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A thanksgiving of the godly for extraordinary deliverances, 1-4.
The great danger they were in, 7.
Their confidence in God, 8.
In our present Hebrew copies this Psalm is attributed to David, לדוד ledavid; but this inscription is wanting in three of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS., as also in the Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, AEthiopic, and Arabic; and in most of the ancient fathers, Greek and Latin, who found no other inscription in their copies of the text than A Psalm of degrees. It was composed long after David's days; and appears to be either a thanksgiving for their deliverance from the Babylonish captivity, or for a remarkable deliverance from some potent and insidious enemy after their return to Judea. Or, what appears to be more likely, it is a thanksgiving of the Jews for their escape from the general massacre intended by Haman, prime minister of Ahasuerus, king of Persia. See the whole Book of Esther.
Verse Psalms 124:1. If it had not been the Lord — If God had not, in a very especial manner, supported and defended us, we had all been swallowed up alive, and destroyed by a sudden destruction, so that not one would have been left. This might refer to the plot against the whole nation of the Jews by Haman, in the days of Mordecai and Esther; when by his treacherous schemes the Jews, wheresoever dispersed in the provinces of Babylon, were all to have been put to death in one day. This may here be represented under the figure of an earthquake, when a chasm is formed, and a whole city and its inhabitants are in a moment swallowed up alive.
Verse Psalms 124:5. Then the proud waters — The proud Haman had nearly brought the flood of desolation over our lives.
Verse Psalms 124:7. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare — This is a fine image; and at once shows the weakness of the Jews, and the cunning of their adversaries. Haman had laid the snare completely for them; humanly speaking there was no prospect of their escape: but the Lord was on their side; and the providence that induced Ahasuerus to call for the book of the records of the kingdom to be read to him, as well indeed as the once very improbable advancement of Esther to the throne of Persia, was the means used by the Lord for the preservation of the whole Jewish people from extermination. God thus broke the snare, and the bird escaped; while the poacher was caught in his own trap, and executed. See the Book of Esther, which is probably the best comment on this Psalm.
Verse Psalms 124:8. Our help is in the name of the Lord — בשום מימרא דיי beshum meywra depai, Chaldee, "In the name of the WORD of the LORD." So in the second verse, "Unless the WORD of the LORD had been our Helper:" the substantial WORD; not a word spoken, or a prophecy delivered, but the person who was afterwards termed Ὁ Λογος του Θεου, the WORD OF GOD. This deliverance of the Jews appears to me the most natural interpretation of this Psalm: and probably Mordecai was the author.
The people of God, newly escaped from some great danger, acknowledge it, and celebrate God as their Deliverer.
I. The psalmist begins abruptly, as is usual in pathetical expressions.
1. "If it had not been the Lord:" and so deeply was he affected with a sense of God's goodness, and the narrowness of the escape, that he repeats it: "Unless the Lord," c. Nothing else could have saved us.
2. "Now may Israel say" the whole body of the Jewish people may well acknowledge this.
3. "When men rose up:" when they were all leagued against us as one man to destroy us; and, humanly speaking, our escape was impossible.
II. This danger and escape the psalmist illustrates by two metaphors: -
1. The first is taken from beasts of prey: "They had swallowed us up quick." They would have rushed upon us, torn us in pieces, and swallowed us down, while life was quivering in our limbs.
This they would have done in their fury. The plot was laid with great circumspection and caution; but it would have been executed with a resistless fury.
2. The second similitude is taken from waters which had broken through dikes, and at once submerged the whole country: "The stream had gone over our soul;" the proud waters, resistless now the dikes were broken, would have gone over our soul - destroyed our life.
III. He next acknowledges the deliverance.
1. "We are not given a prey to their teeth."
2. It is the blessed God who has preserved us: "Blessed be God," c.
As this deliverance was beyond expectation, he illustrates it by another metaphor, a bird taken in, but escaping from, a snare.
1. We were in "the snare of the fowler."
2. But "our soul is escaped."
3. And the fowler disappointed of his prey. The disappointment of Haman was, in all its circumstances, one of the most mortifying that ever occurred to man.
IV. He concludes with a grateful acclamation. 1. "Our help is in the name of the Lord." In open assaults, and in insidious attacks, we have no helper but God and from him our deliverance must come.
2. This help is sufficient; for he made the heaven and earth; has both under his government; and can employ both in the support, or for the deliverance, of his followers.
Or, take the following as a plainer analysis: -
I. 1. The subtlety of the adversaries of the Church in laying snares to entrap it, as fowlers do birds, Psalms 124:7.
2. Their cruelty in seeking to tear it to pieces, as some ravenous beasts of prey do; or, as mighty inundations that overthrow all in their way, Psalms 124:3-6.
II. The cause of this subtlety and cruelty: wrath and displeasure, Psalms 124:3.
III. The delivery of the Church from both, by the power and goodness of God, Psalms 124:1-2; Psalms 124:6-7.
IV. The duty performed for this deliverance; praises to God, Psalms 124:6.
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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 124". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany