Washington-on-the Brazos, was constructed totally of cedar lumber.

Baigent pointed out the contrast between such magnificent trees as the palm and the cedar and the grass mentioned in Psalms 92:7. "Not grass, but long-lived trees are the best description of the vitality and worth of the righteous."[14] The secret of this, of course, is their frequenting the house of the worship of God. The use of this metaphor appears in the very first Psalm, where the righteous is described as, "A tree planted by the streams of water."


Verse 13

FURTHER DESCRIPTION OF THE RIGHTEOUS

"They are planted in the house of Jehovah;

They shall flourish in the courts of our God.

They shall still bring forth fruit in old age;

They shall be full of sap and green:

To show that Jehovah is upright;

He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him."

"They are planted in the house of Jehovah" (Psalms 92:13). "The psalmist thinks of the righteous as trees planted in the temple courts where they flourish in the presence of God."[15] It is unknown whether trees were actually grown on the grounds of the Jewish tabernacle or temple; but the metaphor is not teaching us about trees, but about the righteous. It is an eternal fact that "the righteous" are always "planted," that is, established, in the service of God and in his consistent and continual worship.

Leupold commented that, "Regarding this verse (Psalms 92:13) as figurative language yields a good meaning."[16]

"Fruit in old age ... to show that Jehovah is upright" (Psalms 92:14-15). The longevity and fruitfulness of God's true worshippers is promised here, and there is a special quality of such fruitfulness in that it does not cease with the decease of the righteous. "Their works follow with them" (Revelation 14:13); and one reason why the "crown of righteousness" cannot be awarded to saints immediately when they die, but must wait, as Paul said, until "That Day," is that the eternal achievement of any faithful soul cannot be fully known until it is concluded; and that conclusion occurs not at death, but at the Judgment.

And how about this present life? Is it really true that prosperity and longevity are provided for the people of God, as distinguished from the rest of mankind? The answer is a bold and unequivocal affirmative. Where is the world's greatest prosperity? Where are the longest life-spans? Are such things to be found where the gospel of Christ is unknown? The answer is NO! Nothing any more clearly illustrates this than the example of Russia, once a nominally "Christian nation." They renounced God and his holy religion in 1917; and after 73 years, the whole nation was starving to death, and who was feeding them? The United States of America was selling them 200 million metric tons of wheat every year for the last dozen years of that godless regime.

"To show that Jehovah is upright" (Psalms 92:15). The facts just cited not merely show that Jehovah is upright, but that he is truthful. He blesses those who serve him and lays a heavy hand of judgment upon those who do not serve him.

"The happy and flourishing old age of the righteous are a strong indication of God's faithfulness and truth, showing, as it does, that God keeps his promises, and never forsakes those who put their trust in him."[17] In cases of individuals, this great truth may not always be visible; but when the larger view, as evidenced in the nations of the world mentioned above, the astounding truth of what is written here shines like a beacon in the night.

 


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 92:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/psalms-92.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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