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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Psalms 61





Here we have the prayer of an Israelite living at a distance from his country, and declaring in the simplest possible manner that in spite of this banishment he does not feel remote from God nor deprived of the Divine protection. It is a forecast of the great principle of spiritual worship which Jesus Christ was to proclaim.

Tradition assigns this exquisite little song, with its fine spiritual discernment, to David. The repetition of the imagery of the high tower is in the Davidic style, but many critics think it breathes rather of the time of the captivity. Three equal stanzas of six short lines and elegant rhythm compose the poem.

Title—See title Psalms 4.

Neginah, properly negînath, probably an error for negînôth, as in Psalms 4, as the LXX. and Vulg. (“in hymns”) evidently read it. Or it may be an anomalous form of negînah, which, in Job 30:9, means a satirical song.

Verse 2

(2) From the end. of the earth . . .—A hyperbolic expression for a great distance. Isaiah (Isaiah 5:26) uses the expression of Assyria, and it would be natural in an exile’s mouth, but must not be pressed to maintain any theory of the psalm’s date.

When my heart is overwhelmed.—Literally, in the covering of my heart, the verb being used (Psalms 65:13) of the valleys covered with corn, and metaphorically, as here, of “the garment of heaviness,” which wraps a sad heart (Psalms 102 title; Isaiah 57:16). (Comp. Tennyson’s “muffled round with woe.”)

Lead me to the rock . . .—Literally, upon the rock lead me, which is probably a constructio prægnans for lead me to the rock too high for me to climb by myself, and place me there. The elevated rock is a symbol of security, which cannot be obtained without the Divine help. Others take the expression as figurative for a difficulty which it needs God’s help to surmount.

Verse 3

(3) A strong tower.—Comp. Proverbs 18:10.

Verse 4

(4) I will abide.—Rather, Let me be a guest in, etc. (Comp. Psalms 15:1; Psalms 27:4.)

Thy tabernacle . . .—It is difficult to decide whether this indicates. the Mosaic tabernacle, and so may be used as an index of the date of the poem; or whether the tent is a general figure for the protection of God, wherever it may be found. It certainly recalls Psalms 23:6.

For ever.—Literally, for ages or æons. For the same plural, see Psalms 145:13.

I will trust . . .—Rather, let me find refuge under the shelter of thy wings. (For the image, see Note Psalms 17:8.)

Verse 5

(5) Heritage.—As the Authorised Version runs, the heritage is length of days, one promised generally to those who fear Jehovah (Proverbs 10:27; Proverbs 19:23), and particularly to Israel (Deuteronomy 6:2) and its kings (Deuteronomy 17:19-20, which passage may have been in the psalmist’s mind). But the LXX. and Vulg. read, “to them that fear thy name,” meaning, of course, by the heritage, Canaan.

Verse 6

(6) See margin, and render as a prayer.

Verse 7

(7) He shall abide.—Better, may he sit enthroned.

Prepare.—Rather, appoint. But the LXX. had a different reading, and an ingenious emendation has been suggested from a comparison with Psalms 40:11, viz., “let mercy and truth continually preserve him.”


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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 61:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

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Friday, December 4th, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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