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Friday, July 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 33

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

Verse 1


The Lord is praised for his works of creation, 1-9;

and for the stability of his own counsels, 10, 11.

The blessedness of the people who have the knowledge of the

true God, his grace, and providence, 12-15.

The vanity of all earthly dependence, 16, 17.

The happiness of them that fear God, and trust in his mercy,



This Psalm has no title in the Hebrew and it was probably written on no particular occasion, but was intended as a hymn of praise in order to celebrate the power, wisdom, and mercy of God. Creation and providence are its principal subjects; and these lead the psalmist to glance at different parts of the ancient Jewish history. In eight of Kennicott's MSS., this Psalm is written as a part of the preceding.

Verse Psalms 33:1. Rejoice in the Lord — It is very likely that the last verse of the preceding Psalm was formerly the first verse of this. As this Psalm has no title, the verse was the more easily separated. In the preceding Psalm we have an account of the happiness of the justified man: in this, such are taught how to glorify God, and to praise him for the great things he had done for them.

Praise is comely for the upright. — It is right they should give thanks to Him, who is the fountain whence they have received all the good they possess and thankfulness becomes the lips of the upright.

Verse 2

Verse Psalms 33:2. Praise the Lord with harp — כנור kinnor; probably something like our harp: but Calmet thinks it the ancient testudo, or lyre with three strings.

The psalter — נבל nebel. Our translation seems to make a third instrument in this place, by rendering עשור asor, an instrument of ten strings; whereas they should both be joined together, for נבל עשור nebel-asor signifies the nebal, or nabla, with ten strings, or holes. Calmet supposes this to have resembled our harp. In one of Kennicott's MSS., this Psalm begins with the second verse.

Verse 3

Verse Psalms 33:3. Sing unto him a new song — Do not wear out the old forms: fresh mercies call for new songs of praise and gratitude.

Play skilfully with a loud noise. — Let sense and sound accompany each other; let the style of the music be suited to the words. This skill is possessed by few singers. They can make a loud noise, but they cannot adapt sound to sense.

Verse 4

Verse Psalms 33:4. The word of the Lord is right — He is infinitely wise, and can make no mistakes; and all his works are done in truth. All the words, laws, promises, and threatenings of God are perfectly true and just. The dispensations of his providence and mercy are equally so. When he rewards or punishes, it is according to truth and justice.

Verse 5

Verse Psalms 33:5. He loveth righteousness — What he delights in himself, he loves to see in his followers.

The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. — To hear its worthless inhabitants complain, one would think that God dispensed evil, not good. To examine the operation of his hand, every thing is marked with mercy and there is no place where his goodness does not appear. The overflowing kindness of God fills the earth. Even the iniquities of men are rarely a bar to his goodness: he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends his rain upon the just and the unjust.

Verse 6

Verse Psalms 33:6. By the word of the Lord were the heavens made — This is illustrated in the Psalms 33:9 verse: "He spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast." This evidently refers to the account of the creation, as it stands in the Genesis 1:0.

Verse 7

Verse Psalms 33:7. He gathereth the waters of the sea together — He separated the water from the earth and, while the latter was collected into continents, islands, mountains, hills, and valleys, the former was collected into one place, and called seas; and by his all-controlling power and providence the waters have been retained in their place, so that they have not returned to drown the earth: and he has so adapted the solar and lunar influence exerted on the waters, that the tides are only raised to certain heights, so that they cannot overflow the shores, nor become dissipated in the atmospheric regions. In this one economy there is a whole circle of science. The quantity of matter in the sun, moon, and in the earth, are all adjusted to each other in this astonishing provision: the course of the moon, and the diurnal and annual revolutions of the earth, are all concerned here; and so concerned, that it requires some of the nicest of the Newtonian calculations to ascertain the laws by which the whole is affected.

Verse 8

Verse Psalms 33:8. Let all the earth fear the Lord — He who has thus bound, can unloose; he who has created, can destroy. He has promised life and prosperity only to the godly; let the ungodly stand in awe of him.

Verse 10

Verse Psalms 33:10. The counsel of the heathen to naught — This appears to be similar to what is mentioned in the second Psalm; the useless attempts of the Gentiles to prevent the extension of the kingdom of Christ in the earth: and it may refer to similar attempts of ungodly nations or men to prevent the promulgation of the Gospel, and the universal dissemination of truth in the world.

Verse 11

Verse Psalms 33:11. The counsel of the Lord — What he has determined shall be done. He determined to make a world, and he made it; to create man, and he created him. He determined that at a certain period God should be manifested in the flesh, and it was so; that he should taste death for every man, and he did so; that his Gospel should be preached in all the world; and behold it has already nearly overrun the whole earth. All his other counsels and thoughts, which refer to the future, shall be accomplished in their times.

Verse 12

Verse Psalms 33:12. Blessed is the nation — O how happy is that nation which has יהוה Jehovah for its אלהים Elohim; the self-existent and eternal Lord for its covenant God; one who should unite himself to it by connections and ties the most powerful and endearing! The word אלהים Elohim, which we translate GOD, refers to that economy in which God is manifested in the flesh.

The people whom he hath chosen — The Jews, who were elected to be his heritage, whom he preserved as such for two thousand years, and whom he has reprobated because of their unbelief and rebellion, and elected the Gentiles in their place.

Verse 13

Verse Psalms 33:13. The Lord looketh from heaven — This and the following verse seem to refer to God's providence. He sees all that is done in the earth, and his eye is on all the children of men.

Verse 15

Verse Psalms 33:15. He fashioneth their hearts alikeHe forms their hearts in unity; he has formed them alike; they are all the works of his hands: and he has formed them with the same powers, faculties, passions, c. body and spirit having the same essential properties in every human being.

Verse 16

Verse Psalms 33:16. There is no king saved by the multitude of a host — Even in the midst of the most powerful and numerous army, no king is in safety unless he have God's protection. A king is but a man, and may as easily lose his life as one of his common soldiers.

A mighty man is not delivered by much strength. — There are times in which his might can be of no avail to him: and unless the mighty, the wise, the honorable, &c., have the protection of God, there is no time in which their might may not be turned into weakness, their wisdom into folly, and their dignity into disgrace.

Verse 17

Verse Psalms 33:17. A horse is a vain thing for safety — Even the horse, with all his fleetness, is no sure means of escape from danger: the lion or the tiger can overtake him or he may stumble, fall, and destroy his rider.

Verse 18

Verse Psalms 33:18. Behold, the eye of the Lord — Though all the above are unavailing, yet here is one thing that can never fail; "the eye of the Lord"-the watchful providence of the Most High, "is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy."

Verse 19

Verse Psalms 33:19. To deliver their soul frown death — To watch over and protect them in all sudden dangers and emergencies, so that they shall not lose their LIVES by any accident.

And to keep them alive in famine. — Not only prevent sudden death by an instantaneous interposition of my power, but keep them from a lingering death, by extraordinary supplies granted them in an extraordinary manner; because I am all in all, and all everywhere.

Verse 20

Verse Psalms 33:20. Our soul waiteth — Our whole life is employed in this blessed work; we trust in nothing but him; neither in multitudes of armed men, nor in natural strength, nor in the fleetest animals, nor in any thing human: we trust in Him alone "who is our help and our shield."

Verse 21

Verse Psalms 33:21. For our heart shall rejoice in him — Here is the fruit of our confidence: our souls are always happy, because we have taken God for our portion.

Verse 22

Verse Psalms 33:22. Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us — We cannot abide in this state unless upheld by thee; and, as we disclaim all merit, we seek for a continuance of thy mercy, and this we cannot expect but in a continual dependence on thee. "Let thy mercy, O Lord be upon us, according as we hope in thee."


This Psalm is eucharistic: the contents are -

I. An exhortation to praise God, Psalms 33:1-3.

II. The arguments he uses to enforce the duty, Psalms 33:4-19.

III. The confidence of God's people in his name. Their happiness, and petition, Psalms 33:20-22.

I. In the three first verses he exhorts men to praise God: but whom?

1. The upright; those who are not upright, cannot praise God.

2. That it be done with zeal and affection; with singing, with voice, and the instruments then in use; with some new song, composed on the occasion, for some new mercy; and that the whole be skilfully expressed.

II. This he urges on several good grounds: -

1. The first argument, in general drawn from the truth, the faithfulness, the justice, and goodness of God: 1. "For the word of the Lord is right." 2. "All his works are done in truth." 3. "He loveth righteousness and judgment." 4. "The earth is full of his goodness."

2. His second argument is drawn from God's power in the creation of all things, and that by his word alone, Psalms 33:6-9; and upon it introduces, "Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him."

3. His third argument is drawn from God's providence in governing the world, which may easily be discerned by those who will diligently consider his ways and proceedings, both to other people and to his Church.

1. He makes void all enterprises undertaken against his will, not only of single men, but of whole nations. "The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to naught; he maketh the devices of the people of none effect."

2. Whereas, on the contrary, what he hath decreed shall be done. "The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever; the thoughts of his heart to all generations." On the consideration of which he breaks out into this epiphonema, or joyous reflection: "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord! and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance!"

After which he returns to his discourse on God's providence, and by a hypotyposis, or splendid imagery, amplifies his former argument. For he sets God before us, as some great king on his throne, providing for all the parts of his empire, examining all causes, and doing justice to every one.

1. "The Lord looks from heaven, and beholds all the sons of men."

2. "From the place of his habitation he looks upon all the inhabitants of the earth."

3. And he is not an idle spectator: "He sees and considers their hearts and their works."

And he sees in what they put their confidence; in their armies, their strength, their horse, but not in him. But all in vain; for "there is no king saved by the multitude of a host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. A horse is a vain thing for safety." Multitude, strength, c., without God, are useless.

Hitherto he had given a proof of God's providence towards all men, but now he descends to a particular proof of it, by his care over his Church, which he wonderfully guides, defends, and protects, in all dangers and assaults: and that notice may be taken of it, he begins with, Behold!

1. "Behold, the eye of the Lord," his tenderest care, "is over them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy."

2. "To deliver their soul from death, and keep them alive in famine."

III. The three last verses contain the acclamation of God's people, who place all their hope and trust in him for, being stimulated by the former arguments, they do three things: -

1. They profess and express their faith and dependence on God: "Our soul waiteth on God, he is our help and our shield."

2. They declare the hope by which they are upheld, and how comforted: "For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name."

3. Upon this hope they commend themselves by prayer to God; "Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee."

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 33". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/psalms-33.html. 1832.
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