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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Psalms 73

 

 

Verses 1-28

This, like Psalms 37, 49, and the book of Job, deals with the perplexing problempresented to thoughtful minds by the prosperity of the wicked and the sufferings of the righteous. The Psalmist has been deeply exercised by this question (Psalms 73:2-14), and after struggling with doubt (Psalms 73:15-16) has learned in the sanctuary of God to understand the end of the wicked (Psalms 73:17-20), and to repent of his own unbelieving thoughts (Psalms 73:21-22). He has found rest in the conviction that the only true and lasting blessedness lies in the fellowship of God—a fellowship which ensures present guidance and future welcome (Psalms 73:23-24), which is the object of his supreme desire (Psalms 73:25), and which is independent of all possible change (Psalms 73:26). Separation from God is destruction (Psalms 73:27). Nearness to God is happiness (Psalms 73:28). There is no indication in the Ps. as to its date, except the allusion in Psalms 73:17 to the existence of the Temple.

Title.—See Intro, to Book 3.

1. The conclusion reached by faith precedes the account of the struggle with doubt. Of a clean heart] a spiritual rather than a merely national conception of Israel.

3. Foolish] RV 'arrogant.'

4. Most scholars read, 'For they have no torments; sound and stalwart is their body.'

6. Compasseth.. chain] RV 'is as a chain about their neck,' in the sense of an ornament: see Proverbs 1:9.

7. Render, 'Their iniquity cometh forth from the heart: the imaginations of their mind overflow.'

8. RV 'They scoff, and in wickedness utter oppression.'

9. Against] RV 'in,' a description of pride.

10. His people] the followers and imitators of the wicked man. Return hither] better, 'turn hither,' after the wicked man's example. Wrung out to (RV 'by') them] rather, 'are supped up by them.' They drink in the wicked man's principles, or share in his prosperity: see PBV.

12-14 are best understood as the utterance of the Psalmist's doubts.

15. Say] RV 'had said.' Should offend against] RV 'had dealt treacherously with.' Thy chudren] God's true people, of whom the Psalmist was one, and to whom he felt that he dare not be disloyal. This thought is a practical refutation of doubt, even before the theoretical answer is found.

16. To know] RV 'how I might, know.'

17. Then.. end] RV 'and considered their latter end.' Difficulties are resolved and the soul strengthened against the temptations of doubt in the presence and communion of God, as enjoyed in His sanctuary.

20. When thou awakest] better, 'when Thou stirrest up Thyself.' Their image] not themselves. The end of the wicked is nothingness. It is only a shadow of them that survives for God to contemplate.

22. Foolish] RV 'brutish.'

23. Thou hast holden, etc.] Though the grasp of faith on God may waver, fellowship with Him depends most of all on His grasp of His people.

24. The experience of God's fellowship contains in itself a promise that it will continue and become closer. This thought plainly leads to belief in immortality.

26. My flesh and my heart] both the outer and the inner man. Though both of these should perish, something would yet remain in eternal union with God.

27. Whoring] a familiar OT. figure for departure from God.


Verses 1-52


Book 3

There are two groups of Pss. in this book, Psalms 73-83 being Psalms of Asaph, and Psalms 84-88 (except 86) Psalms of the Sons of Korah. The likeness of the title of Psalms 89 to that of Psalms 88 suggests that it belongs to the same group. The Sons of Asaph and the Sons of Korah were guilds of singers connected with the second Temple (2 Chronicles 20:19; Ezra 2:41; Nehemiah 7:44), and these groups of Pss. belong to collections made by them for the Temple services.

The Psalms of Asaph, though of different dates, are of a similar character, having many features in common. They are national and historical Pss., setting forth God's working in history, expressing national wants, and suggesting lessons from the past for use in the future. These Pss. have a definite doctrine of God. On the one hand, He is the Shepherd of Israel (Psalms 80:1), and the people are the sheep of His pasture (Psalms 74:1; Psalms 77:20; Psalms 79:13). This idea is frequently suggested, and it is elaborated at length in Psalms 78. On the other hand, God is the Judge (Psalms 75:7), defending Israel against enemies (Psalms 76:3-6), executing His judgments against the wicked (Psalms 76:8-9), and also administering justice to the poor and defending them from oppressors (Psalms 82:2-4). Another feature of these Pss. is the way in which history is used for instruction, admonition, and encouragement. Psalms 78 is a lesson of comfort and courage from the past experiences of the nation (cp. Psalms 77:11; Psalms 80:8-10; Psalms 81:7, Psalms 81:10; Psalms 83:9, Psalms 83:11).

The Psalms of the Sons of Korah are largely devoted to the exaltation of the Temple worship. Those who dwell in its courts are blessed (Psalms 84:4); a day spent there is better than a thousand elsewhere (Psalms 84:10). Jerusalem is the favourite place of God (Psalms 87:2); to be born there is a high privilege (Psalms 87:5); and a special blessing attends those who have it (Psalms 87:6).

The problem of the prosperity of the wicked presses upon all the Psalmists, and the author of Psalms 73 dwells upon it. Only religion enables him to bear the burden that oppresses him (Psalms 73:17); but when comforted by the thought of God's presence and healed by communion with Him, he is able to persevere in faith and hope.

Psalms 89 is frequently referred to in NT., e.g. Acts 13:22 (Psalms 89:20), 2 Thessalonians 1:10 (Psalms 89:7), Revelation 1:5 (Psalms 89:27 and Psalms 89:37); while Psalms 78:2 is applied in Matthew 13:35 to Christ's teaching by parables.

The Pss. of Asaph, like those of Book 2, are 'Elohistic': the Korahite Pss. are 'Jehovistic,' like those of Books 1, 4, and 5 (see Intro, to Book 2).

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Psalms 73:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/psalms-73.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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