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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 119

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-176



The superscriptions ascribed to Asaph twelve palms (Psalms 50; 73-83) Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun presided over the Levitical singers in the time of David. Their sons also directed the various bands of musicians (1 Chron. 25). It seems that the family of Asaph for many generations continued to preside over the service of song (Cf. Ezra 3:10).

The theme of Psalm 50 is "Obedience is better than sacrifice," or the language of Samuel to Saul when he had committed the awful sin in respect to the Amalekites. This teaching is paralleled in many Old Testament scriptures, for instance, Psalms 51:16-17. For thou delightest not in sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou hast no pleasure in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

The problem of Psalm 73 is the problem of why the wicked prosper (Psalms 73:1-14), and its solution is found in the attitude of God toward the wicked (Psalms 73:15-28). [For a fine exposition of the other psalms of this section see Kirkpatrick or Maclaren on the Psalms.]

The psalms attributed to the sons of Korah are Psalms 42; 44; 45; 47; 48; 49; 84; 85; 87. The evidence that Psalms 42-43 were one poem is internal. There are three stanzas, each closing with a refrain. The similarity of structure and thought indicates that they were formerly one psalm. A parallel to these two psalms we find in the escape of Christian from the Castle of Giant Despair in Pilgrim’s Progress.

Only two psalms were ascribed to Solomon, viz: Psalm 72 and 127. However, the author believes that there is good reason to attribute Psalm 72 to David. If he wrote it, then only one was written by Solomon.

The theme of Psalm 72 is the reign of the righteous king, and the outline according to DeWitt, which shows the kingdom as desired and foretold, is as follows: (1) righteous (Psalms 72:1-4) ; (2) perpetual (Psalms 72:5-7); (3) universal (Psalms 72:8-11); (4) benign (Psalms 72:12-14); (5) prosperous (Psalms 72:15-17).

Psalm 127 was written when Solomon built the Temple. It is the central psalm of the psalms of the Ascents, which refer to the Temple. It seems fitting that this psalm should occupy the central position in the group, because of the occasion which inspired it and its relation to the other psalms of the group. A brief interpretation of it is as follows: The house here means household. It is a brief lyric, setting forth the lessons of faith and trust. This together with Psalm 128 is justly called "A Song of Home." Once in speaking to Baylor Female College I used this psalm, illustrating the function of a school as a parent sending forth her children into the world as mighty arrows. Again I used this psalm in one of my addresses in our own Seminary in which I made the household to refer to the Seminary sending forth the preachers as her children.

The psalms assigned to the era of Hezekiah and Isaiah are Psalms 46; 47; 48. The historical setting is found in the history of the reign of Hezekiel. Their application to Judah at this time is found in the historical connection, in which we have God’s great deliverances from the foreign powers, especially the deliverance from Sennacherib. We find in poetry a description of the destruction and desolation of Jerusalem in the Lamentations of Jeremiah and in Psalms 74; 79.

The radical critics ascribe Psalms 74; 79 to the Maccabean period, and their argument is based upon the use of the word "synagogues," in Psalms 74:8. The answer to their contention is found in the marginal rendering which gives "places of assembly" instead of "synagogues." The word "synagogue" is a Greek word translated from the Hebrew, which has several meanings, and in this place means the "place of assembly" where God met his people.

The silence of the exile period is shown in Psalm 137, in which they respond that they cannot sing a song of Zion in a strange land. Their brightening of hope is seen in Psalm 102. In this we have the brightening of their hope on the eve of their return. In Psalms 85:10 we have a great text:

Mercy and truth are met together;

Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

The truth here is God’s law demanding justice; mercy is God’s grace meeting justice. This was gloriously fulfilled in Christ on the cross. He met the demands of the law and offers mercy and grace to all who accept them on the terms of repentance and faith.

Three characteristics of Psalm 119 are, first, it is an alphabetical psalm; second, it is the longest chapter in the Bible, and third, it is an expansion of the latter part of Psalm 19. Psalms 146-150 were used for worship in the second temple. The expressions of innocence in the psalms do not refer to original sin, but to a course of conduct in contrast with wicked lives. The psalmists do not claim absolute, but relative sinlessness.

The imprecations in the psalms are real prayers, and are directed against real men who were enemies of David and the Jewish nation, but they are not expressions of personal resentment. They are vigorous expressions of righteous indignation against incorrigible enemies of God and his people and are to be interpreted in the light of progressive revelation. The New Testament contains many exultant expressions of the overthrow of the wicked. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 16:22; 2 Timothy 4:14; Galatians 5:12; Revelation 16:5-6; Revelation 18:20.) These imprecations do not teach that we, even in the worst circumstances, should bear personal malice, nor take vengeance on the enemies of righteousness, but that we should live so close to God that we may acquiesce in the destruction of the wicked and leave the matter of vengeance in the hands of a just God, to whom vengeance belongs (Romans 12:19-21).

The clearest teachings on the future life as found in the psalms, both pro and con, are found in these passages, as follows: Psalms 16:10-11; Psalms 17:15; Psalms 23:6; Psalms 49:15; Psalms 73:23-26. The passages that are construed to the contrary are found in Psalms 6:5; Psalms 30:9; Psalms 39:13; Psalms 88:10-12; Psalms 115:17. The student will compare these passages and note carefully their teachings. The first group speaks of the triumph over Sheol (the resurrection) ; about awaking in the likeness of God; about dwelling in the house of the Lord forever; about redemption from the power of Sheol; and God’s guiding counsel and final reception into glory, all of which is very clear and unmistakable teaching as to the future life.

The second group speaks of DO remembrance in death; about no profit to the one when he goes down to the pit; of going hence and being no more; about the dead not being able to praise God and about the grave as being the land of forgetfulness ; and about the dead not praising Jehovah, all of which are spoken from the standpoint of the grave and temporal death.

There is positively no contradiction nor discrepancy in the teaching of these scriptures. One group takes the spirit of man as the viewpoint and teaches the continuity of life, the immortality of the soul; the other group takes the physical being of man as the viewpoint and teaches the dissolution of the body and its absolute unconsciousness in the grave.


1. How many and what psalms were ascribed to Asaph?

2. Who presided over the Levitical singers in the time of David?

3. What is the theme of Psalm 50, and where do we find the same teaching in the Old Testament?

4. What is the problem of Psalm 73, and what its solution?

5. What psalms are attributed to the sons of Korah?

6. What is the evidence that Psalms 42-43 were one poem and what the characteristic of these two taken together?

7. What parallel to these two psalms do we find in modern literature?

8. What psalms were ascribed to Solomon?

9. What is the theme of Psalm 72?

10. What is the outline according to DeWitt, which shows the kingdom as desired and foretold?

11. When was Psalm 127 written and what the application as a part of the Pilgrim group?

12. Give a brief interpretation of it and the uses made of it by the author on two different occasions.

13. What psalms are assigned to the era of Hezekiah and Isaiah, and what their historical setting?

14. What is their application to Judah at this time?

15. Where may we find in poetry a description of the destruction and desolation of Jerusalem?

16. To what period do radical critics ascribe Psalms 74-79; what is their argument, and what is your answer?

17. Which psalm shows the silence of the exile period and why?

18. Which one shows their brightening of hope?

19. Explain Psalms 85:10.

20. Give three characteristics of Psalm 119.

21. What use was made of Psalms 146-150?

22. Explain the expression of innocence in the psalms in harmony with their teaching of sin.

23. Explain the imprecations in the psalms and show their harmony with New Testament teachings.

24. Cite the clearest teachings on the future life as found in the psalms, both pro and con.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Psalms 119". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/psalms-119.html.
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