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Bible Commentaries

Adam Clarke Commentary

Psalms 138

Verse 1

The psalmist praises the Lord for his mercies to himself, 1-3.

He foretells that the kings of the earth shall worship him,

4, 5.

God's condescension to the humble, 6.

The psalmist's confidence, 7, 8.


The Hebrew and all the Versions attribute this Psalm to David, and it is supposed to have been made by him when, delivered from all his enemies, he was firmly seated on the throne of Israel. As the Septuagint and Arabic prefix also the names of Haggai and Zechariah, it is probable that it was used by the Jews as a form of thanksgiving for their deliverance from all their enemies, and their ultimate settlement in their own land, after Ahasuerus, supposed by Calmet to be Darius Hystaspes, had married Esther, before which time they were not peaceably settled in their own country.

Verse Psalms 138:1. I will praise thee with my whole heart — I have received the highest favours from thee, and my whole soul should acknowledge my obligation to thy mercy. The Versions and several MSS. add יהוה Yehovah, "I will praise thee, O LORD," c.

Before the gods will I singנגד אלהים neged Elohim, "in the presence of Elohim" most probably meaning before the ark, where were the sacred symbols of the Supreme Being. The Chaldee has, before the judges. The Vulgate, before the angels. So the Septuagint, AEthiopic, Arabic, and Anglo-Saxon. The Syriac, Before kings will I sing unto thee. This place has been alleged by the Roman Catholics as a proof that the holy angels, who are present in the assemblies of God's people, take their prayers and praises, and present them before God. There is nothing like this in the text; for supposing, which is not granted, that the word elohim here signifies angels, the praises are not presented to them, nor are they requested to present them before God; it is simply said, Before elohim will I sing praise unto THEE. Nor could there be need of any intermediate agents, when it was well known that God himself was present in the sanctuary, sitting between the cherubim. Therefore this opinion is wholly without support from this place.

Verse 2

Verse Psalms 138:2. For thy loving-kindness — Thy tender mercy shown to me; and for the fulfilment of thy truth - the promises thou hast made.

Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. — All the Versions read this sentence thus: "For thou hast magnified above all the name of thy holiness," or, "thy holy name." Thou hast proved that thou hast all power in heaven and in earth, and that thou art true in all thy words. And by giving the word of prophecy, and fulfilling those words, thou hast magnified thy holy name above all things - thou hast proved thyself to be ineffably great. The original is the following: כי הגדלת על כל שמך אמרתך ki higdalta al col shimcha, imrathecha, which I think might be thus translated: "For thou hast magnified thy name and thy word over all," or, "on every occasion." Kennicott reads, "He preferred faithfulness to his promise to the attribute of his power." I believe my own translation to be nearest the truth. There may be some corruption in this clause.

Verse 3

Verse Psalms 138:3. With strength in my soul. — Thou hast endued my soul with many graces, blessings, and heavenly qualities.

Verse 4

Verse Psalms 138:4. All the kings of the earth — Of the land: all the neighbouring nations, seeing what is done for us, and looking in vain to find that any human agency was employed in the work, will immediately see that it was thy hand; and consequently, by confessing that it was thou, will give praise to thy name.

Verse 5

Verse Psalms 138:5. They shall sing in the ways of the Lord — They shall admire thy conduct, and the wondrous workings of thy providence, if they should not even unite with thy people.

Verse 6

Verse Psalms 138:6. Though the Lord be high — Infinitely great as God is, he regards even the lowest and most inconsiderable part of his creation; but the humble and afflicted man attracts his notice particularly.

But the proud he knoweth afar off. — He beholds them at a distance, and has them in utter derision.

Verse 7

Verse Psalms 138:7. Though I walk in the midst of trouble — I have had such experience of thy mercy, that let me fall into whatsoever trouble I may, yet I will trust in thee. Thou wilt quicken me, though I were ready to die; and thou wilt deliver me from the wrath of my enemies.

Verse 8

Verse Psalms 138:8. The Lord will perfect — Whatever is farther necessary to be done, he will do it.

Forsake not the works of thine own hands. — My body - my soul; thy work begun in my soul; thy work in behalf of Israel; thy work in the evangelization of the world; thy work in the salvation of mankind. Thou wilt not forsake these.

I. In the three first verses of this Psalm David promises a grateful heart, and to sing the praises of God, because he had heard his cries, and sent him comfort and deliverance.

II. In the three next he shows what future kings would do, when the works and truth of God should be made known to them.

III. In the two last verses he professes his confidence in God; shows what he hopes for from him; and, in assurance that God will perfect his works, prays him not to desert or forsake him.

I. The prophet shows his thankfulness, which he illustrates and amplifies.

1. "I will praise thee with my whole heart." Sincerely, cordially.

2. "Before the gods," c. Publicly, before potentates, whether angels or kings.

3. "I will worship toward," c. It is true God ruleth as King in his palace: there will I bow it is the symbol of his presence.

4. "And praise thy name," c. From a feeling sense of thy goodness. 1. "For thy lovingkindness," &c. In calling me to the kingdom from the sheepfold. 2. "And for thy truth." In performing thy promise. By which,

5. "Thou hast magnified," &c. This clause is differently read. "Thou hast magnified thy name in thy word by performing thy word above all things." Or, "Thou hast magnified thy name and thy word above all things." See the notes.

6. "In the day when I cried," c. Finite creatures as we are, we must sometimes faint in our temptations and afflictions, if not strengthened by God.

II. The prophet, having set down what God had in mercy done for him in calling him from following the ewes, &c., and making him king, and performing his promises to him seeing all this, the prophet judges it impossible but that the neighbouring and future kings should acknowledge the miracle and praise God. This appears the literal sense: but it may have reference to the conversion of kings in future ages to the faith.

1. "All the kings of the earth," c. Or the future kings of Israel.

2. "Yea, they shall sing in the ways," &c. His mercy, truth, clemency, &c.: "For great is the glory of the Lord." Righteous and glorious in all his works, of which this is one. "Though the Lord be high," &c. Of which David was an instance. "But the proud," &c., he removes far from him. Saul and others are examples of this.

III. Because God who is high, &c. And David, being conscious of his own humility of mind, confidently expects help from God.

1. "Though I walk," &c. Exposed on all sides to trouble.

2. "Thou wilt revive me." Preserve me safe and untouched.

3. "Thou shalt stretch forth thy hand," &c. Restrain the power of my enemies.

4. "And thy right hand," &c. Thy power thy Christ, who, in Isaiah 53:1 is called the arm of the Lord.

The last verse depends on the former. Because the prophet knew that many troubles and afflictions remained yet to be undergone therefore he was confident that the same God would still deliver and make his work perfect.

1. "The Lord will perfect," c. Not for my merits, but his mercy.

2. Of which he gives the reason: "Thy mercy, O Lord," &c. It does not exist only for a moment, but it is eternal.

3. And he concludes with a prayer for God to perfect his work: "Forsake not the work," &c. Thou who hast begun this work, increase and perfect it because it is thy work alone, not mine. If we desire that God should perfect any work in us, we must be sure that it is his work, and look to him continually.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 138". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/psalms-138.html. 1832.