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Bible Commentaries

Clarke's Commentary

Psalms 9

Verse 1

David praises God for the benefits which he has granted to

Israel in general, and to himself in particular, 1-4.

He encourages himself in the Lord, knowing that he will ever

judge righteously, and be a refuge for the distressed, 7-10.

He exhorts the people to praise God for his judgments, 11, 12;

prays for mercy and support; and thanks God for his judgments

executed upon the heathen, 13-16.

He foretells the destruction of the ungodly, 17;

prays for the poor and needy, and against their oppressors,


The inscription to this Psalm in the HEBREW text is, To the chief Musician upon Muth-lab-ben, A Psalm of David. The CHALDEE has, "A Song of David, to be sung concerning the Death of the Strong Man, (or champion, דגברא degabra,) who went out between the Camps;" that is, Goliath, on account of whose defeat this Psalm has been supposed by many to have been composed. The date in the margin is several years posterior to the death of Goliath. See the introduction.

The VULGATE: A Psalm of David, for the end; concerning the secrets of the Son."

The SEPTUAGINT and AETHIOPIC are the same with the Vulgate.

The SYRIAC: "A Psalm of David concerning Christ's receiving the throne and the kingdom, and defeating his enemies.

The ARABIC: "Concerning the mysteries of the Son, as to the glory of Christ, his resurrection, and kingdom, and the destruction of all the disobedient."

Houbigant causes the Hebrew title to agree with the Vulgate, Septuagint, and AEthiopic, by uniting על מות al muth, "concerning the death," into the word עלמות alamoth, which signifies secrets or hidden things. "To the chief musician, or conqueror; secrets concerning the Son: A Psalm of David.

About a hundred MSS. and printed editions unite the words as above. Some translate עלמות alamoth, "concerning the youth or infancy; the infancy of the Son." Several of the fathers have on this ground interpreted it, "concerning the incarnation of our Lord." Indeed the title and the Psalm have been so variously understood, that it would be as painful as it would be useless to follow the different commentators, both ancient and modern, through all their conjectures.

Verse Psalms 9:1. I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart — And it is only when the whole heart is employed in the work that God can look upon it with acceptance.

I will show forthאספרה asapperah, "I will number out, or reckon up;" a very difficult task, נפלאותיך niphleotheycha, "thy miracles;" supernatural interventions of thy power and goodness. He whose eye is attentive to the operation of God's hand will find many of these. In the Vulgate this Psalm begins with Confitebor tibi, Domine, "I will confess unto thee, O Lord," which my old MS. above quoted translates thus: I sal schrife Lard, til the, in al my hert, I sal tel al twi wonders. On which we find the following curious paraphrase: "Here the prophete spekes agaynes that grucches with ese of il men: and the travel and anguis of gude men. I sal schrife til the Lard; that is, I sal lufe the in al my hert, hally gederant it til thi luf: and gyfand na party tharof tyl errour, na to covatyse: ne til fleschly luf. A vile errour it is that some men says, that God dose unrightwisly in mani thinges in erthe: for tham thynk that tay sold noght be done. Als I hard say noght lang sythem, of a man of religyon, and of grete fame, that qwen he was in the see, in poynte to peryshe, he said tyl Gode: Lard thu dos unryghtwysly if thou sofyr us to perysch here. God myght haf answered and said, My rightwysnes reches to sofer a beter man than thou ert to perisse here: for I hope, had he ben a ryghtwyse man, he had noght sayd swa: for al ar unryghtwyse, that hopes that any unrightwysnes may be in Godes wylle. Bot I sal luf the in al thi workes; and tel al thy wonders; that is, bathe that er sene, and that ar noght sene; visibels and invisibels."

Verse 2

Verse Psalms 9:2. I will be glad and rejoice in thee — I am glad that thou hast heard my prayer, and showed me mercy; and I will rejoice in thee, in having thee as my portion, dwelling and working in my heart.

Verse 3

Verse Psalms 9:3. When mine enemies are turned back — It is a sure sign of a nearly approaching complete conquest over sin, when, by resistance to its influences, it begins to lose its power. That is the time to follow on to know the Lord.

Verse 5

Verse Psalms 9:5. Thou hast rebuked the heathen — We know not what this particularly refers to, but it is most probably to the Canaanitish nations, which God destroyed from off the face of the earth; hence it is said, Thou hast put out their name for ever and ever, לעולם ועד leolam vaed, endlessly. Here עולם olam has its proper signification, without end. He who contends it means only a limited time, let him tell us where the Hivites, Perizzites, Jebusites, c., now dwell and when it is likely they are to be restored to Canaan.

Verse 6

Verse Psalms 9:6. Destructions are come to a perpetual end — Rather, "The enemy is desolated for ever; for thou hast destroyed their cities, and their memory is perished with them." Multitudes of the cities of the Canaanites have perished so utterly that neither name nor vestige remains of them.

Verse 7

Verse Psalms 9:7. But the Lord shall endure — All things shall have an end but God and holy spirits.

Verse 8

Verse Psalms 9:8. He shall judge the world in righteousness — All the dispensations of God's providence are founded in righteousness and truth.

Verse 9

Verse Psalms 9:9. A refugeמשגב misgab, a high place, where their enemies can neither reach nor see them. He who has God for his portion has all safety in him.

Verse 10

Verse Psalms 9:10. They that know thy name — Who have an experimental acquaintance with thy mercy, will put their trust in thee, from the conviction that thou never hast forsaken, and never will forsake, them that trust in thee.

Verse 11

Verse Psalms 9:11. Declare among the people his doings. — It is the duty of all those who have received the salvation of God, to recommend him and his salvation to the whole circle of their acquaintance, Christians, so called, when they meet, seldom speak about God! Why is this? Because they have nothing to say.

Verse 12

Verse Psalms 9:12. When he maketh inquisition for blood — This not only applies to the Canaanites, Moabites, Ammonites, and Philistines, who shed the blood of God's people unjustly, but to all the nations of the earth who, to enlarge their territory, increase their wealth, or extend their commerce, have made destructive wars. For the blood which such nations have shed, their blood shall be shed. If man should make no inquisition for this iniquitously spilt blood, GOD will do it, for he remembers them; and the cry of the humbled, distressed people, driven to distraction and ruin by such wars, is not forgotten before him.

Verse 13

Verse Psalms 9:13. Have mercy upon me, O Lord — David, having laid down the preceding maxims, now claims his part in their truth. I also am in trouble through the unjust dealings of my enemies; I am brought to the gates of death; have mercy on me, and lift me up, that, being saved from the gates of death, I may show forth thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion. The gates of death-an open grave, leading to a yawning hell. The gates of the daughter of Zion-all the ordinances of God, by which the soul is helped forward to heaven.

Verse 15

Verse Psalms 9:15. The heathen are sunk down to the pit — See on Psalms 7:15.

Verse 16

Verse Psalms 9:16. The Lord is known by the judgment — It is not every casualty that can properly be called a judgment of God. Judgment is his strange work; but when he executes it, his mind is plainly to be seen. There are no natural causes to which such calamities can be legally attributed.

The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. — There is nothing that a wicked man does that is not against his own interest. He is continually doing himself harm, and takes more pains to destroy his soul than the righteous man does to get his saved unto eternal life. This is a weighty truth; and the psalmist adds: Higgaion; Selah. Meditate on this; mark it well. See on Psalms 3:3. Some think that it is a direction to the musicians, something like our Presto, Largo, Vivace, Allegro, "Play briskly and boldly; beat away; and let sense and sound accompany each other."

Verse 17

Verse Psalms 9:17. The wicked shall be turned into hellלשאולה lisholah, headlong into hell, down into hell. The original is very emphatic.

All the nations that forget God. — They will not live in his fear. There are both nations and individuals who, though they know God, forget him, that is, are unmindful of him, do not acknowledge him in their designs, ways, and works. These are all to be thrust down into hell. Reader, art thou forgetful of thy Maker, and of HIM who died for thee?

Verse 18

Verse Psalms 9:18. The needy shall not alway be forgotten — The needy, and the poor, whose expectation is from the Lord, are never forgotten, though sometimes their deliverance is delayed for the greater confusion of their enemies, the greater manifestation of God's mercy, and the greater benefit to themselves.

Verse 19

Verse Psalms 9:19. Arise, O Lord — Let this be the time in which thou wilt deliver thy poor people under oppression and persecution.

Verse 20

Verse Psalms 9:20. Put them in fearשיתה יהוה מורה להם shithah Yehovah morah lahem, "O Lord, place a teacher among them," that they may know they also are accountable creatures, grow wise unto salvation, and be prepared for a state of blessedness. Several MSS. read מורא morre, fear; but teacher or legislator is the reading of all the versions except the Chaldee. Coverdale has hit the sense, translating thus: O Lorde, set a Scholemaster over them: and the old Psalter, Sett Lord a brynger of Law abouen tham.

That the nations may know themselves to be but menאנוש enosh; Let the Gentiles be taught by the preaching of thy Gospel that they are weak and helpless, and stand in need of the salvation which Christ has provided for them. This may be the spirit of the petition. And this is marked by the extraordinary note Selah; Mark well, take notice. So the term may be understood.

"This whole Psalm," says Dr. Horsley, "seems naturally to divide into three parts. The first ten verses make the FIRST part; the six following, the SECOND; and the remaining four the THIRD.

"The FIRST part is prophetic of the utter extermination of the irreligious persecuting faction. The prophecy is delivered in the form of an Επινικιον, or song of victory, occasioned by the promise given in the fifteenth verse of the tenth Psalm; and through the whole of this song the psalmist, in the height of a prophetic enthusiasm, speaks of the threatened vengeance as accomplished.

"The SECOND part opens with an exhortation to the people of God to praise him as the Avenger of their wrongs, and the watchful Guardian of the helpless, and, as if the flame of the prophetic joy which the oracular voice had lighted in the psalmist's mind was beginning to die away, the strain is gradually lowered, and the notes of triumph are mixed with supplication and complaint, as if the mind of the psalmist were fluttering between things present and to come, and made itself alternately present to his actual condition and his future hope.

"In the THIRD part the psalmist seems quite returned from the prophetic enthusiasm to his natural state, and closes the whole song with explicit but cool assertions of the future destruction of the wicked, and the deliverance of the persecuted saints, praying for the event."

This Psalm consists of five chief parts: -

I. David's thanksgiving, Psalms 9:1-2, amplified and continued till the tenth verse.

II. An exhortation to others to do the like, Psalms 9:11, and the reason of it, Psalms 9:12.

III. A petition for himself, Psalms 9:13, and the reason of it, Psalms 9:14.

IV. A remembrance of God's mercy in the overthrow of his enemies, for which he sings a song of triumph, from Psalms 9:15-19.

V. A prayer in the conclusion against the prevalence of the heathen, Psalms 9:19-20.

I. His profession of praise is set down in the two first verses, in which we may perceive, -

1. The matter of it, with the extent: All the marvellous works of God.

2. That he varies the synonyms. I will praise thee; I will show forth; I will be glad and rejoice in thee; I win sing praise to thy name, O thou Most High! in which there is a climax.

3. The principle whence this praise flowed: 1. Not from the lips, but from the heart. 2. From the whole heart: "I will praise thee with my whole heart."

This he amplifies from the cause, which is double:

1. That which outwardly moved him, and gave him a just occasion to do so; the overthrow of his enemies: "When my enemies are turned back;" who were not overcome by strength or valour, but by the presence and power of God.

2. They shall fall and perish at thy presence. Thou wast the chief cause of this victory; and, therefore, deservest the thanks. Of this the prophet makes a full narrative in the two next verses, setting God as it were upon the bench, and doing the office of Judge. 1. "Thou maintainest my right, and my cause." 2. "Thou sattest on the throne judging right." 3. "Thou hast rebuked the heathen." 4. "Thou hast destroyed the wicked; thou hast put out their name for ever." In a word, Thou art a just Judge, and defendest the innocent, and punishest their oppressors; and therefore I will praise thee.

3. And then, upon the confidence of God's justice and power, he exults over his enemies. O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end. Thy power of hurting and destroying is taken away; the fortified cities in which thou dwellest are overthrown; and their memory and thine are perished.

4. Next, to make his assertion clearer; to the enemies' power he opposes that of God; his kingdom to their kingdom. But the Lord, in the administration of his kingdom, is, 1. Eternal: "The Lord shall endure for ever." 2. His office to be Judge: "He hath prepared his throne for judgment." 3. He is a universal Judge: "He shall judge the whole world." 4. He is a just Judge: "He shall judge in righteousness; he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness." 5. He is a merciful Judge: "For the Lord will be a refuge for the oppressed; a refuge in times of trouble."

5. The effect of this execution of justice. His people are encouraged: who are here described, 1. By their knowing him: "They that know thy name." 2. By trusting in him: "Will put their trust in thee." 3. By their seeking him: "For thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee."

II. An exhortation to others to praise God: "Sing praises to the Lord." The reason of this, 1. He dwells in Zion. 2. He works graciously there: "Sing praises to the Lord that DWELLS in Zion: declare among the people his DOINGS." 3. That will destroy their oppressors, and avenge their blood: "When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them; he forgetteth not the cry of the humble."

III. A petition for himself: "Have mercy on me, O Lord; consider my trouble," c. for which he gives these reasons:-

1. That "I may show forth thy praise."

2. "ALL thy praise."

3. "In the gates of the daughter of Zion."

4. That I may do it with joyful lips.

5. Which I will do: "I WILL rejoice in thy salvation."

IV. Then he sings forth his song of triumph ever his enemies:-

1. The "heathen are sunk down in the pit they have made."

2. "In the net which they hid are their own feet taken."

3. This is the Lord's work. Though wicked men did doubt before of his providence and justice; yet now "the Lord was known by the judgment which he executed."

4. For "the wicked was snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion, Selah." Which is a thing exceedingly to be meditated upon, and not forgotten.

5. "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God." 1. Their breath is in their nostrils, and die they must. 2. If they repent not, they shall suffer eternal punishment. 3. However this may be, God's goodness shall be manifested to the innocent: "The expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever."

V. A prayer in the conclusion against the prevalence of the heathen, in which he shows great earnestness and faith:-

1. "Arise, O Lord; let not man prevail."

2. "Let the heathen be judged in thy sight."

3. "Put them in fear, O Lord!" Now they fear nothing, being in their height of prosperity. They are insolent and proud; manifest thy Divine presence to their terror.

4. For then they will know themselves to be but men-infirm and mortal creatures; and not insult over thy people, nor glory in their own strength and prosperity.

The original word has been translated teacher, lawgiver, governor. Then send them, 1. A teacher, who may make them wise unto salvation. 2. A lawgiver, who shall rule them in thy fear. 3. A governor, that shall tame and reduce to order their fierce and savage nature. Let the nations be converted unto thee. This will be the noblest triumph. Let their hearts be conquered by thy mercy. And thus the Psalm will conclude as it began, To the Conqueror, on whose vesture and thigh is the name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 9". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.