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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 96

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



“This psalm develops a larger view that is not restricted to Israel. Israel is not even mentioned, and the call to worship is addressed to `all nations and all creatures.’“(F1) Whereas, in Psalms 95, Israel appears as the “sheep of the Good Shepherd’s pasture,” that viewpoint is replaced here with, “The more general knowledge that God is the Creator of the heavens and the source of all righteousness and truth.”(F2)

The Septuagint (LXX) ascribes this psalm to David; and “Significantly, Psalms 95 is written again, with very little change, in 1 Chronicles 16:23-33.”(F3) In the Chronicles rendition of Psalms 96, not only is David declared as the author, but the very time of his writing it was given as the occasion, namely, when David appointed Asaph and his brethren for certain musical responsibilities in the tabernacle (1 Chronicles 16:7).

We must inquire, therefore, what basis is it upon which scholars boldly declare the psalm to have been written “in the times of the later Hebrew?” Rawlinson identified that basis as, “The style, phraseology and iteration, especially of Psalms 96:1-2; Psalms 96:7-8; Psalms 96:13.”(F4) To us this is simply ridiculous. In the first place, modern scholars simply do not know that much about the linguistic abilities of King David; and secondly their `conclusion’ based upon what they claim to know, is a very poor basis indeed for contradicting a plain statement in the Word of God. We may be absolutely certain that David wrote the psalm, and that he did so upon the occasion outlined in God’s Word. Now, it might be true of course, that later copyists, translators, or compilers of the psalms might have reworked it to produce changes which have led to some false scholarly conclusions, but it is still true that David wrote it.

How do the radical critics get around their contradiction of the Old Testament in their denials of Davidic authorship? A good example of how they do it is provided in the opinion of Addis, “This psalm was inserted in Chronicles, not by the Chronicler himself, but by a later hand.”(F5)

This, of course, appeals to an “interpolator,” and degrades almost an entire chapter of 1 Chronicles to an interpolation. Where is the evidence of any such thing? What manuscripts or versions omit that part of Chronicles? No evidence is cited; none exists. A mere man’s allegation is supposed to nullify a chapter of the word of God.


There are indeed examples in the Bible of interpolations, as in the instance of Acts 8:37, which is properly omitted in the ASV and subsequent versions. Even in that instance of it, however, the interpolation is absolutely the truth. Any thoughtful person is appreciative of the scholarship which strives to delete genuine interpolations, etc. from the Bible.

However, we shall express a word of caution about the blind acceptance of the claims and allegations of certain schools of interpreters whose a priori disbelief of the Bible and their evident purpose of destroying every word of it as a genuine revelation from Almighty God cast grave doubt upon many of their assertions.

Given the unbelief of many writers and their avowed enmity against the Bible, the careful student should always remember that there are a host of weapons in the arsenal of Biblical enemies.

These are copyists, redactors, editors, compilers, interpolators, translators, glossaters, revisionists, arrangers, etc.

Now our word of caution is simply this. Can we depend upon men whose purposes and intentions toward the Bible are enemical and destructive - can we depend upon them always to employ such devices as we have mentioned in honesty and fairness?

Verses 1-3


“O sing unto Jehovah a new song: Sing unto Jehovah all the earth. Sing unto Jehovah, bless his name; Show forth his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples.”

“All the earth… among the nations… all the peoples” It would be difficult to find a paragraph with any greater stress of the truth that God’s “salvation” was never intended for Jews only, but for “all the earth.” The call of the Gentiles into God’s service is absolutely declared here as a commandment of God.

“Sing... sing… sing” Singing is the invariable earmark of the redeemed. The worship of God always abounds with singing. “Nothing, listless, boring, or stale befits God’s worship; not merely a song is required, but a new song!(F6)

Verses 4-6


“For great is Jehovah, and greatly to be praised: He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols; But Jehovah made the heavens.”

The major prophets, especially, exposed the futility of the worthless gods of the Gentiles. Isaiah especially excelled in doing so. See Isa. 2,8,18,20; 40:19ff; 41:21-24; and 44:12ff.

Contrasted with the feeble, helpless gods of the pagan Gentiles is the majestic power and holiness of the true God, Creator of the heavens and everything else in the universe. The galaxies themselves unfurled as a banner in the night sky proclaim God’s glory. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork” (Psalms 19:1).

“To be feared above all gods” Leupold remarked that, “If any of the entities commonly called gods produced fear in the minds and hearts of their worshippers, how much more would the knowledge of God Most High do so? This naturally implies that the fear which the knowledge of Almighty God evokes is wholesome and true; it is a godly reverence.”(F7)

“All the gods of the peoples are idols” And what is an idol? It is a man-made device resembling some human being or some allegedly mythical character, and it supposedly represents a “god.” An idol cannot see, cannot hear, cannot move itself, is utterly helpless, having no abilities whatever. This writer once visited the temple of the Diabhutsu in Japan, and a number of the niches surrounding the great idol were adorned in posters, printed with red and black letters, carrying the message, “THESE GODS ARE OUT OF REPAIR!” The near-insanity of idol-worship is surely indicated by this.

Verses 7-9


“Ascribe unto Jehovah, ye kindreds of the peoples, Ascribe unto Jehovah glory and strength. Ascribe unto Jehovah the glory due unto his name: Bring an offering, and come into his courts. Oh worship Jehovah in holy array: Tremble before him, all the earth.”

Whereas, in the first three verses, Israel might have been able to interpret the message there as meaning that the Israelites alone would be the ones to proclaim the glory of God among all nations; but here, there is no room for such a misunderstanding. It is clear enough that the Gentiles will be accepted into the fellowship of God upon the basis of their honoring the True God and bringing a sacrifice into his courts.

Just as the opening lines of this psalm featured the triple call to “sing,” we have another triple call here.

“Ascribe… ascribe… ascribe” In the KJV, these words are translated “give.”

“Ye kindreds of the peoples” These can be none other than the Gentiles of all the earth. The prophet Malachi prophesied the acceptance of the Gentile world into fellowship with God, as follows.

“From the rising of the sun even to the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the Gentiles” (Malachi 1:11).

“Bring an offering and come into his courts” It is well to remember that the tabernacle of David’s day had “courts,” no less than the more elaborate installations of the temple after Solomon’s building of it.

“An offering.” “This word is the one commonly used to denote a `bloodless’ offering such as a thank-offering.”(F8) This surely indicates that “the offerings” which the Gentiles are here invited to bring are not the same as the bloody sacrifices of the Old Covenant. In the New Covenant, God’s family of worshippers are called by the apostle Peter, “A spiritual house… to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). “Through him (Christ) let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips which make confession to his name” (Hebrews 13:15). Also, in the quotation from Malachi 1:11, it is a “pure” offering that is to be required, which is not a reference to the bloody sacrifices of the Old Testament.

“Oh worship Jehovah in holy array” “The New English Bible renders the last phrase here, `in the splendour of holiness’.”(F9) Here it becomes clear that the Gentiles are to be accepted into God’s fellowship, not upon the basis of some merely formal sacrifice, but, at least partially, upon the basis of “holiness” (Hebrews 12:14). Delitzsch also referred students to Jesus’ parable of “The Marriage of the King’s Son”(F10) (Matthew 22:1-14), in which the man who dared to attend without wearing a wedding garment was ejected in disgrace from the feast (Matthew 22:11 f).

Verses 10-13


“Say among the nations, Jehovah reigneth: The world also is established that it cannot be moved: He will judge the peoples with equity. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; Let the field exult, and all that is therein; Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy Before Jehovah; for he cometh, For he cometh to judge the earth: He will judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with his truth.”

“This passage expresses the Messianic hope (Psalms 96:13)… but here, as in Malachi 4:6, there is no thought of any personal Messiah. Yahweh himself is the deliverer.”(F11) Once more, we have an example of scholarly blindness apparently due to lack of a knowledge of the New Testament. Jesus Christ the Messiah, indeed a `Personal Messiah’ was none other than God Himself in the person of his only begotten Son, who in the New Testament is declared to be “God” in no less than a dozen passages (John 1:1; John 1:18; John 20:28; Acts 20:38; Romans 9:5; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; James 1:1; Revelation 5:13; Revelation 6:16).

“Jehovah reigneth… he will judge the peoples with equity” The reign of Jehovah was announced by John the Baptist as, “The Kingdom of God” and declared to be at hand in the year 26 A.D. That reign began on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ and is in progress at the present time.

“He will judge the peoples” This judgment is progressing continually, as typified in Revelation 6:2 under the emblem of the Conquering Saviour on the White Horse. This judgment is being accomplished by the sacred inspired words of the Holy Apostles of Christ, in a spiritual sense, “Sitting upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of the children of Israel” (the New Israel, which is the Church) (Matthew 19:28). That this interpretation is correct appears in the fact that this judgment of mankind through the word of the Apostles of Christ will take place “in the times of the regeneration,” that is, in the times when men are being saved, which is, without any doubt whatever, the present age.

“Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice” At the coming of the Messiah, on the night that Christ was born, the heavens themselves burst into song when the chorus of the angelic host sang, “Glory to God in the Highest; peace on earth to men of good will” (Luke 2:14); and the rejoicing of the earth is continuing throughout the ages in the hearts of those obeying the gospel, who go “on their way rejoicing,” as did Philip the eunuch (Acts 8:39).

“Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof” This is most likely a reference to the unbelieving populations of mankind, often represented in Scripture as the sea (Revelation 13:1), and in the passage here. It is the equivalent of the rage of the heathen mentioned in Psalms 2:1. The meaning is, “Let the heathen rage,” God’s judgment of mankind through the gospel of Christ is steadily going forward.

“Let the fields exult… the trees of the wood sing for joy” The joyful sentiment of this verse was captured in Isaac Watts’ famed hymn, “Joy to the World,” set to music by Handel.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns, Let men their songs employ,
While fields, and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy.(F12)

“Before Jehovah, for he cometh… to judge… he will judge the people by his truth” We have already noted the application of this to the coming of the Messiah and the subsequent judgment of all nations by the Holy Gospels; but there are also overtones here of the Eternal Judgement of the Last Day. In all of the prophecies, there is a tendency to telescope the first judgment of Christ’s Messianic coming that produced, among many other things, the destruction of Jerusalem, with that of the final Great White Throne Judgment of the Day of Jehovah. This occurred, because both of these judgments pertain to “the last times,” of which Peter declared that “These present days” indeed belong to those last times (Acts 2:16-17).

Both of these judgments, the one proceeding now by means of the Word of God and the other to come at the end of the age, are tied together in the fact that the basis of judgment in both will be exactly the same. As Jesus said:

“He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I speak, the same shall judge him in the last day” John 12:48.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 96". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/psalms-96.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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